Muslims in America

M. Junaid Alam — Foreign Policy in Focus — April 9, 2010

In his Cairo address, President Obama boldly asserted a broad commonality between the United States and a quarter of humanity: “America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Yet the most striking part of Obama’s speech contained not his own words but those of others: “I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.”

In conveying this salutation of peace from American Muslims, the president did more than link the promise of American ideals to the piety of the Islamic faith. He pointed to the existing reality of a community that he believes exemplifies his message — Muslims living and practicing freely in the citadel of the Western world.

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Khury Peterson-Smith

Our world, and the struggle to make it a just one, lost someone great – and way too soon. I met M. Junaid Alam when we were in college. We were part of a small generation of young radicals in dark times – the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the beginning of the series of wars that the US has been fighting since. A defining part of those times was the wave of anti-Muslim racism, which had terrible consequences for Junaid’s South Asian, Muslim, and outspoken family. Always trying to seize opportunities for our side, even in bitter times, Junaid helped found Left Hook, a news and opinion website whose content was written by young radicals.

To me, the most striking things about Junaid were his sharp mind and his unwavering seriousness. He devoured ideas and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Left. I don’t remember him talking just for the sake of talking. He really wanted to know what you thought, and he wanted to know what you thought about his thoughts. He was always seeking collaborators in the fight against oppression and for liberation. Toward the end of his short life, Junaid was especially focused on writing about the experiences of Muslims in the US, and US imperialism and freedom struggles in the Muslim World.

Junaid died of cancer at age 31. I am sorry, Junaid, that your passing came in such dark times in this country, for the Muslim World, and really for so much of the world. But we know that after the darkness comes the dawn. We will never forget you, and we will remember you into the promising and hopeful future.

One of Junaid’s last posts on his facebook wall says so much about the kind of person he was: “You cannot choose cancer, but you can choose how to engage the dozens of people in the hospital who in ways big and small are trying to cure you and help you. Learning so much about so many inspiring, supportive, and dedicated people.”

This tribute was posted by Mara Ahmed on her blogMara Ahmed is a Pakistani American filmmaker and artist based in Rochester, NY. Her production company is Neelum Films.

Khury Petersen-Smith is a geographer and activist who lives in Boston. He completed his PhD in the spring of 2016 at the Clark University Graduate School of Geography. His dissertation, “Pivoting to Asia: Sovereignty, Territory, and Militarization,” focuses on U.S. militarization in the Asia-Pacific region. Khury’s research interests include U.S. empire, territory, place, and resistance. His activism is wide-ranging, but has focused in particular on opposing U.S. empire, resisting racism, and solidarity with Palestine. Khury is the co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity Statement With Palestine, which was signed by over 1,100 Black activists, artists, and scholars.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Junaid was an exceptional writer and a precocious social thinker. Eight years back I used one of his articles for discussion in a sociology seminar. Later when I learned that the author was barely 22, I was incredulous—and envious. Such clarity of mind, such rigor, such facility of expression are rare even in more seasoned thinkers. His example encouraged me to read more, think harder, write better. At the time I had wondered how far a mind like that could go. Alas, reality intervened and fate proved indifferent to his talent. The world has lost a great mind.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a lecturer in journalism at the University of Stirling in Scotland, is the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War.

Writer Misunderstood My Position

Oct. 17, 2001/The Northeastern News/Age, 18

I would like to respond to Mr. Copeland’s comments, which were written in response to my  letter concerning the tragic  terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Mr. Copeland’s piece is aimed against a straw man. Not once did I state or imply that  “America deserved to be attacked.” That is slanderous. Taking a class-analysis approach, I argued that the US capitalists have carried out policies of genocide and the country has funded terrorists abroad, thus placing our workers at  risk.

Continue reading “Writer Misunderstood My Position”

Junaid Alam: Presente!

Louis Proyect – CounterPunch.Org – Nov 3 2014

On April 26th of this year M. Junaid Alam informed his Facebook friends that he had just learned that he had stage four cancer. Two days ago I got email from Joshua Frank letting me know that Junaid had died. He was 31 years old.

Although I have not had much contact with Junaid in recent years, there was a time when I used to meet with him and his good friend Derek Seidman from time to time about a decade ago. Yesterday I spent about a half-hour talking with Derek, trying to pull together some personal information about Junaid that would be of interest to those who knew him. While Derek spent a lot more time with him than I ever did, our conversation did not reveal any telling anecdotes about his friend. As he put it, Junaid was not that interested in talking about himself, nor in small talk for that matter. His all-consuming focus was on global politics and his role in moving the struggle forward. Junaid lived to write and it is a terrible tragedy that this gifted—even prodigious—writer is no longer with us.

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Why Do They Hate Us?

M. Junaid Alam –, October 7, 2002 – Age, 19

“So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a
flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this
American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t
see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.” 

Malcolm X, April 3, 1964

“To whom it may concern…we are dying,” a nine-year old Iraqi child once wrote. America, of course, was not concerned. First, it was relieved—fulfilling White Man’s Burden by unburdening its Air Force of 80,000 tons of munitions across Iraq during the Gulf War. Then, it was elated—with Hussein’s forces routed and the heroic defense of ‘our’ oil colony complete, the U.S. had rendered its formerly submissive foreign dictator into a non-submissive but impotent foreign dictator. One who maintains ‘regional stability’ by providing America a convenient means of diverting domestic dissent with the rhetoric of war and complementary fireworks. Naturally, there would be certain secondary consequences. Continue reading “Why Do They Hate Us?”

A Muslim’s Memo to Obama

M. JUNAID ALAM – January 28, 2009 – Age, 25

A fair number of liberals swooning over President Barack Obama’s recent speechmaking are also impressed by his rhetorical gestures and overtures to Arabs and Muslims, first articulated during his inaugural address and reiterated on a major Arabic-language news channel.  The sharp divergence in tone and tenor from Bush’s rhetoric is certainly welcome after eight years of hubris and arrogance. Continue reading “A Muslim’s Memo to Obama”

Why I Am No Longer A Radical?

Lefthook – August 1, 2005 – Age, 22

An air of anger and surprise rises up on the radical Left just about every time it discovers that some “prestigious” right-wing hack was formerly one of its own – a fiery social activist or critic protesting every injustice under the sun. For my part, I never understood this melodramatic response. It seems to me, at the ripe old age of 22, that it’s awful hard to resist the intense social, political, and family pressures piston-pumped into rebel minds. So what’s really remarkable is not when someone “sells out” – that’s par for the course – but rather when someone who starts out a radical stays a radical. Continue reading “Why I Am No Longer A Radical?”