Thursday, December 28, 2006
Muslims are Americans, too
Read Shanna's blog
Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.
Just in time for the season of good will toward men, U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode caused a national furor with a controversial letter blasting Muslims and immigration.
Mike Jawhar, a third-generation American and a Muslim, understandably took umbrage.
Jawhar, a surgeon at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, is one of Goode's 5th District constituents.
"To imply that by a certain religion, a certain set of values that you're less of a citizen is offensive," said Jawhar, 36, who lives in Rocky Mount and is of Palestinian descent. "As a Muslim, it doesn't change the fact that I'm an American.
"It doesn't make it any more his country than mine. I was born in Richmond, Virginia."
The uproar began last week when Goode exploited anti-Muslim and anti-immigration paranoia at the expense of Minnesota congressman-elect Keith Ellison.
Ellison, a Detroit native whose family has been in this country more than two centuries, is the first Muslim elected to Congress. The convert from Catholicism to Islam wishes to be photographed with the Quran during a private ceremonial swearing-in.
In a letter to constituents concerned about Ellison's request, Goode wrote he does "not subscribe to using the Koran in any way."
"I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped," Goode wrote.
In the congressman's rush to conflate the hot-button issues of religion and immigration, he overlooked basic constitutional principals and precepts.
"Reading that letter is very disturbing," Jawhar said.
The beauty of Jawhar's life story is that it turns on its ear the very fear that Goode's letter sought to fuel.
Jawhar's great-grandfather entered this country at Ellis Island, N.Y. His grandfather served in World War I. Jawhar attended Old Dominion University and is a graduate of Eastern Virginia Medical School. His brother is a professor at ODU and a sister is a schoolteacher.
It doesn't get any more all-American than that. And yes, Jawhar's accomplished family members are Muslims, too.
"He doesn't realize... ," the physician said of Goode, his voice trailing off.
"What does it do to Muslims who are here? The last thing we need is an elected official saying we don't want Muslims here. We value this society.
"This Muslim is here providing a service in your community," Jawhar said.
Shanna Flowers' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.