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.
Now they want to blame us and say we aren't giving them a forum
I can tell you this...I don't think any muslim is going to stand up against the extremists. They just won't, I've lost all faith.
and yet in mulitples posts in this thread I have condemed them and said they are wrong, you are not listening. Not surprised.
They wont stand up because they know, they'll be next KABOOM!
@Shak Unfortunately the leaders need to stand up. The people in Syria are standing up. a lot of good it is doing them. Muslims need to complain when the violence is Muslim on Muslim.
Shak I appreciate that but do you know how few have done even that. I was moved when i saw muslims oppologise to Americans in Libya but now i don't know if it was for real because Obama says the attck was from a terrorist group.
Damned if we, people like you Jack straight up say I dont know if I can believe them. Why cant you believe them, is it too hard to think that there are Muslims who are starting to stand up and take back our religion. I see no reason to think those people who were in Libya were not sincere yet you do. Damned if we don't say anything either. Love the double standard.
One thing this administration forgets is that Muslims are totally against abortion! Just saying and as he and planned parenthood lie about that on their agenda too, Muslims are VERY PROLIFE!!!
Religion = acid bath.
Pro-life? You've got to be kidding? The people who made suicide bombing an art pro-life. :)
They "DEMAND" the rights they do not extend to others. For excample how many Jews are allowed in Saudi Arabia? NONE based solely upon their religious and cultural origin. Now let's talk about woman's rights in the collective Islamic countries of the world. Do they have the right to vote? How about the right to walk unescorted or without the head covering. How about the right to education? Do they have the right to marry whomever they want? .... Where is the outrage Ms Clinton? Where is the outrage Mr. Obama? Oh yeah... I forgot. They have oil.
Women do not have rights under religion because with religion there is no freedom.
Where did you get this untruth?
Ed.. Do not forget we are in America. We American Muslims from all over the have chosen to give up our homeland to part of what American offers to all irrespective of any background. We are proud Americans and would like part of the rich fabric.. to enrich from and enrich the community we livein
Dear Ed, please learn about the world a little more before speaking about it. Only about 7% of the Muslim population lives in the middle east. Not only women are allowed to vote in almost all the Muslim countries, the largest Muslim countries have or had women head of states, which even the US has not done yet. Please do a simple Google search. And if you'd like to compare Saudi Arabia with another country, please compare with Vatican. It's understandable to have misconception about the Muslim world because of the media portrayal. However, please at least do some independent searching before forming a strong opinion.
Nardirshah: we don't believe you. All you try to do is bring your problems with you and instead of trying to assimilate into the secular socieities, you force others to see you as Separate and different. How many Chinese are in America? A huge amount if you would like to know but they are not nonconfronttational unlike the muslims. They have successfully assimilated into the American society without losing their own background. Think about that.
So American Muslims should be held accountable for other governments actions, what the heck kind of logic is that?? Yes welcome to real polotic, America ignores what it wants as long as the oil keeps flowing, it is right, god no but is that they way the goverment works, sadly yes. I am accountable for my actions, not my government. Why should I be held accountable for something another ruler does in another nation.
Where is the outrage Ms. Clinton? , Obama? You would think Muslims just got angry the last four years after reading your crap. Bush showed his outrage. Got us into a war that accomplished nothing. Maybe ed, you found the weapons of mass destruction?
Assr, you need to read something outside of poopaganda before posting untruths. Stop the taquiya. We can see through it.
As long as muslim sects choose to kill inocent non muslim people, in my opinion no muslim should be allowed in the USA. Those that are here should be put in a concentration camp unless they go back to a muslim nation. We do not need the grief that the muslim nations have brought to this country. This war of religion has been going on since the beginning of time and will not be resolved with intermingling the cultures EVER.
Bernie you are a disgusting person, but know that the wars associated with religion and the atrocities are due to the lack of freedom inherent in all religions. They must all be removed for the human species to progress.
No R, I suppose you believe you progressed?
@Don't Quit Your Day Job
I am free, but progress as a species cannot be achieved on a micro scale.
Where do you suggest we send all the "Christian" killers in this country?
100% true. Muslin can't live together with anyone, not any religion or even atheists, they want to kill all guys. sad
If you engagement is to insert Islam in America -no thanks. It is that religion that needs a make over. I am not an infidal, and your myopic ignorance at labeling me that way and therefore allowing all kinds of insults and events to come onto me and my family is ignorant!
If you follow any religion you are ignorant.
Whilst Americans screamed out in horror, wept and grieved over our cherished 3,000 murdered on 9/11 by the followers of Islam, THOUSANDS of Palestinian Muslims CELEBRATED with great joy the suffering and slaughter of intensely hated American infidels. Muslims danced in the streets, passed out candy and fired into the air. They also want to celebrate even more with a victory mosque at Ground Zero.
Where does such intense hatred come from? Religion. Religion is wrong.
And Americans did the same when it was announced that military action had begun in Iraq. I was at a MLB game that night and they announced on the loudspeakers, 75% of the stadium started cheering. Now everyone knows that the Iraq war was useless. You must have a great view from your glass house.
Embedded in this piece is the message: "It's okay to be Muslim and vote Republican."
Unless GOP leadership changes its tune – no, it's really not.
It is logical that Muslims would vote Republican. Both share the same values.
You, sir, are correct!
In response to IceMan, that is, not the narrow-minded NoReply
Somewhere out there is a gay half-black half-Hispanic Muslim Republican . . . but he is VERY unclear on the concept.
It happens. I actually do know a devout Catholic moderate conservative lesbian feminist. Mark from Muddlehead River is a black Republican. Some people are happy to be walking contradictions, and they never seem to notice that the people they are giving power to are the same people who use that power against them. Sort of like middle class-and-lower Republicans voting to make the upper classes richer, at their expense.
Why don't muslims try being heard the same way they always use to be heard. A protest, What about a protest at ground zero to condemn the radicals and fundementalists? They need to show non muslims that they are a separate group than the extremists because we're really having a hard time seeing that as non muslims.
The only way for Muslims to be heard is to stop being Muslims. Otherwise, they have not heard. They should choose freedom.
You wanna pay my airfare, child care and travle costs to I can protest. If not then too bad. I speak out at home to my friends and co-workers and let them know those are not real Muslims who kill innocents. You do realize that most of us have families and trying to survive. We can't afford to take time off to make the rest of you feel good.
Shak...You need to figure something out because we didn't just think one day that hey, I don't think I'm going to like muslims. Your religion has given us many good reasons and you so called moderates have'nt really tried to be heard. I've been listening for it and even today i hear very little but complaining.
I think Jack has a point. Recently, the world was treated to the spectacle of thousands of Muslims turning into streets all over the Middle East in protest to a movie that only a handful of Americans had ever heard of. Most all of America heard about "Innocence of Muslims" when we turned on our televisions to find our embassies besieged.
Over the years, Muslims have risen up in outrage over cartoons, offhand political statements. Fatwas get issued, flags burned; the protests embroil countries all around the globe.
Not a month later, a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan was shot in the face for no crime more serious than speaking out for her right to go to school. The reaction from Muslims?
The things that do NOT outrage Islam speak far louder than the things that do.
@Kenneth You speak the truth.
OH, FAITH FULL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE, ALLAH, BE PATIENT AND DO JIHAD, STRUGGLE TO BRING PEACE, ISLAM TO HUMANITY, ELIMINATE hINDUISM, DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE AND hINDU'S, DENIER OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE FROM FACE OF EARTH, WITH SWORD OF TRUTH.
hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, ignorant, truth absolute, Allah constant have always ruled the world and will always will rule the world, commandments are about to bring truth absolute in human life to have peace, Islam on earth by imposition of truth absolute, essence of existence of every one and every thing in existence, it is noble for every human to do jihad, struggle to follow truth absolute by any means, to get rid of hinduism, criminality from face of earth. Only a hindu criminal in following of hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, self center ism can have problem with commandments, NONE OTHER. TO LEARN HINDUISM, CRIMINALITY OF hINDU Jew's CRIMINAL SECULAR, SELF CENTERED, VISIT limitisthetruth.com
One must be completely ignorant to follow your religion.
this is the true face of islam. kill, annihilate, break and destroy. just filthy ignorance.
It is not about hinduism, corruption of truth absolute called religion, but Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute, foundation of existence, hindu, ignorant, visit limitisthetruth,com to learn, what I am talking about..
I am free.
I want to be free too, but I always have to pull the damn cart when we go somewhere.
Great. The crazy Christian dingbats were bad enough; now we get the AllahkaBAMs too?
No religion in government! Strict Constitutional adherence to separation of church and state.
The government can't force your religion of atheism on everyone.
No muslims – they are not here to look out for the American people, they are here to destroy. The Christian voice should be heard as USA is a CHRISTIAN nation, we are not an islam nation and we are not islam friendly no more than islam is friendly to Christians. It is what it is. Church and State, well the state would not be here without the church in the first place – shut up.
This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read! My friend, your church would not be here without government protection. You know, the military.. And for your Christian theocracy wishes, someone has to lead. Google MIDDLE AGES! You people are crazy!
I do not understand: it seems that some people want Mormons and not Christians. Hope you do not think a Mormon is a Christian.
Christianity removes freedom of choice, freedom of mind, freedom of body. Religion is wrong.
The US is a free nation. Stop projecting your narrow minded views on others under the premise of religion. Muslims aren't here to destory it. Christians like yourself pose a way greater threat to the building blocks of this nation then muslims ever will.
only by hinduism, ignorance of a hindu pagan christian, word christian is not part of of American consti tution, But, God, truth absolute, foundation of USA, keep your hindu filthy Mithra ism, savior ism to your self, hinduism, denial of truth absolute GOD has no place IN domain of truth absolute Allah, THE LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.
Apparently it's not an English friendly nation either, judging by your grammar.
So it is OK for the Crazy Muslims to voice their opinions but not the crazy Christians????
So are you saying that Muslims in America are all crazy?
It is necessary to be crazy in order to follow any religion. Either via indoctrinaton or self-affliction.
No Religion, the more you complain about religion, the more you prove that you don't know what you are talking about.
Crazy Christians freely voice their opinions all throughout these blogs. What on earth are you talking about?
Moslems, to have a voice in America, need to shun terrorism and its advocates and be willing to follow our law. If they want to follow Sharia law they need to live where it exists.
What about Christians who want to bring Biblical law to America or the Jews who in some places have thier own courts that go by Jewish law, should they leave to?
those crazy christians can go live there too all we care. The point being that these kooks are considered idiotic, just like their muslim conterparts, except they don't go around blowing themselves up in school buses or killing people for drawing Jesus. Big difference.
Extremists are dangerous no matter what religion they belong to and are dangerous.
there are different kinds of extremists. We cannot live with the ones who prefer to kill others for simply drawing a cartoon or burning a stupid book. That kind of extremism needs to be eliminated. That is a threat to the entire civilization and probably even to the human race.
Just a thought... but wouldn't the "Americans" who fought for independence in this day and age be labeled "terrorists" for their actions? This is where the old saying "history is written by the victors"... If the British had won wouldn't it be looked at as squashed uprising by a bunch of "terrorists" who tried to overthrow the British rule? Just some food for thought.
Have really studied much history, have you Sean?
It is not the same because the Americans who fought for Independence didn't go around and bomb civilian buses, and restaurants, and schools and office buildings and basically kill indiscriminately. They weren't suicide bombers! They didn't kidnap American citizens and beheaded them in the name of G-D. Other than that yup sounds the same...
As an American and a Muslim I am very political active. I have encouraged young people at the local college I work at to register and vote, I volunteer at the local HQ, not going to disclose which party and have voted in every election since I was able to. I also speak out against terrorism and the radical element w/in the religion I follow, however there are ignorant people who will continue to lump me into the radical portion w/out knowing me or bothering to ask my views. They will assume I am for the terrorists due to my religion. I have been told to go home, I am, called a traitor by some and spat on by one women. Despite that I still will vote in this election along with the local and state ones while being a Muslim.
They lump us Christians into one big blob as well. Unfortunatley that seems to be the "American Way"
maybe you're being ignorant by not seeing from our point of view. your religion attcked us not us attcking you. You need to be responsible for your religion and clean it up or suffer the consequences.
That is why we have separation of church and state. Although some in this country would like to end that. Chirstians, Jews and Moslems alike need to abide by the laws of our country. Christian biblical, Jewish old testament and Sharia Law are only peoples interpretation.
Shak: Is there anything that Mohammed did in his lifetime that is wrong? What about attacking caravans when he didn't need to? What about allowing raping of women after a conquest of another city, otherwise known as bounties? What about Slavery which he righfully enjoyed? Consummating 'marriage' with Ayisha when she was 9 which Iran is dutifully trying to follow?
So it's ok for people to call me a traitor,spit on me. It was my country that was attacked too. I was just as angry on 9-11 and at those who did it. I am an American and a Muslim, other then my religion no differance. There is no excuse for that type of behavior period.
Look Shak, there are many ignorant people in all walks of life. As a Jew I have experienced negativity as well and much Anti-semitism. We have a radical extremist side in Judaism as well. The difference is we have a country that stands up against extremism and has an open court system where all are protected and can bring any legitimate charge. The difference is when our Jewish extremists do something that is unacceptable YOU can be sure the lay leaders and the Rabbis and the Jewish activists will stand against the extremists. How come we never hear the Imam's and the "authority" in Islam stand up and say and show the world that the outragious behavior and the killings and the stupid riots and shootings over a movie!! Why don't we hear those acts condemned by the "moderate" Muslims?? Sometimes it is very difficult to see a separation of so called moderate and extremists Muslims. YOUR side of the aisle doesn't make themselves heard. Condemnation of these acts would go a long way in showing you are not a sympathizer.
If you knew me personally you would know I condem these acts, however I am not going to jump on every internet message board and condem everything in the world. I have a life, a child that I have to take care of and help grow into a productive person in America. I do condem them at home, at work and to my friends on FB. Sorry taht is not good enough for you and others.
I don;t see the Israeli goverment doing a lot to stop the Settlers who vandalize Christian and Muslim places of worship or arrests and jail time.
The reason why there isn't much difference between Extreme and moderate muslims is because they can't allow themselves to look critically at their own faith and challenge it. I have not heard one muslim say what Mohammed did was wrong. There are areas where he did good and there are areas he did bad, terribly bad. Not one muslim will be willing to agree on that and therein lies the problem. You define yourself by your faith instead of the country. In my opinion, that should be the opposite. Otherwise, you will end up taking actions against your own country because of perceived insults.
The only place there is separation of church and state is when the atheists attachment is read into court proceedings instead of the entire first amendment where there is no such wording as what the atheists claim..
what part of this do people misunderstand?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Who wrote the Quran?.. Watch before you jump to conclusions. Pls judge objectively!
Why must a "Muslim voice" be heard in the political arena? I thought in America we liked our politics separated form religion. It is an intelligent, well-written article but I think the premise is flawed.
Tell that to the evangelical Christians who flout thier faith all the time in politics. They don't believe in the seperation of Church and State.
Rufus – you twist what the author wrote. "Like all other citizens, American Muslims can be heard through our right to vote."
The author encourages Muslims to voice themselves through engagement in the political process, and be active members in their communities. Nothing in what the author wrote encourages American Muslims to engage religious discourse in exercising their civic duty as citizens.
I hope you are more intellectually honest in your other conversations.
Shack.... they aren't being violent...You're really having ahard time seeing this from our point of view. This is why we see you as arrogant and indifferent
I am niether, I am simply saying the whole fear which is totally irrational about Sharia law but not the same when Evangelical Christians want to put thier interpritation of Biblical law on America. Which unless the seperation of Church and State is abolished neither will happen. You are biased against Muslims. I see both sides as a Political Science Major good sir. However you don't live with the hatred against me simply due to my religion.
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.