My Flag, My Deen, My Life!

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Qasim ibn Ali Khan

flag at homeAs I drive down the streets of my neighborhood on any given United States federal holiday, I acknowledge the homes and tree lawns  displaying the American flags, whose owners proudly flaunt their perception of patriotism.   “Old Glory”, they call it…the historical Stars and Stripes… a concept by General George Washington, Colonel Ross, and Robert Morris, who recruited Philadelphia seamstress Mrs. Betsy Ross to apply her talents to stitch.  In the years since that morning in 1777, and stars were added to correspond with the addition of each new state to the union, the sentiment surrounding the flag increased, giving birth to songs, and the nearly sacred Pledge of Allegiance.

During my Christian life as well as deep into my Islamic life, I too enjoyed showing my “American pride” by displaying the American flag on my house, automobile, and clothing.  I would stand, placing my hand over my heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, assuming I was making a statement by slightly adjusting the recitation to say, “….and one nation, under Allah….”.  I would use my inherited melodic baritone voice to impress audiences with the National Anthem, accepting all of their compliments with pride.  I recall even once trying to convince boxing promoter Don King to contract me to sing The Star Spangled Banner at a Mike Tyson fight. (By the way, he refused, telling me that I wasn’t famous enough.) Yes, even as a devout Muslim, I was about as typically American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

In the meantime, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, (RA), inspired by his father’s (RA) vision, also designed a flag, originally calling it the “New Flag for the Nation of Islam”, but more importantly, making a statement of devotion to the book that is the epitome of the oneness of Allah and loyalty to His final Messenger (SWS)….The Qur’an Kareem.  It would be an original flag…something the Muslims could truly call their own.  It would be a flag amazingly not stigmatized by the media’s warped portrayal of Islam by a handful of radical Muslims who wave flags bearing the Arabic inscriptions of “No God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, while contradicting the spirit of Al-Islam with unjustified violence, corruption, and other haraam (forbidden) acts.

For many years after the introduction of the flag designed by Imam Mohammed (RA), I proudly displayed it alongside the American flag, almost as if they were equal.  For many years I considered myself an “American Muslim”, insinuating that I am an American who happens to be a Muslim.  Since then I have arrived to the realization that much more importantly,  I must be a “Muslim American”….that I am a Muslim who happens to be an American, because my Islamicity must come first. 

Only out of sincere respect for what it means to others, do I show respect for the American flag…and stand for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, however without  saluting or placing my hand on my heart.   I say only out of respect for what it means to others, because to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America….the good, the honest, the law abiding citizens who fear The Creator of us all.  To me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America who cry at the news of suffering of complete strangers…or the good people of America who wish the bad people would either change or go away…or the good people of America who pray daily for the trillion dollar wars around the world to stop….or the good people of America who are tired of spending billions of dollars annually on security systems for their homes, cars, and businesses….the good people of America who  have to stand by struggling to take care of their families while legislators with almost unlimited expense accounts take our tax dollars to give themselves raises.   No, brothers and sisters, to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America, instead it seems to represent an unjust and contradictory government that although it is of the people and by the people…it is not for the people.  When I see the American flag, with all the respect that I show it, I don’t think about the American people any more than I think about the people who designed it.

Proudly displayed on the front of my home from dawn until sunset is an Islamic flag, designed by Imam W. D. Mohammed, yet admittedly that display is not a salute to him, nor do I think of him when I look at my flag.  To me, the Islamic flag I display is a salute to the inscription emblazoned in bright gold letters, surrounded by a green silhouette of the Qur’an Kareem, casting a glowing ray onto a crimson background…it is a flag that represents everything that I live and work for…La illaha ilAllah, Muhammadur Rasulullah, There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah!  Although this is the testimony that was introduced to me by Imam W.D. Mohammed (RA), yet whose interpretation of patriotism I may not completely agree with….when I raise that flag….when I gaze upon its flowing beauty in the wind, gracing the front of my dwelling place that I have made into a place of worship, I only think about Allah t’Ala and His Messenger (SWS).  This wonderful design, that I display, that I salute, that I pledge allegiance to in the same language that is bound upon it, that represents everything that I am about… this Shahada-tain, to this Muslim American patriot, is my flag, my deen, my life.

www.shadesofwhite.us

13-29

Community News (V13-I28)

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic school opens near New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS,LA–The Islamic School of Greater New Orleanswas officially  opened this week in Kenner. “Everyone is so excited,” Director Ahmad Siddiqui told the Times-Picayune. “We have been dreaming for this day for a long time. We bought this land in 1997, and we were supposed to start in 2002 and 2003. After Hurricane Katrina, our donations were down and we were trying to secure enough funds to complete construction.”

The new site at 2420 Illinois Ave. sits on more than five acres of land. The building is 15,000 square feet and boasts 12 classrooms, science and computer laboratories, a library, teacher’s lounge, assembly area, conference room, and offices for administration and support staff.

It can accommodate more than 250 students from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade, Siddiqui said.

A gymnasium and multipurpose hall with more than 10,000 square feet also were added. The attached building will house student activity as well as community functions.

“This building is for the entire community and the kids,” Siddiqui said. “This is a great place for everyone to get together and enjoy different occasions.”

The inauguration ceremony attracted more than 500 people. Among the dignitaries were the Mayor, police chief, council woman, and a judge from the Circuit Court.

Atlanta Muslims send message of peace

ATLANTA,GA–Members of metro Atlanta’s Muslim community spent part of the Fourth of July holiday spreading a message of peace and unity, WSBTC reported.

Organizers of a small gathering at the Bethak Banquet Hall in Duluth said they want to move beyond recent controversy surrounding the proposals to expand and build mosques in Lilburn and Alpharetta.

But Monday’s event wasn’t about politics, but patriotism.

“I’m here to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Gwinnett teen Suha Rashied. She was among a group of children who lead the gathering with a salute to the American flag.

The families who gathered Monday said the show of patriotism was more important than any fireworks.

“We wanted to remind everybody, yes, we are your fellow Americans and we are sending a message of peace and harmony,” said organizer Shamina Voora.

Voora said Monday’s celebration of the nation’s Independence Day is a first in metro Atlanta, a chance for local Muslim to send a message of peace. That was echoed by civil rights leader and Baptist minister the Rev. Gerald Durley.

“When we communicate, we eradicate the ignorance. When we eradicate the ignorance, we eradicate the fear,” said Durley.

Drs. Abdullah Daar and Ali-Khan’s research recognized with $10,000 prize

TORONTO,CANADA–Since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2000, there has been debate in biomedical literature about the use of race and ethnicity in genetic research potentially resulting in racial/ethnic stereotyping. Drs. Daar and Ali-Khan examined the 2005 Admixture Mapping study, which looked for risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in African Americans and European Americans, a disease that is extremely rare in Sub-Sahara Africans, common in populations of European desent, and of intermediate frequency in African Americans.

Drs. Daar and Ali-Khan examined the ethical and social issues raised by the Admixture Mapping project and used these to draw up a series of recommendations and points for policy makers and researchers to consider when undertaking population-based genomics studies.

“We are extremely pleased to be awarded this prize by OGI and have our work recognized,” commented Dr. Abdallah S. Daar, Senior Scientist and Director of Ethics and Commercialization, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, and Professor of Public Health Sciences at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. “Working to encourage public understanding of genetic diversity, which goes beyond simplistic racial or ethnic stereotypes, is crucial to extract the maximum benefit from newly emerging genetic knowledge. We very much hope that our paper may function as a key reference document for those working in this field.”

The paper, titled Admixture mapping: from paradigms of race and ethnicity to population history, published in August 2010 in the HUGO Journal, examined the social and ethical issues, the benefits and the risks of Admixture Mapping, and more generally, of population-based genomic methods. Over the course of the study, Drs. Daar and Ali-Khan conducted interviews with researchers at the forefront of genomics and bioethics, including representatives from the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium, the Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration and Repair, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and members of the African American MS community.

“The findings examine issues that are also directly relevant to the development, testing and marketing of drugs aimed at specific population segments,” commented Dr. Sarah Ali-Khan, who was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in genomics and bioethics at MRC at the time of the study. “Our work provides practical guidelines to mitigate and negotiate potential pitfalls around fears of discrimination in genetic studies, and therefore may facilitate better population-based studies and assist in moving beyond racial and ethnic stereotyping.”

Dr. Mark Poznansky, President and CEO, OGI, said: “It is fitting that the potential of population-based studies be recognized. Such studies hold the promise to yield important biomedical knowledge, which may otherwise be hindered by fears of discrimination. We may all be 99.9% the same in our genetic make-up, but the 0.1% really makes all the difference, and we need to recognize this if we are to move towards fulfilling the possibilities of personalized medicine.”

13-28