Food for thought
This is an email a friend wrote to me today. He has lived in the US since 1998:Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, 'Whoever of you sees something wrong should change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart, and that is the weakest form ofbelief.'" [Muslim]
Some of you know this already: A few weeks ago, the student newspaper on my campus published 6 of the original 12 Danish cartoons. People got mad. Others got mad at those who got mad. We had a meeting at the Islamic Center one night to discuss the whole problem and possible steps to take. I was going to say it, but someone said it first: Muslims only seem to care when something bad happens to them (as a group), and not to others.
I wish that were true, as sad as it is. But the fact is, sometimes they care only if it happens to THEM, as people, and are uninterested if it happens to Muslims elsewhere.
The protests around the world were didn't help matters at all.
Earlier this week, I was looking at the newspaper to see what events were going on that day on campus. Two lectures sprung out: One was discussing the whole cartoon issue. Another, at the same time and building, was a talk on Darfur by a Sudani who had once been a slave at the hands of Muslims there (himself being a Christian).
Darfur, unfortunately, is a case which Muslims seem to quietly sanction. Someone sent an email to the mailing list of the Islamic Center emphasizing the importance of going to the talk regarding the cartoons. After all, people made a big fuss about it - it would seem silly not to bother to show up.
I didn't reply to the list, but just to the person, and said that no matter how important the cartoon issue was, the Darfur talk eclipses the cartoon issue by a long shot. I know he agrees with me, but he didn't want to suggest it to the people in general. Too touchy an issue.
Darfur is a sad living example, among many in the past, that is the hypocrisy of the Muslims today. That which states that something is bad if the US (or this vague "West" ) does it, but everything is kosher if anyone else (including Muslims) are the offenders. We get riled up over Guantanamo Bay, but not over Darfur, or East Timor, or the regular abuses that occur in prisons in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Rwanda? Where's that?
At a local level, here in the US, I've heard and can believe that there was almost total apathy in the 60's and the 70's on the part of the Muslims to the injustices against the Black population here. Why else do people think I say that the Nation of Islam was a great organization for them, despite the hatred that stemmed from it?
There's a question that is often posed to Muslims here. It's one that gives some people sleepless nights. It's this, "Why do you guys march and protest when the US does something wrong, but not when your own governments/people do it? Why don't you condemn their sins?"
When this whole cartoon issue erupted, a bunch of people were stating that as an Islamic Center, we need to send out a press release condemning the violence elsewhere (this was before it was published here). Ultimately, they did, but it should have been stated more strongly. Not a "it is unfortunate that this happened...", but a "We condemn their actions, and hope justice is brought upon them..." After all, that's what they'd say if the Americans were the guilty ones.
This isn't a small problem. The Muslims who were brought up here see the whole hypocrisy of their parents and the Muslim world. They repeatedly ask their parents and the people in the Islamic Center why we're not doing anything about it. When nothing happens, and people continue to protest the actions of Israel or the US, the message to them is clear: it's all politics, and has nothing to do with Muslims. And then the newer generation distances themselves from the rest (majority) of the Muslims here. I simply can't blame them.
In the wake of the local paper publishing the cartoons, we got a representative of CAIR from Chicago to come down and give a talk. For those who don't know, CAIR is the biggest civil liberties group for Muslims in the US. Before, they were smaller and spent most of the time just reporting both positive and negative stories about Muslims in the US (hate attacks against Muslims, etc). Now they're much stronger and have a fleet of lawyers who sue when things go wrong. They're also very good at putting public pressure on groups that discriminate against Muslims. Outstanding organization.
The representative who came down here was asked during Q & A by an American, "Why not condemn the actions of Muslims around the world?". The representative said, "Muslims do
condemn it. Just Google for it. My job at CAIR often involves staying up late at night writing press releases for condemning the wrong actions of Muslims in other countries. But you have to understand: I don't have to do this! There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, and it's silly to ask me to apologize for someone's actions half way around the world. Just as it's silly to ask Phillipino Catholics to apologize for the sectarian violence in Ireland."
Very true, if one were to ignore the Hadith on the top of this email. But I won't hold any grudges against someone who wishes to remain silent on all these issues. I will
pick on those who selectively condemn people based on their own political agenda. If you're going to criticize the US, then criticize all
who do wrong. Don't defend the atrocities back home because they're Muslims.
But that brings out another problem. Those Muslims who come to the US tend to get alienated from those back home. "He's gone to the US and has forgotten us." Making large protests and condemning them will perhaps sever relations (on a group level) with those at home. People simply don't want that. So here's the bind that the Muslims here are in. They want very strongly to remain a distinct group from the non-Muslims here. They get alienated from those back home if they hold views like the ones I'm positing above. And then they're left alone, and sometimes miserable.
Over here you find lots of individuals like this. They more or less "leave" the Muslim community because of too many arguments with the Muslims here on these issues. They still pray and fast, etc. But they don't get close to non-Muslims either. They just live alone. Go to work. Come home. Very little serious contact with anyone. Everyone dislikes them, for doing what is perhaps the right thing to do.
I looked up that ex-slave on Google, and saw some speeches he had given in other campuses. He has an axe to grind with the world for ignoring the whole Darfur situation. He has a bigger axe to grind with Muslims, particularly for the slavery situation. He wasn't exactly diplomatic about it. After reading it, I was depressed and just walking around the building where I work. I bumped into another Muslim, whom I had convinced to visit the Darfur talk. I just told him that I was too ashamed to show my face there.
I didn't go (fortunately, he did). I didn't go to the cartoon talk either. It just seems almost an insult to go there when there's a much more important issue in the same building.
If I stay in this country, I wonder if I'll have any friends here 10 years from now.