A group of Los Angeles Muslim leaders speak of their vision for America in their own terms. Hassan Hathout, Fathi Osman, and Maher Hathout, all leaders of the Muslim community on Vermont Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, have written extensively about a Muslim vision for America, including this 1989 statement addressed to Muslims in America.
There is an opportunity for Islam in America, and there is an opportunity for America in Islam. There exists a mutual suitability between America and Islam and Muslims. A healthy Islamic existence and a positive Islamic contribution to American life is as good for Muslims as for non-Muslims in the United States, as well as in Muslim countries, and as a matter of fact, in the whole world…
It is an inclusive duty of every Muslim to make Islam known to those who do not know it. We cannot escape that duty in America. “Say, this is my way, I call unto Allah upon clear vision, and I and those who follow me.” (Quran: 12/108)
We shall never be able to attempt that if we isolate ourselves from the society. In this respect we have a triple motivation.
The foremost is the responsibility placed upon us by God to make Islam known to the people we live with. We have found that the majority of the American people know little about Islam. They have misconceptions and mistrust. This state of affairs cannot be reconciled with the fact that at present there are millions of Muslims residing in America. Who should bear the sin of leaving the majority of Americans with a very ugly and false picture of Islam?
The second motivation is that now America is our mother country. Our children and grandchildren after us will live in this country. If we feel that the environment is morally decadent, then we should take an interest (even on selfish grounds) in cleaning it for our sake and theirs.
The third motivation is a sense of duty towards our country. To be American is not to blindly accept America as it is, but to strive to make it cleaner and better by using the available freedom, the constitutional rights and the democratic process persistently and relentlessly towards reaching that goal…
We have, therefore, decided to make our positive contribution to the American life whenever we have an opportunity. Out youth take food to the homeless. We are in touch with organizations fighting drugs, alcohol, pornography, abortion and licentiousness. We participate in dialogues with the followers of other religions and creeds on religious, cultural, social, and educational issues.
We never refuse to visit schools, universities, associations or institutions or be visited by them if this bears an opportunity for the truths about Islam to be known. Even personal relations at or outside work, providing the good example of a Muslim, is part of our duty. We are keen to be amicable and persuasive, for it we behave in a repellent way, then it is Islam we are repelling people from.
We are very conscious of God’s description of the message entrusted to the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran clearly states: “We have sent you not but as a mercy to the worlds.” This is the ultimate goal of Islam.
[From Hassan Hathout, Fathi Osman, and Maher Hathout, In Fraternity: A Message to Muslims in America (Los Angeles: Minaret Publishing House, 1989), 3-4, 28-31. By permission of Maher M. Hathout, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California.]