The “Fitna” of Donald Trump – Part 2 


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

REUTERS/David Becker

In the Islamic Monthly, I was blessed to pen a piece entitled, “The ‘Fitna’ of Donald Trump.” I wrote about how the candidacy of Donald J. Trump was a way to make our country even greater than she already is and a test for the American Muslim community. And I ended the piece this way:

 

This election has been unprecedented in so many ways, and the fitna of the candidacy of Donald Trump has tested the true mettle of our country and our people. But if I know anything about our people, I know that they are fundamentally good. And this fitna will only make our country and her people even greater than it already is.

I must fully admit: I wrote it before the election thinking – for certain – Donald Trump would lose and lose big.

Well, it is a new dawn in America and a scary one at that. Donald J. Trump will be our next President. And there are several worrying signs that his Administration will be hostile towards Islam and Muslims. Now, the “fitna” of Donald Trump takes on an even greater significance.

As I said in the piece, the word “fitna” has several meanings:

In classical Arabic, the word “fitna” — as found in Lane’s classical Arabic Lexicon — means “a burning with fire” and “the melting of gold and of silver to separate, or distinguish, the bad from the good.”

[…]

Coming out of the original meaning of “burning with fire,” a very common translation of the word “fitna” is trial or tribulation. Indeed, this is how “fitna” is used in multiple instances in the Quran. This is the fitna of Donald Trump for the American Muslim community. He is a test for American Muslims: How will they respond to his candidacy?

That is the question we must ask ourselves: how will we respond?  Those who have sought to marginalize our community feel emboldened by the election of Trump. They want us to be scared. They want us to cower in fear and retreat into our homes, disappearing from public life in America.

And I have to admit, I do feel a great degree of fear over our future in this country. And I’m born and raised here; I have no other land or people to call my own. I can only imagine the fear of newly arrived immigrants or refugees.

I shared my fears with Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry. This is what he said:

First let me tell you this. I stand with you. And I always will. There are millions of people that understand the grave danger that a Trump presidency poses to American Muslims.

That made me feel much better. It’s comforting to know that there are good people in America willing to stand by us in times of distress.

Yet, with all due respect to Nathan and the millions of other great allies and friends we have, I got the most comfort from the Word of God:

Those to whom some people said, “Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them.” But it [merely] increased them in faith, and they said, “God is sufficient for us, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.” So they returned with favor and bounty from God, no harm having touched them. And they pursued the pleasure of God, and God is the possessor of great bounty. (3:173-174)

God is still in charge. He is more powerful than anyone or anything in this world. If we turn to Him, if we stand on His side, He will stand with us. Our challenge is to be worthy of His company; our challenge is to step up to the plate and be worthy of God’s help.

Which brings me to the other thing Nathan Lean told me:

This is not a time for fear of the worst to suppress social mobilization, coalition building, and activism. Those things are needed now more than ever, and I encourage American Muslims to assert their rights to equal treatment under the law in a vocal and confident way. They will find, I am sure, that others will rally with them and take up those causes as their own.

I also posed the question of what Muslims need to do now to Ahmed Rehab, long-time Muslim activist and Executive Director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR (full disclosure: I serve on its Board). He said:

The last thing we do is cower in fear and sit this out. We prepare. And we fight back by doubling down on supporting our civil rights organizations, by building stronger alliances, and standing with other communities who will also be victimized by bigotry and hate.

That is our challenge. That is the gauntlet that has been thrown at our feet. The “fitna” of Donald Trump places a clear choice before us: step up or get stepped upon. If we step up and fight for, not only our justice, but the justice of all people, then – God willing – we will be worthy of God’s company and His unbeatable strength. We cannot afford to fail in this task.

Yet, further, the “fitna” of Trump is more than just a call to action. Nathan Lean also said to me:

If there is a silver lining in what is assuredly a dark storm cloud, it is the possibility of getting this virus of prejudice out of our collective American system and restoring a sense of decency and moral uprightness with the American electorate.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Just as gold or silver undergoes “fitna” to become more brilliant and beautiful, it is my hope and prayer that, just as I wrote in the Islamic Monthly piece above, our country will rid herself of the ugliness of hatred and bigotry and become even greater and more beautiful than she already is.

Join me on Twitter (@GodFaithPen).

In the Wake of Brussels: My Perpetual Condemnation – Again


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring 

I leave aside the fact that no other community is expected to condemn the actions of its criminal fringe. I leave aside the fact that the perverse logic of assigning blame to the whole for the actions of a few tends to be applied to Muslims preferentially. I leave aside the fact that most of the victims of “Islamic terror” are other Muslims themselves. I leave aside the fact the attention of the world to acts of terror in Western countries is much more than that in Muslims countries (see recent attacks in Turkey and compare for yourself).

I put all of that aside today. I put all that aside and condemn what happened in Brussels – which took the lives of 34 people – with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind.

It’s very true that such terror is being rained on scores of innocent Muslim populations by their own governments on a daily basis. It’s very true that terror has no religion or ethnic group or nationality. It’s true that Western governments have supported brutal dictatorships in the Muslim majority world to serve geopolitical interests. That is all true.

That’s does not even begin to justify, however, attacking innocent people anywhere in the world. And just as the double standards with respect to Muslims and Islam must be called out every time, terror in the name of Islam must also be called out and condemned for what it is: pure unadulterated evil.

Read the rest here: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2016/03/in-the-wake-of-brussels-my-perpetual-condemnation-again.html

Ma lettre ouverte à la France d’un Musulman Américain qui aime Paris


Au Nom De Dieu, Le Clement Et Misericordieux

A la suite des attentats de Paris, j’ ai écris cette lettre ouverte a la France en anglais. Je l’ai ensuite traduite en français (que je suis d’apprendre à parler). Cette lettre est d’autant plus urgente maintenant que le Front National a récemment remporté les élections régionales en France. Merci beaucoup au docteur Ronny Tchokonte pour m’aider avec la traduction. 
Chère France,

Cet été, mon epouse et moi avons été bénis de passer nos vacances à Paris. Je suis bien conscient des problèmes des musulmans de France, et la façon dont ils sont victimes d ‘ alienation et de reelles discriminations. Tout comme vous, j’étais inquiet , en tant que musulman, de savoir comment nous serions reçus dans une ville qui ressentait encore vivement la douleur des attaques odieuses de Charlie Hebdo. Bien que je déteste l’admettre, j’etais aussi influencé par la notion courante chez beaucoup de mes compatriotes américains que « le français est impoli. » Alors, quand nous avons atterris à Paris en Juillet dernier, mon inquietude etait palpable.

Ce sentiment s’ est cependant rapidement mue en tristesse et regret. Non pas parce que quelque chose de mauvais nous etait arrivé. C’ etait simplement lie au fait que j’ eprouvais de profonds regrets d’ avoir prejuge la France et son peuple.

Chaque personne que nous avons rencontré était tellement gentil avec nous. Que ce soit notre chauffeur qui nous a conduit de Charles de Gaulle à notre hôtel, ou alors les différents réceptionnistes d’hôtel, autre serveurs de nombreux cafés que nous avons visités, travailleurs de metro, allant meme jusqu’aux agents des douanes: tout le monde nous a traités avec respect et courtoisie.

Et il n’a pas fallu longtemps après notre arrivée à Paris pour tomber complètement amoureux de cette ville. De son extraordinaire architecture, de sa riche histoire et son caractere bien trempe refletees dans chacunes de ses rues et avenues. Ses monuments et musées sont magnifiques dans leur gloire et majesté. Ses parcs et jardins sont superbes de serenite, laissant place à des lignes de vue qui tout simplement uniques en leur genre. Sans compter les cafés, boutiques, crêperies, et autre nombreuses boulangeries qui sont si merveilleux dans leur diversité, qu’il est impossible de s ‘en lasser.

La diversité. Ce fut l’une des choses qui nous a le plus impressionné dans Paris. Elle est en effet un microcosme du monde, avec des gens de tous les milieu qui semblaient heureux de vivre, travailler et manger ensemble. C’ était impressionnant et en meme temps tres surprennant . En outre, la vue de gens assis a discuter avec des amis et/ou la famille sans avoir leur téléphone portable coller a leur visage etait tres rafraichissante et represente sans doute quelque chose dont nous ici en Amérique serait bien inspire d’ emuler.

Mon expérience à Paris a complètement changé ma vision de la France et du peuple français. Il a fait de moi un francophile. J’ ai ainsi commencé à apprendre à parler français, de sorte que je puisse dire « Bounjour», «Merci beaucoup» et «Combien ça coûte? » sans trop de difficultes et comprendre la réponse qui m’est donnee. Malgré ce qui est arrivé le 13 Novembre, je veux revenir à Paris, et à cause de cet amour spécial que je possède pour Paris, j’ai été dévasté par les attaques.

C’ est pour ca que je tiens a vous dire, chère France, ne succombez pas à ces forces qui veulent changer fondamentalement votre belle nature que nous avons eu la chance d’ experimenter. N’ écoutez pas ceux qui veulent expulser tous les immigrés, placé en internement des milliers, ou adopter des lois horribles qui vont encore contribuer a diviser la France sur la base d’ appartenance religieuse et/ou d’origine ethnique.

S’il vous plaît, chère France, ne cessez pas d’être le pays du serveur qui, quand j‘ ai demande du boeuf Bourguignon, m’a dit: “Savez-vous qui a le vin?” Il savait que j’etais musulman et que je ne pouvais donc boire de l’ alcool. Je lui en ai ete tellement reconnaissant de ce geste de respect pour moi et ma foi. Ce geste est la vraie nature de la France . S’il vous plaît, ma chère France, ne devennez pas comme le maire de Chalon-sur-Saône, qui veut forcer les écoliers musulmans et juifs a manger du porc. Cela n’est pas qui vous êtes; Cela ne represente pas la beauté des gens et du pays que j’ aime.

Non, je n’étais pas la le 11/13 lorsque de barbares sauvages ont tue des centaines d’innocents dans un acte d’ assassinat odieux. Je déteste ces sauvages. Je comprends que la sécurité soit primordiale dans toute société. Mais je vous demande instamment de ne pas suivre le chemin de ceux parmi vous qui veulent diviser et finiront par détruire la beauté de la France, sa culture et son mode de vie.

Les musulmans français ne sont pas vos ennemis; ils font partie de vous, et ils aiment leur pays autant que tous les autres Français et Françaises. Ils ne cessent de le clamer, et ils ne pas besoin de moi – un musulman américain – pour parler en leur nom. Les horreurs commises sur les 11/13 ont été faites par des criminels sauvages qui ont essayé, avec leur haine des balles et des bombes, de déchirer ce qui fait de Paris, et par extension toute la France, un endroit si merveilleux. Je vous exhorte, chère France, a ne pas laisser ces sauvages gagner.

“Believers Are Nothing But Brothers (And Sisters)”: Ashura Should Bring Us Together


In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Thinking and praying for you during this sad time. Imam Hussein was and still is beloved to all of us. May Allah bless us with the character and beauty of Ahl-ul-Bayt. Amen.

This is the text I sent to my Shi’i Muslim brother (and neighbor) on Ashura. Thanks be to God, I mustered enough courage to fast the day, which is typically very difficult for me outside of the month of Ramadan. I pray that God accepted my fast.

But, even though it was quite likely that my Shi’i brother and I were commemorating Ashura differently (as I am Sunni), I wanted to make sure I reached out to him, because I know this is a sad day for he and his family.

Too many times, all over the world, we hear and see of attacks by Muslim savages against their own Muslim brothers who are Shi’i. These savages do not even spare mosques, and there have been numerous attacks on Shi’i mosques. This is completely unacceptable, and it is a direct violation of the clear commandments of the Qur’an:

And do not take any human being’s life – [the life] which has God has willed to be sacred – otherwise than in [the pursuit] of justice. (17:33)

All believers are brothers (and sisters). Hence, [whenever they are at odds] make peace between your brothers and remain conscious of God, so that you might be graced with His mercy (49:10).

These directives can’t be more clear, and the fact that there are people who can so blatantly attack innocent people, not sparing their houses of worship, continues to baffle me, whatever the faith of the perpetrator and victim.

Such horrors should never, ever come to our shores here in America. Such division should never, ever rear its ugly head here. Yes, our theologies may be different; yes, we may disagree on various rulings of Islamic law; yes, our political theories may also be radically different. Those differences, however, should never, ever lead to division, rancor, or even violence. Never.

No matter how Sunni and Shi’i differ, we share one thing: “There is nothing worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger.” This phrase, this statement is worth more than all that this earth has to offer.

The Prophet (pbuh) said repeatedly one day, “To where will you go from La Ilaha Illa Allah on the Day of Resurrection?” That should always remain in the forefront of our minds: the Shi’i are our brothers in faith, and – as the Qur’an says – we must make peace with them at all times.

Indeed, these principles have been abandoned in so many parts of the Muslim world. But, we cannot abandon them here. We cannot let the stupid conflicts over there come and defile our communities over here. We must be better than that, in gratitude to God for the tremendous gift of being American Muslims with the freedom to worship God as He should be worshiped.

It did not take long for my Shi’i brother to respond to my Ashura text:

Ameen. Thank you for sharing your sentiments, means a great deal.

And the warmth in heart soared when I learned that such a small gesture meant so much to him, and I am grateful to God that He inspired me to reach out on Ashura.

I pray that our Ummah is spared from the ugliness of sectarian rancor and violence. I pray that our Ummah can see lasting peace and prosperity in our lifetimes. And I pray that, whatever we did on Ashura, God showered us with His infinite and everlasting Love, Care, and Grace. Amen.

Which Muslim Would You “Get Rid Of” First, Mr. Trump?


In the Name of God, the Extremely and Everlastingly Loving and Caring

Although really not surprising that it would occur at a Donald Trump rally, the Republican Presidential candidate found himself in hot water after he failed to correct a questioner’s comments about Muslims and President Obama:

“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” an unidentified man who spoke at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire asked the mogul at a rally Thursday night. “You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”

A seemingly bewildered Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, “We need this question. This is the first question.”

“Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us,” the man, wearing a “Trump” T-shirt, continued. “That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things,” Trump replied. “You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

The real estate mogul did not correct the questioner about his claims about Obama before moving on to another audience member.

His silence at the horrific sentiments in the question was deafening and alarming. And it begs the question: does he agree that there is a problem in this country called “Muslims”? Does he agree that they should be “gotten rid of”?

And if he does believe this, then who would he get rid of first? Would it be basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Or perhaps Hakeem Olajuwon? Would he “get rid” of boxer and American sports icon Muhammad Ali? Or would he start with the award-winning sportscaster Ahmad Rashad? What about Shaquille O’Neal?

Would he get rid of Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the former director the National Institutes of Health appointed by fellow Republican George W. Bush? Or, would he get rid of Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry?

Given that Mr. Trump is a successful businessman, as he constantly reminds us, would he get rid of Mohamed A. El-Arian, CEO of PIMCO, which manages over $1 trillion in assets? Or, maybe Jawad Karim, the co-founder of YouTube? Oh, wait, I know: he should get rid of Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

How about all the Muslims in the entertainment industry, like rappers Lupe Fiasco, or Q-tip, or T-Pain (LOVE the apps with his namesake)? Or, how about comedian Dave Chappelle? Would he get rid of him? I wonder if Mr. Trump would have supermodel Iman in his sights? Or maybe even Dr. Oz?

I can go on and on. Muslims are part and parcel of the fabric of America, and to “get rid of them” is as preposterous as seeking to get rid of any Americans of whatever ethnic or religious group. Such hatred is unbecoming of America, and Mr. Trump should of called it out then and there. It is a shame he did not.

It’s About Time: ISNA Works for Woman-Friendly Mosques 


In the Name of God: The Eternally and Everlastingly Loving and Caring 

I was blessed to attend the 52nd Annual Concention in Chicago this past weekend. Among the many great sessions was the launch of the campaign to make mosques in America more woman-friendly. It was an electrifying session. 

Yet, not only did I witness the launch of this initiative, but I was blessed to add my own signature on both forms of the document: online and on paper. 

For a long time, Muslim women have complained that their spaces were woefully inadequate. They were absolutely right. In fact, despite the beauty of the mosque in Paris, which I was blessed to visit recently, the women’s space was terrible. 

For such a long time, it seemed little was being done about it. Well, now things have changed. The Islamic Society of North America, the largest American Muslim organization, is trying to do something about it. 

To read more and to see my actual signature on the document, click here: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2015/09/its-about-time-muslims-launch-initiative-for-woman-friendly-mosques.html#ixzz3l6jyHlkQ

My Friend The Hero


In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, and Everlastingly Loving and Caring

A woman in Chicago was pulled from her burning car by a Good Samaritan who stopped to help. He saved her life. That Good Samaritan was my very good friend.

Ahmed Elsayed, an engineer from Aurora, was on his way to an appointment with his 9-year-old son when he saw the smoke. He pulled over and ran to her window.

“I was just screaming for her to get out of the car, get out of the car. So when she did, I kind of grabbed her by the arm and pulled her towards my car and we got in and moved further away,” Elsayed said.

The car went up in flames.

Ahmed gave me more detail about the incident:

I originally stopped to simply help her, thinking her car was overheating and then noticed the flames as I was walking towards her.

His walk then turned to a “frantic run to get her out of the car.”

The woman said afterwards: “I feel that I’m alive today because of him. And I owe him a great deal.”

After seeing this story, I wanted to post about how such stories about Muslims do not get enough play. I wanted to post about how, all over the world, Muslims do good like this, and no one hears about it. All anyone ever hears is the barbarity of savages who act in the name of Islam.

When I posed the post idea to Ahmed, he refused…
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2015/08/my-friend-the-hero.html#up0rKkJ4KWVrqkJl.99