This Thanksgiving, I join millions of American Muslim families in thanking fellow Americans of all faiths and political affiliations who this year publicly and vocally spoke out and showed up again and again to stand up for our shared American values, and to educate millions by using media to talk about the lives, contributions, hopes, and dreams of their American Muslim neighbors.
Being an ally is done best when it’s public and vocal. The more public and the more vocal, the stronger the impact. After all, our voices have the power to change millions of hearts and minds for the better.
We all remember the afternoon when the first “Muslim Ban” was signed. We remember seeing live videos from an increasing number of airports nationwide showing tens of thousands of fellow Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and others – gathering at the airports. We were all united by our shared American values and our belief in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and equal treatment under the law.
We are thankful to the thousands of attorneys who volunteered their time to help those facing obstacles resulting from the Muslim Ban. Some of these attorneys also launched the web site www.airportlawyer.org to continue to provide services free of charge at airports nationwide.
We are thankful to the members of Congress and local lawmakers who held press conferences and joined demonstrators in solidarity. We are thankful to the civil rights organizations, attorneys general and corporations that legally challenged the Muslim Ban.
If fellow Americans had not come out in the numbers they did – thousands of people at all major airports – many have argued that there were other executive orders, including possibly an unconstitutional “religious registry,” lined up to be signed the following week. Showing up and speaking out publicly and vocally likely stopped many more unconstitutional executive orders from being enacted.
It is my hope that fair-minded Americans will continue to use various platforms to tell stories about American Muslims you know.
American Muslim families are also grateful to the tens of thousands of fellow Americans who showed up to oppose anti-Muslim hate rallies on June 10 in cities across the country with signs and messages of support.
Leading up to the June 10 events, several Christian pastors took to the airwaves delivering the strong message that they stand with their Muslim neighbors. They used media interviews, emails to editors and opinion articles to affirm Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule - “do to others what you would have them do to you” – and demonstrated through their actions their belief that this is about how followers of Christ treat others, and that God calls all of humanity to love each other.
Our interfaith allies also helped fellow Americans understand that Muslims love and revere Jesus, may peace be upon him, as one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind. [NOTE: The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, refers to “Christ Jesus the son of Mary” (The Holy Quran, 3:45)]
In response to these challenges, some media professionals started to feature the lives, contributions, hopes, and dreams of American Muslims, and showed visuals of Christian pastors, U.S. military veterans and other allies standing with their American Muslim neighbors.
We are thankful to the many everyday Americans who visited mosques, spoke out in online forums and commented on online articles affirming the American value of religious freedom and telling stories of American Muslims they know. This helped educate millions of readers about their Muslim neighbors’ lives. Numerous churches, interfaith groups and everyday Americans also put up signs and banners with messages like, “We love our Muslim neighbors.”
Being thankful is being more active in doing more for others. We are grateful for the positive actions we are all inspired to take together. American Muslims continued to step forward, inspired by the Islamic teaching to serve God by serving humankind.
American Muslim leaders traveled to Standing Rock to join fellow Americans in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to protect tribal treaty lands and natural resources. We recognize that Thanksgiving is not a day of celebration for all Americans, tainted as its history is with injustices against Native Americans.
American Muslims raised funds to repair hundreds of graves at Jewish cemeteries in the Philadelphia, St. Louis and Denver areas. American Muslims also raised funds for the Las Vegas shooting victims and their families, as well as in response to many other tragedies that challenged our nation this year.
We still have work to do. It will take all of us to do it. It is my hope that fair-minded Americans will continue to use various platforms – online forums, emails to editors, interviews, speeches, and conversations at family dinner tables – to tell stories about American Muslims you know.
Your words will remind thousands of American Muslim children that they have the right to the same hopes and dreams as every other young American, with an equal chance to achieve the American Dream. Your words will also remind your family and other fellow Americans that American Muslims deserve the same opportunities as all Americans to raise and educate their children. And most importantly, it will remind us all that while some may try to divide us along racial or religious lines, we are and always will be united as Americans, as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
A married father of three children, Nihad Awad is National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights organization. Motivated by Islamic teachings, he has made it his life’s mission to give back to society. He is a U.S. citizen, a registered voter, and a firm believer in the promise of America.