Monday, August 20, 2007

Muslim visibility Campaign: rationale and goals

[This is a 1 page document that summarizes why I think a visibility campaign for Muslims is necessary. I wrote it in a formal way to communicate my thoughts to people other than my friends. There is some repetition of you read the earlier post but I prefer to leave this document unchanged, for reference]

The logic of our thought process is as follows:

1- Events outside our control, as individual Muslims, have caused significant damage to our community's image. I am referring to constant barrage of violent uncivilized acts committed in our name, and publicized widely by the perpetrators.

2- The lack of knowledge about Muslims and Islam makes it easier for the Media, and the average individual to get fixated on an image of Muslims, collectively, as inherently evil people.

3- A significant percentage of the non-Muslim community believes that:

  • We, Muslims, are sympathetic to the terrorists,
  • That our religion condones and encourages terrorism against non-Muslims.
  • That, even though we do not agree with the terrorists, we are unable or afraid to express our opposition to terrorism against civilians.
  • And that most of the Muslims who oppose terrorism and are willing to express that, end up “qualifying” out statements, “watering it down”, and “looking for justifications and excuses” for those who commit terrorist acts.

In view of all of these perception problems, non-Muslim Americans are looking for a clear and unequivocal, unqualified and united message from Muslim Americans, and from their religious leadership, regarding where our religion stands on the issue of terrorism, and ANY attacks on civilians.

As Muslims in the West, it is our duty to be spokespersons for Islam, not by preaching, but by being a living example for what a Muslim should be.

If we are NOT VISIBLE as Muslim citizens in our communities, then we are unable to send the message that most of us are good people. Our VISIBILITY is pivotal to our message, and is the ONLY way we can dilute and counter the horrible image of Muslims and Islam in the Media. The visibility of the large number of Muslims in this society can be enhanced by actively engaging non-Muslim, and by participating in activities and behavior consistent with being good and caring citizens, simultaneously consistent with our Islamic values.

This was the thought process leading to our interest in a Muslim Visibility Campaign.

Our goals are to:

  • Get more Muslims to ACTIVELY show on a regular basis that they are members of the Muslim community. That is where simple measures can be effective: car stickers, T-shirts with campaign logos, characteristic Silicon Wristbands for the youth, etc.
  • Encourage different Islamic institutions to incorporate in their religious activities a message to the community on regular basis about the duties of the individual Muslim as a messenger for their religion, by their deeds (not by preaching).
  • Encourage Islamic institutions, religious and non-religious, to be more engaging in the public arena, with social services, event participation, communication to the media etc.

We are hopeful to get more communities on board with these goals. I know it is “ambitious”, but I feel we have no choice but to try hard. The trouble we are in as a Muslim community in the USA is not going away on its own, and it requires ACTIVE participation from ALL of us. Many of us have good intentions, but it is only the effort we put into trying, with Gods help, that is going to achieve the goals. Intentions alone will not suffice.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Muslim visibility Campaign

This is the logo I came up with while trying to describe what I want in a logo for a campaign that may encourage American Muslims to be actively more visible in the society. Most Americans do not realize there are a lot of Muslims around them, in all places, and all professions.

Many Americans think the only way for a Muslim to be, is the way they see on the news: angry, long bearded, dressed in traditional outfit of a far away culture, and is either praying or protesting in the streets, shouting 'Death to America'. Well, they are wrong. But we, Muslims, are not very helpful correcting this image either. Most of us do not make the effort to be visible; we either feel it is inappropriate to show our religious affiliation; feel scared of being 'too visible', or simply mind our own business, and we do not think it is any body's business to know who we are. While there are many occasions when any or all of these excuses are legitimate, there are more occasions when none of them is.

When few Muslims are visible as Muslims -most of whom are outstanding members of the American society- the more it is likely the quirky crazy ones showing on the TV news on daily basis become our public image. If the average American realizes they probably interact with, or even pass by 4-5 Muslims every day, it is less likely they will think that ALL of us are evil, violent or religious zealots.

They may not necessarily have to like very Muslim they meet, but that is a far cry from thinking that Muslims are, by default, inclined to violence and are hateful people. I hope the campaign I am dreaming of will gain momentum with time.

I am not a fool, and I know the chances of failure are much bigger than the chances of success but, as my friends got tired of hearing me say it, we do not have much choice.
If I do not do my best to make this place a more friendly place for my children, their children and any other American Muslim, I am not doing my job as a father, as a Muslim, or even as an American citizen.

The amount of emotional energy most Americans spend worrying about terrorism, sleeper cells, and home-grown fanatics is tremendous. I can only begin to imagine the toll it takes
on anyone when he or she feels that their neighbor, their work colleague or classmate is a potential terrorist, just because they believe in God in a different way. This is not a fun way to live.
As American citizens we owe it to our own people, the American people, to make every effort to ease their fears as much as we owe it to our fellow Muslims to help restore a neutral if not a bright friendly image to our religion and co-religionists.

My First Post

Well. Finally I took the plunge. This is possibly the worst time for me to start anything that may take more of my time, but it is too late now. I am hoping this blog may end up being a meeting place for many of my friends interested in discussing issues related to American Muslims and Muslims in general. We have these discussions any way all the time, so why not put it in a blog.

I also have an little 'ulterior' motive as will. I want to learn more about blogs, HTML, etc. So this is my way of doing it, and hopefully something more useful - than just me learning- will come out of this. I am a lousy typist, and I do not like proofreading my own words, so, if you find major typos you have been forewarned.

Also, English is not my first language, so if an expression sounds weird, try to guess what I was trying to say. This also means, I reserve the right to edit my posts if I realize that my wording did not convey what I really meant.

Now I have to find ore about how to make this blog private, at least initially. Hope to be back sometime soon.