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.