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Why Should A Muslim Love America?

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Why Should A Muslim Love America?

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders listens as Abdelmajid Jondy speaks during a community forum about contaminated water in Flint

An open letter to American Muslims:

In April 1944, a Cpl. Rupert Trimmingham wrote the editor of Yank, a U.S. Army magazine, about what happened when he and eight fellow soldiers, traveling by train, had an overnight layover in a small Louisiana town. They went to get coffee, but no restaurant would serve African-American soldiers except the one at the depot. And it required that they go into the kitchen.

“But that’s not all,” wrote Trimmingham. That morning at 11:30, “about two dozen German prisoners of war, with two American guards, came to the station. They entered the lunchroom, sat at the tables, had their meals served, talked, smoked, in fact, had quite a swell time. I stood on the outside looking on, and I could not help but ask myself these questions: Are these men sworn enemies of this country? … Are we not American soldiers, sworn to fight for and die if need be for this country? Then why are they treated better than we are? Why are we pushed around like cattle? … Why does the Government allow such things to go on?”

I invoke Trimmingham’s letter because it embodies a dilemma with which I suspect you are too familiar: the question of how — and whether — to love a country that often fails to love you back.

That quandary is thrown into sharp focus by last week’s terror attack in Belgium and the wearisomely predictable response from the political right. On the one hand, there’s Ted Cruz arguing for an increased police presence to “patrol and secure” your neighborhoods. On the other hand, there’s Donald Trump, reiterating his call to close America’s borders to Muslims.

These are, of course, manifestly stupid ideas. How will we define a “Muslim neighborhood”? Will a Christian living there need a pass to come and go freely? How does Trump propose to identify Muslims at the border? Will religions have to issue ID cards? Besides which: the Constitution.

Not to mention that, every two weeks or so, it seems some disaffected white guy shoots up a movie theater, schoolyard or church, yet no one proposes to lock down white neighborhoods or close American borders to white men because of it. Indeed, we are told such carnage is the price of “freedom.” But let some thug calling himself Muslim commit mass murder on the far side of the planet and suddenly people want Marines guarding every falafel stand in New York.

It has to hurt and cannot help but make the question more pointed: Why should a Muslim love America? Trying to find a way and a reason to do so must sometimes feel foolish and naive. Why serve a country that often hates you? Why support a country that sometimes fails you? Why tell your children to believe in a country like that?

So I write this letter for four reasons:

The first is to say that some of us have been there. Some of us still are.

The second is to remind you that Cruz and Trump do not represent the predominant opinion — only the loudest.

The third is to say, on behalf of the rest of us: I’m sorry for what you’re dealing with.

The fourth is to point out that there is a difference between America and Americans.

“America” is simple. It’s “liberty and justice for all.” It’s freedom. It’s an ideal.

“Americans” are the people charged with living up to that ideal. And very often, they fail to do so. Because of expedience. Because of bigotry. Because of cowardice. Truth to tell, sometimes, they don’t even try.

But the failure of the people is not the failure of the ideal. This is a truth some of us hold to when our country disappoints and I commend it to you. America belongs to all of us. And America is worth believing in.

Even when Americans let you down.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders listens as Abdelmajid Jondy speaks during a community forum about contaminated water in Flint, Michigan February 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder 

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Phil Christensen March 27, 2016

    Where is the obligation for a nation to “love you back?” That being said, a little gratitude on the part of recent migrants from the Middle East to the West in general would be refreshing.

    1. charleo1 March 27, 2016

      I think you need to ask yourself one question, Why you, having never personally seen, or talked to even one of the Syrian Refugees, feel as if they aren’t grateful? And if you honestly answered that one question to yourself, then you might begin to understand at least one of the hows and whys we in the West have a problem with radical extremism. But just as important to understand, is that it is within our capacity to either deal with scourge of international terrorism wisely, or make the problem much, much worse. For example, “A little gratitude would be refreshing.” Sure, fine, and how exactly would that happen? How would a refugee, say a Mother with small children in tow having just fled for their lives, penniless, cold, hungry, uncertain of what the future holds, gain a platform in a crowded refugee camp in Turkey, Greece, or Jordan, and communicate with you and make you “feel,” adequately thanked? I’m not picking on you personally. But the unfulfilled, and unrealistic expectations voiced in your comment, is very typical of the attitudes that fuels the unjustified animus within segments of the American public toward an entire religion for the acts of a few. And of course this plays directly into the hands, and plans of the terrorists by validating to ta tee what the terrorist’s propaganda is spewing all over the internet around the World.

      1. dancingcat March 27, 2016

        Thank you for your comment. I have seen videos of the refugees being welcomed (open armed) in other countries. They certainly seemed surprise and elated by their welcoming committee. It gave me a feeling of pride in humanity. Were it not for Trumpf and his imitators in the Rep. lineup, this country would be welcoming them as well. I’ve also seen videos of American towns welcoming them. People will be humane unless the ugliness is incited by those such as he.

        Don’t Americans realize that it is due to the economic conditions that he has such power? Perhaps not as bad, but this economic situation is exactly what Hitler played upon.

        1. dtgraham March 27, 2016

          Here’s one of Justin Trudeau personally welcoming Syrian refugees. You’ll notice how grateful they are at the end. There are other videos on this showing that love and gratitude from the refugees even more so.

          The amazing thing about this is that it wasn’t a one-off photo-op. Trudeau actually welcomed a number of Syrian refugees personally like this. The blonde woman with him is Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal Premier of Ontario (think Governor).

          Well, Sleazy Donald and Lyin’ Ted, here’s how it’s done.


          1. Phil Christensen March 27, 2016

            Actually it is a photo/video-op. Outside of tightly controlled environs this is what you get:

          2. JPHALL March 27, 2016

            So how would you feel stuck in a camp in the middle of nowhere with no rights or options? Just happy like many still believe American slaves were?

          3. Phil Christensen March 27, 2016

            How would you feel about living in the 7th century?

          4. JPHALL March 27, 2016

            Which means what? You can choose most of history to run into religious persecution by one group or another. And that is the true point. Treat people as you would want to be treated. Keep your prejudices and superstitions to yourself.
            Subject: Re: Comment on Why Should A Muslim Love America?

          5. Phil Christensen March 30, 2016

            It was a very short question. Not hard.

          6. dtgraham March 27, 2016

            I have no idea what’s going on or what they’re saying in the video.

        2. Phil Christensen March 27, 2016

          If not gratitude, than how about something less than contempt?

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 27, 2016

      Phil, once again, you insist on seeing things from a self-centered perspective.

      You speak as though you are forever in the right and those you oppose, for personal reasons or otherwise, are in the dark—-that is such an iconic “european” way of looking at the world as was tragically demonstrated
      during “The Age of Discovery”.

      With you, the day starts with a highly individualistic “I, and those I am comfortable with, are the Center of the Universe”, and you finish your day
      with the same outlook.

      Is there a chance of you breaking out of that desultory cycle?

      Happy Easter, “Mr. Christensen”.


      “O Son of Being! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly, and radiant heart that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable, and everlasting.”
      (from “The Hidden Words” (#1) by Baha’u’llah)

      1. Phil Christensen March 27, 2016

        “You speak as though you are forever in the right…” Oh good, common ground with the progs 🙂

    3. tomtype March 27, 2016

      The example Pitt gave, of how Black soldiers were treated in WW2. How many average Americans even knew of such things happening. In the south, it was the norm, and remember as we look back it is hard to understand how that was accepted because we have been through several revolutions in thinking since then. Back then, in most small towns Jews were not full citizens. Even occasionally now, even in large cities there comes a culture clash. And Jews have a long history of having to keep quiet and lay low. I remember being a supervisor in a community wide social service organization that happened to be Jewish owned and operated. I tried to accommodate the religious observances of all such workers. Yes, the organization closed for the Jewish Holidays, and the National Holidays. But I freely gave time off for the Pharsee, and the Muslim, and even the several different kinds of Christians as they would come to me. Me, according to my own nearly unique form of Christianity, didn’t observe days, meaning we don’t even officially attach any special place even to Christmas, or Easter. For every day is a day that God has made.

    4. greenlantern1 March 27, 2016

      Little gratitude?
      Ever hear of Lawrence of Arabia?
      Didn’t IKE have German roots?

    5. Otto T. Goat March 28, 2016

      Them not raping would be refreshing.

  2. Un Ruley March 27, 2016

    Pick-a-group to bash is an unfortunate part of the lesser side of humans. But I have to wonder if Americans (not America) are so awful, is the discrimination and mistreatment of Muslims in the Middle East and Africa any more acceptable? There fanatics and governments kill their own brethren for believing a different flavor of religion-Islam, Bahai, or Christian. Discrimination against women and barbaric cultural practices are rampant. Yet the fleeing people want to continue the very same corrupted life style that has held them prisoners for so long. Assimilation should be their goal, not trying to make America or France or any other haven accept their hellish heritage. If you are a guest in my house, you follow my rules.

    1. greenlantern1 March 27, 2016

      Was Karla Faye Tucker “civilized”?

      1. Un Ruley March 31, 2016

        What does nut job Tucker have to do with this discussion? We strive to raise the quality of life not continue living a lie. America and western Europe don’t worship death and brutality as the norm for resolving all levels of conflicts with each other. Change is not easy; it is not easy to accept those that are different than us. But if our goal is peaceful co-habitation on the planet, it behooves those that are living a life of hell to make the changes. I have a totally disgusting neighbor, but I don’t bomb his house, try to shot him or make his life miserable. Otherwise I am no better than he.

        1. greenlantern1 March 31, 2016

          Do you let terrorists use Trump Taj Mahal use it to launder money?
          Trump Taj Mahal paid a $10,000,000 fine because it did!

          1. ColorPurple October 7, 2016

            The fine was assessed for having an anti-money laundering program in place without adequate safeguards to report and monitor suspicious activity. Such a loop hole was open to all: drug dealers, big winners, or just about anyone besides a terrorist to use.

  3. ColorPurple March 27, 2016

    Why is it that most ISIS recruits from non-Muslim countries are Muslims? Why are they attacking their new homes instead of the root cause of the trouble? Could it be that Islam as practiced in the Middle East and Africa is truly a tool of evil? Perhaps the so-called peaceful Muslims of the world need to split off and show the world (and their children) that peace, not murder and mayhem are their goals. Leave jihad to the history books.I see no concerted attempt by Muslim religious leaders to change how they live and believe, to show the world that the Islamic terrorists are not part of their church.

    1. tomtype March 27, 2016

      So, if you are a good member, really believe in your religion and try to practice it, and your religion is centrally organized, say Anglican, or Catholic as good examples, how you stay a member and still express your resistance to what you may feel is a hijacking of your faith? Recently we saw African Anglicans rise up and resist acceptance of gays, and resistance to having women priests. And we have seen conservative Catholics react to the Pope accepting birth control, which turns out to be an old policy, for nuns in areas where they might well be assaulted. Or acceptance of the ideas of global warming? So how do they make their point, gain acceptance and still remain good Catholics or good Anglicans where the head guy has the ultimate decision? So how do they remain good Catholics or good Anglicans? Can’t just go off and start your own version, because all the authority is on the other side.
      Fortunately Muslims do not have that problem. First especially Sunni Islam, estimated at 90% if Muslims are in a looser structure. Second, this is not a pronouncement from a person in authority. Osama Bin Laden used to write his own Fetwas, without any authority. Fetwas are supposed to come from “ordained” clergy, and he was only a lay person. There is a long established process and learning that has to be done before one becomes a Qadi. Rather more analygous to becoming a Rabbi. In the Detroit Area we had one of the most radical Rabbis in Judiaism. But he had completed the entire process and the rabbinical council could not figure out a way to take that away. And he, like even the most liberal of rabbis, personally kept Kosher, so he could dine with other rabbis.
      Sunni Islam is much more congregational [control by the lay people] than all but Evangelical Christianity [low form Protestants]. So you should take these claims just the same as people take the claims by that one baptist church that the source of all our troubles is not persecuting gays, and used to demonstrate at servicemen’s funerals. I’m sure you remember Jonesboro Church. They claimed to speak for all Christians and claimed the authority of the scriptures. But who believed them? Who felt it necessary to stand up even in Baptist Churches and say these guys are nuts. So, why do you expect the average Muslim to go beyond not accepting, not following, the cockeyed ideas of one extreme group. They too need to earn a living, educate their children in a much harsher economic world that you and I live in. At least I have time to explain such simple things to you. Do you have time to listen and learn?

      1. ColorPurple October 7, 2016

        You surmise I belong to a spedific religion? Based on what? If you start a rebuttal on a false premise you negate your argument. Further, based on the number of Christian churches that are not affiliated with large national/world wide groups, there are many individuals that do defy a central authority. While you are enamored with the internal structure of the 2 main branches of Islam, it still stands that Islam is not policing itself and purging those that are dragging its name through the mud.

    2. ps0rjl March 27, 2016

      I agree to a point. Muslims in the free world and specifically in the US need to speak up more vociferously about condemning the terrorist acts committed by other Muslims. Also Muslims in Europe need to be more aware of terrorists operating in their midst and tell local law enforcement of these terrorists. That being said, Muslims in the US need to remember that the vast majority of people in the US like them and welcome them as citizens of our country.

      1. charleo1 March 27, 2016

        This Purple person hasn’t a clue. I mean, who starts out a discussion about ISSL wanting to know why most of their recruits are Muslims from non-Muslim Countries? First of all, most of their recruits are not from non-Muslim Countries. And they are most likely all pretty much Muslims because Hindus, and Rastafarians don’t have a dog in the fight. Why are there no White Supremacist rushing to join ISSL? Humm? It’s ridiculous! The entire comment is.

    3. greenlantern1 March 27, 2016

      Ever hear of FinCens?
      It is part of the Treasury Department.
      Trump Taj Mahal just PAID a $10,000,000 fine to it!
      It let terrorists use it to launder money!

    4. tomtype October 7, 2016

      You haven’t looked very hard. Because the head of Al-Azhar University and many respected clerics have denounced them. But especially Sunni Islam does not have a central authority or a means of dropping persons from the rolls. So it is a little like saying why don’t the Baptists toss out some of their offending members, only even less central control. All that can be done is to apply the authority of a highly respected religous leader.

  4. greenlantern1 March 27, 2016

    Why did Egyptians fight Hitler?
    Remember El Alamein?

    1. charleo1 March 27, 2016

      The Germans defaced the Sphinx!

      1. FireBaron March 28, 2016

        No, actually it was Napoleon’s troops who used it for gunnery practice.

    1. charleo1 March 27, 2016

      That’s so funny! Shame on you.

      1. dtgraham March 27, 2016

        Since the National — don’t vote for Bernie Sanders — Memo doesn’t seem to be aware of what happened last night, the loyal readers will have to help out with the news. Sandblasted her like a derelict building he did.

        1. charleo1 March 27, 2016

          The support, energy, and passion of the Burnie Sander’s campaign, which is looking, and sounding, and being funded more like a quest, than a political contest, is an amazing/inspiring, and remarkable thing to behold. However, that being said. I remain skeptical, given the Democratic Party’s leadership’s preference for Hillary, the configuration of the Party’s heavily influenced Super Delegate process, together with Hillary’s still considerable lead in the delegate count, that Burnie can prevail.
          But the great thing about politics, is that virtually anything can happen. There’s the two delegate rich states of CA. & NY. plus, there are some very influential people who have yet to endorse either candidate. Elizabeth Warren being one of particular influence among them. Either way, after much consideration, soul searching, and deep research, I’m voting for the Party that’s NOT the skin Head Nazis movement this time! (I know call me crazy!)

          1. dtgraham March 27, 2016

            Ha! LOL. That must have taken a ton of deliberation charleo. Let me see, do I go a tad too much corporate establishment (Hillary) or do I go full Nazi?

            We’d better hope for the right outcome this November. If President Cruz’s “patrol and secure” plan for Muslims sounds like a bad idea, I don’t even want to think about his similar plan for anyone with a vagina. Or this future headline, “President Trump praises monster hurricane bearing down on Mexico.”

            These will not be good things.

          2. charleo1 March 27, 2016

            Well said good friend! This election is the biggest no brainer since, ever!

  5. atc333 March 27, 2016

    The issue is not the individuals, or Muslims. It is that aspect of Islam which is not just a religion, personal to the beliver, but Islam as directed by the Quran which still mandates its belivers work towards a world wide Islamic State, and the elimination of all other religions, unless allowed to live, and practice their religions privately as second class citizens who pay a special tax for that privilige. It is as though Islam and the Quran are all part of a self radicalizing religion for all Muslims who become more devoute and choose to implement every directive it containes against Infidels and non Musliim nations. That is the problem. Islam is not only just a religion.

    1. FireBaron March 28, 2016

      Wow. Sounds just like Massachusetts and Virginia of the 17th and 18th Centuries! In Massachusetts, if you weren’t a Congregationalist, you had to pay a special tax and could not hold office. In Virginia, if you weren’t Anglican, you had to pay a special tax and could not hold office. I wonder where they got that idea from?

    2. pisces63 March 28, 2016

      The same ideology fits White Christians, too. Every heinous crime committed against us was done by white Christians. Not Muslims. There was a time in this country Catholics need not apply. JFK won the presidency but most protestants hated him as a papist. His grandfather, mayor of Boston, could not enter a protestant home. Mormons were chased from east to Utah and butchered along the way. THEY in turn, butchered a wagon train in Morning Meadow. Protestants still could not stand Mormons until Mitt became a candidate and men like Billy Graham had take down his an-Mormon writings. White Christians deliberately gave native Americans blankets used by small pocks, measles, etc., patients. From the time I was a 6th grader my ‘love’ started to die. A white teacher called me the ‘N’ word. Civil rights, Edmund Pettis Bridge, 4 little girls blown up in a Christian church, 3 civil rights workers buried in a dam, Viola Liuzzo, etc., ALL murdered by white Christians. Not a Muslim in sight. I am 67 and my rage grows exponentially, with every lie told on me and mine and this president by lying white Christians.

      1. atc333 March 28, 2016

        You mistake individual or offshoots of white Christians as Christianity. That is not Christianity, that is sick distortions of it to justify their own inherent fears and bias.

        I would agree with you if you modified your statement to “some white Christians”. But if you go to the New Testament, none of what you speak of appears. Compare that to the directives set out in the Quran, which should be understood, and considered by our National leaders, instead of simply ignoring it,

        Go to a Muslim Nation, and attempt to actively and openly solicit members of a Christian or Jewish Church, and wait and see what happens.

    3. S.J. Jolly March 29, 2016

      Most every religion, most follower pick and choose which commandments to follow, and which to ignore. Islam has commandments hostile to non-believers, yes.. However, followers have a perfect out: “Allah hasn’t willed to go violent jihadist.”

  6. Lynda Groom March 27, 2016

    It seems that for far too many the ‘idea’ of America has been just replaced by a place called America.

  7. Marinehead March 27, 2016

    I am a Marine and I fought in Nam!I said that too say this! Most People live in Fear maybe a thousand forms of Fear! I have been asked all my life to live up too an Ideological that all American’s are asked to live up too?My Country sent me to War against Vietnamese and also Trained me to hate them enough to Kill them? Then fast forward 10 years and then asked me to live next to them?Even accept that they own most of the stores all around the City that I live in. You look around the World and what I see is people live with the People that are just like them? I believe that Most People have Fear until they get too know People that are different then them. I do think from the little bit of the World I have seen, America is a very Mixed pot of People and it’s just started to make it right for all People and We have a very long way to go!?I wasn’t treated very good when I came Home from Nam?

    1. FireBaron March 28, 2016

      After WWII, we accepted hundreds of thousands of former Axis soldiers and their families into the US. With Vietnam, thousands of families found their way here as things were collapsing and after the fall of Saigon. Now we have people seeking refuge here from the turmoil in their homelands caused by their fellow Muslims slaying them for not believing the same way (reminiscent of European religious wars of the 13th to 18th centuries). Just as there were a small minority of Bundists circulating freely among the German communities in the late 30s and early 40s, there are likely a small minority of Jihadists circulating among the Muslim communities. One main difference – the bundists could keep a low profile while carrying out acts of espionage and sabotage. The jihadists are very open in their disdain of their more secular fellows. While wives and daughters of “acclimated” Muslims proudly wear their hijab, and are parts of their communities and the general public, the wives and daughters of jihadis keep mostly to themselves. They even demur among other Muslim women for fear of being discovered.
      One final note – there have been more Americans killed by Muslim terrorists on NCIS, NCIS-LA, and other like shows than in real life. While it makes a great story line, it’s just that – a story line. Most Muslim families live the same lives of quiet desperation as the rest of us.

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