Well, my first thought is that I never really get this whole patriotism deal. And it seems that in the US (and in many other places, maybe the US version of patriotism just seems extreme to me), patriotism is the only way to acceptance (acceptance as in being accepted as a legitimate citizen). I find it rather scary, as patriotism or patriotic praise of one’s “own” country usually seems to be accompanied by a certain contempt (however unconscious or indirect) of other countries or peoples.
I am surprised to find that ninety nine visits have been made to this topic, yet only one person (before me, an opinionated American) has left a comment. Why do you not want to leave comments, oh ye visitors? I know that I want to see the opinions of others regarding this matter.
Personally, I think that it is a matter of good citizenship to be involved in the workings of one’s own government and that those who forgo opportunities to become active members of their own communities are, however unconsciously, rejecting their own identities. If Muslim Americans do not become involved in civics they will remain, by definition, outside of the realm of influence and become/remain marginalized pockets of individuals who give the impression (to the mainstream) that they do not wish to belong.
When people immigrate/emigrate, they sometimes keep in the back of their minds (or even before their own eyes) the idea that they will be going back to where they came from… hence, they never integrate in a meaningful manner with the greater society. The children of such immigrants often find that their parents are deeply conflicted, wanting the advantages of the new homeland while clinging to their identities as citizens of another world. I have seen many families who kid themselves that their children are not Americans, but are “…cans”, based on where the gene pool is deepest. That is a form of racism which hinders the children from fully participating in the only world they really know while not providing them with another place to live “in”. …Why shouldn’t Muslim Americans participate in the world around them? Is there something inherently wrong with being American?
And for those of you who know the hadeeth, “Whoever amongst you sees injustice/wrongdoing going on, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable so to do, then let him change it with his tongue. If he is likewise unable to do that, then at least he should hate it in his heart; whoever cannot do even that has not even the weight of a grain of mustard seed (of faith) in his heart.”
And the fact that people wish to change what has somehow gone awry in their communities does not automatically mean that they wish to completely transform the society. God says in the Qur’an that He, "formed you into various peoples and tribes in order that you may come to know one another; truly, the most honored amongst you are those who are most God-conscious (sometimes rendered ‘pious’ or ‘God-fearing’).
There are many places in Islamic literature which indicate that the basis from which we evaluate things is that we assume things to be ‘halal’ or ‘lawful’; everything is permissible unless it has been specifically deemed unlawful, ‘haram’ or, disliked, ‘makruh’… we should try to bloom where we are planted rather than telling ourselves that we will begin to bloom once ‘such and such’ thing happens, or when we move to ‘thus and such’ a place.
…and, in case any one needs reminding, there is no Paradise to be found on Earth; the human being is in a state of being tempted and tested from the time he is born until the day that he dies. We should try to leave this world in a better state than we found it in, or at least not in a worse state.
I hope someone else will share their thoughts about civic participation, whether it be in the USA or the UAE.
Thanks again for your patience with my excessively long entries.
Interesting, what you say. And now this other opinionated person will dip a couple more toes into the discussion I agree that participating in political/societal functions is central to “citizenship” (or rather, to forming part of any community). I disagree that this would necessarily include working for either “one’s country” or “one’s government”. First, nation is not a given, in my view. I wish to participate in my community - to what extent that materialises in government or country is debateable. I do not feel about the country that it is “my country”. By which I don’t mean I feel marginalised (though I may feel so in certain aspects), but that I have no specific patriotic feeling. For me, a country (state) is an administrative unit, not a given nor having any specific, necessary meaning for me. How this “unit” is best administered is an open question. I think it is important to keep separate the different processes this entails.
And more so, I may feel that at times, what is necessary for me to do for my community (both on a global and local scale), is to actively reject part of the current form of government (representative democracy) in favour of more direct forms of democracy. One can very highly participate in societal matters without this taking the for of government participation (and at least in this country - Finland - much of government activity is purely administrative in the negative sense: what are essentially political matters are nonetheless dealt with as bureacratic procedures, sidestepping the democratic debate they should go through. This is something I most certainly will not want to participate in, as it would mean approving it and cementing it.)
My point: there are many, many ways of participating in civic society, and many forms far more radically political and positively subversive than working for the government (which doesn’t at all mean doing the latter would always be pointless).
Another thing: Seeing the video again now, I thought it a bit too “glossy”. Is it that there are only two extremes - either someone is completely marginalised and pissed off, or someone is completely “integrated” (so called, though I detest the term; integrated into what? and who should integrate?) and all is happy-happy funny-funny. Is it impossible to talk about difficulties in a nuanced manner? Or that there may be both negative and positive matters?
This is a sidenote though. I can’t comment on whether a Muslim should participate or not in the US government. I imagine that is for everyone, Muslim or otherwise, to decide for herself; what way and how and why one chooses to participate in society.
I haven’t a great deal of time to write at the moment, but I just wanted to say something very particular about being involved in translation for a government… That is, the government already has a lot of information in Arabic which they can not so much as classify the status of due to the fact that there are very few competent Arabic-English translators. I heard only the other day of an example, from the fifties, where the mis-rendering of the essence of the message went like this; “Ana muDdar an akruj taht DHurufin qahirah”. …The translator presented, “I am forced to leave underneath small envelopes made in Cairo.”… but it means something a lot closer to, “I am forced to leave under extreme duress.” …The lack of qualified personnel to translate the information did not stand in the way of unqualified translators, who had nobody looking over their shoulders to make sure they knew what they were doing.
What I am saying is that if we, as Muslim Americans, do not wish to dirty our hands with such jobs as translation for the government, there are others who will feel no compunction, and many of those others will do poor jobs at translating the documents at hand, which impacts Muslims (as the largest group of Arabic speakers) in a negative manner. The translations are going to be undertaken; is it not better if someone who cares a lot about the accuracy of the rendition undertakes the job?
Ummaryam, I didn’t mean to imply all work for the government is dirty :no: I simply wanted to say that working for the government is not in and of itself a sign of participation in a democratic society. Some jobs are dirty, no doubt, others are good, and may be so in spite of certain negative structures within which one operates if taking them on. But again, not all structures within state formations are by necessity negative, not at all. And I didn’t mean that what I said would apply to Muslims in particular (I’m not Muslim, nor do I belong to any other religious community), what I said was meant for people in general, whatever religion they do or don’t belong to.
And anyway, I’d think translation work done by competent people is rather essential to foreign as well as domestic affairs in any country
But of course it is beyond important that the translators render their amanat with due diligence; we understand each other’s points, I dare say…
Perhaps I am projecting on to you the attitudes I see amongst Muslim Americans, many of whom seem to think that becoming involved in this society is a crime of sorts while, paradoxically, doing all that they can to bring over as many relatives as possible from the ‘old country’. There is a lot of ambivalence among jet age immigrants.
When my ancestors left Germany for America it was pretty clear to everyone that they needed to say final goodbyes, as there was very little chance that those who were departing would ever return, even for a visit. In today’s climate of easy transportation and communications the apron strings often remain, uncut, and somehow binding the immigrants in a way that causes them to feel guilt about their choice to move abroad, but not enough guilt to stop them from making the trip.
…I have seen many families who came here as students, had children and then, when the kids were well in to school, decided that they wanted to go ‘back home’. Most of them don’t make it more than a year in the ‘old country’, a place where they never had to make their ways as adults. The children have lots of trouble adjusting; even the adults have trouble (re)acclimating. The place they are searching for is ephemeral; it never did exist, much less is it still there, awaiting their returns with open arms.