On the Fourth of July, when the nation will be celebrating its independence, I will be spending the day quietly praying for the safety and security of my fellow citizens. Being a naturalized citizen from a country that won its independence from the British in 1947, I fully understand the significance of the Fourth of July.
In the past, I spent the day either visiting friends or organizing a barbecue or visiting public places to watch fireworks. But this year is different.
This year, the Fourth of July is more than a holiday and celebration for me. It is going to be a tense day. I will be watching the news closely, praying that the day ends peacefully.
Sulaiman abu Ghaith, a high-ranking operative of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, is threatening to attack American interests. He is a Muslim who claims to speak on behalf of Islam. He uses religious scriptures in support of his acts, the same scriptures that I read and exhort my children to read daily.
He prays the same way I pray, and he believes in the same God as I do.
Yet on that day, I will be asking God to save my country and me from Abu Ghaith’s wrath. I will be asking God not to listen to any of his prayers, however intense they may be. I will be praying for those law enforcement officers who will be keeping a close watch on everything that appears to be suspicious. I will be praying for my people, my American people.
Abu Ghaith might invoke all the divine names that he remembers, yet he cannot convince me and an overwhelming majority of Muslims that we share the same faith. Whatever names he uses to describe his faith, he does not belong to the community of the faithful, for those who believe in the divine do not destroy his creation.
In the name of religion, Abu Ghaith wants to destroy a country that is home to 6 million or more Muslims. Many of these Muslims came to this country to escape the political and religious persecution of the power elite in their former countries. Many of them have long been here and have never condoned violence--much like the millions of African Americans over the generations who have sought only peace despite the experience of slavery.
The Fourth of July has a special significance for all such people. It is not only the country that they celebrate but also the freedoms that this nation stands for.
Abu Ghaith wants to kill Americans, who collectively have acted to ensure that Muslims are not treated differently in their new country. On Sept. 11, when friends of Abu Ghaith were flying planes into the World Trade Center, hundreds of Americans were standing outside Islamic centers and mosques to protect Muslims from any violence or vandalism. The Fourth of July is a special day for Muslims to thank all those Americans who stood in defense of their freedom.
On the Fourth of July, the differences between Muslim Americans and those who speak the language of Abu Ghaith will become sharper. Even though both of us pray to the same God and in the same language, our prayers and idioms are different.
I will ask God to protect this country--my country--and its people and secure them from all ills. I will ask God to ensure that the freedom that this country has guaranteed is preserved, and I will ask God to return the happiness of those families whose lives were destroyed by the terrorists in September 2001.
I will ask God to embrace America as my fellow citizens have embraced me.
However humble I may be in my prayers, I will certainly ask God to destroy those who are out to destroy innocent beings. I know my God is merciful, and he will listen to me and many others like me.
I hope that my country, the United States of America, will be safe on the Fourth of July because of the vigilance of law enforcement officers and the prayers of millions, including Muslims, around the globe.
The Fourth of July is a day to demonstrate my commitment to God and my country.