Challenges facing Muslims in North America

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Jamshed Abbas

Jumada' al-Ula' 20, 1434 2013-04-01

Special Reports

by Jamshed Abbas (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 2, Jumada' al-Ula', 1434)

Most Muslims have either been co-opted or intimidate by the system; others are gamely trying to stand up to the corporate and establishment bullies. Their best chance of survival is to frame their discourse in terms of the broader interests of the American people.

Muslims in the US face a dilemma. Living in a country that has taken on the mantle of capitalism and imperialism presents a unique set of challenges. Do Muslims adhere to the narrative of American exceptionalism or do they identify with and dedicate themselves to furthering the cause of the Muslim Ummah? Is there a middle way, a convergence of interests that does not necessitate this kind of dichotomy?

That there is often an apparent clash between American interests/values and Islamic interests/ values is undoubtedly true. American foreign policy as it stands today is unacceptable.

Muslims in America who are outspoken about their support of Islamic causes and critical of US policies know full well the dangers such outspokenness entails. Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals, scholars, activists, leaders, imams and anyone who challenges the mainstream narrative is harassed, detained, summoned before grand juries, interrogated and/or deported by the US government. Anyone who thinks the US is the “land of the free” has obviously not challenged the mainstream government/media narrative in an effective manner with the potential to reach the masses.

Thus Muslims living in the US have to make a choice. Do they give in to the oppressive climate of fear and intimidation or speak truth to power?

There are four main groups of Muslims in the US. The first group comprises those that merely follow rituals. They may be Muslim in appearance and follow Islamic and cultural rituals strictly but they are genuinely in awe of the capitalist system and wholeheartedly subscribe to it. They may talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. They are generally good people, but woefully ignorant of the reality of Islam. They pray, fast, and even pay zakah and other charity, yet they believe that being a good Muslim means acquiescing to the capitalist system. They may think they are working for the betterment of Muslims in the US, but the Muslim Ummah and its affairs are not major concerns. They do what they can, but the thought of starting an intellectual or ideological revolution in America so that they can rid the American people of the yoke of capitalism is a foreign concept and one many of them would deem un-Islamic. This group of Muslims often comprises immigrants or converts who have been introduced to this kind of Islam. In short, their understanding of Islam is limited to rituals and does not subscribe to a dynamic political philosophy that has the establishment of justice at its core.

The second group is Muslim only in name. They have completely gone over to the capitalist system and become its loyal agents. They serve in the military, in law enforcement (FBI, etc.), they hate and oppose political Islam and are actively working against it with a view to favouring the capitalist/imperialist system. Such people merely pose as Muslims but have nothing to do with Islam.

The third group is genuinely confused. They have not taken on the trappings of an outward Islamic identity without internalizing Islam such as the ritualistic Muslims, nor have they gone over to the other side like the capitalist worshipping Muslims. They live their lives, following their daily routine. They are aware of the discomfort of being Muslim within a system that is inimical to justice but they suppress such feelings and keep their heads down. They have not processed their feelings like the ritualistic and capitalist Muslims have. Many are open to an interpretation of true Islam that has at its heart the establishment of justice and eradication of oppression. This group is largely (but not exclusively) comprised of the sons and daughters of the ritualistic Muslims who have grown up in the US.

The fourth group of Muslims comprises the revolutionaries. They understand that Islam is a dynamic, comprehensive system of life that addresses every human need from the cradle to the grave. They understand that the capitalist system is unjust. They subscribe to the concept of the Muslim Ummah and work earnestly to challenge the Zionists and capitalists and to introduce true Islam to the American people. This group is not prepared to give up their Islamic identity for a few morsels of comfort that the capitalist system offers. This group considers Islam as the solution to all that ails the United States and considers capitalism as nothing but a manifestation of shirk (constructing rivals with Allah (swt) in the area of governance and dominion). This group is mostly comprised of indigenous (mostly African American) Muslims, second generation Muslims, and converts who have found true Islam.

This fourth group faces a serious dilemma. How do they communicate their point of view effectively without being slandered and misrepresented by a hostile corporate media that is pro-Zionist and in most cases Zionist controlled?

The first step in attaining a clear channel of communication with the American people is to craft a message that is designed for domestic consumption. What does this mean? It certainly does not mean that Muslims give up fighting for justice for the Muslim Ummah. It means crafting a message that conflates the domestic concerns of the American people with the issues that the Muslim Ummah faces.

Muslims must be very clear about the nature of American society. A few points are worth mentioning here. First, Muslims in the United States must fully understand that they have a historic opportunity to reform the capitalist system that is one of the main sources of destruction, misery, injustice, and chaos globally, and for this reason harbors a visceral enmity to Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh). Most Americans are absolutely fed up with the capitalist system. The capitalist/secular/liberal democracy system is corrupt and completely broken. It has fallen victim to the very aspects of human nature that sustain it: greed and individualism. The American people are fed up with and tired of a capitalist system in which corporations and Zionists hold sway. Thus the American public at large is not the adversary. They are victims who need rescuing.

The second point that must be abundantly clear in the mind of revolutionary Muslims is that there are only two things keeping the American people from rising up against their corrupt system: fear and hope.

The American ruling elite instil fear in their subjects with what anthropologists refer to as the “other.” The “other” is that individual or group that is seen as outside one’s social, political and cultural setting. The “other” is hostile and is to be loathed and feared. It used to be communism; today it is Islam. This is one of the reasons why Imam Khomeini used to refer to the Saudi version of Islam as “American Islam.” He called it so because it presents an image of Islam that most benefits the American ruling elite.

The second thing that keeps the American people in check is hope. Hope is best encapsulated in a sentence that is part of American popular culture, “Yes, our system sucks, but it is the best there is.” This is most often followed by a statement such as “at least we don’t live under the Taliban,” or something similar. The second aspect of hope is “the American dream.” By admitting to these yawning gaps in their system, the ruling elites play a clever sleight of hand. They then follow this with the second part of the sentence, which says that despite being a corrupt, ruthless, godless system, it is better than any other system out there, especially any system that would proclaim God as its central authority.

How, then, can revolutionary Muslims reform such a system and free the American people? To accomplish this, we must turn to the Qur’an. Allah (swt) says,

“Say, ‘We are committed to Allah and to that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Ibrahim and Isma‘il and Ishaq [Isaac] and Ya‘qub [Jacob] and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Musa [Moses] and ‘Isa [Jesus], and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] Prophets by their Sustainer; and we do not discriminate between any of them. And it is unto Him that we resign ourselves’” (2:136).

Here, the Qur’an adopts an approach that any good PR firm is aware of. We should try to find commonalities between our and the American narrative so that we can persuade Americans about the righteousness of our position. There is a lot that Americans have in common with Islam and Muslims. Islam emphasizes honesty and forthrightness. It emphasizes bravery and honour. It honours the Prophets that came before the noble Messenger (Å). The list goes on. Islam emphasizes justice, egalitarianism and God-consciousness, all attributes that the American people, in fact, any people admire and subscribe to. The Zionists have perfected this tactic. However, the Zionists have no identity, morals or integrity. They can say and do anything to further their goals. Their disdain for the American people is evident in Netanyahu’s secretly recorded comments that Israel controls the US. Muslims cannot adopt such an attitude.

The second point that we can use from the Qur’an is found in Surah Yasin. Allah (swt) addresses the Prophet (pbuh) thus,

“So let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, We know what they conceal and what they declare” (36:76).

We must ask, what is the Prophet (pbuh) sad about? Obviously, the Prophet (pbuh) is not sad at the thought of failure on his part or any personal problems. In other words, his sadness was more a product of concern for those who rejected the truth, the Muslims and Islam, and not about himself. The Prophet (pbuh) is but a manifestation of the Will of Allah (swt). He (pbuh) did not have an ego or concern for his personal well-being, reputation, or any such thing. The point is that Muslims in North America should be motivated out of concern for Islam and love for the people of America, not their personal, selfish motives so that they can live “better” and more comfortable lives.

The third and final point is that like the Prophet (pbuh), Muslims in the US should not budge on principle for mere convenience. The Qur’an emphasizes love of people and trying to find a common narrative to promote one’s message; yet all the Prophets (Å) suffered at the hands of the people. Even the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) who had the best morals was attacked relentlessly. He was attacked because he was a threat to the ruling elite, to the entrenched system in society. He refused to accept the status quo. He was committed to establishing justice and eradicating the unjust system that the Quraysh headed. In short, the Prophet (pbuh) was a revolutionary. Muslims living in the US must understand that if they want to bring about genuine change in the US they can never acquiesce to fear, detention and other forms of oppression that will be heaped on them. The Prophet (pbuh) was the most accommodating person, but when it came to Islamic principles he said that if the Makkan mushriks put the Sun in one hand and the Moon in the other, he could still not be convinced to give up his mission. Muslims in the US have, in many respects the same mission as the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). They want to free the American people of the corruption inherent in capitalism. True freedom comes with intellectual and spiritual freedom. Capitalism sets out to design a system in which people are mindless consumers of goods, information and ideological brainwashing.

Thus, we can learn the following when it comes to the political agenda that Muslims in North America must pursue:

  1. We should use the Qur’anic approach: that is, we should try to find commonalities between our personal and collective narratives and the personal and collective narrative of the American people.
  2. Our motivation should not be our personal interests, or our interests as Muslims living in America. Our motivation should be the promotion and protection of Islam and the betterment and happiness of the American people. We should be motivated by love for the American people and love of our fellow Muslims abroad.
  3. We should take advantage of point (a) but we should never do so in a manner that compromises our principles, sells Islam short, or maligns our fellow Muslims in Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran or elsewhere.
  4. The Qur’an presents Islam and monotheism as the only viable solution to the problems of the world. America is no different. We should never acquiesce on this point, however hard it may appear.
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