If the bomber is Christian, no one will blame Christians or Christianity.
If the bomber is Jewish, no one will blame Jews or Judaism.
And if the bomber is Muslim, I expect my country and countrymen not to blame Muslims or Islam.
But whoever this guy is – he is either – evil, ill or both.
If he is not a Muslim, he is also my problem, since I know that Allah meant Islam to help everyone, and I will be asking myself where was my mosque when this guy needed help or had problems. I will also be asking where was my Church and Synagogue to help this person out.
I need my community to rise up and to help our country rid itself of the depression or sickness that caused the CT shooting, Columbine, Times Square bombing, and any other evil act. Regardless of what race, religion, creed, age, mental capacity – then it is our job to work together to rid our country from this ignorance and hate.
The bomb that killed did not differentiate based on race, religion or age – and neither should we.
….I was wondering about the challenges in calling America “our people”. I was discussing with some sisters today about how we should be praying for “our people”. The ultimate response was, if they were our people or considered us their people, we wouldn’t be facing as much Islamophobia as we are today. We watched the youtube video on “Hate has come to Orange County” and it sparked quite a discussion about us Muslims here in America, and Islamophobia. Based on what I have learned from your presentation, I tried to see if I can get them to see it from the perspective of what the Prophets and Messengers went through and how they still said “ya qawmi” (Oh, my people). They, as Muslim Americans, truly feel as if they can’t really think of most Americans as “their people” due to the constant negativity and discrimination they feel as Muslims. Although, alhamdulilah, this discrimination and fear does not cripple us as Muslims or as a community, rather encourage us to give more to our country; the sisters truly felt that they cannot connect with the American society though they grew up in it because of the hate and alienation. The more Islamophobia and bigotry they see, the more they distance themselves and just stay with the Muslim crowd. I wasn’t too sure how to respond here. They understand there is good and bad to America, but they feel the bad has caused them to feel hurt and sidelined, so they are not as passionate about accepting this ideology. They were not against the idea of being American or anything, it was just that their heart wasn’t in it in calling them “our people”, so they became comfortable just staying in the “Muslim bubble”.
Also, Subhana Allah, I went to a recent CAIR banquet and I truly loved it. It motivated me to think of my rights and fight for my rights. But I felt something missing and the discussion I had today with the sisters reminded me of the presentation and I realized that the aspect that was missing was what you said about why we are here, as vicegerents. Yes, alhamdulilah we do have organizations that will ensure us our rights, but we are also here to capture the hearts of people. As a MAS member, how do you reconcile or draw the line when to not fight for your rights but capture the hearts of individuals towards Islam and when to claim your rights? For example, at (University) we had an Islam Awareness Week, and we had few Christian hecklers with signs and pamphlets come to us, and screaming “you’re going to hell”. As an MSA, we had the right to ask them to move from our area or call Security on them. I personally was of the mind set of let them just stay and ignore them so that we concentrate on the rest of the campus. I was hoping that if people passing by saw how unaffected the Muslims were and how we were still smiling and raising awareness, people will be more interested in coming up to us and us giving up our right to ask the heckler’s to leave wouldn’t matter.
I apologize for the long email and I hope my questions made sense. Jazakal Allahu khair for the presentation, Subhana Allah, it showed me a different way of looking and approaching this very important concept.
The two blog entries below this piece address key issues raised in the question above.
This is a section of a paper (seems to be turning into a book) that I have started writing about Islam in America. This segment is in response to a question about Islamophobia that a sister recently asked.
Part 1 : The Nature of Creation
When Allah created Adam, He told the angels that Adam and his descendents are meant to be vicegerents on earth(إِنِّى جَاعِلٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةً۬ۖ). This means that the human race is intended to be a responsible party on earth : to take care of this earth, take care of each other, live honorably, and to keep the covenant with their Lord.
(ps: the numbers in blue are footnotes, found at the end of the article)
Many generations came after Adam. These generations would often forget their covenant with their Lord. Allah would then send prophets to these people. Many prophets were sent after Adam. There are common themes which were exhibited by all the prophets, as the Quran narrates. These prophets came to remind their people and to guide them. They came with a beautiful attitude, related often in the Quran as : “ya qawmy”: “Oh my people”. They felt a deep relation to “their people”. They called them to good things. Generally, these prophets came with two messages:
- The first message is (يَـٰقَوۡمِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ) : “Oh My people, worship God”. The first message is to remind and regulate the relation between the creator and the creation. Don’t forget your Lord who created you and loves you, and sustains you. Live a life of righteousness and love of your Lord
- The second part of the message addresses the needs of society. It is a message that addresses the specific challenges that are faced in society. It is a message of societal reform. The prophets identified certain problems faced by society and worked hard to advocate for change and reform in these particular areas.
Every prophet came with the first message. The first part of the message (Oh my people, worship your Lord) was common between all the prophets. The second part of the message, which deals with the reform needed in society, differed from one prophet to the next. It depended on the specific problems faced by the society. Each prophet called for a different type of reform. Surat Hud & Al-Araf in the Quran mention many prophets and their messages. For instance, prophet Su3aib in the Quran is mentioned as such:
وَإِلَىٰ مَدۡيَنَ أَخَاهُمۡ شُعَيۡبً۬اۚ قَالَ يَـٰقَوۡمِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ مَا لَڪُم مِّنۡ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيۡرُهُ ۥۖ وَلَا تَنقُصُواْ ٱلۡمِڪۡيَالَ وَٱلۡمِيزَانَۚ إِنِّىٓ أَرَٮٰڪُم بِخَيۡرٍ۬ وَإِنِّىٓ أَخَافُ عَلَيۡڪُمۡ عَذَابَ يَوۡمٍ۬ مُّحِيطٍ۬
(And to the people of Madyan, we sent them their brother (Prophet) Shuaib. He said : Oh my people, worship God, you have no God but Him. And do not unjustly handle the scale (in trading). I recognize the good in you, and I fear for you the punishment of a certain day (Day of Judgment). )
As all other prophets, Prophet Shuaib had two parts to his message : (a)Worshiping God, and (b)addressing a specific societal reform – in this case: unjust economic dealings between people.
The prophet’s paradigm : “Oh My People”
Another relevant observation is how each prophet came as a loving and caring leader to his community. Every prophet came as a “brother” to His people. Even Prophet Lot was called a “brother” to His people. No sin is too great for God to send a loving messenger with a warning to his people to remind them and guide them. The prophets came as a mercy and guidance to their people. Every prophet came with the message “oh my people”. The paradigm was not one of anger or hate, but one of love and care. If, after many years of dawa (calling others to God) and hard work, the people reject the message of the prophets, Allah may then punish them in this life. Like a father who cares for his children who may be going astray, the prophets labored diligently for the benefit and health of their people. Prophet Su’aib in the verse above further tells the: “I see a lot of good in you, and I fear for you a punishment from your lord”. This attitude of loving their people, caring for them, and wanting the best for them is one that is a hallmark of these prophets who came to their people.
America is “our people”
Today, Muslims need to embrace America as our people. America, with its entire population, are our “qawm”; they are the people whom we love and desire the utmost goodness for. Just like the prophet cared for his people – who were not Muslims – we need to care for our people. Prophet Muhammad was sent as a Mercy to mankind. Muslims in America today are the extension of this mercy.
The verse: “oh my people” is mentioned 47 times in the Quran by many prophets. Each prophet comes and speaks to his people. It is a loving term that is supposed to highlight the deep relation. Like calling someone and saying “Oh my son”. The prophet’s people were not just the “Muslims” but everyone in society.
Every prophet had a social reform message as part of his calling. This was in addition to the message of Worshiping God. The implication is that Muslims today, as they call to their lord, need to balance between both messages. Also, just like every prophet had a constant message (Worship God) and a changing message (social reform), American Muslims today should do the same. The reform is based on the needs of society. Muslims need to have a contribution to the problems in society, because they love and care for their people (the American people). This is from a deeply religious perspective and obligation. Muslims must contribute to the solutions of the financial crisis, economic problems, social problems, moral decay, child prostitution, unemployment, deterioration of the family, and so on.
This does not mean that American Muslims cannot stand for justice all over the world. We should indeed stand for justice everywhere. But Islam accepts a paradigm for circles of obligations. A person needs to take care of her family first. As American Muslims, America is our immediate circle of obligation.
Just like every prophet was called a brother to his people, Muslim Americans should feel a sense of brotherhood, commitment, and responsibility to our “qawm”, our people, our brothers/sisters in America – the larger American society.
 Someone who takes care of the earth ; care about the earth
 The implication : The reformers, du3at, and Muslims in America today need to establish that sense of brotherhood to their people. Our people in America is the larger American society, for whom we are supposed to care and love.
 Prophet Lot was sent to homosexuals. Yet the Quran still called him their brother. He labored very hard in a caring way to call them to the same two messages everyone called for. Today, unfortunately, Muslims have a negative attitude towards homosexuals that prevent them from taking the message to them. Everyone is “our people”, and everyone has a right for the messengers to take the message to them. Here is a piece on homosexuality in Islam by Sherman Jackson
 Think about the long years of many prophets before they decided that their people are not heading the message. Prophet Noah called on his people for centuries. Prophet Muhammad for more than 13 years in Mecca. Even after these 13 years, the prophet did not give up on his people. We have to ask ourselves : have we done our job on presenting Islam to our people ? I believe not.
 Circles of obligations start with each individual’s responsibility towards herself. After that is the immediate family, then their immediate society. If a person is not taking care of themselves (spiritually, physically, etc…) then there is no sense in taking care of the next circle. Our America society is our immediate circle of obligation, and we have to care for her, and take the message of God to America. Before reaching out to outside Arabia, the prophet cared for his people in Mecca.
Part2 : How the prophet dealt with Islamophobia
Similar to other prophets in the past (Moses, Jesus, others), and like some of us today, Prophet Muhammad PBUH was initially rejected, and faced “Islamophobia”. He was called call sorts of names: كذاب ساحر كاهن مجنون (Liar, Sorcerer, Magician, Crazy, …)
(ps: the numbers in blue are footnotes, found at the end of the article)
The Meccans sent kids running after him throwing stones at Him – May Allah’s blessings be on Him.
All Meccans started to call him “مذمم “ – “Muzamam”, which rhymes with Muhammad – a name which means : the ugly one, or the crazy one. Everyone would call him this name. When he passes a crowd, they would say: Muzamam came .. or Muzamam went. This was very tough on the companions and believers who loved him so much, and who would sacrifice everything for him. Here is the most honorable man who walked the earth being called the worst of names. The prophet saw that this was so tough on the believers, so he would sooth them and say: “they are talking about another person. My name is Muhammad. They are talking about a man called Muzamam, not about me”. May Allah’s blessings and Mercy be upon you, oh prophet of Allah. 
They attacked his family, friends and companions. They imprisoned him and all of his tribe in (شعب أبو طالب). 
His own uncle Abu Lahab would follow him around Mecca. Whenever the prophet wanted to speak to someone about Islam, his uncle would interrupt and say: “look, he is my nephew; I know him very well; he is a crazy man; don’t listen to him!” Then the person would say: “well, if he is really your uncle, he must know you better. Go somewhere else”. Of course when the attack is coming from relatives and close ones, it is even more difficult. 
He faced Islamophobia similar to the prophets and reformers before him and after him. But he overcame this Islamophobia. He overcame it by focusing on his message and staying on his message – which was : Oh my people (ya qawmy) .. Oh my beloved people : worship Allah, you have no God but Him .. and reforming society. 
If you read the Quran, including verses that were sent during these tough years of persecution and Islamophobia in Mecca, there was no victimhood mentality. The Quran was not obsessed with the victimization of the believers. On the contrary, the Quran was reminding the believers that this is to be expected. And to the persecutors, the Quran was focusing on its message: reforming society, the greatness of God, the creation of Allah, the truthfulness of the message, removing ills from society, removing oppression from society. 
In the midst of the darkest moments, with the highest levels of anti Muslim attacks, the prophet never hated his people. He loved Mecca, and cried as he was being forced to leave Mecca as the Meccans were trying to kill him. When some of the companions asked him to curse the unbelieving Meccans, He prayed for them, and reminded his companions that: I was sent as a Mercy to Mankind, not as damnation. 
During a trip to Al-Taiif, the tribe rejected the message of the Prophet, and sent kids throwing rocks at him, until he bled, May Allah’s blessings and mercy be on Him. Towards the end of this trip, Allah sent the “Angel of the Mountains” to the Prophet, telling him: “I have been instructed by Allah to ask you: if you wish, I will crumble these two mountains on top of this tribe and destroy them.” In a moment of deep affection and emotion, the prophet cried to His Lord, asking him to guide his people, make them role models to others, and to accept from him His deeds. 
He called to His Lord, and he advocated for reforming the ills in his society: slavery, usury, oppression of women, usurping the rights of the weak, indiscriminant killings, disbelief,… 
He civilized the Arabs and provided them with a new mission.
 Today Muslims are called terrorists. They are called extremists. We need to handle Islamophobia as the prophet handled it
 The Meccans also physically abused him and his companions, and killed the companions. Al hamduliilah, this has not happened to Muslims in America. We pray that we never see this type of attack.
 Interesting that the prophet did not rebel in violence against these issues. I wonder how the prophet would have dealt with a situation if a Meccan would have drawn an evil cartoon of the prophet. We need to focus on the real mission. The prophet wanted to train the believers not to be angry about the harm that is happening to them personally. The message is much greater. The essence of the message was not to protect the believers, but to benefit the entire society. Also, the prophet wanted to tame the revengeful nature of the Arabs to take revenge from anyone who hurt their honor. In Islam, you don’t take revenge for yourself. But you are available to defend the truth, not just defend yourself or your tribe.
 In some ways this imprisonment was similar to the Japanese internment camps in the US.
 Islamophobes try this, when they call to their defense Muslims who either left Islam because it is a horrible religion, or who claim to be Muslims and bash the religion.
 It is very important for American Muslims to stay on message. Our goal is not to simply eliminate Islamophobia. We love America more than we love ourselves. We love our people more than we love ourselves. We seek what is good for our people, not just to “get our rights”. We long for everyone getting their rights and not just Muslims in America. There are many Americans who are hot getting their rights. More on this in chapter 4. We should not play into the victimhood mentality and accept it. This does not mean that civil rights organizations in America (like CAIR, MAS Freedom) should stop asking for the rights of American Muslims. However, this should be seen as only part of what we are about, and part of what we are asking for.
 This is important because America appreciates the victimhood mentality. We are pushed as a community into this paradigm. This is a good paradigm in America : you are a victim, and then the American system usually eventually stands up for the oppressed and the minorities get their right. This is an OK paradigm, but it is not the complete picture for Muslims in America. We don’t just want our rights as Muslims. We also have a beautiful message for our people that we want them to hear. We have a message. The way to solve this problem is not to completely forget about this paradigm. It is OK for us to have the CAIRs and MAS Freedoms which focus on resolving these issues. But this should not be our ONLY response as a community. This is where MAS comes in to remind of this additional role that we must play.
 A strong bond between the reformers, the du3at, and the people must exist. Muslims must care for and love America as their place of living and dawa. People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.
 It is very important for Muslims to realize that as messengers to our people, we need to love our people. We need to love America. Not the type of blind love that blesses the wrong, but the one that wishes to change the wrong. We don’t want to defeat America, but we want America to be the best that it can be. See this for more on this topic : http://islampath.org/2010/06/08/why-i-love-my-country/
 Sometimes Muslims are quick to ask for damnation of their enemy. Yet have we done our part to take the message to them? It is true that the prophet sometimes made dua against his enemy, but this was after years of due diligence to clarify the message. Today, our people have no idea what the message is.
 We need to find more specifically the core issues that we should adopt as Muslims in America from our perspective which are core to the reform that we want to advocate for. Some of this reform may already be recognized as a problem by others (say the poor in America). But some other reform may be unrecognized by any major players.
In the MAS Tarbiya and Ilm Camp, a young brother shared his life story with us. He was in 5th grade when 9.11 happened. He was in public school. His parents had emigrated 15 years ago from Syria. He did not know how to interpret 9.11. It was shown all over television in his elementary school the day it happened. He had very good friends in public school. Every day in recess he would play basketball with his friends. A few days after 9.11 his mother bought him some new cloth. He was so happy that he was wearing new cloth to school the next day. But when he went to school (2 days after 9/11), no one would speak to him in class. In recess, he went to play basketball with his friends as usual. But no one would play with him. He was not sure why this was happening. He never mentioned that he was a Muslim to anyone. So he started to play alone. A few minutes later about 10 guys ganged on him, his previous friends, and “jumped him”, or beat him up very bad. He went home crying with blood all over his torn new cloth.
A few months later, his parents decided to take the kids and go back to Syria. He had never lived in Syria. His father put him in a public school in Syria. His Arabic was very weak. His friends in school asked him: “where are you from?” He said, “I am from America”. So again, he got beat up pretty hard by his new “friends”. When he walks in school, people would shout: “down with America!”. He got in nasty fights every day.
He spent his time in Syria dreaming of coming back home to America. After less than a year, his father, a US-citizen, decided to take the family back to the USA, not being able to fit well in Syria. At the airport in Syria, they realized that his mother’s green card had expired. They had to cancel the trip. For the next year, every week, the family drove 6 hours to the US embassy in order to renew the green card. Nothing worked. Four years later, the green card was finally renewed by Immigration. They were finally able to come back home to America. He was so happy. But a few months after arriving to the US, he felt that he missed living in Syria.
The story hits a cord with some of the immigrant families in the US – especially with the 2nd generation. America is their home, but it is suspicious of them – almost un-welcoming. When they go back to their parents’ homeland, they cannot fit there either. It is a difficult to say the least.
It is debatable whether the 1st generation immigrants will fit if they “go back home”. It is inconceivable that the 2nd generation would be thinking of staying anywhere but to stay home, in America. America is our beautiful land that we cherish and love. Even some question our relation to America, it should be 100% clear to us: America is home. America is our people. America is where, as American Muslims, we will focus our energy to advocate for goodness and justice, and advocate for change. This is not only our right, but, more importantly, America’s right upon us.
Too tired to take care of the family, career, and community development on top of all that?
Read these 6 ways to refuel your energy every day.
The 7th is a daily Quran exercise. You see, just like our bodies need water, food, sleep and exercise; our spirit needs spiritual nourishment. If you don’t nourish your spirit, then it can eventually die
Instead of sitting in a closed room with a few people to come up with “the strategy”, community leaders should find ways to open up the process and get input from all over. In fact great input may come, not only from the Muslim community, but even from interfaith partners.
I have seen this process successfully happen in an Islamic context, and it produced wonderful results. Gather input from community members as an integral part of the strategy setting process.
This was also done often by our prophet, in many famous incidents where he would ask the companions : “ashiroo 3alaya ayouha al nas” (Oh people, tell me what to do). Companions spoke their minds, and in fact sometimes offered suggestions that initially countered that of the prophet.
An important success of the leaders is to open up the planning and strategy setting process to more and more people.
This is a good article about the subject. http://hbr.org/2010/10/can-you-open-source-your-strategy/ar/1
Compared to other minorities in America, Muslims are the new kids on the block. This means that our institutions have less history, and therefore less maturity than those in other communities. We have more to learn with respect to coming together as a community, managing (and leveraging) our differences, uniting, institution building, relying on endowments rather than brute-force-fundraising, and more.
This is why it is very exciting to be a Muslim activist these days: every day, you are laying the foundation for many things to come.
Below are some a few useful resources on leadership, and running organizations.
I hope that community leaders involved in nonprofit work will find these useful.
Video, Audio and articles on leadership :
It is time for the Muslim community to change its paradigm with respect to “our community” challenges. As American Muslims, it is crucial that we make the leap and understand that “our” challenges and priorities are not just the internal challenges facing the Muslim community (such as Islamophobia), but rather the challenges facing America. This is what Islam teaches me. Prophet Muhammad came as a mercy to all those around him, to his community, and not just to the Muslims.
America is a beautiful land. If you want to know about America, don’t just ask the indigenous, but ask the immigrant who has seen other places, and chose to live in this beautiful land. For me, America is the best place to be. This is not just from an “economic” perspective, but even from a purely Islamic perspective. (read: why I love my country)
It is time for Muslims in America to realize that “our” challenges must include America’s challenges. We must seek to contribute to the solution, guided by our faith, and guided by our love and care for our people, and our country.
Take a look at this program which should make us cry: The problem of teenage prostitution in America. In our own backyard! “According to the FBI, more than 100,000 children are sold for sex in the U.S. each year” ! I believe that Allah will ask us about our contribution to the solution in the Day of Judgment. What are we doing to solve these problems?
This reminds me of the early message of Islam, when, from the beginning of its message, Islam was fiercely opposed to the abuse and oppression of women in society, including the acts of preferring male children, and even killing female babies. It is time that we contribute and provide real solutions. It is time for us to come down on the streets and solve our people’s problems, in America.
This is a very good radio interview on NPR about American Islam, featuring a new book by Akbar Ahmad. It focuses on the many internal challenges facing American Muslims, as well as the challenges facing America in integrating yet another new minority into the American society.
Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic Studies at American University’s School of International Service. He traveled with a team to some 100 mosques in America. The result is chronicled in his new book, “Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam.” You can read an excerpt.
Resa Aslan, author of “No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast. Read his latest piece there, “The Charlatans Have Taken Over 9/11.”