Changing Visions of Ourselves > Between Two Worlds

Los Angeles

Susan Attar

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Former Hate Prevention Coordinator, Muslim Public Affairs Council

African Americans are a majority of Muslims in the US. There are also a growing number of Latinos, and some whites. Their issues are not based so much on religion, but on race, and they always have been. Their major issue is what is happening with their community – immigration is less of an issue. For indigenous Muslim, most issues grow out of skin color – education, economics, gang violence, homelessness.

Immigrant Muslims feel like they are escaping something – even with earlier waves of immigration. My own father came here in the 1950s from Iraq. His orientation to this culture, and that of others like him, was to make it for themselves – to take some things and leave others; to do whatever you can to survive and succeed, and help the kids get ahead.

People like that perceive the immigrant community as  “stuck where they came from” – because what is happening in Pakistan or Palestine is their main concern.

My father came for higher education. He never intended not to return.

The immigrant community doesn’t speak up – the conditioning from their old society is carried over to their new society. Our aim is to find people from the immigrant community who want to make changes to make society better – from City Council to school boards to Congress. It’s very difficult to overcome that pessimism – the attitude is, why should we vote, because nothing will change? …

Islam is fundamentally about the fight for justice. In the real world you need to be included in society to move on that. As Muslims we have an obligation to do what is right. If we can improve this community which is our country, we can improve the world.