In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved
Year after year I watch as the holiday shopping season begins and ends without much incident for me. Indeed, it is a good time to scoop up some really good deals on whatever I may need: luggage, electronics, and the like. Yet, I am not a part of the frenzied shopping scene, because I do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. While that does not mean I do not honor and revere Christ, which is something that I do as a devout Muslim, nevertheless, I am not out shopping for various gifts for family and friends.
Yet, sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if there was an “Eid shopping season,” which are the main Islamic religious holidays. I wonder how it would be if there was a “Black Friday,” which is also the Muslim Sabbath, for the Muslim holidays. I wonder what it would be like to have Muslim holiday songs playing non-stop on a number of radio stations. I wonder what it would be like to have people’s houses all decorated with lights for the Eid holidays.
Indeed, I do not have to wonder about such things. All I need to do is travel to a majority Muslim country and experience this myself during Ramadan and the days afterward. Yet, I wonder what that would be like with an American consumerist bent: “Hurry now for your last-minute Ramadan deals!” “Come in today for pre-iftar (sunset meal) doorbusters!” “Eid is around the corner, and these fantastic sales won’t last forever!”
True, this “Muslim holiday shopping season” would occur a little earlier each year, because the Islamic religious calendar is a lunar one. Still, an American Muslim holiday shopping season would be kinda cool.
Now, now, relax: I am not trying to pour “Sharia law” all over you. This feeling comes out of a small amount of sadness over the degree to which forces in our country are actively trying to marginalize the American Muslim community, to make it the perpetual “Other” that must be feared and fought. Indeed, whenever companies try to market to the Muslim community — such as Whole Foods during Ramadan or Butterball turkeys during Thanksgiving — there is almost always a cry of alarm that Muslims are trying to “Islamize” the United States and force “Sharia law” down everyone’s throats. The same goes with the reality program “All American Muslim,” which is currently airing on TLC.
During the Republican presidential campaign, the degree of Muslim-bashing is astounding. When asked who should be profiled, former Senator Rick Santorum replied: “Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. “If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males.”
Herman Cain remarked that when his doctor with an Arab-sounding name turned out to be Christian, he said: “Hallelujah! Thank God!” This is not to mention the hysteria of Newt Gingrich, the latest Republican frontrunner, about the “threat” posed to the United States by “Sharia law.”
Deep down, I know that this anti-Muslim sentiment is not reflective of the whole of the American people. By and large, the American people have been welcoming and kind to their Muslim neighbors, which has been confirmed by polls of American Muslims and my own personal experience as an American Muslim. Nevertheless, it still does bother me that there are those who want to “otherize” (using Reza Aslan’s term) me simply because of my faith. It does serve to motivate me more to engage my society: get to know my neighbors, participate in the local life of my community, vote in each election, large and small. And I know that, in the end, these friends and fellow community members will accept me as one of their own, even though I don’t light up my house during the Christmas season. That’s because I know my people — the American people — are very good people indeed.
This first appeared in Middle East Online.