As much as I hate to give more attention to the inheritor of Billy's evangelical legacy, I have to agree with Franklin Graham on one important principle, my objection to the declaration of the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional; story here.  Despite his willfully ignorant remarks on Islam and Muslims, as a community American Muslims need to grow a thicker skin and stand with him regardless if he likes it or not. Franklin needs our help in more ways than one and I for one won't let his negativity determine my actions.

For us Muslims — under all the pressures we face today — it is a too often forgotten concept called “principled action.” As a community we advocate for our civil rights and civil liberties at every opportunity in order to openly practice our faith. The laws and protections as well as the social means available to all Americans are the legitimate channels for any community to make their case. Muslims need to be respected, included and afforded the free expression of faith that all members of our nation should enjoy. See: Rev. Franklin Graham talks Pentagon snub for a recent and related story about protests against the demonization of Muslims. This example is exactly why principles are so important. The rights that allow Franklin Graham to spew bigoted and inaccurate views of our way of life are the very same rights that Muslims employ to secure our ability to practice our faith.

Muslims should stand with Franklin on his opposition to the ruling for many reasons. First while some evangelicals like Graham effectively boost their face time on the national media circuit by taking cheap shots at Islam, our response as Muslims will determine if this bully tactic will further marginalize us or not. Second, if Franklin Graham were actually able to manage all of the government's National Day of Prayer events it might truly be unconstitutional, as more than likely its ecumenical nature would be extremely limited and you can forget about it being an interfaith event. However, if multiple faith communities are welcomed into or at least tolerated during the National Day of Prayer events it becomes very difficult to declare it an establishment of a state religion. Perhaps equally important, standing in support of religious observance as a part of civic life demonstrates that not only are Muslims tolerant of others free speech rights, but also that we understand that the freedom of religion afforded to all Americans allows us to continue practicing our faith in ways that are threatened and/or banned in Europe and elsewhere around the world.

Billy, Franklin, like it or not, Muslims are a part of the fabric of America. We are here to stay and we are an evangelical community — in that we invite others to our faith. We understand that you wish to inoculate your flock from the message of Islam. You have the freedom to spread misinformation and to hold any belief you wish, however this country was founded in part to secure religious liberty and your complaining that a federal institution upheld that value will not prevent some Muslims from seeing the bigger picture. Which leads me to yet another compelling reason to stand with one of our community's detractors, the ruling on the National Day of Prayer is a threat to the free expression of religion for all Americans. While there are many differences between European laws banning the hijab and this ruling on the National Day of Prayer, at their very core you have government limiting the practice of faith in systems that highly value legal precedent.

Moments like these are truly when our community should look to the example of our beloved Prophet who allowed delegations of Christians to eat, sleep and pray in his masjid. We should also turn to the guidance of the Noble Qu'ran: “God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you over religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them (60:8)” and we benefit from the knowledge of our scholars “The Muslim is taught by his book, the Qur'ân, to hate falsehood, distorted beliefs, and deviance, and consequently, to hate the representation of falsehood and deviant beliefs at the hands of the unbelievers. He does not, however, hate the people themselves. In fact, he should wish for them every possible good and hope that they will attain guidance and be saved from the Hellfire.” from Sheikh Salman al-Oadah.  All of these quotes point Muslims towards tolerance and being a source of goodness.

If we are to dissipate the hate and fear that others have for us we cannot do it from a position of fear and/or contempt of others. Whether individual Muslims want to participate in the National Day of Prayer or not, is not the issue. We like any other faith community should be free to do so unmolested by others. In fact some Muslims are doing so in small, local and organically organized groups. For me, I tend to lean toward “… to you be your religion and to me be mine.” (109.6) That ayah in fact drives my opinion that abolishing this American tradition is not protecting the populace from an establishment of religion, it is instead an affront to religious freedom.

Negativity normally creates more of the same. We do not have to believe in their traditions to protect their right to practice them. The Prophet taught us that even a smile is charity. Let's all go give that sadaqa (a smile) to evangelicals… very often their membership is not diverse, so they need us and perhaps out of it God will guide some of them.

28 Responses

  1. mofw

    I think it’s a huge mistake for this government to sanction ANY kind of religious activity.

    A National Day of Prayer is gimmicky and meaningless. I am especially suspicious of Christian groups, especially Evangelicals, who peddle their religion agenda.

    As a despised minority religious community, Muslims have much to fear from extreme and hostile religious groups gaining any sort of legitimacy.

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    • Iesa Galloway

      Agreed, the National Day of Prayer is gimmicky. A common trend in our society is to hold up good actions/concepts on one day to try and encourage it… we as Muslims are blessed with daily prayers connecting us to Allah all the time as part of our tradition. The point is not to endorse or oppose a specific event. The point is to prevent the limiting and banning of religious freedom.

      You wrote: “I am especially suspicious of ” & “have much to fear from extreme and hostile religious groups gaining any sort of legitimacy” I hope it is easy to see how much that sounds like the way people speak about our community.

      You also said “I think it’s a huge mistake for this government to sanction ANY kind of religious activity.” My question would be should religious observance be allowed for government officials, civil servants, contractors and elected officials? How about allowing religious services on public property?

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      • mofw

        1. I don’t think it’s fair to equate my comment about extreme and hostile Christian groups with how the media and said groups describe Islam and Muslims. Respected Journalist Chris Hedges wrote a book entitled “The Rise of Christian Fascism.” Obviously, this is serious.

        2. There is a distinction between government sanction of religious activity and allowing people to practice their religion.

        The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

        Let’s keep it that way.

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      • Siraaj

        Agreed w/mofw – let them waste time on their gimmicky days, we have bigger fish to fry anyway.

        Siraaj

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      • Iesa Galloway

        1st the comparison was not meant as an insult, it was to show the striking resemblance in the language itself… put aside the label “hostile Christian” for a moment and just see them as people and I think you can appreciate the world from a different view.

        No one is saying that anti-Muslim hate/fear is not serious or a problem… however I believe the way(s) we as a community have attempted to counteract it have been very unproductive.

        Let’s keep it that way indeed. I don’t see the “establishing any religion,” or “imposing of religious observance” in the National Day of Prayer, Americans are not required by the law to actively participate and prayer is a element of many faith traditions…. On the other hand declaring it unconstitutional could be seen as “prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.”

        I was careful not to use “sanction,” because it has two meanings: to allow and to mandate. see: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sanction

        I am arguing that the laws allow us to practice our faith as we wish. You seem to be afraid that government will someday make us practice a specific faith. While many people seem very afraid of a theocracy taking over our nation (a common fear held about both Muslims and some Christians), I think it is much more likely that our ability to practice any faith openly could be consistently weakened and limited.

        @ Siraaj – This issue is directly related to bigger ones… the National Day of Prayer is not the discussion… the discussion is if ruling it unconstitutional can lead to restricting the free exercise of religion. A related and minor point in the article is that those who fear, distrust or hate us can have those feelings dissipated by interaction with our community.

        As 2% of society can we really fry any fish? Not to mention bigger ones by ourselves… the answer is obviously that we need relationships and allies. It is tough reaching out to people who smear you, but to me at least it is equally distasteful to ally ourselves with people who tend to be opposed to religion and/or our values. This of course is a false dichotomy… there is a spectrum. The problem our community faces is we are not cognizant of other group’s spectrums. We tend to distance ourselves from and have contempt for anyone who resembles those who have insulted us and to join hands with anyone who seems to support us. That often leaves us as a pawn for other communities’ agendas.

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      • Siraaj

        I actually agree with the court ruling – the push for prayer by evangelicals in schools and elsewhere is usually a tool of proselytizing on their part to non-christians.

        Siraaj

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  2. Asiah

    In the civil rights fight, starting as early as the civil war and even before, pro salvery preachers used pulpits to demonize non-whites and sanction slavery and segregation etc.

    Are we to say that that same freedom which allowed them to convince half the country of the inequality between the races and influence legislation, and sometimes even lead their communities in hate crimes – that same freedom is what helped the blacks gain their civil liberties?

    I don’t agree. Someone had to step in (Lincoln, the North, abolitionists, civil rights leaders etc) to silence them until they changed legislation and eventually the way people thought and the things they said.

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    • Iesa Galloway

      Salaam Asiah, I really don’t think that you mean to compare the horrors of slavery with the difficulties that American Muslims are facing today… right?

      The comparison is in my mind a non-starter in that while the institution of slavery had to stopped by force, the racism against that segment of the American population continues today will continue.

      Forcing people into silence can make people more hostile and bitter… I believe that engaging in debate and conversation with those who are willing is a better route to combat bad ideas and beliefs. At the end of the day harmful action(s) is what should be prevented, we can not control peoples minds or hearts. Legislation does not change the way people think… look at the prohibition in the U.S. verses in Muslim history. Values is what makes meaningful change and what drives legislation. This article is simply saying we should value religious freedom for all Americans.

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    • Iesa Galloway

      Don’t be sorry! All opinions welcomed. Insha’Allah the next piece I write will be more relevant and engaging for you.

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  3. jasper mcmillan

    America turned its back on its Christian heritage long ago. Today most Americans could not possibly care less about Jesus, Mohammed or anyone else except their own self interests. A lack of national pride, of humility, of its own history but lots of ignorance are signs of a national decline. Islam in which I have absolutely nothing for but disdain, has and will continue to make huge inroads in America because America doesn’t care. This religion of violence, murder and total intolerance for everything except its own interests will maifest itself once again if America fails to put aside its total absorption with entertainment, sports and the latest fads.

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    • Iesa Galloway

      Jasper,

      Wow… I am not sure if you are trying to prove me right or wrong by such a provocative/bombastic statement? I do hope and pray that you actually read some of the articles on this site AND meet some real Muslims in person and with an open mind.

      The funny thing is “IF” you could put aside your contempt for Islam you’d see that Muslims are called to a life of moderation. Sports, entertainment and etc. are allowed/encouraged so long as a person balances his life with a central focus on their relationship with God and acts in all things (to the best of their ability) in a God-conscious way.

      I am not sure if you consider yourself a Christian… but ask yourself if your words about Islam promote tolerance. It seems to me you are trying to bait Muslim readers into a trap to “prove” that we are intolerant.

      If I am right, it is a pretty weak attempt… it may still work, but it won’t “prove” anything other than revealing your own true colors.

      If I am wrong, and I pray I am, offline I’d be happy to help you meet Muslims in your area.

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    • DrM

      “This religion of violence, murder and total intolerance for everything except its own interests will maifest itself once again if America fails to put aside its total absorption with entertainment, sports and the latest fads.”

      Sounds like the Zionism you Armageddon Christian lemmings worship. Speaking of violence, what is your view on Anglo-American terrorism around the world?

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  4. Iesa Galloway

    @ Siraaj,

    Can’t argue with their (evangelicals) motivations… by definition everything they do is on some level an attempt to proselytize or to implement what is called the “social gospel” which is to not separate their religious ethics from contemporary social issues.

    It seems to me that the unconstitutional ruling is really much more focused on the concept of social gospel than their attempts convert. This where the language separation of church and state seems disingenuous compared to the language anti-establishment.

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    • Siraaj

      I really don’t see that connection – I believe social conservatives have successfully injected their ethics politically and it has been on the basis of secular interpretation of law they have either won or lost.

      I don’t see that to be the case with this day – a government sponsored day of prayer seems, at face value, unconstitutional. Don’t get me wrong, I think praying is great, I just don’t think the ruling is either unconstitutional, nor do I see it as a slippery slope to restrictions on freedom of religion.

      What I see is a group of radical christians who want to enforce and legitimize a judeo-christian identity upon government institutions being told, “No you can’t.” If the last 8 years of the Bush administration has taught us anything, it is that we don’t want these intolerant nazi-cons having any sort of political power.

      Siraaj

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      • darthvaider

        Agreed.

        Although Evangelicals try to make fights like these sound like assaults on all religions, the reality is that institutions like a national day of prayer and government-sponsored religious activities benefit them and their agenda far more than others. Allahu Aalem.

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      • Mamluk Dave

        It is folly to fail to see the distinction between religious sponsorship and honoring faith. Just as it was important for the Foundersâ„¢ to draw a distinction between religious ritual and fundamental faith in the Supreme Architect of the Universe. Are those who oppose this of the opinion that Jews, Christians and Muslims all don’t believe in the same Higher Powerâ„¢?

        Leaving aside the value of actually engaging in the religious psywar being waged in modern media that we Muslims collectively seem only willing to participate in as victims, we would be better served to establish ourselves in the national dialog as supporters of worshipful activity WITHOUT endorsing or sponsoring a specific religious ritual.

        Obviously we don’t pray the same way as Jews, Christians or anyone else. If we step up and participate in the definition of said “national day of prayer”, we will be able to influence it to be a ritual-agnostic event rather than a platform for proselytization by others. I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t coopt the opportunity for our own purposes in dawah. And it would be really fun to find an imam or three to stand on that stage because it would make Franklin so @#$& angry. Heh.

        What are these bigger fish that are alleged to be frying, Siraaj? Who’s frying them? Or are we still waiting for the fishers of men to come back with a couple so that we might could fry them someday?

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      • Siraaj

        I don’t doubt the distinction, I simply doubt the intent of those organizing the day, and the spirit behind it. Republicans / Conservatives are anti-government, and most of the solutions they propose are “federal government, hands off please, leave it to state government”.

        When social conservatives start asking for government involvement, there’s normally a bigoted agenda behind it, and while I detest the attitude of many an atheist, I cannot help but empathize with their reaction, given the personalities behind the (holi- / holy-)day.

        What bigger fish are there to fry at the community level? Drugs, alcohol, dating, institution building, wars, wrongful detentions, legal injustices, discrimination, obesity, a financial meltdown, confused and angry youth, and…should I continue?

        Who’s frying these fish? Hopefully, we all are by first fixing ourselves and living a proper example, facilitating projects in roles we’re best suited for, raising up righteous children, educating ourselves about Islam, the world around us, and bettering ourselves constantly.

        So yeah, fun as it would be to peeve off Franklin Graham, it’s a waste of time, and for those who care, political capital.

        Siraaj

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      • mofw

        I think it’s time for Iesa to retract this whole article and admit to being wrong. Also, he should spell his name Isa.

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      • Mamluk Dave

        Why? He isn’t wrong.

        And a native speaker of English would pronounce “Isa” in a way that rhymes with “ice-ah”… It’s just a transliteration, after all, meant to make it easy for native speakers. ;-) When I can’t use the Å«, it makes more sense to native speaker to spell it Daood. (The just W seems to cause people to blame all the wrong things, so best to omit it, eh?)

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      • Iesa Galloway

        LOL – a brother? who goes by mofw is telling me how to spell my name? :)

        THAT almost makes my day.

        “If” you wanted prove your point you might be better served by making logical arguments. So far what I’ve seen is a fear based perspective of “the other” and a inability to deal with counter points… and of course now this….

        At least Siraaj is offering his opinions…

        No thanks, I’ll keep spelling my name in a unique way so that I don’t get mistaken for all the other converts that figured out/wanted to tell folks that Jesus taught tawheed.

        Oh yeah, let me know how much success you have getting peoples respect for our community or yourself individually while your essentially calling them bigots.

        Iesa

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      • Siraaj

        Oh yeah, let me know how much success you have getting peoples respect for our community or yourself individually while your essentially calling them bigots.

        Yes, but weren’t you the one who called them bigots? I mean, no one disagrees on that point, but you did it in your post (see quote below).

        The rights that allow Franklin Graham to spew bigoted and inaccurate views of our way of life are the very same rights that Muslims employ to secure our ability to practice our faith.

        I think our time is better served marginalizing them. If there really is some group of people or Muslims who care about this issue, they should form a coalition with more moderate Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, etc groups (including atheist) and form this gimmicky day in a way that spells out that you even respect the right of those who choose not to pray – if the Muslims spearheaded that type of movement, I believe you’d have better political traction with the mainstream (and perhaps more hatred from the right-wing). Think more in terms of recognizing religious diversity, and then you can have prayers of all kinds at the day – and here’s where you can do your own daw’ah of teaching Islam, and rather than being reactive (and worse, reactive in defending an enemy’s symbolic day), you can be proactive in facilitating a better, mainstream type of day.

        Siraaj

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      • Iesa Galloway

        @ Siraaj,

        Bro. I love you for the sake of Allah,

        My request is that you try to not make it so easy… I mean really, not seeing or ignoring the meaning in my words and the distinction between opposing a belief or action and name calling looks very opportunistic.

        Maybe Sh. al-Oadah’s words will be more clear “He does not, however, hate the people themselves. In fact, he should wish for them every possible good and hope that they will attain guidance and be saved from the Hellfire.”

        Let’s make sure the distinction is clear, you can point out that someone can “spew bigoted and inaccurate views” or you can call someone a bigot. The deference is a fine one — but I think easy to see in light of the repeated quote from the Sheikh… right?

        Again, It is one thing to say “your a bigot and I oppose you” and quite another to say “what you are saying is bigoted and I am willing to dialogue and engage you about it.”

        You said: “I think our time is better served marginalizing them.” I asked you before and I will ask again how do you plan to fry any fish as 2% of the population?

        You also called them (I am assuming you mean evangelicals) “an enemy” and said that we should form a group “including atheist” — which defies logic as a prayer day for an atheist makes no sense — which all leads me to believe you are embracing the simple logic of a enemy of my enemy is my friend. Uh… no they are not necessarily your friend.

        What you are missing is just as ‘they’ ignore our community’s spectrum/diversity, you too are reacting in ignorance by lumping all evangelicals together as a hostile group or at a minimum as active opposition that can only be fought/marginalized.

        It would also help if you actually read what I wrote instead of assuming things.

        You said, “Think more in terms of recognizing religious diversity” Where in my original post I wrote “if multiple faith communities are welcomed into or at least tolerated during the National Day of Prayer events it becomes very difficult to declare it an establishment of a state religion.” So I am glad you get it now and we agree on that point, I just wish you didn’t have to imply that I am a sellout for you to get it, you wrote; “and worse, reactive in defending an enemy’s symbolic day.”

        This is why I emphasized “principled action” in my post. We should know what we stand for and stand for it.

        I remind myself 1st “…and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice/acting equitable…” (al-Ma’idah)

        May Allah guide us to the best path.

        Iesa

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      • Siraaj

        @Iesa

        And I love you for the sake of Allah as well bro :)

        Re: Labeling, I don’t see a contradiction in acknowledging someone is a bigot and wanting to dialogue with them, so I don’t see the relevance of Shaykh Salman’s quote in this context, though if what you’re saying is that you believe Franklin Graham makes bigoted statements about Islam, but is not a bigot, I take back what I said. Do you mean to say Franklin Graham is not a bigot?

        Re: Fish Frying, as you mentioned earlier, in order to get work done politically, you do need friends and allies, and I believe the radical evangelicals are not the ones to reach out to – I believe moderates of all religious stripes (including Evangelicals, so yes, I do recognize the spectrum) are the best to accomplish the goal of having your own day while marginalizing the wackos.

        Re: Religious Diversity Day, you’ve misunderstood my point – the point of the day is to highlight a type of diversity in America, not to push a religious ritual. What I’m saying is that as a PART of the day, one can add or discuss prayers and a variety of issues, and here’s where Muslims can take the lead as “encouraging diversity and respect”, including even atheists. A more accurate term would maybe be “Belief” Diversity Day. Btw, I think even this is a horrible idea and a waste of time, I’m simply saying it’s one step better than what’s on the table now (defending Franklin Graham’s prayer day for fear of losing religious freedoms).

        So, to sum up, I do believe in bringing multiple faith communities together, but not for a National Day of Prayer, but maybe a National Day of Respect (and again, I think it’s a complete waste of time, but if you must waste time, make it a productive waste of time).

        Re: Selling out, never said, thought, or meant to imply it, I think you read that into the post.

        Siraaj

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      • Iesa Galloway

        Al humdulilah I think we are making some progress here!

        One thing, as a PR guy oxymoronic language jumps off the page at me :) “productive waste of time” is about as nonsensical and cascade’s campaign of virtually spotless

        Re: wasting time — it doesn’t take much effort to work within an existing event “if” what you are doing is making a case for inclusion. Creating a new event or even changing an existing event’s purpose — from prayer (worship focused) to respect (human relationship focused) would require much more time and effort.

        The whole point of my article was that engaging people leads to relationships, as opposed to our community’s unfortunate M.O. of reactionary opposition. The reason for the use of the National Day of Prayer is that it is a example of one opportunity to engage. Ba’idmillah readers and among them our leadership and activists will start thinking of new approaches to solving our communities issues.

        They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and to expect a different result each time. :)

        In the seerah there are so many cases of peoples’ hearts softening and eventually many among the opposition to our Prophet became some of his greatest supporters and examples for us.

        JazakAllahu Khairan for the dialogue!

        Iesa

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      • Siraaj

        Salaam alaykum ‘Iesa,

        Re: Oxymorons, I consider these political events a waste of time in the bigger picture, but if one wishes to engage it, I believe it would be productive engaging in something proactive rather than reactive which leads me to…

        Re: Community M.O. I believe your proposal doesn’t change us from proactive to reactive, it makes us reactive to an issue that doesn’t affect us directly and proposes to ally us with a leader of a movement that vehemently hates us and is clearly on the wrong side of the law. What I’ve proposed is proactive, and if our argument against it is that it’s too difficult or it’ll take too long to do, that’s the Community M.O. (laziness) that we need to clean up.

        Re Seerah lessons, while it’s true that some of the biggest enemies of Islam turned into its greatest assets, it is also true that the opposing leadership didn’t become Muslims until they were a force to be reckoned with, and this came only after the Muslims reached out to other groups on their own, formed their own alliances, and then came back strong. The greatest influx of people came to Islam when alliances were formed with either those who believed, or those who promised not to oppose. You are better off diversifying your political assets, so to speak, rather than focusing on your most vehement opponents. I would prefer to dialogue from a position of power rather than pandering.

        Siraaj

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  5. Mamluk Dave

    @Siraaj

    I don’t doubt the distinction, I simply doubt the intent of those organizing the day, and the spirit behind it. Republicans / Conservatives are anti-government, and most of the solutions they propose are “federal government, hands off please, leave it to state government”.

    I truly wish that were so. Muslims should be anti-big-government.

    What bigger fish are there to fry at the community level? Drugs, alcohol, dating, institution building, wars, wrongful detentions, legal injustices, discrimination, obesity, a financial meltdown, confused and angry youth, and…should I continue?

    Fair enough, you were talking about the larger community, not specifically just Muslims engaging in the public discourse. Someday I hope to see Muslim charities that minister to people in need of rehab and other psycho-social crises.

    Who’s frying these fish? Hopefully, we all are by first fixing ourselves and living a proper example, facilitating projects in roles we’re best suited for, raising up righteous children, educating ourselves about Islam, the world around us, and bettering ourselves constantly.

    That’s playing defense and is insufficient to win. That is not the example of generations that have gone before us carrying the example and message of Islam.

    So yeah, fun as it would be to peeve off Franklin Graham, it’s a waste of time, and for those who care, political capital.

    Have to earn political capital in some way… otherwise we will never have any to spend. ;-)

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    • Siraaj

      Re Defense, I suppose that’s a matter of perspective, I see what our political organizations do as defense, whereas I see the individual, family, and community initiatives I mentioned as offense. Some of our more interesting political moves one might consider offense (and i consider offensive) include Congressman Ellison’s alliance to protect the rights of gays.

      Re Political Capital, I believe we have more now than we did under the last administration, so I consider our account balance in the black. If you consider us in the red, then I would say joining with Franklin Graham serves no benefit except to drop us further into the red with interest accrued.

      Siraaj

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