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By Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director.
This speech was delivered at the Women’s March in San Jose on January 21, 2017.
Salam alaikum, Shalom, and peace be unto you.
I am honored to be with all of you today representing the American Muslim community.
Attending today are three South Bay mosques including the Muslim Community Association, South Bay Islamic Association, and West Valley Muslim Association.
I am both an American Muslim and an immigrant, representing two groups that, judging from the political rhetoric of this past election season, are most vulnerable right now.
We’ve heard threats to build walls and to deport millions. We’ve heard calls to ban Muslims from entering the US, to profile Muslims, to create a registry of Muslim Americans, to monitor mosques. And we’ve heard calls for other measures that would hit hard at many other Americans, like instituting “stop and frisk” by police, legalizing discrimination against our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, or defunding the only source that many low-income women have for healthcare.
These threats could paralyze us with fear. But they won’t, if we love this country as much as I know we all do.
We are here today to give voice to the love we have for America.
Except for the Native peoples who have been here 20 centuries, we are all immigrants.
Wherever our ancestors may have come from—whether England, Scotland, Germany, or Ireland, or Africa, the Middle East, or Asia—we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants, a cross section of humanity, a kaleidoscope of colors, cultures, religions, and tongues.
Our founding fathers and mothers set out to give us a framework in which we could live together in peace, by guaranteeing fundamental and inviolable rights: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom to choose our government leaders, freedom to assemble peaceably to seek redress of wrongs, and all the other freedoms that make us Americans.
It’s that framework that allows people with such diversity to live together in peace and harmony. We’re not just a white or Christian nation. We’re Native American, African-American, Arab, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Latino—we are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, atheist, Sikh, pagan—we are straight, gay, lesbian—all this, and much more, and we know we belong here, because we are America.
But there are no rights without responsibilities. And we’re here today because we recognize those responsibilities—and above all, at this moment in our history, the obligation to stand together as one family to protect this nation, its principles and ideals, its values and laws, against the forces of fear and bigotry that would tear us apart.
God tells us in the Quran that, “I created you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” In other words, Muslims believe that diversity is part of God’s Divine Will.
And so we will reach out to our neighbors. As my organization, Islamic Networks Group, does, we will educate one another about our cultures, our faiths, our lives. And when we do, we will find out that we have more commonalities than differences. We will show America as an example to the world, based not on material wealth but on our ability to live together in all our diversity.
America belongs to all of us who live here, and we belong to America, and whichever way the political winds may blow, we will live that reality, day in and day out, for the next four years and for the rest of our lives.