I have to admit I do care…to a degree…

I have had an online “presence” for almost 5 or 6 years now and it never really occurred to me until recently that people actually “care” what I write or say.  It all started several years after I converted/reverted to Islam.  I used to engage others in various message boards that catered to African American or Veteran audiences.  Initially, I was just a “lurker” who would read what others wrote and rarely created topics of my own.  It wasn’t until members started making comments about Islam that I would respond.  That’s how it went for several years, some days more intense than others debating, going back and forth, etc. about religion and inevitably politics.  Once I noticed that I actually enjoyed giving my opinion I decided to start a blog because I got tired of having 18+ page debates that would eventually get lost on messageboards.  So I began writing this blog, originally titled “An American Muslim” as my intention was as it has always been to give the opinion of a random Muslim in America.

I never sought out to gain an audience, promote my views, etc.  I just wanted to catalog my ideas.  Of course, I knew that inevitably people would read what I wrote, and I always hoped that if my words could be of any use that they would convey the message that Muslims are not the boogey man, patiently waiting to destroy the “West”, but just like other Americans who share many of the same desires.  I always felt that adherence to my faith should never be used as a wedge by others to ostracize or question my “loyalty” to the nation in which I have been born and raised.  As such, I meandered here and there, posting random commentary about my opinions.  This went on for quite some time until Dr. Blogstein read something I wrote concerning the TV Show “24” and it’s portrayal of Muslims.  I happen to be a huge fan of “24” and thought that some Muslims were going over the top with their “outrage” over the show.  The good Dr. suggested that I start my own radio show that was similar to my blog, and the rest is history…

Even then I never took myself and my opinions too seriously as evidenced by my shows if listen to the archive, although we had some great guests and good discussion topics, I never sought out to make it a professional production, just like this blog with it’s bad grammar, spelling, and usage of street vernacular.  I have always wanted to convey the message that Robert Salaam is just a regular guy.  I’m not a scholar, expert, or unique in anyway.  I just happen to have an opinion that I don’t mind sharing.

I mean I do have a day job where I bust my butt daily to take care of my responsibilities and duties.  I have no aspirations for being the “go to” guy, lecturer, etc. etc. regardless of what some may allege.  Everything, was going pretty good up until the Ft. Hood massacre when I just happened to be one of the first Muslim bloggers to write about the topic and created a media frenzy that left me exhausted and re-evaluating myself after the process.

There have always been random “Robert Salaam” said excerpts, quotes, etc. floating over the net, and I never did mind, maybe I was just too brazen in hindsight.  I mean, my whole Marine mentality mixed in with my New Jersey street roots, and a side of Black Nationalism, never did help I now realize, as it’s this cocky mentality that often gets me going and saying things that maybe I shouldn’t say from time to time, and I never really did care, because I just felt like others should “get over it, I’m nobody”.  Well, that hasn’t worked out so well, I’m noticing.

I guess my biggest problem is I read what the critics write.  Maybe I shouldn’t, but it’s almost like looking at the car accident on the side of the road, you know you should keep driving, but morbid curiosity causes you to look anyway.  This will ultimately be my downfall.  After the whole “Ft Hood” thing and the resulting commentary from both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike, I began to really take myself and my words a little more serious.

I had so many interviews after the tragedy and having seen how the media operates behind the scenes has truly given me much to reflect.  I mean I gave each reporter a minimum of 30-45 minute interviews, only to see a sentence or two quoted in some articles.  It was these articles that often drew the most criticism.  I find it amazing even now how 2 lines out of a 30 minute conversation can create any angle or stir any emotion one wants to.  I expected non-Muslim blowback don’t get me wrong.  To some I will always be a traitor who turned his back on Christianity and adopted the “enemy’s” religion, etc. etc. etc.  I never actually anticipated the Muslim blowback though.  I mean I know that my views on some issues are considered “controversial” to some, I would be a fool to not know that, but I accepted that as part of the territory.  There is and will always be a contingent of Muslims who believe that unless you act, dress, and look like an Arab from the 7th century, your somehow unauthentic, false, or in the case recent accusations a  Kufr.  This contingent is always hostile to those who convert/revert to Islam and want to maintain their cultural/national identity in some form or another.  However, in the past when these comments would come they always came in a respectful tone.  Brothers and Sisters would approach me from the perspective as one genuinely concerned about my practice and beliefs and sought to “educate” me.  Often we would respectfully disagree, but at other times, we did not.

But this latest rash of criticism has just been plain out ugly as some of these Muslims are sounding more and more like my non-Muslim right-wing critics, hurling insults and back-biting like nobody’s business.  I expect that type of behavior from non-Muslims, but never from Muslims.

It’s because of these comments I have become more reflective and more aware.  I mean if my words can cause such behavior by those who call themselves Muslim, what the next evolution in their behavior?  I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I have been a little too open and too public.  At what point do I fear for the lives of my family by fellow Muslims?  I always knew that my brazen actions like my “Muslim” license plates would risk somethings from non-Muslims, but I guess I have been too naive when it comes to Muslims.

I never actually thought what I have been saying or writing was all that serious.  I mean, I’m not one of those critics of Islam who say ridiculous things like the Qur’an should be re-written (God forbid) or that there is something inherently wrong with Islam, I have never even called others interpretations and criticisms of my beliefs wrong, I have always just respectfully disagreed.  I guess some just don’t like to be disagreed with at all, who knows.

Eitherway, the main point of this rant is that all of this “controversy” based primarily on my words written or spoken, has exposed a kink in my armor and revealed  that which I didn’t know exist until now.  I do care what Muslims think and how some perceive me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not loosing any sleep over this, but it does make one think.

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Well it's official, I'm a Kafir!

Periodically, I check the referrers to my blog and was pleasantly surprised to find out today that my post, Is It Permissible to join a Kaafir Army? A response, well sort of generated some amusing responses from some of the Muslims over at the “Islamic Awakening” message board.  Outside of being accused of having taken aqeeda 101 courses (of which I should get a refund they recommend), having my words being called “stupidity”, and other general backbiting, the best comment was if I look in the mirror I would see the definition of a Kafir! 🙂

Outstanding, well at least we now know that all it takes for someone to be called a Kafir is to merely disagree with other Muslims.

Which in all seriousness, is the main point I was trying to drive home in my above referenced rant.  There exists a mindset within certain Muslim circles concerning disagreements where civility and respectability takes a backseat to labels, name-calling, and accusations.  It is my firm belief and opinion that these attitudes are more indicative of cultural leanings than they are of the teachings of Islam.  To be frank, in my opinion, these individuals who have issues with American culture, people, or ideals would probably be better served living in their lands overflowing with milk and honey in the East.  If it’s so great in the East and their ideas of Islam are so right, please explain what is going on in the Muslim world?

I find it disheartening that these well meaning brothers and sisters that are highly critical of views such as those I have, seem to find it easier to point the finger at others than to roll up their sleeves and address the real issues facing Muslims in the Muslim world.  To them it’s everyone’s fault besides the Muslims.  They blame the West, the Jews, and of course faux Muslims of whom I have been included, also collectively known as the Kufr!

Who’s killing more Muslims than all non-Muslims combined today?  Who’s blowing up Mosques, Markets, and other institutions within Muslim countries today?  It’s much easier to turn a blind eye to the reality and blame America.

Responsibility is a big pill to swallow.

No one is holding a gun to your head making you live here, use our services, technology, media, etc. Go live amongst the real Muslims, in real Muslim lands, and leave us Kufr alone.  You don’t need us, we are wrong and face the wrath of Allah (swt), and much worse anyway, so why do you care so much?

Once again, I am not a scholar of Islam, however I happen to believe that Only Allah (swt) can truly judge who submits and who does not!  I wasn’t aware that I had to consult my critics first. 🙂

For the record, I do not believe that I accepted a faith and a religion that instructs me to deny my individuality, culture, and being and instead accept the culture and ideas of others.

If I can’t be accepted as a Muslim who is a black man in America who doesn’t want to wear a beard (although I have one) unless I want to, who doesn’t want to dress in the cultural garb of others unless I choose to, and who has his own ideas concerning the understanding of religion through the prism of his own background, then maybe I truly am a Kafir.

However, if Islam is still the religion that I believe it to be, that isn’t a respecter of culture, ethnicity, tribe, or nation, if Islam is still the religion that I believe it to be wherein individual submission to the One God is measured more by individual intention and pious deeds and less than by what sect you claim, what scholar you follow, or how much knowledge one claims to have, then may Allah (swt) accept me as one who submits for His sake alone.

Is It Permissible to join a Kaafir Army? A response, well sort of

Let me clearly state a few notable facts that I hope will guide those that may come to this blog with critical commentary as a result of the inevitable ruckus my post may create:

1.  I am NOT a Scholar of Islam, nor have I ever claimed to be, I’m just a friendly neighborhood American Muslim giving my opinions.

2.  By disagreeing with any fellow Muslim on any issue relating to our Deen it is merely a disagreement, nothing against that brother or sister directly as a person, just a respectful disagreement

Now that the particulars are out the way, please be mindful of point number 1. as much of the criticism will be related to the perceived, assumed, or accused “scholarship” that many may attribute to me, and I don’t want anyone to be confused as to where I’m coming from.

So I found a little gem on facebook an article written by a sincere brother Umar Lee, whom I have enjoyed reading over the years, entitled “Is It Permissible To Join A Kaafir Army?” this article was being heralded by many gotcha types who used his writing as proof about who Muslims “really” are and the “threat” we supposedly pose to “ordinary” Americans.

Given the method of dissemination, the author, and the title of the post, I was immediately intrigued and decided to further investigate as I did not appreciate Brother Umar being used as a tool against Muslims, as I seriously doubted that it would be the intention of brother Umar Lee to add to any hostilities against Muslims in the West.

His post is being promoted by some non-Muslims as if he is one of those “I used to be a Muslim” types, slamming Islam, which is far from the truth.

Be that as it may, once I actually read the post in question, I decided to write a pseudo-response because I have to admit Umar’s post and some of the pats on the back he received in the commentary from some of his readers touched a nerve with me on many levels.

So I decided it would be prudent and respectful to avoid an intense back and forth on his site and instead point out what issues he raised that I disagree with and why.

Now back to point 1. because I am not a scholar, this post will be devoid of any direct Qur’anic or Hadith exegesis, tafsir, etc.  if there are those who support or are against my positions that want to supply texts and commentary feel free to do so as it’s a very rare case that I reject any commentary.

Since I am not a scholar and this is a very serious topic, I would rather give my blunt opinion which is of course based on my understanding of the texts, but not in a way that would appear that I’m either deliberately or out of gross negligence or ignorance misrepresenting either the Qur’an or Hadith.  Now that the “disclaimer” is out of the way:

I would like to start out by addressing one of my main disagreements and it concerns the title that refers to the US Military as a “Kaafir Army”

I have to admit that assessment of the US Military alone struck me as over the top.  I know in some Muslim circles it has become cliche’ to call everything they disagree with as Kaafir, but I believe we have to be more intelligent about usage of that term and what it implies.

First of all, I don’t believe that everyone and everything that doesn’t fit within my Muslim worldview is automatically Kaafir.  As I understand it, Kaafir describes a person that is either one who denies the Oneness of God, or one prevents the knowledge about the truth of the Oneness of God to be shared.  Maybe I’m wrong, but if the Qur’an gives the very specific title to Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” then at least on the surface, barring that Christians and Jews don’t believe in the Oneness of God, then they cannot by definition be Kaafir.  If this is in fact the case, since the US has a population in which 75% of the citizens identify themselves as Christian, then that would also mean that by definition the majority of the US is not Kaafir.  Once you factor in how many citizens in the remaining 25% are Jews and Muslims, then the population of those who can seriously be considered actual Kaafirs living within US is minimal.  So if we were to use these rough estimates as a guide, statistically speaking, if the US raises an Army and it has of course, then we would have to accept  that by definition, given the numbers, it is highly unlikely that the Army could seriously be considered a “Kaafir Army” for a myriad of reasons chief among them being that the majority of soldiers are not Kaafirs but “People of the Book” but also, the mission of the US Military is not to promote the denial of the Oneness of God and not to prevent the free worship thereof.  This is why I think the title is a little too sensationalized for my taste.

Now to concerning the Arabic word and theological term “Kaafir”,  this one word has become so common place in some Muslim circles to identify anyone and anything that disagrees or rejects a particular Muslim worldview that it has become nothing more than a trifling attempt to disparage, name-call, and levy a barrage of accusations and insults.  This word has come to define an acceptable means to slur, label, or defame, doing such should have no place within Islamic belief, thought, or practice as it’s a deplorable means to an end that should be rejected for being against the basic decency and civility encouraged of Muslims in their interactions with others regardless of background.

Of course the US engages in activities and many of her citizens engage in practices that are often against the norms, beliefs, and traditions, of Muslims, however, that alone does not necessarily make them Kaafir, but a myriad of other things which we have terms for.  Most can be identified simply as sinners and maybe even guilty of shirk neither of which identify a person or entity automatically as Kaafir.

It is my belief that some Muslims use the slur “Kaafir” in this manner instead of the term “sinner” because “Kaafir” hides the individual hypocrisy of the accuser veiled in language and theology in a way the term “sinner” could not.

If one were to accuse another of being a sinner their hypocrisy would become manifest as many are guilty of sin in some form or another.  The term “sinner” has a way of equalizing the field of the accuser and the accused humanizing each in a way “Kaafir” cannot.  Using loaded and lofty terms to judge others gives the accuser the means by which to dehumanize the accused vocally and it becomes easier not to see another human being but an “other” unworthy of compassion or respect in any form.  It’s easier to give criticism of this nature and seriousness when the accused is looked at through the prism of inferiority.

Another issue I had with the brother’s posting and the commentary that followed, was the manufactured issue that somehow having US citizenship is in direct competition or should be seen as separate from one’s faith.  It was alleged that many Muslims in the US value their citizenship above Islam…

I believe it almost impossible to address this issue seriously without addressing the cultural background and or perspectives of those who allege such things as I believe that culture does affect religious ideology and points of view.  As such, my perspective on this issue reflects my background as a Black man in America, who’s origin and roots in this nation extend several centuries to those Africans who first arrived here in chains as slaves.  This background shapes my perspective rooted in the pride I have as a descendant of those very slaves who by the sweat of their brow, immense pain, and unbelievable suffering still with faith in their God many of whom called Him Allah (swt), helped build this nation brick, by brick, in more ways than one.  While I will spare my readers the history lesson, know that my pride in being an American has a lot to do with the history of this nation and the role my ancestors played in it’s creation.  To me, who I am and what I believe are not mutually exclusive.  I know that it was the belief in God that sustained my ancestors in their sojourn in this nation.  I know that faith is rooted firmly in my culture and people.  Our pride in our homeland is tempered by our reliance and faith in God.  My pride in the title “American” stems from all these things and therefore, it’s near impossible for me to distinguish my faith from the land in which God has blessed my people to strive in.

Maybe the targets of these types of commentary are Muslims who are either 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. generation Muslims who originate from “Muslim” countries, I don’t know.  But what I do know as far as I’m concerned, is that my acceptance of Islam as my faith, did not automatically disconnect me from the country of my origin, I did not receive an official membership card, t-shirt, or baseball cap that officially identified and recognized me as a universal citizen of the “Muslim World” with the right to live or travel to any Muslim country of my choosing.

In fact, as I understand it, in most Muslim countries my black butt would be ran out of there so fast and for so many reasons too numerous to discuss in this particular post, that it’s almost too ridiculous to consider the possibility of visiting the “Muslim World” let alone calling it my home.

It is an illusion to suggest that outside the confines of the nation in which you are born and raised that there exists this Muslim World that embraces any who claim the title of Muslim.  The very post in which I am responding is proof of that.  It’s not real and it does not exist period, it’s a fantasy that Muslims tell themselves in order to stroke the ego and ignore the realities of our 1.3 billion member divided community.  Racism, Tribalism, and a myriad of isms’ are huge issues within the Muslim community so much so that even in the United States Mosques are often segregated as a result.

We can deny it and pretend it’s not there, but try being the African American Muslim and go into a majority Arab, South Asian, and  even  some AFRICAN Mosques.  Note the way you are treated then go to a majority African American Mosque and note the way your treated and then get back to me about this Ummah that exists that is more important to maintain a tie to than the nation in which your forefathers built on their backs by the whip?

I just can not buy into this line of thinking.  Maybe it is my cultural reality and worldview. Islam is my way of life, not a way to govern my loyalty to this piece of land or that, all of which belongs to God.  Islam determines how I see Our Creator and by which means I submit. How I talk, how I live, how I eat, etc. all are governed by Islam.  What I don’t happen to see or agree with is that Islam determines what countries I should be a citizen of or which countries I should deny outright.

When I hear one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all, I just happen to believe that those are Islamic principles, maybe  I’m just an ignorant black convert as some will dismissively suggest.

I’m just not feeling this line of arguments and what they imply, I’m not Arab, Pakistani, Somali, etc.  this is my country, my nation, and where I practice Islam, I have no ties or desires for any other place, and if you happen to live in America and do have these ideas and desires, then to be quite frank, no one is making you stay here, if it’s so great in the “Muslim World” I’m certain you can go there.  Just saying…

A very specific question that was asked I also felt deserved a response of sorts:

It is permissible to join an army that calls for the men to shave their beards, salute the kufr flag and judge by other than what Allah revealed?

This one series questions summarize why I mentioned the cultural issues that run rampant within the Ummah and which I believe govern for the most part, this entire discussion.

What in the world does having a beard or not have to do with being a Muslim?  Islam originates with the Originator, it has been in existence since God has been in existence, it has no beginning and no end.  How people dress, groom, etc. has no bearing on one’s soul, especially over one’s heart and actions.  I wouldn’t care if your beard touched the floor, you can be just as much a sinner as someone who waxes all their hair!  It’s just ridiculous, defies all logic, and highlights one of the huge problems within our community.  If we can’t accept people based on their hearts and actions, and only care about their outward appearance, then we are in more trouble than we think, and sadly this is the modus operandi of many Muslims today.

These unfortunate ideas are wonderfully exhibited in this illogical chain of argument that suggests that due to US Military grooming standards requiring men to shave that this is proof of their “Kaafir” nature.  I have to laugh to stop from crying, because many Muslims think like this even if your not in the Military.  There are those who will judge this or that brother based on whether or not they have a beard.  Go into some of the aforementioned Mosques without a beard or not dressed in various others’ cultural garb, and tell them your Muslim and see how they look at you.  Decide to dress and look like the country of YOUR birth and they will often accuse you of not being Muslim in some shape or another, as If God really cares how much hair we have or our style of clothing outside of being half-naked!

On the entire “Kufr” flag thing, I already gave my opinion on the usage of this word, but let me reiterate here that a flag is a thing not a person, so it can’t be “Kufr”.  Now if we are stating this to loosely mean the people in the nation by which the flag represents, then I maintain my original argument, if want to talk about the principles in which the flag represents, then I challenge the critics to explain how the principles of America are against the principles of Islam.

That would be a more meaningful discussion than loosely looking at a flag and calling it Kufr.  I’m really curious what Muslims who share this opinion think about the flags of countries such as I don’t know, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, etc. you know all those predominantly Muslim countries where the streets overflow with milk and honey.

As far as the last part of the questioning that mentions “Judging by other than what Allah (swt) revealed”, this is a topic within a topic…, within a topic…, which I doubt any Muslim would seriously want to tackle the task of going into that at length, especially when no two Muslims barely agree on the same interpretation of “that which Allah (swt) revealed” let alone how to apply that in the legal sense.

Let’s not dumb down the discussion by loosely affiliating anything seen “American” as automatically Kufr, once again, I have to add, that no one is making those Muslims who hold these opinions that happen to live in the US stay here.  Feel free to go to non-Kufr lands, is wish you good luck on your quest.

The final question to which I feel compelled to address is:

If a group of Muslims in Mecca attacked the United States and the US Army wanted to retaliate by taking the haram, would it still be permissible to join the kufr army?

This question in my opinion, was stated as a “gotcha” question that’s very ridiculous when you actually think about it.  Call me uncle Tom, Kaffir appeasing Muslim, etc. I really don’t care.

However, I do believe that experience often trumps shouting from behind a keyboard about things one has no real life clue about.  There is nothing, zero, nada, in any official policy, directive, etc. from the DOD or any Federal Institution that I have been apart of or experienced, that states that it is the mission of the US to attack Muslims or Islam.  Even in those countries where the US does have troops, agents, etc. rightly or wrongly, the US goes through great pains to try to respect cultural sensibilities and minimize the deaths of innocents overall.

The US is also the NUMBER ONE provider of funds to “Muslim Countries” in terms of aid.  When earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. strike Muslim countries, the first country to ordinarily donate funds and give aid both federally and through private citizens is the US, not oil rich and other wealthy Muslim nations, but the good ole “Kaffir” US.

Even if terrorists, extremists, etc. were to attack the US from Mecca, using past and recent history as a guide, aside from the rhetoric of some Americans, in that situation were it to theoretically occur, the US would not glass Mecca, assault it, etc.  the US would most likely risk civil war within the US first, before making such a move as it deliberated and fought within the White House and Congress the best way to retaliate without having a US boot enter Mecca.  The US would most likely practically beg Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries to go to Mecca on their behalf since they are Muslim before it would even consider fighting in Mecca, let alone Saudi Arabia.  We all know this to be true, so let’s stop with the sensationalism.

For all the military might the US has, it would rather risk the lives of it’s volunteer citizens in countries all over the world hostile to the US justifiably or not.  The US at the troop level gives its soldiers lengthy cultural training classes, spends billions of dollars trying to improve the quality of life of the countries we are at war with, and when incidents do occur, the military often will throws it’s own troops whom they trained to kill under the bus, to gain the respect of, and to ease tensions within Muslim countries.

What we never seem to discuss when we are bashing the “Kufr” Army is that the US could just do as the Romans did or any other militarily superior country did in centuries past and just totally disregard the beliefs, practices, etc. of the nations they are at war with and just do what they want.  The US could save it’s manpower and save billions of dollars and just nuke Muslim countries into submission if that’s what it really wanted as so many are quick to suggest, and there really wouldn’t be anything anyone save God could do about it.

America could just do a proper invasion and insurgent pacifying operation that included killing everyone first regardless, until there were no threats.  I mean it’s not outside the US capabilities.  HOWEVER, do we see that?  No, what we see is Americans trying their best to fight for a cause, again rightfully, or wrongfully, that has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims as a whole, even though those they are fighting against happen to well at least claim to be Muslim, all the while allowing US kids to go without food, education, healthcare, etc. as it spends billions of dollars trying to ensure others around the world get these things.  Again, maybe it’s cultural perspective, because I’m not buying it.

Is it lawful/permissible for Muslims to join the US Armed Forces and by extension any of her federal agencies? I will leave that up to the scholars who are mostly mute on this issue save those who are in many cases from countries where it’s easier to criticize the US than it is to criticize their own regimes, that too I will leave for another discussion.

What I will say it what I have since becoming a Muslim to all who have emailed me or asked me in some other fashion the very same thing:  Go with your individual heart.  If you feel that it’s not a good idea for any reason, don’t join, it’s a volunteer force and no one is begging or forcing you.  If however, you feel that the principles in which these services and their various and diverse missions stand for and believe are similar to your own, than feel free.

Personally, I see the US and the US Military as a force for good overall.  If I were ever in a briefing, discussion, etc. where the expressed idea and intention was to destroy Muslims for being Muslim or Islam, I would have turned by chevrons in and in my civilian capacity resigned from my position.  However, I have never come across such and I doubt I ever will.  What I do see and have seen is a country with principles that closely mirror what I believe are in keeping with the highest principles of Islam, that recognize God and our choice to serve Him, that recognize service to humanity in a myriad of ways as amicable and good traits, that seek to protect and defend the weak against tyranny and oppression, that seek to give aid to those who are in need, and much, much, more.  These are the principles our the US Military, these are the principles of Americans in general.  Of course, we are not perfect, and I’m certain the critics are not either, many of whom ironically live in the very country that gives them the freedom to call America “Kufr” and quite frankly I can think of no other country I would rather live in, practice my faith, and raise my family, regardless of the which religious box the majority of the inhabitants check in their census.

If America was so evil and so “Kufr” then why do so many come here?  Why not go to your home countries and change the conditions there?  Why not fight for those things you care about and be willing to sacrifice your lives to establish those beliefs, as we Americans did?

The truth is, Muslims have no one to blame but the reflection in the mirror.  “Our” countries are some of the most un-Islamic countries on the planet, yet the majority of the inhabitants claim Islam as their religion.  “We” are a bunch of hypocrites.

Articles such as the one I am commenting on reflect the condition in which I openly criticize, where we find it much easier to call others “Kufr” but never criticize the very countries in which Muslims live that have way more in common with the term “Kufr” than America.

A wise man once said you can judge a people by the condition in which you find their women.

Do I need to return fire and begin a discourse on the status of women in Islam versus that which we see everyday in Muslim countries?

Do I need to begin a discourse on the rights of minorities in Islam versus that which we see everyday in Muslim countries?

What about the poor, the orphan, or the wayfarer?

What about education and access basic human rights?

In truth, what I really want to say to my brothers and sisters pointing the finger at the US and throwing around terms like “Kufr” toward America and Americans, to be blunt in a non-PC manner utilizing the street vernacular common in my culture and really not caring what my readers think, is “negro please”.

Only in America and countries similar can you enjoy the freedoms necessary to practice our faith according to the various interpretations that we have, and have those beliefs and practices protected by law.

Only in America and countries similar can you enjoy the freedoms necessary to act out your choices and preferences such as whether or not you wear a beard or not, study or belong to various schools of thought or not, etc. and have the freedom to openly criticize the Government, it’s leaders, and institutions, etc. all at the same time, also protected by the law.

Only in America and countries similar are these rights not only expected but guaranteed and for those things you don’t like, there are processes in place to change them by peaceful means at the ballot.

Only in America and countries similar, can you expect those who you will readily call “Kufr” to volunteer and if necessary die in the process to not only protect your right to say and believe whatever you want about them, but cheerfully do so, all the while as you enjoy your nice home, education, cable TV, etc.

The irony of the entire thing is that in the big scheme of things, the so-called “Kufr” do more universally for Muslims, than Muslims do for themselves.  Don’t believe me?  Watch what happens the next time there is a natural disaster in a Muslim country.

See who’s the first to promise billions in aid, send relief, troops, etc. to help and then see how many Muslim countries do the same and/or in the same degree.  I guarantee you, when the dust settles, America will still be criticized and no one will say a word against the Muslim countries.

So in the end, maybe I didn’t answer any of the questions that were raised, maybe I didn’t justify one way or the other whether or not it is permissible to join a Kaafir Army, and to be perfectly honest I don’t care.  But since we want to raise “serious” issues, let’s raise them, let’s come to the table and truly discuss the reality of what’s going on and not hide behind sensationalism or catchy rhetoric.  Let’s discuss if we are truly wanting to discuss, and evolve beyond unbecoming name-calling and insults.  Read the commentary on brother Umar Lee’s blog regarding this question, and you will see what I mean, everything from insulting other Muslim’s directly such as “the white Sheik” to whole-heartedly throwing Muslims who think like me under the proverbial bus as Uncle Tom’s and worse insinuating that our Islam is any less than theirs.

In the end, Allah (swt) Knows Best,

May Allah (swt) guide the Ummah in these difficult times,

What can an iPod teach about someone's personality?

IMG_0458IMG_0457

Pictures of my iTunes library…

Driving home from work today I began contemplating the impact of one’s culture on religious belief and practice  as I listened to music on my iPhone.  I was distracted as I was listening to “God is trying to tell you something” from the “Color Purple” soundtrack followed by “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest and I thought it almost comical how wrong people can be about others when we judge people on surface descriptions such as race, politics, or religion.  I wondered how much insight could people gain about me just by checking my iTunes library.  What would they think after they discovered some of the things in there?  So I decided to do a little experiment and I encourage readers of my blog and followers/friends on Facebook and Twitter to do the same thing.  Basically, go to your mobile music device of choice (mine is the iPhone) hit the random button 20 times and list the songs that come up and see let others see your list.  By sharing this list, maybe we can learn more about each other than the trivial and heated debates we normally have do.  I have 230 songs loaded in my iPhone currently.  Here’s my song list, make sure you share yours:

1.  “Award Tour” A Tribe Called Quest

2.  “Upside Down” Diana Ross

3.  “Apologize” Timbaland Ft. One Republic

4.  “Footsteps in the Dark” The Isley Brothers

5. “Rock With You” Michael Jackson

6.  “Stop To Love” Luther Vandross

7.  “Do Me Baby” Prince

8.  “Love Is All We Need” Mary J. Blige

9.  “Venus vs Mars” Jay-Z

10.  “Satisfaction” The Rolling Stones

11.  “Here and Now” Luther Vandross

12.  “Radio” Beyonce

13.  “Didn’t Cha Know” Erykah Badu

14.  “Still Dreaming” NaS

15.  “No One Else” Total

16.  “Right Here” SWV

17.  “Who Can I Run To” Xscape

18.  “What’s Going On” Marvin Gaye

19.  “On and On” Erykah Badu

20. “Unchain My Heart” Ray Charles

Blind Diversity Equals Death by Michelle Malkin: A Response

Editor’s (RS) note:  This is the comment I received in my inbox concerning this response by Brother Khalil:

I saw an article today by Michelle Malkin (“Blind Diversity Equals Death” dated November 11, 2009) against which I felt obliged to speak out. Below is the text of a comment I posted on the reporting website (townhall.com) and also sent to her directly to her mailbox on the site itself.

By Khalil Esat

re: Ms Malkin’s article:
Not all Muslims are nuts –

The Bureau of Justice reports that in 2007 alone, of the 1,408,337 violent crimes reported in the US, 16,929 were “Murders and non-negligent manslaughter’s”, 855,856 were aggravated assaults, 90,427 were forcible rapes , and 445,125 were aggravated assaults. And 2007 was a ‘good’ year compared to almost every one of the preceding  46 years for which statistics were listed. (source:  http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline)

Not only does Ms Malkin sound dangerously alarmist; she also sounds suspiciously like a pot calling the kettle black. Exactly, who is being blind in all of this? When Timothy McVeigh was enlisted in the Army, who knew he would one day blow up the Murray Building?  Loony people are loony people and you can no more predict who will turn into a nutcase or why, than you can predict who is going to turn into a Timothy McVeigh or a Mother Theresa.

That Nidal Hasan was a nut doesn’t make all Muslims nuts.

The knee-jerk reactions of many commentators (like Ms Malkin) to the Fort Hood incident reveal an unhealthy and suspicious reliance on dubious syllogisms that may mask a subconscious bias that is no more logical  or defensible than those motivating the ‘birthers’, ‘death panel’ alarmists, and … well, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.

In an article published after the tragedy of September 11, 2001; Professor Timothy J. Winter of Cambridge University noted that “David Koresh could broadcast his fringe Biblical message from Ranch Apocalypse without the image of Christianity, or even its Adventist wing, being in any way besmirched. But when a fringe Islamic group bombs Swedish tourists in Cairo, the muck is instantly spread over ‘militant Muslims’ everywhere.”

There are said to be over 2.8 MILLION Muslims in the US and Nidal Hasan no more speaks for, or represents Islam or Muslims any more than David Koresh spoke for or represented America, Americans  or American Christians.

Don’t paint all Muslims with the same brush.

Muslims Must Condemn Religious Extremists

Muslims Must Condemn Religious Extremists

by Sheila Musaji

I am reading and hearing in the media a barrage of articles and editorials demanding that Muslims take a stand against those who condone or commit acts of violence.  I would like to go on record as condemning all religious extremism, bigotry, violence, hatred, and terrorism by both Muslims and non-Muslims.  I see no difference between any of these.  These merchants of hate no matter what their supposed religious affiliation have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of individuals in their respective religious faiths.

In the aftermath of the Fort Hood Tragedy (which was condemned by every national Muslim organization, as Muslims have condemned all other acts of extremism, violence, and terrorism), there have been many who have attempted to claim that the religion of Islam is the problem, that the Qur’an is the problem, that we are at war with Islam.

The most commonly repeated claims about Muslims are that “everyone knows” that most or all terrorists are Muslims, and there are no Christian and no Jewish terrorists (or terrorists of any other religious stripe).  Everyone also knows that Muslims are not equivalent to real Americans, that they are the enemy within, that good Muslims can’t be good Americans, that they are all militant, that Islam is “of the devil”, and an ”evil encroaching on the United States”, and this is a Christian nation, which everyone knows the Muslims are trying to take over, starting with getting an Eid stamp which is the first step towards shariah law.  Everyone knows that Muslims are given a pass by the elite media.  It’s ”us versus them”, and even those Muslims who do speak up or seem moderate are simply lying or practicing taqiyyah.  The problem is that what “everyone knows” is wrong.  These self-righteous and incorrect statement are usually followed by a demand that the Muslim community do something about rooting out such criminals from their midst or face the inevitable consequences.  NOTE:  It is for these reasons that this article focuses primarily on specific non-Muslim examples in order to make it clear that the entire premise of this “only Muslims” argument is false.

I would like to point out that although this “only Muslims” claim has been repeated thousands of times, it simply is not true.  How do you explain just the few examples of such acts of violence and terrorism listed at the bottom of this article that were committed by individuals who are not Muslims.  Some of these folks attempt a religious justification (holding up their distorted interpretations of Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism, etc. to explain why what they did was right).  Whether these criminals use religion to salve their conscience, or whether they tell themselves that they are promoting liberty and democracy, or some other political cause, it doesn’t matter.

As to the claim that Islam is the problem, or that the Qur’an are the only scriptures containing problematic verses that can be variously interpreted, that claim is also false.  Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler were reading the same New Testament, Osama bin Laden and Abdul Ghaffar Khan were reading the same Qur’an, Baruch Goldstein and Rabbi Arthur Waskow are reading the same Torah.  The truth is you can take opposite messages from every religious book that exists.  All scriptures can be abused.  People have always done this and will continue to do so.

Sadly, history will repeat itself.  There will be future cases of violence, bigotry, even terrorism that will be committed by members of different religious groups, races, nationalities, and political groups.  Some of these acts will be carried out by individuals espousing some particular cause, and others will be carried out by psycopaths or mentally ill people.  In every case, no matter what their motivation or justification, they will be wrong, and in every case innocent people will suffer.

Our society is whirling down a spiral of violence of which terrorism is the face, that is currently at the front of our minds.  There is a growing exploitation by religious extremists, political extremists, nationalist extremists, etc.  All of these share a “religious” element in that they are all convinced that they are God’s agents to bring about and enforce their “right” belief on everyone else, and that they, and they alone – know the “right” way.  This “religious” element is particularly dangerous because it is devoid of spirituality.

More innocent lives are in danger today than in any previous period of history.  The entire world is in danger.  We are at the beginning of a new century and a new millenium, and it is possible that we will not complete either without destroying ourselves.

We are in the midst of wars between the different families of Abraham – Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  Some of the family members actually define these wars as religiously required.  Even worse, there are groups within the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities that are trying to incite and create an all-out war between Islam and “the West.” Such a war would bring misery upon the peoples of all nations.  Some of these people believe that the Apocalypse is not a teaching story (about what could happen if we don’t take the heart of our religious teachings seriously) but, a goal to be achieved.

We need to attempt to do something about this tidal wave of violence.  We can only do this together.  What we need right now is for all Americans to work together to try to understand what we can about what are the red flags that might indicate when individuals holding extremist views about religion, politics, or anything else might be ready to go from expressing those views to acting on them with violence, so that we might find a way to stop them before they act.

Instead of a violent World War III, I would hope to see a Spiritual battle, a battle for hearts and minds.  This would be the greatest jihad.  In this counter vision of war, the goals would be to see: compassion win the war over anger; forgiveness win the war over revenge; intelligence win the war over passive acceptance; truth win the war over lies; love win the war over hatred; creativity win the war over continuing on a well worn and tired path of endless violence.  The only way this can happen is if there is a real coming together of our spiritual brothers and sisters across the globe from heart to heart and spirit to spirit and mind to mind to end the madness of fighting and create a better world.

I know that the examples given below do not represent the ideals upon which America was founded; they do not represent the ideal of Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion; they do not represent humanity.  I know that all religious groups are currently experiencing a struggle for the soul of their respective religions, and each faith community needs to whatever possible to combat extremism within their communities.  I also know that our nation is experiencing a struggle for the soul of our nation.  How we choose to respond to the many current crises facing us including this crisis of senseless violence will say much about who we are as a people.  Future generations will read about this time in their history books, and either curse or praise us.  We are the ones who must choose how to act and how to respond.

As a Muslim, I will engage in a spiritual jihad against terrorism and extremism in my own community.  And, I base this on my understanding of the Qur’an.  “Oh you who believe!  Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for God can best protect both.  Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.” Qur’an 4:135.  “If anyone slays a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew all people.  And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people.” Qur’an 5:32.  “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God, for God loves not those who do wrong.  But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong done to them, against such there is no cause of blame.  The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice. For such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter).  But indeed, if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an affair of great resolution.” Qur’an 42:40-43.  “Goodness and evil are not equal.  Repel evil with what is better.  Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend!  And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune.” Qur’an 41:34-35.  “Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (Not that you may despise each other).” 49;13.  “Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” 5:48

This article is written in the spirit of improving mutual understanding and respect as the basis for preventing further ‘civilisational clash’ in our already fractured world.  It must be noted that I condemn any or all statements of hate or bigotry and any and all acts of violence committed by Muslims unconditionally.  In this article I have not listed them in detail as I have been on record, as have many other Muslim individuals and organisations, in reupudiating such behavior as totally antithetical to the principles of Islam.

Continue reading at (TAM)…..

If I were Christian and analyzing the Ft. Hood tragedy….

My commentary is a response based on the following article from Sheila Musaji:
Anti Muslim Rhetoric Reaching a Dangerous Level

What would my commentary be if I were still Christian and analyzing this Ft. Hood tragedy?

Well I’m certain it would be inline with the Christianity I was taught, the very same Christ-like beliefs that never left me, that overall God is Love.

1 John 4:8 (New International Version)

8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I know some itching for a fight, may wonder why I easily and readily quote the Bible, but let me ensure you that it’s 100% within the context of my religion.  A little known fact about Islam, is that we don’t reject the Bible outright, we merely reject those things in it, that we believe were corruptions (additions, subtractions, etc.) made by man.  The Qur’an never claims to be the only revelation to man, nor does it ever claim to be the sole book of scripture in which the Muslim can receive guidance on the will of God, what the Qur’an does call itself is the Criterion, i.e. the measuring stick by which to weigh what is correct and what is wrong within previous revelations, but enough on the comparative religion for now.

My point is, that in the Qur’an we are told a minimum of 114 times in the Qur’an at the beginning of every Surah (chapter) except 1, that God is The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, we are reminded in the Qur’an throughout that God is oft-turning to mercy and forgiveness.  So this is consistent with the Biblical verse I reference where it is stated that God is Love.

So how does this all relate to my post today?  Well there have been some pretty nasty and downright ugly things said about Muslims over the past weeks much of it is coming from those who claim to be Christian, some very prominent in some Christian circles, and the things they are stating and encouraging their followers to believe is mildly put very non Christ-like, or at least I guess I learned about a different Jesus (as) or something growing up and I guess my Christian family the patriarch of whom is a Pastor of over 50 years, obviously teach and believe in a different Jesus (as) as well, because the comments I’m hearing from these pulpits today is so sickening that the only other place where I have ever heard supposed Christians teach and preach like this is the KKK.  Maybe there’s something to that considering the overwhelming majority of these “Christians” who make these vile comments about Muslims are White, but I digress…. 🙂

Now let’s imagine for a moment that I were still a Christian, in many ways I still am for the record (but like I said more theology discussions later), what would I encourage those whom I lead?  Well maybe I would use the words that are reported to have been said by Jesus (as) concerning those who are the enemy (real or perceived).  Such as:

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

I have to admit, I am not seeing anything close to this in the media especially concerning those who are claiming to be Christian.  Let’s say for a moment that Muslims really were the enemies of Christians.  How does Jesus (as) deal with issue?  What would Jesus (as) do?  Yet, instead of following the teachings of Jesus (as) i.e. being Christ-like, we have many “Christians” right now in certain media saying things that are the complete opposite.  Now many will disregard what I have written, because I’m obviously just a lowly Muslim, but I sincerely ask, if your mission as many of you claim to be is to bring people to Christ (as), then why would I as a Muslim want to or should believe your words when you refuse to approach me in Love as Jesus (as) himself commanded of his followers?

Now just so you know, the Qur’an has a very similar teaching, so before some of you decide you want to elevate “your book” against “mine” (and by the way these books belong to God) here’s what the Qur’an says on the very same issue:

5:8 (Asad) O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one // <![CDATA[
// [19] lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.

So here we have in the Qur’an that we are not allowed to be inequitable and deviate from justice even if we hate someone!  But wait there’s more:

60:5 (Asad) O our Sustainer! Make us not a plaything // [7] for those who are bent on denying the truth! And forgive us our sins, O our sustainer: for Thou alone art, almighty, truly wise!”

60:6 (Asad) In them, indeed, you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe // [8] ] to God and the Last Day. And if any turns away, [let him know that] God is truly self-sufficient, the One to whom all praise is due.”

60:7 (Asad) [But] it may well be that God will bring about [mutual] affection between you [O believers] and some of those whom you [now] face as enemies: for, God is all-powerful – and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

60:8 (Asad) As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: // [9] for, verily, God loves those who act equitably.

What is being reinforced here for the Muslim, is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind and equitable even to your enemies as long as they are not actively persecuting you of course as that would be illogical.

My point in stating all this from both the Christian and Muslim perspective(s) is that we have to evolve the discussion.  We have to grow up mentally and most importantly spiritually.  Yes, tempers, emotions, etc. are high, however when has this ever been an excuse to reject faith?  When has anger ever been allowed as a means to disobey the commands of God?  Choose Civility that is the best course.  Whether we ever agree or not on anything religious, the one thing none of us can escape besides death and taxes (Ben Franklin), is the reality that whether or not we like it, we are all here together.  Is it not better to accept that fact and learn to live in equity with one another regardless of opinions religious or otherwise, or does it make more sense to never live in peace and continue with the senseless fighting and hate-mongering?  As we are taught as Muslims, we should repel evil with good especially concerning those who hate us, as you may never know how God may change their heart and we become as close friends.  I believe this is where the message of Jesus (as) closely connects to this Qur’anic Ayah  (verse), because if you pray for your enemies then if it is the will of God, they may very well change in their opposition toward you.

41:34 (Asad) But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better // <![CDATA[
// [31] and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend!