“Understand what is happening in the context of the greater picture,” said Imam Zaid Shakir at a Zaytuna College event in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday called How Do We Respond: American Muslims and the Crisis of Anti-Islam Propaganda.
Imam Shakir and Imam Hamza Yusuf had an immensely complicated subject to tackle in a short amount of time, but within two hours, they each spoke about the history of discrimination against Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in Europe and the United States, the controversy of multiculturalism, various forms of media used against Islam and practical steps Muslims can take to spread truth and fight inaccurate stereotypes.
I took notes on both enlightening and inspiring speeches and will post them separately. Here are the highlights of Imam Shakir’s words.
–One objective of hate groups is an effort to make America like Europe, specifically to create a mono-cultural reality in the US
-attack on Islam is like attack on multiculturalism
-Muslims are viewed as not capable of assimilating into a larger American/European culture
-One notable group is called SIOA or Stop the Islamization of America, which is connected to Europe branch. The head of the European group, Wilders, comes to speak to Americans as if they are Europeans and face the same problems, which worries Shakir.
–There is a difference between the religious identity of the US and Europe
- Europe collective identity in opposition to Islam, conscious effort against Islam, propaganda campaign since Crusades. The Song of Roland, epic poem about Spain and France is the oldest surviving work of French literature and talks of fighting Muslims.
- American identity in opposition of oppressive powers of other Christians, formed in opposition to persecution to Christians,
- nothing in history inherently anti-Islam, very favorable statements from Founding Fathers about Islam and Muslim
- Kingdom of Morocco one of first to recognize independence and sovereignty of US
-Whether multiculturalism has indigenous roots in Europe could be argued, but not in America
- Due to European colonization, many former subjects now inhabiting the “motherland”
- -three distinct groups can rightfully be called Americans
- 1: Native-Americans
- 2: African-Americans
- 3: European-Americans
- Each of these groups can authentically describe themselves as Americans… because all were present at inception of the country
- Each has distinct culture
- America is legitimately a multicultural country
Is what is “American” still evolving or static?
- There are ongoing negotiations that have changed and redefined of what is politically, socially, culturally, intellectually acceptable
- Anti-Islamic people are saying negotiations over, Muslims have to accept what we tell them their place is
- When people told African Americans, “stay in your place boy,” they didn’t accept it
- Now attack on immigrants, such as on African-Americans, almost like new Jim Crow laws through incarceration which ends up creating disenfranchisement, segregated housing and segregated education
- Different states don’t allow teaching in schools of protesters perceived or real injustices, prohibit teaching ethnic studies like in Arizona for fear of people embracing and learning about America’s multicultural identity
- This is America, not Europe, we are full of black, brown, white, and native people
- The epitome of being American is dissent, enshrined in Declaration of Independence and Constitution that citizens have right to dissent
What is at stake
- Shakir points out ridiculousness that 7 million Muslims are going to take over a US population of 300 million when they can’t even get a single radio station to counter all the propaganda
- What’s at stake is the future viability of this country’s freedom and potential
- America represents something special, something unique, something different.
- That difference is rooted in our difference. Nothing is perfect, can be more perfect, can be more just.
- It is up to us, as it’s people, to bring it to fruition… to struggle so that those negotiations can continue.
- People do not become great by running away from challenges history present to them. Stand up and meet those challenges. Stand up to be judged by content of our character, not by caricatures and stereotypes.
How to Deal
- Check your community for crazy people who FOX News bring on air, even though Shakir said it is always European Muslims who say crazy things like bringing Sharia to America. No American would say that.
- Look to the students and protesters in Egypt .They didn’t protest saying “Down with America” or “Down with Israel.” They said,”Up with my dignity, Up with democracy.” Be positive.
- Their resistance of dictators resonated with the world. The peaceful protesters went against people’s idea that Muslims are just violent. Muslims and Christians protected each other in Tahrir Square as they prayed, showing unity.
- The only reason this falsehood is enduring is because we haven’t shared the truth.
- Youth should create Facebook pages, film hate rallies like at the Yorba Linda charity event, share with friends and spread, fill the country with information. Be like Asma Mahfouz in Tahrir Square.
Hesitating with the struggle
- Some people find this struggle too much to think about
- Life is a struggle. The Qu’ran say life is a struggle, not easy
- Your muscles won’t get big until you put weight on the bar, struggle until there is more growth, then add more weight
- Don’t complain, we have to defend ourselves
- We now have the freedom to live in whatever neighborhood, and go to whatever university we want because of struggles of the people before us in Little Rock and Tuskegee
- If you don’t struggle, there are people who will take those freedoms away, not just from Muslims, but anyone who they see as a threat to their vested interests
Hamza Yusuf’s speech will be posted shortly.