By Aslam Abdullah, Editor-in-chief of The Muslim Observer
Here is a letter, my written response to the question “Are Muslims loyal to the US,” from an elected official, a friend of mine who shall remain nameless, who was asked about these important subjects by her constituents.
Dear Jane (Not the real name):
Thank you very much for your email. It is truly unfortunate that we have such grave misconceptions about Islam in our country.
Here is what I believe Muslim Americans feel about the issues that the people have raised.
While we discuss these issues it is important to keep in mind some of our history. Muslims have been part of America for hundreds of years. Some came with Columbus, others came with the Chinese sailor, Zheng He a few decades prior to Columbus. One of the earliest group of Muslims that was introduced to the Americas were among those who were denied all rights that a human being deserves including, freedom, liberty, justice and the right to practice their religion. They were among the Africans who were bought and sold as slaves in this country. Many of them were forcibly converted to Christianity, as is recorded in several slave diaries. Also among the early Muslims who came to America were those who were expelled from Spain in the sixteenth century along with Jews who found a refuge in this country. During the later part of the nineteenth century, Muslims came to this country as immigrants to study and establish their professionals careers and since then their numbers have been growing. Since the founding of the United States, no African American Muslim or Spanish Muslim or immigrant Muslim was ever tried or convicted for treason or for being involved in anti-nation activities. How can anyone claim that Muslims have not been part of this country? They fought during the first and second world wars and they represented the country in several crucial conferences such as the First Parliament of Religions in which Alexander Russell Webb spoke as an American Muslim. His book, Muslim American talks about the Muslim responsibilities in America. As a response to the issues raised in your private gathering please consider the following as to how the Muslims are part of the American fabric. Theologically, Yes – Muslims submit to God who is the supreme creator of all that is in the heavens and earth. There is no such concept as ‘moon god’ in Islam. In fact, the scriptures of Islam make it very clear that Allah (Arabic for God in English, Dios in Spanish, Gott in German and Dieu in French) is the same God that was reveled to Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Peace be upon them). Muslims are described in the Quran as those who are on the path of all of these prophets. God inspires Muslims to appreciate human diversity in His creation of the multitude of tribes and nations so that they may know and appreciate each other. He exhorts them not to harm others. Loyalty to God does not contradict patriotic feelings. God and nation are not synonymous. One is the creator and the other created.
Religiously, Yes – Because the Quran states in verse 2:256 very clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. In fact what was said in your gathering is a fabrication. Here is the verse that you can share with the people at the gathering.
There should be no compulsion in religion. Distinct has now become the right way from the way of error; Hence, He who rejects the power of evil and believes in God, has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way; For God is all hearing and all knowing. (2:256) Muslims do not worship five pillars or the Quran. They worship God, the Almighty. Following are the five pillars of Islam that are used as guiding principals:
1. Testimony of Faith: There is no deity but God (Allah) and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God 2. Prayer: Daily at Dawn, Noon, Mid-Afternoon, Sunset and Night. Each prayer takes a few minutes. 3. Poor Due (Zakat): An annual payment of 2.5% of a Muslim’s wealth which is distributed among the needy. Optional charity is encouraged. 4. Fasting: Total abstinence from food and liquid from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. 5. Hajj: Annual pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are physically and financially able. (To commemorate the example of Prophet Abraham.) The Quran identifies humanity as a plural society, like the founding principals of this country that guaranties religious freedom.
Geographically, Yes – Because millions of Muslim migrated to the US of their own free will and contributed to the welfare of this country. The designer of Sears Tower was a Muslim. The engineer who built the New York tunnel was a Muslim. More than 70,000 Muslim doctors toil hard to save lives of average Americans every day and more than 300,000 engineers engage in designing the construction of roads, buildings and strategic institutions.
Makkah has similar significance as the Vatican does for Catholics. Makkah is considered a holy place where the first house of worship to God was made by Prophet Abraham.
Muslims do face towards Makkah for their five daily prescribed prayers but at the same time God reminds believers that ..
Socially, Yes – The Quran only discourages Muslims from befriending those who fight Muslims because of their religion.
[See Can Muslims be friends with Jews and Christians?]
Muslims are allowed to marry Christians and Jews and who can be better in friendship than a wife. In Islam God restricted polygamy to four wives and encouraged monogamy.
Muslims are reminded to be respectful to women. If there are societies that oppress women, they follow tribal customs and misuse Islam to serve their male chauvinist interests. Verse 4:34 from the Quran reminds Muslim men to .. take full care of women (wife) with the bounties which God has bestowed, more abundantly and with which they spend out of their possession. The righteous women (wife) are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded. As for those women (Wife), whose ill will, you have reason to fear, admonish them first and then leave them alone in bed and then separate from them. If they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them.
Politically, Yes – Unlike a large number of the American Jews, the allegiance to Israel is not a condition for allegiance to the USA. Moreover, it is the Christian evangelical priests like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who go beyond the destruction of Israel to say that when Jesus returns, 2/3 of the Jews will be killed and one-third would be converted to Christianity.
Intellectually, Yes – Because the American constitution is not based on Biblical principles. Every Muslim who becomes a citizen of this country first takes an oath of allegiance to the constitution. Philosophically, Yes – Because Islam ensures that all religions are given freedom. If Democracy does not exist in 17 of 56 Muslim majority countries, that is due to historical and political reasons. Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh are great examples. In fact unlike in our own country that has never elected a female president many Muslim countries have elected female heads of state. Spiritually, Yes – “One nation under God” resonates strongly among Muslims who consider God to be absolutely Omnipotent and Omnipresent. Among the 99 names of God that one can find in the Quran, several refer to His love, mercy and majesty. The chapters of the Quran start with the phrase “In the name of God most Merciful and Most Companionate” and is a often repeated part of a Muslims daily vocabulary. Good Muslims and Good Americans, Yes – According to some estimates there are about 6 to 8 million Muslims in this country. Among the list of sex offenders released by the law enforcement recently, not a single one is a Muslim. I went over the names of one hundred thousand sex offenders. Among the drugs addicts who seek rehabilitation, the number of Muslims is less than 2 percent. Among those who are caught as burglars or arsonists or murderers, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among those who are domestically violent the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among those who are convicted of fraud the number of Muslims is less than 2 percent. Among those who are known alcoholics, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among those who are drug pushers, the number of Muslims is less than point 2 percent. There is a rape every four minutes in our country. Among those who are convicted of rape, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among those who illegally use state welfare system, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among those who are involved in Gun violence, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Among tax evaders, the number of Muslims is less than one percent. Now please tell me on the basis of this explanation who stands for America and its values? The struggle for truth is far bigger than any other war. Perhaps it is this struggle that must bring us more closer to all people so that we can dispel these common misperceptions. I appreciate the opportunity to explain Islam and Muslims to the people at the gathering. I hope and pray that we all can find the absolute truth.