August 29, 2008
day in America
over 100,000 Muslim physicians, surgeons, and therapists devotedly report to
their clinics and hospitals providing the best health care they can to their
patients. Each day in America,
several thousand Muslim engineers are part of the nation's engineering staff,
managing and running infrastructure facilities to ensure that water, electricity
and critical services are supplied in an efficient manner.
Several thousand software engineers use their skills on a daily basis ensuring
that the businesses that provide the lifelines of this country are managed
smoothly. Even in securing the security of our country and US embassies abroad,
about 5000 Muslim military personnel provide valuable services to the nation.
Over two million Muslims work hard to contribute more than $30 billion annually
to various taxes and revenue agencies. The Muslim dependence on welfare is
minimal. The number of alcoholics, child abusers, drug users and pushers and
criminals involved in big or small crimes is unnoticeable.
Yet, when a political candidate's middle name is announced as
"Hussein," all kinds of doubt are raised about his links with Muslims
and Islam. People are urged to reject him because his presence might
contaminate the sanctity of the seat of power in Washington.
Let's not beat around the bush! The issue is not about a middle name, the issue
is about Islam and Muslims. Those who are questioning Obama's middle name are
using the phobia that has been created against Islam and Muslims and using that
for their political whims.
They might as well start creating fear against everyone named Adam (From Prophet
Aadam (peace be upon him), the first man created by God) and Susan (Derived
from Soozan which connotates pure like a Lily flower) which are also common
names used by Arabs and Muslims.
Obama has clearly stated that he is a Christian belonging to Trinity United
Church of Christ in Chicago
and his loyalties are to his country. Yet the tirade and fear tactics from the
right-wingers against him does not stop.
Despite a history in America
as old as the history of first European settlers, Islam is still viewed with
fear and suspicion in America
and more so after the tragedy of 9/11. The rejection and hatred shown in Europe by earlier Christian leaders towards Islam still
Forgotten in this frenzy are the facts that Muslim slaves were an essential part
of the construction of the roadways, railroads and development of agriculture
and industries in their present forms in this country.
Europe has never been objective in its
relations and understanding of Islam. Its religious institutions viewed Islam
as anti-Christ and its ideas pertaining to individual autonomy in relation to
the divine as dangerous for its religious hierarchy. These biases were formed
even before Europe took the path of
enlightenment and renaissance. Islam was always seen as a faith of
sword-wielding nomadic people bent on destroying the kingdom of the Lord that
was yet to be experienced on earth.
Even with enlightenment and renaissance that gradually rendered the religious
institutions irrelevant in Europe's growth,
Islam was seen as an anti-rational and anti-science faith. This was a pattern
that came to America
with the arrival of European settlers.
Even though the founding fathers of our nation were enlightened leaders, but
the centuries of bias are even reflected in Thomas Jefferson's letter to Dr.
Stiles in 1815 where he wrote, "It is really a pity so charming a country
(Turkey) should remain in the hands of a people whose religion forbids the
admission of science and the arts among them." (Aslam Munjee's book,
"Crusades: Then and Now").
The religious and secular elites of Europe and America have somehow concluded on
the basis of their own prejudice and contaminated reading that Islam cannot be
trusted in any aspect of life as it is based on false ideas.
Despite the presence of large Muslim communities in Europe and America, this
view has not changed as there is very limited and serious dialogue and
interaction among various sections of modern religious and secular European
and American elites and Muslims.
Muslims by and large, have not made any serious efforts to address the
concerns and issues raised by the power elites in a language that can be understood.
And the power elites are so comfortable with their position that they do not
want to make any serious efforts to comprehend Islam.
Those who have extensively written about Islam and Muslims from either a
religious or secular perspective in Europe and America have tried to interpret
events and the faith of Islam from their selective and highly biased sources often
used to reinforce their viewpoint. Amongst Muslims, the shadow of colonialism
has always been present in their writings.
How can this challenge of developing a better understanding of these two
view-points about Islam be met in our times? Perhaps the best response would
come from Muslims if they engage with people at levels of society and make
their presence felt through service and improving the conditions of life
wherever they are.
The fact is that Muslims have remained confined to their mosques and secluded
shells despite their presence in America
and Europe for centuries. In art, science,
technology, social services, welfare activities, they have abdicated their
They somehow, believe that by confining themselves to their mosques, Europe
will one day discover the beauty and rationality of their religion. Things do
not happen that way. Even the Prophet (peace be upon him) had to roam in the
streets of Makkah and Taif identifying people in the situation they lived and
engaging them in efforts that had direct consequences for their lives. In
order to do that a new agenda has to emerge and a new style of leadership has
to take roots within the Muslim community. A leadership that understands its
responsibilities towards people in general regardless of their religious or
To do this, Muslims have to have a paradigm shift in their thinking. They have
to rise above their sectarian identities and issues. They have to look at the
future rather than dwell on the past to redirect their energies. Without
Muslims preparing themselves for this new role, things will not easily be
changed. Violence and anger have never solved any problem. They only complicate
Those who believe that through terrorizing people, Muslims and non-Muslims
alike, they would be able to force change in the thinking of people about
Islam, must realize that history is not on their side and above all the Creator
is not on their side.
Change in the attitude and behaviour of people comes when they see a clear
contradiction in their biases and the actions of those they were biased
against. Once their own paradoxes become clear to them, they begin to realize
the myopic vision they had held and begin to appreciate the viewpoint of others.
So far, Muslims in America
and Europe and elsewhere have not acted in a
manner that reconciles them with the spirit of their faith. A spirit that
views all of humanity as a big family and a view that feels the pain of others
as one's own.
in Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Islam in U.S, No reason to fear by Islamic Students of