July 4th 2005, Happy Birthday America
by Samina F. Sundas
The City of Fremont organized the annual 4Th of July parade. It was a beautiful day with sunny California skies and a cool breeze. The crowd was happy as the marchers passed by, representing the city of Fremont and the diverse residents of the city. I was part of group # 73, " NOT In FREMONT"
I joined the parade with mixed feelings because I knew from past experience that most of the participants would be waving flags proudly, as if this were the only way to show our patriotism. I joined because our message was very inclusive, positive and crucial. Community building is very important to me and is one of the most important reasons why I founded American Muslim Voice two years ago. As stated on our website, www.amuslimvoice.org, our mission is to protect & preserve civil liberties and constitutional rights for all and our goal is to bridge the gap between all communities. Let us all work towards a better America by forming lifelong friendships regardless of our color, race and religion. As Thomas Jefferson puts it "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend."
To me, patriotism extends beyond our flag or any holiday. Our beautiful flag is just a symbol of our country but it is our Constitution that is the heart and soul of our great nation.
According to Thomas Jefferson, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." I tend to agree with him because I believe as active and concerned citizens, it is our duty to hold everyone accountable, including our government. America was founded on these democratic values.
As I write, many thoughts are racing through my mind. We enjoy our freedoms and liberties so much and will fight to the end to protect them. Why can't we remember those who are oppressed and in occupation? All the great religions and humanity teach us to wish the same for our brothers, sisters and neighbors what we like and wish for ourselves..
This year, our nation is at war while we celebrate the 4Th of July. Today, a cruel dictator from Iraq has been removed but the suffering of the Iraqi people continues. Each day the human cost of this war is increasing for the U.S. and Iraq. The price tag for this war has taken a huge toll on our federal budget, making us incapable of providing quality education or social services for the poorest of our own citizens.
Furthermore, no weapons of mass destruction have been found; no link to the attacks on September 11, 2001 has been shown. It has become crystal clear that the rationale for invasion was based on lies.
We have sent many honorable Americans to fight a dishonorable war. Over seventeen hundred American soldiers have lost their lives;thousands are injured and untold numbers of Iraqi civilians have died, including women and children whose deaths we are unwilling to acknowledge or count because to us, they are collateral damage.
The abuse of prisoners has shamed our nation and damaged our reputation throughout the world. As we celebrate our independence, the world is observing us and how we treat others.
We have targeted different communities throughout our history. Currently it is the Muslims and Arabs who are under scrutiny as the current administration has waged a war against terrorism. I am questioning our freedom or our understanding of freedom. As Lord Acton said, "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."
We take pride in calling ourselves the champion of human rights but to call ourselves champions, we must treat others with dignity and respect.
On this special day, let us remember our moral, religious, American and human values so we can treat others as we would like to be treated. If all of us pledge to follow this simple law of humanity, our world would be more peaceful and harmonious.
John Wooden says it best, "Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights." Let us work towards creating a culture of peace, acceptance, understanding and harmony.
Samina Faheem Sundas is the Founder and Executive Director of American Muslim Voice.
About American Muslim Voice: We are a grassroots, nonviolent, inclusive, civil, immigrant and human rights organization building alliances and genuine partnership with like minded groups and individuals to protect and preserve civil liberties and constitutional rights for ALL. Our goal is to bridge the gap between all communities and unite us all under the umbrella of our common humanity.