Authentically Reclaiming the Narrative about Islam and Muslims

Omar Suleiman

Channel: Omar Suleiman

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Brothers and sisters in a post 911 context as a Muslim community, as the Muslim community has come under the rampant fire, that perpetual hatred that we face right now as a community misinformation, propaganda, and have braced ourselves every single election season comes by, as every single attack happens in the name of Islam, whatever it may be, as a Muslim community has been trying to figure out since 911, in particular, and over the last few years, with the current president, how do we actually tell our story? How do we actually reclaim our narrative? And those words, reclaiming the narrative have titled every single Islamic convention? It's I've been given that session like 20

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times in the last three years, how do we reclaim the narrative, and there used to be an emphasis when he talked about reclaiming the narrative on you know, making sure that we get as many data pamphlets out there as possible so that people know the truth about Islam in advance. There used to be this emphasis on reclaiming the narrative that was very much so within the realm of Dawa. But now reclaiming the narrative means a million different things to different people to literally over a million different people here in the United States as a Muslim community. So I want to address this topic, mainly to put out this idea or to first and foremost negate this idea that changing the

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narrative should take precedence over actually changing ourselves. The second thing is that if a person or if we are looking to change the narrative, if we become inauthentic to who we are in the process, meaning if at the end of the day, we're able to usher forward the Muslim community, but not remain authentic to our teachings, then we might have changed the narrative. But we would have ultimately failed because a large agenda requires us to maintain the coordinates of our identity and our Islam. At the end of it all, as we're out there, delivering a message about who we are about what our religion teaches, we can't lose the core of our identity in the interest of advancing our

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interests as a Muslim community in the United States. And the third thing is this. There is an authentic way to reclaim the narrative about the Muslim community about Islam. And those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. And we actually find a way that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam was able to do those things to actually tell the truth about the community. Without masking the things they actually needed to change about themselves, or obscuring the things that made them true believers in the first place and made them a group of Muslims with a capital M in the first place. There is a way to find that balance, and you find it from the Prophet sallallahu alayhi

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wa sallam. And I wanted to actually start off with that very first call, where the Prophet slice alum talked about what his mission was. A lot of us know the story, you've heard the story told in many different ways, with many different lessons that were extrapolated from it of the Prophet sallallahu. It was that I'm standing on suffer, and calling the people to Islam for the very first time, the story of being rejected by a people that held him in high esteem for all of those years, going from being a beloved member of his community to being ostracized in his community, going from being someone who was looked at as an honest man, as someone that had the goodwill of the community

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at heart to now be looked at as a as an enemy, an internal enemy who looks to see so who looks to sow seeds of discord amongst a society who looks to break up the tribes, who is foreign, who has a strange ideology, who is a magician, a sorcerer, and all those types of things. That moment that the prophets lysozyme stands on that mountain and calls the people to his message, and ultimately faces rejection. Or at least in those moments, faces rejection and the call of rejection is led by Abu lahab. His own uncle, there was a lot that happened before that incidence. And maybe understanding a little bit about the context before that incident can help us frame the conversation about what it

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means to actually get out there with your narrative before somebody else tells your story for you. That was not the first time I would not have heard the message of Islam. His uncle who rejected Him who led the call of rejection, who made it a point to ostracize and quickly and to turn the people away from him and to say he had a generic tonight Did you gather us for this so that we could combine all of our gods into one and sets in Tibet, Nikita Mohammed's, you know, cursed him and said, me you perish. That wasn't the first time a Buddha was introduced to us now.

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Prophets lie Selim had gathered his relatives already privately, and had laid the groundwork privately for a public call. And yes, he expected more response from his people, especially those that were closest to him. There were meetings that took place literally around the corner of Safa, where some of the relatives of the Prophet slicin and lived his own home being next to Motorola with Khadija will be allowed Tatiana, calling his people privately, and I will not have did not feel the need to blast the prophets lie. So I'm in those private gatherings because the public interests of Abu lahab were not threatened by a private call of the profit slice on them. It was okay for him to

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talk about that stuff privately. But how do we make sure this stays out of any any realm of the public that would threaten our agendas, whether they were theological, and of course, the the money and the you know, the, the, you know, let's call it mech and capitalism, that that was underlying their shift occurring, which was they made money off of the hubs, they made money off of these idols, they claimed a certain superiority off of people from these idols, so not just the theological agenda that they had, but really, why they felt so important to maintain that should to maintain all those idols in public so I will not have wasn't threatened by the prophets lie Selim,

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or his call privately. But there was now a growing concern amongst Benny Hashem, the tribal, the prophets lie some of those closest to the prophets lie some that knew that he now felt called to something greater that he had received revelation and that it was only a matter of time before this gets out. There was a concern amongst them, of how do we suppress this once it gets out?

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Why is this so important? When the prophets lie Selim took to suffer and called everybody to suffer with suffer was a place that you announced something extremely significant to the community. He took them by surprise, had he told Abu lahab and Abuja and his tribes that look I'm about to go to suffer and make this call, I just want to let you guys know and make sure we're all on the same page, it actually would not have been favorable, or advantageous, because as bad as that incident wins, it would have even went worse. The prophets I sent him instead took the community by surprise,

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said everyone come to me gathered the people around him at software and the prophets lie Selim invoked first his credibility. If I was to tell you that there was an army that was coming from the other side of this mountain to attack you, would you believe me? They said, Yes. Because you are a solid. I mean, you're a trustworthy person, you're an honest person, they said it. And you would never say anything, or you would never, you know, take us on a ride like this. If you were calling us and telling us that there's a harm that's coming to us, then, of course, you'd be telling the truth because you care about us. So the people that weren't already privy to those discussions, were

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the ones that were saying that it wasn't about how there wasn't the family of the prophets lie. Some are those that already knew what was happening. That said, though, that said that it was everybody else that got called to suffer in those moments. And then the prophets, I send them calls and warns them about a harm in the Hereafter, like the one that they knew that he would protect them from in this world as well. There are two important points here. Number one, people will not trust that you have their interest at heart for the Hereafter, if you don't have their interest at heart in this dunya in this world, why should I trust that you're trying to protect me from something harmful in

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the hereafter? If you could care less when harm hits me from every direction in this world? Why should I think that you want good for me in the hereafter if you do nothing for my well being in this world, so the prophets lie, some is showing us the power of credibility. he invoked that with everybody else that was around. Now most people don't get to speak in the public square. They don't really have a say they're not powerful people. But they heard that message that the prophets lie Selim put out there, the seeds were put in. So even though Abu lahab is the only voice that ultimately came out and condemned him, you don't think that all those people around thought about

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that that night, thought about it for some time, and maybe it planted the seeds that were necessary when the prophets my son came back to them with the full color the full dat one, they remember that that was some food for thought for them that you know what he has always cared about us. He is a solid for me. So we can believe that he's also learned that he's a mercy to the world. We've seen it already. He planted seeds A lot of it was some of them so though only a Buddha hub, as is usually the case, the loudest and most powerful gets to dominate the space. He's still alive Islam succeeded in planting seeds. He got what he wanted. How

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They known that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam was going to do that, that he was going to make a public call, they would have suppressed in the way that they suppressed it after that all the way until the Islam of all middle of the line. So him going to suffer, caught them by surprise, allowed him to plant the seed, so a lot of money was stolen. And he invoked his credibility. That's the first thing number two, something that's lost upon us. Usually when we quote, quote, the story, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and you can say, of course, this is divinely inspired, divine revelation that came at the right time that commanded him. So a lot has to do that preempted

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the story that would be told about him in public first. That's important. It was only a matter of time before a bola hub took the Safa and said, you know what everyone, you might hear something come out of my nephew, I want to tell you how crazy he is. I want to tell you what a sorcerer is, I want to tell you what a liar he is, I want to tell you, I don't know what's happened to him over the last few years.

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The revelation preempted, those that would tell the story about the prophets lie some instead of him being the first to introduce the story to the community. And that's profound. That's very special, that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam was able to do that, that he was able to take to suffer and to plant those seeds. And recognize as a lesson for all of us, that people need to hear from us about our story not about us, you can't expect people to tell the right story about you, especially when they are going to be inherently threatened by your presence in your call. You can't put too much currency in people saying the right things about you. You have to preempt. If you know that a

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story is coming about you about your community about your deen, you have to have the vision to go out there and to tell that story first, to frame it first. Because otherwise, you're always playing defense, which is the story of our lives as a Muslim community post 911

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that there was an assumption that the credibility would speak for itself. The prophets lie. Some of them knew the credibility was essential. But he invoked it. There was an assumption that as long as we were good Muslims, as long as we did what we had to do, people would tell the right story about us, because we do such great work in the community were such outstanding citizens here in the United States, of course, are Islam. You know, why would anyone hate us? That was a naivety. And that's not to blame any particular organization or group or community, we were all taken by surprise, the nation was taken by surprise, the community was taken by us and we're continuing to always be

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surprised. And everyday when you open the news, the headlines are more surprising than the day before. No one could have predicted the spectacle politically, religiously, socially. But as a community, we did make an assumption that was flawed, that if we did our part in terms of just being good people, that would be enough, the profit slice uncovered the credibility base. Then he invoked that credibility, he made sure that that credibility was affirmed in the public square, then the profits of a lot more it was said, I'm pre empting, the story being told about him by telling his story first, even if no one at that time, could stand with the profits on the long run. He was

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Salomon abunda would ultimately shame him in public. Still, he got his message out there. He planted the seeds that would be necessary for him now to be able, at least privately when he met with people when he spoke to people about who he was about what his Dean was, those seeds were already planted publicly. So what does it mean in our context, so we'll try to adjust see it on the back seat of that in our context. According to,

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you know, a media content analysis 80% of media coverage on Muslims and Islam in the United States is negative nine in 2015, which is the last time that this study actually showed it 2015, nine out of 10 news stories on Muslims and Islamic organizations were related to violence. Nine out of 10 stories about the community were related to violence. That was the emphasis whether it was talking about the global community, or whether it was talking about the local community, the domestic community, here in the United States. So attempts at demonizing people and groups will always exist. propaganda is always going to be employed, it was employed against the profit slice on it was

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employed against other profits before him it was employed against every group of people that could be found vulnerable and could become the liability in the process of someone else, garnering support when you look at the prophets of Allah as they came before when the wife of the disease filled a seducing use of Allah His Salaam What did she do? She pre emptive she talked she said that he was the indecent one.

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Instead, she accused him of certain things so that he wouldn't be imprisoned first before the story of her that he shot. The story story of her own wrongdoing could be told when for their own was losing traction in the fight against Musa alayhis salaam because for their own thought, initially, I have sorcerers he's a magician, magicians will outdo his magician, when that's or will I'll do his magic. When that no longer works. What did he do he accused Mossad, a snob of murder and corruption and trying to commit treason and plot on the inside and being a foreign agent and all those other types of things because his messaging was not strong enough to battle the messaging of Musa alayhis

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salaam. And when the prophet SAW a lot harder he was sometimes called began surfacing. I would not have didn't think of magician sorcerer first liar first. Instead what did he say? Today? Nikita Mohammed some of my son um he said to me, may you be curse? May you perish so Mohammed, did you call us for that? He didn't call the prophets lie. Some unnamed. They didn't say Sahaja mentioned Oh, and Catherine. Yeah, that is a sorcerer, a liar. It's when they realize that the prophets license called began surfacing that they had to get unique and discrediting him calling him a liar calling him a fortune teller, calling him a sorcerer, calling him a destroyer of homes, they started to employ

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different types of propaganda because the messaging of the prophets lie Selim was too strong, and his credibility was too strong. Therefore, if you took away the credibility of the prophets lie Selim, you don't have to answer to the message of the prophets all lies. That's why propaganda exists the way that it does. So when you have to fail it no Amra dosi, who was told to put cotton in his ears when he came from a dose to Mecca and do toe off because you don't want to hear what the prophets lie? Some is gonna say, he's this magician, the sorcerer, right? The idea was stuff your ears because if you hear the prophets lie some of them, then maybe the messaging will be too

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attractive. We don't want you to even think about him as being saying, you cannot listen to this man in the first place. Right? So instead of Fox News, they had cotton, but the point was, if you can cast enough suspicion about a person or a community, if you can remove their credibility, you can say things about them without having to answer their message because their messaging supposedly comes from a bad place and they have bad intentions for the community. Well, when you look at the prophets of Allah, what do you see the use of it his Salaam demand that his name be cleared use of fought back on the credibility Masada Salaam highlighted the hypocrisy of fair owns claims. The

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Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam recited countless verses, Allah responded to what alarm responded to the accusations of the prophets license credibility, not necessarily their theological counterclaims, as much as the credibility of the Prophet sly send them so clearly the names of the Prophets was important. Restoring that credibility was actually important. And there are some Muslims well meaning will say, you know what, we don't have to respond because Allah will take care of us, I don't care if they think Islam and Muslims are bad. Eventually, Islam will succeed, Muslims will succeed will carry health care for your own, whether they like it or not, we will be

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victorious. Therefore, we don't need to do anything.

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to preempt what is coming, and to respond to what's already been said about us that takes away our credibility. That's not some. That's the extreme opposite of those that, that give priority to narrative over authenticity, and would lose everything in Islam to portray Muslims favorably. That's the counter extreme to them. That's also an extreme, it's a flawed extreme. There is something to say about asserting yourself publicly who you are, what your message is, and fighting back on the claims of credibility, and talking about what these messages actually mean, and what our religion actually is. So the first part of this is that when someone says I don't care if they consider us

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violent, nine out of 10 of the news stories said that we were violent, I don't care if they consider as violent anti American dangerous, it doesn't matter. You know what happens when you do that? When the the frequent association is with violence and treason, you make your community vulnerable.

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That puts us in a place not only where we can't tell our story, but where we actually find ourselves in a place of vulnerability. And that's the type of language that ends up in genocide. It's been a historic, a historic way of leading up to a genocide of a people to the mass persecution of a people to removing them entirely from the public square because we don't know who amongst them is violent or dangerous or not. So firstly, it's dangerous.

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That's the first thing to say, well, we'll just figure it out and let them do that. Secondly,

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our young people are not going to tolerate living as misfits in their society unnecessarily. No one wants to live under that type of pressure. And so yes, it gets unbearable, it gets hard. And you do have 23% of Muslims that were born in this in the United States, leaving Islam altogether, not even self identifying as Muslims. Ideally, you want people strong enough to resist all of that pressure. But at the end of the day, no one wants to be viewed like that. And if a person doesn't have a strong core, then that's going to pull them away. So while we're strengthening the core, it does mean something to try to deal with that pressure and to try to deal with that, that type of of a

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storm, because what we're looking at them is people that will either removed from their Islam, what makes them suspicious and misfits, or just walk away from the identity altogether of being a Muslim, and it's not. So it's either a cultural identity that's not true to Islam, or it's relinquishing the identity altogether, because I don't want to deal with all of that talk in the public square, in my school in my university and my socials, places about who I am as a Muslim. And then the third one is that if you care about the Darrow, you should care about this. If you're really about the download of Islam, you should care about it. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam did consider public

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perception. He didn't watered down the message to appease public perception, but he did consider public perceptions about Islam and about the Muslim community. That's why the prophets Isom did not kill Abdullah bin obey Him and said when he committed a crime of treason by every threshold that you can imagine he committed the crime of treason. He hurt the community. He You know, he tried to kill the prophets lie Selim, he tried to create more on the inside any country, any nation, any group of people would have found him guilty of execution due to treason, what are the prophets lie, some say? He said, I don't want them to say Lyor Cohen, I don't want them to come and say in the Mohammedan

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county up to this hammer that the prophets my son used to kill his companions. So the Prophet slicin was aware of that he thought about that, he considered that in his decision making, that doesn't mean watered down the message. That means well, I don't want to give them unnecessary fuel, so that they can continue to undermine the dour itself. So we're not just trying to pursue some so social narrative about why Islam is not violent, and hence, Muslims should be tolerated. We're clearing the way for people to be able to discover the brilliance of Islam, the beauty of our Deen the beauty of this of this message, we have something to say about that, that our religion has something to offer,

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it's a beautiful religion, and you have to be able to clear those misconceptions and to do so actively in order to do that, so and inshallah tada with two things.

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Number one, on the credibility front, when they said to the Prophet slicin, we've never heard you lie, we've never experienced a lie for you. There is room for us to actually cite our track record. So if you talk, you know, first of all, you reject the idea that we should have a threshold for being extraordinary citizens. But we do have a track record as a Muslim community. So when you say for example, in the American Muslim context, according to the statistics from the Institute for Social Policy and understanding, one third of our community being African Americans have been here as early as anyone else when they tell you go home. We say that our ancestors as Muslims built this

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country, because they were amongst the slaves that were brought to this country. So you reject that 10%. If you look at Muslims, they're statistically the most diverse faith group in the United States. The idea that that we suppress our women, Muslim women, American women surpassed their male counterparts in education. In Michigan alone, Muslims account for 2.5% of the population. But even though they account for 2.5% of the population, they're 15% of the state's doctors 10% of the state's pharmacists, four to 5% of their small businesses, and $170 million in Michigan alone was donated to local and international charities in 2015. In New York, Muslims are 9% of the population

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yet they account for more than 9% of the city's doctors serving over 5 million patients annually. 12% of the state's pharmacists, 11% of its engineers 1000 of its of its police officers, firefighters, 10,000 of its teachers educating 250,000 kids, you get the point.

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It's okay to sit to cite the statistics to cite the track records. To say that you have a person like the founder of chobani to celebrate Hamdi and I don't know how to pronounce his last name Loki i think is how you pronounce his last name was Turkey.

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Who, as the founder of chobani yogurt gave his 2000 employees 10% of his company donated over $750 million to submit to Syrian refugees. You can cite those examples you can find the examples like our brother, Rami Nashashibi, who leads an organization called EMA and inner city Muslim Action Network in Chicago combats urban poverty establishes health clinics to so much that our community can take pride in. So we should cite our good examples. And we should amplify those good examples while rejecting the idea that we have to operate with a threshold that no one else has to operate with. And then with our Deen, we don't have to wait as Muslims for our backs to always be against the

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wall. To clarify concepts about our some

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we should be able to read trends about what is being said about our religion, what's probably going to be said about our religion and putting out the proper narratives about that religion, as well. So the gameplan dear brothers and sisters, for us as a community, number one knowledge is power. We're not if you're not selling the truth anymore, then you've already failed. But we have to know the truth about our religion, about our community so that we can amplify it in those spaces, not only not, by the way, but point to the hypocrisy of those who put our community under the microscope show the agendas of those who try to portray the Muslim community in a certain way. We try to portray

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Islam in a certain way so they could continue to ravage the Muslim world, and also, in the process, sink this own country into poverty, while destroying the infrastructure of other countries by portraying Muslims and Islam as inherently barbaric. We highlight excellence while being honest, we have issues as a community. They're they're not unlike the issues of other communities. And we have to come up with solutions with dealing with those issues. But at the same time, not an arrogance. We have people that we can be proud of, and we can push back on this idea that Muslims have been a negative impact in this country. Number three, amplify the megaphones. And this is the last one,

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obviously, I would tell you to support European Institute because I think it's important for us to be able to put that message out there supporting Institute's supporting the megaphones that amplify the true message of Islam in those positions of power, or in those spaces is important supporting Institute's like ISP that collects the data on the Muslim community that pushes back and cites our credibility is important, because when we have our space, then we're able to better assert our truth. That's why even Mr. Little the alarm, who said about the Islam of Omar bin capaldo, the alarm home when Omar became Muslim, it was a victory for Islam, because it was the first time since Safa

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that the Muslims were able to go out there publicly and assert their own truth. So we asked Allah Subhana Allah to allow us those spaces. To be able to assert our truth we asked a lot to make us dedicated to that truth. We ask a loss of Hannah Montana with no fear that Islam will ever die with no fear that Islam will ever die that he makes us a part of its of its revival at all times We ask Allah subhana wa tada that we never fear great odds, but we only fear the greatest loss of Hannah Montana, we ask Allah subhanaw taala that he allows us to carry the torch of Islam and all of these places that he allows us to always show the goodness of Islam and the community without being

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dishonest to Islam or about the community at large. I mean, a political rehab or stuff like that. I mean, first of all in the hallway,