By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
06 March 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
Fear and hatred of Islam has been building up in the States since late 80’s or thereabout and has now reached the threshold of flash point – the less said the better for one doesn’t want to sound like a prophet of doom.
Without debating its causes – which will be a long and complex exercise, one thing is above debate: the American Muslims bear its fallouts by way of discrimination, stigmatization and hate crimes. They have been held in suspicion, dubbed stealth jihadist, while Muslims at large have been subjected to malicious reporting even prior to the advent of 9/11 and to more stringent vetting in later years.
American Muslim leaders have done their best to show-case their faith and remove misconceptions by way of inter-faith meetings, conferences, and community service programs. However, the fact remains, all these efforts put together have failed in diffusing the hatred and suspicion of the Muslims that finally got the seal of White House in the Executive Order of January 26 banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslims countries from traveling to America on totally unsubstantiated ground of combatting terrorism. Almost 40% Americans favored the ban that was prima facie unconstitutional, and otherwise, most humiliating and traumatizing to the American Muslim community and the rest of the Muslim world. The near absence of any objection to this Muslim specific ban even from the highest offices of the Muslim world mad the ban even more ominous - it set a precedent for legislating discriminatory measures against Muslims in any Western country somewhat like the predicament of the Jews of the pre-War era.
But all is not lost. The trauma and uncertainty of Muslim passengers at American airports and of their next of kin waiting over the gates of the arrival lounges knocked hard at the conscience of the West. People who were least bothered about the Muslims or even suspect of them turned sympathetic and protested on their behalf in a massive way with such vigor, passion and defiance that defies explanation. Highest ranking government officials, including the Acting Attorney General, and the judges of several Federal Courts stood up for them and literally aborted the ban. The academy, the media and show business world, among others, raised a chorus of protest and called for lifting of the ban. All this shows a U-turn in attitudes and perceptions in favor of the Muslims. In one word, after decades of apathy and ill-will, a large and influential section of the mainstream American society has acknowledged the Muslims as fellow Americans – insiders and not aliens, and have shown full solidarity with them against an Executive Order of Jan. 26, that if went unchallenged, could potentially mark the beginning of the end of Islam in the West.
While the peremptory travel ban is overturned, the feeling of hatred that must have provoked it must still be lingering in the hearts of hundreds of millions of Americans who tacitly supported it. This, of course, does not mean that all these people hate the Muslims. In all likelihood, a vast majority of these people may never have met any Muslim, or even distinguish a Muslim from a non-Muslim unless a Muslim has a distinctly Islamic name or wears prominently Islamic dress. These anti-Muslim masses go by perception – by what they see in the media: the brutalities perpetrated in the name of Islam and Muslims letting these pass without any thunderous protest as if these were normative or minor aberrations in Islam.
It is therefore time for the American Muslims to recognize that it is the American people, media, intellectual elite and not any head of the state from the so-called Muslim world who rescued the Muslims from suffering a religion based ban that could have terrible consequences for them as well as for the global Muslim community.
To return kindness with kindness and solidarity with solidarity the American Muslims must reassure fellow American of other faiths that they are no different from them as human being – they have the same God as theirs, they cherish similar values, they entertains similar aspirations, they just want to live in peace and harmony with them and to collaborate with them in all that is good for themselves and for the others. The Muslim leaders must therefore take a firm stand against all preachers of hatred and religious supremacy and bigotry and get their mosque Imams to preach instead mercy, forgiveness, kindness and other noble virtues of Islam.
They also must groom their youth to excel in moral conduct and behavior and in all the lawful arenas of life whether in the academy, or in popular art forms (music, song, dance),or competitive games and sports as this will promote social interaction and dispel misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. These few tenets of the Qur’an – among a string of others are enough to win the hearts of fellow Americans – and this is what the Qur’an expects of the Muslims a greater jihad (Jihadan Kabira) by realizing the moral imperatives of the Qur’an (25:52).
The author has penned this article at the strength of his exegetic knowledge and let no traitor of faith preach hatred, violence and bigotry by quoting their masters or misquoting the Prophet by way of weak and fabricated Hadith
The future of the Muslims in America is in their own hands. If they restrict their all en-compassing ‘din’ to the pillars of faith, and direct all their efforts to create an exclusive mosque subculture, they are isolating themselves from the mainstream society. On the other hand, if they take due cognizance of the universal moral imperatives of Islam as touched above and collaborate with the mainstream society to realize them, they have a good chance to becoming the ‘insiders’ of the society who will be a source of comfort to others and not any cause of fear.
As the Qur’an skeptic liberal Muslims may regard this piece from a ‘fundamentalist’ trying to offer old stale wine in new bottle, the author will like to quote a distinguished Qur’anic scholar of the Western secular world, as follows:
“What happens in the Qur’an is deeply related to the travail of our time, and we need the Qur’anic word in the face of it. This would be true, of course, if only for the reason that multitudes of mankind, to be guided or persuaded about modernity at all, will need to be guided and persuaded Qur’anically.....Even where secularism has gone far among them or irreligion presses, their judgments and their sanity, their priorities and their ideals, will always be in large measure within the mind of the Qur’an.” [Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an, Oneworld Publications, Rockport, USA 1974, p. 22/23.]
This article is complementary to my following article though it emphases on broadening populist Islamic religious thoughts beyond the introductory pillars of faith to the covenants of faith – how a Muslim must fulfill his obligations to fellowmen (huquq al ibad) to realize his faith.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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