In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
By the Grace of the Precious Beloved Lord, I was able – despite my being “on call” and having to round in the hospital – to attend a good portion of the 47th Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is the largest Muslim organization in North America. My family and I try to attend the convention every year, and this year, thank God, it came to Chicago…so attending was not that difficult.
I did attend a few nice lectures: one about Muslims and the media, another about reclaiming our American heritage, and another about Muslim charities and non-profits. But, what I love most about the convention is seeing my friends from all across the country and catching up with them. Yes, we are friends on Facebook, but it is nice to see them in the flesh. In fact, the ISNA convention is like a real life Facebook session. What’s more, it is nice to get to say “Salam” (Peace) to many American Muslim leaders and shake their hands. It is an opportunity I try to never miss.
More than that, however, is the fact that I am around thousands of fellow American Muslims, and I must admit, it is nice. It is nice to walk around and say, “Salamu-alaikum” (Peace be upon you) to scores of my brothers and sisters in faith and get the same greeting in return. It is nice to be able to pray anywhere I want in the Convention Center and not worry about the reaction of passers-by. It is nice to have my children be in such an environment: to let them know what it is like to be among other fellow Muslims for at least a few days out of the year. Coming to ISNA is like being in one big family reunion, because that is what we are: one big family in faith.
Having said all of this, however, I do not want anyone to think that I am uncomfortable as an American. Far from it. Just as I am at home with my fellow American Muslims in the halls of the ISNA Convention, I am just as much at home among my fellow non-Muslim Americans. I am at home at neighborhood picnics and barbecues. I am at home at hospital golf outing and medical staff dinners. I smile just as much at my fellow Americans at block parties and softball games. I am completely at home in America, and even though they may not be Muslim, I still consider my fellow Americans to be my family, my brothers and sisters in country and nation. Living every day in America is also like being in one big family reunion.
I feel blessed that I am comfortable being both fully American and fully Muslim, with neither being contradictory nor mutually exclusive.
I do have one wish, however: that more fellow Americans become comfortable with their American Muslim neighbors. Yes, Islam is still relatively unknown to the majority of Americans; yes, there is – unfortunately – a lot of bad press about Islam and Muslims; yes, there are – unfortunately – criminals who do horrific things in the name of Islam. But they do not represent the reality of the overwhelming majority of Muslims anymore than Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo represents the reality of America.
I hope that one day, every single fellow American can see a Muslim woman in a headscarf (or even a burqa) and not have looks of hatred toward her. I hope that one day, every single fellow American can see their Muslim neighbor praying in the street and not think that they are ready to blow up something. I hope that one day, every single fellow Americans can see that their American Muslim neighbors are just like them, but choose to worship God in a slightly different manner.
I must say that most non-Muslim Americans are not hostile to their Muslim neighbors, and many, in fact, are welcoming and kind and accepting. It is part of the beauty of this country. But, there is a very small segment of the population that is, in fact, openly hostile to the Muslim presence in America, and I fear that their influence on the greater public’s perception of Islam and Muslims is growing. I hope that one day, these voices of hate and intolerance are completely ignored by every single American.
I hope and pray that such a day comes soon.
Yes, we American Muslims need to do more to reach out to our non-Muslim neighbors. I absolutely agree. I just ask (and hope and pray) that when we extend our hands in friendship, brotherhood, and citizenship, that every single fellow American does not recoil his or her hands in fear and disgust. We must resist the calls of those who seek to marginalize all those who are different, because it is these voices of division who are the real threat to the fabric of our wonderful nation.
And I also stand up to firmly and unequivocally reject those few voices within the Muslim community in America who call for isolation and separation from the greater American society and its people. I firmly and unequivocally reject this sentiment, and I call upon every single Muslim in America to do the same.
On July 4, I posted this status on Facebook: “Happy Birthday, America! I am blessed to call you my country, to call your land my land, to call your people my people.” I truly feel this from the bottom of my heart. There is no other country I would rather call home than the United States of America. And I pray that the Precious Beloved continues to bless this nation of ours for all times in perpetuity.