Islam Over Domicile

August 22, 2006 § 7 Comments

Over that past few days I have received comments where readers (I assume Americans) have condemned the use of hyphens when referring to one’s self as an American. For example in the sub-heading of this blog it reads, “A Muslim-American Journal”. These people suggest that this kind of thing should be eliminated. I am opposed to this idea as I identify with Islam over domicile. I am not the only one though as mentioned recently in the New York Times,

“In a recent poll of Muslims in 13 countries conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 81 percent of those surveyed in Britain said they considered themselves Muslims first and Britons second.” (S. Lyall; I. Fisher, NYT)

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§ 7 Responses to Islam Over Domicile

  • FreeThought says:

    This need to label oneself and others is what is causing so many problems. I would challange you on your self defining label. A label such as Muslim-American still tells me nothing about the person. While a person’s faith is personally important, it is ones actions towards others that matter in the world. If a person exhibits rude behavior towards others does their religion matter? If a person steals your possesions does their race matter? If a person commits murder does their ethnicity matter? If a person witnesses an assault and does nothing does the style of their clothing matter?

    Personal accountabliliy is getting lost in the labels. People should be judged based on who they are and how they treat their neighbors. Not by some label.

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    Ahlan,

    Thank you for your comments, they are thoughtful and sincere. However, I must disagree, I respect them none-the-less.

    “A label such as Muslim-American still tells me nothing about the person. While a person’s faith is personally important, it is ones actions towards others that matter in the world.”

    The “label” Muslim-American tells you exactly what I want you to know. That I am a Muslim and an American citizen. Likewise, your first name is a “label” which tells me nothing about you per-se, but is serves a purpose. That purpose is to distinguish you from another person. Which allows me to say, “Hey Sami you have a telephone call”. Instead of “Hey short fat guy with light brown hair… (not you, the other one!), you have a telephone call”.

    These arguments with all due respect are silly. The proposed solution is for 100’s of millions of Americans to deny their heritage, religion and or nation of origin for a secular ideal which isolates religious belief from a persons social, economic and political life. This is a neoconservative illusion that you and others have obviously subscribed to, good luck with that.

    wasalaam

  • FreeThought says:

    I must also thank you for this discourse. I enjoy debating when it is done with the exchange of thoughtful ideas and respect.

    Now I must disagree with your statement

    “The “label” Muslim-American tells you exactly what I want you to know.”

    While the term Muslim-American means something to you it means nothing to me. It tells me nothing of your character (which I am sure is very fine) or of your background. I will go so far as to say it tells me little of your religious beliefs. You are correct when you point out a person’s name tells you nothing about the person. It is a label only. When you have a common name it may not even accomplish the goal of distinguishing you from another. Likewise a hyphenated label tells me very little about you.

    I will give you 2 real world examples where the hyphanated label actually gets in the way of truth. The first involved a high school student who had recently moved from South Africa to the United States. He carries dual citizenship between Africa and the United States. When filling out the usual volumes of government paperwork that goes along with this type of relocation he checked the box of African-American when asked his ethnicity. This caused great turmoil because this young man happened to be white. After a lot of arguing and name calling he was ultimately denied the right to call himself African-American. In my view he has as much right to refer to himself as African-American as a black man, but that doesn’t fit the p.c. mold.

    The second involves a man who came to America from Trinidad. He was offended when other labeled him African-American just because he is black. He is offended by this label because he is not African, he is an islander. When it came to racial identification he actually preferred the term black because that is the most accurate description of him.

    One final point. Heritage and religous beliefs are best cellabrated and shared in smaller settings involving communities of families and friends. It is these settings where people are best able to learn about one another. It is also in these settings where labels have the least amount of meaning.

    I have been burned in the past by judging people based on a label of one type or another. I have since learned that a person must judged as an individual.

    Peace be with you.

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    While the term Muslim-American means something to you it means nothing to me. It tells me nothing of your character (which I am sure is very fine) or of your background.

    Perhaps you are trying to derive meaning from these terms inappropriately. Lets examine this for a moment. As you have stated more than once, what you would like to do is arrive at a conclusion about ones character. This is best illustrated when you say,

    “While the term Muslim-American means something to you it means nothing to me. It tells me nothing of your character (which I am sure is very fine) or of your background.

    What I would like to know is, what more of your objective do you obtain by dropping the “Muslim” from “Muslim-American”? On the contrary it seems that information; useful information is lost.

    “I will give you 2 real world examples where the hyphenated label actually gets in the way of truth.”

    Your examples fail to support your argument as much as they exploit a reliance on America’s outdated socio-economic structures. These identifiers were developed in the 50’s and 60’s, they no longer apply yet, there are those that keep trying to make it work. Is that because that is the America that they would prefer?

    “I have been burned in the past by judging people based on a label of one type or another. I have since learned that a person must judged as an individual.”

    Although, these ideas are interesting they are far to simple to apply to a discussion of social-ethics for the United States of America. Your experience being “burned” was probably due to a lack of knowledge and poor assumptions, however that does not mean that for the sake of your pride Americans should be left only to identify with America… the suggestion is preposterous!

    wasalaam

  • FreeThought says:

    What I would like to know is, what more of your objective do you obtain by dropping the “Muslim” from “Muslim-American”? On the contrary it seems that information; useful information is lost.

    My objective is to understand the person I am engaging in conversation. I am aware that there are many interpretations of the Islamic faith. So when you say you are Muslim-American I still do not know which interpretation of the Islamic faith you adhere.

    What is your point with the following statement?

    These identifiers were developed in the 50’s and 60’s, they no longer apply yet, there are those that keep trying to make it work.

    Are you saying that the labels are not accurate? This is my point exactly!

    You say that my arguments are far to simple to apply to a discussion of social-ethics for the United States of America You have lost me again. I am talking about human relations between individuals. Is it possible that you were insulting me by calling me a simple minded American 🙂 I will assume that you are not for this discussion.

    You are exactly correct when you say that Your experience being “burned” was probably due to a lack of knowledge and poor assumptions

    I was young and naive. For the record the individuals involved in the events that led up to me being burned were not Muslim.

    I will reiterate that my personal belief is that people are people. You must judge each individual on his or her merits. You cannot validate or villify a person based on a racial or ethnic group in which they belong.

    Peace be with you.

  • Abu Sahajj says:

    My objective is to understand the person I am engaging in conversation. I am aware that there are many interpretations of the Islamic faith. So when you say you are Muslim-American I still do not know which interpretation of the Islamic faith you adhere.

    OK, I think I understand where you are coming from. And for the record you have been misled. There are not a multitude of interpretations of “Islamic Faith”, there is only one. What you are referring to is called madhhab. The variances of each madhhab is not differences of Faith but differences of tradition only. The Islamic faith (Shahaada) is the same for all Muslims. However, that is not what the media would have you believe.

    Your question is curious because this is not important for someone who does not understand Islam? Why would you want to know that?

    It’s not like you would know what a Sufi, Salafi or Wahabi is if I told you that I was either one. I am only assuming you would not know this because of they way you were asking. A Muslim or someone knowledgeable of madhahib would not ask that way.

    If this is not what you are asking… could you please be more clear?

    “I will reiterate that my personal belief is that people are people. You must judge each individual on his or her merits. You cannot validate or vilify a person based on a racial or ethnic group in which they belong.”

    This is a good point but off-topic. I am only implying by this article that I choose Islam over domicile. Like the Muslims of Britain I too consider myself a Muslim first and an American thereafter. I’m not sure where you are going with this… it appears that you have come to my blog to qualify my character? I suggest you move to other articles to get a greater understanding of my blog and therefore my thoughts and positions on issues.

    wasalaam

  • Me2 says:

    Assalamu Alikum
    I think that muslims who live in the west are trying to give themselves an identity because they don’t feel that they’re treated like non-muslim ones, as much as they’re treated as muslims, they prefere to identify themselves as muslim-(whatever) so they feel that there’s something accepts them & they really belong to.
    A muslim from Britain wants to say for example : You’re not treating me the same way you treat the christians (just an example), you’re looking for me a weird look as I look like muslims (from your point of view), then I have the right to call myself a muslim-british.
    People out there judge muslims for being muslims, then thay ask like the poll you refered to (why do u give yourself this double identity) !!!

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