World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists
A few articles on the subject:
1. Charity organizations unite against rising poverty
2. Muslim philanthropists seek cooperation with the rest of the world
3. New Group Meets to Promote Muslim Charity Worldwide
4. “Do good works, engage politically, and get involved”
Charity organizations unite against rising poverty
The first international World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists took place in İstanbul over the weekend under the theme "Facing Challenges and Finding Solutions."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a speech at the event in which he said charity is a common human value that transcends cultures and beliefs.
"Because of problems stemming from changing ecological conditions, inequalities in income distribution and injustice in the world, millions of people live in difficult conditions," he said.
Pointing out the importance of nongovernmental charities at times when natural disaster strikes, Erdoğan said such institutions must work effectively and strengthen the public's charitable feelings. "One of the most fundamental ways to achieve this is by making the activities of these charity organizations transparent, with financing at the top of the list," he said. Erdoğan also highlighted the need to maintain efficiency among NGOs as they coordinate independent activities and services.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Religious Affairs Directorate head Professor Ali Bardakoğlu stated that social charities are not inferior to religious exercises. "The Quran demands of us to think about those living next to us. We should broaden the social aspect of our religious devotion," he said.
South African Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool supported Bardakoğlu's emphasis on dialogue between religions. Lamenting the Western perspective of the Muslim world as underdeveloped and violent, Rasool underlined that Muslim countries should combine to launch a $20 million grant of aid under a specific fund, even while struggling with poverty.
State Minister for Women and Children's Affairs Nimet Çubukçu also supported a point raised by Rasool that poverty is not just a problem among old people but also one affecting the young. Although feelings like benefaction, compassion and charity have not been highly valued in recent years, they will continue forever within humanity, Çubukçu said, adding, "Love, solidarity and charity are the things that make us human."
Qatar Princess Sheikha Al-Thani took the opportunity to highlight that more than 100 million children worldwide do not attend school -- most of them in the Middle East.
One of the main points raised during the congress was the pressure on Muslim countries following Sept. 11 and how this affected the battle against poverty in these regions. "Following Sept. 11, Muslim charity organizations were shut down due to pressure," said Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.
Doctors Worldwide-Turkey head İhsan Kahraman, also speaking at the congress, considered the gathering as a step to coordinate the feelings of individual compassion and benevolence to those in need across the world. British Minister for International Development Shahid Malik, on the other hand, emphasized that in order to end Islamophobia in the Christian world, there is an urgent need for Muslim politicians.
İstanbul Governor Muammer Güler, al-Jazeera Network General Director Wadah Khanfar, the heads of various charity organizations, businessmen, academics and other charitable individuals also attended the congress.
Muslim philanthropists seek cooperation with the rest of the world
Monday, March 24, 2008
Philanthropists and charitable organizations the world over are moved by different incentives, said educator Hamza Yusuf Hansor, noting that secular donors help people for secular reasons, while Muslims do it for the sake of God.
Hanson, the founder of the U.S.-based Zaytuna Institute and Academy, was in Istanbul over the weekend to participate in the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP).
“Bill Gates donates $1 billion and he doesn't believe in anything, however Muslims are not that organized and should be ashamed of it,” Hanson said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News. “Gates donates one out of every $6 billion, but it is still not enough, since people like him have billions while poorer people suffer across the world,” said Hanson.
Since Muslim philanthropists are poorly organized, their activities are not visible around the world, many Congress attendees agreed.
Another factor is a modesty inherent to Islam, one participant observed.
“Philanthropy is not visible among Muslims, because we believe in the secrecy of it, said Ebrahim Rasool, premier of the Western Cape of South Africa. “Islam says you should not tell one another about your favor and charity.”
Meanwhile, Christian charities are highly organized, because they lack the stigma of secrecy.
“Everyone who gives publicizes it,” Rasool said. “Muslims give, they but hide it; however, while we remain modest, we must be coordinated, too.”
An organization that coordinates Muslim donations is urgently needed, participants agreed.
Hanson, who converted to Islam in 1977, said Muslim donors should be organized not only to “give fish” but also to “teach poor people how to fish.” He called on nongovernmental organizations and governments to work together, since caring for the poor should not be the government's job, alone.
“People working for NGOs are much more sincere and passionate,” Hanson said.
As the number of charitable organizations increases, corruption invariably shows its ugly head, and this, too, was debated during the meeting.
“Every institution faces this problem, but we have transparency so we can be accountable,” said Peter D. O'Driscoll, executive director of Action Aid.
“One World Trust,” a global accountability project in which governments and NGOs work together, was established for just such a purpose, he said.
Turkey needs an organization that works like the International Monetary Fund to control whether funds collected by aid organizations are distributed fairly or not, Hanson said.
The WCMP and similar outfits are needed to bring Muslim philanthropists together and lead them to help not only Muslims, but also the rest of the world, participants acknowledged. This could change the world's attitude toward Muslims, said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks Muslims and many Muslim aid institutions were subject to partial treatment, Awad said.
“We should coordinate with other secular or Christian organizations and governments,” he added. “Otherwise, we will be subject to suspicion and unfair treatment.”
Shahid Malik, United Kingdom Minister for International Development, who also participated in the WCMP, said Muslims have been defined by the actions of a few extremists, but radical Islamists represent neither Muslims nor Islam.
Malik, who became the first British-born Muslim to serve in the British government, said Britain's having a Muslim minister means a lot, as does the country's tradition of championing civil rights and liberties, which makes it the best place in the world for Muslims.
“There are many people against the Iraq war,” Malik said. “We are where we are, and we should now have a stable government in Iraq.”
The killing of Muslims by other Muslims in the name of Islam should be stopped, since it does not represent Islam.
Muslims need middle class
A stable middle class should be established in Muslim countries in order to secure social peace and prosperity, Hamza Yusuf Hanson said.
Compared to other Muslim nations, Turkey's middle class is strong, serving as a firewall to a culture of corruption and bribery.
“I have seen the practice of bribery in some Muslim countries where the middle class is not strong and people are corrupt,” Hanson said.
New Group Meets to Promote Muslim Charity Worldwide
By Ian Wilhelm
Muslims around the globe contribute billıons of dollars to humanıtarıan causes a year, but their efforts are often poorly organızed and not well-known to the world, said participants at the inaugural meetıng of a group of Islamic charities and philanthropists here.
The new organization, the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, was formed to help Islamıc donors and nonprofit groups to overcome these obstacles.
It estımates that Muslim foundations award at least $20-billion annually, while one speaker at the two-day conference said that total gıvıng by Muslims worldwide ıs probably 10 times that amount.
“If you look at the Muslim world and the generosity of the 1.3 bıllıon Muslims, I am absolutely certain they give over $200-billion a year to charity collectively,” said Hamza Yusuf, founder of the Zaytuna Institute, an Islamic think tank in Berkeley, Calif.
But “much of that charıty goes unnoted because we do not have the infrastructure to regulate it and to show that charıty gıven on the books,” he told the 200 or so partıcıpants, who came from Libya, Malaysia, Qatar, and 27 other countries.
Part of the challenge to calculating Islamıc philanthropy is the Koran itself.
Islam’s version of tithing, known as zakat, is one of the faith’s five maın holy prıncıples and requires Muslims to purify theır wealth by providing 2.5 percent of theır assets a year to mosques and needy people.
But the Koran says such gifts are more sacred when they are given quietly.
“Philanthropy is not visible among Muslims because we believe in the secrecy of it,” said Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim South Afrıcan and premier of the country’s Western Cape province. “Muslims give, but they hide ıt.”
Mr. Rassol urged Muslims to promote theır giving and support causes they traditionally have not, such as protectıng the environment and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In the case of the disease, he said ıt is associated wıth sexual promıscuıty and the gay lıiestyle, which are “anathema to Islam,” but the needs of AIDS victims in sub-Saharan Afrıca are too great to ignore.
The World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists ıs the brainchild of Tariq H. Cheema, a Pakistani doctor who lives in İllinois. After years of nonprofit work, including assistıng vıctıms of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, Mr. Cheema said he saw the need to bring together the world’s Islamic donors.
“Muslims, who are almost one-fourth of thıs whole globe, had to be more proactive to finding solutions,” he told The Chronicle in an interview. “We share risks with everyone on this planet.”
He said he hopes the congress wıll organize annual events and create a network to research, coordinate, and discuss Muslim gıvıng. The group will most likely be based in America with a second office ın Turkey or other Muslim nation.
As part of its work, the congress plans to create a Web site, SecureGiving, to rank charities in Muslim countries based on an as-yet-undecided criteria of governance and management standards. Mr. Cheema said the effort will help donors make sure their money is not supportıng terrorists posing as Islamic charities, a concern that has grown since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
While Mr. Cheema said he dıd not start the World Congress of Muslim Phılanthropists to improve the image of Islam to the Western world, he and other participants said raising the profıle of Muslim humanitarians could indırectly change the negative perceptıon by some that the religion ıs a vıolent one.
By giving food, buildıng schools, and undertaking other charıtable work, said Mr. Rasool of South Afrıca, Muslims can show that theır religion ıs not a “backward, ıntolerant monolith.”
Congressman Keith Ellison
“Do good works, engage politically, and get involved”
Associate Editor Wajahat Ali sits down for a rare interview with US Congressman Keith Ellison, who speaks about the challenges and opportunities of being the first Muslim elected to Congress.
By Wajahat Ali, March 24, 2008
"I urge all Muslims to engage"
Keith Ellison, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is the first African American ever elected to the House from Minnesota. Oh, he’s also the first Muslim Congressman in US history [the second Muslim American, Andre Carson, was recently elected to Congress on March 11]. By virtue of his racial and religious identity - a minority within a minority - Ellison bears the unenviable burden of representing one of the most misunderstood, feared and mistrusted identities du jour: Muslims. Ever since his election, notoriety chases Ellison often and unsubtly, most memorably after his 2006 appearance on Conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s CNN show, where the host asked Ellison point blank, “Prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” With calm and patience, Ellison answered the question head on and reassured his constituents and the American public that his religious values do not compromise or lessen his patriotism.
Regardless, his critics, including those in Muslim and right-wing circles, continue to project their doubts about not only his political credibility, but also his loyalty to both Muslims and America, respectively. Despite the controversy, in the past two years Ellison has emerged an influential and popular figure winning over a vastly diverse constituency in Minnesota and even gaining supporters and silencing initial skeptics across the nation.
We sat down for a rare and exclusive conversation with the Congressman, where he bluntly addresses a gamut of issues including the charges of his critics, Obama’s candidacy, racism in America, Muslims entering politics, the fear of Islam, the smear campaigns, and how his faith helps him become a better American and Congressman.
We’re all hearing and seeing the speech by Obama’s pastor, Rev. Wright, and the response by Senator Obama. Some say Obama’s “race” speech is historic, others say he is ducking the race issue. What do you think Obama’s response, as well as the fierce criticism of Wright’s speech, says about the state of racism in America today?
ELLISON: I think Obama’s speech was a transcendent speech. It actually moved us forward in the dialogue for national reconciliation. The fact is that Rev. Wright is coming from a perspective of over 200 years of slavery and 100 hundred years of Jim Crow. Also, he’s been a witness to some of the awful devastation that has happened to the South side of Chicago where his church is located. He has seen the awful human toll and how it affects the African American community. That’s the perspective he’s coming from. That perspective is obviously going to be informed by frustration and anger, and obviously he is a leader in that community and his speeches and sermons are going to reflect that frustration and anger. But, as a Presidential candidate, I think Obama is bringing us all together: helping us transcend; helping us go further.
The truth is the racial dialogue in America does need some updating. It does need a new way forward. Because so often, we are locked in a cycle of blame and shame; we are locked in a cycle of, you know, just really not getting anywhere. But, the fact is this dialogue does get us somewhere. It is not informed by anger, it is not informed by past wrongs or anything like that. But, it is informed by facts as they exist and it is informed by a need to heal and pull us forward. So, I was really impressed by Obama’s speech. I think it will go down in history.
Let’s talk about Geraldine Ferraro and other individuals who commented that Obama’s meteoric rise is due to his campaign playing the “race card” for his benefit. What’s your thought on this "race card” being used to help Obama – is this simple, superficial political correctness?
Well, it’s been used against him. In fact, his Democratic opponent has been trying to narrow his reach and appeal based on racial grounds from the beginning in my opinion. But, it just doesn’t work because he is truly a candidate that reaches out to all segments of the community. It just doesn’t work, because he truly is somebody who has the best interests and common good of all in mind. He doesn’t play old-line politics. That’s why you see him able to reach out to literally thousands of people. When he was in Minneapolis he drew 22,000 people in the Timberwolves auditorium. And the Timberwolves would’ve loved to get the numbers Obama drew on that day! He is pulling people who are senior citizens, kids, college students, and people who are middle aged, working adults. He’s pulling on Blacks, Whites, Latinos, people from Asia, South Asian background: everybody. He truly is a transcendent candidate. Now, he’s not a perfect candidate. Obviously, no one is. But, Obama is one candidate who I’ve seen that is able to reach across those issues that divide us and pull everybody in. I just think he’s phenomenal.
The fact is – before he gave that speech – I didn’t know. I was wondering if he was going to be able to deal with this challenge. It did look like the folks who were beating up his pastor were gaining ground – you know, causing doubt. But, you know what, he rose to the occasion as he has many times before.
Let’s tackle a question that has dogged you and Obama: The Muslim question. Many people say the label “Muslim” is used as a smear tactic, a "scarlet letter" of the 21st century. Do you think the fact that many people look at Obama as a Muslim, and thus judge him detrimentally, is a reflection of “politicking” in America or is it really reflective of an overall prejudice towards Muslims in America?
Well, the fact is that the people who are attacking Obama because of their incorrect belief he was Muslim were assuming that the American population is religiously bigoted, and they were trying to get political gain by appealing to that religious bigotry. But, it so happens Americans come from a long tradition of religious pluralism. We elected a Catholic President in the 1960’s. Mitt Romney’s meteoric descent is not due to his religion; it is due to his failed candidacy. In the 109th Congress, which was the one before the one I was in, there were no Muslims ever, ever before. In the 110th Congress, you’ve got two. Two. [Andre Carson won the Democratic nomination for Indiana's 7th congressional district recently.] I’m not the only one anymore. So, the fact is that America is a very tolerant country, and if you make an argument for the common good then people will support it. The funny thing about this latest flack about his Christian Minister is that it makes it pretty clear that he isn’t Muslim. (Laughs.) If anything, it can dispel that ridiculous rumor.
One thing I will say for Obama is that there was a temptation for him to strenuously and vociferously disassociate himself from being a Muslim, and he didn’t do that. He just said nope, in fact I’m not a Muslim, but there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim. I actually liked the way he handled that. I think what they were trying to do was to falsely identify him as a Muslim which they thought would hurt him. Or, they were trying to get him to vehemently deny and therefore alienate millions of Muslims in America and put him in a “can’t win” situation, but I think he’s gotten out of that one pretty well.
Let’s talk about your own personal experiences. Some are very infamous like your moment with CNN’s Glenn Beck who had you on air and pretty much straight up questioned your patriotism and loyalty to America based on his assumption or fear regarding your Islam. So, how do you confront that daily reality where you, Keith Ellison an African American and Muslim, are seen as unpatriotic based purely due to your religious beliefs? This must get frustrating.
Well, the thing is you have to face these kinds of challenges with patience. Quite frankly, the barrage of taking hits everyday has made me a better Muslim. I find myself returning to my faith just to be able to deal with this kind of stuff on a regular basis. The Qur'an says, “The struggle is ordained.” Well, certainly it is. But, we have to deal with these challenges with patience, with confidence. We cannot let one person’s bitterness turn us bitter. We have to overcome evil with good, right? That’s how you do it. You can’t overcome evil with evil. You just get more evil. My thing is to try to urge people who are Muslim and not Muslim to understand America is a country that has deep roots of tolerance and religious inclusion. My message to the Muslim community is keep on doing good works like building clinics, building literacy sessions at the masjid, work with non-Muslim fellow Americans to try to improve things. And keep putting your best foot forward, because if we start going tit-for-tat with those putting out religious bigotry, then we end up just like them.
Lot of people are saying that Andre Carson’s election to Congress along with yours is a sign of the end of times: "The Muslims are taking over! The Muslims are taking over!"
(Laughs.) Two out of 435? I don’t think we’re taking over.
So, how do you respond to that fear that, look in two years, Muslims and immigrants are helping elect Muslim people, ethnic people, and soon enough Congress will be run by radicals?
(Laughs) You know, we are elected by the majority of the people. So, if we are seeing more people of Muslim background in Congress and more people from diverse backgrounds in Congress, and we of course have a woman speaker in the House. That just means that Congress is looking more and more like America. It’s looking more and more like the rest of the country. That’s what democracy is, isn’t it?
Why the Democratic Party? Suppose you’re talking to Muslims – and you know they voted for the first time in a block for Bush in 2000; Muslims are not too savvy but we are getting there. How do you convince the Muslims that the Democratic Party is for them and for America?
Well, the first thing I want to say is that civic engagement is something I urge all Muslims to engage in. One of my most effective fundraisers in the state of Michigan, a brother by the name of Asad Malik, is a Republican and a dear friend of mind. He and are I are tight and good friends. My brother is a Republican, my dad is a Republican. So, I don’t want to urge the Muslim community to get locked into a political party even if it is my party. What I’d urge them to do is do good works, promote fair dealing in business, help America overcome this tremendous number of people who are uninsured and don’t have any health care insurance. I think in this time, 2008 to well into possibly 2012 and 2016, the Democratic Party offers the best opportunity to express their commitment to civil and human rights for all people. To express their commitment for health care for all, to express their commitment to economic justice for everybody, and to express their commitment for peace around the world. Republicans will probably figure this out in 5 or 6 years that embracing bigotry and promoting fear is not a good thing. I think they’ll probably figure out they will need to change their positions to attract votes. And, they’ll be offering something worthwhile as well.
But, two points. I urge the Muslim community not to get locked into one political party. And two: do good works, engage politically, and get involved: can’t change anything sitting on the sidelines. The last thing is that, for now, the Democratic Party is the best vehicle to give out good values; values of peace, values of economic equity, values of family, values of civil rights. Today, the Democratic Party is the best vehicle for that.
Some of your critics in the Muslim community say that Ellison is a charismatic self-promoter. He’s a sell out. He promotes abortion rights and gay marriage. So, how can he also be Muslim and be liberal and promote a system that engages in a post 9-11 Iraq War and pro-Israeli polices?
My position for people who say that is if you don’t like my position, then you get involved and offer an alternative vision for the country. I believe it is shirk; it is religiously forbidden for one Muslim to tell another Muslim he is not Muslim. Because you don’t know my heart. You don’t know what Allah has inspired me to understand. Just because you disagree with my political position, I believe it is shirk for you to tell me I’m not Muslim because you disagree. Why don’t you just disagree? Offer your position. Convince the people that you are the one who’s right. Maybe convince me that you’re the one who is right? But, I do disagree with those Muslims who try to determine for themselves who is Muslim and who is not: that’s for Allah to decide. I’m a strong opponent of this takfir-ism [declaring another an unbeliever], you know, people who think it’s ok for them to decide who is Muslim and who is not: that’s only for Allah to decide.
On the other part, I am a person who believes in civil and human rights are for all people. I’ve never been ashamed to admit that I think America needs to have human and civil rights for all people, particularly unpopular groups. Unpopular groups like the Muslim community, unpopular groups like Latino immigrants. Unpopular groups like the gay community. How in the world can I argue that America has to have rights for Muslims, who are unpopular, but not gays? That is a hypocritical position! I’m not asking people to embrace homosexuality. I’m saying it’s wrong and immoral to kill them, beat them, or exclude them from working. You don’t have to like them. Leave ‘em alone. Let them live their lives and let God decide if He will judge them, as He will judge us all. That’s all I’m saying.
Also, I said in terms of abortion, of course I’m not in favor of abortion. But, the question is: do I want to have police arresting women who do? The answer to that is no. I think we all have to come together as a society to prevent abortion. We need to all promote sex education, we need to promote more knowledge about the human body, we need to promote pre-natal care so women don’t feel they need to get an abortion because they fear they won’t be able to feed their other children. This is what we need to do as a society to make abortion exceedingly rare, but also, we don’t want women using coat hangers and killing themselves to abort the pregnancy. We certainly don’t want to use our police force to make arrests on these women. The question is not whether abortion is bad: I think it is bad. And let me be clear: I think abortion is wrong. But, I will also tell you I’m not ready to criminalize it, because I think it is a personal decision that people should make for themselves, but we should promote a society in which people wouldn’t have to make that choice
It sounds like you’re very passionate, Congressman. There’s a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions recommending one to not try to seek leadership or positions of power. Usually, people running for Congress or the Presidency have to run on the ticket of convincing people to vote for them. So, what inspired you to run, to take this leap, to be a trailblazer knowing you’re a Black man and a Muslim running for Congress?
Well, you know, part of my involvement in politics is really rooted in my desire to try to promote unity among people, trying to promote unity with the Earth and creation, and trying to promote justice. That’s really the origin of my activism. We are also, as Muslims, urged to engage in shura, consultation, with what the community should do. So, I think my involvement is just to sort of try to help them do what’s best for the community and the world at large.
I do agree that ambitious pursuits of power acquisition are wrong. But, I’m not trying to accumulate power for my own sake. I’m not trying to accumulate power for my own sake. I’m trying to accumulate some power to improve the lot of all people and improve the common good. So, that’s the origin of my activism. You know, I have a family that was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. My grandfather was organizing Black voters in the 1950’s in rural Louisiana in a time that would seriously get you hung and it was dangerous to do it. My mother promoted that as well. It’s something I’ve always been associated with, and it’s a kind of thing I’ll continue to do and urge more people to do. So, that’s kind of where I’m coming from.
Can you talk about the spiritual and emotional transition of Keith Hakim [Ellison wrote columns in his law school paper as Keith Hakim in 1990] to modern day Keith Ellison?
The thing is the Muslim name my friends and community know me by is Keith Muhammad. And that name is still my name. It’s still what I go by; it’s still what my brothers call me. But, the thing is, from what’s on my personal birth certificate, what I’m admitted to Bar in because I’m a lawyer – the legal name is Ellison. So, I run by the name that is on my birth certificate. But, the truth is I do have a Muslim name, and I am known by my Muslim name by many of my fellow Muslims. So, there’s really no transition.
But, let me also say that it’s important to point out there are lot of people around the world who are Muslim who do not have names that are Arabic in nature. It’s not unusual at all. It’s nothing in the Quran, the Sunnah, or the hadith of Prophet Muhammad that says that if your name is a legitimate name, if it is not a bad name, if it isn’t a name promoting something wicked or evil that you have to change it. I think the essence of Islam is not about a name or a form, or anything. It’s about going beyond forms and going beyond names and getting to the essence of the fundamental and Divine unity that connects Allah with all of us – and that Allah “is.” So, it’s really not about a name. It’s really about what you do, how you behave, how you treat people, how you face adversity, and how you connect with the Divine.
You’ve traveled the world and you’ve been all over America. What’s the greatest misconception and question about Islam directed towards you? And, how do you respond in either defending your faith or affirming your faith?
The greatest misconception of Islam is that it is a religion of violence. That’s a very incorrect position, and I have to constantly help people understand that even though you have Muslims who may do things that are violent, it does not make Islam a violent religion. I have to tell people that Christianity and Judaism have many, many examples of people committing atrocious acts in the name of their religion but we should not judge the religion by those individuals. I have to point out on so many occasions Prophet Muhammad was attacked, abused, mistreated, and yet, he always responded with patience, often with non-violence. And when he did have to resort to warfare it was strictly defensive and designed to preserve and protect life. Whenever he could try to work it out, he always did. So, I don’t understand what some of our Muslim brothers today are thinking. Who did Muhammad ever bomb? What suicide mission did he ever order? There are no records of these things. So, that’s a misconception that I continually have to clear up.
Everyone is interested in the “conversion story.” What is it about Islam that inspired you to take that figurative and literal “leap” of faith?
It was really a lot about going to the masjid and seeing the Blacks, the Whites, the Latinos, the Asians, the Arabs all together – all one. The unity among the people connected in an effort to walk as one and be in harmony with God’s will. It was this unity I thought was so important. It was rational. It made sense to me. It has done a tremendous amount to help me negotiate life – quite frankly.
Do you think we’ll ever see a Muslim President of the United States of America?
Inshallah [God willing]
If a Muslim becomes President, do you think he or she can ever truly make peace with their Islamic values and the burden of the duties required by the position?
Let me just say this. Let me say this: there’s not one single Muslim on the planet today that has walked perfectly. All of us need to do better. So, if there is a Muslim president I’m sure that individual will be forced to make compromises but, hopefully God-willing, they will continue to return to their faith and do what the faith requires and do what is expected by Allah. Do I believe that somebody will face fundamental challenges? I mean, we’re talking about human beings here! Remember, Muslims aren’t perfect. There’s a big difference between Islam and Muslims.
Will you ever run for President?
I have no desire to be President. When people say, “Hey, Keith, you’re gonna’ be President!” I’m like, “Hey man! I thought you liked me? I thought we were friends?” (Laughs). I do not aspire for the Presidency. You know what I want to be? I want to be the best Congressman I can possibly be. I want to be effective. I want to encourage people to run for office. I want to get people to come together around a common humanity, and I want them to stop focusing on false divisions. That’s what I want to do.
Wajahat Ali is Pakistani Muslim American who is neither a terrorist nor a saint. He is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and recent J.D. whose work, "The Domestic Crusaders," is the first major play about Muslim Pakistani Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at goatmilk.wordpress.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.