By Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI Executive Director
A few minutes within the last night of this year’s Democratic National Convention have been the focus of a series of conversations as of late.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan graced the main stage in Philadelphia that night to speak about the life of their son Captain Humayun Khan who lost his life while serving in the U.S. military while deployed in Iraq. Khizr Khan was highly critical of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal of temporarily banning immigration of Muslims.
Since then, Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan did not speak on the main stage that night, falsely suggesting that Muslim women cannot speak for themselves. Trump surrogates went further by smearing the Khan family as Muslim Brotherhood operatives deployed by the DNC. Democrats and Republicans both have denounced Trump’s more overtly xenophobic comments about Muslims.
But what leaders in both parties are doing knowingly or unknowingly, however, is deploying a subtle loyalty test for good American Muslims versus bad ones.
The last night of the DNC had much to do with national security as its theme. Muslims were mentioned in speeches, and some had speaking roles, but only concerning the topic of national security. This even included my childhood hero Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, who introduced the Khan family onto the stage. What’s more, former President Bill Clinton stated, “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you.”
Thus it appears that even Democratic Party leadership continues to reinforce the problematic narrative that a primary discourse relating to Muslims is only about national security.
The good American Muslim waves the flag of patriotism, has served or has had family members serve as military members or first responders, or has to condemn and maybe even pledges to fight against violent extremism which emanates half way across the globe. Those who do not openly participate in these endeavors which constitute the implicit loyalty test are suspected as bad Muslims who can be viewed with suspicion as perhaps not American enough.
American Muslims are like any other demographic of Americans. We have some who adhere to the idea that America is an exceptional nation, while others think that America has been involved in a series of unjust wars abroad and kills far too many civilians in drone strikes. We have Muslims who defend mass surveillance and aggressive community policing, while others are sharp critics of federal surveillance programs and protest with #BlackLivesMatter.
Muslims are military veterans like myself, firefighters and police officers, medical doctors, cab drivers and homemakers, who all contribute in one way or another to our society.
It is time to stop talking about or showcasing American Muslims within the loyalty test framework. Muslims who are involved in military service and are committed to countering violent extremism should not be erased from the national conversation about us. They should not, however, be the dominant conversation about who American Muslims must be for us to be seen as good or safe American Muslims who are worthy of dignity and respect.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)