The year is 2050.
As a frail 90-year-old American Muslim, I stare in amazement at my media wall. After decades of injustice at the hands of my own government and being subjected to the unfounded suspicions and disdain from my fellow citizens, tears move me as our newest president is fulfilling her campaign promise to make reparations.
I walk around my hologram newsfeed watching the president with a select group of Muslim citizens at a special White House reception.
She declares: “Never again must we let our fears take us to extremes.” She refers, of course, to the internment camps that were built in the years following the 2016 presidential elections; internment camps where American Muslims were sent in the name of security.
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Many were stripped of their citizenship and possessions. She also refers to the mosques that were shut down overnight, some burned to the ground by vigilante groups, emboldened by the careless rhetoric of misguided elected officials.
She refers to the wanton roundup and imprisonment of imams, who were indiscriminately looked upon as the enemy, regardless of proof that they posed any threat or were guilty of any crime.
She speaks about the even less fortunate, who were deported, despite wide protest from the American public, to countries they knew nothing about. They were sent to special internment camps financed by the U.S. government under a deal of no return.
Our president also declares that she is sending a bill to Congress that will undo a law which went into effect in 2019, prohibiting all Muslim citizens from congregating and worshipping freely.
As tears blur my vision, I remember my two young adult sons, who were forcibly removed from our home in the middle of the night in early 2021. I remember the apathy of my longtime neighbors who watched us being led away. They too were afraid.
“Never again,” the president says. “We will not let history repeat itself.”
Yet this was already a repeat of the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent at the onset of World War II.
The year is 2016.
I’d like to think that my fictional story will remain just that. But I am not so sure! With the current reckless anti-Muslim climate, I wouldn’t put it past many in this beautiful country of ours to push an agenda that would favor a version of the above story.
And this is what ISIS wishes most. The more divisive Americans become, the stronger ISIS becomes, as it aims to undermine our democratic values and our respect for justice so we are weakened from the inside.
Hear me, fellow citizens, ISIS is not Islam. It does not represent the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. The true faith of Islam condemns every terror act that ISIS commits. The true faith of Islam respects and protects other faiths and the sanctity of life.
The Quran states clearly that “There is no compulsion in religion.” Yet the large majority of ISIS victims are Muslims who do not subscribe to their view. Please know that as an American who practices Islam, I am as vulnerable to ISIS as you are. Know also that Muslims in America are speaking loudly against ISIS but receive little media attention.
The truth is that the current reckless and hate-filled anti-Muslim rhetoric in the higher echelons of our government only affects law-abiding citizens and drowns our efforts to stand as one and to fight terror together.
American Muslims will continue to endeavor for the development, the betterment and the security of our country. American Muslims proudly serve in all branches of the armed forces.
Many Muslim immigrants came to America in search of the freedom they could not aspire to in their place of birth. Our strongest asset is our freedom.
If freedom is stolen from Muslims in America, it will be stolen from Americans of all faiths.
I leave you in peace.
Ghassane Habib of Fresno is president of the board of trustees of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno.