A Very Telling Gaffe


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

A gaffe by a Rick Santorum staffer says a lot. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said:

There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has.

She quickly called MSNBC after the segment and said she misspoke, actually meaning “radical environmental policies.”

Ohhhh, I see! She meant environmental rather than Islamic.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things: first, does the spokeswoman’s slip mean that – deep down – she thinks that President Obama really is a “secret Muslim”? And second, is the association between “radical” and “Islamic” so ingrained, so natural, that it can easily slip out of one’s tongue? In either case, it makes me very sad.

It makes me very sad that still, in 2012, associating President Obama with Islam is used as a smear. It recently happened at a Rick Santorum campaign event, in fact, and Senator Santorum did not correct the person making the assertion. This is wrong. It is wrong to try to smear someone by wrongly accusing them of being Muslim (or Jewish, or Christian, or any other religious faith). We should have better respect for religious faith and choice than that.

It is equally sad that the association between “radical” and “Islamic,” it seems, has indeed become so natural. Yes, the Muslim worldwide community has its radical elements: but so does every other religious community. Yes, extremists who called themselves Muslims attacked the country on 9/11: but so did extremists who were Christians in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Yes, there are Muslims who have been caught plotting terrorist attacks, but as a recent study shows, their numbers are dwindling and the threat from American Muslims has been exaggerated.

I wish religion and religious faith would be taken out of politics and the Presidential campaign. Whatever religion we choose to profess: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or no “-ism” at all, it should not matter. That is a personal choice, and we must all have respect for each other’s personal religious beliefs. That is what makes our country so wonderful: that we can live and work with people of all faiths in peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

It is the way that the Lord wanted us to live on earth, and so let us work to make His desire a reality.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/a-very-telling-gaffe.html#ixzz1my7M7STD

Why I Am a Doctor


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published on Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates.

“So, you are going to become a doctor, right?” This question, I am quite certain, has been asked of scores of Muslim children by their parents all across this world. Does Islam, somehow, motivate Muslims to become physicians? Perhaps slightly, especially since the Qur’an says that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. But I think that is more of a “fringe benefit” than a major motivation for Muslims to become physicians.

Most importantly, when the Lord blesses a person with being a physician, He gives them the opportunity to do His work on earth: help relieve the suffering of His people. Each and every day, physicians are given the honor and privilege to help people feel better, breathe better, feel less pain, and – through the Lord’s healing power – treat and even cure disease. If smiling to one another – as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said – is a charity, then how about helping someone’s asthma attack? Or helping someone overcome a cancer diagnosis? Or relieving the pain and suffering of someone afflicted with a terrible infection? For me, as a Muslim, being a doctor goes hand in hand with my mission in life: to help God’s people be better.

I did not deserve this honor, and so that’s why I am thankful for it each and every day. God blesses men and women in becoming doctors in two ways. First, and especially in the United States, most physicians are blessed with a good, stable, and well-paying occupation. Additionally, although it has been eroded significantly, most people have enormous respect for physicians and the difficult job they must do.

Has being a doctor ever conflicted with my religious belief? Never. In fact, I hang my religious faith, as I hang my coat, on my desk chair before I see any patient in the office or hospital. My job is to take care of my patients and do what is medically best for them. Period. My religion has never entered into the equation, and that is how I think it should be. I would never, God forbid, impose my own religious belief upon my patients. To me, I would betray my mandate as a physician if I were to do so.

Was Islam a factor for my becoming a doctor? No, not really. For me, there was absolutely no pressure from my parents to become a doctor. Ever since I was a young boy it has been my life dream to be a physician, and I am eternally grateful to the Lord for His granting me my dream to be a doctor. I help people and, in the process, do God’s work at the same time, without ever preaching or even mentioning God at all. What a tremendous gift, Lord, and I thank you so very much for it.

A Muslim Changes His Mind About Halloween


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

My entire life has been an evolution of belief, opinion and thought. A big part of that has been my religious interpretation. My committment to my Islamic faith has never waivered. Indeed, I did have a crisis of faith during my university years, but my devotion to the Lord has never weakened. But, I have changed considerably over the past decade.

In 2002, I penned a piece for Beliefnet about my belief regarding Halloween. At that time, I wrote – and truly believed – that I should not participate in Halloween because of its origins:

“And this is why I will not send my daughter trick or treating this year or any other year. Halloween honors Celtic and Roman gods. Islam is strictly monotheistic, and anything having to do with the worship of any other god besides the Most Holy One is out of the question…While it’s true that Halloween is not, as I once thought, based on devil worship, it nevertheless mixes Celtic, Roman, and Catholic influences. The Celts, inhabitants of Great Britain and Northern France, celebrated their New Year on Nov. 1, which marked the end of the “season of the sun” and the beginning of the “season of darkness and cold.” On Oct. 31, the cooking fires would be extinguished after all the crops were harvested and stored. The Celtic priests would light new fires and offer sacrifices to the gods.”

Now, I still believe now what I did then – that Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people so long as those traditions do not contradict the principles of Islam. And yes, festivals that honor other gods beside the Lord our God will not be celebrated by me.

But, I have a confession to make: For the past several years, I have personally gone trick-or-treating with my children and have passed out candy to the kids who come to my door. Now, years ago trick-or-treaters would come to my door, and I would not answer them. I would pretend not to be home in order to “not participate” in Halloween. But I realized that this practice, in trying to be devout to the Lord, was really not very neighborly at all, and it is very important to be neighborly if I am to be godly.

I also really started to think about Halloween itself. It is really is a cultural tradition. Yes, many centuries ago, it was a Celtic/Roman festival. Now, however, it is an annual thing that Americans do to have some fun while wearing costumes and collecting candy. There is nothing religious at all about Halloween. True, I don’t like the gruesomeness that some people put into Halloween, and I would never decorate my house or anything like that. But, I see no harm in having my kids dress up in costumes and going out and get some candy from their neighbors.

Have I flip-flopped? Perhaps I am vulnerable to this criticism. Have I sold out my religion in order to look nice for the neighbors? Some may say that about me, but I don’t want everyone to look at the Muslim house and think, “There is the miserly guy who doesn’t want to give our kids candy.” And, most importantly in the years since I penned that Beliefnet piece, I have aged and have had more children. As my children have grown up as Americans, I have had to really think about what parts of the culture in which they can participate.

For instance, we will not, one day, start celebrating Christmas, even though it can be argued that Christmas has lost all its religiosity as of late. No matter what, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, believed by Christians to be the Son of God. As a Muslim, I will not participate in this tradition. I have nothing against this holiday and those who celebrate it, but I will not partake in the “fun” aspects of it. The same goes with Easter, Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashana. Again, I have nothing against those holidays and those who celebrate them, but as a Muslim, I will not celebrate them.

But, when it comes to Halloween, it really is not a religious festival at all. And so I see no harm in doing it with my children. I did the same when I was a kid, and nothing bad happened to me. A number of commenters told me to “lighten up” after reading my piece in 2002. With time, aging, reflection and study, indeed I have done just that.

This first appeared on Patheos

This Will Not Help Anything At All


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved 

I was totally taken aback by this news article:

Crosses in every room at Washingon D.C.’s Catholic University of America are a human rights violation that prevent Muslim students from praying. That’s the complaint to the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights filed by a professor from rival George Washington University across town. GWU Law School Professor John Banzhaf takes the Catholic institution to task for acting “probably with malice” against Muslim students in a 60-page complaint that cites ”offensive” Catholic imagery all over the Catholic school, which he says hinder Muslims from praying.

The first reaction that came to mind is: really?

The article elaborates further about the allegations:

He alleges that the university, “does not provide space – as other universities do – for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion,” according to the Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper.

Come on.

I attended Marquette University, and there were crosses everywhere…and I was never offended. Yes, the University was kind enough to offer us a space for our Friday prayers, but even if there wasn’t, we would have made do. And if there was a cross in the room, we would have prayed anyway. Currently, I practice in a Catholic hospital, and there are crosses hanging in every single room of the hospital. I am not the least offended. In fact, I have even prayed in the chapel of the hospital, with life-size Jesus’ hanging on crosses. No big deal.

For us as Muslims, the entire earth has been made a place of prayer for us…as long as it is clean and sanitary. If the time for prayer comes, and I happen to be in a Catholic church or chapel, with crosses everywhere, I simply face Mecca and pray. The cross does not diminish my prayer, and I am not offended by the symbol at all. And I think that the majority of Muslims feel the same way that I do.

God only knows what the real motivations of this lawsuit are. But, even if we disagree about the nature of Jesus and what happened at the time of his death/disappearance, if a Catholic university wants to hang crosses everywhere, that is its right. There could be crosses all over the place, and it should not offend Muslims in the least. If you don’t like the crosses, then don’t go to that university. You have no right to force the university to take down the crosses.

This sort of suit does nothing to help promote interfaith harmony and understanding. In a time when there are so many forces in our country that are trying to divide us on so many different lines, we should be working as faith communities to come together. The last thing we need is a silly lawsuit about crosses in a Catholic university.

 This first appeared on Beliefnet. 

Chicago Tribune: Religion encourages restraint, not revenge


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This first appeared in The Seeker, the Chicago Tribune’s religion blog

It is completely understandable – knowing how horrifically brutal the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhaffi was – that the people who captured him wanted to brutalize him back. The Libyan people have been terrorized by this man for more than four decades, and it was no surprise that his capturers terrorized him as well. Yet, many people are asking, especially after watching the disturbing videos of his capture, whether he should have been treated the way he was.

I was discussing this very thing with a dear friend and colleague – an Arab Christian – who said that, no matter what, no one should be treated the way he was, especially after his death. With all my hatred for what he did in his life, I could not help but agree with him…and think of this verse of the Qur’an:

“Never let your hatred of a people move you to commit injustice…” (5:8)

It is in situations like these in which the true test lies: when such a brutal man as Gadhaffi is captured, do we brutalize and terrorize him as well? Or, do we arrest and try him?

The same question can be asked of Osama bin Laden: our soldiers could have easily arrested him and brought him to Guanatanmo Bay, for instance. Rather, they shot him dead, and again, I completely understand the feeling and motivation for doing so.

I shed no tear over his death; I had no twinge of sadness. That man was the inspiration for the barbaric murder of thousands of innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, from before September 11. Yet, would it have been better to try bin Laden and treat him as the pathetic criminal that he was?

I am not saying that killing these two men is necessarily an injustice. But, as a person of faith, I think that one of religion’s main purposes is to temper the very natural urge for brutal revenge that comes in up in situations such as these. That is the essence of verse 5:8; that is the essence of Jesus’ call to “turn the other cheek.”

It is a very difficult thing to do – restrain one’s passions – but that is the challenge that the Lord places before us. It is easy to stoop to the level of the barbarian in revenge. But that is not the type of people we should be.

Celebrating Her Birthday


In the Name of the Kind, Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

As families gather all across our country to commemorate the anniversary of our declaration of Independence from the British Crown, I reflect over how important this day is to me as an American Muslim. More than just joining my fellow Americans in the celebration of the birth of his country; more than some time off to relax and enjoy fireworks shows with friends and family; more than just enjoying cookouts and picnics and (if I’m lucky) a round of golf. The independence of the American republic was one of the greatest things for me as a Muslim.

Let me get this out of the way: there have been many things our country has done of which I am not proud. Our foreign policy has – many times – been at odds with the upright principles upon which our country was founded. Our country has not been – and will never be – perfect. Nevertheless, this is still the best country on earth in which to live as a Muslim. I am still in love with our country as she celebrates another birthday and am so very grateful for her independence.

In no other place on earth do I feel more at home as a Muslim. Here in America, I can worship God as I see fit. I am able to worship God freely, without fear of being put in jail for my religious beliefs. Here in America, I can be more of a Muslim than I can be in many – if not most – so-called “Muslim countries.”

Indeed, things are not perfect for Muslims in America. Over the last several years, more than a dozen states have introduced laws prohibiting the non-existent “threat” of Sharia law to our system of government. Some of these laws have seemed to even criminalize the very practice of Islam itself. Some Republican candidates for President seem at ease with singling out Muslims for “loyalty tests” before they join his Administration. Studies have shown a disturbing rise in Islamophobia all across our country.

But this is not the true nature of America. These incidents, while un-becoming of our country, do not represent America any more than the actions of Muslim terrorists represent all Muslims. The true nature of America is present at the fireworks shows, where everyone comes together to watch the “bombs bursting in air” in the night; it is present at the 4th of July picnics and cookouts; it is present at the County Fairs and town festivals. And at each of those venues, American Muslims are – overwhelmingly – welcome and at home.

Must the World End? (Part II)


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

This was published on my Beliefnet blog, “Common Word, Common Lord.”

Last time, I posed the question that – if we believe that there will be a Last Day, that the world must end so that all the injustice we see will be accounted for and judged, should we just live our lives and not do anything about the wrong we see around us?

Absolutely not. In fact, we must seek to make the world as best of a place possible, even with its inevitable End, because on that Last Day, “[on that Day] every human being will come to know what he has prepared [for himself].” Our response to the cruelty of our world will also come into play on the Last Day. I

If we had the ability to help the victims of the flood along the Mississippi river, but neglected to do so saying, we will be held to account. If we had the ability to prevent a crime against an innocent person, but neglected to do so, we will be held to account. If we had the ability to speak out against injustice, but neglected to do so, we will be held to account.

Doing nothing and saying: “Well, there is going to be a Last Day” is not an excuse, and we will be held to account because of it.

No, we cannot control when a hurricaine, or tornado, or earthquake, or flood will strike a certain place. And such occurrences are not “punishment” for this deed or that. But, we can control our response to such disasters, and our response will be judged by the Most Just King on the Last Day, which will inevitably come one day (and it was not May 21, 2011).

The terrible injustice that abounds our world has caused many to lose faith, and indeed, it is a difficult test. I myself have suffered through the loss of my child to cancer, and it was – and still is – the worst thing I have ever, ever experienced. I struggle through the pain every single day of my life.

But, I know that I will see her again – and hold her again in my arms – on that Last Day that will definitely come one day. And in that thought, I find some comfort and solace. Some may see this as delusion, but it does not affect my belief in the least. In the end, we will see who is the one that is ultimately right, and I believe it will be me

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/#ixzz1NHu6KYUe

Religion Shapes How You Read, Misread News


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

This was published in the Chicago Tribune’s blog, The Seeker.

Whether religion is rising or falling, a study set to be published in the Journal of Christianity and Psychology concludes that religious experiences affect the way individuals consume news about religion. I found this to be especially true when it comes to consuming news stories about Islam. No matter how much I write to the contrary, showing fact after fact about Islam and Muslims, it does not matter.

Michael Kitchens, assistant professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College, hypothesized that participants who had self-described “high comfort with their religion and low reported strain” are more likely to subconsciously gravitate toward positive news about Christianity. Those with “low comfort and high strain” were more likely to read stories biased against Christianity.

“Those that favor negative news about Christianity report high strain and low comfort with their religion. This is not surprising, except that this group is overwhelmingly biased toward this kind of news,” said Kitchens. “The general consensus is that we look at information that confirms our own belief. We want to consume news stories that affirm our beliefs and we’ll ignore the ones that don’t.”

Those who are convinced Islam is “violent” and “evil” are not moved. They will either dismiss the piece as “political correctness,” or worse, accuse me and my fellow Muslim writers of “lying” under the guise of “taqiyya,” or “dissimulation,” a wholly misunderstood concept in Islamic jurisprudence.

At times, it gets a bit exhausting having to write the same things over and over, defending Islam and Muslims from the same, centuries-old accusations and claims.

Yet, I will not stop. The truth is the truth, and as Biblical scripture says, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This is also in the Prophetic tradition: they were steadfast in the face of relentless abuse and accusations of lying. According to the Quran, Noah preached to his people for 950 years, and he did not waver. Thus, who am I to give up because of a few commentators who accuse me of “lying”?

Moreover, writing to explain, teach, and share the Muslim experience is, in and of itself, a positive exercise. It is part of my duty to reach out to my fellow Americans (and fellow citizens of the world) and show them the truth about my faith. It is part of the way I try to be a good neighbor, a good citizen, and a good Muslim.

And if I can only reach one person – even after decades of writing – I am satisfied. As God said to Abraham (in Islamic tradition): “Your job is to call out, and My job is to disseminate it.”

Rahm’s Religion is Irrelevant: Chicago Tribune


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

This was published on the Chicago Tribune’s religion blog, The Seeker.

Last week, Chicago made history in several senses: it was the first time in about two decades that a Daley was not on the ballot for Mayor of Chicago. In addition, it was the first time that a man of the Jewish faith was elected to the highest office in the city. This is indeed significant, given the historic discrimination and racism that has been directed – and is still directed – at Americans of the Jewish faith. It is as significant as the small numbers of American Muslims who have also been elected to municipal offices across the country as well.

Yet, at the end of the day, Rahm Emanuel’s faith is irrelevant.

The basis upon which he should be judged is his effectiveness as mayor of the City of Chicago, not his religious conviction. Indeed, it is nice to know that America has come a long way since the days of “religious tests,” even if unwritten, for those who seek to serve in public office. Yet, one’s religious faith should not enter into the calculus for how good a leader will or will not be.

This is especially true when it comes to President Obama, under whom Mayor-Elect Emanuel worked for two years. Despite the repeated assertions that he is a Christian, there is a persistent belief among many in our society that he is secretly Muslim. Yet, why does that matter? What if he were a Muslim? Does that make him inherently unfit for office? Does that disqualify him for public service? Does it even matter what faith President Obama claims to follow? It does not.

It remains to be seen how Chicago’s new mayor will perform in office, especially with the myriad of challenges he faces. Yet, one thing is certain, Rahm Emanuel’s religious faith has no bearing on his job as mayor. Whatever God he worships is entirely his business alone.