In the days leading up to the start of "Operation Iraqi Freedom,"
a Muslim American civil rights lobbying group, the Council on
American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent out a nine-page "Muslim
Community Safety Kit" enunciating a series of largely ineffective
steps for Arabs and Muslims living in the US to take if war backlash
were to materialize against them.
It wasn't the first time such knee-jerk civil rights lobbying had
been done by a group purporting to represent America's Arabs and
Muslims. But it should be the last.
The CAIR memo highlights the raging debate in US Arab and Muslim
communities about whether protection of civil liberties should take
precedence over the responsibilities of citizenship.
The continuing anger shown by immigrant Arabs and Muslims,
whether about racial profiling at airports, or about charities being
shut down for sending money to terrorist groups, or the failure to
stop what many believe is an unjust war against Iraq, is misplaced
It demonstrates an inability to put US national security
interests ahead of doubtful claims that our civil rights are being
violated, or to put loyalty to the state before religious and ethnic
allegiances. The growing frustration also defines a critical
leadership problem in our communities, that if not resolved soon,
could doom another generation to the prejudices and venal hatred
many of our parents brought when they made difficult choices to
migrate to the US.
The voice of America's 6 million-strong Arab and Muslim
population is dominated by special-interest groups such as CAIR, the
American Muslim Council, and others who have hijacked the
community's larger interests by expertly learning lobbying
techniques of more experienced immigrant communities. They use
elaborately constructed schemes to bring foreign money in to fund
their operations and then make boisterous claims that they represent
the community in matters of national importance. They do not.
They neither understand the value of the citizenship they so
brazenly exploit, nor represent the growing but still silent
majority of American-born and -educated Arabs and Muslims who are
busy getting college degrees, decent jobs, and that first home. But
not having the cash, or the time, to play Washington's power
politics is no excuse for the next generation to forgo learning the
central tenets of model citizenship that sometimes require personal
Shortly after Sept. 11, I voluntarily left a flight I was booked
on because some of the passengers were nervous about traveling with
a "Middle East looking person." It was as much my fault they felt
the way they did as it was about me being the target of traditional
cultural prejudices that have confronted other minority communities
throughout American history. …