NEVER WILL THEY ACCEPT YOU UNLESS YOU CHOOSE OTHER THAN ISLAM AS YOUR RELIGION
by Robert Salaam
At a certain point those of us who labor in the vast, contemptuous, world of public opinion, debate, and commentary concerning the defense of Islam and Muslims have to take a step back and take a breath lest we find ourselves sick or dead from stress.
I have taken such a breath and will continue to do such as I found myself overwhelmed with the shear insanity of the circular debate that really boils down to the reasonable versus the unreasonable.
Since 9/11, Muslim thinkers, scholars, bloggers, etc. and people of conscience of other faiths have tirelessly attended conferences, lectured, wrote opinion pieces, created blogs, and been interviewed by the media in various forms continuously.
We have had impassioned debate, provided insightful information, and given our all to answer the critics and prove the obvious. For our efforts, we are under-represented in the media, constantly asked the same silly questions, and no matter how many historical, textual, mathematical, or just plain reasonable facts we offer, when the smoke clears and the interview is over, the next headline is more sensational than the last, and our writings, appearances, etc., all that we have done fades off into the sunset of forgotten year old memories as if we were never there in the first place.
The insanity, you know doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, that many of us are afflicted with compels us to dust ourselves off and do it all over again when the next headline or anti-Islam/Muslim critic makes enough noise to get some press.
Where does this tumultuous cycle get us?
As one who has engaged in this holding pattern I can only speak from experience when I say, absolutely nowhere. Sure it’s a pessimistic view and I’m not necessarily stating that our efforts are in vain. Many have changed their views about Islam and Muslims based simply on exposure from actual Muslims and those actually knowledgeable about Islam.
In fact, study after study, proves that the more a person knows about Islam or knows actual Muslims the less likely they are to be hostile to Muslims/Islam. So no, I’m not suggesting that we stop our efforts, hang up our pens, and just sit back and watch the fireworks.
What I am suggesting is that we look at the big picture as a means to make better decisions as to how much we choose to engage or not.
When I first got into “defending” against critics I was overzealous in many ways. Any untoward comment about Islam or Muslims that was made on a message board in which I was a member would be grounds for me to debate at length against the one who made such commentary. After literally tens of thousands of words in response to these comments, I finally decided to create a blog.
My intention behind this blog has been and will always be exposure. I wanted to just share my thoughts as an American Muslim to any who cared to read. I thought that if people stumbled upon my blog and liked what they read or not, at a minimum they would at least know how one Muslim thinks within a billion. My motivation was my very own conversion experience. At first I was hostile to Muslims and Islam after 9/11, but I didn’t know anything about Islam or Muslims other than what the media had presented to me. It took for me to actually read a Qur’an myself that my views changed so much that I inevitably converted to Islam as a result. In my personal experience, I realized that hearts and minds can and often due change based simply on exposure. I took the Marine “lead, follow, or get out of the way” approach and just ran with it.
Now almost 6 plus years later I’m burnt out. After hundreds of thousands of words written, many interviews some in the mainstream media and some internationally, and even after hosting my own podcast, I’m officially hanging up the towel in a way.
Primarily, because I embrace the big picture and it has tempered my thoughts, softened my zeal, and have allowed me more peace.
Those of you who have ever been in a debate with the Walid Shoebat’s or Pamela Gellar’s of the world the darlings of non-Muslim extremists will know what I mean. These people who have forged entire careers by whipping up a certain demographic of the US into a frenzy with their constant bellowing about the “dangers of Islam/Muslims”. These people have the unique ability to take average, mild mannered, Muslims from ordinarily meek and humble people to agitated, frustrated, and near heartache people.
Due to my pigmentation I cannot visibly blush, but My God sometimes the blood rushes to my head, my blood pressure rises, and I feel light headed listening to these people.
I have a family that I have to provide for, what sense does it make for me to leave the office, or take time from my family, to debate a person who’s wealthy and makes a career out of stirring hate?
Yet, many of us do it, and some of us enjoy it. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there was a time when I couldn’t wait for the next adrenaline rush that a debate provided, but in the end analysis, you have to take a step back and look at your motives and intentions.
Who is the debate about?
What is there to gain from the debate?
Dear brothers and sisters, when we look at these two questions we can see that it’s increasingly clear that we temper our responses and redirect our energies to more positive and fruitful means of dialogue. Debates are OK every now and then I guess, but if look at what’s going on, it’s really detrimental to us spiritually and physically the more we engage in it.
The media runs these “discussions” like an event in the Colosseum. They pit the Muslim who’s only goal is often to just say “hey we are all not bad people” against the angry white guy or woman (very seldom a minority) who want’s to emphatically prove that all Muslims are evil and the Muslim across from them is a liar. Meanwhile the producer rubs their hands and salivates at the potential ratings the “discussion” will produce and the angry purveyor of hate is happy to please their base and increase sells of their book or increase their speaking fee for their next event.
The Muslim on the other hand is facing an uphill battle that can only end in being shouted at, talked over, and ignored just to be told in the near future that Muslims aren’t speaking out.
Often you will find that the Muslim has a 9-5 job is of lesser means than the other guests and doesn’t make money for their presence, whereas the other guest is usually a best selling this or that and makes lots of money just to say “Muslims are evil”.
So I have come to the conclusion that I will only engage in this madness when I feel like it, I will only blog when I feel like it especially on this issue, and my podcast is already in hiatus so I don’t even know if I will ever do one again or not, we will see.
Because, our very text in the Qur’an makes it quite clear that in truth no amount of effort on our part no matter how well intentioned, will ever change the hearts and minds of those intent our disbelieving our claims, unless we decide to be anything other than a Muslim.
Snow reports would be coming in from hell before you will ever hear these “experts” against Islam/Muslims ever state that Muslims categorically as a group of 1.5 billion are no more or less different than any other group of 1.5 billion people on Earth. Besides, what’s their incentive, given the financial reward? We are the story of the moment, the “minority” of the minute, and unless Hispanics and Gays start blowing things up, we are going to be the preferred choice of bigotry for quite sometime and it doesn’t help that the majority of us have more pigmentation in our skin than our critics.
So why do we continue?
Are we really trying to defend Islam? Seriously, God is more than capable to do that Himself. Are we trying to defend Muslims in general? I hope not, because the short answer is we can’t, besides if we were it would be Muslim versus Muslim more often than not. So what’s left?
I can’t speak for all my other brothers and sisters committed to this struggle, but I will share why I haven’t just given up completely even though part of me thinks I should.
As I told my wife years ago, I do this for them. I can’t stomach the idea that the country that I serve and love, has become the country that it is as it relates to Muslims and those of other faiths. As long as I have breath and the ability to be a voice no matter how small, I will not suffer my country to become one where my wife would face harassment doing something as simple as buying groceries for our family or my children harassed for their Arabic names. That is not the ideal of the country I swore an oath to protect and defend and it’s not the country I hope to see. So I use what little time I have when I’m not providing or spending time with my family to share with my fellow Americans that what these professional con artists are saying and doing by preying on your fears and ignorance is wrong and that I am just as American as Apple Pie as you are and we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Other than that, I refuse to exert myself or allow stress to overwhelm me based on this or that comment, book, article, etc.
These people will continue with the rhetoric until it’s no longer profitable and there is no more to gain from it. Heck, I’m convinced most of them don’t even believe what they sell and have Muslim doctors and lawyers whom they frequently engage with. I call it the Jeffersonian complex, being against something while being for it at the same time, or as John Kerry uneloquently put it, they were against it before they were for it. It’s only a matter of time that some of them get caught having hookah and hummus fetishes, like the anti-gay preachers who get caught with male prostitutes.
Hakuna Matatah brothers and sisters, it’s the only way to not let it all get to you. Remember that no matter how much effort you put in, it will never matter to those hell bent against you. Do what you do for Allah (swt), the Ummah, and those reasonable people who do in fact care. Debating to be right will forever be wrong and such passion is a path to the dark side.
Live long and prosper,
As Salaam Alaikum
Visit Robert Salaam’s website at http://theamericanmuslim.net/