July 4th Celebrations, Muslims and Ramadan. American Muslim Agenda, a new beginning for Muslim Americans

Let
this 4th day of July 2014 be a historic beginning for Muslim Americans.
http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2014-07-02-July4th.AmericaTogetherFoundation.com3.jpgMany
of you may not know this, but upon Declaration of our Independence on July 4,
1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of
the United States were Muslim.

Despite
a few, who have painted Muslims in a negative light for their own gains; Muslims
have always been well wishers of America and will continue to do that. The
Journey began with the birth of our nation, and I am pleased to make a
recommendation to my fellow Muslims to take this relationship further
deeper.

What will I do on July 4th? 2nd of 3 articles on American Muslim Agenda
( to be published at  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/ )

Continued:

Let
this 4th day of July 2014 be a historic beginning for Muslim Americans
It
is time for Muslims to set their agenda, and develop short and long term plans.
We have to debate, discuss and work on developing a final agenda that is good
for the Muslims and good for fellow Americans. Here is a 3 part series of
initiating such agenda. 
In the first part of the series at Huffington
Post, we shared;
1.
What does it take to be the Amins “trust keepers” of our society?
2. Why should we stand up for the rights of
others? 
3. No American should live in apprehension or
fear of the other.
It
is at –
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/american-muslim-agenda-a-_b_5528706.html 
Now, we
will address the need for engagement with the society, July 4th, and the others
celebrations and commemorations.
July
4th and Muslims
Many
of you may not know this, but upon Declaration of our Independence on July 4,
1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of
the United States were Muslim. 
Morocco was the first state and signed the
Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship; first of its kind. Friesland, one of the
seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic was the next, and Tippu Sultan, the
King of Mysore State (India) was the third. According to Dr. Range Gowda, Tippu
Sultan’s historiographer, the congratulatory letter to America is preserved in a
French Library.
Despite
a few, who have painted Muslims in a negative light for their own gains; Muslims
have always been well wishers of America and will continue to do that. The
Journey began with the birth of our nation, and I am pleased to make a
recommendation to my fellow Muslims to take this relationship further
deeper.
Muslim
Americans reaching out to every American.
Let’s
take a conservative number of 3, 150,000 Muslims in America, even though a 6-7
millions figure is thrown without any substantiation. This number is roughly 1%
of the American Population – one out of 100 Americans is a Muslim.
If
each Muslim sends 100 invitations to fellow Americans to join him or her for a
grilled Hot Dog, Hamburger or Barbeque at the backyard, public park or a Mosque
parking lot with appropriate permissions, about five to seven neighbors may show
up, and it may not cost more than $25.00 to serve them. If this is done
consistently, in about 10 years, most of Americans would know each other as
fellow celebrators of the festivity together. This is not the responsibility of
Muslims alone; all of us have to learn about each other to be good
neighbors.
Do
you know what Quran says about it? In 49:13 God says, he has created mankind
into many tribes, communities, nations and people, and he fully understands that
conflicts are bound to happen with such diversity, and then he says, the best
ones among you are the ones who get to know each other. Indeed, knowledge leads
to understanding, and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the other
and when that happens, conflicts fade and solutions emerge. This is how we
create safe societies for our children.
Caution:
No matter how tempting it is to flaunt your religiosity, religion is your
personal belief. Please do not discuss religion and politics with your guests.
it will ruin the relationship – get to know your neighbors as folks with common
interests. No matter how smart you are, the moment you suggest your religion is
superior in any form shape or innuendos; you will be causing conflict off the
bat, and that is not friendship. You don’t tell your friend that your wife is
more beautiful than his or your husband is more handsome than her husband.
Be
a caring neighbor and be there for them in their celebrations, birthdays,
anniversaries, graduations, funerals and other commemorations, after all they
are your neighbors. 
This is the month of Ramadan, and celebration of
July 4th should be a joy while fasting, indeed your personal faith becomes
stronger when you let your will power gain control over temptations, fasting is
not about being hungry, it is about the sacrifice you make for the sake of God
and the common Good. More about it at www.RamadanExclusive.com
This
Ramadan, you do not have the time to send the invitations, but have the time
knock on ten doors on your street and invite people to hot dogs at your place.
Do the invitations next year.
Happy
July 4th – if you are driving, carry a lot of water bottles and stop and share
some with the stranded ones on the road. What Muslims need most is a lot of
Goodwill.
What
does engagement mean to Muslims?
It
simply means you are invited to your neighbor’s birthday party, Mayor’s
inauguration, a political rally of the party you belong to, an interfaith
prayer, neighborhood watch meeting, a town hall meeting, celebration of
Independence Day, veterans’ day parade, Christmas party, Passover gathering,
Diwali, Chinese New year, (Iftar parties) and other community based
activities.
If
you are not invited, it is not because you are a Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, African
American, Arab, Latino, or the other, but precisely because no one knows about
you. You have never been a part of any group, other than your own.
Over
the years, I have watched with admiration the efforts made by the City and
community service organizations to reach out and include all minorities, but
sadly, a handful of us respond to it, it’s not only Muslims, the story is same
with all minorities.
A
few will make an effort and serve on a committee, but drop out quickly because
they did not see the fruit on the very same day they planted the seed.
Everything takes time, nurturing and development of relationships. The sense of
belonging it generates is priceless. You feel confident of your being and your
place in the society.
Each
one of us rises from the basic level of taking care of the needs of our families
to self-fulfillment. We want to give it back to the community and we want to
volunteer. Indeed we can contribute towards the overall betterment of the
community we live in by engaging with the people.
The
power of engagement.
On
the individual level, I have been able to diffuse many possible conflicts simply
by engaging with people. One such example happened in 2007, there was a rumor
that Muslims in France have pushed the Government to ban Holocaust Studies, this
rumor was designed to humiliate Muslims. Thanks to Maria Arita at Fox News, she
called me up to find out my take. What did I do? I asked her to give me three
hours and called my friend late Elliot Dlin, director of Dallas Holocaust
Museum, he verified that to be untrue and thanks to Maria, the rumor stopped
right there.
On
a national level, engaging with Sean Hannity at Fox News has produced
significant results for the common good of America, and Muslims. If someone
knows you, and you have earned his or her respect over a period of time, going
through the full cycle of humiliation, acceptance and appreciation, then he
accommodates you.
Thanks
to Sean Hannity, he has clarified his position time and again with me that he is
not against Muslims or Islam, but against the radical elements. That he will
consciously use the term ‘Radicals among Muslim’ instead of ‘Radical Muslims’
was a significant rational improvement and I am glad to be an instrument in that
development. I was advised against engaging with Hannity and have been screamed
at and ridiculed as well, it would have been easy for me to run from the double
edged sword, but I chose to stick with it, as I believe in engagement has its
own miracles of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. Mahatma Gandhi had
suggested if you want to see good beneficial changes in the society, be a part
of it. More about Hannity at:
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2014/06/youre-dangerous-sparks-fly-between.html
On
the flip side of the engagement, Huffington Post stands out as a great example
of active engagement. No other newspaper had bothered to deal with the
minorities, as the coverage was not profitable for them. Huffpost paved the way;
they believed that engagement with different Americans was necessary in moving
the nation forward. What is good for America eventually became good for them.
Today, I am glad to be a part of Huffington Post’s guest writers, and I am glad
it is a profitable business.
Engagement
works both ways.
http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2014-07-02-AmericanMuslimAgendaCopy.jpgThere
are innumerable situations where getting engaged with the “other” causes the
“other” to join and become “together’, and together as Americans we can achieve
a lot, one among them is freedom from tensions about each other.

In
the next installment, we will be talking about Engagement, Pluralism,
Volunteerism and participation. 

Mike Ghouse
is a Muslim speaker, thinker and a writer, and presides over the World Muslim
congress, a think tank, and a forum with the express goals of nurturing
pluralistic values embedded in Islam to build cohesive societies.
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