Beyond the Curtain of 911 Smoke :: The Future of Islam in America ::

Before 9/11 Islamic activities and activism were in an ascending order; the outreach and the inroads that were accomplished were very impressive and heartwarming. Muslims across their political and denominational spectrum were convinced for the first time that it is within their reach to enter into the American political process and stand on an equal par with other American lawmakers and legislators to shape the political future of the United States.

Political access had entered into the fabric of Islamic civic organizations who now were more qualified than ever before to contribute positively and significantly to free and fair elections. Muslim activists and lobbyists were confidently riding the political tide as they were building bridges of understanding and mutual respect with the array of conservative and liberal American political trends. The Muslim political ambition was so high that many involved Muslims were convinced that it was only a matter of a short period of time and Muslim Americans would solidify their presence by having an American Muslim elected to Congress. The understanding and rapport that had jelled throughout the years between American Muslims and their political interlocutors had persuaded the American Muslim public that they were now solidly within the American political mainstream.

The Zionist lobby and all its troublemakers who were always concerned with the growing influence of the American Muslims seemed to have been relatively marginalized. American Muslims were not as naive as to assume that this toxic lobby had vanished or had come to terms with the fact that the Muslims were an up-and-coming political bloc to be reckoned with; rather, the American Muslims who were out-and-about on the American political terrain could sense the magnitude and the preponderance of this Zionist lobby. And with all the latent obstacles that were placed in the path of this pioneering Islamic thrust into the American political process, the American Muslims for the first time carved a niche for themselves and were fielding candidates and nominees to local, state, and even federal government positions that were, hitherto, off-limits to law abiding and hard working American Muslims. This whole American Muslim political momentum encountered its ups and downs, and that was to be expected. Like every other interest group or lobby there were sympathizers and there were detractors, there were supporters and those in opposition, but it all remained within the normal range of the political pros and cons. There was, no doubt, media efforts to distort the image of Islamic feedback into the American decision making process. From time to time, innuendo and fabrications were concocted to try to take the steam out of the Muslim American sail; and there were times when prejudice and the residuals of history would kick in and Muslims would feel the effects of discrimination as they tried their best to move ahead and convince all and sundry that American Muslims have something to say and something to contribute to a better America in a better tomorrow for all Americans regardless or religion, race, or partisan politics.

Truth be said, the active American Muslims kept their “cool” and “steeled” their nerves and pressed on with their civic duties with an unblemished character and sometimes with considerable personal sacrifices and selflessness. They demonstrated how responsible and how mature they were even when they had to endure accusations and defamation coming at them from expected and unexpected sources.

Throughout those long years these civic oriented American Muslims developed a flexible and adaptive political agenda that was able to sit well with potential foes and with reticent well-wishers. They were gaining the necessary experience from their political on-the-job-training, they were learning from the trials and errors, and they were also familiarizing themselves with the “ins-and outs” of partisan politics, lobbying, and winning over the “other side.” Out of these sequential experiences the Muslims were trying to put together a civic bloc that would be both effective and balanced. And to a good degree they were on their way to doing exactly that. The time had actually come when the Muslims had no doubts that they were finally part of the American political fabric. The major conferences held by the major American Muslim organizations and associations reflected this achievement quite accurately. Annual and semi-annual meetings, national and regional symposia sponsored by such flagship organizations as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the American Muslim Council (AMC), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Political Action Committees (MPAC), and others… all of them were in the years leading up to 9/11 focused on the mainstreaming of America’s Muslims into the political process.

The groundwork was done, new terrain was explored, and American Muslims were on their way to a thorough civic and political integration into the American political process.

September 11, 2001

As the American Muslims were on their way to what seemed to be a successful integration into the American political process, and as they were satisfied with their unprecedented strides into the power corridors in Washington, as this was their feeling of accomplishments then came September 11 with all its fallout, repercussions, and aftermath. September 11 and the political scenario into which it was cast could not have been worst than what it was. All of a sudden all Muslims were suspect. The American national attitude went on the defensive. Officials and politicians who were before September 11 open minded and accommodating had now turned paranoid or at least suspicious. The politically active Muslims who were out-and-about in the American political arena were made to feel that they were accomplices to September 11! The American national mindset was now convinced, post September 11, that American Muslims are kin to the perpetrators of the horrible events of 9/11. Fear began to seep deep down inside the American Muslim community. Hate crimes against American Muslims took a swing upwards; mosques were targeted, Muslims were receiving obscene telephone calls, public places were no longer safe places for some Muslims in different parts of the United States, years of integration and assimilation into the American political process were all-of-sudden reversed because of 9/11. The acts of a few renegade and fringe Muslims on that horrible day were enough to tar the whole American Muslim community and paralyze its effective and vital civic participation to a standstill; or more accurately put -” to a social setback out of which it has not recovered yet, and if things still continue to go the way they have been going there may never be a comeback to the “good old days” prior to 9/11. Due to a hyped up media campaign woven around the events of 9/11 American Muslims from sea to shining sea were asking: wither Islam? How could 21st century America berate American Muslims with mass-guilt because of a crime committed by a periphery and extremist splinter group of Muslims?

American Muslims were now worried about their future in the United States and the future of their sons and daughters… This was no longer a hypothetical question about whether American Muslims are an integral part of American society; it had become a practical question of whether American society is willing to treat Muslims with fairness, equality, and the absence of prejudice and malice. And the signs coming from American legislators were not encouraging. With September 11 and the American Muslims as “center-piece” America began to enact laws and pass them through the legislative process with frantic expediency. A whole new governmental department came into existence to become the largest governmental department of the US government: the Homeland Security Department. American intelligence and security agencies overarched and interlocked. Civil liberties were curtailed. The Patriot Act kicked in, and there is talk of Patriot Act II. Profiling, Secret Evidence, and the worst nightmares of the spies and spooks coming out from under their deep cover to roll back the privileges and gains that have been the hallmark of an American open, free, and democratic society… all this combined sent shockwaves through the American Muslim community because it was made to understand through acts of intimidation and harassment that it is the ultimate target of this combined dragnet and witch-hunt! All the American laws that have been twisted, and all the civil freedoms that have been curtailed, and all the due-process that has been violated were meant to stifle any future Muslims from ever thinking about equality or competition in what was before 9/11 an accessible American political process! All of this was happening to a conscientious American Muslim community whose spokespersons, dignitaries, and public figures condemned and berated September 11’s attacks against the United States of America.

All this “social national catastrophe” that has landed on the American Muslims community was done on the watch of the George W. Bush and his administration. The psychological and social wounds inflicted by this Republican Bush administration are deep and extensive. No seasonal politicking going into the presidential rounds of 2004 will be able to heal these profound and intense wounds. Out of a sense of desperation and coupled with an urge for “anything else” the American Muslim community may find itself rooting for the American Democratic Party to try to reverse the damages and rearrange the political and social climate in the United States to a degree that will make it possible once again for American Muslims to take their natural position under the American sun. Besides, the Democrats are known to have a better understanding of minorities and to be sensitive if not accommodating of their needs and aspirations. The Democrats are also on the record in opposing the violation of the American Muslims’ civil rights and liberties.

It has become evident that the American Muslim community running up to the elections of 2004 are angst-ridden and worried that the current President George W. Bush and his neo-con advisers may be re-elected for another term; which means that American Muslims will be exposed to more of the same policies and procedures that have reduced them to virtual second-class citizens! Predictions are that if President Bush is re-elected for another four- year term that American Muslims will actively and physically move away from the United States to avoid his neo-McCarthyite tactics and maneuvers. For American Muslims the neo-con Republicans under George W. Bush are taking the whole American government on a collision course not only with American Muslims but with Muslims around the world -” all of this under the September 11 inspired war against terrorism. And who knows for whom and for what purpose besides the immediate answer that comes to mind: Israel! American Muslims -” and this is no exaggeration -” may pack their belongings, sell their possessions and go back to their ancestral countries or across the borders to Canada! Already, reports are circulating about a considerable number of Indo-Pakistanis who have already left the United States for normal life in Canada after 9/11.

There is a sense of anticipation that this wave of anti-Islam that has swept through the United States after 9/11 will recede and in due time American Muslims will regain their civic vitality and rejoin the mosaic of other minorities and ethnic groups; the American Muslims will join their predecessors: Japanese Americans, American Jews, and Irish Americans who also, in times past, endured national intolerance, social prejudice, and legal injustice. This line of thought can see the day when American Muslims will hear an apology owed to them from the US government the same way their predecessors did in the course of American history. There are no second thoughts about it: Arab and Muslim Americans are the prime targets of the post 9/11 reconfiguration of American laws, policies, and priorities. And they are feeling the brunt of it. We cannot say of a certainty that the United States of America will regain its balance, return to its original position in which minorities cooperate and coordinate with each other to make America the multi-cultural and trans-oceanic continent that it was meant to be. We cannot affirm that this anti-Arab and anti-Muslim surge will recede and people, citizens, and tax-payers across the American racial and religious continuum will join hands together without burdening a whole community because of the crime a very few of its members. We cannot even state with confidence that the future will be free of events as terrible and as offensive as 9/11 is to all of us. And whatever the case may be, and only the future will tell, there still is a very strong probability that the goodness of the American people and the American public will carry the day and eventually arrest this decline into national jingoism, international interventionism, and a general deep-seated phobia that justifies its attacks on Muslims everywhere with a religious veneer and a historical atavism.

Probable Scenarios

The first likely set-up concerning American Muslims is the continuation of the current status-quo: more legalistic intrusions upon Arab and Muslim Americans, more new laws to suspend any political inclinations of American Muslims to make a difference in the American decision making process, more social Islamophobia which will drive American Muslims deeper and deeper into isolation and desperation, and more American military forays into the Islamic part of the world under flimsy and unverifiable accusations along the lines of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) acquisition, developing nuclear energy [for military purposes], and political and popular support for the Palestinians in their struggle against Zionist Israel. If this neo-con trend develops towards its natural end it will no doubt have turned the Muslims of the world against this obsessed and irrational strategy that excludes Muslims from their full civic potential and in some cases reduces them to civilian sub-humans. These neo-conservative marching orders turned policies have the potential of driving a wedge within the American Muslims community that will cause immigrant American first generation Muslims to relocate back into the Muslim world from where they will not hesitate to oppose American policies by any means necessary, especially when the US government stands lock, stock, and barrel behind Zionist Israeli aggression, occupation, and expansion. These neo-con tactics and strategy will also cause native and indigenous American Muslims to recoil into themselves, keep a low profile, and wait for the time when it becomes possible for them to reassert their social and civic character into the political landscape of a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and a truly pluralistic America. These Muslims may learn through their own experiences that the only party capable of contemplating and considering the aspirations and expectations of American Muslims is the Democratic Party. This may happen sooner than anyone would expect; we may see a mass political conversion of American Muslims voting democratic come November 2004. And if that comes to pass and the American public elects a Democrat as the next president, the American Muslims hope that all the draconian measures that have been taken during the Bush years are eventually reversed and people can go back to their good human nature and cooperate for the common good of all without pointing to American Muslims as some type of “alien Americans” or “less-than-full” Americans.

Another likely scenario is that the current jingoism will take its course and toll. Official America, in this case, will continue to consider Muslim Americans undesirable and unwanted. These policies may go up a notch and tarnish all American Muslims with the brush of terrorism by harping on the chord that terrorism is a worldwide stain and stigma that has its roots in Islam! We can see this anti-Islamic propaganda developing into best-selling books, blockbuster movies, and riveting TV serials that demonize Islam and dehumanize Muslims. The common thread that runs through all of this media talk and motion picture fantasy will be the “terroristic” origins of Islam and the “Islamic” roots of terrorism! The political imagination spurred on by military and economic setbacks thousands of miles around the globe may finally evoke the images of Armageddon and the Biblical eschatology of the final days with the Muslims occupying the position of the anti-Christ! This is no longer the work of fictional writers. We have been exposed to the inner thoughts of American religious clergymen and military generals who have intimated that much. From the famous Reverend Graham the son to a decorated General in the Armed Forces (Boykin) the religious undertones of a “clash of civilizations” have become ever more bolder during the Republican neo-con administration of George W. Bush and his “you are with us or against us” team of hegemonists.

The imposition of American Armed Forces in the hundreds of thousands around the globe, especially in the Islamic hemisphere of the world will undoubtedly and regrettably lead to an increasing number of Americans killed in the line of this neo-con duty. Central to all this, as we follow the events nowadays, is the rising death toll of American soldiers in Iraq. Every time an American is killed in Iraq or elsewhere in the Muslim world there is that much more anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment among the American people; and conversely, every time there are Muslim casualties in their own homelands by occupying American forces there is that much more resentment and hostilities toward America by Muslims in that part of the world. This does not bode well for American-Islamic relations. If this trend continues, God forbid, the neo-cons surrounding Bush will have dragged the United States and the Muslim World to a point of no return. The casualties could become staggering, the losses un-quantifiable, and the damage done in human relations could bring the world to the brink of civilizational polarization that will last for centuries to come. This neo-con American overwrought and tense military affair will breed new forms of terrorism by desperate generations, underprivileged populations, and broken societies. And the American Muslims may become just one segment of this state of affairs. One important and overlooked casualty of 9/11 could turn out to be American Muslims who have been reduced to a status of an American underclass as they see their parents and previous generation(s) humiliated by American diktat and an unrelenting officialdom that degrades and downgrades American Muslims systematically and over and over again.

Another scenario would have the United States of America bogged down in a long and extended low-intensity warfare in the Muslim world and in the southern hemisphere of the planet for an indefinite duration. With the American Armed Forces extended around the globe and with logistical resources stretched to the maximum along with the reluctance of the international community to foot the American bill, the subsequent US administrations will come to realize that they have reached the point of diminishing returns. The US, it will be recalled, set out during the Bush neo-con administration to check the Chinese economic competitor on the world consumer stage, and to knock out the Euro as a viable currency that was threatening the dollar in the world financial markets. In doing so, the neo-con US used 9/11 as the trigger to its global unilateral position. The loudmouth neo-cons said it would begin as a cakewalk. The Muslim world would be the first step into a global Pax-Americana. But history did not unfold the way the neo-cons around Bush thought it would. America’s imperial armed forces entered into an “Islamic quagmire” for which they had no exit strategy. The Americans got caught between imperial ego [the only superpower on earth] and their enemies’ unexpected fierce and tenacious resistance. American service men’s body bags began coming home.

Exploitation of the sea of petroleum between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf did not materialize as quickly and as expeditiously as the original plans called for. Anti-Americanism around the world was reaching all time highs. American intelligence and diplomatic fingers are being burned in Russia, in Southeast Asia, and in Latin America. The US in the image of the neo-cons even went as far as trying to dismember Europe by alluding to Western Europe as the “Old Europe” and the Eastern part as the “New Europe.” All this military inspired American bluster and bravado resulted not in the expansion of an American 21st century empire but in the humbling of a state that wanted to relive the mistakes of historically condemned powers such as the Roman Empire many centuries ago, and the French and British colonialists only a few decades ago. Along these lines, and after unmistakable and irretrievable setbacks, the US government may react to its own internationalist follies by spiraling into a self-inflicted isolation. At that time, the US people will have the time to pick up the pieces and to take a closer look at what they were thrust into by the infamous Bush administration.

With hindsight, the American people will come to realize that a confluence of interests among the American corporate class, the Evangelical Right, and the Zionist Lobby had set America on its disastrous misadventure into the world. A closer scrutiny of the neo-cons will reveal that they were more interested in the security of Israel than with the security of the United States. What was conceived of as the plan for a new American century turned out to be a plot to preserve and protect Israel through the trials and tribulations of that century.

The United States of America and its forward looking people will have paid a dear price to have discovered that within their ranks is an enemy that places Israel above America. And American administrations have gone the whole nine yards to appease this Israeli idol. It began with excluding American Muslims from the channels of political access right after 9/11 and it ended with trying to defeat Islamic self-determination half way around the globe. The lessons of antiquity came back to haunt these die-hard Israeli agents, and America at the expense of its own sons and daughters learned the lesson of history: militaries can fight and win over other militaries, especially when they are technologically superior; but militaries cannot fight and win over other fighting rank-and-file people especially when they are ideologically determined to do so…

Muslim Americans are peaceful and peace-loving Americans just like the rest of their compatriots. It was a terrible mistake to let some ideologically hot-headed neo-cons of the Israeli centered world call the shots for an administration that will go down in history as one that gambled on the Israeli side of the equation with disregard to its founding father principles and in violation of its own constitution and interests. Neo-con America has become beholden to the Zionist Israeli interest. This is the truth of the matter that none dare articulate. And the deafening silence about this Israeli strangulation on America is not in the interest of the United States, it is not in the interest of Muslims around the world, and it certainly is not in the interest of world peace.

Instead of empowering American Muslims to become ambassadors of good-will with their potential to build bridges around the world, the US government in preference to its own interests and in subservience to Israeli interests is mishandling and abusing this important segment of its own population. With Israeli “inspiration” the US instead of building bridges with the Muslim world via its American Muslim citizenry is burning those same bridges with the help of its American pro-Israel [right or wrong] citizens. The political potential and capital that is wasted by the Bush administration at a time when it needs its Muslim constituents the most is a supreme act of political folly.

When the American Muslims prior to 9/11 were moving up politically they were doing so for American interests that would have been served best by gaining the understanding of a critical geo-strategic part of the world; i.e., the Islamic bloc. Instead of that, post 9/11, the US hazards a path full of risks and uncertainties. We can only hope that cool heads will prevail and an expeditious end is put to this imposing imperialism that, if left unchecked, will wreak havoc on the rest of humanity who are not within the corporate, evangelical, and Zionist triangle of consent that defines almost all the motions of the US administration which were fueled by the irrationality and madness that came with 9/11.

A more pragmatic and balanced American administration would have to sit back and take a cold and calculated look at the real world and realize that an Islamic bloc with all its inconsistencies is a region of the world that cannot be colonized or patronized for ever. And if the Arab-Israeli conflict seems so intractable it is only wise to approach both the Muslim and Jewish sides with their respective lobbies inside the United States in an air of fairness and evenhandedness. The further the US administrations go in taking the Israeli side without any due consideration to the Arab and Islamic side the more the US is contributing to further future radicalization of this stubborn divide. It may turn out that American Muslims will eventually be prized for their critical and timely position from within a pluralistic America, provided that fair-minded, evenhanded, and an inclusive American leadership has the courage to accept them [the American Muslims] as they trust in the United States of America.