Dr. Sherman Jackson | We’re American Muslims, Can’t Be Anything Else

If an American who’s awake and socially aware converts to Islam, he or she will encounter the cultural and intellectual imperialism of their fellow Muslims. Not only will you experience pressure to change your name but you will also be asked to choose between being fully American or fully Muslim as if the two are not compatible. An identity crisis is soon to follow but for many of us, it takes years to realize that we’re in it and climb out of it.

Photographer Mustafa Davis poignantly captures the sentiment through telling his own story in Who am I and How Did I Get Here, Reflections of an American Muslim:

But when Muslims tell us that we cannot be American because that means we support ALL things America… it means they are telling us we cannot exist. I will say that again… it means they are telling us that WE CANNOT EXIST.

They can always fall back on their rich cultural heritages (that are often mistakenly called Islamic cultures. They are not, they’re merely cultures where the majority of the inhabitants are Muslims). But I don’t have that luxury or ability. America is the only culture I have to identify with.

Telling me its not possible is pushing me into nonexistence. I don’t think people with such rich cultures and heritages fully understand what its like to not have that to fall back on.

This past weekend, I attended the United for Change conference in Washington DC, where Dr. Sherman Jackson gave the best speech of the night eloquently explaining the rhetoric so often used to confuse Muslims, particularly converts to Islam.

The following is mostly paraphrased from my notes and memory

Dr. Jackson explained that when many in the Muslim world hear us identify as American Muslims, they equate this identity with full support for unpopular aspects of American foreign policy. They mistakenly believe that American Muslims “identify with, condone, or want to whitewash” these policies. However, Jackson notes that “identifying as a Muslim American does not mean I go along or condone” the actions of the U.S. government.

Dr. Jackson points out that if an American Muslim offers condolences for the victims of 9/11, as we rightly should, we are immediately challenged by some Muslims and asked if we are equally empathize with the loss of thousands of lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In order to truly communicate with others we must respect their feelings, counsels Jackson, while not shying away from our principles and that which makes us unique. He told the audience that he prefers to say,”I’m Muslim American and I love my country, not the government, but as home.” “We don’t live in perfect countries or societies but they are our societies,” said Jackson so it’s “not fair to ask us to disavow our country due to its imperfect foreign policy.”

He advises that we not fall into the trap of believing that Islamophobia only affects Muslims because the Islamophobes are working against all of America, which has long been a multi-racial and multi-religious society. The “ambivalence” some Muslims feel towards being an American “feeds right into the rhetoric of the Islamophobes” who believe that being Muslim is incompatible with being a full citizen in Western lands. Continue reading “Dr. Sherman Jackson | We’re American Muslims, Can’t Be Anything Else”

The New York Times | Andrea Elliott on Generation 9/11

Photo by Guy Calaf for The New York Times

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott profiles 3 young American Muslims, including me, in her most recent article, Generation 9/11, about the generation that came of age in the post-9/11 decade.

It’s humbling to read your own story told by someone else. More reflections later, God willing.

Eid al-Fitr 2011 | A Convert’s Eid | Fun with Friends

Early on the morning of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of the month of Ramadan, I was awakened by the increase in light emanating from outside my bedroom window. It took a few minutes for me to realize that the power, which had been knocked out by the heavy winds and rain of Hurricane Irene had been restored.

Deprivation and loss brings about a new sense of humility and thankfulness. The electricity restoration was one of the best Eid gifts I’ve ever received. I’m thankful first and foremost to God and then also to Pepco, our utility company.

I arrived early to the Eid prayer but was a little disappointed that on such a beautiful day, we would be praying inside on an indoor track at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex rather than on the grass next to FedEx Field. I suppose plannng considerations around Hurricane Irene may have forced a change of venue.

The indoor track before the crowds arrived

Later, as the crowds begin to arrive

The Men

The Women

Continue reading “Eid al-Fitr 2011 | A Convert’s Eid | Fun with Friends”

NPR | Zaytuna College | Forging a Sustainable Faith in America

Courtesy of Zaytuna College

A clip from a report by NPR’s Barbara Bradley Haggerty about Zaytuna College and its uniquely American flavor in terms of ideas, outlook, and seating arrangements. I agree with Hamza Yusuf that I’ve also seen a return to moderation from many converts & newly practicing Muslims into a more sustainable faith outlook over the years.