Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Late last night, I received a text message from my friend Lena Albibi.
"Someone threw a firebomb at my sister-in-law's parent's house last night. FBI is investigating now. So scary. I'm so shocked. Please make du'aa."
We've seen close to a dozen attacks on different houses of worship in the last couple of weeks. This includes a shooting spree by a man with ties to a White Supremacist group that left six congregants of a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin dead and others wounded. It also includes mosques in California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Joplin, Missouri where the entire building was burned to the ground. The only distinctive factor about the attack on the home in Florida is it is a private residence. The ignorance and bigotry that motivated the attack is still shared.
In response to the firebomb that was thrown at her parents' home in Panama City, Florida early yesterday morning, Ayesha Albibi had this to say:
"It's unfortunate that we live in a land and country based on diversity and freedom yet hate is being spread daily. My parent's house was attacked last night with a fire bomb with the intent to harm us. This country is also based on perseverance and we will persevere and fight against hate. Please pray for my family and end the hatred all over the world."
It would be foolish to think that there are no ties between the irresponsible statements coming out of politician's mouths around Muslims and Islam and the attacks that we are seeing. The Bachmanns and Walshes of the world make comments that incite hatred and justify bigoted actions against innocent people. Condemnation comes from different places, but in a world that is bombarded by information overload, a sound byte or an op-ed by itself isn't going to be what changes the tide on this. What will change things is people of good conscience speaking up and out against what they know is wrong through both word and action.
For Muslims living in the United States, we as a collective have to see the importance of building coalitions with those outside of our communities so that people can learn who our leaders are and we can begin to have our voices heard. It really seems like we are disillusioned to the realities that our people are facing and where we currently reside on the power spectrum, both in this country and in much of the world. It's time to stop building mosque after mosque and start putting money into institutions and organizations, and not simply individuals, that are effectively working on behalf of us.
Civic engagement on a local level is just as important as it is on a national level, if not more so. If you are a college student, start working in your local government offices. Build strong relationships with the city that you are a part. What benefit is there in having a dinner that you end up paying for with a city official who doesn't advocate on your behalf when the time comes? Civic engagement is not just hosting a voter registration drive around election time. Involvement in what we define as "Muslim issues" only isn't going to really get us where we need to be either. Our idea of civic involvement and responsibility needs to expand beyond that myopic view and not only stepping up to ask for our rights but stepping up to do our duty and also advocate on behalf of others for their rights. Build a longer-term strategy that understands where we are today is not where we should be five years from now, and engage people who know how to build and implement that strategy, whether they are Muslim or not.
Racism is racism, clear and simple. For those who say these attacks from the last two weeks and many other violent actions have nothing to do with race, understand that Islam as a faith has been racialized for quite some time. It's placed in the minds of many as being from someplace else, miles away and made for the past. Attackers of peaceful places of worship can't even distinguish that not all people whose skin is brown practice the same religion. That idea to me is foolish enough to be racist.
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