As we celebrate the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights today on December 15, it is imperative that we take a moment to reflect upon and embrace the forethought of our Founding Fathers and apply their wisdom to the context that we live in today. This collection of ten amendments to the United States Constitution are what guarantee the sanctity of our individual rights and freedoms and what in the end sets America apart from any nation before or since.
The Founding Fathers understood that when left to its own devices, government will eagerly trample the individual God given rights of the people and that it was their duty as enlightened leaders to protect at all cost the humanity of law and the freedom of the individual. They declared for people everywhere that a government by the people must not infringe on the basic human rights of man to speak, worship, and assemble with whom they choose, and that ultimate power and authority rests in the hands of the governed not those that would govern.
When we look at the world landscape 219 years later we can see that the Bill of Rights has allowed America to live true to its design and serve as the best laboratory for freedom and liberty the world has ever seen.
Having suffered the tyranny of Syria’s Hafez Assad, it was this promise that brought my family to America in the mid-1960’s. My grandfather and father fought from inside and outside of Syria for a greater Middle East that recognized universal human rights, freedom, and democracy. But the secular fascism of today’s Bashar Assad, Hosni Mubarak, and Mouamar Qaddafi, is not the only despotism from that area of the world. More and more we are seeing the rise of political Islam (Islamism) as a growing force of oppression within the Muslim consciousness.
My fight today against Islamist radicalism and its supporting Islamist organizations is born from this struggle and will only be won when American Muslims fully embrace the central principles of religious freedom, individual rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and most importantly the Establishment clause, all of which are embodied within the Bill of Rights.
Like America’s fight for freedom from Britain’s monarchy or even America’s fight against communism in the cold war, our war with Islamist radicals is an ideological battle for the individual rights of man. The unifying force behind Muslim radicals is an adherence to the ideology of political Islam and a belief in Islamic supremacy. Just as it was the duty of the Founding Fathers to protect the individual with the creation of the Bill of Rights, it is our duty today as Americans and particularly American Muslims to defeat the pervasive ideology of political Islam and embrace the freedoms and liberty that the American Constitution has guaranteed.
As American Muslims we must accept the mantle of responsibility to bring our faith into modernity and use the example set forth by the Founding Fathers of how faith can thrive when it allows its practitioners the individual freedom to worship as they choose with no faith test for governance.
We must also remember that our nation was built on the ability to openly discuss dissenting opinions on any subject including religion and not allow a victim mindset and political correctness to stifle our ability to solve our problems.
The Bill of Rights is the seminal moment in the fight for individual liberty. Today it is easy to take its importance for granted unless we understand what we lose without its protection. Americans must remember that this document lives so long as we maintain a vigil over its promise and embrace the protection that it guarantees.
Dr. Jasser, a medical doctor and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona.
M. Zuhdi Jasser is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander whose parents fled Syrian Ba'athist oppression in 1966. He is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam.