MPSN fellows, Rashid Hussain and Jamal Khan, delivered their commencement speech at our annual banquet on July 26, 2011 on Capitol Hill.
The pair reflected on this summer's program and spoke about civic engagement for faith and country.
Read their entire speech after the jump...
My dear friends, asalamu alaikum, and may the peace and mercy of God rest in your hearts.
I stand before you in this great hall as a fellow sojourner who has struggled and learned on the path of self-realization: as a Muslim, and as an American.
I hope that as we take a moment to reflect, we can awaken to the multiple identities that make us who we are and form the basis of our civic engagement.
The Muslim-American Narrative
Standing here in this great citadel of a government for the people and by the people, we are members of two concentric circles: Muslim and American.
We are fellow children of the American experiment, and beneficiaries of the intellectual traditions that define our nation as one for liberty, and justice.
The Muslim-American narrative is an ever evolving one, but we must remind ourselves that were, are, and always will be a part of the fabric of this society.
Muslim-Americans contributed immensely to building the economies of the South and the Industrial North: as laborers--free and enslaved Africans in diaspora from their country of origin.
Muslim-Americans were pioneers: farming on the frontier--as immigrants from the Levant came under the Homestead Act in the 1800s.
In fact, it was these Muslim-American pioneers who built America’s first mosque...not as a mega-mosque in Chicago or New York, but as a "little mosque on the prairie" in Ross, North Dakota: population-48.
Muslim-Americans fought in the World Wars, and came more recently as immigrants: refugees, intellectuals, and everyone in between.
Each contributed, built, and left a lasting mark.
We continue as a proud part of this heritage, American, Muslim, inspired for faith and country.
Some people may feel that because they or their parents were more recent immigrants, that they are not necessarily part of this heritage.
Though from certain ethnic or cultural perspectives, they may be correct, we must recognize that simply by standing here on this soil, we are benefiting from the sweat, blood, and tears of those who came before us.
“Land where my fathers died; Land of the pilgrims' pride”
Our very ability to stand here today and strive for a greater role in civic society was made possible by the foundations that this country was built upon: as children and heirs of the principles written by founding fathers.
In a nation like no other, where regardless of your creed or ethnicity, you can become a full member of the society.
A nation where everyone has had a part and will have a part.
Though as civil servants we are well aware of the strife of the have-nots of our society, I truly believe that ours is one of the only nations, which in principle, allows any person to succeed.
And that it is here that the vibrant spirit of Islam and service to the creation of God can be realized, rather than simply a hollowed culturized shell of ritual, and practices.
It remains up to us to live for God and for country, and work for the betterment of all.
Civic Engagement and Islam
What brings us together on this day is not any common background of race or region, but rather a consensus on our overarching purpose in life.
The fact that we do not view this as unique and unprecedented, which it is, and that we instead see it as normal and natural, is a good thing.
As servants of God and citizens of this nation, we need to make our presence felt.
Many of us are specializing in very narrow fields.
Through this program, we have learned just how much Muslims are doing in this country.
We have filmmakers and journalists, we have politicians and appointees, we have scholars and practitioners, and we have artists and experts of all kinds.
And that is a good thing.
Specialization is a good thing, as long as we take care to diversify and broaden our pursuits as a community, so that collectively, we contribute to every need of our society.
There should not be a single field or industry where we are not contributors, where our voice is not heard.
Our objective is to reach our highest potential as a community, and weave our contribution into the fabric of this country.
Though times may be difficult and sometimes the road seems rocky, we must realize that this road has been traveled before.
We have examples in front of us of other fellow Americans who were once viewed with suspicion by other members of our citizenry but are now considered to be an integral part of the American fabric.
Such must be our path as well, even as we adhere to the distinctive qualities of our faith:
To encourage that which is good, and to discourage that which is wrong; while placing our trust in a higher power, who understands us better than we can ever understand our own selves...our panics, our yearnings, our hopes, our fears, and our dreams.
Our trials and tribulations will soon pass: as Muslims, as Americans. And it is through these struggles that we and our nation will grow; that we will pave the path for others who follow.
The Muslim-American community already has a tremendous reservoir of talent.
Our first step as a community will be to stay connected with each other, and build upon each other.
That is why the networks we build, here in our nation’s capital, will be an important foundation for our future endeavors as an American community: as we continue to serve this nation as servants of God, and strive to embrace our tradition, seize our future, and ensure that we help give liberty and justice for all.
Jamal Khan recently completed his first year of law school at Harvard University and interned with the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Rashid Hussain recently completed his first year of medical school at Brown University and interned with Georgetown University’s Stroke Disparities Program.
Both Rashid and Jamal were fellows with the Muslim Public Service Network during the summer of 2011.
Ali, Aman, “Day 22: Ross, North Dakota- A Leap in Time.” 30 Mosques 30 Days. Web. July 19, 2011.
Khan, Salma. Photo credit, 26 July 2011.
Smith, Samuel Francis. My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. 1832