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Independence Day was much more than fireworks. It reminds us who we are as Americans. On that very day, each of us regardless of our ethnicity or color or religion or party would say, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We say this even when the very principals that form the foundations of our country are being currently tested.

Unfortunately, America is as polarized as ever and President Donald Trump’s tweet “Happy 4th of July to everyone, including the haters and losers” adds fuel to the fire. We are far from being one nation. The ideological differences between our two major parties are so big that they make us think that either we are living in Liberal America or Conservative America and not in the United States of America.

The 99 percent feel that America has been hijacked by the 1 percent. The racial rift between whites and non-whites is at its highest peak and hate crimes against minorities are on the rise. It seems like we are building a New America based on fear and hate.

Former President Harry Truman said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

While we face some serious challenges to our values, civil liberties and freedom, I strongly believe that America is still the best country to serve as a role model for other countries to follow. Those who are lucky enough to be born here may or may not recognize what this country offers. I call myself a “Proud American Muslim” based on what this great country has offered to me since I moved here from India over 30 years ago.

We, together, must speak up to ensure we maintain our rich heritage by keeping this country united and not divided. America should continue promoting unity and not uniformity. Let me remind you what Quran says, “O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”

During his last sermon, Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) reiterated equality. He said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good actions.”

Let us not wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful. Let’s all be thankful every day to our Founding Fathers for their vision and for protecting our democratic values. Let us be thankful for liberty, equality, justice. Let’s all make a resolution and pledge right now that we will all stand up for the freedom of others, while enjoying ours. The Quran also says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnessed to Allah, though it might be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be rich or poor: for Allah can protect both….”

Written by Masood Akhtar

Masood Akhtar is an entrepreneur and adviser to the Muslim community, and has lived in Madison for more than 30 years.

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