It seems as though in the last few years, the world has been moving backwards. We always speak about progress and growth. We insist that with technology and advancements in science and medicine we are doing better now as a country and as a global community than ever before. However, when we step back for a moment, away from our tablet and phone screens and out from behind our computers, and examine the situation of the world now, it seems as though we have advanced in many ways with the exception of humanity and compassion.
We grew accustomed to reading the paper and learning of the demise of an innocent individual in this city or that. And now we have become numb to the regular occurrences of mass shootings and even worse, the unspeakable atrocities occurring in Syria, Burma, Palestine and the Central African Republic. As Islamophobia has grown in North America and Europe we have seen a rise in hate crimes, attacks and murders growing by the day and we struggle as individuals and as a community to make sense of them. At times it feels like all of our cries for justice are falling on deaf ears.
They are not. While true justice lies in the hands of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, He commands us to be just people and He facilitates movements toward justice through His creation. The rise of Islamophobia has not only compromised the rights and safety of Muslim Americans but has very much impacted people of numerous faiths. Last week was a great example of progression towards justice in a collaborative effort by pastors, imams, and rabbis. Recently, on October 23, a small group of prominent religious leaders gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington DC to sign a pledge to protect the freedom of religion for all. The statement reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals; and reject and speak out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.” imams, pastors, and rabbis called upon all people and particularly politicians to sign this statement in the hopes of initiating a shift from the senseless hatred and violence we are witnessing today to a more peaceful coexistence.
As we struggle to understand what our role is in the injustices that we witness somewhat at a distance yet all too close to home, we should never underestimate the importance of working in collaboration with our brothers and sisters in humanity. They may not share our faith beliefs, but through dialogue and discussion with others, we empower ourselves to be a greater force towards good.
Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says “We made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one and other and the most honored among you in the sight of Allah are those who are most righteous."
He subhanahu wa ta'ala clearly acknowledges in this verse that we are not intended to be the same—rather that there is uniqueness within His creation and it was meant for us to ask questions and understand one and other. As we live in the American context it is important for us to not hide ourselves in the bubbles of our Muslim community. We need to get to know our neighbors and communities and establish connections based on what brings us together rather than focus only on those things that set us apart. It is our religious responsibility as Muslims to establish communities of fairness and justice, to help those amongst us who are struggling or weak, and to feed the hungry. These are common beliefs in all of our faiths. Working together allows us to have a greater impact on the issues at hand, to have a stronger voice, to build a relationship with the faith communities around us, and to serve Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. We do not have the luxury or the permission from Allah to isolate ourselves from those around us. While it is challenging to face the unfortunate animosity so many have towards anyone or anything they do not understand, we must be the first to follow the example being set by our faith leaders today, to step forward and be voices/stewards of tolerance, kindness, and compassion.
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