The challenge and the opportunity to serve humanity that exist before the American Muslims is rare in history. They are at the right place in a critical time in history to do a great work that can help lead humanity towards a positive direction for generations to come. This is an enormous responsibility.
They are the common denominator of the two most confrontational parts of the world and they are conversant with the mindsets and cultures of both: the Muslim world and America. The American Muslims are the citizens of the superpower of our time and they are also a part of the 1.3 billion Muslim umma [the Muslim world] that possesses about 76% of the oil reserves of the world.
They are part of a nation that is the most powerful and influential in the world yet the people themselves are the most open, pluralistic, self-reflective, self-correcting and the most changeable people in the world. This is a rare combination of power and values. The 230 years of history of this nation is a testament of this spirit. The ideals on which the United States of America was founded were not all materialized at the time of the inception: there was slavery and not all citizens rights were upheld and respected.
However, since then this society remained mindful about the ideals and dedicated to the propositions of liberty, equality, equity and dignity of all people vigorously and incessantly struggled to help establish these through continuous changes. In fighting the most bloody civil war and struggling through the collective bargaining movements, the immigration movements, the womenâ€™s liberation movement, the Civil Rights movement and other struggles this nation, thank God, has managed to come to the moral side of the equation many a time. This tradition of positive change and the inclination towards self-correction mark the grain of this nation.
Therefore the Muslims — who are rightfully apprehensive and distrustful about the policies of this country towards the Muslim world during the last several decades â€“still could be hopeful about this nation in bringing about further transformation positive towards the Muslim affairs. This may appear distant and difficult considering the present situation but the potential for this to happen soon â€“paradoxically enough– is great only if the Muslim leadership can engage intensely with the due process of this society to help bring about a change in the mindset and the modus operandi on the international front.
Such a change is long overdue and the American Muslims can be instrumental towards that goal only if the suggestion of change is offered though constructive engagements. The due process of this nation and the civil society offer opportunities of such engagements of change. Therefore, the American Muslims are at the critical place to spearhead a leadership of constructive engagements, better understanding, mediation, consultation and peace brokering among the conflicting parties outside this nation as well as within this nation. In order to be effective in this undertaking the nature of this involvement must be both political as well as social and this work needs to be initiated simultaneously both on the domestic and on the international fronts.
America is seriously engaged and preoccupied with the Muslim world. However, there is no American Muslim leadership voice on the burning issues of our time: Americaâ€™s role in the world, the nature of its engagements with other nations, setting the priorities and goals, how to approach most effectively towards the issue of security and equity and how these are intensely interdependent. The vacuum of an American Muslim leadership of this caliber and of this nature is a sign of a great failure of Muslims.
America is the best place to spearhead such a leadership and be most effective. It would need a group of visionary and dedicated Muslim leaders to take this work and come forward to do enormous change and enormous good in the world today. It is a â€˜tall orderâ€™ indeed but it is within our reach and it is achievable now, God willing.
The context is calling for such leadership to come forward. In history when there is a deadlock and disarray in the affairs of a nation or nations â€“ as it exists now in our time — often a way out is offered by a fresh, often unrecognized personality or group of people. It is my conviction and my vision to see that an American Muslim leadership, God willing, could be that fresh group in our time.
How ripe is the context to help catapult such leadership? Let us explore: America again is in a state of a â€˜soul-searchâ€™ and a national debate as to the nature of its role in the world. The neo-con strategy has failed, the goals in Iraq and other places have not achieved, a staggering cost and sacrifice is mounting, the Middle East is in disarray and the Muslim world â€“ containing almost 76% of the oil reserve of the world — is in a crisis. The leadership of this superpower is in a redefining state as the mandate for a change is mounting and manifesting from the society itself. How better could be an opportunity for an enlightened and visionary Muslim leadership to come forward with the right idea and agenda to make sense to this people and the world? America is ready to listen to a Muslim voice within. I pray and hope we, Muslim Americans, can prepare ourselves to play this role.
The Muslim world which could be the most prosperous, progressive and dynamic part of the world is in reality â€“ tragically and paradoxically — in a state of degradation and instability. An â€˜ummaâ€™ which was commanded to offer a leadership of a better society, hope and aspiration through a better example has failed and failed disgracefully. The absence of a legitimate due process in governance, weak and helpless civil society, rampant corruption and incessant violations of human rights and dignity, inequity and sky-rocketing concentration of wealth and power leading towards instability and volatility, a huge and fast growing young generation increasingly becoming hopeless and angry with the way their societies are mismanaged and a countless people going through deep insecurity and inhuman sufferings â€“ all– contribute towards a condition of dysfunction and decay breeding intolerance, sectarian conflicts, extremism, fragmentation and even bloodshed and violence.
This state of volatility and dysfunction is incompatible with a sound economic growth and the social progress most needed in many Muslim counties today. A leadership of vision must come forward to offer a way out of this vicious cycle. A few changes in the attitudes and modus operandi can help change the entire reality of the Muslim world today. The changes that took a long time in the past could be accomplished in a much shorter period of time due to the enormous changes that took place in technology, communication and in the mindset of humanity during the last few decades. These prerequisites are all most conducive and momentum-generating towards a positive transformation. A â€˜triggeringâ€™ aggressive agenda needs to be initiated by a visionary Muslim leadership. This agenda could be most effective if it is initiated by the Muslim citizensâ€™ group of the superpower of our time.
The extremism and the destructive forces that are feared so much in our contemporary world is a â€˜symptomâ€™ and not the â€˜diseaseâ€™. The disease is the failure to offer a better way to change the things those need to be changed to help create this world a fairer and a better place. There could be a way out of this quagmire. The American Muslims are at the most important place to explore the way and be the pioneer to chart its course in our time.