In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
As our nation recently celebrated the anniversary of its independence on July 4, and with the events that have recently occurred in the “Islamic” Republic of Iran, it got me thinking about the current state of our country. As I reflected upon the United States, I realized that this country is more “Islamic” than many of the so-called “Islamic states” across the world.
Many of the principles upon which our country was founded: freedom of religion (or freedom from religion), freedom of expression, equal protection before the law, respect for minorities, and the like, are core Islamic principles, even if many of these things may not be found in many or most Muslim-majority countries.
Lets take a very simple example (and one close to my heart): that of access for the disabled. My late daughter was disabled, and consequently, we had to move her in a stroller or wheelchair. Because of that, we got a disabled placard from the state of Illinois to allow us to park closer to the door; every public (and most private) building has a ramp for wheelchairs and the like. Most places have automatic doors for the disabled.
When we vacationed in DisneyWorld, they gave us a special pass for disabled children, and we were given the privilege to go to the front of the line (even on Space Mountain), which was a God-send in the July heat. Everywhere we go in America, there are accomodations for the disabled. Indeed, it took a long and hard-fought court battle, but now, this is entrenched in our society. There is nothing more “Islamic” than treating those who are disabled with a little mercy in the public sphere.
Contrast this with my experience in Egypt, where we vacationed with our disabled daughter in 2006. There were no such accomodations for disabled children: no ramps, no automatic doors, no real sidewalks, even. In this aspect, America is more “Islamic” than Egypt.
Here in America, a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, or whatever can freely practice his or her faith (or lack of faith) without molestation (for the most part). But, truly, I feel more at home as a Muslim here in the United States than I do when I travel to the land of my ancestors, Egypt. Yes, there I can hear the athan, or call to prayer, out loud in the street, and that is very nice. But, I am more free to practice my faith here in the U.S. than I ever could in Egypt or many other Muslim countries.
Take this small example: whenever I go swimming here in the U.S., I typically wear a swimmable shirt along with long swim trunks. I feel more comfortable being more covered, out of religious sensibilies. Again, when I vacationed in Egypt, I was expressly forbidden by the Egyptian resort employees from wearing a shirt in the pool. In America, my desire to wear a shirt is not only protected, it is respected by many. In Egypt, it is derided as “un-natural.” The other guests who choose to be practically naked are allowed a carte-blanche, but I am forbidden to fulfill my Islamic sensibilities (in a Muslim country) to wear a shirt.
America is more “Islamic” than many Muslim countries.
I can go on and on. True, America has its faults and shortcomings, especially when it comes to the religious freedom of Muslims. In fact, in Oregon, a law has reached the Governor’s desk which expressly bans the wearing of religious attire (read: “hijab”) by any teacher in a public school. Still, on the whole, a Muslim has more freedom to be Muslim here than in many (if not most) Muslim countries.
America still has a long way to go, but in so many aspects, the principles by which America has lived and thrived for over 200 years are so very “Islamic,” even though this is a majority Christian country. In fact, in the early 20th Century, a prominent Muslim (I forget who it was) said upon returning from America: “I came from a land of Islam without Muslims to a land of Muslims without Islam.”
How true that is.