Upon declaration of our independence on July 4, 1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of the United States were Muslim.
Morocco was the first state to recognize the independence of the United States of America, and they signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship; first of it’s kind. Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, was the next to recognize American independence (February 26, 1782) and Tippu Sultan, the King of Mysore State (India) was the third. According to Dr. Range Gowda, Tippu Sultan’s historiographer, the congratulatory letter to America is preserved in a French Library.
What does July 4th mean to Muslims in America?
It means everything and the biggest one is the freedom. Islam is indeed about freedom of conscience, justice and liberty. Sadly there are those Muslims, as well as people from other religions, who don’t live up to the ideals of their own faith.
The Pledge of Allegiance is one of the most cherished statements for Muslims, “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” There are several verses in Quraan that assert those values; it’s like coming home for Muslims.
The concept of equality is etched and nurtured in Muslim psyche in every ritual and spiritual practice of Islam. Prophet Muhammad delivered the following words in his last sermon, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Muslims hold this declaration close to their hearts and as American Muslims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The raging inner battle among Americans to keep the state and church apart resonates with Muslims living in America as Koran speaks out to them, 49:13- “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of God, is the best in conduct. God Knows and is Aware.” Indeed, knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of the otherness of other and an appreciation of a different point of view without having to agree with it.
The American way of rewarding merit appeals to Muslims: you can be who you want to be and many Muslims gloat about their ability to rise on the basis of their merit. The Koran emphasizes that no one but you are responsible for your behavior, you have the freedom to choose the right path or go astray but you alone are responsible for your actions and no one else will bear your burden.
The Prophet tells his own daughter that she will not get a free pass to paradise because she is a daughter of the prophet; she has to earn it on her own through good deeds to fellow beings; such is the Muslim emphasis placed on individual responsibility. These are the free market, democratic values celebrated by Americans.
Every immigrant in general and a Muslim in particular loves the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. They were tired of being framed in the lands they came from; they see the wholesomeness of justice in America and they love America for it. An observant Muslim recites at least 17 times a day that God alone is the judge and we must refrain from judging others.
Indeed, the essence of freedom is directly proportional to the ability to question oneself, question one’s own faith, explore myths and prejudices about others and find answers to set oneself free.
Imam Feisal, Dr. Akbar Ahmed and others have written books on Muslim experience in America and virtually every Muslim adores and loves America and its freedom. Please note an overwhelming majority of American Muslims live up to the ideals of their religion as all other Americans live up to the ideals of their religions.
Happy July 4th of July.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and a frequent guest on the Sean Hannity show and nationally syndicated radio shows and Dallas TV, radio and print media. He runs the America Together Foundation and is committed to building a cohesive America, offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He has published over 1000 articles on pluralism, interfaith relations, Islam, India and cohesive societies. Two of his books are poised to be released this fall on pluralism and Islam. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars or conferences. His work is encapsulated in 27 blogs, four websites and several forums indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/.