I’m a Former U.S. Ambassador and an American Muslim

M. Osman Siddique (Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu, 1999-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Siddique’s December 8, 2015 special to the Huffington Post.

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In 1999 I was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji with concurrent accreditations to the Kingdom of Tonga and the Governments of Tuvalu and Nauru. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, I took my oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America with my hands on the Quran atop my wife’s Bible. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I carried the American flag with dignity, honor and distinction.

The current hateful rhetoric and demagoguery by many of the Republican presidential candidates, especially Donald Trump, suggesting that American Muslims needs to be tagged, tracked or barred entry to the country on national security grounds, and that they should be blocked from holding high offices, demonstrates rank ignorance and bigotry. One such candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, has even equated Muslims to “rabid dogs” ignoring the lessons of sufferings and discrimination African Americans had to endure not too long ago. There is no value in turning the clock back.

According to Pew Research, Muslims in the United States will more than double over the next decades, rising from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030 and growing as a share from 0.8 percent of the total population to 1.77 percent.

Americans Muslims are spread all over these United States and steadfastly contributing to the economic, social and political fabric of this great nation. It was an American Muslim who designed the Sears (now Willis) Hancock towers in Chicago, once the tallest building in the world. American Muslims developed the chemotherapy mechanism that treats brain tumors. They revolutionized this country’s original art form: jazz. They are ubiquitous in their service as educators, lawmakers, athletes and soldiers. We have two members of Congress; we have local elected officials that are mayors of cities, judges and serving in the state legislatures across this country.

American Muslims have also started to organize, influence key elections and build institutions that can advocate for the interests of the community. Organizations such as Emerge USA have been critical in defeating Islamophobic elected officials and the American Muslim is poised to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential elections with growing constituencies in swing states such as Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In these states alone the American Muslim electorate comes close to about 1 million voters and in some of these states outperforms the state average turnout by 5 to 10 percent. Perhaps it would serve our candidates and elected leaders better if they would pay some attention to these statistics.

In the first-ever papal address to a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis said “We must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.”

ISIS and any such extremist organizations have to be defeated and destroyed. We cannot do so by alienating the 1.5 billion Muslims or roughly 25 percent of the inhabitants of this earth. In the angry aftermath of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush said that “Islam is peace” and that all Muslims should not be judged for the deeds of a few radicals. In a recent speech, Secretary Clinton said the enemy is “jihadism,” not Islam, and that those who “obsess” over what label to place on the terrorists actually give ‘these criminals, these murderers more standing than they deserve.”

The recent horrific violence in San Bernardino, CA. perpetrated by a Muslim couple, which took the lives of many precious individuals, is heart-wrenching and very disturbing. Nothing justifies such cruel and dastardly act. We Americans are in one voice to condemn such acts of cowardice and terror. Fareed Zakaria in his recent column in the Washington Post wrote, “While I believe that Muslims do bear a responsibility to speak up, non-Muslims also have a responsibility not to make assumptions about them based on such a small minority. Individuals should be judged as individuals and not placed under suspicion for some ‘group characteristic’. It is dehumanizing and un-American to do otherwise.”

We can win the fight against this global threat if we are in it together and not by dividing us.

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