By Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
26 May 2012
After the decline and fall of the British Empire, America became the guiding light to the nations of the world as the supreme example of democracy in action, with social justice, and equality before the law. America was a land of opportunity for all (save for the significant minority of ex-slaves deprived of basic human rights). America thus became a magnet for those seeking political asylum, entrepreneurial opportunities, or just a better life. This concept developed at America’s inception when George Washington made the solemn pledge in 1790 to the fledgling Jewish community, ’To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’.
Undoubtedly the sustained efforts of many visionaries over our history culminated in the ‘American dream’ which envisages inclusiveness, fairness, justice and hope — not just for America, but with America’s ascendancy — for the rest of the world. That was the dream. Sadly, looking at America today we see the dream fading.
The vision of inclusiveness has been covered by the blinkers of xenophobia. Bigotry has replaced a welcoming hospitality to the stranger. Truth and justice have been the victims of hatemongers.
The original slaves have broken free of their shackles but still suffer discrimination; the Jews have squashed blatant ant-Semitism, but bear the indignity of subliminal racism; the so-called ‘Latinos’ are stigmatized as aliens who will forever change the complexion of this country. But the most feared and loathed Americans today are the Muslim citizens of this country. This is no accident. It is the result of a well-orchestrated propaganda war against Islam and Muslims by a coalition of anti-Muslim fear-mongers. Since the tragic date of 9/11, when a cadre of heretical Muslims, identified as ‘Al Qaeda’, wrought mayhem on American soil, these Islamophobes, with little else in common save for their long suppressed anti-Muslim racist sentiments, have acquired a free license to express their pent-up hatred of Islam with total impunity. They blame, not just the planners and perpetrators of this act of terrorism, but all of Islam and all Muslims. Their utterances are not random, but part of a calculated scheme to demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslim citizens. They use a Goebbels’s style propaganda playbook as their template!
This ten point ‘manifesto’ is designed specifically to challenge the marginalization, and to repudiate the demonization of the Muslim community. It is written primarily from the perspective of an American Muslim, nonetheless it might also serve as a permanent reminder that unless the rights and responsibilities of all minorities are given more than just lip-service, it is all too easy for the ‘tyranny of the majority’ to reign supreme.
1. SOVEREIGNTY IS GOD’S:
Freedom of religion is Constitutionally enshrined in this country, and as loyal Muslim citizens of this nation, we have the right to proclaim that all Sovereignty belongs to God and that our first and foremost responsibility is one of supreme obedience to God Almighty, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and all of its living beings.
It is in this spirit that we also recognize our responsibility to pledge our allegiance to our country that with God’s Blessings and Beneficence provides us with freedom, and to defend the Constitution. Obedience to God signifies an overriding sense of an all pervasive God-consciousness that directs one’s thoughts and actions to all that is good and away from all that is evil.
Commensurate with these rights and responsibilities as Muslims and as citizens, we recognize the right of peoples of all faiths (or none) to religious freedom.
2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:
In recognition of the multiple rights and freedoms provided for all its citizens by the Constitution of the United States, the State has a right to expect a pledge of allegiance in return:
’I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.’
In pledging loyalty to our country we acknowledge our responsibility to safeguard our homeland from threats both external and internal. This loyalty to one’s country is an Islamic principle, and if there are any whose interpretation of Islam is such that they are unwilling to make such a pledge, they should seriously consider whether the United States is the right place to call home.
3. SEPARATION OF STATE AND RELIGION:
The United States Constitution ensures a total separation between the State and Religion. If Islam teaches that Absolute Authority resides in God, the question arises as to whether Muslims can accept the concept of the separation of State and Religion. As a corollary if Muslims were to assume power might they not overturn the Constitution and establish an ‘official religion’ that would be Islam? This concern can be addressed in several ways.
Firstly, Muslims who have chosen to immigrate to the U.S., are aware that this is a predominantly Christian country, and are fully conversant with the Constitutionally enshrined separation of State and Religion — and yet, they have had no qualms about moving to a country where Muslims constitute a very small minority of just about 2% of the population.
Even in countries with an overwhelming Muslim majority, there are probably only 2 which are truly ’Islamic States’ in a theocratic sense — Saudi Arabia and Iran. In most other countries, the situation is varied. Islam may be the ‘state’ or ‘official’ religion, where Shariah applies as the law of the land for its Muslim inhabitants, as in Malaysia, Turkey espouses a strict separation between state and religion, and Indonesia despite its overwhelming Muslim population has no official state religion. This situation is analogous to many Christian majority countries some of which have a state churches such as England, Norway and Greece and a few have state religions such as Argentina and Costa Rica. While the question of separation of state and religion may pose a theoretical question for Muslims, from a practical perspective one does not need an ‘Islamic State’ in order to be a practicing Muslim. It is the responsibility of every Muslim, as it is of every other citizen irrespective of his religious affiliation to abide by the laws of the country in which he is living.
Equal justice for all is guaranteed under the Constitution. Any attempt to tamper with the judiciary with even the slightest hint of the possibility that the current system of equal justice would be tainted by any innovative unconstitutional intrusion, is met with instinctive suspicion and hostility.
A recent source of consternation to the already confounded American public at large, has been the introduction of the notion that Muslims, like some other religious groups (Jews, Catholics), should be permitted to use their own religious laws ( known as ‘Sharia’) to resolve issues that are not in conflict with State and Federal laws. With respect to Shariah suffice it to say that though there may be in certain circumstances substantial differences in the applicability of some interpretations of Shariah as compared to the Constitution, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents a Muslim from being a practicing Muslim and a loyal American! The Shariah is as much a code of personal moral and ethical conduct as it is a legal system that defines how a Muslim should live.
To be a good practicing Muslim one does not need to live under Shariah law, any more than one needs an ‘Islamic State’, or a ’global caliphate’. There may be some Muslims who have such fantasies, but they are a minority, and the majority of American Muslims are, and would be at the forefront of opposition to any such fantasies. Those who spread the idea that these are the goals of American Muslims are merely spreading malicious lies about the intent of Muslims in the West to reinforce the dread of Muslims in their midst. For those few Muslims who feel they have to live under Shariah Law, as any secular law imposes changes in their lives that are incompatible with Islam, there is nothing to prevent them from returning to or applying for naturalization to a country that has such a system in place. For most there is nothing irreconcilable between the values enshrined in the Constitution and those promoted by Islam – both promote basic human rights in expectation of the fulfillment of universally accepted responsibilities.
According to Benjamin Franklin, ’there are three things that are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and the struggle to know one’s self’. This sentiment expresses the core of what is meant by Jihad, which is a ceaseless personal spiritual struggle for self-improvement. However there is no term about which there is so much confusion and deliberate disinformation as there has been about the Arabic term ‘Jihad’, and its possible relationship with terrorism, if any.
The recent focus on a book, entitled, 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad which was mentioned in the Tarek Mehanna trial is a case in point. This book deals exclusively with one extremist interpretation of the definition of Jihad. The book ignores completely the rest of the mainstream interpretations of of Jihad whose cardinal emphasis is on the ‘constant personal struggle for inner improvement’. The extremist definition of Jihad leaves the uninitiated reader with the impression that the raison d’etre for Jihad is nothing but a violent uprising against oppression (as though this is a uniquely novel and intrinsically ‘Islamic’ trait). Notwithstanding, even when a careful analysis of this particular myopic focus of Jihad is made, it becomes apparent that Jihad may only be conducted in a just cause only in circumstances under which a Muslim community is subjected to harsh oppression with a denial of their rights to freely practice their religion. Under such a circumstance it may become an obligation on any Muslim even if he himself is not being oppressed to support the liberation struggle of his fellow Muslims.
As a corollary, if a Muslim living in a country whose army is at war with his ‘brothers and sisters’ in a so-called Muslim country, feels that he has a religious responsibility to help his co-religionists that transcends his right to defend his homeland that is providing him safety and security, he is free to follow his conscience and become a ‘mujahiddeen’( the first wave of such ‘mujahiddeen’ hit the radar of the West when Muslims from many countries felt it their religious obligation to support their Afghan brothers subjugated to the brutal Soviet invasion).
Islam expects an individual to be loyal to the country that is providing him with sanctuary, therefore should any individual believe that his loyalty to his co-religionists transcends that to his own nation, then that individual has a moral obligation and responsibility to renounce his citizenship before he can engage in any act of warfare against his fellow countrymen. If he fails to do this, he would be considered guilty of treason. If in the course of his ‘jihad’ he commits an act of ‘terror’ against non-combatants he has transgressed the legitimate bounds of jihad and becomes an unmitigated terrorist.
With respect to treason, this is not a neo-colonialist ploy to entrap naive Muslims. It is a precedent anchored in Islamic history. Treason is one of the most despicable acts any person can undertake against his own people, and the agonizing decision for some is whether the primary loyalty to ‘his people’ is defined by religion or country of residence. In the final analysis he (she) needs to rely on his respective conscience to arrive at the ‘right’ decision. But such a decision to make Jihad, right or wrong, can under no circumstance ever justify any form of terrorism against innocent people of whatever religious background anywhere, anytime. The majority of American Muslims are in fact engaged in a Jihad against terrorism. Even the book mentioned above, with its extremist definition of Jihad, in no place advocates terrorism in any form as a concomitant of Jihad. In other words there is no connection between Jihad, even in its ‘militant form’ and terrorism! However, when a vulnerable mind is programed into believing that militant Jihad is his ultimate responsibility, it takes very little additional brainwashing by the ilk of groups like Al Qaeda to convince such an emotionally charged person that ‘terrorism’ is a ‘logical’ extension of jihad. Nothing could be further from the truth! ‘Terrorism’ is completely antithetical to the principles of Islam; Jihad is an integral component.
In summary though the term ‘Jihad’ has been assigned a pejorative connotation, if viewed in in its primary context it is at the heart and soul of the ethics and morality of every civilization that ever flourished, a fact not lost to Benjamin Franklin. Though not spiritually analogous, could the immortal and inspirational words of Ulysses, ‘to strive to seek to find and not to yield’ not be celebrated as an all-encompassing form of ‘Jihad?’
6.THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM:
History sadly is nothing but a chronicle of human warfare. As President Eisenhower observed, ‘I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.’ Unfortunately, the events of the last decade have undermined the possibility of achieving President Eisenhower’s dream. These events reached explosive dimensions after the mayhem of 9/11 and the launch of the ensuing so-called ‘global war on terror’. Notwithstanding the explicit decree of the pledge (liberty and freedom for all), and the guarantee of the First Amendment (of freedom of religion) — we, as Muslim citizens of America, have been defined by a misunderstood view of our religion. And because of this, we have been put in a position of being expectedf to defend the indefensible. As ‘Muslims’ we have been found to be collectively guilty of a crime against humanity perpetrated by a band of heretics and criminals whose acts are indeed totally antithetical to the basic principles of Islam. We have listened with incredulity and sadness when during the execution of the ‘war on terror’ the tune changed from ‘our enemies are Muslims’ to ‘the Muslims are our enemies’, or even “we are at war with Islam”.
‘Terrorism’ has now become propagandized as an’ existential’ threat to individuals and communities throughout the globe, and incorrectly and falsely attached only to Muslims committing such criminal acts. Due to this, Islam and terrorism have become synonymous in the minds of many who see the most visible proponents of such mindless slaughter of innocent persons to have been crazed Muslims.
Muslims have to go beyond the unconditional condemnation of ‘terrorism’, identify it as a heresy when linked with Islam, and work cooperatively with others to eradicate Al Qaeda and any other such terrorist groups from the world stage. However, this is not something that Muslims can do alone. This is a collective responsibility of all people of goodwill, and will require the collective cooperative action of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In this regard we need to put ‘terrorism’ into perspective. It is as obscene and repugnant to human nature as would be any act of violent rape, mass murder, or of genocide. We must all work collectively to prevent and abort such criminal acts, and we must work in concert to eradicate the roots of ‘terror’.
We know that we cannot identify and neutralize every potential rapist, mass murderer, or genocidal tyrant before he unleashes his carnage, so also, we cannot eliminate every potential ‘terrorist’ with a warped mind. However, without in any way condoning ‘terrorism’ we should cease thinking of it as an ‘existential threat’ to mankind conspired by the ‘fiendish’ religion of Islam. It is not an ‘existential threat’ as was the situation during the ‘Cold War’ when the entire world faced instant nuclear annihilation. That terrorism is a threat is unquestioned, but the time has come when it has to be placed into its proper context of other major global issues that threaten the future well-being of all mankind. And because of the fact that many industries ( including the military-industrial complex, ‘the ‘surveillance business’ and the ‘Islamophobia’ enterprise) manufacture and magnify the global threat of a phantasmagorical ‘Islamic Caliphate’ to serve their predatory mercenary self-interests, with no regard for what is in the best interest of our country, we all should pay special heed to the prophetic words of our soldier president, Dwight Eisenhower,
‘This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. ‘Also, ‘the problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.’ And, ‘We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security’.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ’Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’
The United States has the unconditional right to defend itself against any form of threat or attack either from without or within its borders. In countering the threat of ‘terrorism’ and ‘radicalization a multi-faceted approach, inclusive of military action, diplomacy, outreach, education and economic aid, as well as appropriate counter-insurgency measures are required. It is essential (while not in any way providing justification for crimes against humanity) that we also commit ourselves to identifying the root causes that might promote radicalization which may or may not culminate in violent extremism. In dealing with ‘terrorism’ and radicalization whether here or abroad, it must be recognized that in designing counter-insurgency measures against such threats particularly from groups like Al Qaeda, the role of Muslims is critical. Their support should be actively courted and not disparaged, as Muslims are a part of the solution not the problem. Their guidance for justice comes directly from the Quran, ‘Stand up for justice, even it be against yourself’.’ (4:135).
In seeking the cooperation of loyal Muslim citizens there needs to be transparent ground rules that ensure that the forthrightness of the Muslim community is not exploited to conduct unfair surveillance on random individuals, their businesses, or their houses of worship; that they are not seduced into becoming ‘informants’ or to take on the role of ‘provocateurs’, or worse still be subject to egregious entrapment processes. In other words the civil rights of Muslims (as of all citizens) need to be protected, even as their responsibility as patriotic citizens is put to the test.
The American Muslim community has shown itself to be ready to identify ‘suspicious’ characters in their community, and to advocate remedial measures to counter radicalization. The American Muslim communities willingness to report misguided/disenchanted/psychopathic individuals to appropriate law enforcement agencies, also requires that those agencies demonstrate a reciprocal willingness to share information, that does not compromise security, with designated Muslim leadership. The government must ensure that the Constitutional rights of Muslim citizens are not insidiously abrogated. ‘We must never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion’ President Eisenhower.
The American Muslim community expects to be treated as equal citizens of the United States. There is currently a tsunami of Islamophobia that is swamping the country. Muslims recognize that the First Amendment grants all citizens freedom of speech, even if that speech is ‘hateful speech’. American Muslims have strongly defended freedom of speech.
Muslims also recognize that while even hateful speech is protected under the law, the society has effective means to counter such hateful speech and to marginalize those who engage in such speech, and that these means are used in relation to other communities. Since the inception of the so-called ‘global war on terror’, it has become painfully obvious that what can be said of Muslims with total impunity, could never be used to refer to Jews, Blacks, homosexuals, or other minority communities without the ‘censors’ crying foul because the contents are ’anti-Semitic’, ‘racist’ or ‘homophobic’. This double standard in relation to Muslims is an affront to society and underscorse the thin veneer that we have to show for our ‘Enlightenment’.
While government agencies may not be able to control the malevolence of Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and David Horowitz amongst others (who share their use of ‘psychological’ terrorism, moral decadence, Mafioso mindset, and willingness to prosper at the expense of denigrating the Muslim community), there are at least three tangible measures that can be adopted by our fellow citizens.
Firstly, in the same manner that malignant pro-terrorism propaganda is targeted, so should the hate-filled rhetoric of the Islamophobes be identified for what it is: unadulterated ‘hate-speech’, and the authors and their organizations categorized as ‘hate groups’.
Secondly, the so-called ‘experts’ on Islam (who are nothing more than toxic Islamophobes) invited to ‘educate’ governmental agencies, should forthwith have their invitations rescinded and they too be identified as ‘hate groups’.
Finally, Americans need to demand more of the elected officials of this country and hold them accountable for making contemptible and contemptuous remarks about a minority segment of the American society. Hateful comments about Islam and Muslims made by government officials, and elected representatives of our government are unbecoming to the esteemed positions they are entrusted to occupy. These statements have been meticulously documented by Sheila Musaji i on The American Muslim site. (A few reprehensible examples of such remarks include those by Rep. Michelle Bachmann who described the Muslims who attended a prayer day as ’Islamo-fascist bastards’, and Rep. Peter King who complained that ‘there were too many mosques in the country,’ and that ‘85% of the American Muslim community leaders living within the US are not cooperative with law enforcement’; and Rep. Saxby Chambliss who noted that ‘to combat terrorism every Muslim crossing the state into Georgia should be arrested’). As for the malevolence expressed by Christian religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, we will allow them to defend their hatred of their fellow beings to the ‘Prince of Peace’ who had admonished, ’Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,’ ( Matthew 5:3-12)
These malicious statements about the majority of peaceable God-loving American citizens, are not only un-American and deeply insulting, but they also increase a sense of marginalization in some, with the attendant risk of radicalization. This also provides a propaganda bonus for the extremists who scoff at the ‘ingratiation and obsequiousness’, ‘the ‘moderate’ Muslims have to display to gain ‘acceptability’ in a ‘democratic society’.
9. WHO EDUCATES THE TRAINERS?
The government of the United States has a special responsibility to ensure that accredited experts are selected to educate those in law enforcement, government, and the military. It is essential that “experts” chosen for such training (be they Muslim or non-Muslim), are unconnected in anyway whatsoever with those ‘toxic Islamophobes’ who profit from promoting anti-Islamic/anti-Arab/anti-Muslim propaganda. If our war is with al Qaeda, and not with Islam, then real expertise is needed, and experts should be selected who are able to offer useful information and to recommend the most effective counter-insurgency techniques, and develop the best ‘educational training material’ especially for all governmental agencies concerned with ensuring the safety and security of our nation.
Sadly it has been repeatedly documented that these very agencies that are supposed to obtain a better understanding of Islam, are ‘trained’ by notorious Islamophobes who merely propagate their own personal hate-filled vendetta against Islam. The entire subjects of Islamophobia, the use of obfuscatory ‘educational material’ and speakers, the bogus fear-mongering material on the ‘Sharia’, the quasi-academic report on ‘pre-radicalization, as well as the Congressional vaudeville on ‘Home-grown terror, have been exhaustively documented by Sheila Musaji in The American Muslim. Perhaps the most disquieting and reprehensible material that has just surfaced has been news that virtually all branches of government, including the Department of Defence, the FBI, the NYPD, and the military have been programmed to believe the most hideous lies about Islam, an odious example of which is shown below:
‘Army lieutenant Matthew Dooley claimed: “We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam’. It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.” He proposed a four-stage solution that included the possibility of reducing Islam to “a cult status” and threatening Saudi Arabia with starvation. In response General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, reprimanded, “It was totally objectionable, against our values and it wasn’t academically sound” .However, though the class in question was canceled in April, and Dempsey noted the instructor responsible for the course, army lieutenant colonel Matthew A Dooley, was “no longer in a teaching status”, Dooley, however, is still employed at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. That such an obscene bigot is still allowed to retain his job after the damage he could be liable for i.e. the oft-repeated media mantra of the ‘accidental burning’ of the Quran, urination over killed Afghanis, and the slaughter of an entire family by a single US soldier, is one of the most obvious reasons why we are generating so much reciprocal hatred in so-called Muslim countries, Al Qaeda, though on life-support, still remains a potential threat, and in trying to win the minds of the Taliban we are losing the hearts of patriotic Muslims. It is not too late to involve the Muslim community in this country against the ‘war on terror’; marginalizing them is not only anti-American, but also against the best interests of our ‘One Nation under God’.
10. THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF ALL CITIZENS:
Our society needs to recognize its interdependence, and recognize the concept that there can be no ‘rights’ without ‘responsibilities’. Such a turnaround cannot be achieved without an intensified effort at re-education at every level of society. Non-Muslims need to obtain a clearer understanding of Islam (which we hope the preceding paragraphs have helped toward). Muslims need to clarify their own understanding of the democratic process with greater involvement in civic issues and problems that confront the society at large – such as the reduction in the monumental trade deficit, the creation of more jobs, the availability of affordable universal healthcare, educational innovation and reform, easing of the housing crisis, shoring up of Social Security and Medicare, a cut in corporate welfare and predatory capitalism, exploration of safer energy production, environmental preservation and other issues such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and mental illness, and an out of control foreign policy, especially against the so-called Muslim world. And off course, all of us need to work in cooperation with all government agencies to prevent and abort acts of prospective terror here and abroad. These are the rights and responsibilities of all American citizens. That these rights and responsibilities should not be caged within the walls of the US alone, Dr Martin Luther King Jr had these all-embracing comments:
”An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity”. “This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by the allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers”.
As American Muslims, it is our inherent responsibility to act as ambassadors to so-called Muslim countries to encourage democratization and to encourage justice as advocates in our foreign policy recommendations. As Muslim ambassadors to the rest of the Muslim world, just as we as American Muslims expect to enjoy the same safety, protection and hospitality as our fellow citizens, it is crucial that we make it our responsibility to do whatever we can to speak out against any reverse bigotry or persecution of non-Muslims in Muslim majority counties. As American Muslims, we would like to see the playing field leveled so that non-Muslims in Muslim countries have the same religious rights and freedoms that Muslims have come to expect in the US. We must stand for freedom of religion.
Islam embraces religious pluralism and yet some of the so-called Muslim countries display a virulent attitude toward other religious communities ranging from a complete prohibition of the establishment of any other faith in their communities, to persecution of minorities, to relegating them to a second class status. Though Muslims living in America have no influence on the policies of these countries, they should in the very least condemn such practices, or their own complaints about the abrogation of their religious freedom in this country would ring hollow.
1.” We believe in God, and that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the other prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves”, 3: 84,
2. “O humankind, God has created you from male and female and made you into diverse nations and tribes so that you may come to know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous”, 49:13.
3. “If thy Lord had willed, He would have made humankind into a single nation, but they will not cease to be diverse”, 11:118.
4. “To each of you God has prescribed a law and a way. If God would have willed, He would have made you a single people. But God’s purpose is to test you in what he has given each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God ( in the Hereafter), and He will resolve all the matters in which you disagree, ” 5:49.
5. “Those who believe, those who follow the Jewish scriptures, the Christians, the Sabeans, and any who believe in God and the Final Day, and do good, all shall have their reward with their Lord and they will not come to fear or grief”, 5:69
6.The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers—We make no distinction between any of His messengers—and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. 2:285
7. The idolaters Follow that which is inspired in thee from thy Lord; there is no God save Him; and turn away from the idolaters. Had Allah is willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them. Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have we made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return and He will tell them what they used to do. (6: 106-108)
American Muslims must recognize when they themselves employ double standards, and must demand zero tolerance from those Muslim countries that exercise them. While Muslims in the West are free to invite others to Islam, the reciprocal should be the norm – with one exception – neither Muslims nor non-Muslims should prey upon victims of war and natural disasters as appropriate targets for predatory proselytization. On this the Quran and the Prophet have been explicit:
‘There is no compulsion in religion’, Quran 2:226
‘He who hurts a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state, I am his adversary, and I shall be his adversary on the Day of Judgment ‘(Prophet Mohammed reported by Bukhari).
If the Muslims of America choose to remain intimidated and cocooned and claim the mantle of victimhood, it will not take society at large too long to think aloud, ‘Methinks thou dost protest too much’. The best antidote to such a charge is to pay heed to John F Kennedy’s immortal words, ’Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’
It is only when Muslims take an active role in debating these issues and standing for office in vital civic and governmental positions that we will be recognized for who we are – an integral segment of American society. Any apparent dichotomy between us (Muslims) and them (Americans), in this discourse has stemmed from the need to demonstrate that in the so-called war on terror Muslims in general and law-abiding American citizens in particular have been sidelined as’ the other’.
As Americans we reject such marginalization. We are full citizens with all same the rights and responsibilities as our fellow Americans. The day the ‘tyranny of the majority’ that John Adams spoke about becomes a reality, and America’s Muslim citizens are relegated to a subservient position, America will cease to exist – not only as a democracy.
This ‘manifesto’ is all about winning the hearts and minds of our decent neighbors who have for too long been fed a diet of hate and lies about us by Islamophobes. We have addressed our personal concerns as well as those we feel our ill-informed fellow citizens are forced to wrestle with on a daily basis. We have touched upon but could not do full justice to the confusing if not frightening terms ‘jihad’ and ‘shariah’; we have outlined how Islam celebrates religious pluralism and will end on a note which we hope will leave no doubt about Islam’s concept of God, especially to a society that is being repeatedly programmed to believe that ‘Allah” is not the same God in whom all the followers of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed (Peace Be Upon them All) believe. To reaffirm : in the same way Gott is German for God, and Dieu is French for God, and Dios is Spanish for God, so is Allah Arabic for God. There is but One God who we refer to in our native tongues by various names. As God is the Lord of the universe, the rights and responsibilities we are entrusted with are a part of God’s master plan that provide us with a moral compass, with the State as an intermediary, for this life. How we individually and collectively exercise our rights and discharge our responsibilities, determines our final resting place in the Afterlife.
No religion promotes itself as second best. The best advice we can all follow comes from Abe Lincoln, ’Pray not that God is on our side; pray instead that we be found on God’s side’.
Abdul Cader Asmal is past President of the Islamic Center of Boston and the Islamic Council of New England