Arsalan Iftikhar | On the Need for Islamic Pacifism | ADAMS Center

Arsalan Iftikhar on Islamic Pacifism at ADAMS Center

This past Sunday, I attended an interfaith event at the ADAMS Center in Virginia with Arsalan Iftikhar, a writer and international human rights lawyer. Iftikhar was promoting his new book Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era, which he wrote to further his belief in Islam as a socio-political ethos, which embraces non-violence.

In addition to countering the politically motivated demonization of Muslims by Islamophobes, Iftikhar hopes to inspire young Muslim boys and girls with the “audacity of hope” to become contributing members of American society. In doing so, he hopes to help Americans, both Muslims and those of other faiths, recognize that it’s possible to be a good practicing Muslim that embodies the golden rule of “loving thy God and loving thy neighbor” and to also embrace nonviolence. ADAMS Center’s imam, Mohamed Magid, who also serves as the President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) reminded the audience of the need for Americans of every faith tradition to take a stand not only against war but against all types of violence.

Iftikhar notes that much of the current anti-Muslim discourse including the Park 51 and All American Muslim television show controversies and the anti-shariah law movement are a way for right-wing conservatives to “get out the vote.”

In a poll conducted by Newsweek, a staggering 29% of Americans said they believe President Barack Hussein Obama is Muslim. This may be one reason that the president has yet to set foot in a single American mosque knowing such a visit would provide ammunition for his detractors. While politicians and public figures will be censured for overt racism, they can still get away with expressing anti-Muslim sentiment. For Iftikhar, the claim that Obama is a Muslim is just another way for some people to say “he’s black and not like us.”

Arsalan Iftikhar believes American Muslims should embrace the principle of being “our brother’s keeper” recognizing that only by protecting the civil rights of every American, even those with whom we differ, can we also protect the civil rights of all Americans. More than 72% of Americans claim to have never met or interacted with a Muslim so Muslims will have to work even harder to humanize ourselves to our neighbors.

The work of humanizing Muslims to the American public while daunting is far from hopeless as Iftikhar noted the progress made over the last decade by advocates of gay marriage. According to Iftikhar, “no matter how much of a conservative Republican you may be, chances are that you have a gay cousin somewhere” and this helps to humanize  people and issues and “lessens the level of toxicity” in discourse.

Each Muslim has a role to play in breaking down stereotypes. Iftikhar says he loves when he gets the opportunity to speak on television or radio about mundane issues like sports or popular culture and not solely about religion or terrorism. When appearing on television, he makes a point of wearing a pink tie or shirt because he knows most people don’t expect to see Muslim man who is “clean-shaven and wearing something colorful.” So that even those who disagree with him can say “I don’t agree with him but I love the terrorist’s tie!” and that in its own way is a small victory.

I bought a copy of the book and am looking forward to reading it soon, insha’Allah.

Stop the Hate, Evolution, & Why We Care about Issues

Haters never Prosper

In Orange County, California (remind me to strike that off my places to visit other than to show my support for the Muslims there), the worst and the lowest of anti-Islam protestors showed up to a fundraiser organized by a Muslim organization to raise funds for women’s shelters and to aid in the general fight against hunger and homelessness here in America. They were greeted by politicians, tea party activists, and a group of protestors akin to the repugnant Westboro Baptist Church members who protest at the funerals of dead military personnel.

Now, I’m a big free speech advocate even if that speech is offensive and it may reflexively feel good to prevent it. I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday protecting the right of expression and don’t agree at all with the implementation of so-called blasphemy laws in some Muslim countries, which are largely used as tools of injustice to persecute minorities or political opponents, which even if there is some basis in the religion, was never the intent of law.

Here’s the video, not for the faint of heart, of the protestors harrassing the Muslim attendees at the fundraiser. I hope and pray each elected official that spoke at the rally is voted out of office or recalled by the people and for understanding and civility to enter the hearts of the protestors.

The Theory of Evolution

I made some comments on Muslim Matters in response to a comment indicating that Muslims find the theory of evolution to be a heresy. Among other comments on that post about the assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan, I said the following, “I neither think that parts of the theory of evolution are a heresy nor blasphemy laws as we see implemented today for a plethora of reasons should be considered a part of religion.”

I didn’t make those comments lightly or flippantly. However, some critics, reading in their own biases then interpreted those comments to mean that I have given full and unconditional support to Darwinian (where did I say Darwinian?) evolution. Did we miss the word “parts” used as a limited qualifier?  Many conservative Muslims find Darwin’s theory of evolution to be incompatible with Islamic theology and the story of the creation of human beings. To what extent one accepts or rejects evolution is controversial. However, for me, learning and working as I do in the healthcare field, parts of the theory of evolution, Darwinian or otherwise, is simply incontrovertible, that some organisms do evolve and there seems to be a form of natural selection at play.

One can always disagree about anything, pseudoscience is there for the taking but real science confirms (as it can in its limited way) the existence of newer strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria for example common in TB patients and of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). I’m currently doing a unit in maternal nursing and women’s health. Have you ever seen a child born with genetic mutations incompatible with life? Continue reading “Stop the Hate, Evolution, & Why We Care about Issues”