Myself included, there are over one billion humans on earth who call God by his Arabic name, Allah. Out of that billion, over seven million of us call America our home. Many of us are born as Americans, study in American institutions and go on to work and pay American dollars to our tax system. Like everyone else, we eventually find our better half, have chubby babies, go to zoos, get season tickets to the Chicago Bulls, go on our childrens’ field trips and fix the leak in our roofs. With all the growing pains in the life that we lead as normal Americans, everyday we turn our face to Mecca to pray to what our Christian brothers call God, our Jewish sisters call Yahweh and whom we call Allah.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism have exactly the same origin. We each believe in the monotheistic deity of Abraham, who was the father of all three of these noble religions. Islam’s moral and ethical standards are equivalent, if not more stringent, than those of modern day Christianity and Judaism. We, as Muslims, believe in every Prophet of both Judaism and Christianity. We believe the world began with Adam and Eve and great Prophets, namely Moses, Aaron, Jacob, Joseph and Jesus (peace be upon all of them) were all divinely inspired by God.
We revere Jesus as a great Prophet and the Messiah of God. He is mentioned by name in the Qur’an 33 times. We equally revere the Virgin Mary as the mother of the Messiah. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an and she is mentioned 34 times. Anyone who says Muslims don’t respect women, read the entire chapter dedicated to Mary (peace be upon her). How many times was our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned by name in the Qur’an? Five.
In Islam, a woman receives a monetary dowry from her husband, of which he has no legal claim. A woman is not obligated to change her maiden name. CNN happily broadcasts women being oppressed by the Taliban regime. Islam abhors the oppression of women. The Taliban says women are not allowed to work, yet the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, was one of the most successful merchants in all of Arabia. Should we base our belief on a bunch of tribal warlords or the teachings of our Prophet?
In Islam, both men and women have to dress modestly. One aspect of this modest dress for women is the hijab (head covering). This is a religious mandate, but whether a woman decides to wear it or not, is an issue between her and Allah, because as the Qur’an categorically states, “there is no compulsion in religion.” The hijab symbolizes empowerment, not oppression of women. It allows women to be judged on the content of their character, rather than the physical features that we men today objectify onto them. When we see a nun covered from head to toe in her habit, we commend her on her devotion to God. But when we see a Muslim woman wearing hijab, she is oppressed. In how many likenesses of the Virgin Mary, sculptures or paintings, is her hair not covered? Not one. Was she oppressed? Hardly.
Muslim American is not a paradox. As Muslim Americans, we currently live in a diaspora having to deal with an attack on our, yes, our, country. We also have a dual anxiety because our way of life, which is not far different from our Christian and Jewish counterparts, is under attack.
I am a law student. I study international human rights. I have been to U2, Sarah Maclachlan, Dido and Outkast concerts. I have been a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls. I have owned a Ford Mustang. I pray for peace and have read Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech ninety-six times. I may be a dreamer, but I promise you, I am not the only one.
I am a Muslim and I am an American. I am proud of both and will compromise neither.
Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar is the Midwest Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest non-profit Muslim advocacy and civil rights group. He is a native of Chicago and currently attends law school in St. Louis. (Source: Providence Journal) The American Muslim does not claim primary copyright on the source material. Reprinted in The American Muslim with permission of the author. If you wish to reprint the entire article, you must obtain permission of the copyright holder.