Yet the type of prayer that President Bush has asked us to offer strike me as woefully inadequate, due to its selective and partial nature.
At the heart of a progressive Muslim interpretation is a simple yet radical idea: every human life, female and male, Muslim and non-Muslim, American or Iraqi, rich or poor, is deemed to have precisely the same intrinsic worth. This essential value of human life derives from the fact that according to the Qur'an, each and every human being has been imbued with Divine spirit.
Following this interpretation, the life of each American soldier has exactly the same value as that of Iraqi citizens. As Muslims, we have no choice of asking God to protect our soldiers while turning a blind eye to the slaughter of Iraqi civilians.
I sit here today watching Baghdad burn. As a Muslim I ask God to protect all of his creation, but my prayer will differ from that of the President. I ask God to protect the American soldiers and return them safely home, and I will ask God to protect each and every civilian--Iraqi, American, Israeli, Palestinian.
In this prayer, success cannot be measured simply by noting the lack of casualties on the American side. Since there has already been Iraqi civilian death, this operation is already one that I have to deem as tragic and a violation of God's will for humanity.
The President has reached out to the families of those American soldiers who have been killed or wounded in the war, and acknowledged their great sacrifice, and shared his grief with them. This is good, but not enough. Just as American mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives cry anguish over their loved ones, so do Iraqi citizens. We cannot open our hearts to one branch of humanity while bombing to oblivion another branch. This is a great challenge, especially in these times of fear. But if we wish to embrace all of humanity as one, what choice do we have but to see the suffering of others as our own suffering?
May God bless America indeed, but let us not stop there. Let God bless all of humanity, rich and poor, Muslim and non-Muslim, privileged and non-privileged. And let us as humanity mourn each life that is lost, whether that is an American or an Iraqi. As the Qur'an reminds us, to take one human life is as if to take all human life. One God, one heart, one humanity, one love, one prayer, one loss, one mourning, one compassion.