The life of a Muslim is a Jihad, a constant struggle especially when being in a non-Muslim society. In American context, Muslims have great responsibilities to perform.
In a short introduction, Islam is not just a religion, but a total way of life. This observation is made by both Muslims, and non-Muslims. It is the fastest growing religion in this country, and in the world. It is estimated that the world's Muslim population is 1.2 Billion, and Muslims are a majority in over 63 countries.
There are an estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims in America. The Muslim community in America is made up of people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins. Demographers say that by the turn of the century, Islam will be the second largest religion in America. There are more than 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools, and Islamic centers in America. Muslims are spread all over America and are active in all walks of life. What I just said I'm sure is encouraging and heartwarming.
When we talk about what America teaches us, we'll have to analyze what is going on around us here, What are the issues, problems, and solutions.
This melting pot has taught lessons to everyone who came here in the past. We'll see what Islam offers in this context.
From an Islamic point of view American society is being transformed into a totally secular society. The major challenge facing man today, is the dominance of secular and materialistic ideologies. There is however no common ground between secularism and Islam. Secularism rejects belief in God, belief in the revelation and in the Hereafter. The fundamental assumption of secularism is that material well-being is the essential means to happiness. Secularism makes religion a personal matter, a thing of the conscience, a matter of private faith. Whereas, Islam encircles and embraces both aspects of life, public and private.
We are living in a society based on man-made ideologies. Which are clearly absolutely, and undoubtedly inferior to the laws of the Creator. Let us have a glimpse of man-made law. In the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it says, and I quote, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America". Now you tell me, where is the justice in the fact that the Blacks were made to be slaves, until the 13th Amendment was passed, in 1865? That's 78 years after the Constitution had been ratified. Not until the 14th Amendment were the Blacks allowed equal rights as the whites. As a Muslim that is certainly not my idea of justice.
Stereotypes and misconceptions have shown Islam as being oppressive towards women, making them invisible, anonymous, and voiceless.
At a time when Islam is faced with hostile media coverage especially where the status of women in Islam is concerned, it may be quite surprising to learn that the majority of converts, to Islam, are WOMEN. Let the non-Muslim world know, that the Muslim women were given roles, duties, and rights, 14 centuries ago that most women of the west do not enjoy today.
Under Islamic law, women have always had the right to own property, receive education and take part in community life. But yet we see that in this society, the women were not given the right to vote until 1920. That's 133 years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
Americans do not understand the purpose of the hijab. When people ask ridiculous questions about it, do they actually realize what they are saying? Of all those statues of hadhrat Maryam or as they call her, Mary the mother of God, did they ever see her without anything on her head? Isn't her whole body always covered?
There are many, many misinterpretations and distortions presented against Islam, I would like to mention some of them here. Americans believe that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) forced the people of Arabia to become Muslims.
They allege that wherever Muslims went, they forced people to accept Islam at the point of the sword. Whereas, Dawah literally means inviting and welcoming. The Quran has specifically laid down: "let there be no compulsion in religion".
The word Jihad has been frequently used in the Western press over the past several years, explained directly to mean, holy war. As a matter of fact the term "holywar" was coined in Europe during the Crusades, meaning the war against Muslims. We Muslims, object to the use of terms such as "radical", "fundamentalist", and "extremist". These terms are caustic and malicious. More objective terms can be, "Islamist" or "Islamic activist". If a person in question is involved in a criminal act, name that act, not the faith of the person who commits the crime. In this regard also America has double standards.
ALLAH is the Supreme Being, the one and only worthy of worship. There has been much confusion about this word, Allah is the same God as that worshipped by Jews and Christians. As a matter of fact, Arabic-speaking Christians also use this name when referring to God Almighty.
America's attitude towards Muslims is very antagonistic, for example at the time of the Oklahoma City Bombing, right away, Muslims were blamed, without any investigation. Soon, they had to admit that the "terrorists" were actually their own people.
In order to defame Islam, many lies are being spread. The Ultimate Truth of Islam stands on solid ground and the unshakable belief in the Unity of Allah is above reproach. Due to this, enemies of Islam are unable to criticize its doctrines directly, but instead, make up false allegations about Islam so that people lose the desire to learn more about it. If Muslims present Islam in the proper way to people in the West, it surely might make many people reconsider and re-evaluate their own beliefs.
Many movies depict Islam as the enemy. But what is especially shocking and hurting about these movies is that they associate mainstream Islamic practices with terrorism. What a horrible and hideous attitude.
Ironically, "Islam" is the Arabic word for "peace", yet Hollywood produces movies associating Islam and Muslims with violence.
It is exactly this comparison that of fanatic terrorist activity alongside mainstream Muslim practices such as prayer, and reading from the Quran, that defiles Islam and Muslims. A similar analogy would be a scene featuring Yigal Amir reading from the Torah, rocking back and forth in prayer, and then, proceeding to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin. These filmmakers would think twice before portraying Amir as a representative of mainstream Judaism.
Muslims are being labeled and branded as either criminals or terrorists. It would be easy to argue that no religion has gone unharmed in Hollywood productions, and thus Islam is no exception. The United States had been a Judeo-Christian society at heart, where Islamic knowledge among the Americans is extremely low. Thus it is easy for them to draw the conclusion that all Muslims possess extremist tendencies and that the Islamic faith and their people are fanatical.
We must realize that we are talking about a society which is totally apathetic even about its own faith. For example, in the movie Mission Impossible, there is a scene where a man knocks the bible onto the floor. Did we hear any outrage over the desecration of their Holy Book? Not that I recall!
Describing Muslims in this light, only serves to insult American Muslims, increase the lack of understanding of a great religion, and fuel the fire of mental illness, racism and, animosity against Muslims.
Some sources of the western negative attitude towards Islam and Muslims can be traced back to the Crusades. During that period, rumors, and false concepts about Islam and Muslims, were fabricated and spread around in order to arouse hatred in the Christian world. Those rumors against Islam still exist in the minds of western intellectuals and journalists.
Also, all religious groups except Islam practice hostility towards other faiths and are intolerant towards those who do not believe in the religion of that particular group. This is made Christians bitter within their own denominations and towards non-Christians. The Jewish community also has deep-rooted narrow-mindedness and racism stigma against all other religions.
Western thinking is clouded by prejudices about Islam, its culture, and its a followers. How could we expect that the education of Muslim youth on western lines, can remain free from anti- Islamic influences?
Islam has abolished racial hatred and opened the way for human brotherhood and equality; but western civilization is still unable to look beyond the narrow horizon of racial and national antagonism. To this day, racism exists in this country. Within the last year more than 30 black churches were burned, down south. What would you call this other than bigotry and racism? We must guard ourselves against the western tactics who want to destroy our Islamic heritage. By imitating the manners and the mode of the west, the Muslims will gradually be forced to accept the western outlook.
You know? Sometimes I am forced to believe that those who paint an ugly picture of Islam and Muslims are blind, deaf, emotionally disturbed, and mentally retarded. We need to offer special programs, facilities, and guidance they need to develop their perceptions and attitudes.
And this is distinctly and conclusively wrong. In this country, my country, where the founding principles consist of freedom of thought, religion, and diversity. I find such portrayals an insult to my rights as a U.S. citizen, and my dignity as a Muslim.
Muslims in the United States face a variety of challenges, opportunities, special obligations, and responsibilities where Islamic and Western views are in conflict with each other. The key concern is how to preserve the Islamic identity in this pluralistic, secular society and live an Islamic life in a non-Muslim country.
There are several obstacles in our way. One of them is that we lack confidence in the ability of Islam to stand in the marketplace of ideas. Another is that we are not doing our part of positive dawah work to spread the true message of Islam to counter the image being projected by American media. We should never allow ourselves to be projected as a frightening group, it will go against us, and against the future of Islam in America.
We have Islamic organizations such as Islamic Circle of North America, Who help educate Muslim as well as non-Muslims living in this society. The chief aim of this organization is to disseminate information, distribute literature, and help in establishing study groups and neighbornet circles. They also hold regular Sunday Meetings, after-school Qur'anic and Islamic studies for the children.
It would be a pity if America continues to drift toward confrontation with Islam because of erroneous representations and prejudice. Islam seeks cooperation with the West for world peace, and justice. It demands the same from its own followers as well as of all other human beings.
We hope that Muslims, Christians and Jews will find ways to work together to bring peace on earth by eradicating immorality, fear, hate, disease, poverty and, injustice.
Brothers and Sisters, we must not imitate western civilization if we wish to survive and thrive and to preserve and to revive the values of Islam. The one thing Muslims must not wish for, is to see with western eyes and to think with the western mind. We must not wish to exchange the spiritual glorification of Islam for the materialistic experiments of the west.
Now we know, what America teaches us and I hope we all are ready for the big challenge of teaching America for the pleasure of Allah Insha'allah. I thank you very much for your time, attention, and patience.