Islam Under Fire: Origins of Wa Salaam, A Muslim-American Journal
September 20, 2006 § 25 Comments
Make no mistake about it, Islam is under attack. For Muslims this means our values, morals and sensibilities are under-fire. It appears that no matter what we write or how we position ourselves as a community, the actions of misguided Muslims give Islam’s enemies enough reason to feel justified in their attacks.
Furthermore, I think that there are powers in Washington who believe drawing lines in the sand and asking the world, “are you with me?” will identify friends and foes; allies and enemies. On the contrary, I am of the opinion that this will backfire, particularly on the American people, pitting Americans against each other.
Therefore the problem is as much a social problem as it is political in that Americans of all backgrounds can live with these deep-seated resentments for long periods of time, as Blacks and Whites did during the Civil Rights Movement. Similarly, there are still racial tensions between blacks and whites today, although their manifestations often come in the form of social subtleties.
The worst case scenario for the U.S. with respect to its Muslim citizens is that non-Muslims may learn to live with the disgust and/or distrust they feel toward us and manage it reasonably well, for a long time. While underneath the mask of civility is a festering hatred.
For Muslims the obvious struggle lies in simply being a Muslim. As Islam is dragged through the mud by both Muslims and non-Muslims, being a Muslim is becoming stigmatized. As a result many Muslims have wrestled or continue to wrestle with their religious and cultural identities, which would otherwise be very secure.
For example, NPR published an article which interviews young Muslim teens and discusses their struggle with their identity here in the United States. The teens are two sisters who are Muslims, living in the suburban Chicago area. These teenage girls find it unbearable to be ostracized in their community for wearing a hijab. She talks about her frustration concerning the hijab when she says,
“I’m proud to be Algerian, but it makes me mad when people think just because you have a scarf on, you can’t be American.” (J. Woodruff, NPR)
These feelings and other circumstances eventually led the young woman to abandon the hijab. She informs NPR of her decision in an email which followed the interview several months later and it read,
“Since we last spoke in June, I’ve gone through with my decision to no longer wear hijab. The decision has been a year in the making, and it’s been quite a deliberate and introspective personal journey. Hijab is and will always remain an internal spiritual force within me; it goes to say that hijab isn’t a mere external covering.” (J. Woodruff, NPR)
The young woman’s family supported her decision, yet it is unfortunate that a young woman who has yet to settle into womanhood should face such a dramatic decision concerning her identity. It is hard to imagine exactly what she is going through as I am a man, but as a man I too have experienced these kinds of societal pressures.
For instance, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I felt extreme social pressures around me. I resisted, but eventually I cracked under all of the pressure. Afterward I slowly began to hide my Islamic culture and Muslim identity out of fear. I became overwhelmed by these feelings and began to dress differently. I attempted to look as “normal” as I could, I no longer wore Islamic regalia but fashioned myself after the trends of that period, as much as I could without violating Sunnah (at least in my mind at the time). I only went to the masjid on Fridays, although I regularly made the salah at home. Islam was now becoming my personal religion, hidden from the world.
I continued this shameful charade for nearly a year of my life, until I just could not take it anymore. It was the worst mistake I have ever made, during this period I suffered both emotionally and spiritually. My wife began to lose respect for me, although I believed that I was protecting her. I soon realized that for a Muslim hiding your religion is not advisable, it is just not natural for Islam. The truth of Islam is not a secret, and believing in these truths should not be either.
After a while I began to loose interest in what others thought of me, except those who I could respect; those whose character I felt was honorable. It was around this time that I started to only affiliate myself with Muslims. It just seemed safer, I felt that I did not have to watch my back. Overtime things changed and I have eased up on some of my harsher criticisms of being Muslim in the West. Consequently, these experiences materialized as this blog, Wa Salaam and the mission behind it.