Here's one of the most difficult PR challenges imaginable, expressed by a writer who's living it daily. Rafia Zakaria is associate editor of altmuslim.com and is a U.S.-based attorney teaching constitutional history and political philosophy.
The situation of Muslims in the U.S. has become extremely perplexing with the post-911 occurrence of domestic terrorism incidents like Fort Hood, the "DC-Five," and the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
"During the past year alone," Zakaria writes in a piece headed "Lost and Leaderless," "the Muslim American media machine has had many unfortunate opportunities to put its crisis response plans into action."
Many Americans, unfortunately, have had reason, not simply excuses, for being wary of Muslim potentialities, fairly or not. Part of the problem, we realized in reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book "Infidel" recently, is that seeds of radicalism appear to be rooted in some of the language of the Koran itself. Islam is not necessarily an integrative religion in life situations that incline practitioners to discontent in a pluralistic society. The same can no doubt be said of fervent beliefs in other traditions, but the problem remains.
We don't normally delve into religion and regret the timeliness of doing so here, but the concerns raised by Professor Zakaria deserve the attention of concerned public relations practitioners as well as his Muslim colleagues.
"Undoubtedly," he writes at the conclusion of his piece, "9/11 produced a drive for civic awareness in the Muslim American community that has led to much organizational progress. However, as the outcry following the Faisal Shahzad case demonstrates, the economic and ethnic diversity of the Muslim American community has become a hitch in developing a cadre of leadership and a willingness to take on thorny issues that go beyond apologetic press releases."
Rafia Zakaria deserves all the company and support by fellow Americans, Muslims and more, that he can muster.
– Time magazine photo by Ziyah Gafic with the caption, "The Young Leader– Khaled Latif, New York University's Muslim chaplain, is one of the youngest and most prominent imams in the New York Muslim community. In this photo, he prepares himself on graduation day at NYU where he will march alongside the university's rabbi and priest."