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. Sagebrush Shorty

    Muslims should step up? I wish some Muslims would step down.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  2. Reality

    The real Islam: a few examples–

    As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

    The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

    ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

    and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

    and more recently

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

    15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

    16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

    19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

    20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

    21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

    22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

    23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

    o 24) Mon Jun 4, 2012 10:18am EDT
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi'ite Muslim office in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate.

    The bombing on a Shi'ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country's fractious Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal and spill into sectarian tensions."

    25) BURGAS, Bulgaria | Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:27am EDT

    (Reuters) – A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.

    26 ) September 12, 2012
    Envoy to Libya dies in rocket blast

    October 26, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      no substance in your posts, but I have to admit they are quite entertaining.

      October 26, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Reality

      Some added substance:

      Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      October 26, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Good job Reality! Keep posting, nonsense.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Lance

      Who is the biggest arms delaer in the world bar none with the deaths of milliosn on its hands because of weapons solid to illegitimate governments – the USA of course.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • gager

      Lance, blaming the arms dealers is like blaming knives for stabbings.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  3. USN Ret.

    The problem is most of the non-Muslim world feel that Muslims are on a path to create an Islamic state/world and repress their religion with force when necessary. By not allowing other religion to be practiced in side their boarders, what other conclusions can be drawn? Look at the restrictions placed on other religions in places like Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Is this being a good neighbor? Yes other religion has problems but 90 to 100 percent exclusion of other religions by law is not one of them. The Muslim world needs to grow up and become part of the world community.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Primewonk

      "By not allowing other religion to be practiced in side their boarders, what other conclusions can be drawn? "

      You mean like when fundiot Christian nutters try and block construction of a mosque in New York City? You mean like when fundiot Christian nutters burn down a mosque in Missouri? You mean like when fundiot Christian nutters try and block a mosque from opening in Tennesee? You mean like when a fundiot Christian nutter US Congressman tries to force a Muslim Congressman to take the oath of office on a bible? You mean like when fundiot Christian nutter candidates announce that they would not have any Muslims in their administration?

      October 26, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • USN Ret.

      But they have the right to build the mosque by our laws and can bring a law suit to do so. But not in Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as examples. Would christains be allowed to biuld a church next to the grand mosque in Mecca? "NOT IN YOUR OR MY LIFE WILL THAT HAPPEN". But extremist using 12 yr. old boys/girls to blow up people will never solve the problem.

      October 26, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • USN Ret.

      Spent 20yrs definding EACH OF YOUR RIGHT TO SAY AND DO WITH IN OUR LAWS what you wish. Please remimber in this country and almost all western countrys your speech is protected. "NOT SO IN MANY ASAIN, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICAN" countrys. Which by the way have a much longer history than almost all western nations. Execpt for a small minority in some western countrys you are free to be YOURSELF so enjoy that freedom please.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Tim

    One has to love that outsiders always know what is best for other groups. Perhaps the world would be better if outsiders just left others alone. I mean, how is it every group knows what is best for other groups while their own group is in such disarray? Oh...ouch...forgot the best coaches and athletes sit in the stands. My bad.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    October 26, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • bill

      Knowing how toxic atheism is on society could be justification enough for american christians and muslims to have a dialog

      October 26, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Mirosal

      Sorry, but the toxicity is on the religious who have made it their mission to "save" everyone with THEIR idea of what's right. Atheists don't poison the airwaves with pleas for 'donations' no do they blow up buildings and people because that's what their "god" wants them to do.

      October 26, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • withoutgod

      bill, surely you must be joking. In Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, which have a very significant atheist population, they are the most tolerant, civil, peaceful societies on earth. Their murder rates are 1/5 of ours. They have longer lifespans, better education, less poverty, less unemployment, less violent crime, less income disparity, better human rights.... then look at countries ruled by religion, like Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Which is setting the better example here?

      October 26, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • withoutgod

      In other words bill, your premise is objectively false, and your conclusion dangerous.

      October 26, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian.

      October 26, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  6. tavernvoice

    It amazes me the double standard shaping up in this country. Christianity is being chastised over and over in many cases due to stances of birth. abortion and marriage. Yet with such 'open arms' mentality so many are giving Muslim faith a pass. Both are built on firm beliefs, and those beliefs include many positions on women and marriage. Why not the scrutiny on the Muslim religion. Or put another way, why not just let freedom of religion stand for all? Double standards prove time and time again, to cause greater problems for this country.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Peedy Oor-ree-on

      You are correct, IF you are dealing with religion. But Islam is not a religion, it is a totalitarian, fascist theocracy. There is no such thing as separation of church and state. And in Islam, there is zero tolerance of religions outside itself.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Primewonk

      Do we see fundiot Muslim nutters trying to force their idiotic beliefs into our state and federal laws and public schools like the fundiot Christian nutters are doing?

      I assure you that if/when this happens, they will be dealt with just as harshly.

      October 26, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • withoutgod

      Peedy, so is Christianity. You MUST submit to Big Brother or suffer eternal torment in a lake of fire. You can be found guilty just for what you think and desire, and for that condemned forever, unless you are willing to bathe in the blood of a human sacrifice. And then we are told that we couldn't be moral without this. Anyone who falls for this is, in my submission, mentally sub-normal.

      October 26, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  7. profart

    In this country, an elected official's religious beliefs should not matter. Unfortunately, we live in reality.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  8. Kelly51

    Being an infidel myself, is it really a good idea to let Muslims take over an infidel country? You know the people that have been at war since it's existence.

    October 26, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  9. steve

    my problem and I say "my" problem in all honesty, is that I can't bring myself to trust any of them!

    October 26, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Kelly51

      You are not alone. Seeing as how most terrorists just happen to be Muslim. They are much like a black widow spider. Once they are done with you, they eat you up.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  10. Peedy Oor-ree-on

    Islam requires allegiance to Allah, the Homeland (Mecca), and shariah over loyalty to any country, according to the fatwas set forth on the website, Islam Q&A, and Shaykh Muhammads Al-munajjid, a respected Sunni scholar. Involvement in politics is encouraged, in order to bring sharia law and total acceptance of Islam into "infidel" societies, with the ultimate goal of an international caliphate. There apparently is no tolerance of other religions, because none but Islam is accepted as valid. The truth is, no matter how you spin it, Islam is a theocracy, not a religion, bent on world domination.

    October 26, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • profart

      You do know that was the argument not to vote for JFK, right?

      October 26, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • knucklecheese

      "Refraining from being part of the process really isn't an option anymore."

      And that's why I declined a golden opportunity to deliver the invocation at the RNC... Regardless of his religious affiliations, he's just another liberal hypocrite blowin' smoke.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  11. Mark

    In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and other Muslim countries Christians are not allowed to build a Church. Are the Muslims in these countries "hateful"?

    October 26, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  12. Pat Smith

    Good, meaningful article, until the last sentence.

    October 26, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • CaliforniaGirl

      Why is that????

      October 26, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • David Hoffman

      Which last line? "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." or "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif."

      October 26, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  13. Pat Smith

    Good, meaningful article... until the last sentence.

    October 26, 2012 at 6:23 am |
  14. GOD-BODY

    24HCC If you dont know where GOD is youll soon find out.lol Everyone will die 1 way or the other.And since you certainly cant proove that there is no GOD,why take the chance?May its because you dont care about yourself or anyone else. And Foreal89,lets be FOREAL.The only reason you hate Muslims is because you have no self value.Thats the only reason you hatemongers hate.You think nothing of yourselves.If you did why bother. GET A LIFE

    October 26, 2012 at 6:11 am |
  15. government cheese

    The Democrats are growing their next generation of freeloaders. See Europe.

    October 26, 2012 at 4:23 am |
  16. same

    who care Muslim in this country? FOX?

    October 26, 2012 at 3:35 am |
    • Ari

      that's what happens when you mix Islam and Ebonics.

      October 26, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  17. DocReality

    I hear there may be a Muslim out there who might need to step down soon....

    October 26, 2012 at 3:19 am |
  18. GATORpride

    Wow the comment section is devoid of any intellect. I know a few muslims from my dental school. Nice family people, however they themselves believe that they don't need a real voice in America. They live their own lives and leave ignorant people to generalize and stereotype them as much as they want. You can't rattle their faith when their moral attackers such as the people here aren't better any off than the islamic terrorists who are trying to spread their hate and lies. Life must be terrible for some of you to write such garbage.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • Edward

      I can rattle their faith by drawing a cartoon though.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  19. TruthFinder69

    This is a recent news in Myanmar - "The mob violence pitting the Buddhist Rakhine community against the Muslim Rohingya has seen entire villages torched " , why this is not a headline in international news? If a muslim do a small mistake that becomes a front page international news. Enough of western hypocrasy and bashing muslims.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • malti

      again, islam as peace at play!!

      October 26, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • Edward

      That story is headline news. Didn't you read it here on CNN? I did, yesterday. Your point in moot.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • gager

      Islam is a human cancer.

      October 26, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • withoutgod

      gager, I think you meant to say "RELIGION is a human cancer".

      October 26, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  20. Jean Martin

    Yes Muslim need to step up and show their support to a non violent peaceful world, but media need to highlight the good things that are created by Muslim like khanacademy.org or halalgate.com among many others great works done by muslim and demonstrate their goodwill to make this world a better place for all.thanks for sharing

    October 26, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • Ari

      I think the infidel world has had quite enough of "Muslim goodwill," thank you. As for the media, their "highlighting of Muslim good things" is being done by ignoring the Muslim evil. Take what you can get, Ahmed.

      October 26, 2012 at 5:22 am |
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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.