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Working Ourselves Out of a Job

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MuslimVoicesMatter

Muslim Voices Matter

My name is Ruth Nasrullah. I am a convert to Islam, a journalist, a blogger, a New Jersey native living in Houston, Texas. I have a masters degree in journalism and a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction. I was one of the first seven bloggers on MuslimMatters back when it was an itty-bitty blog and it is my honor to return to what is now an international, award-winning web magazine.

From 2013 to 2015 I served as the Communications Coordinator for the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). While with CAIR I heard from colleagues that our goal should be to “work ourselves out of a job” – in other words, to create a world so just that no one need fight for basic civil and human rights.

Is that possible?

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America is a paradox, a nation that has historically allowed injustices yet has also succeeded in correcting them. Ours is a country founded in slavery that now has a black president. Ours is a country where legal segregation was transformed by the Civil Rights Act.

America is also a nation built on a bedrock principle of fairness. When the majority of Americans see issues clearly they make fair judgments and decisions. The key to sustained freedom is to bring a message of truth to the public, loosening them from the grip of bigoted ideologies. It is only through a vapid rhetoric that a presidential contender can be hailed as a leader even after proudly declaring that he has bought influence with a prominent member of the opposing party. But I’m getting ahead of myself by talking about Donald Trump.

As we face increasing anti-Islam sentiment it is our obligation and privilege to share the message that will make a difference, as we are compelled as Muslims to do. Hence Muslim Voices Matter.

This column will insha Allah be a platform to explore issues around politics and government, civil rights and social justice, xenophobia and security.

It will not be a complaint column, nor will you hear my own opinion every other week. I hope to prompt an informed conversation about the state of American justice, especially in spheres where Muslims are impacted. I want to hear the voices of MuslimMatters readers of all religious, national and political backgrounds.

What kind of stories will you read here?

I wrote recently about an incident that’s typical of recent protests against planned Islamic centers. The outcry against a Muslim cemetery in a north Texas town demonstrates hallmarks of Islamophobia in action: blind bigotry; propaganda spread by community leaders; repetitive and uninformed anti-Islam rhetoric; and, importantly, the muting of citizens who support Muslims, whose voices are often not as loud as the detractors’.

The phenomenon of businesses – primarily gun shops and ranges – declaring themselves “Muslim-free” is spreading across the country, from Arkansas to New Hampshire. Make no mistake: refusing service based on religion is a violation of the Civil Rights Act. In a time when some of the Act’s provisions face erosion, the public must be reminded that “Muslim-free” is illegal and is as unacceptable as the “whites-only” and “no Irish need apply” policies of the past.

There is good news too, which we can celebrate and learn from. For instance, so-called “anti-shariah” bills (now known in many states as “anti-foreign-law bills”) have been successfully protested in several states, including Texas, where I was proud to personally see the grassroots efforts to fight these bills, two of which died in this year’s Legislature.

Here are some of the topics I plan to examine going forward:

  • Propaganda: what is it and how is it used against Muslims?
  • Use of planning and zoning regulations to prevent development of Islamic centers and cemeteries
  • What contemporary Muslims can learn from the historical civil rights struggle
  • Election coverage
  • Ways in which Muslims can successfully engage in politics
  • Positive and negative media engagement by Muslims

I look forward to having some robust conversations. Muslim voices do matter. Let’s hear them.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Isahah Janette Grant

    August 28, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    Mashaa’Allah! Looking forward to reading future pieces, sister! Jazak’Allahu khair!

  2. Kariman

    August 29, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Great, may Allah reward you

  3. Faisal Abbasi

    September 9, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    Salaam sister,
    I’m afraid that some of the statements that I’m about to make will be rather robust. Firstly, as a Muslim I find it quite offensive and intellectually insulting when American Muslims, born or otherwise hark on about how great America is. The fact that your country has a black president doesn’t mean that black Americans aren’t still suffering from blatant racism in many parts of the country. So please stop going om about that.

    Another aspect of constant praise is what a wonderful democracy America is. Rubbish! If America was such a great and fair democracy why is the power and wealth concentrated in the hands of 1% of the population and why are so many Americans on the poverty line? Why have so many American city become .ghettoised’ (a personal expression) where there is social depravation, crime and lawlessness. Why has the health system failed the millions of Americans who aren’t able to get health insurance, and so many have died due to serious diseases and accidents as a result?

    The fact is, America has a lot to answer for for the woes of its people and the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world. Ok you live there and were taught to wave the American flag at school, I get it. But the truth is that the American flag is drenched in blood and signifies pain and misery for millions!

    So please, in future when you want to talk about your country, have some perspective, especially as a Muslim. And please have some thought about the sensitivities of the people across the globe; the millions who are suffering because of Americas past and present misdeeds. The world is much bigger than North America!

    Finally, I’ll leave it to other people to comment about the growing xenophobia against Islam and Muslims in America. But this is nothing new. Americans have always had someone to revile and pour scorn over since its creation. This is not a legacy to be proud of sister.

    Faisal Abbasi

    • Faisal Abbasi

      September 9, 2015 at 12:23 PM

      Apologies about some of the spelling errors. Sometimes I type too fast for my own good.

    • Peter

      September 22, 2015 at 2:07 AM

      Hi Faisal,

      I was amused by your post greatly. I am not an American, however I have lived there. I am an Australian.

      However, I find your criticism somewhat shallow and self serving?

      If the USA is so bad, why do so many people want to live there?

      Can you name a country, or place with no blood on its hands? Compared to the vast majority of the Planet, the USA recognizes the rights of individuals, and grants greater freedoms to its citizens, than most of the world.

      Where do you live? How does where you live compare to the USA in religious freedom, racism and equality of the sexes? How does where you live compare to the USA on corruption, how free is its press?

      So in isolation, your comments has merit, but nothing existing in a vacuum, and the measure of how racism or fair a society is comparative.

      Do you want to compare the USA to Saudi Arabia, which was forced to make slavery illegal only in 1963!

      Do you think the USA should look to Malaysia when it comes to institutionalized racism? Or how Lebanon treats the Palestinians? Or maybe Iran, for what freedom of the press should look like? Maybe Afghanistan is your model for equality of the sexes?

      So tell us, what nation are you bench marking the USA against? Otherwise you are just a hater, with no factual basis to your hate, only hate.

      • Faisal

        September 24, 2015 at 1:50 AM

        Peter, I’m sorry but your reply shows a lot of ignorance and lack of understanding about recent history. And you have no right to put labels on people. I certainly am not a ‘hater.’ I have many friends that are American, who, incidentally have the same or even stronger views than mine about their country. It’s interesting that you have only cited Muslim countries in your reply. None of those countries have invaded other countries and killed millions of civilians. None of those countries have dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population. It looks to me like you are the only one with hate around here.

  4. Ruth Nasrullah

    September 9, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    Walaikum salaam. Thank you for your comment, which contains a lot of truth.

    First, I reiterate that my focus in this column is on domestic issues, and while we of course can’t strictly separate foreign policy from domestic, my commentary is on politics and civil justice here in the U.S. The final paragraph of your comment indicates that I didn’t make that point clearly enough. (By the way, I am well aware that there is a world outside North America.)

    My question to you is this: what country should I be proud to be a citizen of? All nations have blood on their hands and I don’t deny that. I didn’t intend this article to be a rah-rah promotion of America, but your comment seems to imply that I should hang my head in shame because I am an American.

    Is there a country on earth that suffers no violence, poverty, evil or injustice, and where Muslims and people of other faiths live peacefully together? Please name it.

    My point is that the American *people* have a fundamental belief in fairness, and I stand by that no matter what our foreign policy is. What the American people need is to step out of the echo chamber and hear some truth instead of rhetoric.

    American citizens who believe in justice have won in the past – not all of them, and not all victories have lasted. In my article, I mentioned the victory against anti-shariah laws in Texas as an example of a small victory. However, such laws have passed in multiple other states, so the battle continues. But the important thing is that we have the right to that battle.

    This country suffers from racism, poverty, economic injustice and a host of other ills and it always will. Name a country that doesn’t.

    To use the same example I did in this column, America is a country founded on the blood of slaves who after emancipation continued to suffer hardships, torture and murder. But with the advent of the civil rights movement, those evils became illegal. Blacks are still being lynched but at the same time Confederate flags are being pulled down from state capitol buildings. Jim Crow laws were made illegal but we now see proposals for different means of disenfranchisement. The battle continues. But because I am an American, I have hope for justice, imperfect as it may be.

    There are countries where speaking against a leader or a religion warrants execution. America is not one of those.

    I don’t know where you live, but I am insulted that you mock me for waving the American flag. I do feel proud to live in a country where our foundational document allows me to burn or spit on that flag. I am saddened by entrenched police brutality but proud to live in a country where people of all races carry the banner of #BlackLivesMatter.

    I will keep writing about American political, civil rights and social justice issues because I am free to and because it’s the only way to continue the battle for freedom and equality.

    • Faisal

      September 11, 2015 at 12:03 AM

      Salaam again sister and thank you for your response.

      I sense from your reply that I may have upset you a little by my first response to your article. Please forgive me as that wasn’t my intention.

      Sister, one thing that I forgot to say previously is that nationalism is something that goes against Islamic principles and is not something that Muslims should expound or celebrate. This whole world was created by Allah SWT, and all borders and national boundaries have been drawn up by mankind. Nationalism is devisive and breeds racism and scorn for other peoples. In Islam, Muslims are part of one Ummah, standing together in one faith, and that is how Muslims should identify themselves. It’s the flag of the Ummah and Islam that Muslims should be waving, not those of countries or political parties. Alas, if that had been the case, the Muslim world wouldn’t be in such chaos and disarray.

      So regarding myself, it really is unimportant which country I am from. The important thing is that I am a Muslim and your brother in Islam.

      Finally sister, you are blessed that Allah SWT has shown you the way to Islam. Now that you are a Muslim, I would suggest that you concentrate your efforts on spreading the message of our beautiful religion. This is a fundamental obligation for all Muslims. I think though, that under today’s climate of misrepresentation and propaganda against Islam and Muslims, sincere revert Muslims who are media savvy, like yourself, are well placed to counteract and mitigate the impact of this phenomenon on non-Muslim people around the world.

      Allah SWT will ask each and every Muslim about how he or she fulfilled the obligation of spreading the message of Islam. How well will we be able to answer that question? That’s what all Muslims must keep asking themselves everyday .

      So sister, in conclusion, I would love to read articles from you about your dawah efforts, in addition to the work that you are already doing. And please keep reading and studying the Qur’an and the life of our beloved prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), and also his distinguished companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), to gain more understanding of how we should conduct ourselves and live our lives as Muslims. What is important and what isn’t important? What will elevate our status as Allah’s vicegerents on this earth? These are important questions that we must keep asking ourselves as well.

      May Allah SWT keep you guided and protected sister, and may HE have mercy on the Muslims around the world that are facing cruelty and oppression, aameen.

      Please remember this humble brother in your prayers. W’salaam.

      • Ruth Nasrullah

        September 11, 2015 at 11:22 AM

        Point taken, and thank you for the advice and clarification.

        There is a difference between nationalism and citizenship. It’s impossible for a Muslim to ignore the impact of the laws and culture of his or her country of residence and it would be disingenuous to say that being a Muslim living in America is no different than being a Muslim living in Egypt or Australia or Bosnia or France or India.

        This column is about American issues and how they impact Muslims – so it’s impossible to be honest about modern America without acknowledging both the good and the ill in our messy system of laws and cultures and the messy history it derives from. I’m not here to go on mindlessly about how great America is; I’m here to tell you how much better it could be, where our law and culture have strengths and where they are flawed.

        You asked me to “stop going on about” the fact that our president is black, but I won’t because it matters. It also matters that we have a former secretary of state and potential presidential nominee whose mother was born the year American women were given the right to vote. Racism and sexism exist nevertheless. Title II of the Civil Rights Act made “whites-only” business practices illegal, but now we see a trend of “Muslim-free” businesses. How those business policies are addressed requires the input of Muslim voices – so you see, Muslim voices do matter. I don’t intend to raise my voice as a cheerleader for America per se, but as a cheerleader for justice in a country where it is possible. I don’t see how that makes me less of a Muslim.

        • Faisal

          September 11, 2015 at 4:56 PM

          Salaam sister,
          I don’t advocate that Muslims should be passive members of society and stay away from issues that have an jnfluence on their lives. It is important that Muslims are proactive members of society and that they can be involved in positive change, especially minority Muslims living in Western countries.

          I have met Muslims that prefer to view themselves as activists.. They become so emeshed and focused on the task that they sometimes forget their priorities as Muslims.

          Allah SWT did not put us on this earth so that we spend all our time engaged in activism. As I explained, in my earlier response, our fundamental obligation as a Muslim is to spread the message of Islam. Unfortunately, I don’t see much motivation or commitment from you pertaining to this fundamental duty. Citizenship is not a more important consideration for a Muslim. Though the most important aspect for a Muslim with regards to citizenship is being the best possible example of a citizen. This can always be achieved by conducting ourselves in society as our religion teaches us, via the Qur’an and Sunnah.

          I am not saying that the work you are doing regarding the issues that Muslims are facing in America is unimportant. I just wanted to highlight that you can do this without singing praises a country that has caused so much death and destruction. At the societal level, most countries in the world are doing some good. The fact that this also the case in America really isn’t that significant.

          I still maintain that America isn’t a country that Muslims should be proud of. In fact there is much more to be ashamed of.

        • Faisal

          September 11, 2015 at 5:10 PM

          Sister please pray for all the injured Muslims in Haram, that fell prey to the huge falling crane. Many are critically injured in hospital.

    • MuFu

      September 14, 2015 at 12:48 PM

      Hello Ruth,
      I want to pinpoint some of your arguments and question them with mine.
      Quote:
      ”Make no mistake: refusing service based on religion is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.”

      Totally true! But! Let me turn it around, since when the ”sharia law”, that you stand up for, is not by terms a violation of the Civil Rights Act? In Egypt 79% of the asked muslims spoke for the ”sharia law” even to put it upon non-believers ”infidels”, however you want to call them. If you use the Civil Rights Act as your source of violation of your rights then you should do so too when it comes for the law’s you stand up for, else that is pretty much a double standard.

      ”In a time when some of the Act’s provisions face erosion, the public must be reminded that “Muslim-free” is illegal and is as unacceptable as the “whites-only” and “no Irish need apply” policies of the past.”

      Irish is a nationality, white is a skincolor and muslim is a person who believes in the Islam and you know what they all have in common? They are all humans, hence no restrictions shall be made, because we are all the same.

      • Ruth Nasrullah

        September 14, 2015 at 2:10 PM

        You make some good points, “MuFu.”

        Your last paragraph is spot on and gets right to the heart of the issue. The Civil Rights Act and legislation that supports it are intended to insure that all humans are treated equally under the law.

        I discussed so-called “anti-shariah” bills, but to clarify my use of the term, that is the name used by people proposing the bills. “Anti-foreign-law” is the name more commonly used now. I would never use either.

        The idea that anyone is attempting to create an Islamic governmental system is a red herring intended to distract from the real intent of the proposed legislation, which is to violate Muslims’ rights and integrity in society.

        So I’m not standing up for “shariah” (whatever that means in common parlance) but standing against what Islamophobes are calling “anti-shariah.”

        Kim Davis is arguably attempting to impose Christian “shariah” on state and federal law (today she called on the government to “accommodate” her deeply-held religious convictions) – but that’s the topic of my next column, to be published today or tomorrow God willing.

  5. Peter

    September 22, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    Hi Ruth,

    I agree with so much of what you have said.

    The more it is pointed out the injustices of this world, the more those injustices are eroded. I feel that if everybody on this planet learns that with rights come obligations.

    I strongly believe the very basis of a free society, is that every citizen has the right to do whatever they want, as long as that in exercising those rights do not diminish the rights of others. If every action we take within our societies was judged according to these principles, the world would be a better place. Not a place of rights or wrong, but of mutual respect.

    Muslim prohibited businesses premises or the objection of construction of Muslim places of worship are examples of how Muslims have their rights diminished by the actions of others.

    However to demand rights, one has to judge ones own actions by the same yardstick too.

    The USA is far from perfect, so is every other country. If you are a citizen of a country that provides you shelter, and provides you freedom, you have an obligation to make that country a better place. If you do not want to do that, then you should leave it.

    So wanting to make the USA a better place, a fairer place is something to be proud of, and I feel your article is an example of someone who wants to make the country where you live a better place by holding it accountable.

    Well done.

    • Ruth Nasrullah

      September 22, 2015 at 8:54 AM

      Thank you, and please keep reading. :)

      • MuFu

        September 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

        I got you, thank you for clarifying this missunderstanding :)
        My english is not the best, obviously ^^

        • Ruth Nasrullah

          September 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

          No, I meant please keep visiting MuslimMatters :)

          • Faisal

            September 24, 2015 at 2:15 AM

            Salaam sister,
            I would be interested to know your views about the arrest of Ahmed, the school boy arrested in Texas for bringing a homemade clock to school.

            Eid ul Adha mubarak to you.

  6. Pingback: Comment on Working Ourselves Out of a Job by Peter | Souqhub | Blog

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