America has an enduring problem: racism. Sadly, many Muslims are not sure quite where they should place their hands and feet regarding this dance with Ms. America: many of us desire acceptance above respect. But what acceptance can one ever have if you leave it wholly to another? What acceptance can there be if it is based not on who you are but on how much of yourself you are not? Like a pretty girl who has no intentions of sleeping with you, Ms. America is quiet happy for you to make a fool of yourself fawning over her. Ms. America loves flattery. But as they say: flattery will get you nowhere.
Until we deal with ourselves, all of our politics, activism, and “jihads” will be all for naught.
My good friend Dr. Muhammad Khalifa has been interviewed over a fascinating piece of scholarship about racism, schools and how they are complicit in creating “willful blindness” regarding racial inequities.
I know a lot of folks who consider themselves to be “secular” — including Muslims — in part due to misconceptions they hold about how religion is (inherently) divisive or even violent, but will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the violence perpetrated by the secular state. Take for instance the black struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told the world,
“We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.”1
this, and other theological movements were heavily repressed by the American secular state, a state which still “mutes and manages” race, according to Vincent W. Lloyd, and religion, in a so-called “postracial regime of America”2.
So long as religion remains a mythical beast which must be tamed by the secular, we are unlikely to see any significant shift away from violence in the modern world. In fact, the more that religion is maligned and its leadership marginalized, we will continue to see ever greater and amplified violence inflicted on parts of the world who tragically have also had their voices muted and their narratives managed, all in the name of “peace”.
“Our violence, being secular, is rational, peace making, and sometimes regrettably necessary to contain their violence. We find ourselves obliged to bomb them into liberal democracy.”3
1. Kahn, Jonathan S., and Lloyd, Vincent W. Race And Secularism In America. New York, Columbia University Press, 2016. Pg. 2.
2. Ibid., Pg. 2.
3. Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth Of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict . Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 4.