Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academic Affairs for AlMaghrib Institute spoke on July 4th at the ISNA convention about his belief and vision for the American Muslim community and the need for renewed ijtihad in the area of Muslim loyalties to a nation-state.
As a specialist in Islamic theology, Qadhi’s talk revolved around what he believes to be one of the most controversial topics today amongst Muslim theologians: the concept of al walaa wal baraa i.e. the issue of “where do our loyalties as Muslims living in non-Muslim western secular democracies lie.” He believes that the classical distinctions of dar ul Islam/dar ul harb are no longer viable or applicable in a world dominated by mostly secular nation-states and that a new thinking and ijtihad must be undertaken by the scholars of today to formulate a more pragmatic and realistic vision. A more extensive discussion on this issue can be found here: Divided Loyalties or Imagined Conflicts?
Qadhi criticized the Bush Doctrine of “either you are with us or against us,” which presents an incorrect and false dichotomy, particularly because America is supposed to have a “government of the people, for the people, and by the people.” A simple cursory reading of American history can serve as a useful reminder and refutation to those that believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation:
In 1790, George Washington responded to a letter from a rabbi at the first synagogue in Rhode Island by saying:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
And Washington concluded by saying:
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.