The Future of Muslim-Americans

The Future of Muslim-Americans

Trump Breaks Tradition Loss of Hope for Muslim Community Ensues

The canceling of the annual White House Iftar dinner this year has become a slap in the face to Muslim-Americans all over the country, and I am one of them. Sitting idly as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time designated to a fast from sunrise to sunset and empathizing with the less fortunate, passes by, (May 26th-June 24th) President Trump has neglected an unspoken duty as President and indirectly canceled the Iftar dinner that brings together diplomats, elected officials, and most importantly the young generation of Muslim-Americans who will contribute to the future of this country and world.

The dinner came to life again and became an annual White House event when First Lady, Hillary Clinton saw the value of the original actions of President Thomas Jefferson, in 1996 when he pushed the dinner time to sunset so a Muslim guest could eat with fellow dinner mates.

Some say, “Well at least he sent out a statement acknowledging the month of Ramadan,” but this mindset is succumbing to the universal thought that Trump’s role as President should be held to a lower standard compared to any past president of the United States.

The statement published by President Trump and wife, Melania acknowledges the holy month that has passed, but fails to confront the fact that the tradition was looked over by the Trump administration.

As I one day dreamed of being an attendee of this lavish dinner, my hopes have been crushed by the flagrant disregard of our President. If even President George W. Bush was able to hold the Iftar dinner after the 911 attacks that created even more tension in the lives of Americans, what makes Trump different?

Trump’s actions have drawn an even darker line with the Muslim-American community, reminding them that not only is he dissimilar to past presidents but also that he and his administration are aiming to keep a distance from the traditional values of America. According to former President Obama he said at the 2016 Iftar dinner, the “... Iftar is also a reminder of the freedoms that bind us together as Americans, including freedom of religion- that inviolable right to practice our faiths freely.”

However, how are Muslim-Americans supposed to feel welcome to practice their religion in America while Trump’s presidency has promoted the banning of 7 Muslim countries, many of which American citizens originally come from?

In a phone call with a personal friend of mine and former attendee of the 2016 White House Iftar Dinner, Ziad Ahmed, he commented on the cancellation stating that “It’s predictable and expected and underscores his anti-Muslim bigotry and disdain for our community.”

Muslim-American teens such as Ziad and I, realize just how important it is that our voices are heard. Advocating the universal disappointment of this incident is merely one step.

Yet, the not so obvious aspects that contributed to this impromptu cancellation of a presidential tradition is a reminder of the other perpetrators of the decision. Alongside Trump are alarming members of state who according to the Brennan Center of Justice “have targeted Muslims through both speech and policy, tangibly harming the American Muslim community, in at least five forms: the use of anti-Muslim rhetoric,”. More notably “the elevation of Islamophobic staff members to key positions in the White House” has bolstered an Islamophobic mindset to the Trump Administration.

The steps taken by Trump himself and those at his side are not at all suggestive of an inclusive environment for Muslim-Americans to practice their faith freely.

Moreover, Trump has contradicted his actions before ensuring that his political ties are stable with countries like Saudi Arabia. As he visited the Muslim country on May 24th (Al Jazeera) how could he ‘forget’ the holy month and allow it to pass by?

While my Saudi friends snapchatted me and sent messages wishing me safe travels to the states, they highlighted the fact that they hoped Trump’s visit was out of good conscious and not another political agenda. After the Iftar Dinner cancellation, it's hard to read that sentence without a smile and a sarcastic tone. Who are we kidding? There is not an inch of hope that President Trump has goods intentions in mind when he has cancelled an event that provides a platform for healthy conversation and community involvement.

Now more than ever is when American-Muslims, who make up 3.3 million of the American population, urgently need platforms such as the traditional White House Iftar Dinner to congregate with members of the political community and voice their worries and concerns. Seeing the significance of an event like this and just how reflective it is of America’s core values is demonstrative of an open mindset and hopes of bringing the American population closer together, something that is clearly not part of Trump’s agenda as president.

Cover Image Credit: Business Insider

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Attending An Islamic Convention (ICNA) Teaches All Americans What Islam Actually Is

What you see when you go to the ICNA convention in Atlanta, Georgia is the complete opposite of the radicalized Islam on TV.

The biggest problem politically nowadays (especially concerning Muslims and the general American public) is that people don't understand who Muslims are and what exactly they are like, especially in an American setting. To battle the ignorance, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) hosts a convention every year that aims to connect Muslims from all over southeast America with each other while also providing the American public with knowledge about Islam. That is, the real Islam and not the radicalized version of it that people see on T.V. all the time.

The ICNA convention this year took place in the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, from Dec. 23 to 25. Every year comes with a theme, and this year, the theme was lessons from Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. This theme coincides with the purpose of ICNA to educate everyone.

When you walk into the convention center, the first thing that you see is the registration table. They'll give you a badge and a program guide. This guide is the key to your ICNA experience. There are programs throughout the three-day convention, and all of them have something to do with the theme, and these programs are located all throughout the convention center. The most prominent programs of the convention are conducted by Young Muslim (YM), which is an organization that has its own hall for lectures on the ICNA convention floor.

For example, at one program entitled "Purifying Your Intentions," speaker Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan said, "Our intentions can either make us or break us so it is important that we constantly renew [them]." There are many sessions like this, with each discussing a small part of the theme and each focusing on it in-depth.

These programs are an essential part of helping American Muslims. When describing the convention, YM Atlanta team member Faryal Nizami said that it was important to have the ICNA convention because it "provided a safe Islamic environment for the whole family, under one roof, for education, socialization and entertainment." This highlights a simple fact about this convention: it is all-encompassing and is aimed to be well-rounded. ICNA's message can influence thousands and thousands of people, including me. This conference is a refreshing end to each year, and it often reminds me of my own personal goals and relationships in my life.

Programs are not the only aspect of this convention, however. A key part of the convention is the bazaar that is located in the heart of the convention center. Gleaming jewelry, rich and diverse dresses, and more can be found, along with a few stands full of food.

But the main point that stands is that the ICNA convention is just like any other secular convention – there is no discernible aspect of it that can be considered a concern for any member of the American public. There is nothing about the fact that it is an "Islamic" convention that makes it different or strange. Rather, it is a wonderful place to learn more about Islam and Muslims as how they really are.

So, if you're ever around Atlanta next Christmas weekend and you want somewhere to go, try visiting the ICNA convention!

Cover Image Credit: Sania Shaikh

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What Jihad Really Means

Performing jihad is doing good deeds.

This quarter I am taking a class called Introduction to the Middle East. Basically, we use historical moments in the Middle East to pinpoint how things like ISIL or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came about.

During one of my lessons, we discussed the origination of the word jihad.

Jihad originally meant expanding Islam through violence. Waging war was considered a way of displaying God to different portions of the world. But before we start throwing up our hands and saying that Breitbart was right all along, it is important to recognize what type of world this was. It was a conquest era. Every empire at this time was trying to expand their boundaries and become more powerful than their neighbors.

However, as the world transitioned to a more stable era where empires were not constantly trying to conquer each other the word jihad also changed. Religious scholars realized that jihad does not need to be violent anymore and instead wrote new doctrines explaining what Jihad is.

Jihad became a community duty and not an individual duty. There are also two forms of jihad. There is lesser jihad, which is fighting. But there is also a greater jihad. This means expanding Islam through good deeds. Someone is performing jihad by being pure, by praying, or by volunteering. This is the form most Muslims follow.

As recent events have shown, small select groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda have dissented from this definition of jihad and have manipulated it to justify their own violent actions.

But it is important to remember that this is not the majority's view of what jihad means.

Words are important. It is how we communicate with each other and express our beliefs and positions.

So when we discuss contentious topics like ISIL and discuss what “all Muslims” believe, we should educate ourselves about other people’s cultures and their histories.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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