By Starting Now, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans Can Make Election Year 2000 a Turning Point

Article excerpt

By Starting Now, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans Can Make Election Year 2000 a Turning Point

The excerpt above from a 1977 Jerusalem Post article advises Israeli readers not to worry too much about the zeal of newly elected U.S. President Jimmy Carter to settle the Israeli-Arab dispute because the American Jewish community, directed by Israel's Washington, DC lobby, can cause his administration "a lot of headaches." Note its description of that community as "an organized, articulate and vocal interest group." Those words are a challenge to American Muslims.

But then note, also, that American Muslims do not want to cause U.S. administrations "headaches" in foreign policy. Instead they want to free U.S. presidents and members of Congress to support traditional American concerns for human rights, self-determination and fair play.

The reason the U.S. is not following even-handed policies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria or Kashmir is the influence of Israel's principal lobby in Washington, DC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC has molded the 52 groups represented in the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations into just such all "organized, articulate and vocal interest group."

The challenge to America's Islamic community and to Christian Arab Amercans, therefore, is to offset that interest group, freeing U.S. policymakers to pursue U.S, national interests, which call for stability in international relations around the globe, and productive and friendly relations with all of the countries of the Islamic world.

Some U.S. Muslims say that in seeking to ease the entrance into American life of their co-religionists, whose basic interest is to raise and educate their children in accordance with the principles of Islam while living in harmony with their fellow Americans, the last thing they should do is antagonize the Israel lobby. In fact, the leader of one of the established Arab-American groups recommended this year that in entering the U.S. political system Arab Americans would be well advised to avoid the Palestinian issue. Similarly, the leader of a new, fringe Islamic group in the U.S. seems to be saying the same thing.

So far as this writer can determine, however, leaders of all of the other Muslim- and Arab-American political organizations disagree with that recommendation. They believe that until the Israel lobby is neutralized, it will be working tirelessly to ensure that neither Muslim Americans nor Arab Americans will be accepted into American political life.

The reason is that the Israel lobby sees American Muslims, whose numbers are growing rapidly through immigration, conversion, and steady birthrates, as the most serious threat to Israel's hold on U.S. foreign policy. This is true because the 6 to 8 million U.S. Muslims, even without the additional 1.5 to 2 million Christian Arab Americans, already out-number America's five million Jews. And this disparity is growing because the Jewish community has a very low birthrate, a 50 percent intermarriage rate, and because more unaffiliated Jews are dropping out of participation in the Jewish community than are entering it.

Muslims should realize that the United States has absorbed many different ethnic and religious communities in the past, to the benefit both of the country and the communities. Since American Muslims are strictly enjoined by their co-religionists not to discriminate against others, to cooperate with their neighbors for the good of the communities in which they live, and to take care with the upbringing and education of their children, they should have even fewer problems than some of the communities that have preceded them. It is on these matters, not religion or ethnicity, that Americans judge their neighbors.

AMERICAN MUSLIM "PROBLEMS"

But if these are the requirements for acceptance, why are American Muslims encountering problems that are not being experienced by other groups today? …

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