Let’s Remember Colin Powell’s Words on Islamophobia

By Joe Jenkins

Anti-Muslim rhetoric has been on the rise in 2016. Politicians, media talking heads, and other public figures have called Muslims dangerous, misrepresented Islam, and proposed unconstitutional policies such as banning Muslim immigration.

Unfortunately, such statements are not new. It’s the same old anti-Muslim rhetoric that was bandied about in 2008: particularly aimed against then-Senator Barack Obama. But 2008 also brought us one of the most eloquent reminders of American unity and equality to date, from eminent diplomat and respected military leader Colin Powell. On Meet the Press, the former Secretary of State addressed the problem of Islamophobia with the poise and aplomb of a soldier-statesman.

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America.”

For Powell, just the idea that a young Muslim could even dream to be the President of the United States is not alarming—it’s a continuation of the ideals upon which this country was founded.

Perhaps we need to be reminded again that, despite hateful speech to the contrary, Muslim-Americans have long been a part of our society, living, working, and raising families. Perhaps we should ask ourselves how we would feel turning on the evening news and having our patriotic loyalty questioned.

Colin Powell knows what loyalty looks like. He saw it in the thousands under his command. And he saw it yet again in the somber depictions of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“. . . a mother in Arlington Cemetery. She had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. The writing on the headstone gave his awards: Purple Heart. Bronze Star. He died in Iraq. It gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And at the top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It had the crescent and star of the Islamic faith. His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan-Khan, and he was an American.”

Amid today’s scapegoating and demonization of certain Americans, let’s not forget General Powell’s words.


Published on July 29, 2016


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