Friday, November 9, 2012

Beyond the Polling Booth

Now that the elections are over, will Muslim political activism go back into hibernation?

Most mosques across America usually won't touch political issues with a ten-foot pole but many forayed onto the political scene this fall through sophisticated get-out-the-Muslim-vote campaigns that included mass emails, on-site registration drives and even specialized Friday sermons that urged people to "enjoin good and forbid evil" by casting a vote.

"We Muslims in America are blessed to be part of a vibrant and open democracy that actively seeks our participation," gushed one email I received from a local mosque on election day. "Voting is our duty both as Americans and Muslims. But more importantly, it's our right."

Indeed, our leaders have gone gangbusters this year urging us to make use of our Fifteenth Amendment constitutional right to vote (Huffington Post ran a piece called "Tennessee Muslims Instrumental in Getting the Vote Out" on 11/7/2012). 

But they shouldn't put away their political topees just yet. 

To truly contribute to creating a more just and harmonious society in America, our leaders need to focus their time, energies and money on methods of peaceful political participation that lifts oppression for all and not just changes the face of corrupted leadership.

For starters, our leaders need to wake up and start exercising the First Amendment rights they have long neglected in their stated struggle "to help solve the problems in the world around us."

Freedom of Speech: Muslim leaders have the opportunity to speak out against the injustices being committed by our corporate-controlled government at home (poverty, hunger and homelessness) and abroad (globalization, wars, drone attacks) during weekly sermons but mum's the word on these topics during most Friday afternoon congregational prayers. 

"The concept of separation of church and state meant that the state was to keep out of the affairs of the church, not that the church was supposed to be silent about things about the state," according to Rev. Rob Rotola of Witchita, Kansas, who took part last month in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a movement to get religious leaders to talk about politics from the pulpit.

Freedom of Assembly: None of the mosques in our area supported the Occupy movement, demonstrated against the video ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (S) or participated in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rallies, when Muslims, Christians, Jews and others around the world gather on the last Friday of Ramadan in support of the oppressed in Palestine and other places. Our leaders need to get a clue from one local church that recently took up the Palestinian cause---it's considering organizing an Al-Quds Day demonstration next year.

Freedom of Press: With media outlets from all over the world swarming our town and paparazzing our leaders for interviews time and again ever since controversy about a new mosque erupted two years ago, our leaders have missed ample opportunities to discuss how local Islamophobia ties in with the War on Terror. They need to seize them now.

Truth is, the majority of Muslim leaders today are immigrants and newcomers to this country's political arena with little knowledge about the history of people's struggle for justice in America. To get on the fast track to political action that works, they need to join hands with the indigenous Muslims of African descent who are working in their oppressed communities and familiar with the system.

But that means willing to give up the American Dream of attaining comfort and riches for oneself and struggling instead to create a more just world for the masses as did Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (S) and one of the four perfect women of all times.

This "Princess of Arabia" came to the Prophet (S) with real estate, pasture lands, herds of camels and horses, flocks of goats and sheep, priceless heirlooms, precious metals and stones, and masses of gold and silver coins. But she spent it all on others, enduring intense hunger, thirst, cold and heat in her final years of struggle against corruption and oppression.

According to African-American Imam Abdul Alim Musa of Masjid Al-Islam, Muslim leaders in America are making the mistake of using Civil Rights era (1960s) tactics to combat the global problems of injustice in the twenty-first century.

"The struggle today is bigger than that," Musa says. "We have to rise to the occasion."


Hano said...

Awesome post. Loving the historical, Islamic references and drawing political strategy from them :)

Salina Khan said...

Thanks, Hano!
These three children in the picture above lost their parents and 7-year-old brother to a U.S. drone attack in Dande Darpa Khel in Waziristan on August 21, 2009. At the time this picture was taken, they did not know about the deaths :(

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Angela Navejas said...
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Angela Navejas said...

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