Muslims have lived in the United States since its beginnings. We have established mosques, schools, and institutions that have served the greater community. We are socially, culturally, economically, and politically a well integrated community by all measures, a community of proud Americans and proud Muslims who do not see the slightest conflict between those identities. In the over 200 years that this community has existed, never has there been an instance of the Muslim community trying to overthrow the system. Not once has there been a mosque or an Imam implementing an alternative set of laws. Not once has there been an instance of Muslims promoting unconstitutional activities that would infringe on the rights of our non-Muslim friends and neighbors.
In the current heightened climate of Islamophobia, a Texas state Representative sent one of us (and other Muslim leaders) a loyalty test earlier this year to affirm our American values. Instead of reaching out to us in the spirit of friendship and understanding, he decided to put us through a litmus test that was grounded in intimidation and suspicion. With over half a million Muslims in Texas, surely he could’ve reached out to one of his Muslim constituents or visited a local mosque. Instead, he chose to negate decades of interfaith dialogue, multifaith cooperation, and civic engagement here in Texas. These loyalty tests are not new in America and they essentially imply a second class citizenship on the part of those who receive them. We reject that status and characterization. And just like the “Anti-Shariah” bills that have passed in so many states, these political maneuvers score cheap points with the fearful masses while having no effect on actual regulation.
You can’t trust them. Some of them may be good, but too many of them have a secret agenda. This is the type of racism that festered at both government and community levels before, during, and after Executive Order 9066 which sentenced almost 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps. In one of the most shameful episodes in American history, a dangerous trend of anti-Asian attitudes prevailed that obscured facts about the Japanese-American community and allowed them to be brazenly exploited. This same chronicle has now found a home in anti-Muslim bigotry.
The narrative is that the Muslim community is a discrete, unified group, irrespective of nationality, age, or religiosity, all programmed to launch “civilization Jihad,” and incapable of an honest mainstream expression of its faith that poses no threat to its neighbors. Islamophobes begin by defining and imposing their definitions of Islamic terms (such as Shariah and Jihad) in ways that fit the above narrative, and then demand that Muslims reject the terms and texts as they have portrayed them, or risk being deemed extremists for clarifying their meanings. This puts Muslims in an impossible catch-22: Either reject the terms, texts, and tenets of their faith to avoid persecution, or offer the mainstream Muslim interpretation of these “problematic texts” and be accused of taqiyya.