SHORTLY AFTER Keith Ellison was elected the first Muslim congressman in the history of the United States, he appeared on a popular CNN talk show hosted by Glenn Beck. Beck opened the exchange with the statement: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” He later equivocated his comments. While Beck’s level of sophistication does not reflect all Americans, whether or not American Muslims represent a new “fifth column” in the country remains a subtext for much public discussion about Islam in America.
The fact is that Muslims have deep roots in America. They first came with Columbus, as captains of two of his ships, and have been coming ever since, some as slaves, others as traders, and most recently as doctors, engineers and computer programmers. Muslims in North America form the most visible microcosm of the global Muslim community. They defy any simplistic social taxonomy, representing in significant numbers scores of languages, races, cultures and ethnicities.
Far from being a “fifth column,” Muslims have contributed to building America for centuries. In this issue’s cover feature we aim to celebrate the most recent contributions that American Muslims are making by highlighting the work often remarkable young men and women. Inspired by unflinching faith, an unshakeable sense of civic responsibility, and a tenacious ability to overcome all odds, these individuals are role models for everyone. They are bridge builders, novelists, producers, philanthropists, humanitarian workers, social activists, healers, lawyers, and artists, all adding their utmost to the common betterment. They are visionaries; trailblazers of a robust religious identity, at once rooted in their spiritual heritage and engaged with the reality of their social, economic and political environments. If you think that Muslims in America have little to offer, then think again – for the names listed here are but a tiny representation of a larger Muslim community and the way they touch hearts and minds in their local neighborhoods, schools, universities, and work places. They are part of the solution.
Role models of social activism will need to be on hand if we are to tackle one of the most tragic problems of our times: human trafficking. In this issue we focus on the global rise of sex trafficking in various parts of the world, including the Muslim world, and how it destroys the lives of innocent victims, from children to adults, women and men. A taboo subject in many circles, sex trafficking is one of the most widespread forms of torture today. The stories highlighted in these essays are heartbreaking and the sense of helplessness victims feel is a reflection of how little religious, social, legal and political institutions have achieved to combat this evil. In our online edition www.hlamicaM.agazine.com) we expand our discussion of sex trafficking, describe the most common trafficking routes, narrate real stories of survivors and provide information on how one can be more informed and pro-active in stemming its growth. All of us need to play our part: volunteer or donate to help any of the NGOs working on combating the problem; spread awareness about the matter; participate in action campaigns; and write to one’s government to take action. We must believe in our ability to end slavery for good. As articulated by an Indian anti-slavery campaigner, “No one is free until everyone is free.”
We visit one of the most recognized public intellectuals in the world, Noam Chomsky, for a conversation on religion, politics and the state of the world. And, as always, Islamica contains a variety of engaging perspectives which in this issue include the spiritual remedies to cure anxiety; Spain and the legacy of the Reconquista; and the state of science in the Muslim world.