Letter From The President
An Open Letter from Sheikh Yasser Arafat
As-salaamu alaikum, dear brothers and sisters,
It is both an honor and a pleasure to announce the formation of Peace Ambassadors USA. This new project, initiated by the Muslims of Nashville, TN, will focus on combating racism and bigotry against Muslims Americans in the United States. The project will involve specific education and outreach programs/initiatives that will help in our efforts to dispel the growing myths about Islam. This, in turn, will reduce and eventually eliminate the rising tide of Islamaphobia in the U.S. It’s important for us to stand up and show the genuine and peaceful nature of our faith through action rather than talk. Establishing outreach programs and services are some of these actions that we must undertake. True love and genuine respect to those around us will transpire through our involvement in our communities. Caring about the poor, helping the needy, and communicating with others will help us to change the negative preconceived notions about Islam and Muslims around the world.
A great number of our fellow American citizens don’t know anything about Islam except what they have learned from the one sided media. A considerable number of them think that Muslims are stone worshippers who worship a moon god, and in their minds, that is why we place the crescents on the top of our mosques. We need to stop over-estimating their knowledge about Islam. Furthermore, we need to stop blaming them for their negative perceptions of our religion. Rather than blaming them, we should blame ourselves instead. Ask yourself, how much have we done to change that perception? It is our duty to inform our American brothers and sisters of our shared beliefs in Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, and as a whole, our common human values that are shared by the majority of the world religions.
Many of us, especially first generation immigrants, still live with the mentality that we will one day be going back home to our respective countries of origin. A lot of Muslims in America have had that thought for a long time. Interestingly enough, they have been in the U.S. for a great part of their lives. As a matter of fact, they now have American born and grown children who have had their own children as well. Fortunately, many have already realized that this is home and we must love it and treat it as such. Nevertheless, we have our disagreements with our government, especially when it comes to its foreign policies in the Muslim world. Needless to say, those concerns could be dealt with through active involvement rather than keeping ourselves in a self-imposed isolation. Hence, interfaith dialogues and political involvement are some of the tools that we could use to change that negative perception of Islam, and in turn redraw a road map to shift the direction of our politics to a more balanced path.
Some people might ask: “Why can’t we just use our mosques to do the same thing that this project entails?” This is a legitimate question, and the answer is: 1) Mosques, out of their very nature, have a special sanctity where we cannot do many things that we need to do to accomplish the mission of this project. For a long time we have been doing numerous outreach activities using our mosques. However, we have always been very much constrained to do only the minimum due to cultural differences such as some dressing styles that tend to violate the sanctity of our mosques. 2) Placing some of our activities such as our future radio station inside a mosque would not be the wise thing to do since we will be discussing many controversial issues that are of concern to our communities, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 3) A great number of our fellow Americans are very reluctant to visit our Mosques due to their misplaced fear of Islam. They would be more encouraged to visit us instead. Part of our activities will involve scheduled trips to the Mosques for the students and visitors after briefing them of the rules that they need to follow to preserve the respect of our houses of worship.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is America – where almost anything is possible. Show genuineness and work hard and you will achieve success. We need to stop thinking that the world is out to get us. The world is busy moving forward yet we still fear the unknown. We need to stop being afraid to practice our right to show the greatness of our faith, for fear is really our worst enemy. Please, look at our project and read its details. Yes, it’s very ambitious, but it’s definitely possible. We have a great facility in our possession. The rest will be taken step by step. Finally, we dare to ask you this question: Would you care to be a part of this dream and make it a reality? We hope that the answer is “yes.”
Sheikh Yasser S. Arafat
President of Peace Ambassadors USA and Community Developer