Hurdling the American Muslim Challenge
by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
American Muslims have perhaps the best chance to alter the narrative of rage, extremism, tribalism, and Muslim on Muslim killing that’s been going on in the Muslim world. We have among us, Muslims from all over the world, from all cultures, backgrounds, languages, and math’habi or theological leanings. We have it within our grasp to change the statusquo of sectarianism, intra-religious hostility, and classism based upon race, and ethnicity. In addition to that, we have the freedom to practice our faith, the freedom to dialogue in sincerity, to freedom to employ critical discernment in addressing our problems, and we have the freedom to make important decisions about what we want our future to look like. We should do everything possible not to waste this opportunity.
I’m not saying that it will be easy; but I do believe that it is well within the realm of possibility. However, it will require that we address issues of race, racism, ethnic separation, and religious sectarianism within our own ranks. It will also require that we learn to respect each other’s differences, cultures and social norms, and not impose upon each other practices that have been added to the religion that were not from it originally. One thing that we must keep in mind is that we are a diverse community; however, that diversity is only a virtue if we navigate it correctly by coming together. American Muslims have done extremely well in adjusting to a multi-cultural society and to get along with their neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens. We just need to transfer that success to the way we deal with each other.
The biggest hurdle by far I think will be to reconcile between immigrant and indigenous American Muslim communities. People don’t like to admit it but we are still living with the tale of two Muslim Americas; one, made up of indigenous American converts and second generation Muslims, and the other, immigrant communities who by and large view indigenous American Muslims, most of whom are African-American, as subordinates. We don’t like to talk about this or even acknowledge it; nevertheless relations amongst the two groups of Muslims need work.
The very first snapshot of the Muslim community was not only multi-racial, it was egalitarian, as characterized in the hadith of Ammar; “I saw Allah’s Apostle and there was none with him but five slaves, two women and Abu Bakr” (i.e. those were the only converts to Islam then). The Prophet had little regard for anyone’s race, social status, wealth, ethnicity, influence, looks, physical prowess or defects when it came to his choice of associates, and neither should we. He preferred the company of the believers whomever they happened to be, and he valued those who possessed good character.
We have to be concerned not just about the future of Islam, but the future of Islamic civilization as we know it, and have to realize just what it is that we as Muslims have to offer to the world. Muslims all over the world are dependent upon the west; for technology, for military armaments and advanced weaponry, for systems management, for advanced education and for industrial advance. The greatest asset that Muslims have to offer the world is Islam, that is, if we decide to believe in it, practice it and apply its moral principles to the emerging world civilization. I’m not talking about Taliban, or Salafi style imperialism here. I’m talking about the greater Islamic ideal of moral fortitude, justice, egalitarianism, and human rights.
Muslims must embrace the theory of Islamic idealism based upon justice, fairness and righteousness and apply it to our emerging civilization. We must demonstrate our ability to not only get along with each other but to work together a people of faith, as partners, and not as masters versus subordinates. Moral action during the Prophet’s time (SAWS) began with social justice at home and amongst your own people; it’s an idea whose time has come. Let us begin now. .
[1 and 2] Collected by Bukhari