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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Religious Relations in America: Will Obama stand up for what is right?

First of all, I owe a Hat Tip to Latuff (one of my favorite cartoonists) and Dawud Walid for inspiring this post. I had been thinking about this topic for some time now, espcially since the NYU event on RACE, RELIGION, and POLITICS. There was an excellent panel discussion that included:
  • Faiza N. Ali, representing CAIR-NY
Sometimes, we need a wake up call from some pioneers to remind us where we stand. Too many people fought for African-Americans to be where we are today in this country. To many people died for just the right to vote, the right to speak out, and to stand up for what they knew was right. The same goes for Muslims in America. (Well not exactly the same, but I hope you can follow what I'm saying without me going through extensive examples.)

I think lately, America's Islamophobia has really started to show itself with Obama's accusations as a "closet Muslim", Imam Siraj Wahaj's accusations of being a "Terroist Imam", and South Carolina senators implying that there's no difference between Obama and Osama. (among other stories)

Muslims are really being portrayed in a negative light and many Muslims are waiting for Obama to really come out and say it: THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING MUSLIM. (We know where McCain stands.) Obama has said it on a few occasions but has failed to really stand up for and defend Muslims when they're attacked by those who wish to spread Islamophobia. And I think we all know why.

As I said on Brother Dawud's post:

I think he has the power to change how people feel about Muslims and Islam. I believe that Obama wants to stand up for what is right because that is the type of person I believe him to be. I think in due time, things will pan out but it might take a stronger push from the Muslim community. All those new stats of Muslims in America show little value politically if we can’t come together to stand up for what unites us the most: Islam.


Dawud said...

Actually, it's time for the Muslims to push the discourse in this country more and challenge the very premise of the Islamophobic attacks, which is that Muslims are a threat to the "American way of life."

I think that we'll be holding our breathe for a very long time waiting for Obama to give a speech on religion to say that Islamophobia is "Un-American."

DC said...

ASA dawud and Marcus, I agree with the point, but I don't see where it is Obama's responsibility to stand up for Al-Islam and Muslims. If elected president, he may do so over time, but its not his responsibility. How people view Al-Islam and Muslims in America is our responsibility as Muslims in America. Allah instructs us to be "witnesses to the people as the Prophet (Saw) is a witness to us." Our behavior and relationships and our actions in our daily lives demonstrate Islam to people. When the more focus and emphasis is placed on how we act, treat people, and are involved in the fabric of American life. I just came from a birthday celebration for a Muslim sister where some 50 or more non-Muslims were present. The were her neighbors, co-workers, children see used to babysit and helped to raise, family members, and friends. All of them bore witness to her character. For these people, what the media says about Muslims is not as strong as the real life example of this sister in their life and memory. - Tariq

DC said...

(continued from above)
The point is that when we are involved in the true fabric of American life, not segregrating into our private Muslim groups for our own Muslim interests, not just complaining about whats being done to Muslims and standing up for humanity, taking action that helps the human problems affecting our communities, we will not have to worry about the media. Churches and human service groups that we partner with to help with drug addiction, domestic violence, cleaning up the environment, helping to lower the crime rate in the area, etc. will speak on our behalf. This is in-line with the example of Muhammad the Prophet (saws) who's enemies when asked about him couldn't say anything bad about his character. Even though they strongly objected to his message. I understand that oftentimes, our communities are not solid enough themselves to branch out and truely do the larger work in the community that surrounds the Masjid. But in the immigrant communities that are financially able, oftentimes these efforts are an afterthought. In Atlanta, they only became prominent after 9/11 to take some of the heat off of them. If we are not living the example of Al-Islam, we can't expect not to have these awful pictures of our religion. The reason people believe that Muslims are terrorists is b/c there are "Muslims" who are using terrorism and inflicting barbaric acts of violence on innocent men, women and children to further their twisted agenda. Apparently, their actions are louder than the good that we do. Just some of my thoughts on another approach in dealing with this issue. Obama speaking up wouldn't hurt, but I don' t see it as his responsibility. If we allow our hurt feelings over this stop us from possibly getting him elected, we deserve what we get. Obama ended his book Audacity of Hope with a paragraph about the most beautiful sound at sunset being the muethin call in Indonesia.

I apologize for the typos.

thelegacymaker said...

wa ASA,

1. Well said Tariq.

2. I don't believe it is Obama's responsibility per se to defend Muslims in America...he's not Muslim. But like a local politician is elected to represent his/her district (the values and issues that the people feel are important), Obama represents America in the same light. America stands for Freedom, Justice and Equality for all...its representative should as well. With that said, Obama is STILL the BEST candidate and he exemplifies those qualities of a leader and representative for the heart of the American people, despite what may appear to be his short comings (but in fact maybe our OWN short comings).

3. I think you hit the nail on the head when you spoke of Muslims being known by their actions in the community!! I have seen this as the solution to our Islamophobia problem for some time now.

And I will say this also...I think much of the leadership potential lies on African-American Muslim (hated Many immigrant Muslims struggle with the idea of being accepted as American and how to "integrate" themselves into American life. Many African-American Muslims don't face this problem. Imagine if Muslims where known by their character more than their their actions and charity in the community...we have a job to do. I'm excited!

MysticSphinx said...

This may be slighly off topic.... But religion and politics have no business doing "the tango". While much of society looks at Obama as "the great Black Hope" and hope he'll unify everyone and etc. I agree that its not his job as president to promote any Islamic agendas disipate the wave of ignorance about Islam and this "phobia".

I think that it's really a sign from Allah that we haven't been doing enough in our Dawah efforts. Yea we go out and have these "interfaith dialogues". But that is NOT ENOUGH!! Lets take a serious evaluation of Masjids across the country..... I'm will to make a "halal bet" (if there is such a that at least 75% of them are in bad neighborhoods. But what have we done to help out the community?... I'm not talking about the Masjid Community (or Ummah)... I am talking about the people who pay taxes around the block from the Masjid that you go to on Friday (and maybe Sunday)... then get back in your cars and go back to your nice home on the other side of town.

The real problem is that we isolate ourselves in the things we do. Yea its good and important to build the Ummah and all of that.... but have we accomplished if we have done nothing to in our physical community. We aren't active in the neighborhood meetings, city ordinance functions, etc. We aren't doing enough to build up the communities we pray and worship. If we really put effort in that.. We will see some real change in the way Islam is viewed in this country. Maybe we need to go back to the N.O.I. or Jehovah Witness approach of knocking on doors in neighboorhoods. At least people will know that we exist and attempt to care about them.

As far as religion and politics.... I really really really hate politics and religion comingling. As of lately, I keep going to Jummah and hearing political references during the Kutbah.. and that really disturbs me. Besides the fact that its illegal (nonpartisanship to keep nonprofit status) its just tacky. Yes im a supporter of Obama, but im tired of hearing Imam's mentioning his name and giving him shoutouts and saying "he's a sign from Allah". If its not in the Qur'an and/or doesn't involve Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).... it doesn't belong in Jummah. Just my 06 cents.

DC said...

I feel you Muhammad, but I have to point out that our example Prophet Muhammad was both a political and religious leader. He acted as a diplomat, statesman, Prophet and Messenger. So in Islam, there is not this idea of a separation in civic and religious duty. They all are included in being an excellent human being who submits to Allah as a servant and is a service to humanity.

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