By: Shamsi Ali, Director of Jamaica Muslim Center & President of Nusantara Foundation
Every year 4th of July is celebrated proudly by Americans. It is a celebration of this nation’s independence. Millions of US dollars are spent for that fancy celebration. But why is this a celebration? What does it really celebrate?
In my personal view, the celebration of this important day is more related to what we often here in America as the “American dream”. By its independence, America gives wide opportunities to all its citizens to realize their American dreams.
Unfortunately, for many, American dreams have been understood very limitedly partially. The majority understand that American dreams means only “economic opportunities”. Or for some, the American dream means educational opportunities that America has to offer for its citizens.
In fact the American dream, in my view, has wider meaning beyond simply economic or educational.
The American dream for me covers all my basic rights as a human being. This is commonly known as basic “Human Rights”. And that includes five main areas of life.
First, religious right. Many fail to know or pretend not to know that among the most fundamental American dreams as well as a fundamental human right is the right to practice our religion. I call this a right to “human fitrah”. Or a basic right to preserve our faith and religious identity.
America is a secular country. But America is also a very religious nation. It is declared in the pledge of allegiance “Under God”. And the Constitution guaranteed the right of all citizens to believe and practice their faith traditions.
It is not a surprise to know that many immigrants came to this country because they escaped religious persecution in their original countries. They have come to America for that religious freedom as a part of their American dreams.
Second, the right to human dignity. Human dignity is an important American dream. People of this country, Native or immigrants, including those who came from Europe many years or even centuries ago or those who came more recently, have the dream for that human dignity.
Human dignity is guaranteed by the US Constitution. In fact it is Godly given and guaranteed as a basic human right.
Therefore, independence will be meaningful when those whose dignity has been taken away is restored. Particularly those Native Americans whose right to human dignity has been robbed.
Third, is the right to equal treatment. In the popular term, “justice for all” is a basic American dream.
Justice is a basic human right. It is guaranteed both in the US Constitution and in the religious traditions. The phrase “justice for all” has become so popular in the American Pledge.
Therefore, the celebration of independence will only be meaningful when all Americans, Native and immigrants, both those who came to this country hundreds years ago or came as immigrants to this country just yesterday, are all treated equally as an important part to their American dreams.
Fourth, the right to prosperity. Prosperity, including educational and economic opportunities which are of a paramount importance in American dreams. In fact opportunities to prosper are a part of human rights itself.
Therefore, the celebration of the 4th of July will be meaningful when those opportunities for all Americans to prosper are made available to all. As long as as those opportunities are limited to the hands of a few in this country, the celebration has become meaningless.
Fifth, the most important element of the American dream is freedom itself. Freedom in fact is the essence of independence. Hence the celebration of independence is a part of that acknowledgment that all Americans deserve to dream for their genuine freedom.
I would like in particular to link this freedom to a political freedom that many immigrants have come to this country for. They escaped from a variety of political persecution by their own governments.
Therefore, the meaningful celebration for the Independence Day is to build an awareness that all Americans must be guaranteed their freedom; including the freedom to criticize their own government when it is needed.
As a conclusion, the celebration of the 4th of July is not and must not only be a matter of a fancy celebration. In fact, it has a very deep and important meaning to remember; the struggle of all Americans to realize their dreams is still being fought for. It is not permanently won, but rather it is something each generation has to fight for and claim as their own independence from oppression and tyranny.
Till we truly realize this, then the real independence will not be celebrated meaningfully. (AK/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)