Editor's Note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and executive director of the school's Islamic Center.
By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN
My wife and I were on our way into Bed, Bath and Beyond in late August when I decided to check my office voicemail from my cell phone. I told her I'd meet her inside. When I did, she asked whether I had any messages.
"Just one,” I told her. “I was asked to deliver an invocation at this year's Republican National Convention." She responded with a smile on her face, "Of course you were," and then showed me the pillows she’d selected.
I didn't get a chance to decide whether I would accept the invitation, as Hurricane Isaac changed the RNC schedule and made the decision for me. But before the impending storm blew me off the schedule, I sought advice from friends and colleagues. What were the implications of my participating at the RNC? Would it make sense?
One conservative, evangelical Republican friend told me that it would have been a great way to start a conversation with members of his party who are fed up with the current platform and, amongst other things, the party’s highly anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric. Now, it seemed, that conversation wouldn't happen.
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But I couldn't understand why it must take a Muslim standing on an RNC stage to get people talking. Is that really the only way a Muslim voice can be heard in the political arena? Realistically, it's not. The other options just require more time, strategy and patience.
Like all other citizens, American Muslims can be heard through our right to vote. We, as a community, can amplify our voice by building coalitions more broadly with other groups. And we can speak the loudest by encouraging our best and brightest to be a part of the system.
Most American Muslims aren't hearing a discourse that tells them to be civically engaged on a local or grassroots level, which is a huge problem. The presidential election is not the only election that takes place in our country; the impact that one can have on local communities is just as important.
We are starting to get this. In comparison to 10 years ago, today we see more Muslim mayors, city council members and commissioners, law enforcement agents, policymakers and others. But there is still a long way to go. Refraining from being part of the process really isn't an option anymore.
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In deciding who to work with or which candidate to support on any level, be it local or national, it's important to be informed beyond one's own needs. Most Muslims keep from building relationships with other groups unless there is some direct impact on us.
We don't stand up for others’ rights as well as we should. Then, when we want others to be there for us and validate our community, we don't get what we need so readily because we weren’t there for their communities or still don’t understand issues beyond our own.
Do you know what conversations are taking place in your local government? Decisions are being made that will affect people who live in your town, your city, your state, your entire country.
If the Muslim community wants people to stand with us when a hateful person protests the building of our mosques, we need to stand with them at their time of need, or even at times when there is no pressing need at all. The myopic perspective that keeps us from thinking strategically and, more importantly, humanely, needs to go.
I watched the presidential debates at the Islamic Center at New York University, where I was joined by my students and community members. I watched so that I could be better informed of the candidates' stances on all issues - including the ones that affect me directly and those that touch people around me.
I will keep telling my students, whom I encouraged to register to vote, that they must think beyond the presidential election and get involved locally. New York City will elect a new mayor next year, along with many other officials, and they should be a part of that process, too.
And I will keep telling them that civic engagement is not just about having your voice heard. It's also about having confidence that you have something to offer that will make society better.
My students, like many other American Muslims, can and should help the growth and development of our country. The time is here for them to see not only how their being Muslim benefits them individually but also how their being Muslim benefits the world around them.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif.
It might better the image of U.S. Muslims if instead of quietly saying they do not condone Muslim terrorist criminal activities, if they were to strongly denounce Muslim terrorist criminal activities, against non-Muslims as well as Muslims. This they have simply not done to date. Perhaps they are afraid of becoming targets themselves, if so a rather sad example for acceptance of the Muslim religion by non-Muslims, perhaps U.S. Muslims themselves.
Muslims must learn from Jews and Mormons and play both side of the aisle.
If they stay on one side they'll be marginalized.
If a Muslim watched the GOP primaries and votes for Romney,
they either like the insults the GOP candidates were dispensing.
Or they are extremist and want a USA president to provide them free propaganda material.
Sir, you apear to be completely warped? What tree did you fall off of anyway as I want to stay away from that one.
“They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]
“The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]
“No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]
It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]
God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]
The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]
Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.
MORE WORTHLESS CRAP
You sound like a bible thumper. The same lane glorification of some words that were written 1,400 years ago, in some dessert hole. Only you claim exclusivity because yours was supposedly the latest true revelation. I think the mormons would debate that or the Jehova witnesses. And most of all, free thinking people will say: what the heck? Go away with this dusty stuff. Fairy tales.
Yes. And them whyislam.org talks about superiority of Islam & how Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslims and men are only allowed to marry Christian & Jewish women – but not Hindu.
On the other hand, I say American Muslims should pay less attention to some old words but more attention to the spirit of Quran. As a Christian, I don't think every single word in New Testament needs to be precisely followed. Just follow the spirit of love, help & good deeds. Anybody agrees?
And to the point – join other Americans in the fight against terrorism at all levels. I presume some Muslims do. My hand is extended to them.
Desperation stinks and Obama is doing desperate things to stay in office so he stinks.
Brain fart? Mouith diarrhea?
You are totally brain dead.
Who is afraid of a mosque on top floor of Liberty Tower ?
Can't happen, she doesn't face Mecca!
Religious beliefs are a highly personal matter right up there with food/flavor preference. One cannot explain why one likes the taste of any food with any specificity just as one cannot explain why one believes the way s/he does. Its just the way it is for them. Having said that, I don't think it should matter what anyone believes (or doesn't believe for that matter), what matters is how we treat each other. To be civil and decent doesn't have to be based on some religion.
If the Islams want respect then then should respect the right of anyone else to worship as they see fit. A place of worship should be just that, THE place to worship, be it Muslum, Chiristian, or anything else, not in the middle of a street or causing an interuption in the lives of others. End of discussion.
As for the professor wanting his people to step up....no thanks...just keep stepping back and after you come out of the water keep stepping back till you feel that nice warm sand.....you can do what ever you want then with our blessings
Spoken just like the whites did in the 1870s when the blacks got freed: 'go away - we don't want people who are different to live in our country.'
You will watch the politicians beg for the muslim bloc vote very soon!.. We have evolved quiet a bit as an American muslim community and will be having a lot of influence in American politics in the very(i mean very!) near future.
Edwin you poor soul.....read what Samina one of the good non extremists is saying... once they get hold of America it will be you that is unwanted and forced out of your country...you are an infidel...don't you get it...be afraid.... be very afraid
Samina, Muslim block is wating for critical mass. Will be known as Pakistan II
No, Edwin, iit's not that we don't want people to have their own expression of life in the larger community / country.
It is that we don't want yet another religious group come in with their own religious oppression and try to impose it on us.
Worship any way you like, in your homes in your churches and mosques, temples. Fine.
Do not , however , try to impose medieval religious rules on western societies and their women. If you try, you will find that the non-religious community is plenty fed up and fight you every step of the way.
If the Muslim community wants to speak up against extremist terrorists, I will stand right beside them.
There is a must-read story in the current issue of Newsweek regarding Malala. I will stand and fight for the author.
American Muslims should stand up on issues that impact American Muslims. Malala is Pakistani and Pakistanis should stand up for her. Until non-Muslim Americans look at American Muslims as Americans, this divide will always be there. These "go back to your home country" rants will continue. I am born and raised here and so are my kids. Where should I go?
Every muslim I have met is extremely outspoken against terrorism.
JK – This may (read: "is most definately") politically incorrect, but anyonewho says "They should go back from whence they came." are ignorant, bigotted, retards. People started saying the same thing about Africans after the abolishment of slavery and before that they said it about the Irish. There will always be those who believe there is one race who is less valuable than the others. Personally I believe that those who believe like that are the lesser humans. The most frightening thing about them is they get to vote and breed without taking a single class or listening to another's opinion. Its sad but there you have it. Ignore them, be the best that you can be and live your life. Teach your children about these types of folks and how to deal with them early on. I think that those whose ignorance that runs that deep cannot be taught and must simply be dismissed as not worth taking the time to deal with it.
The muslims are urged to get politically involved in politics, take over and control the community they live in. Next steps you will see sprouting mosques everywhere, and you have to eat halal meat, you can't eat pork, women should be veiled. This is what happens in islamic states. Their agenda is to propagate and advance their religion, not to try to integrate in the community they live in.
and hence my point proved reading this ignorant post.
I guess it never occurred to him that JOB ONE of Muslims (or Moslems as we used to spell it pre-9/11), is to repudiate violence as the central tenet of Islam, which would of course require changing the name of their so-called peaceful version of Islam so as to not be identified with classic Islam. Hello, the problem you Moslems have is that Islam is a cult of murder and mayhem, as mandated by the Koran and validated by the millions of innocents senselessly slaughtered throughout history right up to the present moment in the name of intolerant, medieval conquest and oppression. If you want to go mainstream, you have to put CIVILIZED BEHAVIOR on the top of your priority list, and the only way for a Moslem to do that is to abandon Islam, or create an offshoot of it that is unrecognizable from the original and call it by a new name, as other peace-loving offshoots have done in the past.
I could not have said it better. Thank goodness there is someone out there that is like minded.
When a pro-life christian shoots an abortion doctor, shouldn't he abandon violence too.
I can list off about 20 things Christians have done over the past 1000 years that are completely full of hate and violence all in the name of their religion. H ell I can list off a good 20 within the last 100 years...
Seriously, every muslim I've spoken with has discounted violence. They speak of jihad as an internal struggle - inside the self - between noble (good) and base (evil) impulses.
How many have you spoken to personally that actually thought violence was good?
you're an idiot and a propogandist that lives off of hate and violence, you and your minions have no place in the United States and should follow your leader the Evil Bachmann to lwest pits of hell where you belong with the KKK, Nazis, and al qaeda
Pls watch this short 5 min video
Should you be really scared of muslims and the sharia they follow?
Why should we watch it. Why don't you tell a suicide bomber to watch it. When women are allowed to go to school, maybe they can watch it.
I've lived in Saudi Arabia most of my life..I have an MBA...and I am a scarryyy mooozlim!!..Lol.. :)
Sharia Now or Never. Samina my support.
Support for what?.. I follow sharia in my personal life.. I am not advocating it for anyone else.
Samina...you sound like a wonderful person....someone I would like to know, but I am sure your family would never allow it. By the way why on earth would anybody ever leave such a wonderful place as Saudi Arabia?
I can respect sharia law if women HAVE A CHOICE. Unfortunately most women in the middle east DON'T have a choice.
The people who are anti-Islam have no interest in changing their views. If you were the most peaceful person in the world, if you made active protests against terrorism, if you gave to your community with no religious connotations... they would claim you have a secret agenda.
There is no way to please them at all. Facts won't sway them, because they have decided. The real reason they hate Islam is because it is a fast-growing religion in the U.S. - and the christians are scared that they might one day be in the minority.
@Edwin Where did you get your facts? You sound like Mutt Romney making up your own facts. ALL religions are full of it, not just Islam. With all the praying that goes on in the world, Don't you ever wonder why bad things ever happen?
Prayer changes things.
Please don't feed the troll.
Are women supressed or second class citizens in Islam?..Is it true or a fear created by the islamophobes by highlighting a few unjust events around the world?
Know the truth!..watch this-
Chant Tallaq (divorce) four times and good kick to the rear end. No messy divorce or child support.
The people of the middle east are treated like second class citizens. The women are treated worse.
That's because Muslim men have morals of responsibility.
@ not my fault What are you talking about?
I looked at some of the videos by this imam. Hogwash, soupy blahblah about the roles of women and men. Works perfectly fine if you want to keep your women at home and under control.
Try ex;laining Sharia law to my daughter, a great soccer player (playing in shorts and jersey as it is supposed to be) and she will be a pathologist. Try tell her it's not her role to have a career and to dress in a certain way that some old mullahs have designed , from a book that is 1,400 years old. She'd laugh in your face. And I would be laughing with her.
Get real. In a western global society I expect our women to be full part of that society. Go away with your lame religious explanations.
What is wrong with Americans ? Do not see or understand beauty and simplicity of Sharia.
What is wrong with Muslims? Do they not realize that Allah is as real as the tooth fairy?
What, shirking responsibility for your actions in life.... Sounds more like a an earthworm, moving through crap and productivity of producing casing.
I find Sharia law simple too: cut off hand and whip bloody for minor offenses, stoning to death for the rest. Plain, simple, saves the money for prisons, keeps women, gays, men, dissenters in line, and keeps the fat bearded mullahs in charge.
(I do believe in multicultural expressions of your ethnicity and race. I will NOT be silent when I hear some slick islamic preacher trying to pull the wool over peoples' eyes and enforce laws that turn women to 2nd class citizens. Neither will I accept that rightwing christians try doing the same with their rules and laws from the bible. Thank you Mr. Akin and Mourdock, we do not need you any longer.)
The definition of "Islamophobia": An irrational fear of conservatives existing exclusively in the imaginations of liberals; a label used by liberals to slander conservatives, but which actually is merely a reflection of liberals' own inability and/or unwillingness to discern between legitimate philosophical disagreement which does exist and prejudice which does not exist.
What crap! I guess it was liberals that burned buildings, behead people, keep women out of school, suicide bombings etc etc. I wouldn't want my daughter to marry a muslim man. As a matter of fact I told her I wouldn't want her to marry a muslim man.
Ken, you and I are in agreement. My definition of Islamophobia is intended to indicate that we civilized people are not reacting to Islam out of irrational fear of what we don't understand, we are reacting with reasoned opposition to Islam because we perfectly understand that it is a murderous cult of violence. "Islamophobia" is a slanderous term used by liberals to accuse conservatives of being irrational, therefore the liberals deserve to be held accountable for their contemptuous insult.
There are people in all religions that are violent. we've had serial killers, rapists, gangsters etc. When you consider all the mass shootings that go on in this country and yet we still don't have reasonable gun control in this country, we shouldn't talk about others.
Umm... you acknowledge the prejudice, then say it is fiction? The prejudice against muslims is very real, and it is Islamophobia.
@Edwin Lets be honest. Islam needs a PR guy. But how about this. If Islam is so great, why aren't you living in the middle east where you can experience Islam year round.
take your sharia law and go back to where you came from.
I was born and raised in America so I am home.
I am not a religious man, but am a tolerant one. This country was established in order to provide religious freedom that was not available at the time in England. I am not a fan of Muslim terrorists, but neither am I a fan of Catholic terrorists or Protestant terrorists or Jewish terrorists, etc. And I do believe that most of the hostility in the world is the result of religious zealots who do not tolerate the beliefs of others. That said, it disgusts me to see comments here from people slamming all Muslims, telling them to go back where they came from, and other nasty statements. As far as I'm concerned anyone who came to this country legally and lives peacefully is welcome to stay and follow their chosen religion and contribute to our society. Those of you who are spewing hatred should be ashamed of yourselves.
I agree with you completely. I would like to add something however. Most fear of the Muslim faith is brought on by a lack of interaction with Muslims. People are afraid because all they see is the nutcases that the media shows. In my opinion, the Muslims – the good,non-jihadist Muslims – are thier own worst enemy. When a terrorist act occurs, all you see and hear about are the nutjobs. Where are the good Muslims? They do not show themselves, tehy are nowhere to be found. When the jihadists strike, the moderate Muslims need to stand up en masse and denounce the acts. Be as angry as everyone else is. They should not let the nutjobs steal thier religion. They should not hide. They should be seen and heard as they show support for thier faith and denounce the extremists.
It has been proven time and time again that Moderate Muslims will not stand against radical Muslims Even America Muslim will not condemn the radical Muslims of the Middle east. So allowing this cult into our country is like sleeping with a python.
When that Egyptian idiot released the movie about Mohamad and started the nightmare that ensued, the American Musilim community was absent. I commend them since it would have looked real bad for them. Tolerant are we until poked. Then, stand by to get a beating.
Some great points. I agree with the thoughts of why America was founded and what we stand for. I also do believe that it is time for the Muslim community around the world to take a first step as some brave indviduals have and stand against terrorism actively. The truth of the matter – which some fear for saying out loud as it sounds politically incorrect, is that by remaining silent, far too many Muslim communities provide knowlingly or by hiding their heads in the sand – safe havens for the breeding grounds of the terrorist mindset or worse. If the great and peace loving Muslim majority were to actively stand against Terrorism, the terrorist would not stand a chance! By doing this, they would reject senseless violence and earn a seat at the table with the rest of the world. They would not have to feel angry, ashamed or ridiculed for their beliefs, as the extremist minority has unfortunatley made them feel.
You have good intentions, but you are ignoring the facts. Muslim terrorists outnumber other kinds of terrorists by a ratio of about a million to one. Comparing Islam to any other religion is not rational. While there are certainly members of all religions who fall short of their religions' ideals, those ideals are unanimously peaceful, with the one glaring exception of Islam, whose unequivocal, core doctrines, and whose undisputed record in history, are saturated with the innocent blood of millions throughout the ages, continuing to the present moment. Islam is a cult of violence that uses religion as a cloak of legitimacy to excuse its depravity and exploit well-meaning people like you. Get your head out of the sand.
It is The Economy, Mr. President. Your Economy, Mr. President. You built that.
Yes it is. And assuming you're not part of the "47%" leaches, and you are contributing to the economy, then your 401K is worth double what is was when Obama took office. And while unemployment remains high, Obama's ecomony has generated far more jobs than Bush's economy.
Were it not for Republicans doing everything in their power to stall the economy to ensure Obama is a one-term president, I wonder what an "American economy" would look like by now? But since party trumps patriotism, we won't know will we.
You're right it is the economy. 31 straight months of positive job growth. 5 million jobs created, saved GM, Ford, Chrysler. Saved the banking industry, Kept country out of a depression. I could go on but, I don't want facts to dirty your hood.
I hope all you towel heads take your fake religion and make another country your homeland.
Now thats Hope & Change I can believe in !
Wow. That's quite a statement. And you even certified it with what appears to be your name. I hope you are > 60 years old and the likes of you are on their way out of this culture. Your post, and what I assume to be your personality and belief background, is totally unacceptable for a civil society.
@Shocked and Astonished - John Montesanti's is using rather strong words to express his sentiments - and you found those words unacceptable. Please realize that what most peace loving people find to be unacceptable are the acts of violence committed by Muslims on non-Muslims and women all around the world. Deeds vs. words. And it's Muslim deeds which provoke usage of such words.
Mr Montesanti, would it not be equally appropriate to request that you self-deport back to Italy?
Muslim can not be ruled by any other religion. Got it ?
we will see
PBUH – good point. Agreed. And as others have pointed out, that why so many have come to America over the past 3 centuries. To flee religious persecution where minorities were oppressed by religious majorities. No religion should be ruled by another. That's why we need secular governments that guarantee religious freedom for all.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.