ISNA 2012: One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good

Transcript Details

Event Name: ISNA 2012: One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/21/2019 7:38:22 PM
Transcript Version: 2

Transcript Text

to bless all of you and
bless this institution moving into its
50th year I'm slightly older than ISNA
and inshallah I hope that we all
recognize the importance of this
institution because I mentioned earlier
today at a brunch that we did for say
tuna that I consider isne and I don't
say this to flatter is no or to
exaggerate because in reality all of us
are part of this institution
there's isne is a reification of
something that's really a group of human
beings the single most important thing
about this institution is that it is an
institution that represents perpetuity
of Islam in the United States and I
think it can't be underestimated the
importance of perpetuity the importance
of longevity the importance of the idea
that something comes into existence and
is sustained and maintained over
generations because that type of
constitute continuity is is what enables
this torch to be passed to the next
generation without institution building
we don't have civilization
and we also don't have religion
religions are founded by great human
beings that we believe these true
religions were founded by prophets from
God but these prophets always have
around them extraordinary human beings
and if you study the life of the prophet
mohammed salah salem the people around
him are some of the most stunning
characters in in any human narrative he
was blessed with a group of people lost
behind with a disease who under the eye
yet there could be no sorry he weapon
ammo meaning he has given you help from
god and also these believers that are
with you and ha spoke a lot woman in
tobacco men and women in god will
suffice you and according to one tafseer
one commentary on this ayah and it will
suffice you those who you have with you
these people they were great builders
the Sahaba were extraordinary builders I
have a friend of mine who's a professor
in Saudi Arabia dr. abdullah avi who is
a scholar of islamic sciences but he's
also a world-class city planner
recognized in the united states for his
work with gps and city planning who got
his doctorate from portland university
he actually did a study on the building
of the trench in medina and shows that
this is one of the most extraordinary
events in terms of pure planning the
engineering of it the prophet saw a
cinema was a profound planner he was not
somebody that did things ad hoc he was
always in a deep state of awareness of
his lord but he was always somebody who
understood the US map the means that god
has given us to do things in this life
and if you read imam muda kotani's
extraordinary work to achieve an idea
showing you that the prophet elisha them
created institutions in medina a lot of
people don't know
were actually close to 40 mosques in the
city of Medina during the lifetime of
the Prophet I am people think that only
he founded his big mosque and everybody
went no he put a mosque in every
neighborhood because he wanted people to
have community and this is why having
many messages is actually a positive
thing it's not a negative thing messages
were meant to be in a height in a
neighborhood so that people could come
together worship together he even had
people making messages in their own
homes and so people had a room that was
used for Avada in their houses this is
the way of making the sacred permeate
the mundane and so the Prophet slice em
was a great builder of institutions and
this is something that's really
important our community developed some
of the greatest endowments in human
history now we're here in the United
States as a community and the theme is
one nation under God how does that
relate to Muslims I want to look at it
from two aspects the first is that
America has always been a dialectic it's
it's a country that has always had two
forces a force that's reactionary and
dark and then a force that is
progressive and light and this is
something that's consistent throughout
American history one of the best ways to
study American history is to study the
Constitution and the amendments and how
those those amendments came about
because you will see such an interesting
debate that's constantly going on in the
United States of America the John Adams
when he was elected president one of the
first things that he did a revolutionary
is he put into legislation this idea of
aliens and Sedition Acts and this was
that anybody that criticized the
government or the president was arrested
there was somebody who made a
newspaperman made a remark he'd been a
congressman as well he made a remark
that at the inauguration he hoped that
when misfire and hit the president he
was arrested put into jail for making
that remark that was repealed by people
that recognize that if you were going to
be true to the Bill of Rights the idea
of freedom of speech that that was
unacceptable and people should be
allowed to make such remarks again
President Wilson during his
administration you had a Sedition Act
there were far more people arrested
during that time anybody that criticized
the government people were arrested for
saying that World War one was a
capitalist conspiracy they were
literally arrested and taken to jail so
it's important to remember that this is
not new what's happening the idea of the
Patriot Act the idea of these problems
that are happening in America this is
part of the story of America
but it's the fighting back in a civil
way that is what makes America move
forward in the Federalist Papers in in
paper 63 one of the arguments that's
made is that the Senate is an important
organization in order to prevent the
American people from exercising their
temporary delusions that people as a
people they have temporary delusions so
one of the temporary delusions that we
have today is that the Muslims in
America are a threat to the security of
the United States of America as a
community one of the delusions in the
United States today is that somehow
Sharia law is a threat to the United
States of America we have states that
are passing anti sheti outlaws they
don't even know what the Sharia is and
they're passing anti Sharia laws in
legislation 42 million dollars has been
spent according to a study on the
Islamophobic literature and the films
and all of these things that have been
produced 42 million dollars and this is
what officially that we know about
there's a lot of money that we don't
know about so when we think of the
United States we have to think of
ourselves as part
of a story the Muslims are part of a
narrative and we have been part of this
narrative from the beginning the Muslims
were here from the very start there's
evidence that we were probably here
before Columbus and that's a debatable
point but we know that the Muslims have
been here for over 500 years that
there's ample historical evidence to
prove that we have cities in the United
States that were named by Muslims there
are several cities in the United States
that were named Medina we have a city in
that's called Muhammad the city of
Muhammad Illinois Monmouth Illinois we
have a city in Indiana called Medina
then many of the graveyards have a hand
with a finger pointing up and they have
Muslim names on on this and these are
Turkish and Arabs that that came to that
city and founded that city and named it
after Medina we have a city that was
first named Mecca and then they changed
it to Medina so the Muslims have been
here and they have been part of this we
know in this city there was a beautiful
Muslim that was painted by the great
painter Pele who also painted George
Washington yarrow Mahmoud this man was
noted for he lived in Georgetown he was
a freed slave he was a food Annie he was
brought to America as a slave he was a
Fulani and he was noted for chanting his
Islamic prayers while walking around
Georgetown and he was such a pleasant
person that Peale who originally planned
to paint him in a day ended up spending
several days with him this is part of
American history as Lomb is the only
religion that was honored if you go to
the Library of Congress it is the only
religion that is that is mentioned in if
you look at the the dome above the
Library of Congress in the main hall you
will see Islam all of the other names
are names of civilizations but Islam was
singled out because of its contribution
to human knowledge and this is really
important for us to remember so we have
been part of this story muslims fought
all of these wars in American history
fought for this country Muslims died in
World War two for this country in World
War one in the Civil War there were
Muslims fighting so this idea somehow
that we're a lien is a completely
unacceptable idea the second thing I
want to emphasize about it is that the
Muslims many Muslims many of you are
immigrants in the post 1965 act of
immigration which enabled people to come
to this country from countries that
traditionally it was very unusual there
were always people from these countries
and Jefferson actually mentions
muhammadans and Hindus as people that he
wanted to feel safe living in America so
he mentioned this in his letters about
his Virginia act of toleration so it's
very important to remember that America
is a land of immigrants there is ample
evidence even that the original
inhabitant of a miracle aboriginals came
from Asia over the the Bering and the
Navajo people their genetic disposition
is identical to people's in Mongolia so
everybody that has come to America has
come as an immigrant even the original
inhabitants of the new world so it's
very important for us to remember that
America is a story of immigrants and
that you are part of that story those of
you who have come late are still part of
that story and you cannot see yourselves
as somehow as foreigners America has
always had accents always there's no
point in American history that there
were not Americans with accents when
Tammany Hall was at the height of its
power many of those politicians spoke
and gave their speeches with Irish
brogue and they were part of America
they were embraced sometimes and other
times they were not they were fought and
they had to Duke it out on the streets
until they found their place at the
African Americans this is one of the
both tragic and great stories of this
country is the African American story
and the Muslims are part of that story
because we know that there's ample
evidence that one fit out of the Muslim
population were probably from Muslim
when malcom-x made that statement James
Michener who was a an author of
historical novels he wrote Shogun and
some other novels James Michener said
that's complete fantasy well Alex Haley
who wrote roots with Malcolm X was
disturbed by that just the dismissive he
wrote an article Michener saying that
this was complete rubbish Alex Haley was
upset by that and so what he decided to
do was actually study the issue and so
he decided to study his own family and
he wrote a book called roots and this
book became a television series that had
a massive impact on the American psyche
in the nineteen set early 70s what he
found out was that his own ancestor and
this is really a type of providential
act as far as I'm concerned his own
ancestor Kunta Kinte was a Muslim so
Jane so Alex Haley who wrote who
co-wrote with Malcolm X The
Autobiography of Malcolm X he was the
one that took all the interviews and he
put this piece together when he studied
his own lineage he found out that he was
from a Muslim family in Senegambia this
is an extraordinary aspect so we have
many many people here who are African
African Americans who have Muslim
ancestors flowing in their blood many of
the Irish Americans have African
American blood also so my point is don't
see yourselves as aliens here alien acts
are always thrown out in in American
history America has temporary delusions
but it's the people that call them back
to their sanity those are the voices
that we have to listen to and those are
also the voices that we have to project
from our own community and so this is
the second aspect of this and then I
want to conclude with with something
about our own community that's deeply
troubling to me the the Muslims in this
country have to become an active voice
for good America it's called one nation
we used to say one nation indivisible
one nation under God indivisible with
and justice for all in many ways we've
become many nations divided under
godlessness with licentiousness and just
lust for all and we as a people really
need to think about why it is that
pornography is the number one form of
media now in the United States of
America we've entered into a pornified
Pamela Paul wrote about this in a book
called pornified it's one of the most
disturbing books that I've read Chris
in his book the Empire of illusion the
chapter the second chapter of that I
actually regret reading it because it
was so troubling and disturbing to me
about what's happening in the culture of
pornography one of the pornographers
recently wrote an open letter to Mitt
Romney saying the Republican Party needs
to tone down its anti-pornography
rhetoric because they don't have their
pulse on America America has embraced
pornography and it's about time the
Republican Party embraced pornography
that is what we're dealing with we are
dealing with an incredibly vile force in
this country that's corrosive and that
is is literally eviscerating the moral
character that has always been there in
this country and if the Muslims don't
become a voice a rational voice an
intelligent voice not a reactionary
pseudo religious or bad religious voice
because there's a lot of bad religion
out there we have to be people rooted in
intelligence in spirituality Plato talks
about the problem of stories in cultures
and the corrosive effect they can have
on youth in his time he was talking
about the plays of Aristophanes he was
talking about some of the classical
literature that today is read for moral
edification if he saw the type of
stories that were now on a daily basis
consumed by our young people I think
that he would completely write off the
possibility for any real spirituality
any real metaphysical aspect or element
to this culture so we have to realize
the absolute danger of this we need to
be people that are providers and
creators of a positive culture a culture
of life not a culture of death we used
to call people that watch people in
private acts of intimacy they were
called peeping toms it's a crime in the
United States now we have large numbers
of people watching people in public acts
of depravity and profanity and we call
these consumers consumers of
entertainment peeping toms are
classified as psychologically ill people
and yet people that are consuming this
culture that we have ample evidence of
the harm that it's having I listen to a
lecture at the Witherspoon Institute on
the effects of pornography in terms of
the neuro plasticity of the brain and
how brains become rewired and it was one
of the most troubling talks I'd ever
heard and we now know that our young
children from the ages of 12 to 17 are
having exposures to pornography on a
regular basis many many young people
this is a serious problem in our culture
and this is one of the problems another
aspect that I think the Muslims should
be at the forefront is the problem of
food in this country we now have an
obesity epidemic in this country
that is spreading all over the world
because of the types of food we're
eating there's ample evidence now that
plant-based diets are the most important
types of diets our prophet sallallaahu
Saddam was extremely conservative in
what he ate he did not encourage
overeating in fact he encouraged
slightly under eating and this is clear
in our Sunna all of these problems that
we're seeing in obesity are from the way
our food is produced in fact one of the
people the National
Institute for Health said that we
produce our food like crack cocaine it's
designed to have an addictive effect on
people we have people now addicted to
fast foods and this is real these are
real addictions and Muslims we have a
religion that's predicated on halal and
budget on on halal and pure food it's
one of the most important things in fact
they said that the early companions the
early community were more they were more
concerned about their food than any
other aspect of their lives to eating
good things to eating wholesome things
and to making sure that they were
purchased with pure money that the money
and the earnings were pure we know in
surah Saad calf when they sent the
people of the cave into the city they
asked he told him look for the purest
food I mean this is in surah that calf
looked for the purest food because
people of righteousness are always
concerned with what their body is made
up up because it's the body that is
going to be your energy either spiritual
or demonic and when you're eating
negative food you're going to be doing
negative things CDM it's a rope male
lust banana Wattana have mercy on him
and may Allah soo pan over to Ana
restore him back to his place of resting
because we recently found out many of us
that City Ahmed Shah Rukh's grave was
desecrated in Libya literally dug up and
these people claimed that Libyans were
worshipping at monza rope Syria Hamas
Arak said that all of the blessings of
the world are in two things the company
you keep and the food that you eat so
make sure your company is good company
and make sure your food is pure food we
should be encouraging organic farms we
should be encouraging organic gardens we
should be at the forefront of the urban
homesteading movement these are things
that Muslims should be involved in we
should we should reject don't think you
know don't think I'm going to go to
McDonald's and have a halal fish right
seriously because the whole way that
McDonald's everything about McDonald
is antithetical to our profits Eliza
managed sooner and I'm speaking openly I
don't care what anybody says I am
Telling You that fast food is something
that is destroying people and we have to
oppose fast food consumption don't drink
coca-cola don't drink Pepsi Cola don't
drink CalFire Cola don't drink Cola
drink water drink milk drink soy milk if
you want to but don't drink these drinks
that have no nothing good for you and
the way they're produced is unhealthy we
have an unsustainable consumption of
plastic if you look back there and look
at the number of plastic cans that our
plastic bottles of water that are back
there we've got a garbage fill in isne
because we're drinking this is
unsustainable it cannot be sustained we
have to find alternative approaches to
the way we consume things we have to be
committed to being green the green bean
we have to but we have to have
commitment I don't want applause I want
real commitment I want people to commit
to changing their lives we need to
divest in our homes we need to be with
people we talk about boycotting Israel
I'm talking about boycotting all of them
if you can recognize their names you
should be boycotting them because these
people are destroying this planet
they're over consuming they're over
selling Costco is a crises the whole
Costco mentality do you know that they
don't even put labels on Costco halls so
you don't know where things are in
Costco because they want you to wander
around because they know people will
have impulse buying and buy more things
than they actually needed this is social
psychology you are being manipulated
like mice and a maze and we need to
oppose this type of mentality because
it's destroying people so I'm really
asking you to really think about the
better world buying guide we should have
our own Muslim version of that of really
making choices I don't fly United air
anymore because they get a F I don't fly
American I fly version American I fly
southwestern and I fly the the JetBlue
because these have the highest ratings
in terms of how they treat their
employees in terms of their commitment
to social responsibility the amount of
money they're having legislation is not
having an impact on these people they
control legislation the only thing that
will have an impact on these people is
that we stop supporting them because
they have bought our senators they have
bought our congressmen Mitt Romney
speaks on their behalf and Barack Obama
speaks on their behalf we need to take
back our country and the way we do that
is by educating ourselves and educating
others and making moral commitments
moral commitments to not being part of
the madness that we're in allah subhana
wa ta'ala said kuno shuhada Annan s be
witnesses unto mankind be witnesses unto
mankind be consumed hyeon Metin Hara Jet
Li Nass you are the best community
brought forth we have to embody those
meanings we need to stop supporting
quote you know I get now my clothes are
made I have a tailor who prays five
prayers in the Masjid and I go and he
makes me my clothes
in one day and I know that the garments
are actually Fairtrade garments I don't
want to support this system anymore and
I don't think you should want to or you
should we need to have an exit strategy
and we can do that there are morally
committed Americans that are not Muslims
that are living pure lives in terms of
what they practice then most of the
Muslims that I know I know people that
don't carry credit cards in their
wallets because they don't believe in
them non-muslim peoples that are doing
this they will not carry credit cards I
met a Catholic who was so committed to
the idea of not having usury and she
felt and she actually engaged the
Muslims and she said I was so deeply
disappointed because when I found out
Muslims like the Catholic
of old before 1832 Muslims also
maintained the prohibition of usury but
still unlike the Catholics still adhere
to it and she said when I went to try to
create a group of people that could work
together to get out of the yuzuriha
system we should have our own credit
cards we can do this Muslims can have
their own credit cards we need to have
our own banks banks are not easy they're
not hard to start it's very easy to
start it's so easy to start that instead
of the bank the the bank robbers they
used to rob the banks they realize we
can just start our banks why rob them
and risk going to jail let's just open
up our own banks and then we can rob all
the people right this is what they did
so they actually got on the boards of
the banks right really this is what's
happened so this is absolutely
imperative that we really think about
this I would recommend going to move
your money org about moving out of the
major banks into the smaller credit
unions local credit unions local banks
as a first step because all of these
major banks they own all of the pawn
shops they own all of the yuzuriha s--
check cashing schemes in the poorest
neighborhoods it's the same companies
you should look at the documentary maxed
out and see what they do
it's sinister what they do and they
destroy your credit scores because they
want you to have low credit scores so if
you miss one payment you get knocked
down on your credit score because they
want you to pay more interest it's all a
game it's a scheme and people have been
really unfortunately they become victims
but it's because of our lack of
vigilance it's our lack of vigilance
though so this is I really feel this
absolutely necessary that we become part
of the solution and not part of the
problem but we have to do it with real
moral commitment that's the only way the
final thing that I want to talk about is
the problem of Anitha Mehta's ation in
our communities the problem of attacking
other Muslims my father last
read the the Quran from beginning to end
in English with notes and I said what's
the thing that struck you most about the
book he said the prohibition of
sectarianism I want you just to think
about that the prohibition of
sectarianism that was what struck him
most somebody who's familiar with other
revelations and other religious
literature and that really hit me
because I started thinking of all those
verses in the Quran while some movie huh
buddy died he well at of hiraku
right don't be shy at acuña Shia and
don't split into sects
all those prohibitions of sectarianism
and I really took it to heart and I just
thought one of the most extraordinary
things about our community is they
developed a type of tolerance of
difference of opinion that is really
unique in the history of world religions
in many ways they they were able to
literally incorporate difference of
opinion within the framework of a
exegetical tradition a way a
hermeneutical way of interpreting
literature recognizing that there are
many ways to understand the same thing
there are limits to those it's not
infinite so they did put parameters but
the parameters were quite broad and they
were very very wary of Anitha Mehta's
ation the idea of saying somebody was
not a Muslim it's very hard to get
kicked out of Islam it's very easy to
come into Islam it's very hard to get
kicked out but we have so many Muslims
now that have irrigated to themselves
the idea that if you don't agree with me
you're not a Muslim they they they have
lost a sense of what what what has been
turned in in in some traditions
fallibilism the idea that that we are
fallible creatures by our very nature we
can be certain about Islam and we should
be certain about Islam because European
certainty is one of the prerequisites of
faith in our religion but we should
always have a fallible istic
understanding of our
our own interpretation of that religion
or our own understanding of that
religion Imam Shafi one of the greatest
scholars in religious history said
whenever I debate with an interlocutor I
always assume if I believe in my
position that I'm right but I could be
wrong and that he is wrong but he could
be right in other words he had a sense
of fallibilism that my interpretation
might not be the right and I should
always be open to listening to another
possibility this is certainly for the
scholars more than for the common people
but it's very important that we
incorporate that in our understanding
this idea of just calling anybody that
disagrees with us a Kaffir or a mob
today this is a serious problem in our
community and we need to take it
seriously really we need to take it
seriously one of the the the principles
in our tradition is it was articulated
by abu hanifa or Delano and cidade velha
what had you brahim in one of his books
says it this way in poetry were mutirão
elfin men and malaria a problem in
Makkah region of San wahida to deem a
thousand atheists to be Muslims by error
is easier in the sight of God than to
consider one Muslim a kaffir
we should really take that seriously be
very careful about making TUC fear of
other Muslims and I know many of my
closest friends have been called calf
ears really many of my closest friends
somebody up here who I know saying I'm
one of them you know we have this
problem so we need to understand I'm a
committed Orthodox Muslim I follow the
monarchy school right ooh follow the
dominant opinion I was trained in the UH
shaadi Kalam tradition I inclined
towards the text of Imam at the Howey in
terms of just what what as an
articulation of creed
and I accept the way of Junaid ass Alec
this was our tradition Islam is
it is Creed it is law and its beauty and
the making of beauty these are the three
dimensions of Islam if any one of them
is lacking we have an incomplete Islam
our Islam is incomplete if we're not
making things beautiful then something's
wrong with our Islam so my request to
all of you in sha la is really commit to
turning your abode into doddle Islam
into houses of Islam making your houses
houses a pure food of a pure clothing of
fair trade using fair trade becoming
green in your homes teaching your
children these things exercising them in
our massage yet I'm so tired of going to
massage it and seeing Styrofoam glasses
and plates really we shouldn't be doing
this it's not one more Italian who was
here in in the United States we were in
the city of in Arizona in New Mexico and
he had just gotten here he was raised in
a Bedouin tradition he just got in here
and somebody took a glass and drank it
and then threw it into the garbage can
and he said what did he just do and I
said he he what what do you mean he said
what did he just do he just threw that
Cup into into that is that a garbage I
said yeah I said why'd he do that I said
well it's a throwaway Cup he said what
do you mean I said they just used it one
time and throw it away
he said to me howdy he Montel is off
this is the most extreme extravagance
and he said in and mobile arena
I wanna champagne that extravagant
people are the Brethren of the demons in
know Julio hitman was ravine Allah hates
wasters he said that was a perfectly
good Cup he could have used it over and
over again think about this it's
this planet is we're in a real peril
right now don't you know our fish are
going to be dead in about thirty years
according to scientist
we're living in in in really apocalyptic
times and people are taking it like a
joke we need a global planetary Toba we
need we need teshuva you know Metanoia
we need to change our minds we need a
global repentance we need a global
repentance as a species because we have
messed this planet up so badly and it's
not right to our children it's not right
to the future generations we should be
stewards and caretakers in EJ I don't
fit are the Haditha I'm putting in the
earth a caretaker when the Angels heard
that they said are you gonna put one
that sheds blood and so's corruption
facade could mean pollution as well and
and Allah said any animal mad at adamant
I know what you don't know what he knew
is there would be always that community
of believers that reminded people of
what they should be doing marathon we
need an excuse with our Lord on the day
of judgment we should be those people to
sakamaki Iran was salam aliekum wa