Mohamed Khodr’s Column
On this Eid Al Fitr Al Mubarak, Eid Ramadan Al Kareem, Muslims around the world are celebrating the end of Islam’s holiest month, Ramadan, the month of revelation, salvation, hope, mercy, and guidance by Allah’s mercy and love for mankind to His straight path. What a wondrous, blessed and miraculous night Lailat Al Qadr is whereupon our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, a simple illiterate man of great moral character heard the voice of the Angel Gabriel, peace be upon him, tell him ”READ”. Imagine an illiterate man told to “READ” what he could read and told to comprehend that Allah (SWT) created man and taught him by the “PEN” that which man was ignorant of. From such a miraculous beginning of “READ” and “PEN” the Holy Prophet (pbuh) carried the torch of Allah’s (SWT) message to enlighten mankind with the knowledge and message of Islam that spread like wildfire to the corners of the known world and burnt brightly for centuries as long as humanity served and worshipped the one and only one, Allah (SWT). Such was the blessing of that first Ramadan in Islam, a faith based on the knowledge and worship of Allah (SWT) through His Signs in humanity, nature, and the universe, a faith of good works, good deeds, brotherhood and sisterhood, high moral principles, tolerance, forgiveness, and peace.
How did Ramadan find this “Ummah” 1,422 years later? What is the status of the Muslim world during this Eid Al-Mubarak? I can only speak for myself, a Muslim full of anger, despair, hopelessness, lacking in deep knowledge and understanding of my faith, a man lost for decades but struggling now physically and emotionally to find my path to Islam and to Allah’s (SWT) loving mercy and grace.
I find that the small Muslim community in my city consisting of Asians, African Americans, and Arabs reflects the larger dysfunctional picture of our Muslim world. None in our community is a learned Muslim knowledgeable in the faith, able to answer questions, able to be a true Imam for our Mosque. Our social interaction is non-existent. Despite our small numbers we are divided along racial, ethnic, linguistic, and economic lines. A small number of us meet on Friday for Jummah prayer. Most of our small community don’t even attend prayers nor are they capable or willing to donate money toward our Mosque or willing to participate in any community activities. There’s a dual sense of apprehension, especially during these times, of being vocal or seen in the community but a greater sense of apathy permeates our community that stands in the way of our participation in politics, education, defending our faith, or performing Da’wah. For some reason Muslims keep Islam their private faith and business. It is almost as if we’re ashamed of our faith, or our lack of knowledge in it, or that we mistrust each other given our different backgrounds and culture, or perhaps that deep down we don’t feel a sense of kinship or brotherhood with each other, or for some unknown reason we don’t wish good blessings for each other, or that we envy each other. Maybe we feel a sense of competition with each other or maybe it’s a sense of arrogance and conceit that some of us feel we’re superior to others due to our heritage, Arabic language, monetary gain, or maybe it’s just plain racism. I’ve often heard African-American Muslims express the view that immigrant Muslims feel that their sense of Islam and knowledge is superior to theirs and they resent that. Even in this great open land of America where freedoms are there for the taking, where Americans respect and respond to strong opinions and convictions even if they disagree with you and where tragically there is more interest and respect for Islam than in Muslim countries themselves, Muslims are content with making a living, not rocking the boat, and avoiding any political or educational activism on behalf of Islam. There are a few courageous Muslims who will stand up for Islam, democracy, rule of law, and justice, but they are few in numbers. While the few do engage America the majority of Muslims are content living in quiet “Muslim Ghettos” neither seen nor heard. If there is a land and a people where Islam can spread easily and quickly, it is the United States of America. It is a land hungry for truth, stability, a strong relationship with God, and direction in life. Ironically, it’s the new American reverts to Islam who are carrying the banner of Islam to America while the “immigrant” Muslims want to disappear into America without any assimilation or culturization into the American society. Tragically but truthfully Muslims are treated better in America than they are in Muslim countries, as per my own experience.
Additionally, and despite our small numbers we are also divided into political camps of moderates and extremists with the extremists wanting to present Islam harshly in an uncompromising manner. We have the truth and YOU others don’t which often leads to tension in the larger community. While the moderates want to engage the community in a dialogue of understanding and mutual respect. Even within the same Muslim family there is very little guidance and education from the parents to their children thus making the children susceptible to Un-Islamic behavior in a very open American society. Politically, our community is inactive in defending Islam. No one writes the local paper on Islamic issues or writes their Congressman, or contacts the major media to defend or teach Islam. Few ever contribute financially locally much less nationally to national Islamic organizations. Few speak out about the fate of the dying Muslims around the world from Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir, Philippines, to Burma or any other Muslim country. Thus even becoming American citizens does not convey any courage to American Muslims to exercise their guaranteed freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, or protest. Muslims here and abroad are hypocritically content with laying the blame on “others” for their misfortune while whine and complain that resolutions to “Muslim” problems and conflicts must necessarily come from the United States, Europe, the United Nations or anywhere else except from their own lands. We blame America for installing and supporting “dictators” when all the Muslim countries have ever known for centuries are dictators. If we’re so dissatisfied with such dictators why aren’t we the Muslims overthrowing them and establishing democracies consistent with our glorious faith, Islam? Israel, America, and the rest of the world are simply working in their national interests even if that means genocide of others. What are we doing for our national interests? The Organization of Islamic Conferences (better known as the Organization of Islamic Cowards) just met in Qatar to discuss, again, the Palestinian problem. Their “smart” strategy to counter Israel’s “smart” bombing strategy of Palestinians: FORM A COMMISSION TO STUDY THE ISSUE AND TRAVEL TO WESTERN CAPITALS TO “COMPLAIN”!!! (SALADIN WOULD BE SO PROUD.)
Nationally, the American Muslim organizations are small, weak, underfunded, and divided amongst themselves with conceit, arrogance, and competitiveness for money and media exposure. They have very little impact if any given their own internal problems and the almost total lack of support from the American Muslim community. The larger Muslim organizations are even more impotent, afraid to be pro-active, afraid of political involvement, sensitive to every single feeling that maybe hurt and totally intimidated by Jewish Americans and the media. They are the mice that squeak and not the Islamic lions that roar. It’s depressing to see these organizations glorify the rare invitations and photo ops they get from government officials on their websites and newsletters that are a total waste of money. Their websites are rarely updated and have the same information for weeks while anyone following the Jewish American activism and website will be astounded to see their aggressive, pro-active, instant updates and guidance for their followers. All these Muslim organizations hardly work with each other or meet except to maintain good appearances. None have reached out actively to the Christian, Jewish, African American, or Hispanic (fastest growing population in America) communities to educate them, engage them, develop contacts and strong relationships, invite them to visit Muslim countries, or even hold Interfaith dialogues around the country that garners media attraction.
To be fair they are all underfunded and understaffed limited to simply reacting to issues. They have little political clout or respect that reflects the lack of respect for Islam, Muslims, and Arabs in the West. Would they do a better job if Muslim countries and American Muslims donated to them? That remains to be seen. America is a nation swayed by images, pictures, and stories. Unfortunately, our American Muslim leaders speak in poor English with heavy accents and unfortunately are neither photogenic nor trained in the art of media presentation and communication. God bless them their dedication for they are the only ones doing anything. Muslims are outraged that the righteousness and justice of their belief or point of view is not enough to win the argument, yet that has been their failing strategy for 100 years. In the West, might of words, money, or weapons makes right not the other way around. Unbelievably, we claim 7 million Muslims and only about five ever make it on television. The division of American Muslims along cultural, linguistic, racial, economic, and political ideology reflects the status of 56 nations and 1.3 billion Muslims. Americans are by far the kindest, generous, most understanding and sympathetic people I’ve ever known and I’ve lived, studied, and traveled most of the world. Their reaction to September 11 is not only understandable but is supremely muted, at times even supportive of Muslims, compared to how many of the other nations would have reacted to a similar terroristic tragedy. How would Russia, China, India, Israel or any Muslim country react if the tragedy had struck them? Arab and Muslim leaders are not only incompetent, unsophisticated, and uneducated but they misunderstand American culture totally relying on their oil, money, prestige, and contact with U.S. officials to solve their problems when it is the American people they should reach out to with respect and friendship. Jews have succeeded in America because they’ve used their money to build hospitals, schools, museums, charities, and grassroots political support.
ISLAM IS A GLORIOUS, PEACEFUL, TOLERANT FAITH WHILE MUSLIMS ARE NEITHER.
Muslims ask America to evaluate its mistakes and errant foreign policies post September 11. Why aren’t we, the Muslims, using this same tragedy to self evaluate our politics, our leaders, our poor economies, our illiterate masses, our lack of freedoms, the rise of extremism to foster a future of peace and prosperity with a truer and stronger adherence to Islam? Why aren’t we, American Muslims asking ourselves, the question—Why despite our numbers and our wealth are we so invisible in our great nation of America? Why are we so silent in defending and explaining our faith to our nation? Why can’t we unite to make a difference for our faith, our nation, and our children? Oddly, there are more American Jews and Christians writing to the media in defense of Islam than are the American Muslims. If we live in silence we will die in silence and no one is to blame but ourselves. Allah (SWT) says that He only helps those who help themselves. We American Muslims must be honest about ourselves, accept criticism when its true, and change the things we can to improve our future and our peoples.
Our Eid Al -Fitr this year comes with the most brutal Israeli attack, murder, destruction of lives, homes, and farms, and siege of Palestinian Muslims and Christians since 1967. Additionally, Muslims in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Kashmir are being killed all under the guise of fighting Muslim Terrorism”. Adding humiliation to insult to injury, President Bush has closed Muslim charities in America while massively arresting Muslims without any charges or evidence. Muslim skies are filled with Non-Muslim bombs from Israel, America, Russia, and India. And what are we Muslim leaders and Muslim masses doing this Eid Al -Fitr? CLOSING OUR EYES, EARS, AND MOUTHS. None of us wants our Eid celebrations to be interrupted by the site and sound of Muslim children dying or crying from hunger, thirst, or disease. Excuse me, can I have more Baklhavah?
Is this what Islam is about? Is this what Allah (SWT) and His Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us to do when our brothers and sisters are being killed and starved? Is this what Abu Bakr, Umar Ibn Al Khattab, Uthman Ibn Affan, and Ali Ibn Aba Taleb, Radia Allah Anhum Jamee’in, would do? No, that’s not what they would do. How shocking that American Muslims are not even protesting by letters to the media much less a Million Muslim March on Washington DC. How shocking that all the Muslim streets are quiet giving Sharon the green light to kill Palestinians, not Bush. How shocking that our Muslim leaders are so intimidated and scared to oppose America for fear of losing America’s protection, patronage, money, and free trade agreements. They come to Bush one by one pledging their allegiance to support his fight against Islam, not Muslim terrorism.
I am angry at myself and my Ummah. I am depressed about my own impotence and the impotence and cowardice of my Ummah. I fear facing Allah (SWT) and confess to Him that I watched America bomb Afghan Muslims, Israel bomb Palestinian Muslims, Russia bomb Chechnyan Muslims, and India bomb Kashmiri Muslims, while I cowered in my house afraid to raise my voice or walk out in the street in protest.
I have failed you my Allah (SWT) and I have failed you my beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon you. Forgive me my sins of “silence and omission”. CRY, FOR ME, NO CRY FOR US, MY BELOVED UMMAH.