Muslims

The M-word.  The word we are too fearful of, and do not know where to begin discussing.

A group of people, just like you.

Muslims.

Growing up as an American Muslim in the post-9/11 world means being prepared.  I have to learn that hate crimes, prejudice, the patriot act and Islamophobia are well and alive.  I have to learn these things, but I do not have to accept this reality forever.

Instead, my anger for our country’s bias media is released through my search for knowledge.  I value my education, because I know it will free me from these unfortunate realities.

I study hard and challenge myself to learn about others and the world, because it is important that I change everyday.  I need to learn something new everyday, so that I become less ignorant everyday.

I pray to ask God to help ease the pain and struggle of being human.

It is time to learn more about the world and Muslims.  Superintendent Tom Torlakso can help us implement educational programs in California schools.

Fear is a Powerful Tool

MPAC’s Video- Truth Over Fear: Countering Islamophobia

Fear is a powerful tool and if used correctly, it can influence imaginative minds and generate hate and violence between human beings.  The attack that took place on September 11, 2001 is tragic and should be acknowledged and mourned.

The suspects responsible for the crime were identified as Arab Muslims, and since then the target of many social and economic issues have had to do with the imaginative and racist persona of the “Arab Muslim”.  The uproar of angered Americans has been led by the government’s institutionalization of fear, which has created racism towards Arabs and Muslims.

The government inadvertently uses fear to influence knowledge, as well as the lack of knowledge.  This helps create a distance between human beings, and divides individuals carelessly into categories that are meant to only dehumanize a group of people.

I hope that through education, our fear of Muslims as a nation will diminish.

Where are Our Children Learning to Hate Others?

The formation of terms used to oppress a people needs to be noticed, as well as the people that are being influenced by these fictitious realities.  In August 31, 2010 the New York Times reported on teenagers harassing Muslims at a mosque in New York.  The harassment took place over Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan.

During the process of the harassment, one of the teenagers fired a gun.  Although no one died, the point that should be addressed is where and how are teenagers learning to hate Muslim people?  The second decision made to harassing a group of Muslims attending the mosque was violence.

District attorney Joseph Cardone states, “ It’s just kids doing stupid things, but it got more serious when they ran into a member of the mosque and they discharged a weapon. And we are taking it seriously.”  Yet to simply agree with Cardone’s assumption of the stupidity of children is wrong in itself.  Instead of simply brushing the topic off so quickly, the question of where are children learning that Muslims are bad and should be killed, is a step into admitting to the mass amounts of Orientalism and the lack of discourse being presented in the media.

 

Source

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/nyregion/01mosque.html

Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam are the foundation and structure of the Muslim life.

 

1.  The Shahadah, or testimony of faith:  Saying, “There is no God but God, and Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is his messenger.”

2. Prayer (Saleh): Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day, facing Mecca.  Prayer is the direct link between a worshipper and God.

3.  Zakah: Giving a certain percentage of one’s wealth to the needy.

4.  Fasting in the Month of Ramadan (Swam): Every year, once a month, Muslims must fast from sun up until sun down.  They must abstain from food and drink.  The month of Ramadan is determined by the lunar calendar, and it was the month that the Qur’an was revealed.

5.  The Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj):  The annual pilgrimage is required once in someone’s lifetime, if they are able to afford it financially.  Each year, men and women around the world gather to pray and worship God through a spiritual journey to Mecca.

Muslim Women and Hijabs

Society has an overbearing need to classify and categorize women in a world that is built around masculinity.  The West has obvious problems concerning gender, yet nationalism unifies the West to view other countries as more oppressive towards women.

One group that mirrors this viewpoint is the Muslim women category.  More over, the Muslim woman that chooses to wear a veil or hijab is seen as submissive and oppressed.  This idea develops the Middle East to be a primary representation of Islam’s ruling, and that the oppressive veil is a tool to keep women immobilized and powerless.

Last year, I had the honor of conducting a research project about American Muslims that choose to wear the hijab or veil in the U.S.  While I interviewed several Muslim women,  I also conducted my own primary research.

I wear the hijab whenever I pray, but I am not committed to the lifestyle of wearing a hijab on a daily basis.  For my research project, I wore the hijab for an entire day to step inside the shoes of a Muslim woman that has committed to this lifestyle.

I wore the hijab to classes, stores and meetings, and I learned so much about the Muslim women that wears a hijab or veil daily.

A Muslim women that wears the hijab daily is incredibly strong, beautiful and brave.  These women carry the weight of the world over their shoulders.  She must deal with the stereotypes, hate and misconceptions many think of Muslims.

This women tells others that you may not objectify her.  Instead, you must value the voice she has, rather than her beauty.  Interestingly enough, I found I am not as brave as many of these women are.  I hope that I can one day be.

Jihad

The false definition of “Jihad.”

Orientalism does create anxiety within a people, for generalizations are often made within the war on terror.  In 2010, Juan Williams was fired from NPR after he made a comment on the O’Reilly Factor.  Bill O’Reilly first commented, “the cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet”.

Though the New York Times article (2010) focuses on Juan Williams, it is interesting why no one analyzes O’Reilly’s comment.  O’Reilly’s statement simply generalizes terms to fit his own definitions, and compliments his thoughts with colorful vocabulary.

“Jihad” is accepted to have a negative connotation, and yet the actual meaning of Jihad is not negative at all.  Jihad does not mean terrorism or holly war, but instead a goal that motivates a human being’s actions in this lifetime.

My mother did not have the opportunity to attend college, and instead made her jihad to send her children to college to have the best opportunities possible.  Never does the media define Jihad like this nor does the media correct the definition of the term.

This brings up the topic of discourse on the Middle East as well as the knowledge that is actively withheld from the public.   Knowledge that is not shared is a progressive step into encouraging discrimination and prejudice.

What is your Jihad?

Prayer and Fasting in the Month of Ramadan

Prayer is part of the 5 pillars of Islam, and shares a special importance in the month of Ramadan (or the month of fasting).  Muslims are required to pray five times a day, everyday of the week.

 While there are many aspects of Ramadan that resonate importance to the religion of Islam and Muslims, the practice of prayer during this holy month becomes a process of spiritual cleansing, enlightenment and worship.

 Through the journey of prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, I am constantly reminded of my goals and my struggles.  The call to prayer allows me to devote time to reflect on myself, my environment and God.  Some days my connection to God is strong, and other days it is not.  The challenge to connect and pray, becomes much more personal.

 Our worlds are moving quickly, different aspects of our life take more importance, and unexpected struggles really take a toll on oneself.  Ramadan helps me remember that I have time to reflect on myself, my community and God.

 Fasting from food and water from sun up until sun down, reminds me of my hunger to connect to God.  I begin to prioritize   my life on the basis of spirituality, and slowly I begin to realize how much I really have to be thankful for.

 During the month of Ramadan, I make more of an effort to come to the mosque and pray.  There is nothing more moving than having your community side by side praying and struggling together.  Prayer is a process, and during Ramadan I am able to challenge myself more in my spirituality and devotion.

Wait Arabs and Muslims are the same thing, right?

This is probably the most common question I find myself being asked, and now it’s time to break through these false assumptions.

Ethnicity does not define your religion.  In fact, while many may think that most Muslims are Arab, they are not.

According to Islam 101, this is the order of the largest ethnic groups that are Muslim in the U.S.:

  1. African Americans
  2. South Asians
  3. Arabs
  4. Iranians
  5. Turks
  6. South East Asians
  7. American Whites
  8. East Europeans
  9. Other

It is so easy to categorize and assume the identity of a people.  It also shows how little we really know about Muslims and Arabs.  We live in a country that has become so involved in the Middle East and with Muslims, that is important to be able to differentiate ethnicity and religion.  If we do not start to differentiate the two, we will be helping erase the identity of many.

A music video by artist The Narcicyst, showing Muslims of different ethnicities.

What is Islam?

The Holy Qur'an

There are many misconceptions of Islam, because too many people are accepted as the spokespersons for the religion.  In turn, fear is built upon the unknown.  Lets lay out the most basic facts about the religion.

In Arabic the word “Islam” means submission to the will of God.  In submitting to the will of God, you are abiding both your mind and body.  In turn, the result of your submission brings you “salaam” or peace.  Muslims are the followers of the religion of Islam.  “Allah” means God in Arabic, and is used by Muslims and Christians alike.

Islam, along with Christianity and Judaism are the three Abrahamic religions.  All three are monotheistic religions, and all worship the same God. The religion of Islam came to be in 622 C.E.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) experienced a revelation from God (Allah) through the angel Gabriel.  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), traveled to Medina with God’s message of Islam.  His traveling to Medina has become a spiritual journey for Muslims, known as Hajj.

The revelations Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) experienced are known to be the unaltered Suras or prayers found in Muslim’s holy book, the Qur’an.  The Qur’an’s text has never been altered, and is written in Arabic.  Sunna or Hadiths are known as the traditions and lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad, and guidance to which we should live our own life.

Source:

“The Illustrated Guide To World Religions”

Michael D. Coogan, General Editor

Published in 2003