A City of Hope

Our city of Jacksonville has made history by electing Alvin Brown to be our next Mayor. This should fill us up with civic pride and energize us. Jacksonville is our home and we love living here. All of us deserve a Mayor who can lead us to greater economic prosperity and social cohesion. The city must now unite behind Alvin Brown’s leadership and help him achieve the goals he set out to make Jacksonville a better city.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Alvin Brown, when Dr. Yazan Khatib hosted a fundraiser for Alvin. Several members of the American Muslim community attended the event. We all came away with the impression that Alvin was the most qualified and the most visionary candidate to lead Jacksonville at this time. We need a Mayor who understands that our best way forward is to increase economic and social opportunities for all. We need a Mayor who will unite the city. Alvin campaigned on that message and we in the city rallied behind him.

Listening to First Coast Connect this morning and reading the blogs on Florida Times Union, it is quite evident that our city is buzzing with excitement and this can only give all of us hope. In these difficult economic times, the positivity of Alvin Brown’s message can only help us. His campaign was uniting and uplifting.

Now comes the tough part of governing. I can only hope that our city’s first African American mayor will not suffer the kind of personal attacks that our nation’s first African American President is still suffering. We can have legitimate differences of opinions about policy. But the type of incivility that has come to characterize our national political discourse should never happen here in Jacksonville. If it does, we will all lose.

To his great credit, Mike Hogan ran a positive campaign. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hogan. He is a decent family man. While we disagreed over his policy choices we remained cordial in our conversations. I was very pleased to read Mr. Hogan’s appeal to his followers to unite behind our new Mayor.

Time and time again, the orderly process that characterizes American democracy is beautiful to behold. This American value of gracious in defeat but humble in victory is something I had to learn after arriving in America to do my graduate studies over two decades ago. American democracy remains a beacon of hope to the world. But we must practice it as best we can at home to keep inspiring people around the world.

Today is a proud day for Jacksonville. Let us celebrate. And then let us all get back to work.

Democracy is not merely the process of voting and elections. Democracy requires constant civic engagement and works best when it is also the rule of law that protects the interests of all and provides equal opportunity for all. “The motivating force of the theory of a Democratic way of life is still a belief that as individuals we live cooperatively, and, to the best of our ability, serve the community in which we live,” Eleanor Roosevelt.

Memo to Osama bin Laden, now dead

Published in Turkey's Today's Zaman, May 3, 2011. Also on Huffington Post. An edited version appears in the Florida Times Union.

Parvez Ahmed

Although rejoicing death is not part of the religious traditions of Muslims, Christians or Jews, I cannot help but feel a sense of joyful relief now that you are no longer capable of plotting your evil. Your elimination as a terrorist threat is a victory for peace and justice. Thousands of people from different nationalities, ethnicities and religions around the world have reacted with understandable emotions. Capital markets have reacted by bidding oil prices down and stock prices up, indicating that they are hopeful of greater stability in the Middle East.

You have caused untold misery to people who had no enmity with you. You have dragged the good name of Islam through the mud by wrapping your heinous actions with the banner of Islam. Your views and your methods have long been discredited by credible and mainstream Muslim scholars. But that did not persuade you from ceasing to poison the minds of gullible and vulnerable youths. You took our children brainwashed them into being maniacs and then used them as weapons against us. And in the end you did not even prove your self-proclaimed warrior mantle. You hid behind a woman and used her as a human shield. You are not a martyr. You are a criminal who deserves to be punished by death, under American, international and Sharia laws.

The cancer that you have left behind will still be with us. We will still have to deal with terrorists like you. But we hope that your death will inject rationality in the discourse about terrorism. It will allow our policy makers and leaders to see terrorism less as a political football and more as a criminal activity undertaken by mafia figures like you. Instead of criminalizing a faith, our leaders will use sensible method to go after the criminals without stigmatizing the faith group they belong to.

We are hopeful that your demise will bring some measure of comfort to all the families who have to contend daily with the loss of their loved ones. We are also hopeful that your departure provides renewed opportunities for building stronger bridges of understanding across faiths and cultures.

As peace loving Muslims, we unequivocally reject terrorism and reiterate that no grievances can ever justify the taking of innocent human lives. Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. Any group that imitates your methods is just as guilty as you are of crimes against their faith and all of humanity.

We are heartened by the fact that no Muslim country took the responsibility of your burial. It is permissible, in fact recommended in Islam to not afford terrorists full burial rites. Terrorists are considered deviants and thus denying them the opportunity for burial rites that seek mercy and forgiveness for the deceased are religiously accepted.

President Barack Obama has eloquently reminded the world that you were not a Muslim leader. He went on to say, "Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

In your death you have united us as Americans once more, the same way we were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Today, like that ill-fated day, people of conscience are once again ready to rediscover the value of peaceful coexistence, so jaded by your rhetoric of war. Even when lamenting or protesting unfair and unjust conditions, we do not want to forget our Prophet's teachings of seeking peace and forgiveness even in the midst of our harshest hardships. Your fellow Arabs are increasingly rejecting your messianic worldview. In Egypt and Tunisia they have peacefully overthrown dictators. What your violence never achieved, their peace did.

It is my hope that your life and death serve as a lesson to all who ever contemplated using the shortcut of violence to satisfy their desires and needs. In your death as in your life, you have failed. You have dishonored your family and the over one billion Muslims from whom you hijacked the good name of Islam.