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|The Constitution also protects Muslims in America|
|07/09/05 at 08:03:20|
*The Constitution also protects Muslims in America*
*By Jafar Siddiqui*
/Special to The Times/
I was dropping off my daughter at Mountlake Terrace High for the last
day of school last month. As I pulled into the circular driveway, I
blocked another car for a few seconds as my daughter disembarked.
The driver honked and I got out, thinking it was someone I knew. It was
not. She rolled down her window: "You are not supposed to stop in that
lane!" Her window went up. Then, as she zipped past me, she rolled her
window down again and yelled, "Go back to your country... !" I was so
shocked that I missed the muffled adjectives as the window went up again.
Less than a week later, a man I thought was my friend told me that as
long as I refused to respect George Bush, he would continue to classify
me and "my people" -- Muslims in America -- as terrorist sympathizers.
He also told me that he has not met any Muslim in America that he respects.
By and large, this is what it comes down to: Muslims in America have to
keep professing their loyalty to this country as a daily rite of
passage, and even then we are suspect. We are subjected to a constant
barrage of hate and suspicion from the top levels of the Bush
administration to the lay people we encounter every day.
Politicians remain silent because they know Muslim-bashing is in and
they do not wish to be seen as "soft on terrorism." Self-styled
"experts" conceal their hate messages in long, pseudo-intellectual
discourses explaining just how murderous and nasty we Muslims are. Our
constitutional rights are discarded like used bubble gum on the sidewalk
as more and more of us are thrown in jails without the constitutional
guarantees of due process, without charges or trials. We are judged
guilty with little possibility of proving otherwise; we would need to be
Reactions of "normal Americans" continue to shock me. Once when I was
bemoaning the treatment of some people, a friend asked me quite
innocently, "But they are Muslims, aren't they?" On more than one
occasion I have been told by friends that we are in a war and some
things have to be tolerated during such times.
Silly me! I always thought constitutional protections were meant to kick
in when things get bad, not when I am sipping tea while lying in my hammock.
I have spoken to some of the top law-enforcement people in this region.
Some have told me they would rather continue stopping Muslims in
mid-stride than be responsible for the next 9/11, as if those are the
only two choices available. Others have told me that they /never/ send
people to other countries for torture; the wink-and-a-nudge is
unbearable. One lawmaker told me he didn't believe constitutional
protections extended to non-citizens.
This is /my/ country. I'll speak out against injustices whether they are
aimed at me or not. I'll shout when my Constitution is shoved into the
deep freeze. I'll voice my opinions against George Bush just as easily
as I'll speak against my gutless and silent Congress.
This is /my/ country! I'll feel the swell of pride when I see pictures
of my military helping the victims of the tsunami. I'll tell everyone
that our system of government is one of the best in the world. I'll say
I have seldom seen so many wonderful and generous people as I have in
the U.S. -- people who have gone out of their way to help strangers.
I think of a neighbor of mine, with whom I hardly ever agree
politically. He and his wife were among the first people to reach out to
me after 9/11; they asked me to come over with my family if people got
nasty. I remember the elderly veteran near me who walked up to the young
Muslim girl with a head covering and told her to let him know if anyone
gave her a hard time.
I cannot stop telling my fellow citizens that bigotry and persecution
only need our silence to rise up and start demanding human sacrifice.
When sanity finally prevails, I know I'll be back in the wonderful
America I remember so fondly.
/Jafar Siddiqui is an American Muslim living in Lynnwood. He is a member
of American Muslims of Puget Sound and a human-rights activist, involved
in movements for interfaith understanding. Contact him at
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