The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., marked its first anniversary last month. The museum stands as a profound testament to America’s wealth of diversity.
The museum does not merely showcase the history, struggles and contributions of African Americans. It also reminds visitors of the immense achievements of African Americans and other minorities, including American Muslims, and the impact of those achievements on the development of the United States.
In fact, one of the most frequented parts of the museum is the portion dedicated to Muhammad Ali, who championed the causes of racial equality and peace through his legendary boxing career and powerful voice.
The first anniversary of the museum, with its distinct and meaningful architectural design, also provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of diversity in America, which has traditionally welcomed highly talented men and women from around the world to its workforce.
While immigrants and diverse communities benefit from America’s boundless economic opportunities, America gains from their contributions through innovation, creativity and cultural exchange.
For example in 2016, six of the seven American Nobel Prize winners in various fields were immigrants. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, Asians, Latinos and Africans immigrants contributed around two trillion dollars to the U.S. GDP in the year 2015. A Pew Research study this year revealed that the U.S. economy will need an unhindered influx of new immigrants at current levels for at least the next three decades in order to sustain a high growth trajectory.
While the role of African Americans in the fields of arts and sports is well known, other communities, especially newly arrived immigrants, includingAmerican Muslims, have also emerged as vital drivers of American research, innovation and economic advancement. However, their contributions to the U.S. are relatively less known to mainstream America.
It is estimated that at least one-third of all slaves brought forcibly from West Africa to the U.S. during the colonial era were Muslims. Today, African American Muslims constitute about one third of the 5.0 million plus Muslims in America. Therefore, the story of African Americans is also the story of American Muslims, and indeed it is the story of America and its diversity.
America’s communities and immigrants have played such a vital role in shaping the modern U.S. economy and the cultural richness of the society that it is hard to imagine what the U.S. would look like without today’s rich tapestry of Americans of all races and skin colors.
Unfortunately, recent months have also seen a surge in violence, hate speech and bigotry directed against America’s minorities. Issues including racial bias in parts of the country, creating fear of “the other,” vandalism of religious places and violence against Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other people of color are beginning to mar the fabric of the society. The plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and to ban the entry of travelers, immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries have also cast a shadow on America’s long-standing policy of welcoming the huddled masses from war-torn regions of the world.
The- latest controversy over the silent protests of some NFL players against racial discrimination, and efforts to politicize the issue, threaten to further divide the country and damage our unique national fabric.
We at the American Muslim Institution believe in adhering steadfastly to America’s founding value of finding strength in diversity, and the goal of an egalitarian society with religious freedom. Above all, we strongly believe in the American Dream – a powerful idea that has attracted the best and the brightest of minds to American shores and enormously benefited both immigrants and our country.
AMI will continue to encourage a constructive dialogue toward addressing issues affecting diverse communities in a way that benefits all of us as a country while celebrating our diversity.