January 27, 2004

Conflict in France: A Message to Muslims


Abu Musa reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying:
A believer is like a brick for another believer, the one supporting the other.
Muslim, 32:6257

Nu’man b. Bashir reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him)
as saying: The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection,
fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body
aches, because of sleeplessness and fever. Muslim, 32:6258

If the Muslim Ummah truly embodied this spirit of brotherhood and if our actions
were truly a reflection of this spirit, the Muslim world would not be flailing
about in its current state of want and confusion. The latest obstacle placed
in the path of Muslims?a path that already seems laden with enough trials
and tribulations?is the ban placed on religious symbols in public schools
by the government in France. ?Religious symbols? under this new
law include large crosses, yarmulkes and the hijab. The hijab of course, being
of particular concern to Muslims. There has been a general outcry against the
ban by Muslims and Catholics in France and around the world, but Jewish secular
and religious leaders have come to support the ban seeing it as a necessary
method to stall the growth of what they call ?militant Islam?.

Along with the obvious injustice of Muslim girls and women having to choose
between their faith and their education, a deeper, far more disturbing threat
lurks between the lines of this new law. If Muslims want to effectively combat
this threat, they must be willing to open their eyes and see it for what it
is: a fear and dislike against the growth and spread of Islam.

The hijab is probably the most visible and unflinching symbol of Islam in the
world today. Visibility denotes a sense of pride, a sign of success, of presence.
The hijab proclaims loud and clear, that Islam is here, and it?s here
to stay. This is alarming to those who view Islam as a threat to their own growth
and claim to power.

The government of France asserts that the ban on religious symbols is an essential
step towards reaching their goal of complete separation between church and state.
Muslims and other religious groups assert that it is a fundamental right for
human beings to practice their religion. Though the original idea of a separation
between church and state was an attempt to take power away from religious elites
exerting control over the masses, it is ironic that this very idea asserts a
form of aggressive power over the masses and their freedom to practice their
faith. A bitter twist in a deeply flawed idea.

And so, what are Muslims in France to do? What are Muslims in Canada, the
United States and rest of the world supposed to do? In France?Muslims
must undoubtedly oppose and ultimately refuse to abide by regulations that conflict
directly with the requirements of Islam. Diplomacy can be a wonderful tool,
however in cases where diplomacy has failed and Muslims are left to choose between
the commands of Allah or the commands of leaders in today?s world?the
commands of Allah should and must take priority. Education is indeed an important
and essential tool in the lives of Muslims and is worth the struggle and resistance
that Muslims will InshaAllah, persist in, but what happens if the worse happens?
What if resistance doesn?t work? Muslims everywhere may need to ponder
the following verse:

?Lo! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong
themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged? They will say:
We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah’s earth
spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation
will be hell, an evil journey’s end.” (An-Nisa’ 4: 97)

Muslims may need to realize and accept that the Earth is indeed vast, and
there are other countries where we may practice Islam freely. This of course
does not mean that we throw up our hands in defeat and migrate from country
to country each time we?re met with difficulties. It means that if after
sincere struggles and efforts to create change, no change happens, we?re
willing to put religion over nation.

?And bear with patience what they utter, and part from them with
a fair leave-taking.?
(Muzzammil 40:10)

And what about the rest of the Ummah? Are we truly bricks supporting one another?
Do we act as one body, aching when one part of it is injured? Perhaps the answers
to these questions lie in our answer to the following: Do we truly know our
own faith?
We can rant and rave at protests?which yes, serve as visible forms of
discontent that can create change?but if we can rant and rave can we explain
ourselves with eloquence and grace? Living in Canada, Muslims may feel far removed
from the struggles of Muslims around the world, so protests seem better than
doing nothing at all. But what happens after the protest? What happens after
the marches, the banners, the slogans, the coverage on the news, and the indifferent
shrug of politicians? Are we truly doing everything we can? Or are we fulfilling
the motions of pseudo-action, trying to convince ourselves that what we?re
doing really is making a difference?

If we acknowledge that the growth of Islam is feared and therefore being oppressed,
our weapon should and must be knowledge. The ban on religious symbols in France
is a red flag for Muslims everywhere: Islam is strong, Islam is growing. But
are Muslims strong? Is our faith in Islam growing? Can Muslims even dream of
being strong when we know so little about our own Faith? External action can
mean very little without inner strength, and inner strength cannot exist without

How many of us can aptly explain the fundamentals of Islam, the meaning behind
those fundamentals, the purpose of the Sunnah, the purpose of the Qur?an?
When will we rise from the burdening weight of an inferiority complex and apologetic
nature? When will we truly decide to learn about Islam, and try to accept and
understand it for what it is, and not what we want it to be? Our wants and desires,
our ideas and notions of right and wrong cannot be superior to the word of our
Creator. Knowledge?not misguided emotion?is the key to making a
difference. We must not see the ban in France as another obstacle?perhaps
it?s another chance?a chance we desperately need to take advantage
of. When we know Islam ourselves, only then can we teach others and expect positive
change, for ?seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim?(1)
and InshaAllah, our struggles will then be rewarded.

1. Ibn Majah and Al Bayhaqi

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