Yesterday (November 4th) I had the great pleasure of being part of a panel discussing Islamophobia and the “Othering” of Muslims at Wesleyan University. It was sponsored by the Interfaith Justice League. Two professors were also a part of the panel, Dr. Ahmed, who teaches for both the Religion Dept. as well as Women and Gender Studies and Dr. Lim, an extremely articulate government professor. The questions were thought provoking and while we couldn’t have possibly answered all of them, I think enough were sufficiently answered to have students reach out and pursue more knowledge in this area.
There were many highlights to the event, but I wanted to mention one in particular which really made me think. Dr. Lim told us that one of the major problems of liberals is that they are too quick to get to the conclusion of remarks as opposed to delineating the premises. When someone says, “I’m just not ready for a black President,” we are quick to either say, “You’re a racist,” or think, “I have to respect this person’s feelings, because people are allowed to have feelings, so I will nod in understanding.” Either way, both reactions are extremely flawed. We should be pushing back and asking, “What do you mean when you say you are not ready?” Whenever people mention any type of discomfort, we should really try to find out what it is that makes them uncomfortable, because while the conclusion will be the same (racism), by having them unpack their feelings, they may be able to come to the conclusion all on their own.
What does it really mean when Juan Williams says, “I get nervous when I see Muslims wearing Muslim garb on my flight.” Let’s push him a little. Does he get nervous when he sees Muslims on the street? How does his nervousness correlate with his fear of Muslims in general? The fact that people actually defended Williams’ remarks because he’s allowed to share “his feelings” is quite frightening. Because this is racism, hidden under the cloud of feelings which usually are not associated with being a threat.
When you feel discomfort, try to unpack it. Those feelings may be a lot more powerful than you think.
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Last night, I had the honor of MCing the fifth annual ICNA-MAS MCCT Interfaith Banquet. The theme was Gobal Crisis-Faith Solutions. Alhamdulillah, the speeches were insightful, inspiring, and those that authored those speeches delivered them with a sense of true concern for the fate of humanity. One story really struck me which was told by Rabbi Herbert Brockman.
It’s about two brothers.
There were two brothers that lived at opposite ends of the hill. One brother had a beautiful wife and many children as well as a flourishing farm. The brother on the other side was not married, had no kids, but also had a flourishing farm. The brother with a family was so concerned about his brother. He would lament at the fact that his brother had no wife nor children and worry about his state of being- his loneliness, his probable insecurity etc. This preoccupied the brother so much, that he decided to cut down half of his best wheat, tie it up and leave it on the doorstep of his brother over the hill.
On the other side of the hill, the other brother was thinking to himself, “I have such a beautiful, flourishing farm and what am I going to do with all of it? I have no real use for all of this, while my brother on the other side of the hill has many mouths to feed.” Lamenting over the idea that his brother may need help making ends meet, he decides to cut down half of his best wheat, tie it up and deliver it to his brother.
As both start making their arduous journey up the hill, they keep thinking about the situation of their brother. “Is he okay?” “How is his physical state?” “Is he worried? What is he preoccupied about?” Until they reach the top and find each other, wheat in hand, ready to help one another. At that very moment, they embraced on the top of the hill with full understanding and mercy towards each other.
That hill is the hill that Prophet Suleyman had his palace only for the Romans to destroy it later and is now where Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock stand. (Rabbi’s viewpoint).
Allah’s presence was there with the two brothers and continues to be there today.
May Allah protect all those who wish to worship without oppression.
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“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and pays the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are truthful; and these are they who keep their duty,” Qur’an Translated, 2:177.
This past Sunday (May 3rd), my husband and I participated in the annual Walk Against Hunger campaign sponsored by Foodshare. The day was rainy, but it did not prevent thousands of people from walking the three mile route in the heart of Hartford, Ct. I even passed by my apartment and considered changing my soaking sneakers, but the unity of the movement stopped me from breaking the rhythm. Alhamdulillah, Foodshare raised over four hundred thousand dollars and Muslims were very well represented in the cause 😀 There was a point in the walk where I said, “Alhamdulillah for being a hijabi,” thinking that it is the perfect cover for the rain and a Muslim brother responded by saying, “Yes, isn’t it great to be known as a Muslim?” Haha, even though that is always a very good reason alhamdulillah to wear hijab, it’s funny to see how people interpret our statements.
As water was hiccuping out of my sneakers, I started to reflect on the idea of a journey. We all have journeys- whether they are physical, spiritual, mental, or a mixture of all three. We are all on a journey towards death, but we barely ever sit and ponder that reality. We all have a special and unique journey that can only have our names written on it. The Prophet Muhammad (sas) journeyed through the heavens and spoke to Allah (swt). He decided to return back for our sake and relay the message. This act alone is sufficient for him (sas) to be considered a mercy for humanity. On a physical journey that we are more likely to comprehend, he and his companions (sas) traveled from Mecca to Medina. On foot and camel. When I went to ‘umra, my father and I took a bus to Mecca from Medina. It was blazing hot even with an air-conditioned van and the mountainous skyline intimidated our eyes. That trip took five hours. Through breaks of “Lubayka Allahumma lubayk,” I couldn’t stop thinking about the arduous journey the Prophet (sas) must have endured in order for us to freely practice Islam today.
Praying before the Walk
For us to gather on a rainy May day to stand up for justice and against hunger seems relatively small, but we will keep trying inshaAllah to reach the humanity of the Messenger and to be a part of his suhba and the suhba of his companions (ra) in the hereafter 🙂
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