Muslims living outside the Middle East must begin to come to terms with the reality of modern nation states with their political and physical geographical boundaries, governed by unique laws arising from delicate compromises by their ethno-religious and racially diverse population as a basis for peaceful existence.
There appears to be no love lost between President Donald Trump and the American Muslim community of about three million people of mostly Middle East and African origin. Trump refuses to be politically correct about the reality of radical Islam, a fact that millions of Muslims are living in denial of. The Middle East, which is the cradle of Islam, has been made restive in modern times as a result of a combination of factors, the most visible of which is America’s realist diplomatic adventure and sometimes misadventure in the region. From the partitioning of Palestine, by a United States backed United Nations, which led to the founding of the Zionist State of Israel in 1948, as well as the continuous support in the form of multi-billion dollar military and economic aid packages, which has enabled the nascent state to defeat hostile Arab nations surrounding it on all fronts. Also, to the controversial involvement of the CIA, on behalf of major US oil multinationals, in the overthrow of the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and the Reagan administration’s involvement in the Iran-Iraq war and Ghaddafi’s Libya in the 1980s, are some historic engagements in the Middle East that have resulted in intense resentment of the United States by the Muslim populations of the region.
However, the turning point in US-Muslim relations was the immediate and later events that took place following the 2001 terror attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the city of New York, suspected to have been masterminded by Al Qaeda leader, Saudi Arabia born puritan and Jihadist, Osama bin Laden. This incident was the biggest attack on US home soil in modern times. The attack on America was largely welcomed across the Muslim world as a sign of the beginning of the destruction of the greatest enemy of Islam. Osama bin Laden then emerged as a respected and admired figure in the Muslim world. To the American government, Osama bin Laden was the world’s most dangerous terrorist but to the global Muslim community, he was a freedom fighter; a rightly guided Jihadist. The response of the George Bush administration was swift. A global war on terror was declared and prosecuted, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan, leading to the fall of the Taliban regime, which had offered a safe haven for Osama bin Laden. Next was the invasion of Iraq and the eventual fall and execution of Saddam Hussein, another figure who emerged very popular among Sunni Muslims following the 1991 gulf war.
The Muslim world largely viewed and continues to view these events through the prism of religion. That “America is at war with Islam and Muslims” is entrenched in the theology of political Islam. American Muslims, who are mostly immigrants from these theatres of diplomatic adventure or misadventure, are caught up in a complex web of conflict of loyalty between their nations of origin and their adoptive nation of residence on one hand, and on the other hand, a conflict of loyalty between the ideological global Muslim community, where injury against one is presented as injury against all, and their adoptive nation, which is perceived to be the greatest aggressor against the Muslim world. This conflict of loyalty is evident in the numerous ISIS inspired terror attacks on American soil by Muslim American citizens of Middle East origin. This situation has understandably led to suspicion and resentment of the American Muslim community by non-Muslim Americans, with increased security surveillance of some individuals suspected of close or remote ties with terror organisations, mosques and other Islamic centres within the United States. These sentiments were amplified through the campaign rhetoric of the then GOP candidate, Donald Trump who clearly and boldly identified the problem by its name – Radical Islam.
Unfortunately the reactions of Muslim America to all of these have led to more suspicion rather than understanding. They have largely reacted to the harsh criticisms of non-Muslim America rather than the cause of the criticisms in the first place. They have focused more on the error of the facts and ignored the reality of the truth of Radical Islam. Less than three percent of American Muslims voted for Donald Trump, while they also appear set to boycott his legitimate presidency and this may further put in doubt the loyalty of Muslim America to the United States America, their country. The early signs of a freeze in support and loyalty to the presidency of Donald Trump and by extension the United States by Muslim America came to light at the Washington cathedral venue of the national prayer service; an age long tradition of spiritually inaugurating incoming US administrations. Over the years, the ceremony that was originally a Judeo-Christian affair has been expanded to accommodate other religious groups to reflect the ethno-religious diversity that is the United States today.
This year’s interfaith service for the beginning of Trump’s administration was very significant. Having come out of a bitter and divisive election year, it was time for healing. The organisers of the prayer service specifically asked the Muslim participation to be in form of the Adhan; the Muslim call to prayer, which was to be rendered in the tradition of melodious eloquence. The Muslim call to prayer is historically significant to the freedom of worship by Muslims. Recall that when the crusaders took Jerusalem in 1095, the Muslim call to prayer was banned for the next one hundred years until Salaudeen Ayub, the Kurdish Muslim military leader took back the city for Muslims.
As citizens and residents of the United States, Muslim America are obligated to put America first in everything they do, including their prayers. The wisdom in the beautiful words of God, as captured in Surat Rum, is best delivered to the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa, where racial, tribal and religious intolerance are prevalent, in direct contravention of the will of God and not in Washington…
In modern times, some right wing political groups have called for the ban of the Adhan in some European countries. Therefore, it was a demonstration of relative tolerance and accommodation when the organisers of the event chose the Muslim call to prayer inside the Washington cathedral. This was not to be as the representatives of Muslim America, merely recited portions of the Quran that were largely passive of the reasons for the event. On this occasion Muslim America in sharp contrast with other faith groups present, refused to pray for their president, the vice president and the incoming cabinet. Most unfortunate of all, not even a single word of prayer for their country. This patriotic incorrectness was most evident in the choice of a verse from Surat Rum, by Imam Mohammed Maged, which read “among the signs of God is the creation of heaven and earth, and the variation in your languages and your colours. Verily, in that are signs for those who know”. This was interpreted as political statement of rebuke of the newly inaugurated president for his perceived racist and Islam phobic tendencies.
Once more Muslim America had failed to prove Donald Trump wrong by doing the right thing at the right place. The event was put together to pray for the country and its leadership and not a avenue for political statements. As citizens and residents of the United States, Muslim America are obligated to put America first in everything they do, including their prayers. The wisdom in the beautiful words of God, as captured in Surat Rum, is best delivered to the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa, where racial, tribal and religious intolerance are prevalent, in direct contravention of the will of God and not in Washington, the capital of the harbinger of the best example of racial tolerance and oneness in diversity.
In Sudan, where Imam Mohammed Maged originally comes from, the Arab Muslim government of Khartoum could not manage a country whose southern half constitutes a population of Black African Christians and animists successfully that the country had to split under the weight of extreme discrimination and political exclusion of non-Arab Muslims, which led to the long armed struggle for freedom of South Sudan. A Shite Muslim enjoys more civil liberties in America than in Saudi Arabia. A Kurdish Muslim living in Turkey is treated with less dignity than his brother living in the United States. The only recognised religion in Muslim Saudi Arabia is Islam and apostasy attracts the death penalty in a classic case of religious intolerance. Majority of Arab-Muslim countries are not racially diverse to the extent of allowing other ethno-religious groups to participate at any level of government. The numerous proxy wars in the Middle East between regional power rivals, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shite Iran have displaced millions of Muslims who have besieged Christian Europe for refuge, because the oil rich Arab Gulf nations are not taking in Muslim refugees. The lesson learnt from this refugee crisis is that Muslims must live in peace with their fellow compatriots wherever they live because when they seek refuge from the very Muslim countries where the poisonous doctrines of radical Islam emanated from, they will be denied.
The conflict of loyalty between faith and state came about as a result the contamination of scriptural injunctions with narrow, sectional and personal interests, which have largely determined the subjective interpretation of faith into religious doctrines by revered Islamic scholars. Regional, racial and tribal interests have been fused with faith to develop an entrenched doctrine of hate and bigotry, which makes peaceful co-existence between Muslims and other religious groups more and more difficult.
Muslims living outside the Middle East must begin to come to terms with the reality of modern nation states with their political and physical geographical boundaries, governed by unique laws arising from delicate compromises by their ethno-religious and racially diverse population as a basis for peaceful existence. Muslims should begin to accept and assume the identity of the nation states in which they reside, either as citizens or residents, and join hands with others to defend its national security and economic interests as true patriots.