Muslim-American challenges Breslin

Delaware County Daily Times, July 9, 2010

Joseph Breslin must be commended. He has exposed my plot for world domination via a guest column that appeared Saturday, June 26: “Greatest weapon Muslims can use against America is America’s youth.” As a Muslim American, it’s time I come clean and tell everyone my plans for a takeover of America.

I plan on doing this by going to graduate school, moving to a nice house, paying taxes, having barbecues, watching football, raising a couple of children and saving up for a nice retirement. Threatening, right? You will find this and many other similar goals from the vast majority of Muslim Americans – law-abiding patriotic citizens, as concerned about the future of America just as anyone else.

So how does a presumably sincere, intelligent person come up with paranoid conspiracy theories, complete dehumanization of a small minority and an irrational fear of a quarter of the world’s population?

Certainly, terrorism and the sensational media it produces can make anyone weary and fearful. But a rational person views the war on terror for what it is — a war against a group of criminals, many who are indeed Muslims, who have sought out mass murder as a means of addressing grievances or propagating their world view.

Let’s keep in mind we are fighting a small group of thugs who have resorted to underwear firecrackers and propane tanks. How does that fact turn into theories about all six million Muslim Americans wanting to destroy America?

Mr. Breslin’s column offers many clues. He gives warnings about the “liberal element” in society, the terrible affliction of multi-cultural ideas and the threat of socialism. Mix it in with his anti-Obama rhetoric and some hot water, and there’s our answer – the tea party.

Anti-Muslim sentiment lies on the same continuum of hate that stretches all the way from anti-immigrant sentiment to President Barack Obama conspiracy theories. This hysteria has been whipped up by conservative and tea party commentators and corresponds to the alarming rise in hate groups, militias, and hate speech such as Mr. Breslin’s column.

Delusional thinking and wholescale brainwashing of American citizens is the threat, not a religion or small minority of Muslims measuring just two percent of the U.S. population. As such, tea party rhetoric must be challenged, even if it appears in a small community newspaper.

The “patriot” card is often played by tea partiers. In this case, Mr. Breslin chooses to use out-of-place quotes from Alexander Hamilton in a poor attempt to show his red, white and blue. Mr. Breslin displays little understanding of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and religious freedom that makes America great.

A true patriot values religious freedom for all, including minorities, and understands the Constitution’s true strength comes from its universal application to all Americans, not a privileged majority. A true patriot is not insecure, but confident about America’s promise and future, and does not view people different from him as a threat to America itself.

I won’t use my space here to rebut Mr. Breslin point by point. How does one even begin to address some of his notions, particularly those asserting that Muslims want to destroy America? How do I address someone who can’t see any semblance of a human being in me, a Muslim, and believes that a Muslim’s prime “motor emotion is hate” or that I believe “tolerance is blasphemy?”

Instead I’ll attempt to address the source. Underneath all that hatred is an “us vs. them” mentality, profound insecurity and fear of the unknown. This occurs when we segregate ourselves and create bubbles of similarity. What can we learn by only talking to people who are but our own reflections?

I challenge Mr. Breslin and all others who share his anti-Muslim views to step out of their tea party comfort zones and visit one of many mosques in Delaware or nearby Chester counties. Talk to Muslims and see for yourselves what your neighbors are up to.

Right here in the greater Philadelphia area, 250,000 Muslim Americans are working hard to realize their American dream. They are doctors, lawyers, activists, business owners, homemakers, and laborers. They wear the uniforms of the police, fire department and national guard. We don’t have to prove this to you; you have to come take a look.

As a Muslim leader in greater Philadelphia, I personally offer Mr. Breslin and others my time to meet, talk, and learn from one another. I look forward to showing Mr. Breslin a well-integrated community, striving to build a better America, a better life for themselves and their children.

The ball is in your court Mr. Breslin. I look forward to hearing from you.

Moein M. Khawaja is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Pennsylvania (CAIR-PA).