Washington Post: At Hajj, can peace be found?

This was published today in the Washington Post’s faith blog.


Year after year, holiday after holiday passes with no progress in the Holy Land. In August, Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan, with no peace in the Holy Land. In October, Jews marked the High Holy Days with Palestinians still under occupation. Now, as millions of Muslims descend upon Mecca to perform the pilgrimage, or Hajj, peace between the children of Abraham remains as elusive as ever.

Indeed, there is great fear that even more violence will erupt, and the chance for a lasting peace will become even more remote that it already seems. Yet, far beyond the cynical political calculation of politicians, the Realpolitik of various world leaders, and overarching geopolitical interests of nations, there lies the lives of people, real live people, who have suffered and are suffering tremendously. That is what I see as a person of faith, who values the Holy Land tremendously.

This land is very special to me, as a Muslim. It is the land of my ethnic and spiritual father Abraham, to which he fled the oppression of his people for his staunch belief in the Lord God. It is the land in which my Master Abraham, and his sons Isaac and Jacob, are buried. The rituals of the Hajj, in fact, are all a re-enactment of the story of Abraham with his son Ishmael in the plain of Paran.

In this Holy Land, my Master Joseph, who preached the faith of the One God to my Egyptian people many centuries ago, was also laid to rest. In this land, my Masters David and Solomon ruled in justice and faith, and on this land, my Master Jesus Christ tread his holy footsteps, preaching the Gospel to the Children of Israel. And to this most holy of lands, my Master Muhammad traveled by night to lead all of the prophets in prayer. For all these reasons and more, the veneration of this land will be ingrained in and be with me forever.

In such a wondrous place, there should be no violence. In such a wondrous place, there should be no occupation; no war; no sadness for the loss of life; no cries of children attacked by rocket fire; no screams of mothers holding their dead babies in their arms. In such a wondrous place, the children of Abraham should be living and working together in peace, just as their holy fathers did all those years ago.

Yet, sadly, despite the wondrous nature of the land, these are not wondrous times. Extremists who hail from both Isaac and Ishmael are bent on seeing the other destroyed. Politicians lack the courage to make the hard choices for peace. And as diplomats wrangle over what to say and do to save political face, terrible misery continues to envelope this most wondrous and holy of lands. As those diplomats wrangle, the blood of innocents, which defiles and chokes this most wondrous and holy of lands, continues to spill with abandon.

Will this sad state of affairs fail to awaken us? Will the cries of the Holy Land, in her utter anguish, not arouse us to try to bring and end to this suffering? It brings me no pain to see Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall: this was, after all, the wall of my Master King Solomon, about whose story I read in the Koran itself. And neither should it bring any misery to our Jewish brethren to see Muslims worshipping on the Temple Mount: in the chants of the Koran is the glorification of Moses, David, Abraham, and Solomon, and most importantly, the glorification of our mutual Lord and God.

This is the middle way, about which the overwhelming majority of us can agree. There can be peace between Christian, Jew, and Muslim in the Holy Land; there can be mutual respect for the life of the other in that most wondrous land; the cries of the innocent can be quieted and replaced with the laughter of children hopeful of a bright and prosperous future. We live this reality in America, and it is most joyous indeed. It just takes courage and fortitude, and reliance upon our Lord, to make this come to pass over there. As I behold the scurrying of the politicians near and far, I realize that change cannot come from they. So let that change come about through us.


Another Investigation for Rep. King?: Washington Post

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, this was published today on the Washington Post’s Faith Divide blog, courtesy of my friend Eboo Patel.

The safety and security of the United States and her people is of the utmost importance to every single American, not just to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. I am confident that any American would do his or her utmost to prevent an attack of any kind against their country. It would make the most sense, to me at least, to examine all sources of threats to the security of the Homeland, in order to get a full, informed view of what threatens the country and how to properly deal with it.

Thus, it was exasperating to read about (and watch part of) Rep. King’s March 10 hearing entitled, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” It was troubling to see Rep. King focus solely on the American Muslim community, as if it was the only source of the threat of terrorism against the Homeland. On the one hand, I am grateful for his and the Committee’s efforts in keeping my family and me safe from terrorist attack. Yet, to see him single out my faith community, to the exclusion of all others, was disturbing to the very core.

It made me wonder: will Rep. King also investigate the extent of the terrorist threat against Muslims in this country and the government’s response? Ever since 9/11, the American Muslim community has been the subject of sustained attack and backlash for the sins of terrorists both home and abroad. Mosques have been firebombed, vandalized, and even burned to the ground. In response to a local, New York City community center project, a man in Madera, California attacked a mosque with a brick and left signs saying, “No Temple for the God of terrorism at Ground Zero. ANB,” “Wake up America, the Enemy is here. ANB” and “American Nationalist Brotherhood.”

Scores of American Muslims , completely innocent of the crimes of the terrorist criminals who may happen to share their faith, have been brutalized, attacked, harassed, beaten, and even killed. Even people who are perceived to be Muslim, such as Sikh Americans, have been attacked. Recently, in California, two Sikh men were gunned down in an apparent hate crime. Also in California, Muslims attending a fundraiser to help combat homelessness and domestic abuse were harassed and subjected to vile insults by “patriots” protesting their presence. Local residents shouted: “You beat your women and you rape your children!” And, “Take your sharia and go home, you terrorist lovers. Your hands are bloody! Your money is bloody! Get out!”

This is not to mention the sustained terrorist threat against abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood clinics, and – sad to say – African-American churches in this country. This is not to mention the fact that African-Americans were subjected to domestic terrorism for over 100 years in this country. This is not to mention to the ever-present terrorist threat against Jews and synagogues in this country. Will Rep. King investigate this? Will he hold hearings into the clear and present danger of violent extremism that emanates from without the Muslim community? In fact, according to a recent study, in 2010, there were more than 30 domestic terror plots. Ten of them were by Muslims.

The threat of radicalization of American Muslims is real, and I do not dismiss it at all. It must be dealt with in a responsible manner. Yet, so should all the threats of violent extremism against America and Americans. Singling out one community for investigation does not make us safer; it does not make us more unified as a people; it only alienates and hurts, and it hands our terrorist enemies – Muslim or otherwise – an unwarranted victory.

Christian and Muslim Brotherhood is Real: Washington Post

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

This was published on the Washington Post’s Faith Divide blog. Thanks to my friend and brother Eboo Patel for posting it.

Barely half a week into his new term as Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley immersed himself in controversy by uttering these words at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church:

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister. Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Naturally, these comments upset his non-Christian constituents, as the words intimate that he has no relationship with those who do not have Jesus Christ in their lives. And he later “apologized” by saying:

“If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”

Yet, it seems that he is not really sorry for feeling that way, but just sorry if his beliefs offended anyone, which is why I put the word “apologized’ in quotes. But to be fair to the Governor, he also said in his remarks:

“I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor … I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that.”

Now, I understand that, on one level, I am not his brother because, as a Muslim, I neither believe Jesus Christ is God nor do I accept him as my personal savior.

Yet, there are many other levels on which Gov. Bentley and I share a common brotherhood. Although I do not worship Christ, that does not mean I do not love and believe in him. In fact, love for and belief in Christ is a central tenet of Islamic belief. Thus, on the level of common love for Jesus, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers.

As a Muslim, I worship the very same God as the One to which Christ himself called during his ministry on earth. In fact, I call Him by the very same name by which Christ called him as well.

Thus, on the level of our common belief in the God of Christ, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers. We are both sons of this great nation, and thus, on the level of our common nationality, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers. Moreover, we are both the sons of Prophet Adam, upon whom be peace, and thus, on the level of our common humanity, Gov. Bentley and I are brothers.

I take him at his word that Gov. Robert Bentley will be the governor of every citizen of Alabama, regardless of their faith or lack thereof. Yet, there are many ways that Gov. Bentley and his non-Christian constituents can be brothers and sisters, and I urge the governor to focus on these during his term.

Yes, I am a brother to my fellow American Muslims, but I am also a brother to the rest of my American compatriots of other faiths and traditions as well as to the rest of humanity all across the globe. There was a time in my life when I did not have this inclusive worldview, and I am so very grateful to the Lord that my views have changed. It has made me a better American and a better Muslim as well.

The sooner we see each other as brothers and sisters, members of one human family, the easier it will be to work together as a family and make our world a much better place for all. It is easy to separate and divide. Let us work hard to unite and come together.