The Fourth and the Flag
In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
With the Fourth of July comes the barbecues, cookouts, picnics, and family/friend get togethers. AND, don’t forget the fireworks!!! In my old days, I would shun fireworks shows as “un-Islamic” celebrations. I have since changed my views, and I try not to miss a fireworks show, especially for the sake of my two young children. The Fourth of July is an American cultural tradition, commemorating independence from Britain, and Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people so long as they conform with its principles. I do not know of any principles of Islam that are violated with watching fireworks.
“Ah, Ah, Ah,” you may be telling the computer screen. “There is a principle that is violated: nationalism. Islam bans nationalism.” Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did say about nationalism: “Leave it, it is rotten.” Furthermore, in my mind, inevitably, the image of the flag is conjured up whenever I think about the Fourth. Surely, that is nationalistic, right?
Um, no, and I’m going to explain why later. But first, I have to say something about the flag. Before 9/11, I would have never even considered putting a flag pin on my jacket or medical coat. Since that horrible day, however, I happily place one on my lapel. And it is not out of fear or a desire to show non-Muslim Americans that I love this country.
On that day, I decided to fully engage in my society and embrace my American-ness. Hence, the flag pin. You might think this is blasphemy, but I don’t think so. What is the flag, anyway? It is nothing more than the symbol of this country. It represents my homeland, and thus it represents me. Now, that symbol denotes and connotes many things to many people. For me, like I said, the flag is a symbol of my country. For many others, especially in the Muslim World, however, the American flag is a symbol of oppression, hypocrisy, arrogance, aggression, and belligerence.
That truly saddens me. The face of America that has been shown to Iraq, for example, is not the true face of this country. The face of America that was shown at Abu Ghraib is not the true face of this country. The face of America shown at Guantanamo Bay is not the true face of America. But, inevitably, those faces are associated with the flag, and thus the flag symbolizes those ugly and horrible things.
But that is not what the flag means to me. To me, the flag represents my ability to worship God as a Muslim more freely than in many, many majority Muslim countries across the world. It represents the warmth of my neighbor who welcomed me to my neighborhood with open arms, even though he is not a Muslim. It represents the freedom to think and say what you want, even if it that means mocking the President. To me, the flag represents everything good about this country, and thus I happily wear the flag pin my person.
So many people tell me - out of anger toward some of the things America does - to take down my flag pin. I always refuse, because the flag does not represent those things to me, like I said above. But wearing my flag pin does not mean I support everything America does. No. When I wear my flag, I am saying, “This is the symbol of my country, and I am blessed to be an American.” Not that all who are not American are cursed. No. I am blessed to be American because God made an American, and whatever God chooses to make me is a blessing.
So, on this Fourth of July, as I take in the wonder of the dazzling fireworks display, I will think about my flag and all the good that it represents. And this will cause me to feel some pain, because I know that Old Glory also represents so many bad things to so many people across the world. What a damn shame. What a damn shame.