How Do We Respond?

First of all, I want to apologize for the delay in writing the second part of what I started with my last post (“When You’re a Statistic”). On top of an overwhelming schedule and a family crisis, I have not been well. I’m very grateful to those who expressed concern as to why we hadn't posted. I shall do my best at being consistent with the blog; I have requested that we set up an alert mechanism so people are notified when there is new content.

As promised, here are some ways I feel we should respond to the crisis that I described in my previous blog.

1. Understand the problem. The first thing that we must do is recognize the scope and the depth of the problem. Spend a little time on the Internet, and search for issues related to Islam, the way people who have little or no knowledge about Islam might do if they were curious about our religion. Try Google searches for terms like “jihad” or “women in Islam,” and see the top websites and links that appear. Compare some of the websites run by Muslims with the ones run by people attacking the Muslims, and note the difference. Spend some time browsing at bookstores in your community to see the sections on Islam, and see what others are being exposed to about our religion. Notice the number of negative books. Then look at the Christian or Jewish section, and see how it compares with the Islam section. In other words, try and experience what a person curious about Islam and Muslims is likely to find if he or she browsed the Internet or bookstore shelves.

2. Pray for our community. Do a daily litany (wird) with the intention of our protection. We are encouraged in the Sunnah to be consistent in our remembrance of God. There are many fine litanies that have been prepared by scholars based upon the prophetic invocations. Personally, I prefer Imam al-Hadad’s or Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s as over-the-counter litanies. The spiritual benefits of consistent litany recitation are many, and they are well-tested and true. There is also another reason, in my estimation, for consistently reading such litanies, and that is to help create what is termed in medicine as “herd immunity.” When enough people have built up resistance to a disease through inoculation, others are protected by the critical mass that has been achieved. I believe this is what historically protected the Muslim community from attacks. There were enough people calling upon God for protection for the entire community so that even those who weren’t asking for help received it anyway. We need to pray for our community’s wellbeing everywhere and ask God to ward off harm. This is one of the prayers in Imam al-Hadad’s litany: “Suffice us by protecting us from the evil of oppressors, and remove any harm from the Muslims.”

3. Strengthen and grow Muslim organizations. Support the existing organizations, and create new ones that are needed. For instance, we need a Muslim legal defense fund. Take a look at the Anti-Defamation League. Go to its website and read about its mission and its activities. The ADL was established to combat anti-Jewish sentiment in this country. Given the anti-Muslim sentiments prevalent now, Muslims need an Anti-Defamation League of their own. And we need endowments to adequately support such groups. The Jewish community donated millions of dollars to strengthen such organizations to ensure that what happened in Germany is not repeated in America. And indeed they succeeded – despite the many anti-Jewish people that still exist in this country, it is no longer the anti-Semitic country that it once was.

The Muslims need to strengthen our existing organizations, such as CAIR and ING. Despite its unfortunate problems of the past, and the fact that it could improve itself in many ways, CAIR is a solid organization that has been built with a lot of hard work by sincere and dedicated people, and it can withstand the attacks if it has the backing of a larger number of Muslims. The seeds of a really strong American Muslim institution have been planted at CAIR, but it must be watered with money and constructive criticism.

The Muslim organizations, including Zaytuna College, have a fiduciary responsibility toward their stakeholders, i.e. the Muslims we claim to represent and serve, as well as those who are funding us. Islamic Networks Group (ING), for instance, is one of the most important organizations in the United States; it does not proselytize, but educates and presents a clear picture of normative Islam. ING understands that we have zealots, that we have fringe Islam, but it focuses instead on educating people of other faiths about what the majority of Muslims believe and practice. This is what people need to know, just as they know that David Koresh and what occurred at Waco, Texas in the early 1990s does not represent the Seventh Day Adventists, and his actions do not represent all Christians or even all Seventh Day Adventists. The same is true for Jewish extremists, like Meir Kahane, or the American-born medical doctor Baruch Goldstein, who went into a mosque in 1994 and opened fire, killing 29 Muslims during their prayer. Americans know that he is not the same as their kids’ pediatrician, who happens to be a competent and peaceful Jewish doctor named Dr. Goldberg. Yet, when they see Dr. Abdallah, they wonder if he is secretly supporting some violent organization. He looks a little shady. And what’s with that Osama-like beard? And why does he have a picture of himself on Hajj hanging on the wall in his office?

So the more organizations Muslims establish, the easier it will be for people to see that normative Islam has nothing to do with what the militant extremists do. We have a large number of Muslim doctors in America, and yet we are not serving the underclass very well through free medical clinics, such as the Umma Free Clinic in Los Angeles. I think our Muslim doctors should donate a day every two weeks to treat the needy who have no medical insurance. In other words, Muslims need to enhance the existing Muslim organizations and also create new ones, especially social service organizations.

To be continued….