Some Ramadan Thoughts on the ‘Americanness’ of some American Muslim Organizations
Throughout the year, American Muslims have been asked to write to their legislative representatives over a host of issues – mostly relating to US involvement with Muslim governments, shari’ah law bans and incidents of masajid vandalism. American Muslims have protested in the streets of various cities over US involvement or lack of it in the Muslim world. All major organizations such as ISNA, ICNA, CAIR, CIOGC, MPAC and so on have all weighed in from their various perspectives. We of course have not gotten together to pray for Nelson Mandela, the killing in Senegal or the plight of the disappeared in Brazil or Argentina. We are silent.
Saturday evening, all day Sunday and all day Monday, I waited for some response to the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial. I really did not care which side that response was on. I cared about a response, any response from these organizations that, claim Americanness regularly when their own self-interest are involved. Only CAIR voiced a feeble, ‘we will support an investigation…’ We did not discuss the case as it was unfolding on live TV. Even conversations about justice, evidence or lack of it, prejudice or lack of it were nowhere in our media.
The beginning of Ramadan did not quell listserve debates on the latest from Egypt, Syria or Turkey. We debated the ousting of Morsi, the continuing debacle in Syria and the ‘too little help, too late’ policy of the US. We even had prolonged, spirited debates on the meaning of the protests in Turkey. Most other Americans however, were busy with healthcare, immigration, voting rights and lastly, Trayvon Martin.
As Americans of various ethnicities and ages poured into the streets either to support or decry the verdict, Muslim Americans remain focused on Egypt, Syria and Turkey while living in America. Ramadan is a time for reflection and I am terribly sad to report that many American Muslims are not either Muslim in their sensibilities or American in their understandings of the need to stand up for justice or against injustice. There is little that has to do with this place of our sustenance that even moves us unless the issue is us. Our organizations only cry out for alliance with others over our own personal issues – Egypt, Syria and Turkey or shari’ah bans, not that which affects this society, our society at its core – justice, prejudice, voting rights, healthcare. Yet all of the apologists among us want other Americans to consider Muslims, American.
We could have vigorously discussed the merits of the case, the potential slippery slopes of either verdict. We could have discussed what this case means for the history of race relations in this country. We could have discussed the potential outcome of ‘stand your ground,’ what constitutes a ‘threat’ to which the response is lethal force, or the refusal of a police department to arrest a user of lethal force until facts could be obtained.
What are our various positions now that we have missed every opportunity to lead a discussion? Do we feel that in light of the facts, that there were prosecutors and defense attorneys, a judge, jury displays of evidence and a ruling that the system worked? Could the prosecutor have been more able? Was the defense convincing that Trayvon Martin caused his own death? How can we lead society in a rational discussion of ‘maslaha?’
Are we so limited that we can only think of our own yet expect others to ignore our singleness of mind and come to our aid when needed? Are we that selfish? Of course, we need to lament and assist other Muslims but we have been so selective and Allah demands that we provide assistance to the orphan, stand up for what is just! Or at least inquire. To ignore this watershed case because the victim is a black boy and not an American Muslim or a Muslim child overseas is an injustice to our own souls.
I also just watched Yasiin Bey’s (formerly Mos’ Def) video conveying to those who have forgotten them in favor of Egypt, Syria and Turkey, the plight of force-fed prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Our government suggested that during Ramadan, the force-feeding would happen after the breaking of the fast. How absurd! But with little outcry from us, why not?
Do we spend this Ramadan, worried about how many hours, how hot it is or that cool drink at the end of the day? It will be a lot hotter where we are going given that we can’t stand for justice in the society in which we live.
Dr. Aminah McCloud is an ISPU Adjunct Scholar and Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Islamic World Studies program at DePaul University. Her areas of expertise include Islam in America, Muslim women, Islamic studies and the history, geography, politics, religion and philosophy of Islam.
This article was published by ALIM on July 19, 2013. Read it here.