Hesham A. Hassaballa’s Column
I tried to hear Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL, 2nd District) speak at a function in the Chicago area on March 29. Unfortunately, I walked in as he walked out. Nevertheless, his speech, I was told, was phenomenal. He spoke about civil rights to a group of Muslim Americans and bluntly rebuked them. Some may say that this was disrespectful. I say no. The rebuke was well-deserved.
Congressman Jackson mentioned that the issue of civil rights is not new; it has burned way before September 11, 2001. He rebuked the Muslim community for their failure to stand up for civil rights of others. Where were the Muslims when African-Americans and Hispanics were (and still are) racially profiled by the police? Why haven’t Muslims stood up and demanded equal access to quality health care for all Americans? He mentioned example after example of situations where Muslims should have been on the stage but were not. And the rebuke was well-deserved.
God Almighty commanded Muslims to “stand up for justice” wherever it may be and even if it is against their own selves. Muslims should be at the forefront in demanding an end to racial injustice in America. Muslims should be at the forefront for demanding equal access for all to quality health care; a crisis that is only growing in severity. Muslims should have had the loudest voices crying out against the genocide in Rwanda and not just in Bosnia and Kosova. The rebuke was well-deserved.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was party to an alliance, the Fudul Alliance, in which he agreed to help anyone–regardless of tribe or social station–who is in need. He did this before his ministry as Prophet, and he mentioned that, had a similar alliance been called during his ministry, he would have responded to that one as well. There are many duties citizenship places upon us: the duty to uphold and protect the Constitution; the duty to participate in the political process; the duty to follow and respect the laws of our land. American Muslims, however, have an extra duty placed upon their shoulders: to stand up for justice in America and help make it a better place.
Muslims must do this not to gain converts; not to gain fame; not to gain political influence; American Muslims must do this because their religion demanded nothing less of them. Many generations of Americans before us fought tooth and nail and shed blood, sweat, and tears to bring us the freedoms we now take for granted. Nothing we can ever do will fully repay our debt to them, and may God bless them for their fight for freedom. For too long, American Muslims have failed to take up their responsibility as citizens of this great country. It is high time for American Muslims to take their rightful place in the fight for the civil rights of all Americans. Better late than never.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for Beliefnet.com and Media Monitors Network (MMN). He is author of “Why I Love the Ten Commandments,” published in the book “Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith” (Rodale Press).