The Importance of the American/Western Muslim voice
by Robert Salaam
I posted photographs of three American Muslims on my blog. Who are these three people and why have I posted their pictures?
They are Imam Hamza Yusef founder of the Zaytuna Institute, Ingrid Mattson former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and Imam Warith Deen Muhammad founder and former leader of the largest African American Muslim Community the American Muslim Society/Mosque Cares.
I mentioned these three great scholars and leaders of Muslims because they represent to me just a small sample of what can be done, what is being done, and what needs to be done by each and every Muslim here in America, the “West”, and abroad in truth.
These three leaders all represent and or founded organizations that represent Islam from not only the American perspective, but from the perspective that illustrates what Islam truly is, as opposed to the face of radicalism present in many non-western Muslim societies, as well as the face presented by “western” media outlets that perpetuate the lie of radicalism and market it as the face of Islam, which it is not.
I was motivated to create the posting after having had a blessed event this past weekend at my home. I invited several local Muslim families to my house for a potluck dinner and all but one were associates I had met on a msg board. We sat, ate, and discussed Islam and what we as Muslims should be doing versus what we are doing. Looking around the room we represented what the Muslim physical reality is. Some of us were black Americans, some from Africa, some from Pakistan, Egypt, Britain, etc. Some women wore hijab others did not, however, we were all Muslim and all dedicated to improving the lives of Muslims.
From this eventful night I realized and also discussed with my guests that it is incumbent on each and every Muslim especially those of us here in the US to show the world that my living room Saturday night was Islam. The idea the people of varying backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicity’s, dress, etc. could come together in peace united under the same faith discussing the issues of peace not just in words, but also in actions.
We all left that night with a renewed commitment to be the voice of tolerance, moderation, and peace in an increasing atmosphere where much is needed and where the opposite is perpetuated often by others who also call themselves Muslim.
As Muslims we all have to be ambassadors of the faith, not because we want to convert others, but to defeat falsehood with truth. We have to defeat the falsehood that all Muslim women are oppressed, that Muslims are violent and committed to killing non-Muslims, that Muslims are anti-America, anti-Christian, anti-”West”, etc. This need is so dire in this day and age.
We need to recognize that while most of us don’t live in the East that the actions there do affect us both directly and indirectly. We have to get to a point we not only protest against the Iraq war, but also protest against terrorism and the hijackers of Islam. We have to be more vocal because our lives, those of our children, and families depend on it. As I told the sisters in the room, the looks you get at the grocery store, mall, etc. because of your dress, the harassment, and even assaults as one sister told her horrible story, we are all partly responsible for. No I’m not making an apology for other’s ignorance, however, what I’m saying is that our lack of action, voice, and ambassadorship only helps grow the ignorance that is used against us. When we are silent, that means we are not educating. When we are not educating falsehoods continue to grow and so does ignorance. My point is, unless we take back the reins of the perceptions, stories, fables, etc. that are told about us, we are complicit in it’s effects. Oftentimes, we are our own worse enemies.
We cannot allow others to place us into boxes. We have the power and must create, shape, and determine what box if any, we will place ourselves. We need the Islamic response. Just like here in America, after the State of the Union the opposing party has their response and opinion on the issue presented, as Muslims we need to do the same thing. Every time a Muslim who doesn’t represent us or Islam speaks we should follow with the Islamic response. We need a Million Muslim March against radicalism, terrorism, and for truth. We need more peace rallies. We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.