Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Memorial Day...What it Means (or should mean) To Muslims
In the name of Almighty God, Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. This year, Memorial Day falls on May 31 (a day before my birthday). What do you know about Memorial Day? Memorial Day started as a day to remember those who died in the Civil War, and eventually it was turned into a day to remember all those who fought and died in America's wars, defending the freedom that you and I enjoy. Now of course many of my brothers and sisters in Islam will say things like "many of these American troops died killing our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan", and subsequently will argue that we should not recognize such a day or if we do to only recognize it as some kind of day of protest.
We know of course that there is a mass propaganda machine within our mainstream media that is bent on portraying Islam and Muslims as backward, dangerous and un-American. It doesn't matter if your watching conservative leaning Fox News or liberal leaning MSNBC. Many conservatives seem to fear and dislike Islam and liberals just dislike religion in general. So we as Muslims are "damned if we do, damned if we don't". Almost all of us recognize this. However we don't tend to recognize that there are equally fervent propagandists in the Muslim world and some amongst the Muslim community here in the US, who want to portray America as an enemy to Islam. They often point to legitimate grievances that Muslims have with American governmental policy (especially foreign policy), and exaggerate them into this grand conspiracy theory in which the American government is waging a secret war against Islam itself and is purposely targeting innocent Muslims and are trying to undermine Islamic theological scholarship.
Our brothers and sisters who live in the Muslim world, don't have the luxury of free press. I know your saying "well our media isn't unbias" but I'm not talking about Fox News and MSNBC. I'm talking about the internet, books in the library and the ability to actually go to people and hear from them themselves what they think and believe. Muslims in today's Muslim countries don't have this because in most Muslim majority countries, the government controls all aspects of public "information", whether it comes from TV, radio, internet, newspapers and even books and public events. So we, who live in the US, have an advantage that they don't in that we can know the truth if we truly seek it, and have enough of an open mind and enough patience to accept it. We therefore have a responsibility to educate our brothers and sisters back in the Muslim countries about the things that they don't see on their state-run media outlets.
One of the main things they don't see, is the principals that America is founded upon. They are only exposed to skewed images and sound bites of America killing Muslims and others, and basically wreaking havoc in the rest of the world. They don't see that America is intended to be a place where people of all faiths, including Islam, are free to live as they choose and practice their faith without the interference of the government. They don't see that in one of the earliest formal encounters between America and the Muslim world, the founders expressly laid out America's position on Islam.
Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, 1797 c.e.
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
This law is still technically on the books. So, there you have it; the American government is restricted by law from engaging in any war against Muslim nations or people strictly on the basis of religious opinions. America is not, nor will it ever, be at war with Islam itself. Yes there have been those in the American federal government who have either made serious mistakes that have cost Muslim lives, or maybe a few that do actually hate Islam, but for the most part, America tries to do what is in the best interest of it's citizens and what is in the best interests of justice.
Why am I saying all this? I am saying all this because when it boils right down to it, America is the most just, religious (a varying religions), and charitable nations on Earth today. We as Muslims who live in this country, and who enjoy all of the freedoms of this country, need to be more keen to recognize that.
We may say, "Well America is a small percentage of the world's population, yet it consumes the most resources". We may also say "in America, anyone making even 30,000 a year is in the top 7% of the wealthiest people on Earth......spread the wealth!....America is greedy!!!....fat, rich, lazy Americans....raahhhh". Well lets talk about that. How much money did the US send to say Haiti, the western hemispheres poorest nation, in the aftermath of their tragic earthquake? The answer....two days after the quake, President Obama announced an aid package of over $100 million, not to mention we even deployed our military to help them. Okay now how much aid did Saudi Arabia send? $0. Other Muslim countries like the U.A.E. did send something like $500,000 and supplies as well as supplies from Jordan and Turkey and about $1 million from Kuwait. Does any of that even come close to equally what the US sent? No. Ok how bout how much money has been sent to Muslim countries. Egypt receives about $2 billion of American taxpayer dollars every year. Pakistan gets about $7 million annually not including money it gets to supposedly fight Al Qaeda. The US is the biggest giver of aid to Palestine. George W. Bush tripled aid to Africa during his time in office. With America being the most charitable nation in the world, should America then be punished on top of that for being prosperous? The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that wealth never decreases with charity. That being the case is it any wonder for us Muslims that America is the most prosperous nation on Earth.
America is also prosperous because of it's commitment to justice and rule of law. In many Muslim countries, corruption runs rampant in government. Elections are fixed, police consistently take bribes rather than uphold the law equally, and government officials consistently make laws and rules that inhibit basic rights of free speech, assembly and religion. In the US, this is not the case. If someone is discriminated against based on their ethnicity or religion, they can find legal recourse thru police and law enforcement no matter their socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. The president himself is subject to the same laws that normal citizens are subject to and the transition between presidents have taken place peacefully, despite radical political differences, since the very first presidential election. Also America has the most diverse religious population of any nation on Earth. There is no nation on Earth today where people of so many different religions can live alongside each other peacefully as they do in the US. These things don't happen in today's Muslim countries.
So what does this have to do with Memorial Day. America is able to be the free, religious, law abiding and charitable nation that is exactly because of those men and women who have fought and died to keep it that way. They stood up to the oppression of King George of England and freed the "new world" from European tyranny by defeating the British Empire, buying France's claim to North America (thus kicking them out), and defeating Spanish interests as well. They fought both to end slavery and preserve the union on one side of the Civil War, and fought to limit federal power and stand up for states' rights on the other. They fought the Nazi Germans and the Empire of Japan against their plots for world domination and kept the world safe from their tyranny and oppression. They fought the evil ideologies of Communism in Korea and Vietnam which had those ideologies been successful, we certainly wouldn't be enjoying what we do today. Now, many of these soldiers and sailors fight, yes, Muslims, but Muslims who have forgotten or ignored the teachings of Islam, and kill and oppress countless thousands. Allah tells us to stand up for justice even when it be against our own selves. Al Qaeda and their ilk kill many many more innocent Muslims than the American military has. Also bear in mind that Muslims have served in every single American war including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Yes America has made mistakes. We made mistakes in not ending slavery earlier than we did. We made mistakes in our dealings with the Native Americans. We made mistakes against our Japanese citizens during WWII, and we've made mistakes in our dealings with the Muslims of the world, but that's what they were....mistakes; not evil plots of world domination; just mistakes albeit tragic ones that often cost innocent lives. Insha'Allah we will learn from our mistakes, however, the bottom line is that today there is no other country on Earth that I'd rather live. There is no other country on Earth where we can practice Islam as freely as we do here, and I challenge anyone who says otherwise.
We are blessed by Allah to live in this place at this time in history; not only because of the freedoms and liberty we enjoy, but because this is a pivotal time in both the history of America and the history of Islam, and we have the opportunity to positively contribute to both. Non-Muslim Americans can learn a lot from us if they are open, and we can learn a lot from our non-Muslim countrymen if we are open. Open not only to their ideas, but open to the call of Allah as it truly is, not as the "image" of Islam that we have, maybe in error, created in it's place.
Of course it's not necessarily Islamic to "celebrate" Memorial Day, however it wouldn't hurt us to maybe make our way down to the parade or attend Memorial Day ceremonies at local cemeteries to show our respect to those who have risked all and in some cases gave all to allow us to live as we do; as Muslims in America.
...And Allah Knows Best...