Muslims Don't Contribute to America? Think Again

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

It is a tired, old claim by Islamophobes that Muslims haven't contributed to either the history or social fabric of this country. Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema recently waded into that muck by sharing a post that asked such questions as

Have you ever been to a Muslim hospital? Have you heard of a Muslim orchestra? A Muslim marching band? Have you witnessed a Muslim charity? Can you show me one Muslim signature on the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights? Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?

Georgetown Researcher Nathan Lean responded in an extraordinary fashion in the Detroit Free Press:

■ American Muslims have a substantial presence in the health care industry. The Islamic Medical Association of North America, one of many such organizations,estimates that there are more than 20,000 Muslim physicians in the United States. Similarly, an analysis of statistics provided by the American Medical Association indicatesthat 10% of all American physicians are Muslims. While no Islamic hospitals exist in the United States, per se, several Muslim-based health clinics do. And let’s not forget that the hospital itself is not an American invention — it’s an Egyptian one. For that matter, the father of modern surgery wasn’t an American Protestant pioneer, either, but a 10th-Century Muslim physician from Spain, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi.

■ Criticism over the absence of Muslim orchestras in the United States rings hollow, as well. Few orchestras are comprised exclusively of members from one particular faith, and many are organized along ethnic or other lines. The National Arab and New York Arabic Orchestras are two examples of groups whose members include numerous Muslims. Similarly, marching bands are obviously affiliated with high schools or universities, not mosques or churches, and surely Muslim students make up these musical groups, which, as it turns out, trace their roots back to the military bands of the Muslim Ottoman empire. The violin, too, finds its origins within the 10th-Century bowing instruments of Islamic civilization.

■ Muslim charity groups in the United States are too numerous to catalog, though the Bay Area Islamic Networks Group, the UMMA Clinic in Los Angeles, the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network and Dearborn’s ACCESS are examples of groups that provide crucial services and empower the underprivileged. In 2013, the Muslim charity Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) was rated among the top 10 charities in the United States.

■ Agema is correct, however, to point out that there are no Muslim signatures on the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. That’s because the first major wave of Muslim immigration to the U.S. occurred in the mid-to-late 19th Century — nearly 100 years after those documents were written. But the beauty of America is that the rights enshrined in our founding documents protect everyone, regardless of their time of arrival or their religious identity.

■ It’s also the case that Muslim Americans designed the Sears (now Willis) and Hancock towers in Chicago, developed the chemotherapy mechanism that treats brain tumors and revolutionized this country’s original art form: jazz. They also contribute through their service as educators, lawmakers and soldiers and are on the front lines of campaigns to end some of today’s most egregious civil rights abuses.

It is amazing how some of the most beautiful, grandiose theories can be destroyed by ugly little facts...

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