In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring
Let us leave aside several facts:
1. African-American Muslims have been an integral part of the civil rights struggle in America for decades. A substantial portion of the slaves brought to America were Muslim, and thus, Black History is American Muslim history.
2. The Quran exhorts the believer to stand up for justice, even if it means bearing witness against his or her own family or community:
O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do! (4:135)
O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do. (5:8)
3. The Quran also holds Muslims to a high standard: “Enjoining the good and forbidding evil”:
You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God… (3:110)
4. It is part of our faith as Muslims to stand up for those who are oppressed, no matter who they are.
5. Scores of African-Americans (Muslims among them) fought, marched, protested, bled, and even died to give me the privilege to live where I live, work where I work, and vote where I vote. Black History Month commemorates and honors their most important part of our American history. As an American Muslim, I am forever indebted to their sacrifice.
Let us leave all that aside, as important as that is, for just a moment.
If for no other reason, we American Muslims have to show up and take our place at the vanguard of those fighting for the rights of others, because so many fellow Americans showed up and stood up for us, including African-Americans.
Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who showed up at airports all across our country to object to the Muslim ban. Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who showed up to mosques and show their support. Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who letting this Administration know that discrimination is not who we are as a nation and a people.
It is so very heartening, and I am so very grateful to God for such beautiful neighbors.
Now, this is not to say that American Muslims have not fought for the rights of others. On the contrary, Muslims have been among the leaders of the fight for social justice.
Nevertheless, from this point and forever forward, American Muslims cannot shirk their responsibility to stand up for the rights of all who are oppressed; from this point and forever forward, American Muslims must see the struggles of others as their struggles; from this point and forever forward, an affront to justice against anyone else must be an affront to them personally.
We are already seeing heartening signs of this in the Trump Administration, and it must continue and strengthen over time. If the exhortations of the Qur’an to stand up for justice are not enough, then the extraordinary support that ordinary Americans have shown their Muslim neighbors must motivate American Muslims to stand up for their neighbors who are oppressed. Failure to do so would be a travesty of ingratitude.