Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Celebrating Her Birthday

As families gather all across our country to commemorate the anniversary of our declaration of Independence from the British Crown, I reflect over how important this day is to me as an American Muslim. More than just joining my fellow Americans in the celebration of the birth of his country; more than some time off to relax and enjoy fireworks shows with friends and family; more than just enjoying cookouts and picnics and (if I’m lucky) a round of golf. The independence of the American republic was one of the greatest things for me as a Muslim.

Let me get this out of the way: there have been many things our country has done of which I am not proud. Our foreign policy has – many times – been at odds with the upright principles upon which our country was founded. Our country has not been – and will never be – perfect. Nevertheless, this is still the best country on earth in which to live as a Muslim. I am still in love with our country as she celebrates another birthday and am so very grateful for her independence.

In no other place on earth do I feel more at home as a Muslim. Here in America, I can worship God as I see fit. I am able to worship God freely, without fear of being put in jail for my religious beliefs. Here in America, I can be more of a Muslim than I can be in many – if not most – so-called “Muslim countries.”

Indeed, things are not perfect for Muslims in America. Over the last several years, more than a dozen states have introduced laws prohibiting the non-existent “threat” of Sharia law to our system of government. Some of these laws have seemed to even criminalize the very practice of Islam itself. Some Republican candidates for President seem at ease with singling out Muslims for “loyalty tests” before they join his Administration. Studies have shown a disturbing rise in Islamophobia all across our country.

But this is not the true nature of America. These incidents, while un-becoming of our country, do not represent America any more than the actions of Muslim terrorists represent all Muslims. The true nature of America is present at the fireworks shows, where everyone comes together to watch the “bombs bursting in air” in the night; it is present at the 4th of July picnics and cookouts; it is present at the County Fairs and town festivals. And at each of those venues, American Muslims are – overwhelmingly – welcome and at home.

Get Signed Copy of Noble Brother

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I will be signing copies of my book, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry, at the Soundvision booth at the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America, held in Chicago on July 2nd. Hope to see you there.

Thank God They Were Caught

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Thank God they were caught. Two men – with extensive criminal backgrounds – were arrested on charges of plotting to attack a military processing center in Seattle, Washington. According to the complaint:

Both men are U.S. citizens and converts to Islam, according to the charges. Abdul-Latif is a felon who spent 2 ½ years in prison on robbery and assault charges. Mujahidh had been living in Los Angeles, but came to Seattle as the plan developed, according to the charges. He has no felony criminal history, although he was named in a civil domestic-violence protective order filed in King County in 2007 by his wife.

The men are charged with conspiracy to murder U.S. officers, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (a grenade) and other firearms-related counts. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler ordered them held pending a detention hearing next Wednesday. The maximum penalty for the crimes is life in prison; however, the firearms-related counts carry 30-year mandatory minimum sentences.

There are a number of important points that must be made.

First, thank God they were caught. If what is alleged against them is actually true, it would have been a heinous crime, such as that in Fort Hood, Texas. This is not the way to change policy, and in no way does Islam sanction such methods. If you disagree with our nation’s foreign policy, then you work peacefully to change that policy – not kill and maim people. Period.

Second, the men are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. While the charges are serious, we must let due process take its course. Third, it is important to point out that the actions of these men are an aberration, the actions of a criminal mind (if what is alleged against them is true). They are not representative of the Muslim community, or Islam, or Muslims in general. As the U.S. Attorney said:

These are the actions of individuals who adhere to a violent and extreme ideology and do not represent and should not reflect on the Muslim community as a whole. We hope there is no backlash here. That would not be fair or what we stand for.

Fourth, and most importantly, the plot was foiled by another Muslim. As reported in the complaint:

The complaint details an escalating plot discovered by police on May 30 after Abdul-Latif approached another man who he believed shared a radical Islamic ideology.

The charges allege that Abdul-Latif had known the man for several years and believed he could help him obtain weapons he wanted to use to attack the U.S. military because of events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The man, however, went to Seattle police. The complaint does not identify the informant by name, but describes him as a five-time felon who was paid for his efforts.

True, the informant was not a model citizen. Nevertheless, this shows the fact that – rather than being complicit in terror plots, as Congressman Peter King (R-NY) alleges – the American Muslim community is an active participant in the fight against terror. Many plots, in fact, were foiled by the Muslim community itself.

We love this country, and we are against anyone – Muslim or otherwise – who seeks to harm this country and her people. Thank God these men were caught, and if what is alleged against them is true, may they receive the judgment and justice they deserve.

May God protect our country and protect the Muslim community from barbaric criminals who would do something like this. Amen.

Drive On, My Sisters!

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Perhaps inspired by the “Arab Spring,” women in Saudi Arabia are beginning to challenge the decades-old ban on their getting behind the wheel. According to the Associated Press:

A campaign to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving opened Friday with reports of some female motorists getting behind the wheel amid calls for sustained challenges to the restrictions in the ultraconservative kingdom.

It started after a 32-year-old woman, Manal al-Sharif, who was detained after posting a video of herself driving. She was only released when she reportedly pledged that she would not drive again.

It is about time. It baffles me as to how clerics can justify, based on Islam, that women should not be allowed to drive. They claim that having women driving may spread temptation because women will mix with men. But, this view is completely against the letter and spirit of Islam. There is nothing in Islam that says that women must remain at home and not participate in society at large, out of fear of temptation. If men and women practice Islam properly, there should be no problem at all when they interact in society.

The Prophet Muhammad’s own wife, Khadijah, was a very prominent businesswoman, and after he became Prophet, he did not mandate that Khadijah stay at home. Women were prominent members of society during the time of the Prophet, with some even fighting on the front lines alongside the Prophet (pbuh). His later wife, A’isha, even led an army during the civil war that ensued after the Prophet Muhammad’s death.

This is the reality of Islam and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. This ban on women driving has nothing to do with Islam. The fact that clerics in Saudi Arabia use Islam to justify such a repressive restriction is an aberration. It is high time for our sisters in Saudi Arabia to challenge this ban, based on the principles of Islam itself.

Although I don’t want to see upheaval where people will get hurt, I am in support of more freedom for Saudi women, and all people everywhere. Drive on, my sisters! May God help you in your struggle, your jihad.

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