As the last week has come and gone, and I have had a little time to digest, many subjects for this next post floated by my mind. Most especially how distracting certain presidential actions can become, and how we as a nation (the US, but I could include many European nations as well) have become aflutter on social media and elsewhere, trying to get a grasp on what’s going on.
For those of you in this mental/emotional state, I can assure you, I have no advice. Neither am I above this kind of reaction. But I do think that I have learned to seek solid ground prior to letting my emotions get ahead of me. If I can take away anything from the recent social media maelstrom, it’s this – restore your faith with little things.
My daughter recently re-posted a message from Jenna Bush Hager on my Facebook feed. And the contents stopped me short. Not because I necessarily agree with the sentiments in George Bush’s post-9/11 address to the US, but because his daughter, who has insisted on being considered “independent” in politics, chose to resubmit this speech to the world.
I think the purpose of my daughter sharing this speech was to give heart to her liberal and left-leaning friends that even conservatives can see the good in Islam and that Muslims, as a group, are not terrorists or evil people.
I guess the problem that I have with this hopeful thinking is that this very same speech ushered in one of the most savagely anti-Muslim periods in our history. And I want to be very clear about that, because the subsequent “wars”, military actions and bombings of Muslim majority countries have continued for more than a decade with no real publicity. They have continued without stringent opposition from the US Congress, and have represented conflicts and vast amounts of human death and suffering in the name of “Regime Change.”
In point of fact, the “Yes we can” president expanded our drone bombing programs to seven countries that, coincidentally, The Cheeto in Chief seeks to further penalize I assume, for the simple fact of previously being bombed for several years. These are all countries that seek their own independence, on their terms, without foreign intervention – the literal definition of American Independence. They also happen to be Muslim majority. And that’s key.
Because George Bush’s speech was just faulted enough to create a solid neo-con and neo-lib opposition. Because, in point of fact, Islam is not a religion of peace. Neo-libs like Bill Maher love to point this out. But, as a Muslim revert in the US, what can I possibly mean with this inflammatory statement?
Well, it’s pretty simple. If you allow yourself a breath and take a moment to think, no religion is a “religion of peace.” No, folks, not even Buddhism. Buddhist monks are persecuting ethnic minority Muslims right now. Persecuting as in, “executing.” And these monks are not a splinter sect. They’ve just taken nationalism to it’s furthest extent. Much like the US is doing now.
Religion is about faith. Not politics. Even in Islam. Of course Bill Maher and others will push the Islamic exceptionalism argument your way, in trite comedic one-liners (a sort of 140 character-based message). But most Muslim majority governments prior to the 20th century were largely secular, possibly more so than the European “post-enlightenment” based governments were. But, I digress.
So Islam is not a religion of peace, any more or less so than any other religion I am aware of, except possibly Quakers. As you may have heard many times, “Islam” is an Arabic word derivative of “salaam” which means “peace.” More importantly, though, is that “Islam” specifically means “peaceful and willing submission to God.” How important is that distinction? It depends on how much understanding you really want to have.
What it has meant to me, for the majority of my life, is that there is no authority above God. That God’s word, as far as we can possibly understand it, as faulted, petty human beings, is the highest authority. How we deal with that understanding is our choice. Some of us (Muslims) try to force our understanding on others. This is what Daesh does. Some of us offer our understanding to others (not as evangelism or “Da’wah” / proselytizing) in the course of our daily actions. In other words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” To me, that statement is fundamental to Islam, and one of my personally greatest faults – that being a Muslim is really just being a veritable example of the best in Islam to others. An example of Good in the world.
The point is, Islam is not the problem. Islam is foreign enough that I think most “westerners” and even western Muslims can’t really get a solid understanding of what Islam really means. It’s taken me nearly 30 years just to get this tiny modicum of understanding. But the basic message stays the same.
Protect your own, protect and support others in need. Give God his due and recognize the uniqueness of his messenger. Visit the birthplace of your beliefs at least once in your life. Islam literally boils down to “Respect yourself. Respect others equally. Respect the words of God.” There’s really not much foreign about that. But still, we bomb.
One of my friends recently said that there was more outrage against an immigration ban (sparking protests all over the US, Europe and elsewhere) than there has been about unconstitutional bombings of Muslim majority states for more than a decade. And I think this is true.
Don’t complain about refugees’ immigration status. Don’t get upset about refugee bans. No, don’t do either, unless you are willing to make a greater effort to stop creating refugees in the first place. That’s really what George Bush and the US has missed all along. I truly hope we will learn this lesson before Cheeto Prez and his sycophants destroy everything.