Islam and American History

There is a particularly hateful article that has been posted on a number of blogs and recently on facebook that I find stunning in its bigotry. [Update June 8, 2013: I had posted the text of the article before but have discovered that people were linking to it directly. I have removed it so that it is no longer associated with my blog.]  The article, “An American Citizen’s Response” attempts, poorly, to take President Obama to task for recognizing that Islam has always been a part of America’s history. It asks questions, apparently with the expectation that there are no answers. Here are my answers…

Have you ever seen a Muslim hospital?

Not exactly (see Shriners Hospitals below), but there are a greater percentage of Muslim physicians in America than would be suggested by demographics. Among them is cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality, Dr. Oz.

Have you heard a Muslim orchestra?

New York Arabic Orchestra; I haven’t heard them play, but last year they played to a packed house to glowing reviews at the Lincoln Center in New York. Incidentally, I can’t think of the last time I heard of a Baptist Orchestra, or a Catholic Orchestra; have you?

Have you seen a Muslim band march in a parade?

Have you ever seen a Shriner riding around in a little tiny car at the parade? The Shriners, originally known as “Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine”, are a charitable group from the Masons (or Freemasons) an organization that has had a play in American politics from the founding days. The group is a fraternity, not a religion; it is not formally tied to Islam. But the group was the product of an early Mason who attended a party by an Arabian diplomat, and the activities of the Shriners were copied from the example made by the Arabian diplomat. The derivative work of that group includes the Shriners Hospitals, of course, which has provided life-saving care for countless American children.

Have you witnessed a Muslim charity?

Here, lmgtfy. Check out There are some that pop up, like Islamic Relief USA and the National Council on US-Arab Relations, both of which have 4-star reviews (the maximum) for financial performance, accountability and transparency.

Have you seen Muslims?

Yes, I’ve worked closely with Muslims, Americans and Muslim professionals from other countries. In particular, I worked with emergency police, fire and medical personnel who came to America after 9/11 to work with us on responding to incidents of mass destruction. More recently, I’ve traveled to countries overseas with populations that include Muslims to work together to improve international security.

Have you shaken hands with a Muslim Girl Scout?

I haven’t shaken the hand of Muslim Girl Scout that I know of, but I can’t tell you the last Girl Scout I met of any religious belief. The Girl Scouts celebrate and recognize girls of many different faiths, have a “My Promise/My Faith” pin that the girls can work toward, and entire programs geared specifically to different faiths that American Girl Scouts believe, including Islam. I am not involved in Girl Scouting anymore; possibly some who feel the way the author of this list feels are involved with Scouts. My question: would you make an American Muslim girl feel welcome and valued in your troop?

Have you seen a Muslim Candy Striper?

Really, do they still have “Candy Stripers”? And even if they did, how would I know a Muslim from any other American?

Have your seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life ???

Really?! Oh, where to start? How about Muhammad Ali? Or Shaquille O’Neal? Kareem Abdul Jabar? Casey Kasem – my favorite Top 40 DJ growing up! Snoop Dog? Mr. Old Spice and former Seattle Seahawk, Isaiah Mustafa? Yusef Islam, previously known as Cat Stevens? Shahzia Sikander, artist and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award? David Bowie’s wife Iman? Mike Tyson? Fareed Zakaria?

My favorite recently is the comic, Dean Obeidallah. Wait did I say comic, how about former practicing attorney who now does stand-up comedy and writes for CNN on issues of importance in Arab American relations. As he says, he’s just “trying to change the world for the better”.

But I must say that my favorite contribution by Muslims to the American way of life falls close to home. In 2008, I was becoming increasingly discouraged about the way the Republican Party, which I had supported my entire adult life, was going. I decided it was time that I became involved in politics at a local level. I attended my first Democratic Precinct Caucus. It was held in the Activity Room of the Islamic Center in my tiny little town. That caucus was the first time I had a chance to cast a vote for Barack Obama. For that American, civic minded contribution, I am deeply grateful!

The rest of the article is too far over the top and too ignorant of history or geography for a response.

2 Comments on “Islam and American History

  1. Well said. Thank you for taking the time to address these questions. It’s a sad deceit for this list of questions to be posted with no real intent for truthful answers.

  2. Jane, thanks for your comment. I agree. What made me most sad was the individual who posted it – a friend and colleague I would not guess to be capable of such hatefulness.

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