I OFTEN WONDER how future Muslims will view us Muslims of America and our times.
The thought always makes me flash back to my elementary school days, in seventh grade on Chicago’s Southwest side. I had a history teacher, Mr. McGrath, who started introducing us to the unbelievable things people said, right out in public, about others during the various great tribulations of the world.
Those “others” were usually groups getting absolutely terrorized and hammered by people who were basically saying: We need to terrorize and hammer these people because they are among us but not of us. Their traitorous hearts will undo us if given half a chance. They are inherently evil, by creed violent. They plot to hurt us, kill us even. We better maim and massacre them first.
The appalling things they did to these others always struck me as incredibly outrageous, unbelievable: Where they made them live. How they made them live. How they relentlessly threatened, dogged, and marked them for scorn and ill treatment.
But what astonished me most was the reaction of these others, the hounded, pounded, persecuted. Or should I say, how they didn’t react, at least not as the 11-year-old me expected. Why didn’t they get out? Why didn’t they confront? Why were they so compliant in their serial humiliation, then destruction?
Of course, as a Muslim born in America, whose age-old Muslim family has lived here for more than a century now—great-grandparents, grandparents, right on down the line—my old history lessons have come round to teach me personally the answer to all my natural youthful bewilderments on this denatured subject. I live it and see it now every day.
I also realize that the people of those times, those “others”—they too probably thought they were responding, organizing, working to turn back the senseless tide of such reckless hate.
No doubt, they perceived themselves as seeking to better institutionalize with and within society; considered themselves law-abiding; strove hard to burnish their patriotic profile; worked tirelessly to combat propaganda with their true-blue (or appropriate-colored) hearts.
I’m sure they too publicly styled themselves as fully cooperative—we-have-nothing-to-hide—citizens, countrymen, lieges; and raised up their clarion voices with the Orwellian crowds calling down—no, commanding—that God bless the righteous homeland and its right honorable, “real” people.
How anxious they must have been to endorse, emit, act-out the ever-shifting bona fides of their fill-in-the-blank identities so that “their” country could “understandably” feel safe with them freely about.
They too must have come to see “their problem” as the result of their own social failure:
– Failure to sufficiently pervert their souls to participate without pang of conscience in the utter corruption of party politics…
– Failure to plunge headlong into the mainstream media sewer and barter their beliefs for “strategic” special-interest support in a fracturing society…
– Failure to prove themselves beyond all doubt rabidly nationalistic first (all things sacred second) against the highest loyalty tests:
Validation of abject, lawless jailing and government-sanctioned murder of any man, woman, or child of their “other” heritage. Check.
Public affirmation of the globe-threatening evil of the next super-villain “of their ilk” conjured by society’s disinformation weapon of mass distraction. Check.
Ratification of the right of the affluent to dispense with due process and to create categories of inherent guiltiness without proving individual guilt. Check.
We Muslims in America seem overjoyed with our new, native accents, our made-up media faces, our more-liberal-than-thou social live-and-let-live identity defenses on the one hand, and our hysterical endorsement of jingo, neo-conservative exceptionalist global fascism when it serves on the other.
It’s enough to make the heart break like once gardenous Sheba’s Aram dam and cry whither Islam? Whither Islam?