Priorities

“I am Muslim first, Arab second, and American third. My relation to God is the core of my identity. It supersedes my relations to nations and peoples and is separate from my citizenship. Before I became a U.S. citizen, pledged allegiance to the Constitution, and carried a U.S. passport, I was a citizen of Sudan, obeyed its rules, and carried its passport. If I become a citizen of, say, China, and follow its rules and carry its passport, my relation to God will still be paramount. I am an Arab second because Arabic is my native tongue and the core of my culture; I think, talk, write, and dream mostly in Arabic. I have a foreign accent (and get tired of people asking me where I came from or to repeat myself, or praising me for speaking ‘good’ English). I don’t know how many innings are in a baseball game, I never played golf, I don’t understand most of Chris Rock’s jokes, and I can’t follow New Yorker-type fast talkers. To me, America inspires love first, allegiance second. My love for America started long before I came here, when I was reading, writing, thinking, and dreaming about America—in Arabic. My religion was never an obstacle; it was, rather, an incentive: dreaming of worshiping God in America the way I wanted, with no restrictions from the oppressive Islamic governments and medieval Shariah scholars. When I speak the words of the Pledge of Allegiance—‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God’—I say to myself, ‘God is paramount here, too.”

— American Journalist Mohammad Ali Salih

Via Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, who remarks: “I’ve commented before on those alarmist reports about polls showing that Muslims in this country think of themselves as Muslims, not Americans, first. But of course. The same should be true of any Christian who has thought about the matter.”

Then again, I think Fr. Neuhaus would concede that Mohammad Ali Salih embraces with his American citizenship a distinctly American understanding of secular and religious authority, itself a far cry from the particular manifestation of Islam the “alarmists” are concerned about.

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