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My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves
Muslim Americans must exercise their right to vote and be part of the process, says Khalid Latif.
October 25th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Islam • Muslim • Politics

soundoff (1,030 Responses)
  1. lewtwo

    Islam is socially, morally and politically disengaged with reality.
    Islam will have to progress beyond the dark ages to ever become relevant in a civilized society.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Reality means truth absolute, and hindu ignorant like you have no Clue of reality, truth absolute God, but to be a hindu gentile, ignorant slave of hindu Jew, criminal self centered, secular, learn to live like human in reality, truth or move with your own kind, owl's of hind, darkened cave.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

      Some are said to be born of dirt and some born dirty. Many are said to be raised by the lord and some tossed aside for the devil. Whatever the reason or even the season, the smattering of thoughts' ingrained and are generationally trained.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  2. paul

    Muslims do not need to spread their filth in our country. They have practices that goes directly against our principals and morals. They are completely ok with deceiving infidels as long as it will buy them time to complete their true intentions. I don't trust a muslim. Perhaps It's just my experience with them in Iraq but I believe that they must conform to American culture and leave theirs at the door. Especially when it comes to American politics.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • blaze562

      They already have spread their filthy belief's in our Country, Look at who is the president and he will if elected again burn and turn this country into a major $@it hole...

      October 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Morals means limits and hindu's like you defy every limit by faith, including truth absolute GOD, foundation of America, get out or be tried for hinduism, treason by Muslim's, true owners of America.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

      Lines drawn? Dice shaved? Cards bent? Ball too big? Oh, I meant balls.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Lost

      You have nothing to fear with Muslims who follow truth in Islam. The problem lies with cultural radicalism...and it can exist in any mainstream religion. For instance, people of various faiths have used religion to justify enslavement, infanticide, and other human horrors...based on a majority belief that certain forms of conduct or difference in appearances are not a part of the majority. Also, take a long, hard look at the condition of religious belief in this country. There are Christians of different sects and denominations, and some are divided along racial lines. There are Catholic churches that cater solely to worshipers based on demographics or ethnicity. The best thing about these discussions and the divisive political climate is that all of the hidden ideology is now out in the open, and people are able to see themselves and their true hearts staring right back at them.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Hey Bigot Blaze562 Blaze is a good name for you. You should burn in H-ell. I'm not ging to tell this presidents achievements because you wouldn't accept them. Instead I'll tell you about what happened when the white guy before him was president.
      9/11
      Recession near depression
      Iraq war
      Not enough troops where we should have been Afghanistan
      Ballooning debt

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  3. BobRayTalbot

    You have absolutely nothing to offer this country, Latif. If you want to have an impact, go to Egypt or Saudi Arabia. This country was founded on principles for which your faith has little, if any, interest. Your welcome to stay, but you had better assimilate or you will never see the light of day.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Only by opinion of a hindu, ignorant, if your hinduism, hogwash is any thing.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  4. Mahone

    I'll believe the Muslim BS when I see the Muslim community come out as a whole and denounce the terrorists amongst them. This hasn't happened and never will. So, send all the camel jockeys back to the sands of the middle east and let them continue to kill each other in the name of "Allah"......

    October 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      You a hindu, blinded, they come out to denounce hindu's deniers of truth absolute of the west and their hindism ,terrorism against inocent all the time,

      October 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • picoo

      man we did

      October 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  5. "He's Dead Jim."

    Muslim minority – I'm sure you are great people who are just minding your own business and are not part of the evil wanna-be-again Muslim Empire. I know you exist. You are cool. Muslim majority "we come in peace". Sorry we're not buying into that now and most likely not ever buying it. We do read the news not, just the news you want us to see. It's nothing personal. We don't like the Chinese, Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, Venezuela type governments any more then we like or trust you. We're not stupid. We get your real message here, "the Republicans are a threat to us because they don't live in denial about who we really are." "So, we have to give our friends the Democrats more power so that we can further achieve our un-deserved public relations objectives." It's not hate folks. It's awareness. What will your contribution to society be? Don't use toothpaste because it offends "you know who?" You're a beautiful woman, "cover that beauty up with a security blanket!" "Don't go to school!" "Sit in the back of the bus!" "Wow! You look so much better without your nose!"

    October 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • picoo

      wow you are so smart you figured all this bs by your self or facknews helped you

      October 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  6. WatrGrrl

    I see September 12th 2001 and see Muslims cheering in the streets after the fall of the Twin Trade Towers but I didn't see Muslims mourning. I see the day after the Fort Hood massacre but didn't see Muslims mourning the loss of unarmed American soldiers that were murdered. I see the British subway deaths but didn't see Muslims mourning the deaths of nonMuslim British that died that day. I see the wrecked trains in Spain and the bodies of those that were murdered, but I didn't see Muslims mourning the deaths of innocents. So many other images of Christians murdered, a journalist beheaded, murdered Israelis mourning other Israelis that were simply eating at an outside restaurant. I don't see Muslims mourning senseless deaths. I just see Muslims burning American Flags, chanting "death to America." I don't see Muslims mourning. Come to think of it, Libya is the only place I've seen Muslims in support of Americans so I still don't have any trust for Muslims because actions speak louder than words. Just like with Ba-rack Obama

    October 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      A hindu blinded by hindu soul, filthy desire, such as you is unable to see truth absolute, so shut up and stay in your hindu darkened cave like your own kind, hindu , stupid owl.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • WatrGrrl

      To reply to the ignorant little twerp that likely lives in Mommy and Daddy's cellar wouldn't be feasible. He, (likely a male, probably between the ages of 15 and 25), demonstrates through poor grammar and syntax that he is incapable of intelligent, rational thought and has no knowledge of violent events involving Muslims. Furthermore, he likely supports 1) violence against nonMuslims; 2) violence against women, 3) violence against non-mideast people and 4) violence against anyone more intelligent than he – which is probably the entire world. His is a world trapped in the darkness of Islam, he and those like him have no hope of ever joining the human race that evolved beyond cavemen.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  7. Jayson

    I will tell my teacher what will happen when we watch CNN student news

    October 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  8. Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

    Know not I the eyes of the Gods and the brains of our godheads,

    October 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  9. bob simpson

    I agree. STEP OUT OF USA. We don't want or need any Muslims in our country.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Right after you, hindu, denier of truth absolute GOD, foundation of America.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • picoo

      Nooooo i am not going no were .what about Mr america :)

      October 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  10. Hypocrisy, thy name is Carol

    Carol called atheists "locusts." Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness? Hey, nobody gets all of the commandments right.

    Let's see, Do unto others as you would have other do unto you? Nope! Carol does it as nasty as she can.

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone? Nope. Carol has lots of stones all ready to cast.

    Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord? Nope. Vengeance is Carol's sayeth Carol.

    Turn the other cheek? Carol throws the other fist.

    Carol's most practiced deadly sins? Wrath, Pride, with a pinch of envy on the side.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  11. Mohammad A Dar

    Imam Khalid, what is your view of build a mosque near ground zero?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Chia

      What is your view that there was one at 'ground zero' before and during 9/11?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Not near but on it, after rectifying hinduism, terrorism, hindu gentle criminal slave government of USA has committed against Muslims and Islam.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      What is your view, now many mosques all over the world were temples, or churches at one time? Should be turn them into what they had been?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Fact

      @Chia
      In case you haven't noticed: 9/11 threw a wrench in their works. I say they don't deserve the right to build a mosque anywhere near ground zero. The fact that they have the nerve to think it should be acceptable is proof that it is not.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      No need to hind, lie from hindu soul, filthy desire, provide proof, before making a hindu, ignorant claim. again,use your own ID, hindu, ID thief.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Mecca, in the year 630, Mohammad transformed the Black Stone in the Ka'aba, which ancient pagan Arabs had worshiped, into the paramount Islamic holy place. It became known as the Masjid al-Haram, or Sacred Mosque.

      I hope you sleep well tonight!

      October 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Sheer hinduism, absurdity, Kaba stood at it's place from time of Abraham, as such, never moved, as you hind, lie to make a hindu, ignorant point.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  12. True

    First I respect all muslim's right
    But the problem is that:
    First: When we looked at the news and saw the Muslim amricans voting at home countries via the native nationality they have, they voted for Mulims Brotherhood whom ignoe any one not Muslims and ful of hate and terror.

    Second: you complain that christian in America vote for christian presdint or you see cross in christian private school.

    you always play religion, try play as american only, you will win

    October 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Matter of choice, only a hindu, denier of truth absolute will vote against a follower of truth absolute Allah, hindu ignorant.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • picoo

      @Eliminate hinduism man stop with your hinu ....

      October 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  13. Phil

    Interesting, however, as usual, Brother Kalid is referring to non-indigeneous Muslims.

    This is again a said statement of the greater Muslim community and one of the reasons Islam will forever be seen as a alien faith.

    But article is a good start.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  14. Priest

    How about stepping on out of the US and don't come back.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Pedophile

      How about stepping on out of the US and don't come back.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • ReligiousGuy

      @Priest You don't tell pedophile priests to step out of this country and never come back?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  15. Mohammad

    They already engage us enough. What we need to see is a few more million suicides. Allah Akbar boom

    October 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Use your real name.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • ReligiousGuy

      @Mohammad You are a nut case Christian fanatic.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  16. jim

    Father of Slain SEAL: Who Made the Decision Not to Save My Son?
    On meeting Obama: “Could not look me in the eye … like shaking hands with a dead fish.”
    6:18 PM, Oct 25, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER

    Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

    Charles Woods, the father Tyrone Woods, who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, reveals details of meeting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the publically broadcast memorial service for the slain Americans at Andrews Air Force Base only days after the attack. And, in a recent radio appearance, Woods publicly questions who made the call not to send in back-up forces to possibly save his son’s life, as well as the three other Americans killed in Benghazi (which includes the American ambassador to Libya).

    “When [Obama] came over to our little area” at Andrew Air Force Base, says Woods, “he kind of just mumbled, you know, ‘I’m sorry.’ His face was looking at me, but his eyes were looking over my shoulder like he could not look me in the eye. And it was not a sincere, ‘I’m really sorry, you know, that you’re son died,’ but it was totally insincere, more of whining type, ‘I’m sorry.’”

    Woods says that shaking President Obama’s hands at his son’s memorial service was “like shaking hands with a dead fish.”

    “It just didn’t feel right,” he says of his encounter with the commander in chief. “And now that it’s coming out that apparently the White House situation room was watching our people die in real time, as this was happening,” Woods says, he wants answers on what happened—and why there was no apparent effort to save his son’s life.

    “Well, this is what Hillary did,” Woods continues. “She came over and, you know, did the same thing—separately came over and talked with me. I gave her a hug, shook her hand. And she did not appear to be one bit sincere—at all. And you know, she mentioned that the thing about, we’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video. That was the first time I had even heard about anything like that.”

    Drudge...

    October 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

    • Head on over to Libya jimbo. Find and punish those evildoers for us.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • "He's Dead Jim."

      Dreadful behavior from the both of them especially that bit about Hillary stating that the perp who made the video is going to be arrested.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      hindu, cry baby, if you like to cry for a hit from a opponent, no need to be in the ring, take it or throw you towel and run like a hindu scared dog with your tail between your legs. hindu's, cry babies.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Indy75

      Good grief. Something tells me the dad is a staunch replublication and made most of this up. Look at who wrote up the report.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  17. larry5

    An isolated Muslim is far different than a Muslim in a majority.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  18. dscon

    My Take.................muslims should have been out in DROVES on 9-11 to denounce. :(
    WHY?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      To denounce hinduism, terrorism of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered and their hindu gentile, terrorist slave Christians.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    • When Republicans turn out in DROVES to denounce George W's Iraq war it'll happen. You just wait and see.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • larry5

      Muslims everywhere celebrated their victory on 9/11, even in America. That's the day they established their position in the world.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  19. Mohammad A Dar

    Imam Khalid wonders "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."

    So true my friend, so true. Each terror attack on non-muslim countries requires more time, strategy and patience.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Yes, it take planning and efforts with will of Jihad to feed hindu's terrorist their own medicine of hinduism, terrorism, if non Muslim hindu's, criminals do not like their own medicine of hinduism, terrorism, they need to obey truth in life, or pay the price, plain and simple. If you play, you pay, and hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, played, they need not to complain to pay, hindu, ID thief.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Who is ID thief?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      You are a hindu, ID thief.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      mind your language.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  20. Fact

    They engaged in terrorism; now they are being encouraged to engage politically. I guess whatever it takes?

    October 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      their political engagement in the USA would bring nothing but more troubles, they have direct conflict of interest with Israel, an ally of America.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Fact

      @Mohammad A Dar
      Agreed, but they are already politically engaged.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • picoo

      Israel is not an ally of America but Israel is your master and you know it

      October 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
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About this blog

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.