The American Political Extreme

When speaking in terms of the political extreme we must first define what is meant by “extreme.” Most scholars will agree that political extremism can be defined as a political philosophy or ideology of a character and kind that is farthest removed from the ordinary or average. It is the farthest from the center, outermost or endmost. It is going or doing the utmost to very great lengths to the political left or right in action, habit, or opinion.

With this in mind it is fair to say that the body politic of the Untied States has largely shifted to two extremes – liberal and conservative, as defined by the plat forms of both the democratic and republican parties. The dilemma is that neither party views themselves as being “extreme.” Yet, both parties categorically define each other by these extreme terms. They are fully capable of seeing the awful nature of the extremist positions of their opposition but not in themselves. That is more then troubling, it is dangerous. Let’s take a good look at both extremes.

Liberalism was once philosophically favorable to progress and reform in political or religious affairs, but without defying the basic tenets and principals of the constitution or Holy Scripture. Liberalism was favorable to and in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom in a society and government that was free from prejudice and bigotry. Liberalism advocated tolerance and generosity. Liberals were patriots and champions of freedom. Now compare this to modern day liberalism.

Modern day liberalism can best be defined as “secular progressivism” in a true Bill O’Reilly sense. No doubt about it, this is extreme. Modern day liberalism will redistribute wealth by targeting the affluent for most of the government’s revenue. They fully embrace the “rob Peter to pay Paul” mentality. This form of secular progressive liberalism wholly embraces the “welfare state” and is a champion of illegality with respect to illicit drug use and illegal immigration. Hard work and ingenuity will be taxed and penalized while laziness and illegal immigration will be rewarded through income redistribution.

Modern day liberalism embraces lax school discipline on American children to promote the so-called “liberties of minors.” It will even go so far as to deprive parents of their right to shape and discipline their own off spring through tried and tested (and biblically supported) cross-generational and universally accepted standards. This includes the occasional spanking (not to be confused with abusive beating). Instead secular progressive liberalism would replace this with a new social order that claims to know what is better for children then their parents. They would assume/replace responsibility for children from their parents. It is Orwellian in scope.

Modern day liberalism has a “one-world” approach to US foreign policy. It will happily abdicate American sovereignty to the Untied Nations and a new world order. Modern day liberalism wholly embraces all manner of moral perversities from pornography in literature, film, art and music to all manner of sexual promiscuity. All of this is done in the name of “self-expression” and a disturbing interpretation of the first amendments right to the “freedom of expression.” It doesn’t matter how much societal harm this does either. The focus on “individual rights” trumps the rights of an entire society under this new and modern secular progressive form of liberalism.

Modern day liberals call themselves “patriots” yet will do and say practically anything that will disgrace or do harm to their own country. With few exceptions, modern day liberals seldom serve their country but think nothing of attacking those who do. Modern day liberalism, unlike the liberalism of yesteryear, largely defines the meaning of “coward.” Modern day liberalism has lost its generosity, sense of fairness and fair play, and its patriotism.

Most modern day liberals are lazy. They believe they are owed everything yet deserve practically nothing. Few among them earn all that they have. They are much more “takers” then they are “givers.” They are perpetual spoiled brats, even in to middle age and beyond. Modern day liberals are extremely stingy with their own money but they will happily give away everyone else’s. They advocate gay rights but work diligently to deny “Christian rights.” Modern day liberalism bears naked hostility to religious values and their expression in public. They even flaunt obscene perversities in the face of Christians in the name of progressive free expression. They care nothing about those they offend.

Modern day liberalism embraces freedom only for its own ideals while denying the ideals, philosophies, and thoughts of any opposing view. Liberalism that was once the champion of “tolerance” has now become the most intolerant political ideology imaginable. Modern day secular progressive liberalism personifies the evil of hatred toward those who fail to share their views and these liberals would outright do harm if they could. This secular progressive liberalism is mean-spirited, scary, and very dangerous.

Conservatism was once viewed as the inclination in politics to maintain the existing traditional order. Political conservatives urged caution or moderation, as a behavior outlook. They were strict constitutional constructionists and were strong on national defense issues and staunch supporters of the military and military veterans. They were devout American patriots, almost to a spiritual level. Conservatives clearly embraced the free market ideal and the entrepreneurial spirit. They believed in fiscal responsibility in government to include limiting spending and taxation. They were strong on faith issues and supporters of religious freedom and expression. They deemed themselves to be the “champions of family.” Conservatism was a political philosophy and attitude that emphasized respect for traditional institutions, and distrust of government and governmental activism. Conservatism was in strong opposition to sudden change in the established order. Conservatism had a heart. Now let’s take a look at modern day conservatism.

Modern day conservatism could be better defined as “progressive fascism.” Not in terms of a governmental system led by a single dictator but rather by a “powerful elite” that I call the “fascist elite.” One person may appear to be in charge but he or she is responsive to the fascist elite. One must go through a “rights of passage” to gain membership in this highly select “fascist elite” inner circle. The “fascist elite’ is comprised of select and influential lobbyists, corporate elitists, and the conservative governmental inner circle. The trilateral commission members clearly fit in to this inner “fascist elitist” inner circle.

Modern day conservatives buck the traditional order as much as they embrace it. They abhor secular progressive Supreme Court decisions that overturn traditional values pertaining to marriage and life, which is a reasonable and defendable argument. However, they would happily out law individual freedom if it would advance their fascist conservative cause and further empower them. They are much more “pro-war” then they are “pro- military” and they wrongly think of them as being one in the same. They prefer a “military offense” to “military defense” and I’m not speaking in terms of military tactical or strategic maneuvering. I am speaking to a philosophical and ideological ideal.

They are quick to send Americas soldiers in to harms way provided they themselves, or their family members, never have to lead the charge. Modern day conservatives are quick to raise the flag but slow to serve it. Certainly there are exceptions but this is mostly a normal and usual dynamic of the modern day conservative movement. Most modern day conservatives are merely “military cheer leaders” that would fight only to stay our of a soldier’s uniform. Most of them define the word “coward.”

These modern day conservatives think nothing of turning their backs on America’s military veterans once they have been spent and are no longer useful. They point to passed veterans’ appropriations but neglect to mention that they themselves fought most of those appropriations tooth-and-nail through the legislative process. Had they had their way, our nations veterans would be penniless and without adequate healthcare.

Modern day conservatives abhor social welfare for the poor but embrace corporate welfare with frenzy. They are not just supporters of the entrepreneurial spirit and the capitalistic ideal, which is good, but they’ll also surrender the nation and its people to that a gross aberration of that ideal in the interest of corporate greed, which is bad. They are not just against taxation in general, they devise laws and methods to ensure corporations and the wealthiest among them can completely avoid taxation, especially in off shore accounts and through creative accounting.

Most of our nation’s wealthiest people are in these modern day conservative ranks and they have gotten greedier then the human psychic can comprehend. They have wholly forsaken the “middle class” and, believe it or not, with their secular progressive “give away everything “liberal cohorts, they are on the verge of turning America in to a two class “rich and poor” society. The American middle class is truly at risk of collapse.

Modern day conservatives speak a good line about being against “illegal immigration” but when they owned the presidency and both houses of congress they did absolutely nothing to prevent it. Instead they opened the avenues to illegal immigration and unlawful entry in to our country more then doubled. Cheap exploited labor for the modern day conservative ranks of the rich and greedy has become a mainstay for them, and America’s immigration laws, and the American worker, are damned because of it.

Modern day conservatives are content in transferring once secure and good paying jobs to distant foreign shores. There desperate, exploited, and often abused workers who are willing to work for a pittance await these once lucrative American jobs. The modern day conservatives thought nothing of leaving their loyal and hard working American employees stranded, destitute, unemployed and having to fed for themselves and their families in an increasingly competitive market that offers only little more then minimum wage to even college graduates. So, they gather to the unemployment lines and the welfare system, without health and dental insurance, both of which modern day conservatives are reluctant to fund. Then they call their once proud American workers “lazy freeloaders.” Modern day conservatives lost its compassion in an abyss of economic quicksand where it can’t be retrieved.

Modern day conservatives have turned fiscal responsibility in to a tax-and-spend extravaganza that makes the most ardent liberals proud. They are still strong on family and faith issues as long as they get to decide the dogma and doctrine of what is acceptable. I’m not talking about defending bible scripture, which is good, but living outside the dictates of what they preach, which is bad. For example they are against premarital sex, sexual promiscuity, adultery and “lusting in the mind,” but many among them are known to have done some or all above with a fever. Yet, they hypocritically attack an immoral Hollywood, which really is immoral. They rile about sodomy and gay marriage, which is their right if faith and scripture based. Yet they would imprison a gay couple, consenting adults, who engage in gay sex in the privacy of their own home. To be against sodomy is defendable religious belief but to want to discriminate and bring harm to those who don’t conform to your belief system is in no manner a Christian principle. That’s judgmental, playing God, and I think God would object. It’s an “extreme” conservative position that falls outside traditional mainstream conservatism.

The modern day American politic has evolved in to a mean-spirited bastion of political extremes. The political center that was once the mainstream of American political society was slightly right of center. Some had liberal tendencies but nothing extreme. Some had more conservative tendencies but again nothing extreme. They were both patriots and they liked each other even when they disagreed. They worked together for the good of the nation and each other. Their was seldom any polarization. That is now a distant memory of our better days.

Both parties have been hijacked by the political extremes, the democrats on the left and republicans on the right. They offer only candidates that embrace one extreme or the other. Candidates that must “sell out” to extremist ideologies before the American people get the chance to decide. America desperately needs a third party. A party of moderation and atonement. A party of patriotism. A party that supports fee enterprise, capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit without embracing the evil of greed. A party that cares more about the powerless then the powerful. A party of Judea-Christian values. A party of tolerance but not so tolerate as to embrace the extreme. A party that is slightly right of center and embraces traditional American values and morals but is not afraid of change. A party that will not lose its direction and sense of compassion. A party that will never stop caring about its people and one which reward hard work instead of good market guesses.

Multi-Nation Responsibility Basis Of Peace – War – Part 4 of 4 – 1968 Editorial

Multi-Nation Responsibility Basis Of Peace

War - Part 4 of 4

February 7, 1968

What are the alternatives to war?

After much discussion in this column during the past few weeks on the causes, functions and myths of war we come to the $64 question — is peace possible?

Yes, peace is possible. But before we opt for a social condition unique to civilization we should first honestly answer this question: Do we really want it?

With perpetual peace, technology would slow down. The world likely would change only slightly during a person’s lifetime. Indeed, change would be resisted. For Americans, life would be pleasant enough. However, for people in the underdeveloped areas of the world, life would remain frustrating.

The diffusion of cultural ideas also would slow. Left to their own devices, people would revert to relative isolationism which in pre-civilized days led to the development of separate races of man. Harsh as it may be, war makes victor and vanquished more alike.

We probably would lose our ability to mobilize effectively, thus leaving geographical pockets of people to suffer alone when such natural disasters occur as disease, flood, storm, famine, fire and earthquakes. Likewise, we would be unable to protect ourselves from revolutions, holy wars and criminal raids organized by relatively small numbers of dissident men.

Economic inflation would be halted, but by stratification of society into classes–including a rather permanent and extensive poor class, in my opinion.

Despite all the forgoing, the world deserves an opportunity to try and make the good life practical though peaceful. Man is an inventive creature that can, and does, alter his environment. Perhaps he will yet discover a way to have his cake and eat it too.

As a citizen in the middle economic class of an affluent nation, a father of two sons and an admirer of old-fashioned ideas I would readily choose a peaceful, status quo society. I would give up quite a bit of “progress” for a guarantee that my home would not be destroyed and my children would be spared the risk of death.

Now, then, what are the alternatives to war? Margaret Mead curator of enthology at the American Museum has examined the alternatives to war and rounded up a number of proposals by other anthropologists.

Development of nuclear weapons — principally by the United States and the Soviet Union, but to a lesser extent by France, China and Great Britain — has added a new dimension to warfare.

The first deterrent to war is recognition that nuclear warfare on a world scale is not only no longer functional but actually endangers the entire population of the planet.

With this fact clearly established we are ready to take one or more steps toward more stable world relationships.

An important peace requirement, according to Mead, is the development of values that may in time make it easier to discard war as a political tool.

“Warfare depends upon the establishment of unequivocal and mutually exclusive identities and loyalties, today represented by national boundaries,” she declares.

“As long as there exists the permanent definition of one’s own group within which to kill is murder, as opposed to groups whom it may be virtuous to risk one’s life to kill, — warfare … can easily he invoked.”

Federation is suggested as one way in which the identity and power of member nations can be made dependent upon the identity and power of the group. The United States is the best known example of this model. The European Common Market seems to be developing into a workable federation.

If nations owed their status and security to the existence and prosperity of other nations, and if emphasis were placed upon interdependence rather than independence, concepts of nationhood could replace nationalism, Mead says.

“Such changes in our world organization would involve altering the appeal of nation-states. That is, we must find other ways to perform those organizational and identity – bestowing functions now met by nation-states. Substituting multilateral responsibilities for bilateral agreements is one way in which this change could be promoted.”

Among the group responsibilities already established are those involving defense among nations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and those helping control world economy, such as the World Bank.

World wide control of food, communication, travel, police and environment pollution are civilized needs that might benefit from international cooperation.

Among the significant alternatives to war suggested by Mead is an effective system of providing law and order everywhere.

She also calls for the distribution of the essentials and goods of life among all the peoples–particularly food. An increase in production of food, water and electricity probably is the key to long lasting peace.

Another step to peace, says Mead, is establishment of a worldwide, secondary language that is easy to use. A universal language — Esperanto is a well known, man – made language proposed for the United Nations — would equalize the positions of speakers of all nations.

Finally, Mead believes we should “establish the conditions for self identification with an initial, small, geographically located group within which all individuals could be personally known.

“This would underwrite each child’s need for identity and security. Then we could set up a variety of ‘mutually overlapping and non-exclusive identifications with larger groups of many kinds, without any single or overriding loyalty.”

The goal to peace, it seems to me, is attainable — at a price worth paying. It will not be won by supine pacifists no more than by ruthless war mongers.

The road to peace must be on the basis of self interest, not on the immorality of war.

The atomic bomb is the ultimate weapon against which the only defense is refusal to use it. For the first time in civilization the disadvantages of war heavily outweigh its advantages.

I am confident we will find an alternative to war, because we must.

Reflections on the Ummah-Nation-State Divide

Hopefully, this essay will provide some food for thought as we begin the arduous process of rethinking many of the fundamental ideas and institutions that developed during an age that is rapidly drawing to a close. As that age expires, many of the ideas accompanying it must be allowed to expire with it. If we attempt to cling dogmatically to outmoded ideas and institutions, we are only delaying their inevitable demise and handicapping the ability of coming generations to build a world that is a more realistic reflection of their resources, potential and limitations.

One of the most profound developments in the modern history of Islam has been the emergence of the Nation-state in Europe and its subsequent imposition on the Muslim world. Its profundity is illustrated by the fact that it has come to capture the imagination of all politically active Muslims. In the process, it became one of the principal means for consolidating the destruction of a viable Islamic civilization by introducing into the Muslim world an institutional and conceptual framework that helped to hasten the disappearance of the institutions and organizations that gave Muslim societies their unique character and identity.

To briefly illustrate both the pervasiveness and the destructiveness of the nation-state in the Muslim world, we can mention the statement of Dr. Sayyid Hussein Nasr that the Muslim nations are united in their destruction of their respective environmental richness. Hence, Qaddafi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq, The Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. all share a reckless disregard for environmental protection and a total disregard of classical Islamic teachings relating to environmental stewardship and conservation. His point is that these Muslim nation-states, despite their varying ideological orientations, have all waged an undeclared war against their fragile ecosystems.

One of the reasons for this is the imperative that the Muslim nation-states “catch-up” with its western counterparts in terms of economic and industrial development. In the context of a linear view of national development, the argument goes, Muslim nation-states cannot afford the luxury of considering the ecological consequences of their so-called development programs. Environmental protection can only come at the cost of slowing development and the strategic implications of lagging to far behind are too grave for ecological concerns to even be considered.

Before proceeding, let us mention that the nation-state as a modern political arrangement was unknown until 1648, at the earliest, in the aftermath of the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, which resulted in the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire. This is seen as the event that demarcates the birth of the modern nation-state. As far as Muslims are concerned, the idea of a sovereign nation-state is a 20th Century phenomenon. Most contemporary Muslim states did not achieve independence until after the Second World War through the expiration of various colonial mandates and decolonization struggles. There are a few exceptions to this chronology, such as the secular Turkish Republic, which achieved its independence in the aftermath of the First World War.

Prior to the 20th Century, hence, for most of the history of the Muslim Ummah, Muslims organized themselves, politically, according arrangements that primarily reflected tribal or geographical lines of demarcation. A sultan’s (political leader) authority was demarcated by the limit of his tax-collecting and rebellion-suppression ability, not according to his claim to hold sway over a territory demarcated by fictitious lines drawn on a map. Similarly, although people may have accepted the authority of a particular sultan, their ultimate allegiance was, practically, to their tribe or clan.

Despite such practical ties, most Muslims held a sentimental attachment to the Ummah, in its conceptualization as the global Muslim community. There were instances when that sentimental attachment translated into tangible political action, such as the Turks soliciting volunteers from lands as far flung as India and Morocco to assist in the expulsion of the European occupiers from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War.

In endeavoring to look at the question of what it means to be a member of the global Muslim Ummah in the context of the modern nation-state, we must look at the different ways we can examine the idea of the Ummah. We can examine it politically, socially, culturally and religiously. In many instances confusion arises when discussing issues related to this topic, we fail to make these distinctions.

Let us begin by looking at the idea of a distinct Ummah, religiously. Most of the verses in the Qur’an dealing with the idea of a single, unified Ummah are religious statements. They demarcate a unique religious community, and in most instances they enjoin upon it specific religious duties.

“Our Lord! Make the two of us submissive unto you, and from our progeny a community submissive unto you. Teach us our rituals, and accept our repentance. Surely, you are most accepting of repentance, the all merciful”.

“Thus have we made you a moderate community in order that that you be a witness against humanity and the Messenger will be a witness against you”.

“Let there arise from you a group calling to all good, enjoining right and forbidding wrong. They are those who will be successful”.

“You are the best community brought forth [to serve] humanity. You command good, forbid wrong and you believe in Allah”.

“They are not the same! Among the People of the Scripture is an upright group that recites the Signs of Allah, throughout the night, all the while in humble prostration”.

“How [will it be] when We bring forth from every community a witness, and We will bring you forth as a witness against these”.

‘Verily, this community of yours is a unified community, and I am your Lord. Worship Me!”

In these verses Allah describes a religious community that has been commissioned with religious responsibilities: submission to God; undertaking certain rituals; witnessing for or against humanity; recipients of and preservers of a scripture; followers of the Prophetic tradition; calling to the path of God; enjoining the right; forbidding the wrong; believing in God; a community that will be testified against by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of Allah upon him, a community established to worship Allah.

These functions are religious duties or obligations that can be performed within or outside of the context of a nation-state. There is no excuse for Muslims not to be performing them in whatever time or place we find ourselves in. This is the most basic level of our defining our membership in the Ummah of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah upon him. This is a level that defenders of most modern nation-states would view as noncontroversial.

Another level we can consider the Ummah is directly associated with the first. As a religious community of shared rituals, a shared liturgical language, shared dietary conditions, a common general dress code and unique approaches to art and music, Muslims share a common culture. This shared reality creates an Ummah at the cultural level. This cultural Ummah, cuts across the various nations, tribes and geographical regions that comprise the religious Ummah. At its height, it allowed Ibn Battuta to travel over 70,000 miles, from Tangiers in Morocco to Indonesia, and to remain, for the most part in a single, integrated cultural zone. Hence, he was able to become a judge in the Maldives. He was at home wherever he went in the vast Muslim world. His situation stands in stark contrast to Marco Polo, who traveled to many of the same areas a quarter century before Ibn Battuta. The latter was an outside observer in virtually all of the lands he traversed.

This cultural unity has indeed decayed, but it is still an extant reality, even in its diminished form. Muslims pray the same way the world over. We fast the same month of Ramadan in the same way the world over. If a Muslim from Canada and or the United States were to go to Indonesia or Mali he or she would find Muslims praying and fasting exactly as he or she is praying or fasting, and if they were educated, Islamically, they could communicate with their hosts in the Arabic language. Standards governing what constitutes acceptable or Halal food are universal among Muslims.

These cultural distinctions of the Ummah should be actively encouraged regardless of the political imposition of the nation-state over the Muslim people, as they are distinctions that are apolitical in nature. Those cultural traditions that are disappearing, such as calligraphy, spiritual musical, etc. should be revived. Furthermore, these standards have always accommodated local influences. Thus, by way of example, even though traditional Malay food or dress would be viewed as Islamic, it differs markedly from the traditional Fulani, West African Muslim food or dress owing to the unique Malay of Fulani contributions to the Islamic ideal.

It should be also be understood that the cultural reality of Islam has preceded, coexisted with and will likely outlive the nation-state. This latter statement does not assume an inherent superiority of the “Islamic.” It assumes that humans will find superior ways to organize their societies than the already anachronistic (to some extent) nation-state. Again, these are levels of endeavor that most advocates and defenders of the nation-state will not find controversial.

The most controversial level of analysis in terms of assessing the relationship between the Muslim Ummah and the nation-state is at the level of politics. Here the degree of controversy does not arise from Islam, if that were the case, the nation-state would have never become the dominant form of political organization among the Muslim people.

The ongoing “Arab Spring” illustrates the pervasiveness of the degree to which Muslims have accepted the nation-state. The various movements in different Muslim countries are focused on who will control the nation-state. They are not movements that challenge the validity of the state itself. The movements’ principal slogan illustrates this:

“The people want the downfall of the regime”.

The activists, both Muslim and secular, are calling for the eradication of the oppressive ruling regimes, not the eradication of the state itself.

What controversy between Muslims and the nation-state that does exist arises from the nation-state itself, not from Islam and Muslims, with the exception of fringe groups that have little political relevance in their respective societies. The critical question here is what does the nation-state demand of the Ummah. If the nation-state demands the acceptance of a common set of political obligations and the assumption of a common set of political responsibilities, which advance the common good of all of its members, and I am speaking of Muslims in the context of a pluralistic, representative state, then the degree of controversy can be managed.

Among the most fundamental obligations and responsibilities for Muslims living in the western, secular, pluralistic nation-states are the following:

1) Respecting the sanctity of the life, property and honor of one fellow citizens;

2) Respecting the sanctity of the public space;

3) Respecting the plurality of ideas, beliefs and the personal freedoms that underlie them; and expecting that the belief, ideas and personal freedoms of Muslims will be protected.

These are obligations that virtually all Muslims will find acceptable and consistent with Islamic beliefs and values.

However, if the nation-state demands blind, unconditional allegiance that crosses into the realm of worship, which some fascist definitions of the nation-state imply, then the state is elevated to the level of an idol and idolatry is forbidden in Islam. Consider the following view of the fascist state by one of its most influential theorists and architects, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini:

Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.

This conceptualizing of the state is not only forbidden in Islam, it runs counter to the western, pluralistic democratic state as we know it and as it was envisioned by its founders. It is therefore a patriotic duty for Muslims and all other concerned citizens to oppose any fascist views that involve the deification of the state. Critically, and this is an issue I have addressed at length elsewhere, it is a duty of Muslims to oppose efforts deifying an authoritarian, totalitarian state in the name of Islam, or the “Islamic” state.

One of the greatest steps we can take to undermine the emergence of fascist views of the nation-state is to “de-reify” it. In other words, the modern state is not an anthropomorphized, monolithic, living, “spiritual” entity. It is an pseudo-abstraction comprised of individuals, groups, institutions and organizations, which have in most instances varying interests. Each of these is connected to a particular nation-state in different ways. Take the example of the United States.

It is comprised of groups that have been labeled Native American, African Americans, White Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, home-owing Americans, corporate Americans, oil industry-controlling Americans, defense-contracting Americans, etc. Each of these groups is connected in different and differing ways to the American project. Some groups are able to control and manipulate the institutions of government in ways that advance their interests, while other have little or no influence over those institutions.

Usually, but not always, groups are connected to the American project in ways that reflect their being the victims or beneficiaries of that project. For example, many Native Americans feel no connection at all to America. As a result they are seeking independence from the United States and endeavoring to establish sovereign nations. Some African Americans, whose ancestors were brought to America in chains, lack the same sense of patriotism that resides in the breasts of many who came to America freely and found prosperity for themselves and their progeny. Their feeling is expressed well in the following words of Fredrick Douglas. In his moving speech, What is the Fourth of July to the Negro, Douglas stated:

“The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”

Yet, even among African Americans, there is a a wide range of feelings towards America. While many would share the bitterness expressed by Douglass, others display a more ambivalent attitude towards the country. Consider the words of Langston Hughes when he writes, critically, but hopefully, in his poem, “Let America be American Again”:

“O, yes, I say it plain,

America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath- America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain-

All, all the stretch of these great green states-

And make America again!”

Yet other Americans of African descent find no problem in an unqualified embrace of the American project and unabashed praise for the country. This group is represented by the likes of Reverend Archibald Carey, Jr., an African American minister whose words informed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech. He proudly proclaimed in an address to the 1952 Republican Convention:

“We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: My country ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride From every mountainside Let freedom ring!”

The point I am making here is that if African Americans are this complex and diverse in terms of a connection to the American project then what about the entire country and all of its ethnic, racial and religious elements. That diversity is what makes America unique, and it argues against a fascist vision of the state that would seek to disguise that diversity beneath an imaginary uniformity generated by an authoritarian state.

In conclusion, America, and most other modern western nation-states are composed of many elements. Muslims, in varying numbers at various times have always been one of those elements. As such, the struggle of American Muslims, both to live peacefully in this land as Muslims, and the struggle to define the nature and terms of our engagement with the state, while belonging to a global Muslim community, are uniquely American struggles. As such, we have an obligation to our ancestors who preceded us in this land to continue that struggle, and we have an obligation to our fellow citizens to work along with them to preserve the integrity of the sociopolitical arrangement that made that struggle possible.

By Zaid Shakir