Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

American Muslims

After hearing President Obama speech at Islamic Society of Baltimore, 17 year old, Aleena Khan wrote a letter to him explaining: "I am an American, I grew up here.  I say the Pledge of Allegiance every day.  And yet, I am a Muslim."  She thanked our President for his faith in Muslim-Americans, and told him that his speech was like an oxygen tank, allowing her to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Aleena’s mother is Indian-American, her father emigrated from Pakistan.  She and her two sisters have lived in Maryland their whole lives.

As part of an honors research project on identity crises among Muslim-American teenagers, Aleena had spent hours online combing through public comments on news articles about Muslims.

She has shocked to read comments like: “Kick them all out and put the rest in detainment camps.  Enough with the PC feces.”  Another commented: "The only peaceful and moderate Muslims are the dead ones."  A man wearing military camouflage tweeted: "Hard to tell what we should build first.  A border wall or a gas chamber for Muslims."

Even with Obama's encouragement, Aleena still has doubts that other Americans will accept her.  In her honors project, she pointed out: "Americans live in fear that Muslims will attack them.  Muslims live in fear that they will be attacked."

In her free time, Aleena has tutored young children, and volunteered for a company that helps poor and abused women sell handmade wares.  This fall, she began her freshman year at George Washington University in Washington, where she plans to study public policy.  She hopes, one day, to improve the foster care system, a goal inspired by a recent documentary.

If Aleena were an Orthodox Jew or conservative Christian, she would also feel like she was swimming against a cultural riptide.  But, few would question her American identity or allegiance to her homeland.


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