One thing concerning the Muslim community in the United States is the sense of nationalism felt that exists which becomes morphed into being part of “Islamic Identity”, much like culturalism. It became more evident as I became more educated in Islam and began getting to know my Muslim brothers and Islamic scholars that are from non-western, traditionally “Islamic” countries. The countries of which are typically ruled by the remnant regimes of former colonial imperial powers, generally oppressive or unstable, with little or nothing to do with the Islamic faith.
It is important to realize that there isn’t a country that exists today which is an “Islamic” country, that is, ruled by shari’ah without diluting it with either former colonial laws (or Old Roman Law), supplemented by modern law or made up laws by dictatorships themselves. Shari’ah is never properly represented when it is carried out in ways that it forbids or contradict the teachings of the religion. Cultural and national pride often morphed with Islamic ideology from a system of law not represented accurately often becomes cultural and national identity.
People from these “Islamic” countries look at converts to the faith as not only converting to Islam but also accepting their own cultural and national values that they believe to be “Islamic.” In fact, I have seen many converts like myself after they convert, beginning to speak, act and dress like the culture and nation of people that educated them in the religion. Some, come away understanding that there is a big difference between cultural and national values and Islam, values which may still be good and some very bad. Many other converts become self-loathing citizens, aliens in their own country, as they mimic the political nationalism and agendas of the people who taught them that it is part of the belief system of the faith. Here in lies one of the first steps for radicalism among us converts to the faith.
The Islamic faith and institutions do not have to be intrinsically anti-west or anti-American. As an American Muslim, I see a lot more good in my country than many others like me, especially when compared to today’s countries that are mostly populated with Muslims. In fact, America is still one of the safest places to practice, gather in numbers, and freely speak about any religion. It is one of the safest places despite the incredible Bush Administration policies designed to erode civil liberties to deal with the terrorist threat from some members of our communities.
In my experience, it is the political ideologies predominant in many Muslim countries (often old allies of the former USSR) that often get infused with Islamic understanding. If there is a clash between East and West as some western conservative pundits are clambering to see, it is perhaps because of this remnant of the Cold War.
I remember one widely known Islamic scholar from Saudi Arabia, whom I met while he was speaking on a panel during a conference in the US. He stated that his culture is superior to western culture because he is from a “Muslim country”, a society based on Islamic values. In response, another scholar on the panel who was from Canada stated to him, that much of his country’s culture (Saudi Arabia), though Islam originated there, is based on unislamic culture predating Islam (and even Saudi Arabia) and still carries many strong unislamic cultural practices. He went on to say that people can still get prostitutes, drugs and many of the things in his Islamic country just as you can get these things in western societies as well. Hence, neither culture is superior except in that which is good.
The main thing about western culture is that it has not embraced Islam centuries before modern colonial partitions. Yet in much of the western world it is much safer to practice and preach Islam without being jailed or executed by the dictator who may take your preaching as a threat to his rule. Despite the periodic Islamophobe hate crime incident, it is still safer to practice your religion in the west than in many Muslim countries today.
Like America and it’s allies, Muslim countries, too, have fought many unjust wars, not just against non-Muslims, but Muslims as well. So, America is not the only country we should look at or criticize, but we should also look at ourselves and our countries.
Pontificating and railing against the west while using an Islamic platform as a moral high ground is hypocritical and counterproductive. Muslims can ally with the west on common ground as the Prophet did in his time culminating in the creation of the first Islamic state in Madina, as well as in the many cases up until his death.
We also bind ourselves Islamically under the oath of citizenship or leave to remain afforded to us and accepted by us which includes not acting against the interests of the state. Allah commands us to abide by our oaths and the oath that you agree to by accepting a VISA, Leave to Remain or Citizenship is no thoughtless oath. It is quite serious.
“So abide by your oaths. Thus God makes His commandments clear to you: You may perhaps be grateful.” ~ Quran 5:89
By living in the west we ally ourselves by default with our host country. So, we should abide by our civic agreement to live in our western countries peacefully and abide by the laws of the land in exchange for security and freedom. This is what is commonly known by political scholars as a “social contract”. The Prophet did this when he sent his companions to flee from the oppression of the Christian and Pagan Arabs in Makkah to the Abbasid King in Ethiopia, who was himself a Christian. The early Muslims abided by the agreement to live peacefully in the non-Muslim land in exchange for protection.
As Muslims, we don’t have to be against our government any more than any other government, even Islamic ones. We can be patriotic and allied to the land that we grew up in and love. If we love our country, we will do everything possible to peacefully affect its politics in the same manner as any other law abiding citizen. We should not defame, rail, plot against our host countries even in the name of Islam.
I don’t hate America. I want what is best for America and our constitution gives us the freedom and opportunity, equal to any other group, to alter the course of its policies that we don’t agree with. We just need enough people involved in the political and social process like any other minority group.
Sure, our countries may have a lot of problems that need correcting and may even implement policies we see as unjust. Every country is like this, but not all of them afford you the freedom to work together and affect the political process.
As American (or western) Muslims, we should not tolerate any other Muslim defaming or speaking unjustly or hypocritically about our nation. We should separate nationalism from Islam and recognize when our scholars are speaking like this. We should correct them and always speak with justice and fairness in all things. Nationalism infused into Islamic rhetoric will divide and destroy us as a people.