Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is the imam and director of the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, CA. His biography reveals him to be an authentically American Imam, who has benefited from scholarship in the Islamic world and life experience in the inner-city neighborhoods of inner-city Philadelphia.
Anwar al Awlaki, in contrast, lacks formal Islamic training, and has had a mostly secular education in US colleges while growing up in a middle-class family. Awlaki seems to have been radicalized after 9-11, and now is nothing more than a coward and poseur.
It is important to keep their differences in scholarship in mind, because Awlaki has made a call to jihad for American muslims, demanding that we as a community place loyalty to his religious authority and interpretation above our love and patriotism we have for our home*.
Imam Luqman Ahmad has written a magnificent response to Awlaki which I think perfetccly captures the spirit of American Islam, a concept so alien to Awlaki’s ilk that they are reduced to sputtering “bid’a! bid’a! takfir! takfir!” like insane Daleks, bereft of any emotional connection to their living faith.
I reproduce only a small part of the imam’s response to Awlaki here – but please, read the entire essay.
You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”
Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.
We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country. We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.” Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.
As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect.
Emphases mine – note that word “obligated”. I agree completely.
*arguably the best Islamic nation in the world. Certainly, we muslim-Americans are far freer to practice our faith here in America than we would in any nation ruled by maniacs of Awlaki’s type, such as the Al Shabab of Somalia, who have barred radio stations from playing any kind of music and outlawed school bells because they sound too “christian”.
Related: another response to Awlaki by Hesham Hassaballah. Also a must-read.