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FIRST-PERSON–Idea: The American Muslim Patriot, PR magazine reflecting U.S. heart

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–I heard there’s talk of enlisting the Ad Council (the same folks who brought you the Indian weeping at roadside trash and the slogans that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and “Remember — only you can prevent forest fires”) to develop a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East — many of whom cheered the events of Sept. 11 and despise the influence of the Great Satan in their region. What can we possibly do to change their minds?

Reading a John O’Sullivan column in the Sun-Times the other day, it occurred to me that the most effective campaign would draw heavily on patriots in the American Muslim community. O’Sullivan recalled that the Japanese were under a cloud of suspicion at the start of the World War II, and one Japanese-American leader made this statement in 1942: “I believe in [America’s] institutions, ideals and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future. Because I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me, and because I have received innumerable benefits from her, I pledge myself to do honor to her at all times and in all places.”

He went on to note the fact that 33,000 Japanese-Americans volunteered to fight in WWII and that 800 died in that conflict. I ran to the Web and found several sites commemorating the service of the “Nissei Battalion” in Europe. And I couldn’t help but wonder what might be the impact of forming a special “Medina Battalion” (honoring Muhammad’s first stronghold) for service along the DMZ in Korea. And what if leading American Muslims were to make statements similar to that of the Japanese-American patriot?

Being an old magazine editor, I couldn’t help but imagine wide Middle Eastern distribution of a new periodical, The American Muslim Patriot. We might run a photo-rich series of articles keyed to our constitutional rights, printed in both English and Arabic (I note the pertinent constitutional amendment in parentheses):

1. A Muslim cleric speaks of the freedom their mosque has enjoyed in the suburbs of Detroit. (I)

2. A Muslim editor tells of his ability to publish all sorts of opinions, even those critical of Christianity, Israel and U.S. policy. (I)

3. A Muslim convention planner reports that their rental contract for the civic center was as accommodating and affordable as the one a Baptist group signed two weeks earlier. (I)

4. A Muslim soldier expresses appreciation for the Army’s concern to provide him Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) that meet his faith’s dietary requirements. (I)

5. A Muslim businessman tells of the pride he takes in his new shotgun and the joy he finds in duck hunting with Christian friends. (II)

6. A Muslim homeowner speaks of his satisfaction in knowing that no one may enter his home without his permission or rigorous authorization. (IV)

7. A Muslim citizen, acquitted of bogus charges, celebrates the due process he received. He stands in a photo with his arm around his Jewish lawyer in front of the Buddhist judge. (V)

8. A devout Muslim citizen, who years ago was fined for shoplifting, is shown offering alms to the poor with an unsevered hand. (VIII)

9. A Muslim woman voter is shown at the polls, holding up her ballot. Standing beside her are Hispanic-, Black-, Asian- and Anglo-American voters, each holding up a ballot. (XIX)

10. A Muslim tourist stands beside an old Underground Railroad station in Illinois. He thanks Allah that he lives among a people who spilled their blood for the abolition of slavery and who have not tolerated it in their midst for 150 years. (XIII)

Should such a magazine appear, it would be a “twofer,” that is to say, it would give two payoffs for one publication. First, it would plant seeds of understanding and even envy among Muslims in the Middle East. Second, it would help accomplish the American Muslims’ goal of acceptance as loyal citizens.

Frankly, I’d fear for the lives of those who appeared in such a magazine. Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers have long, brutal arms. But this is a time of war. And by serving on the “front lines,” these Muslim Americans could join the ranks of our hallowed national heroes.

Just a thought.
Additional reflections by Coppenger are at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger