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Muslims, Supporters Mobilize Against Lowes For TLC Ad Pull

Muslims and other outraged consumers are flexing their social media muscle over the news Friday that the home improvement chain Lowes pulled its advertising from TLC’s “All American Muslim” TV series after pressure from a Florida-based right wing conservative group.

The Twitter hashtag #LowesHatesMuslims developed overnight, and while semantically not ideal, it seems to be the one with the most traction at this hour. The twitterstorm for boycotts and/or action by Lowe’s is increasing, with high profile figures such as Russell Simmons joining the call.

Friday morning as the story broke, interfaith writer and activist Chris Stedman pressed the company via Twitter on their decision, drawing out the only two Tweet responses so far from Lowes:

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“We did not pull our ads based solely on the complaints or emails of any one group. It is never our intent to alienate anyone,” tweeted the company, followed shortly thereafter by “Lowe’s values diversity of thought in everyone, including our employees and prospective customers.”

As of Saturday morning, these two lawyered-up corporate responses remain the company’s only Twitter response on the issue. Lowe’s Facebook page also shows no response at this time, though many are posting on their wall are recopying and posting a message on their wall to express their opposition to the company’s decision (a “Boycott Lowe’s Home Improvement” Facebook page has also sprung up). There is no statement or press release on the Lowe’s site either, as of this writing.

From a professional public relations perspective, Lowe’s public response indicates a lack of a good crisis communications plan. Without detailing the chinks in their armour — as I have no desire to strengthen their strategy at this stage — that lack of planning does indicate a certain corporate vulnerability. Also noteworthy is the fact that the company succumbed easily to pressure from the Florida group, which indicates some corporate attention to consumer buying power and interests — so continued and increasing pressure should yield results.

The key will be in numbers: the objective will be to show Lowes management that those outraged over the company’s decision far exceed the constituency that called for the ad pull. Alert your non-Muslim friends and allies to this issue and encourage them to participate.

Muslim organizations have also sprung into action: MPAC pulled together a good summary and action alert replete with links; ICNA also stepped into the mix with helpful, specific information. An online petition is also circulating.

Moving forward, MPAC makes the wise assessment on their alert page that it will be important to determine the status of other companies targeted to pull ads by the Florida group. There is the legitimate possibility that ads may have been bought for only one or two episodes, but if it comes to light that ads were pulled due to this pressure, then a call for boycotts of such firms would also be in order.

Such actions by Lowe’s flies in the face of the increasing business bandwagon of “Corporate Social Responsibility.” Indeed, Lowe’s actions seem to not be very consistent with their own CSR spin.

Reminding companies via your shopping power that bigotry and bias are not good business decisions is beyond a Muslim issue — it’s an ethical call that people of all faiths can understand.

Update: At about 4:45 pm EST, Lowe’s fianlly posted on their FB page the following response:

It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective – social, political and otherwise – and we’ve managed to make some people very unhappy. We are sincerely sorry. We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, across our workforce and our customers, and we’re proud of that longstanding commitment.

Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.

We strongly support and respect the right of our customers, the community at large, and our employees to have different views. If we have made anyone question that commitment, we apologize.

Thank you for allowing us to further explain our position.

It’s an inelegant (notice the typo) way of offering an apology while spinning their original cave to pressure. It will rally and comfort who support their position, but does little to indicate a sincere re-evaluation of the ethics behind their choice.

In an email from a Lowe’s representative posted on the Florida group’s page, a Lowe’s rep states “there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe’s advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention.” Without access to those guidelines, it’s not possible to verify the truthfulness of their response.

But their ethical choice remains — and so does anybody’s decision where to shop.

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With nine years experience in mainstream news media -- first in radio, then web and social media for both print and television -- Mustafa Stefan Dill was an early advocate and practitioner for applying social media techniques to mainstream journalism. Dill has lectured on online journalism and social change at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore, India and has been featured in Online Journalism Review, The Media Center's Morph blog, J-New Voices, motherpie.typepad.com, and participated as a panelist in a national web seminar by the American Press Institute. In August 2010, Dill planned his escape from the newsroom environment launched a new consultancy offering PR, social media and new media strategies for a wide range of clients, with a specialty in serving Muslim and interfaith organizations and NGOs working in Muslim regions. Dill reverted to Islam in 2002.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mustafa Stefan Dill

    December 10, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    i just saw this too…. I’ll update the article.

  2. Pingback: ICNA: Take Action Against Bigotry & Hate | The Muslim Voice

  3. Avatar

    Sulayman F

    December 11, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    Thanks for keeping us updated on this issue!

    Lowe’s hasn’t placated me with their milqetoast comments.

  4. Avatar

    Abu Ibrahim

    December 11, 2011 at 3:46 AM

    HomeDepot may not be a better option to take your business to though considering they did the same thing: http://floridafamily.org/full_article.php?article_no=109

  5. Avatar

    becky

    December 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    I am glad that you are standing up for you you beleive in.Lowes is doing the same thing they fire their employess over. They will fire you if you say something offensive. Good luck with the lawsuit.

  6. Avatar

    SR - H

    December 12, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    As you can see by the name ” It is the Lowest one can get in a civil society”. That’s why their name is Lowes and the “t” is missing. Trust is missing. I know all intelligent people will not trust Lowes for buying their products at their stores to keep their dignity as a human being.

  7. Avatar

    SR - H

    December 12, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    If Home Depot did the same. There are other stores to buy these products. ACE Hardware, Menards and Big Lot and they are NOT BIGOT like LOWES and HOME DEPOT It is Christmas time and you have options. GO AND BUY AT ACE HARDWARE, MENARDS and BIG LOTS . They have GREAT TOOLS at Great Prices

  8. Avatar

    U S C Mac

    December 13, 2011 at 4:35 PM

  9. Avatar

    Nourai

    December 13, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    For Whom it may concern,

    From what I’m witnessing, you’re all probably flooded with responses and may not even reach mine to read this. Hopefully you do. First I would like to say is, I see both perspectives on the side. I am a Muslim, I was born in the Middle East however I was raised in the States. Growing up in America was a blessing, according to my family. Meanwhile, I feel at home in the states culturally because of my religion and culture. My first perspective is the American way, yes, I do know that every American and non – American citizens are crushed with what had happened at 9/11, may all who died Rest in Peace and may God send his blessings down to their family members. But, you cannot blame a group of Muslims for what happened. I agree, the background of Muslims and the Qurran have some violence. Then again, so did most other religious groups back in the days fighting for their rights for their own religion. I’m getting off track and rambling on and on, but isn’t America known for being the glorious country since 1776? Isn’t America the melting pot? According to Ted Liue, the State Sen, he called the move “bigoted, shameful, and un- American” (Source – http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lowes-muslim-20111213,0,5909694.story) Do you know what’s shameful? What’s shameful is going against the First Amedment this country has formed. Amedment one, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to asssemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.” Such a beautiful Amedment, am I correct? I have to agree, not much voice of a man, woman, or child can be heard in the Muslim countries. That’s why Muslims are settling in America. I don’t know about the small ratio of Muslims who don’t like America. However, the majority, like myself and my family adore America for what it is known for. I know that Lowes is not prohibiting the free exercise and all, but looking back into history how African Americans where treated in America , I’m sort of feeling this treatment right now. What happened to the gorgeous melting pot? Why such hate against ALL Muslims? Should we hate Christians because the KKK considered themselves that they are Christian and base their doctrines upon their own ideas of the Old Testament in the bible? No, we should not. You cannot blame ONE group of a certian race/ethnicty/religion for half the world’s population. All I’m saying is, what really is bigoted, shameful, and un – American is what Lowes did. Lowes, you made us Muslim Ameicans look embarresed. How are we all supposed to settle in this beautiful country with all this hate among us? First, the people, now the local stores? Honestly, I felt like this move was NOT a positive impact, it was a negative impact. Thanks for taking the time to read through this and I hope you get another perspective on this situation. I’m proud to be a Muslim, and I’m proud to be an American.

  10. Avatar

    Carlos

    December 16, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    Poor Lowes. This just proves you can never make everyone happy. They pulled their ads to avoid controversy. Advertisers avoid controversy like the plague. They do not pick sides, they just do what they can to avoid the crossfire. This strategy has obviously backfired for Lowes, at least with the American Muslim community. Sometimes it is best just to do nothing.

  11. Avatar

    Nadia

    December 20, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I just wanted to share this letter my husband sent to a Lowes representative as a result of their pulling ads from the TLC show. I am not able to post the picture on this website but if you would like to see it I’d be happy to email it. Thanks!

    Dear Mr. Niblock,

    I am a person who certainly understands business decisions.  I am also
    one who generally does not react to most things of this nature
    because, as a Muslim in America, this is only a few strokes from being
    par for the course.  I am specifically speaking of your company
    pulling advertising from the TLC show All-American Muslim.  I am not
    foolish enough demand you advertise again since, after all, this is
    the land of the free.  I personally am not even a great fan of the
    show.  I am, however, offended that your company is so ashamed of the
    “average” Muslim that you have to pull advertising from such a benign
    show.

    For this reason I ask you cancel my $10k line of credit to your store.
    I have also included a picture I took from the parking lot of your
    Sanford, NC store on  April 16, 2011.  I left my family that day to
    come provide volunteer physician oversight to the tornado destroyed
    Lowes rescue effort.  While I may never set foot in a Lowes store
    again, you can tell your employees and customers that even though you
    fear your affiliation with people like me, I will be waiting again
    with open arms outside your business to help if, God forbid, disaster
    strikes again.

    Sincerely,

        Ayaz Pathan, MD, MBA
        Diplomate,  American Board of Emergency Physicians

    • Avatar

      Carlos

      December 20, 2011 at 11:30 PM

      Did you pay interest on that $10k line of credit?

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        December 21, 2011 at 6:08 PM

        Doubtful – you just pay it back at the end of the month, no interest charges, easy peazy lousie ;)

        Siraaj

        • Avatar

          Sabour

          December 21, 2011 at 7:59 PM

          …?

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      December 21, 2011 at 2:40 AM

      Two thumbs up to Ayaz!

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Uncategorized

Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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#Islam

Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

COVID19: Calling The Conscientious

Violating borders, scaling every wall and traveling faster than a rumor, COVID19 is now around nearly everywhere. It has reduced nations and societies, low and mighty, to their knees, demoted all preoccupations to insignificance and is threatening to torch everyone in its path.

The imperial hubris of nations, with and without nuclear weapons has crumbled. Mighty militaries have been reduced to mere spectators. Borders are closed. Markets have tumbled. Even the gods amongst humans – rulers, monarchs, dictators, religious heads, generals, billionaires, movie stars, icons of sports and music –have been forced to recede from the limelight. Neither they are in control nor can they perform. All of them are forced to surrender by an unseen microscopic speck with an insatiable appetite to devour humankind, bit-by-bit, part by part.

A pre-COVID19 world is now a blurred memory. It was not long ago that we were a different planet and a different people. Neither hand-sanitizers nor masks were precious enough to purchase let alone hoard, or even think about. YouTube was popular but not so much for videos on how to wash hands or what to do when self-quarantined. And, shaking hands were a norm and we used to respond with a “bless you” to our neighbor’s cough or sneeze.

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That was pre-COVID19.

Places of worship are already shut down and airports, train stations and shipping ports are shutting down. Boulevards and avenues are eerily silent. Shopping malls and theaters stand abandoned.

This is post-COVID19.

Yet, there are flashes of hope and inspiration. Medical professionals and health care workers are fighting to save mankind, a patient a time. Our ill equipped and fatigued hospitals are abodes of our new heroes and true patriots. And no less are trash collectors, grocery workers, truck drivers, postal workers, fruit pickers among others whom we took for granted all along.

Covid-19 is not just the biggest story of our time, it is the only story.

Amidst a piercing cacophony of politicians’ press conferences and public interest advisories, we cannot afford to miss out the soft whispers of COVID19.

It is telling us to pay more attention to the under-estimated meaningful over the hyper-marketed mundane. Its whispers remind us to remember that we are but a mere mortal. We are reminded in the Quran that God made us from a mere speck (40:67).

Not, too long ago, we seldom had to remind ourselves that we are human. Not too long ago we could afford to be enemies of ourselves. Humans were enemies of humans, fighting and taking life of those considered ‘others’. We fostered division … “them” and “us,” “citizens” and “illegals.” COVID19 has spoken: no more. We stoked exclusion … “black, brown and white,” “conservative and liberal,” and “urban and rural.” COVID19 has spoken: no more.

In its sweeping trail of destruction, COVID19, is imploring us — harness my power to cause dread in each one of you, across borders, across genders, across races — and unite. COVID19 is challenging us: find a common cause against me. When any of you find an antidote against me, may that be a reason for your coming together, even if right now I have forced you to stay away from each other – six feet part.

COVID19 is an equal opportunity and a non-discriminating enemy, which will kill no matter how we worship, what we eat, where we live. One touch strikes all with equal precision.

Today, as we face an existential threat from a mortal molecular foe, we must remind ourselves about what matters most, our humanity and not our race and nationality.

The truth is that long before COVID19 struck us, we were sick. We spread viruses; hate and bigotry, we held thoughts of xenophobia for those who did not deserve it. We wallowed in bias and built echo chambers. COVID19 exposed all of our pre-COVID19 shortcomings.

Coronavirus will kill us for a while, but then in the end, we will overpower it. But before that happens, all the human deaths would be in vain if we don’t realize that in a world of such threats, we never needed to have been at each other’s throats.

In fear and panic, people resort to extreme behavior, it amazes us with their capacity for wisdom and kindness, or stupidity and cruelty. COVID19 is beseeching us to reclaim and regain our humanity of compassion and kindness. It is telling us to come together to fight our common battles. It is forcing us to wash our hands of all sins of our past and then lock our hearts and hands and build a world where meaning must matter more than the mundane.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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