United We Stand – One Nation
Channel: Sherman Jackson
File Size: 31.95MB
Our next speaker is Dr. Sherman Jackson. Dr. Jackson is the King Faisal, Chair of Islamic thought and culture, Professor of Religion, Professor of American Studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, Wayne State University, and was recently offered a full professorship at Stanford Stanford University. From 1987 to 89. He served as executive director of the Center of Arabic study abroad in Cairo. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of several books, including Islam and the black American looking towards third
resurrection, and most recently, Islam and the problem of black suffering. He is co founder of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, a former member of the fic Council of North America, past president of the Sharia scholars Association of North America and a past trustee of the North American Islamic trust. He has featured on the West Washington Post Newsweek blog on faith and is listed by Religion News writers foundations, religious religion link as among the top 10 experts on Islam in America. Dr. Jackson will address the topic united we stand one nation
Bismillah R Rahman r Rahim Al Hamdulillah Mr. Ala one of the stuff you don't want to study
when I wrote The bIllahi min surely and fusina
Min. So yeah, man. I mean, you have to lay off Allah medulla
Emanuel lil fella Harry Allah, wa Chateau La ilaha illallah wa Taala Sheikh Allah
Well, I shall do anna muhammadan Abdullah solo solo Allahu alayhi wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallam
rubbish roughly salary will certainly Emily was not optimal is any of Ali will clean your shot one fc will fail utterly Sani when a little older, will will be updatable. Alameen wa salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato.
Salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato.
I have a dilemma here, because these lights are blinding me. But if I put my sunglasses on, I can't read my notes.
So I'll have to try. And I hope you'll pardon my squinting and frowning. But it's not about you. It's, it's about the lights.
I've been asked to come and talk particularly about the business of
us as Muslims in America, and the whole enterprise of being American Muslims. And this in a number of ways, is a rather difficult topic to talk about,
particularly in the politically charged atmosphere in which we presently exist. And perhaps most especially in the context of this 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 911. It's difficult for a number of reasons. One,
so many of the people who have come before me have said many of the things that reflected my own thoughts and sentiments on the topic. So in some ways, I feel that there's a limited amount of space to add much of significance and meaning. The second reason is that, quite frankly, we live in a time when there are forces in our society that are bent on denying Muslims a dignified existence in this land. And to that end, one of the ways in which they go about trying to pursue that end is by misrepresenting what Muslims say.
And I think it is something of a statement on the invalidity of their calls, that they have to spread falsehoods and misrepresentations in order to promote their cause. They come to events like this. They sit and listen and then they distort what what Muslims have to say and protect
Given the sensitivity of the topic of Muslim Americans, that kind of a talk is particularly susceptible to that kind of misrepresentation. And I'm saying this not from a theoretical point of view, I'm saying it as someone who has witnessed the way that my own words have been twisted and misrepresented on any number of occasions. But the big reason why this is a more difficult topic
to speak about the issue of Muslim American identity is difficult in the sense that in doing so one has to sort of navigate one's way through the perspectives through the sensibilities, in fact, even perhaps the political agendas of at least four different groups. In other words, one is not just talking to a single group, in which one can expect one's words to be heard through the prism of that group. Rather, one is talking to at least four groups. And therefore there are at least four different ways in which one's words might be understood. And therefore four different ways in which one's words might be misunderstood. And this is one of the challenges that comes along with speaking
about this kind of a topic. And these disparate groups in my mind represent for the first is Muslims in the Muslim world. And one may wonder why one would pay any attention to the reality of the fact that Muslims in the Muslim world will be hearing this kind of a talk. But the reality is that these cameras, the internet, and other forms, make it not only possible, but likely that these words will hear well, these words will reach the ears of Muslims all over the world. And I think in this context, we have to remember the whole point of our being here, we are here to try to add understanding and healing to what is a very precarious situation for us all. And so it matters, the
perspective from which people hear what we have to say. And if we as Muslims and America speak in ways that reflect insensitivity callousness, and an ability to pick to take the perspective of Muslims and other parts of the world than that is not likely to contribute positively to our ability to communicate across those lines. I'll talk a little more about that in just a minute. The second group
that is listening to these kinds of talks about Muslim American identity is the group of the non Muslims of the dominant group in America.
And I'll say a little worried about them in a minute as well. Third, we have Muslims in America. And this group is divided into two mindsets in this context. The first is that group of Muslims, who quite frankly, still nursed a number of reservations about this whole enterprise of being Muslim, and American. On the one hand, they want to fully embrace this idea. But there are any number of issues that continue to stand between them, and a full embrace of the whole idea of being American. And some of what stands between them has to do with some of the rhetoric that has been generated by some of the powers that be that confuse Muslims in terms of what their own position as Muslims in
this country should be. So that's the third group of Muslims. And that's the third group that I need to try to address. And the fourth group are also Muslims and America. But this group of Muslims doesn't have any reservations about being Muslim America. In fact, they have an overwhelming interest in being Muslim Americans. But in all too many, ultimately, instances, their interest in being Muslim Americans is not matched by a principle of engagement of what it actually means to be Muslim American. In other words, Muslims who are very much interested and enjoying the privileges and the rights and the opportunities that go along with being American, but who are far less
interested and identifying and recognizing what their obligations are
as Muslim Americans. So now
Oh, with that sort of landscape being set up out there, I want to try to say a word to each of these groups so that when I talk about the whole issue of being Muslim American, is understood in the context in which I mean it, because it is eminently important that of Muslims are going to proceed in American society, and say that we are Muslim Americans, that sentiment has to be deeply and honestly felt, because if it is not deeply and honestly felt, that hesitation, will emanate to the people of the American society, they will know that you are speaking half heartedly, and that will actually have the effect of undermining us as Muslims in this country. We have to be aware, and
honest about one thing, no one likes to be in the presence of people who lie to them and seek to manipulate them. No one likes to live in the presence of that kind of reality. And so it's important for us as Muslims, that if we're going to say we are Muslim Americans, that we mean it, that we embrace it, that we are able to stand behind it. Not on interest alone, but on principle, as Muslims who believe in the Quran, believe in the Sunnah of the Prophet, and who believed in that grand tradition of ours, that is the Islamic tradition. So let me begin with the whole enterprise of
the difficulty that goes along with the fact that
when I say I'm a Muslim American, that there are Muslims in the Muslim world who are listening to me, and they hear this.
And the problem in many instances is that in my experience, many of our brothers and sisters in the Muslim world, when they hear us say that we are Muslim Americans, when they hear us identify with America, in this have that capacity, the tendency is all too often to equate America with American foreign policy. So if I say that I am an American, the tendency is to assume that somehow either identify, condone or unwilling to whitewash American foreign policy. And I think here, it's important for us to say that the very fact that I identify as a Muslim American does not at all entail to any degree, the notion that I rubber stamp, or go along with, with American foreign
policy, it is very important for us to be sensitive to this reality. Because when we come to an occasion like this, marking the 10th anniversary of the victims of 911. And Muslims in the Muslim world, hear us stand here and offer our condolences as we should to our countrymen, Muslim and Muslim alike, when they hear that. And then they say, Well, wait a minute, these Muslim Americans are talking about the people who died on 911. But they have nothing to say, about a half a million babies who died in Iraq, because of American sanctions that were imposed on that country. They have nothing to say about the chaos, death and destruction that had been visited on these countries as a
as a function of American foreign policy. When Muslims hear this kind of presentation, and they are left with the sense that we as Muslim Americans, and the very meaning of being a Muslim American, suggests that we empathize with American tragedy, but we don't empathize with any other tragedy, what Muslims in the Muslim world are likely to say. If this is the kind of Muslims that America is breeding, then America can go to hell and she can take her little sell out Muslims with her.
That's the mentality that is likely to come out of this. And for me, this is a concern. Not because I want to placate misplaced feelings, but because it's important that we respect the feelings of people, if we want to begin to communicate with them.
We have to go to people where they are they experienced realities that suggest to them things about America, that leave them with a certain perspective on America. Then we stand up and identify with America how
All those that brings him to look at us, and then how are we then likely to be able to communicate to them or with them in such a way that will bring greater peace, greater understanding, and a greater ability to understand America, we have a responsibility to be careful about the way in which we communicate.
And this is why I want to say here
I am a Muslim American.
And I love my country,
not as a government, but as home.
This is to me home. And by the way, this is not an exclusively Muslim perspective. In fact, I was in, in the airport here in Washington, DC, not long ago, and I saw a coffee mug thing was a coffee mug or T shirt.
Of course, produced by non Muslims. That said,
I love my country,
is my government that I'm afraid of.
So there's a difference between loving my country, unnecessarily being in agreement with everything that my government does. And I think that we need to be clear about that. And Muslims in the Muslim world need to be clear about that, as Muslim Americans, we are going to strive to make positive contributions to American domestic and foreign policy, we may not always succeed. But just as it is not fair for me to expect you to disavow your country in the Muslim world, simply because it has foreign policies that do not live up to our expectations. It is also not fair for you to ask me to disavow my country, simply because it has foreign policies that do not live up to our expectations.
We don't live in perfect countries. We don't live in perfect societies. But these are our societies. And a part of our charge is that we work to make these societies better societies, because this is home. This is where my children, and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren are likely to die. And so I have a commitment and trying to contribute to the betterment of this society. So again, when I say that I am an American, this is not a rubber stamp of American foreign policy.
Moving on to the second group,
and that is the dominant group of Americans who often abused and exploit the Muslims attempt to position his or herself in America as an American Muslim.
These are people and many Muslims fall victim to accepting this mentality. These are people who forget that America is a pluralistic society. And they therefore want to assume a monopoly over defining who is and who is not an authentic American. They want to say what an authentic American looks like, what an authentic American does what an authentic American does not do.
And many Muslims, unfortunately, accept their definition of what it means to be American, and they are alienated from it.
Many Muslims are alienated from this.
And so what we have to do is we have to be careful
to make sure that we do not forget and that we do not allow our countrymen to forget and women
that America is a multicultural, multiracial, multi religious society. It has been from the beginning. And that is part of the very meaning of the American project. And any one definition of what it means to be American cannot assume the right to be to impose itself on the rest of us as Americans and the dominant culture in America today and this is part of what is happening. You know, Islam is what?
is just an excuse for many
Americans who feel that they are losing
control over the ability to define who is and who is not American.
America is a lot browner than it used to be. America is a lot less Christian than it used to be. I don't mean that Christianity has has fallen, I mean that there are other religious communities that have joined the American mosaic. And this is what America was always supposed to be. But there are forces in this country that as long as they felt that they were in charge, it was alright. But as soon as they they looked up, and they discovered that we now have to share this country with other people, that our sensibilities cannot automatically assume that they are the norm to which everybody else has to conform, we now may have to learn about other people, we now may have to adjust the way
in which we interact with others in society. And this is very scary for a lot of people. And there and here is where Islam and Muslims become the latest easy target. And we must make sure that we Muslims, and this is this is exceedingly important that we do not fall into the trap
of seeing Islamophobia
as an evil that is either directed at or affect Muslims only those who wish to deny Muslims a dignified existence in this country. They are operating not only against Muslims, but against America.
is not just James Brown. Imam Suraj is James Brown and Elvis
is Aretha Franklin, and Bonnie Raitt.
And JLo for that matter,
America is not a monolith.
you know, there, there have been attempts, legal attempts to try to control
the makeup of American society, my time is limited. So I don't have time to really go into this. But let me just say this so that you understand what we're dealing with.
It was not until 1965 That people from the Muslim world were even allowed to come to this country in any significant numbers. Prior to that, American law, monopolized immigration, so that the majority of Americans would remain Northwest European.
This was an attempt to control who would always a Jew enjoy the presumption of being normal, and American. And now, the reality has changed. And we actually have to learn to live in a multicultural, a multiracial, a multi religious society. And there are some in our country who are not prepared to do that. And they are acting out their insecurities on Islam and Muslims now. And Muslims have to be smart enough to always communicate to the broader society, that if these people succeed, and denying Muslims a dignified existence, they will not only succeed in marginalizing Muslims, but they will succeed in undermining America, and what America always was supposed to stand
for. And even don't get me wrong. America has its downside. It has its failures. But these were the ideals that America was supposed to embody. Very quickly, let me move on to the third group. And I know I'm gonna run out of time, so I'm going to try and
speed speeded up just a little bit.
But very quickly, there are still many Muslims
who say that, yes, among Muslim American, they say things like us, and we did someone who even put flags up and stuff like that. And it still has a hollow ring.
doesn't ring true, because there's still some hesitation about this whole notion of being Muslim.
And in fact, in so doing, they buy into the very rhetoric of those who wish to deny Muslims a dignified existence, because what the Islamophobes are saying is that by definition, if you are a Muslim, you cannot be American. There is a fundamental contradiction between being Muslim and being American. Islam will not permit you to be an American. This is
What Islamophobes are saying, some Muslims are being affected by that. And some Muslims are being affected by the fact that they don't know their religion,
nor their religious history very well.
And because they don't know their religion and their religious history, they buy into this understanding this essentialist notion of a, of an Islamic culture.
She comes to us and we're having this conversation earlier. Islam has some universal values, no question about it. Modesty, generosity, caring, sharing. All of these are universal values. But universal values, in order for them to mean anything have to be concretize, in time and space.
manhood, and America may not look like manhood in the Congo, what it means to be a man, the role of a woman in Japan may not be the role of a woman in in South America.
femininity is an abstract concept, but it has to be concretize in time and space. And the point that I'm trying to make to you here is that some Muslims believe that Islam, sort of superimposed a culture on society that was itself to remain unchanging throughout space and time. And so they buy into this notion of an decentralized, quote, unquote, Islamic culture, then they come to America, and they find another culture.
And then there are stuck with two choices. Do I recognize any aspects of this culture?
Which means that I have to abandon Islamic culture? Or do I hold on to my Islamic culture, and not recognize any aspects of American culture, many Muslims are still gripped with this. Here, I want to offer the following.
And that is that and this is part of the beauty, the genius and the miracle of Islam. Islam has always been respectful of, and in engagement with cultures wherever it went.
What Islam does, it engages cultures on the basis of values.
Not on the basis, do you look like the Arabians coming out of the Arabian Peninsula?
That is not the criterion. It is, do your cultural norms
coincide with values and principles that Islam recognizes. And in this regard, this is why Islam was able to go all over the world, and indigenize itself.
It was able to go to Egypt, to Iraq, to Syria, to North Africa, to Sub Saharan Africa, all over the world, and indigenize itself,
the people were able to
engage their own cultural norms. And then to determine which aspects of those norms were consistent with this new religion that they had adopted, and which needed to be modified. And this is the history of Islam. And part of what I want to communicate to you here and now is that Muslims have to get over this notion that that is the reality of the past. It is not a reality of a pet of the past. That is the reality wherever Islam goes, and of Muslims in the past process, the cultures that they encountered on the basis of the principles and sensibilities of Islam, there is no reason while that process should not continue in America today. And America has many, many, many good cultural
practices, good social institutions, good ways of doing things. And there is no reason why Muslims should have any hesitation about embracing these and embracing these as their own.
And the reality is, is that that is exactly where the people who want to deny you a dignified existence want you to be.
They want you to be afflicted with what Dubois called double consciousness.
Where you have sort of half a heart in Islam, because you really want to be American. And you got to have a heart in America, because you really want to be Muslim. You have
of this infrastructure,
you are torn apart.
And the reality.
All right. And the reality of this is most clearly and painfully manifested in our young people.
It is most clearly and painfully manifested in our young people. And we have to understand that we cannot allow these false dichotomies to continue to define us as a community.
We don't have to discuss
what's wrong with grids?
What's wrong with it.
And ultimately, ultimately, if we are successful as a community, we will reach the day where grids will be the cuisine that served that Islamic Awareness Week on his college campuses.
Because what we must understand is that as a Muslim community, look at our history, we are charged with doing the same thing. The Prophet alayhi salatu salam did not come to society and say, This is a Kaffir. Now Muslim society,
it all has to go, and I'm going to replace it wholescale with something else, that's not what he did.
Many aspects of pagan
Arabia, were looked upon as perfectly fine and accepted by the prophet and became a part of the Muslim culture. So we have to understand this. Muslims have to get out of this dichotomous thinking, the last group, I'm not going to finish this, the last group, but this is important. This is a group of Muslims in America, who
they just want to say before we get to go away,
they just want to hurry up, except us as Americans. And and and this has served us as Americans.
And they don't really care how this comes about. If America will say, Okay, we're not gonna hate the Muslims anymore. We're gonna hate
who some of these muscles will be willing to say what, okay?
Because they just want this Islamophobia to go away.
They are committed to their interests, and they have forgotten their principles. And when I stand up and say, I'm a Muslim American, we should be Muslim Americans. They say, yes, yes, yes. But that's not what I mean. I don't mean being Muslim American without principles. That's not what I mean. And those people have to recognize that you share an important part of the responsibility for why we are where we are right now. Because the forces of Islamophobia that are least on us today, they are not new. They weren't here, when you came here, you recognize them, you recognize what they were doing to the blacks, you recognize what they were doing to Latinos, you recognize what they were doing to
other people, but it was somebody else's problem.
So we didn't have anything to say about it. And now it's come home to roost. We cannot be unpronounceable Muslim Americans. We have to be principal, Muslim Americans. I had some more things to say, but I'm going to be a good guest. And I like the way they don't show a frowny face at you. They show a smiley face that you to get you to stop. I want to say one last thing, Muslims.
These are trying times that we are living in.
And the reality is that the future does not belong to the faint of heart.
And if you want to talk about being a Muslim American,
remember this. America is not only
the land of the free,
it is also the home of the brave. And if you're going to be a Muslim American, you have to be brave. does that manifest Salam aleikum wa rahmatullah