The month of November this year proves to be a significant crossroads for a considerable part of humanity. For one-fifth of the global population, this month symbolizes a cleansing of their souls through fasting during daylight hours. For Americans, this month brings about a shift in our governmental structure, which gives the president’s party control of both houses of our legislature. Both of these occurrences are important to many people and for many Americans, including myself, we feel the effect and impact of both of these occurrences in our lives.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar year. This month for Muslims is the equivalent of Lent for Catholics and Yom Kippur for Jews. This month serves as a time for self-reflection, gratitude and atonement. The religious concept of fasting symbolizes many things. First and foremost, fasting allows one to truly appreciate the great bounties bestowed upon us. By abstaining from what we love and survive on, one garners a greater appreciation for the blessings bestowed upon us. It serves as a remembrance that there are many people on Earth who do not have the same luxuries that we normally take for granted in our charmed lives.
One aspect that many of us take for granted in our charmed lives is the free will and ability to select those who will govern us. With the Republicans regaining the majority in both houses of Congress, President Bush has received a flimsy mandate which will allow much of his agenda to pass through a Congress that may not have acquiesced a few days ago. His tactical delay in nominating Supreme Court justices may now reap major dividends for those sympathetic to the conservative agenda. A Republican majority almost assures any Supreme Court nominee of his to pass Senatorial confirmation and revisit issues such as abortion, prayer in school and the marginalization of our constitutional liberties. Many analysts also believe that had the Democrats remained true to their opposition of President Bush’s unlawful war song on Iraq that perhaps Senatorial control may have remained with the status quo. It is sad to note that Democratic opposition to the war on Iraq may have been stronger had this not been an election year.
As most Muslims use the month of Ramadan as a time for pause and reflection, I earnestly hope that our elected leaders will use that same pause and reflection in deciding which path on the crossroads our country will take. We must not forget that our country is one based on the essence of law and where individuals’ rights are paramount to those of the government. Although I am saddened to see that the checks and balances that were once in place have all but disappeared overnight, I have faith in the collective will of my people. As I use this time to contemplate how I can better myself as a person and protect the beauty of my faith, I hope that our elected officials will not squander this opportunity to protect the beauty of our country.
Arsalan Iftikhar serves as Midwest Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He attends Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.