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Khan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Adrian College in Michigan.
He is a Visiting Fellow at Brookings Institution and a Fellow of the
Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations, Political Philosophy, and Islamic
Political Thought, from Georgetown University in May 2000.
For a comprehensive resume
click here: Resume
Bridging Faith and Freedom
Diversity in Islam
World Affairs Council
Grand rapids, MI
February 17, 2004.
American Muslims in Public Policy
March 06, 2004.
Islamic Political Philosophy
and Islam in America
GSISS, Virginia, Feb 26-Mar 04, 2004.
Muslims in America: Roadmap for
Detroit, April 08, 2004.
Liberal Islam and Contemporary Challenges
San Diego, May 04, 2004.
American Muslims: Bridging Faith
Chicago, May 15, 2004.
Let the Elections be about the
Future of the Free Society
A. Muqtedar Khan
Posted March 21,
This article was first published in The Daily Times
(Pakistan) on March 18, 2004.
philosophical premise of my transition from an Indian Muslim to an
American Muslim is my understanding of what America stood for.
|I believe that if being an
American means believing in a free society — democracy, civil
rights, free trade, free markets and freedom of religion — then
even though I was born in India, I was born an American. The day I
started thinking like this, that day I understood the fundamental
relationship between freedom and humanity.
It is only in free societies that we can be all that we can be —
just, moral, ethical, creative, conscientious and rich. Therefore
when I came to America a dozen years ago, I took to it like a fish
to water. I testify that, thanks to God and thanks to America, I am
living the life of my dreams.
But lately I am
beginning to feel a little disquiet. Are we entering an era when America
may no longer be able to afford American values?
Since September 11 we have experienced a steady shrinking of American
democracy and economy. The USA Patriot Act and its attendant controversies
are all too familiar. The problem is not just the act itself but the
environment that facilitated such sweeping legislation that limits
freedom. The acceptance of the act by a majority of Americans has heralded
a new period in American history when security fears are rolling back
hard-earned constitutional provisions that protect individual rights in
The act is indicative that Americans are so frightened of the Bin Ladens
of this world, that they are ready to comprise their most sacred value —
freedom and democracy. It is a matter of concern that when attacked we did
rally behind the flag (literally displaying it every which way) and behind
the president whose approval ratings reached great peaks, but not behind
our constitutive values of freedom and democracy.
George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act, Anti-Terrorism Legislation, in the
East Room Oct. 26, 2001.
One would have
thought that once the Americans had time to realize that the USA Patriot
act had dealt a real blow to their values and maimed the constitution, we
would use the coming election as a referendum to restore the full majesty
of our constitution and its crown jewel — the Bill of Rights.
The possibility that the entire act will be repealed is minimal. At best
one can hope that some of the most egregious provisions in the act that
specifically violate due process will be repealed. The specter of
anti-American terrorism continues to grow. Ironically it seems that
terrorists and not American citizens will determine the health of American
democracy. Has the fear of global terrorism forced us to accept lower
democratic standards? Are we living in an era when democratic freedoms at
home will always be determined by fears, real and imagined, of external
I do not think so. It is time for us to have a public debate on the
utility of reduced freedoms. We can blame intelligence failures, security
failures at airports, foreign policy errors for our inability to prevent
September 11, but certainly not the Bill of Rights?
In case you hear someone scream, “Honey, I shrunk our Democracy!” you
should realise that the voice does not belong to George W Bush or Osama
Bin Laden but the common American, who has allowed freedom to take the
Who slipped the nation, the pink slip?
The second pillar of free society — which is based on free government
and free markets — is the arena of trade and commerce. The last three to
four years have not been good for American economy, the recent jobless
recovery not withstanding.
We have consistently lost jobs –when the info-tech bubble burst and then
through outsourcing. First through NAFTA America has allowed thousands of
its manufacturing jobs to go overseas. And now through WTO we are
outsourcing ‘business processes’ (BPO — business process
outsourcing). In simple terms the service and info-tech related jobs that
were to offset the loss of manufacturing jobs are also being exported.
|Since January 2001 the US
economy has lost 3.2 million private sector jobs including 2.5
million fewer manufacturing jobs. In the next ten years we could
lose three million more jobs. In my home state of Michigan, we have
lost over 162,300 manufacturing jobs, roughly one-fifth of our
entire manufacturing base and unemployment not stands at 7.4 per
cent, fourth highest in the country.
And now we are
witnessing many companies resorting to outsourcing. Their higher profit
margins are indicative of the lucrative nature of this global business
strategy, but it also underscores the fact that even service and tech jobs
are fleeing Michigan. We could eke out a living by selling burgers and
fries, but people need jobs to be able to buy burgers and fries.
We are experiencing an economic recovery, but without job creation.
Whatever the reason for the recovery, low interest rates, tax cuts or
reduced value of the dollar, can we continue to allow our economy to lose
As things get worse, the US government will have to intervene to make
adjustment for market failures. Already the Senate is considering a bill
that seeks to plant hurdles in the path of companies resorting to BPOs.
The senate has already passed a bill that restricts federal contractors
from outsourcing work overseas. The president had made an attempt to
impose tariffs on steel imports that had to be reconsidered when faced
with retaliatory sanctions by the European Union.
As the pressure
mounts, the government will have to intervene and impose limits on free
markets and free trade. We have seen how other nations, Malaysia and
Argentina, have chosen to restore control on capital mobility when faced
with economic crises stemming from the ill effects of rapid globalization.
As globalization turns out to be a double-edged sword that cuts both the
Third World as well as the advanced economies, will we also learn to live
in a less free economy as we are learning to live in a less free polity?
I worry that terrorism and globalization, Al Qaeda and WTO may in tandem,
shrink our free society. We cannot allow that. The coming elections
provide us with an excellent opportunity to discuss the fundamental
challenge that America faces today — the threats to democracy and free
Let us abstain from making this election a petty dispute over military
records or a cultural war over gay marriages. Let this election be what it
must always be — a democratic ritual that works towards strengthening
the free society. Let us make it a debate about how America will restore
its democratic and economic health.
A. Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies and
Chair, Political Science Department at Adrian College. He is a
non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of American
Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (2002) and Jihad for Jerusalem:
Identity and Strategy in International Politics (2004). He writes and