A group of young Muslim-American leaders came to the Center for American Progress last November for a day-long meeting to discuss the challenges and opportunities they are facing, and to explore ways to strengthen their work. We filmed the participants during the day, capturing in a short video their thoughts and vision for their community and the country as a whole.
The participants in the video represent a varied group of young Muslim Americans. They are lawyers, artists, community organizers, bloggers, investment bankers, chaplains, environmentalists, filmmakers, playwrights, educators, social entrepreneurs, scholars, advocates, interfaith workers, and international professionals.
During our meeting, we discussed the gap between public perceptions of Muslim Americans and the reality of their lives. We examined the work they are doing to achieve justice and equality. We discussed threats to civil liberties, the need for Americans to be more familiar with Muslim communities, and the creative voices of a new generation of Muslim-American writers, musicians, poets, filmmakers, and artists.
The meeting was held exactly one week after the Fort Hood shootings in Texas, and that event colored the day’s conversation. It starkly reminded us that despite the engagement of millions of Muslim Americans from all walks of life, events like Fort Hood can trigger public fears and stereotypes that eclipse this reality and focus on threat and danger.
A number of other incidents since then have triggered national security concerns, including the attempted bombing of a Northwest airliner on Christmas Day. Muslim-American leaders and organizations have been quick to condemn these incidents—and the young leaders who attended our meeting have also spoken out.
Their voices are important to include in the national conversation, for they are the next generation of leaders—women and men who came of age in a post-9/11 world. These young leaders believe in community organizing and civic engagement. They see no conflict between being a feminist and being Muslim. They know the power that art and culture can have in shaping minds and hearts. They work on health care, education, immigration reform, civil liberties, criminal justice, religious pluralism, and more. They have careers in Muslim organizations and in corporations. And in all their diverse efforts, they seek to be no more or less than who they are—young Americans whose faith and cultural identity spurs them to offer their talents in order to make their nation and world a place of justice, equality, and peace.
The meeting and the video are part of our Young Muslim American Voices project, an effort of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress to highlight the engagement and contributions of young Muslim Americans to our nation. The project is funded by a generous grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.