BY WAEL HAMZA
A challenge we are facing
Brothers and Sisters, we are celebrating Eid ul-Fitr by praying, an act of worship to conclude another important act of worship, fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan. The prophet (pbuh) used to address the community during this prayer with issues of importance and relevance to them. I am going to be following the tradition of the prophet and talk to you about a very important challenge we are facing as American Muslims. That is the challenge of the increased anti-Muslim/anti-Islamic wave and the widely spreading Islamophobia it has been creating.
Stop the Islamization of America! Build your super mosque in a more suitable place, the dark side of the moon. Islam is not a religion, therefore Muslims have no constitutional rights to freedom of religion. Go away with your bloody sharia law. Let us have “Burn the Qur’an day”
Rallies, signs, articles, blog posts, and TV and radio shows increasingly display such messages of hatred, bigotry, intolerance and discrimination. It is a group of active people who use every opportunity to bring up these issues. If you want to build a mosque, these people will hit you so hard attacking you, your community, your organization, your prophet, and your religion altogether. Even if you do not want to build a mosque, they will create an opportunity like the Islam-fascist week, going from one college campus to another spreading hatred messages about Islam and Muslims.
What really saddens me is not this limited group of bad people spreading such hatred. Rather, it is the movement they established among people who are not necessarily bad. What is even worse is the many bankrupt politicians who used this wave to make a very cheap political victory, ignoring the very founding values of our country and the most unique attribute of our society: religious freedom.
Transforming the negative energy
Interacting with many Muslims, old and young, I found out that this wave created a lot of negative feelings in our hearts. Many feel insecure fearing that this wave will even hurt them or their families; others lose the sense of belonging to their country as their fellow Americans speak negatively about them.
My goal behind this speech is to transform these negative feelings into positive ones and the challenge of this anti Muslim wave into an opportunity for Islam and Muslims. I also would like to share with you a suggestion of how we should respond to this wave in a way which is according to the tradition of the prophet and the teachings of Islam
The nature of this challenge
In a few concise points, we should view this challenge as
1- Something normal
Going through Islamic history, we find that Islam and Muslims are often exposed to such hatred and go through similar challenges. As a matter of fact, it is very rare to find a time where Muslims are not going through such a challenge. We should not feel surprised when we see something like this. As a matter of fact, if you read the Qur’an and go through stories of prophets and messengers, you will find the same accusations and the same statements just in a different form: “These [talking about Moses and Aaron] are just two sorcerers who want to drive you away from their land and change your way of life.” Can you tell who is talking? Is it Pharaoh and his people talking or nowadays anti-Muslims? As a matter of fact, this is not new to America either. The very same people did not like the fact that a black lady is sitting while a while man is standing in the bus in 1955. We should really feel that we are going through the challenge many Muslims before us have gone through and many Americans before us have gone through.
2- Something that happens for a reason
And knowing the reason is part the solution. There are many obvious reasons for this to happen. These reasons are sometimes because of this hatred and bigotry people who champion this wave have, or the ignorance of many others who blindly follow. It is also because of the personal benefits people seek to get from riding on this wave and the amount of popularity, money, and cheap political gain they are looking for. If you add to this the fact that American Muslims surrounded themselves with a fence and made it a little difficult for their fellow Americans to know about them and about their religion. Even those of us outside this fence did not display enough of Islam for people to understand it. A recent survey showed that 58% of those who took it did not know a Muslim and 52% in a different one know nothing or a little about Islam. But apart from those obvious reasons, there is a universal cause of such a wave. That is attribute number 3 of this challenge
3- It is a test
There is a law this universe runs with. This law is summarized in one comprehensive word in the Qur’an, “We, verily, shall test you!” [which is one Arabic word]. Allah ordained that every claim people make will be tested. We make a claim that we are Muslims, good Muslims, and proud to be Muslims. This claim will be tested for truth. We claim that we love our country and care for it. This claim will be tested. We claim that our country is one of freedom, tolerance, and plurality. This claim will be tested. We claim–or at least I personally do–that America is the best place in the world for Muslims to live their very religion. This claim too will be tested. Allah says, “And Allah will verily know the truthful and the liars”
Tests of this nature hurt but the outcome is always good. Allah gives an example of this test in the Qur’an with the way people treat gold: “putting it to fire.” If gold feels, putting it to fire will hurt it but will not burn it. What gets burned is the impurities leaving behind pure gold. The main challenge to us in this test is whether we are gold or impurities. I am sure this challenge will leave us stronger and purer than before.
I also see this challenge as the blending force that will attach Islam to America more and more similar to the process of making an alloy: two strong metal getting together to make an even stronger metal. This process requires heat and effort but the result is amazing!
Our response – the essence of my speech this morning
The essence of my speech this morning is a suggestion of how we can make our response one according to the Qur’an and the tradition of the prophet (pbuh)
1- Renew our commitment to Islam
Whenever the prophet was challenged, he would flee to Allah, display his weakness before Him, seek His forgiveness, and ask for His support. Let us use this opportunity to come back to Allah, renew our commitment to Islam, and seek His forgiveness and his support. The very beautiful memorable supplication the prophet made while coming back from the challenging trip of at-ta’ef always brings tears to our eyes.
2- We have to strive to get our rights
The only right that we DO NOT HAVE is to give away our rights. People before us struggled, fought, went to jail, and died for these rights. We can’t simply give it away. It is not up to us and it is not our choice. Our attitude should be one similar to the young Muslim lady whose father wanted to force her to marry a man she did not want to marry. She went to the prophet, and complained to him. When the prophet asked her if he is a bad man or if she does not like him, she answered, “no, I just do not want to marry him.” When the prophet told her father to nullify the marriage, she said, “I will honor my dad’s request. However, I wanted fathers to know that they can’t do that to their daughters.”
It is not about a masjid in a particular location. It is not about an ignorant man burning a few papers. It is, rather, a value system being under attack and we have to play our role in protecting it.
3- We cannot abandon America
Let us not make this wave take away from us the sense of belonging to our country and the sense of responsibility towards our people. This is by no mean a quality of a Muslim. We should embrace what prophet Yusuf (pbuh) did when he was thrown in jail for many years for a sin and a crime he never committed. When the very people who threw him in jail came to him for help, he did not hesitate to offer his help. He, peace and blessings be upon him, realized that the issue they came seeking help in did not only concern them, It was, rather, an issue that concerned all the people in the country and in neighboring country. We can’t drop our belonging to our country and our responsibility towards it because of acts of ignorance and injustice committed by people, few or many.
4- A messenger cannot get angry and his people
We have never seen a messenger get angry at his people despite the much harm they place on him. We are the holders of the final message to humanity and the messengers of Islam to our people. We can’t get angry at them and abandon our message because of what they do. It does not matter if the ones who are committing these acts of ignorance and hatred are a minority or not. Even if half of the country is doing so, even if the whole country is doing so, we do not abandon our message and our responsibility towards it. Our attitude is the attitude of the Messenger (pbuh) when he says, “O Allah guide my people, for they do not know.”
5- Let us reach out.
In NY, there are about 20 million people. We have approximately a million Muslim. We want every Muslim to talk to 20 people of his/her friends about Islam. Let us make new friend and let us talk to them. Let us get out of the fence and share our beautiful message and its value with all the people. Let us call this the 1-20 project!
It is an opportunity that may not come back! Alhamdu Lellah, there is a lot of good people who still hold fast to good values. We should put our hands together to save our country and its values from this ignorant wave.
I conclude by saying that this challenge will be over. We will look back at this time and we will laugh at it the same way we laugh at a time when Rosa Parks challenged the bus driver. We will say “Do you believe that in 2010 people created hatred against people because they were Muslims,” similar to what we say now, “do you believe people discriminate against people because of their skin color?”
I ask Allah to grant us strength to overcome all of our challenges and to bless us and our country. I ask him to help and support our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering especially our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. I ask Him to grant us ability to help them and support them and remeber them in our duaa, Amin!