"No Fear, No Wall"
The Need for having Hope and Building Bridges
Last month was very eventful. The U.S. President signed an executive order preventing travelers and refugees from 7 majority-Muslim countries, with the exception of minorities under persecution, from entering the United States. Regardless of the legal wording of the order, many observers interpreted it as a discriminatory act against Muslims and a fulfillment of Trump's negative rhetoric against Muslims and other minorities during his election campaign. In response to this executive order, the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau expressed his willingness to welcome the refugees. Subsequently, a shooter attacked the Quebec mosque in Canada leaving 6 Muslims killed and others wounded. We do not know if this attack was a rejection of the tolerance showed by the Canadian prime minister or a support of the policy implemented by Trump! Due to these rapid developments, many American fellows erupted at airports around the nation in support of the Muslim community that was directly affected by the order and in defense of the American Constitution that vehemently rejects any type of discriminations against people of a particular faith or race.
Could Trump's era be a blessing in disguise for the Muslim community and the different minorities? I tend to answer this question in the positive provided that we recognize the privileges we have with a corresponding sense of duties and responsibilities. Picking up on the theme "No Fear, No Wall," I advise that we should not allow ourselves to be consumed by fear and isolation; we need to face fear with courage and hope. This article seeks to bring to our attention five powers to recognize along with five corresponding responsibilities to accept.
(1) The Power of the Community
On a cold night at O'Hair airport, I joined a rally against this executive order and was really impressed by the sincerity and enthusiasm of our American fellows who came from all walks of life demanding an immediate nationwide block of the ban. As they incessantly chant "No fear, no wall," I felt the banned persons are literally their close relatives. The ban may have not impacted those protesters directly but they were fighting for the values of our constitution. For the first time, I felt what it means to defend a value just because it is a value, not because you are directly affected by the lack thereof. I also felt the power of the community and the awareness of people as some donated money to legal organizations to defend their constitution. Remarkably, lawyers erupted to some airports to help those who were illegally and unjustly detained. They stayed up the whole night for defending people's legal rights. Moreover, many non-Muslims visited a lot of mosques making human chains in solidarity with the Muslim community. This great support gives Muslims and other minorities a feeling of considerable hope for a healthier society where bigotry and prejudice are absent.
1- This large communal support behooves us to broaden our concept of "community" to include all those who face discrimination, decimation, poverty or suffering regardless of their faith or color. We have to support our African Americans, Latino community, minority rights, and our national concerns in general. Seeing all the diverse communities who supported Muslim rights adds an important duty for Muslims to be actively present and positively engaged and seriously concerned about minorities rights and major issues in our country. Let us contact these minorities and let them know that we support them. As we mobilize the Muslim community to stand for its legal and human rights, we now should do the same with other minorities and hot topics. If we isolate ourselves from the American life and its challenges, we should not blame others for being less supportive of our just causes. We have to be a witness to the strongest declaration of justice which is found in the Quran: "O you who have believed, stand firmly to justice as witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted" (4:135).
2- Practically speaking, we need to create programs for our youth through which they can demonstrate an active Muslim engagement with the society. These programs should include community service, volunteering and charity work. It is this active engagement that will bolster their self-confidence, and challenge the common stereotypes about Muslims.
(2) The Power of Awareness
Long time ago, the NaziLuftwaffecommander Hermann Goering unearthed an old game in politics in the following: “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
It is unfortunate to notice that fear is still used to move the public towards achieving many political agendas. It is stunning how the negative rhetoric against Muslims increases before "elections" or some "crucial political decisions"!In our modern history, we now know that the war on Iraq, that led to the killings of thousands of innocent children, women and men, was based on deceptions, lies, and misinformation. Bush had to simply say: "Sorry, we did not find nuclear weapons there," only after destroying Iraqi cities and creating a political vacuum which turned into a fertile land for ISIS to take shape as Tony Blair himself acknowledged that without the Iraq war there would be no ISIS.
1- It is our responsibility to reach out to our neighbors and stress that Muslim Americans are concerned about security and safety like every other American and maybe even more due to the problem of sweeping generalization and condemnation of a whole community if an attacker turns to be a Muslim.
2- We are determined to stand against extremism and abuse of Muslim Holy Texts which also finds countless parallels in other faiths. We equally stand against Islamophobia, bigotry and prejudice against Muslims. When a person is in authority, he or she must be very careful in his or her word choice. If he or she insists to be a bully, it may be easy for people to imitate his or her behavior and rhetoric in an offensive manner. One can easily discern the remarkable rise of attacks against Muslims since Trump started his election campaign.
(3) The Power of the Constitution
As already mentioned, the American Constitution upholds the basic value of religious freedom. As all religious leaders of this country are committed to the value of religious freedom, we do not expect anyone to denigrate our Faith of Islam that we are very proud of and consider the most precious thing we have. Religious profiling betrays the value of religious freedom and enhances the negative stereotypes against Muslims that led to an increase in the hate crimes against Muslim lives and mosques.
1- Keep practicing your faith with no fear. A Muslim has the right to pray five times a day without being a "suspect"! A Muslim lady has the right to wear her Hijab with all pride and dignity. If you are Muhammad, do not change your name into Moe! Tolerance does not necessitate giving up some of your beliefs; it necessitates that others should accept you for who you are. Your Hijab and your five daily prayers and your Ramadan fast should be part of the diversity of the American life. That makes America great. To ensure safety and security, there should be strong relations with, no religious profiling of, the Muslim community to build more trust and understanding. Religious profiling creates more problems than it solves.
2- We have a responsibility to support trusted legal foundations in America to ensure justice for all.
(4) The Power of History
We learn from history that justice does not forgive apathy or neglect. In American history, many minorities suffered discrimination and injustice. We have a long history of slavery, Chinese exclusion, Japanese internment, anti-Semitism ...etc. It took a lot of time, effort, dedication and sacrifice to overcome these problems, even though some may still argue that remnants of some of these problems continue in different forms. "Great Again" means avoiding our past mistakes, not retrieving them. "Great Again" means putting an end to deceptions, racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, genocide and other disturbing memories.
1- We have the responsibility to develop more political awareness and make sure that all American Muslim citizens are registered to vote to practice their political rights. Similarly, local political participation should be encouraged as well. In many aspects, this local civic engagement is more powerful.
2- Our community has to offer scholarship funds for serious students who want to pursue studies in Humanities, Social Sciences, Political Science, Journalism ..etc. This is a way of building a new generation of Muslim leaders who can contribute to the ethical, social and political discussions in the nation at large.
(5) The Power of Faith
2- Pray for peace and justice for all. We ask Allah to lead us from sin to forgiveness, from darkness to light, from fear to trust, and from hatred to love. O Allah kindle in our hearts Your love, the love of those who love You and the love of all that You love. Ameen