- Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate but there are many more like her being oppressed.
- Multiculturalism is eroding our society. The United States was designed to be a “melting pot.” E Pluribus Unum!
- Our immigration system or refugee policy should not contribute to the destabilization of already fragile nations.
- The United States’ ability to be a force for good comes from unity and common values.
Regardless of the unconditional encouragement we give our children, there very few times that parents are truly inspired to reassess their worldview. Last week I had such a moment when I was fortunate enough to witness my daughter give a book report Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In 2012, Malala survived being shot in the face by the Taliban after she defied radical Islamists by seeking an education for herself and advocating for educational rights of girls in the Muslim world. It is an emotionally moving story that highlights the tug of war that is taking place within Islam. I do not consider myself an expert on any religion, but I do know enough to begin sorting through very confusing narratives and separate propaganda from fact. Islam has increasingly been a subject of hysteria for those on the right and romanticisation by the left.
It is cultural identity itself that needs examining where the United States of America intersects with recent immigrants. There are three crucial intersections that the United States has with the Islamic world, the first is through our various military engagements, the second is championing the rights of people like Malala on a selfless humanitarian basis, and thirdly understanding the Muslim population of our country. The issue of many Muslims maintaining a separate cultural identity bewilders the majority of Americans that have emerged from our “melting pot”, many emerging with changed last names and other transformations. Our national motto, e pluribus unum, which means out of many, one, leaves little room for multiculturalism. Most of us left our kilts, lederhosen, wooden shoes, and kimonos at Ellis Island on the way in. In the U.S. there is no dress code. Levi’s and baseball caps are not our national costume. However, we do have a unique cultural identity that transcends the traditions of our forefathers. Our distinct character is a result of what our immigrant ancestors left behind when they became Americans. Anyone who has traveled back to the ancestral homeland of their parents, grandparents, and so on, has discovered how unique American culture is.
The friction between middle America and the American Muslim community is understandable, but no one chooses to define what the problem is or why it exists. For the most part, recent Muslim immigrants are choosing to be different. Rather than assimilating into American society, they decide to unnecessarily stake out their own separate identity, head scarves and all. Keep in mind that Islam is not a race, nor is it a nationality – it is a religion, a set of chosen beliefs. America is a country that champions different belief systems and protects religious liberties, it is the acceptance of ideas that are different than ours that has been a unifying force.
We have seen Sunni and Shia violence in Iraq, and we have seen Catholic and Protestant violence in Ireland. The United States has largely been spared religious antagonism due to the principles which founded this nation. It is this national and religious unity, e pluribus unum, that has spared us the horrors we have seen around the world. The disintegration of Yugoslavia in the latter part of the 20th century is probably the best example. Former peaceful neighbors warred against one another, committing murder, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. The Croats as Catholics, the Serbs as Eastern Orthodox, and Bosnian Muslims all have blood on their hands as a result of that unnecessary conflict. This is a lesson that our country ignores, the catastrophic results of multiculturalism and maintaining an ethos other than “e pluribus unum.”
I use Islam as an example only because it is the backdrop of Malala Yousafzai’s story and the story of hundreds of thousands around the world willing to take a bullet for a free society and individual liberty. The Malala’s of the world are our hope, while the Taliban fighters who shot her are a threat to that very hope. Christianity has gone through its struggles and dark periods centuries ago. A quick review of the Pew Research Centers findings on attitudes in the Muslim world shows a worldwide struggle of their own currently taking place and also that a majority of American Muslims feel they are discriminated against. In that regard there are three problems facing us: 1) How do we help and protect the Malala’s of the world? 2) How do we make sure that radical Islam and the philosophy of its condoners die a quick and dramatic death? 3) How do we make sure U.S. citizens that follow Islam are part of the fabric of our society?
The United States must focus on maximizing the freedom and liberty of our own citizens first and foremost, however, we have a long reach politically, diplomatically, economically, militarily, and through our media. The plight of oppressed peoples around the world needs to be highlighted through the various mechanisms of the “long reach” that our country has. In this country, we view freedom and democracy as similar concepts. In other countries democracy does not result in an increase in individual liberties, but Americans have long been blind to that fact. As we solve problems of terrorism and weapons proliferation, close on their heels must be standing up for basic human rights. National sovereignty must be respected, but world norms need to be enforced and pressure needs to be brought to bear. We cannot go quietly about our relations with these countries and ignore that children are being denied educations and those asserting their universal rights are shot. As we are disengaging with the world militarily, it is time to step up our moral engagement. Compared to the histories of almost all other nations, our nation has the necessary moral authority.
The radicalization of wide swaths of the Muslim world, indicated in the findings of the Pew Research Center, has been made possible by mass immigration out of the Islamic world. Certainly, there are those fleeing for a better life, but there are also those harboring a radical ideology and that is demonstrated by the return of some to their homelands to fight with jihadi groups like ISIS. As we modernize our immigration policies and transition to a merit-based system, we need to be pragmatic that bringing those that want change and a better life into our country will deprive their country of origin of those that want change and a better life. Furthermore, we would be naïve to assume all asylum seekers are both worthy and have good intentions. From a national security standpoint, further destabilizing countries like Iraq and Syria by depriving them of their reformers and most talented would create pockets of oppression and radicalization around the world. As an example, the war in Syria will end, one way or the other. We must ask ourselves, do we want those returning from refugee camps to largely be ignorant or prone to extreme views, or do we want more capable enlightened individuals leading the remaking of those societies? Regardless of what government is in place, without those individuals capable of understanding the concept of inalienable human rights, we have condemned those societies to be nightmares for all but those that seek a hardline theocracy.
The United States of America doesn’t have any second-class citizens. If a citizen of this county is Muslim or converts to Islam they should they be accorded every protection under the law and inclusion in our society. That is a pledge that goes both ways for all. Muslim-Americans need to commit to being Americans first, and Muslims second. Or better yet, drop the hyphen and join us as just Americans. Our framers were very clear in our Constitution that the United States was meant to be religiously inclusive, but our Constitution was meant to be the supreme law of the land superseded by no theocratic doctrine, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other set of beliefs. We must learn the lessons of Yugoslavia and understand the extreme dangers of multiculturalism. The strength of our past and future lies in our ability to fuse into one people, E Pluribus Unum. It will take a strong and unified nation to imprint our moral leadership on the world so that men like the Taliban fighters that shot Malala Yousafzai are never emboldened or felt unobstructed to violate the fundamental rights of another human being. It is a big challenge, but we are up to it.