By PVT Naveed Ali Shah, 1HBCT Public Affairs OfficeFebruary 5, 2008
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I've heard this quote countless times, yet its powerful meaning has never lost its effect on me. However, I think that if the great Dr. King were alive today he would be sadly disappointed at the state of world affairs.
It's true that in the decades after his death America has progressed immensely. Segregation was wiped out with the passing, and more importantly, the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But while state-sponsored racism was banned, stereotypes and prejudices lingered, and now state-sponsored racism has returned, under a different banner: Racial Profiling.
As a young American-Muslim I have seen racial profiling at work first-hand. I watched as another American-Muslim Soldier, a friend, was hand-cuffed and led away by police, based on "suspicion" alone. The same happened to an uncle in Texas, leaving his family with no idea where he was or how long he'd be gone. He was the sole breadwinner for the household, whisked away because of a notion of mistrust.
On the other hand, I know better than to blame American society alone for these unfortunate incidents. The real fault lies upon the shoulders of those claiming to be "Islamic Jihadists" for misleading the rest of the world. Islam is not a religion of violence; the word itself means Peace. Nowhere in the Quran are Muslims directed to slaughter civilians. Nowhere in the Quran is it stated that a martyr will receive 77 virgins in the afterlife. Jihad literally means struggle. Therefore, Islamic Jihad plainly means "A Struggle for Peace."
Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu political and spiritual leader of the Indian Independence movement during the mid-20th century, was more of a jihadist than the violent extremists we are familiar with today. His peaceful protests eventually gained his homeland freedom, while the aggressive terrorist groups of today gain little at the cost of many lives.
Religious extremists are not limited to the Islamic denomination. The alleged "Pro-Life" Christian extremists bomb family-planning clinics and have killed dozens in the process of trying to achieve their goals.
America's civil rights movement was peaceful and, despite the amount of violent resistance they faced, in the end, successful.
Dr. King also said, "In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
Dr. King's poetic words seem more relevant today than ever, if only the extremists would heed them, progress would not be so tragically stalled.
The heart of the world's problem is now, and has always been, ignorance and apathy. Some Americans today know more about what is going on in celebrities' lives than their own children's. Most extremists are so narrow-minded that compromise cannot enter their realm of reason because their own brand of justice is so skewed.
Education. The world can be salvaged through education. The youth of the world are the future of the world. We can either sit idly by in our comfort zone, or we can give a voice to reason, peacefully, like my hero's did. Show future generations the right way to achieve their goals. For only then can we achieve ours.
As one who can see both sides of the story, I know that the situation is not as simple as black and white, right and wrong. The world today is complex and its diversity is at once its beauty and its downfall.
I am not going to sit idly by as Dr. King's dream floats away. I am going to stand up and give voice to freedom and equality for all. One day I will sing as Dr. King wished for us all to sing: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"