Independence Day: a Muslim reflection

Saya diminta oleh sebuah media di Amerika untuk menuliskan refleksi saya tentang Amerika di hari Kemerdekaan mereka. Saya ingin share tulisan aslinya. Karena saya yakin editor media itu pasti akan merubah sana sini seusuai misinya. Semoga manfaat! 


Independence Day: a Muslim reflection


Today, July 4th, is a very important and memorable day for all Americans. It is the day of Independence. I wish all Americans at the outset a very happy and blessed Independence Day! 


Since its Independence from England, the United States has been struggling to grow, mature, and become ever better. 


America known today as a “super power” in the world, has faced many challenges since its founding, and in meeting, and in trying to meet those challenges, America and Americans have been given so many opportunities.


Being an Immigrant, as are all Americans save the Native Indian Americans, since my arrival in this land I have been blessed with abundance. My family has grown, the pursuit of my American dream continues, and more importantly I am blessed to be a part of this great nation and am proud of its values. 


America is not only a land with geographical boundaries . Neither is it only a group of people called Americans with all the advanced talents they have in science and technology. Nor is it is simply the combinations of its economic, political or military might. 


What is more important is that America is about ideas and ideals. It is about values that the nation has established and valued highly throughout its history. That America is about democracy, freedom, justice and equality, and the pursuit of happiness. 


And that really makes me proud to be a part of that American tapestry, to be a tiny part of the beautiful and colorful fabric of American society. 


I am Indonesian born, Islamic in faith, Asian in ethnic and culture. And all these don’t minimize my attachment  and connection to my adopted home, America. 


As an individual I carry multiple identities, at any given time. Be they cultural or even religious, they shift over time due to personal, cultural or religious experiences and larger social changes. 


Identity is an evolving process of “becoming” rather than simply “being.”


American identity, thus, is not something that is static, fixed and immutable; rather it evolves and changes with the changes of time and generations. 


America is just like a living organism. As such, if it does not renew itself and change in the different times of its development, it can lose its real sense of identity. 


America has become more diverse, stronger and beautiful, and certainly with more hope to be more respected both domestically and globally. 


Similarly when we come to American multiculturalism, the history of America in multiculturalism is an evolving acceptance of deep diversity. 


Preservation, embracing and acceptance of diversity in America  is indeed the very nature of this nation. 


America as a land of immigrants in its originality and inner security allows freedom of cultures, religions and their enhancement is a national strength not a weakness.


As we enter the global world of the 21st century, the focus of multicultural policy has shifted in the direction of inclusive citizenship – rights and responsibilities of all Americans and its values.


In different timeframes, the key metaphor of American multiculturalism changed, from “a mosaic”  to “belonging” to “the two-way street and harmony” and to “conforming”. 


I would rather want to see “accepting or respecting” as the key metaphor of our American multiculturalism today when this great nation celebrates its many years of its existence.


Being American is not only about being born in this land, holding an American passport, one’s personal existence or the protection of individual rights. 


Being American is about being responsible citizens – in mind and in action!


Being American means being indefinable. The fact that there is no prototype of an American, a newcomer can come to America and be in love with this country as much, if not even more, than a sixth or seventh generation American. 


There was a familiar saying of the 17th-century philosopher Spinoza that “Citizens are made, not born” and this is especially applicable to America nowadays.


Being American I hope means being a citizen of the best country in the world and being respected and welcomed everywhere else.


Being American means being a part of a great and diverse functional family where each member is welcomed, embraced and respected.


Being American means striving to always better ourselves and our relations with others, to our nation and the whole world.


Being American means being committed to treating our bothers and sisters well in other nations, and in accepting the responsibility for misbehavior towards and mistreatment of those we may call the “others”, those who we perceive as different from us.


Hence being American also means having acceptance of and respect towards those different from us. 


Further it means feeling compassion for and generosity to others, especially those less fortunate, and sharing with them of the blessings we enjoy, both at home and abroad. 


It means being free to dream, free to speak, free to laugh, free to live, free to believe and worship and free to follow our cultures without any fear. 


It means being loyal, patriotic and faithful to the nation and caring for its people and its security. 


It also means feeling happy with your own skin color, no matter which color it is. 


But also it means being what you are: a Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, non-believer or something else … and still being a good American and human being. 


It’s indeed difficult to define being American with simple thoughts and definitions. It’s as complex as the complexity of America itself. 


Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans! 


Imam Shamsi Ali* 

* Director of Jamaica Muslim Center New York/ President of Nusantara Foundation