We Need a Leader For All Americans (Not Just A Few)

By Soumaya Khalifa 8-12-2016
Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com

As a person of faith, I believe that God created myriad nations so that we might know each other, support each other, and thrive together. As an American, I strive daily to exemplify the guiding principles upon which our great nation was founded — all men and women are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The racist, sexist, and xenophobic language from this year’s Republican presidential nominee are contrary to that American dream. His incendiary rhetoric about building walls instead of bridges might compel some of us to believe that the contributions of millions of immigrants are not valid and should be overlooked.

I beg to differ.

We need a president for every American, no matter their race, religion, color, or creed. Our nation needs a leader who understands the values and the challenges of all of it citizens — including Muslims like myself. Our country needs a president who will stand for inclusion and religious freedom and denounce fear-mongering and demagoguery.

Like so many immigrant families before them, Ghazala and Khizr Khan came to this country to make a better life, but also to make meaningful contributions that move our nation forward. At the Democratic National Convention, the couple spoke passionately about their biggest investment and their greatest sacrifice, their son. Captain Humayun Khan, a soldier in the United States Army, died in Iraq while protecting his fellow soldiers from a car bomb in 2004.

They continue to mourn his loss, especially Mrs. Khan who stood silently and composed while her husband held high the Constitution as he addressed the crowd. Mr. Khan addressed Donald Trump, saying he “consistently smears the character of Muslims. … He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. … Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”

History shows that long before the Khans arrived in this country, and even before the founding of this nation, there were Muslims in this land.

Historians posit that as much as 30 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims. Throughout the South, evidence of Quranic verses scribed by enslaved hafiz (one who memorizes the entire Quran) most likely provided a temporary solace for the people who had become chattel.

Much of that Islamic history was lost through the horrors of slavery, but remnants of the faith and Islamic personhood remained. From Muhammad Ali and supermodel Iman to Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and journalist Fareed Zakaria, Muslims fill the ranks of medical professionals, teachers, athletes, artists, journalists, designers, politicians, judges, lawyers, and yes, military service men and women in this country.

At the White House’s recent reception for the Muslim holiday of Eid, President Thomas Jefferson’s Quran was put on display. Scholars surmise that Jefferson’s reading of the Quran influenced his work in formulating the United States government.

Our nation is strengthened by the benevolent contributions from people of every faith tradition, including Muslims, and of every race and background. The ideals of our country have been a beacon of hope for more than two centuries, attracting a diverse humanity that propels us closer to what our founders’ declaration that all men are created equal.

Our founding fathers founded this nation on the explicit principle of freedom of religion, and yet a current major party presidential candidate claims that he would ban all Muslims from entry into this country because of their faith.

The Khans deserve better. We all deserve better.

Soumaya Khalifa is founder and executive director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.

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