In January, Dr. John Esposito of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, and one of America's foremost authorities and interpreters of Islam, spoke with fellows from the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute about his new book, The Future of Islam. He spoke about Islam's rich tradition of renewal and reform as fundamental to the Islamic worldview.
The first decade of the 21st Century was extremely trying for Muslim-Americans. Our community was pushed into the corner often on a broad array of issues - social, cultural, religious, political, etc. We forcefully defended ourselves and wrestled our religion back from extremists (both Muslim and non-Muslim), and learned a great deal along the way. Those efforts required most if not all of our concerted attention. Thus, we spent much of the past decade in a reactive and introspective stance.
In the last few years, we have been becoming better prepared to address our continuing challenges more strategically and efficiently. A case in point is the event of Aasiya Zubair's murder. Aasiya Zubair's husband murdered her in a straight-cut case of domestic violence, but the media called it an 'honor killing.' We gathered our resources and put out a Call to Action for a coordinated prayer. The Call to Action also acknowledged domestic violence as an issue in our community while dispelling any claims of honor killing.
Additionally, certain significant events and initiatives have strengthened our platform and furthered our cause considerably including President Obama's mention of Muslims in his inaugural speech and the runaway success of David Eggers' bestselling book, Zeitoun.
We are still challenged, but today, Muslim-Americans can finally take a deep breath and look away from our immediate needs even if only for a few moments at a time, toward our long-term vision and dream of a true place in the American tapestry.
We are at a crossroads, and our position today offers us the unique opportunity to choose our way forward. We can continue to be wholly reactive, or we can choose to be more wholly proactive, and set out to renew and reform our vision, our actions and our way forward.
Being proactive includes strategic risk-taking and decision-making, as well as significant investments in the development of our vision, our future leaders and our organizations (strategic planning, leadership development and succession planning, organizational development and fund raising, to name a few). On the intra-faith level, this would include consciously committing to constructive criticism; relationship building (across ideological, gender, generational, organizational and ethnic lines), and agreeing to disagree. This would include openly and confidently looking beyond ourselves seeking allies whose interests align with our own.
Muslim-Americans seek a valued place in American society. Now seems like the perfect time to start pursuing that vision again. Are we up for the challenge? If we are, the clock starts now.
Zeba Iqbal is a Muslim American community networker and activist. She is the Executive Director of CAMP (Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals) and is a 2009-10 AMCLI fellow.