These are the United States of America, and I respect the right of every American, Muslim and non-Muslim to speak candidly to have his or her own opinion, and to speak their mind. However, I do not like when people tell one story to some people, and tell a different story to others. It is reported in prophetic tradition that the Prophet Muhammad (May peace and blessing be upon Him) said: “Amongst those receiving the most severe punishment on the Day of Judgment, is the two-faced person. The one who goes to one group bearing a face, and to another group bearing another face”.
Speaking of having your own opinion, I personally do not like it when people immigrate to America, benefit immensely from what our country has to offer, make a few dollars, buy a house in the suburbs, and then starts trashing our country saying that America does not live up to their expectations. I’m not knocking anyone for expressing their views or criticisms. I’m talking about the one who completely trashes everything about our country and insinuates that there is no good here and that this is just an awful evil place. That’s just my personal opinion, and some of you may have your own opinions about my opinion and that’s your right. There’s no need for anyone to be offended, to be in a tizzy, or to unleash upon me a tirade of indignation. However, you can if you want to, just try not to make it personal. If you have a problem with my previous statement, then you’ll probably feel some kind of way about what I’m about to say next. Especially those to whom it applies.
New American Muslims should stop complaining so much about their new country and perhaps use the freedom and liberty afforded to them as American citizens to ask the hard questions about how we practice Islam outside the din of polemical debate, political rhetoric, and public relations considerations. Immigrant dominated national Islamic political and advocacy groups as well as the new class of Muslim activists – while advancing the argument that American Muslims are as American as apple pie – demonstrate in many ways, especially in the way they confront islamophobia, that they do not quite understand America.
While declaring that the principle cause of islamophobia (a term that I do not agree with) is that Americans do not understand Muslims and Islam, there needs to be a parallel acknowledgment by American Muslim immigrants, and anyone else who supports such an oversimplified, nonsensical notion, that there are lots of things they need to understand about America, and Americans whose acceptance they crave.
There is hardly any other personal liberty dearer to us than the right of every individual to speak his or her mind and to have our own personal views or opinions. To put it simply, we do not like being told what to think, or who we can like or dislike, or which religious group we can or cannot talk about. In America, if someone talks negatively about Christians, the whole of Christian America does not come down on them. It doesn’t elicit a nationwide, multi-denominational Christian rebuke, nor does it catapult the matter onto the American Christian agenda as the suggested topic for next Sunday’s sermon. That’s just not the way we do things in this country. Jews are criticized just as much as Muslims and are probably the most parodied religious group in America. The whole Jewish nation does not come down on every alleged anti-Semite, or scour the news hunting down people’s campaign worthy biases. Even if some Jews address it or some organizations say something (and that’s a big if), it doesn’t become a nationwide rabbinical campaign.
However, if someone, especially a prominent person or politician says something about Muslims, or God forbid articulates what Muslims activists believe to be an islamophobic sentiment, Muslim advocacy organizations capitalize on it and feeds it to the Muslim community as a campaign worthy issue, and from there it wafts into our nations mosques. That’s not cool. Not cool at all. If someone talks about Muslims, the whole Muslim community should not come down on them. That’s so freakin un-American.
When some people in our country demonized Muhammad Ali, he withstood it with dignity, now he is loved by some of those same folks. We excoriated al-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), he withstood our criticism and we ended up making a movie about him. We said bad things about the Mormons. They withstood it and got their own state. I could go on and on but the point is, no one in the history of the United States has succeeded in silencing their critics simply by complaining and calling them bigots, racists, islamophobes, nigger-lovers, or any other verbal counter-punch.
With all the degreed and advance degreed professionals we have in the American Muslim advocacy department, it should be well understood that American Muslims will never succeed in shutting down all criticism of Islam and Muslims in America. We love that freedom of speech clause in the constitution and we’re not going to give it up. Even though some people may hold their tongue just to avoid the drama, Americans will continue to think and believe as we please, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. For every so-called islamophobe who cowers, or is silenced though bribery, professional censure or public pressure, another one pops up under the radar; in part due to the censure of the former. Some Muslims are still responding to statements made by Donald Trump more than three weeks ago.
During his Farwell Sermon, the Prophet (SAWS) re-emphasized Islam’s moral stance against racial and ethnic prejudice, and never once mentioned that we should concern ourselves with public image, chasing after peoples’ negative statements, or seeking acceptance of the people. What a pathetic irony, that more than 1400 years after the Prophet’s last sermon, some American Muslims find themselves obsessed with the image of Islam, having to challenge every act of bigotry, and getting approval of the people, while almost completely ignoring our own debilitating racial, and ethnic prejudices that violate the moral code of our religion, and fuel the negative images of Islam and Muslims, that we find ourselves so obsessed with.
Epilogue: So what do you suggest we do Imam? Answer: I suggest that we shift from responding to things politically to responding according to the dictates of our scriptures (Quran and Sunna). Simply put, we need to shift from political Islam to the religion of Islam and understand that they are not entirely the same. Yes, politics is a part of our religion, however, politics should be subordinate to religion, not the other way around. As Muslims we need to be more concerned with obeying Allah, and following the Prophet than we are with obeying our egos, and following our political action handbooks. It’s that simple. More on this later. In the meantime, God bless the United States of America.