As the room quieted down for the Khateeb,
it was an amazing site. Sitting under the dome of the U.S. Capitol,
Muslims were praying Jummah. With so much going awry in terms of
Muslim perception in the popular media, for something of this nature
to occur spoke volumes about the American society. It is important to
understand that this country, which recently celebrated its 232nd
birthday, offers its residents the ability to be themselves. Despite
the mass number of problems facing the nation whether it be the
treatment of individuals or issues in the realm of socio-politics, the
American creed is something which still lives on and is magnified when
Muslim staff, interns, and others working in the U.S. Capitol, the
House of Representatives, the Senate and various other D.C.
organizations come together to pray Jummah every Friday.
In a recent Jummah service,
there was a French-Arab delegation present during the service, and
they said that Americans should value their freedoms. They raise an
important issue mainly that do we value our freedoms. With countless
problems present that negatively impact the Muslim community, do we
realize that we are still free to practice our religion?
In understanding this fact, we can
realize something very integral to aiding the cause of all Muslims in
America but also the world. Being a Muslim in America is different in
terms of how we have to interact with Islam and similarly, how Islam
interplays in our respective lives. Not to paint too broad a
brushstroke, we, the Muslims in
share a common experience and this should inform our stance in
society. In a previous piece, I mentioned more prominence of the
Pakistani community, however, within that stance, I should have fully
explored the role of Islam.
American Muslims have a great
responsibility on their hands. They need to advocate for their
communities, but also represent their distinctive backgrounds. Being a
Muslim is not one thing; it is an amalgamation of cultures, languages,
ethnicities, races and societies. Thus aside from individual
representation, there lies a need for Muslim representation.
Getting back to Jummah on the Hill, the
prayer service began around 10 years ago with only a handful of
attendees, now roughly about 60-70 individuals come together on Friday
to pray together. In addition, Muslim organizations in conjunction
with Muslim staffers working in Congress in various capacities
organize forums to bring attention to issues facing Muslims in
but all around the world. This is the real nature of actualizing our
religion in a very clear-cut manner where Muslims work towards
eliminating social biases and religious miscommunications in their
quest to fight Islamophobia and negative perceptions of Islam.
there is an ongoing crisis of socio-politics where there is a level of
distrust and animosity among Muslims and their counterparts as seen
through the Obama Campaign. In this situation, painting Obama as a
Muslim, the conservatives are in fact trying to alienate him from
millions of voters who fear Islam and think that a Muslim President
would ruin this nation. In order to better the situation, it is
important to understand the truth which clearly manifests itself every
time we turn on the news or read a newspaper story about Muslims being
painted as backward, terrorist supporting, ruthless killers. In recent
news, the New Yorker magazine's cover in a very desperate attempt
tries to explore the brandishing of Obama as a Muslim. Although it
completely fails in its intended purpose, it does speak for the notion
that there is a great fear of Islam and Muslims especially in the
realm of politics and civil society. Having accepted the issue, it is
vital to strategize how to tackle this problem.
Undoubtedly fearing the other,
in this case
America's fear of the Muslim communities can only be challenged
through advocacy and action. We need not prove our faith to anyone,
but we must use our respective capacities to prove how Muslims ought
to be envisioned within the Quran and in our Prophet's (peace be upon
The Khateeb at one of the
Jummah services stated something which I feel needs to be fully
advocated if we are to make any headway in the realm of changing the
social, political and religious perception of Islam. He stated, that
we need to first implement the basic tenets of Islam. In doing so, we
need to develop what Islam is and how it can fluidly complement but
also infuse our lives as Americans. Secondly, we need to advocate this
through our actions where Islam is not just what the media portrays,
it is a mark of identity of individuals who are part of all realms of
socio-political existence and engaged in a wide array of careers.
Finally, he stated we need to recognize that change will take time,
but this should not be a hindrance instead a continuing reminder for
more action and more determination.
To initiate this process we
need to work on a few fronts - ranging from education, advocacy,
community involvement to diversified career choices for our youth.
Furthermore, collectively we need to break the bonds of complacency
which will allow us to be mobilized around a cause and make sure that
our voices are heard whether it be in the upcoming election, or at a
community board meeting.