arrivals in America have, for generations, shed their old identities and adopted new Americanised names to melt into the mainstream society. Muslims, too, followed that route of assimilation.
This path, for some, did produce business rewards and material dividends. But after 9/11, there have been side effects. For example, the New York Police Department is particularly monitoring those with Arabic-sounding names, who have switched to Americanised names. So, instead of being viewed like everyone else, name-switching now is arousing suspicion, scepticism, and scrutiny. They will try to get you anyway. Being submissive, sometimes, encourages targeted bullying.
There is historic precedent. During Hitlers Germany, some Jews became Catholics, but that did not stave off their tragic fate. This happened, too, to Japanese Americans in the aftermath of Japans Pearl Harbour attack of December 7, 1941. On the order of President Roosevelt, these American citizens were herded up, their possessions were confiscated, and they were confined to internment camps. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team - comprised of three infantry battalions of Japanese-Americans (Nisei) - was, for its size, the most-decorated military unit in American history. That fact, however, did not give relief to their families, who remained incarcerated in camps.
The plight of secular Muslims, in India, proffers key lessons. Music maestro Naushad, for example, got only a single Filmfare Best Music Composer Award for Baiju Bawra, while for the rest of his distinguished career, he was ignored. Dilip Kumars antecedents remained open to paranoid prejudice, while the career of the golden boy of Indian cricket, Abbas Ali Baig, was ruined in 1960 after his batting failures against Pakistan sparked insinuations of collusion.
President Barack Obama, too, because of his perceived Muslim ancestry, is vilified, despite his public pronouncements that he is a practicing Christian. Pro-Israeli supporters constantly target him, and Obama, a sympathiser of the Palestinian cause, was coerced - under pressure of preserving his re-election prospects - to oppose the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. Despite that, Douglas J. Feith, a known neocon and former Under Secretary of Defence, said in a Wall Street Journal article of November 2: The Israeli public in general overwhelmingly views Mr Obama as anti-Israel.Mr Obama can expect to pay a substantial political price in 2012 for his antagonism toward Israel and feckless courting of its enemies.
The anti-Muslim tilt has been a repugnant pattern of behaviour and is a part of the declining standards of decency and civility in the American society, as documented by a New York Times report of November 2.
The pressure to conform and to be like everyone else may be rationalised, as a step to avoid being singled out; but it does undermine the efforts of the many others who urge the society to embrace diversity and oppose discrimination.
Sometimes, it boils down to either bowing ones head or standing up. Forty-six years ago, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. It did indirectly cause the loss of the world champion crown and led to several years in the wilderness. But then, redemption followed. The rest is history. The fight for fairness carries its own rewards.
The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.