Five suggested rules for Muslim Americans
By Dr. Waheed Siddiqee
Chairman, Interfaith Committee, United Muslims of America
These are difficult times for Muslims all over the world. Corruption, lack of education and technical know-how, religious fanaticism and dismal national character in the Muslim Ummah as well as colonial exploitation of Muslim countries by western nations are some of the obvious factors that have put Muslims and Muslim countries in a sad state of affairs. There are no quick fixes to come out of this deplorable condition. However, Muslims in America could and should play a leading and constructive role in making a difference by taking advantage of the unique opportunities available to them in this country. Here are five proposed principles Muslim Americans should live by to become a model community not only in the U.S.A. but in the whole Muslim world.
1. Be Proud of Being a Muslim and Thankful to be an American Citizen
Being proud Muslims means that our faith (Iman) is deep and that we make a firm commitment to fulfill our religious obligations i.e. pray regularly, fast in the month of Ramadhan, pay Zakat and perform Hajj as soon as conditions permit. Being proud Muslims also means that we are truthful, trustworthy, practice decent manners, and fulfill our obligations to our family and to fellow human beings, both Mulims and non-Muslims, in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Quran and Sunnah. Being a good Muslim also means that we sincerely respect people of other faiths and cultivate cordial relations with them.
Being thankful to be an American means that we genuinely appreciate the many good things this country offers to us. For example, the basic individual freedom, excellent work ethic, good schools, colleges and universities, most advanced medical facilities and a very well organized social and political infrastructure. There are ,of course, certain things we do not like about the U.S; namely, its foreign policy, particularly pertaining to the Palestine problem, and the gradual erosion of some family values that are very important . However, rather than getting frustrated and lamenting about these kinds of issues, we must utilize the many venues that are available to us here and work to make a positive impact in the social and political areas as will be discussed below.
2. Strive Toward Excellence in Your Education and Profession
Of all the countries in the world, America offers the best opportunities to educate ourselves in the field of our liking and pursue a profession of our own choice. We should take full advantage of these facilities and strive to achieve very high grades in school and become highly competent and distinct professionals. Muslims should aim to become known as high achievers who make significant contributions in various fields of learning. Such publications as “American Men and Women of Science”, and “Who is Who in America” should have large numbers of Muslims included in them. Only a very small number of Muslim names is presently found in these publications.
3. Contribute at Least 3% of Your Income to Muslim and 2% to Other Organizations
Many of us occasionally write checks of $20 to $100 in various fund raising events in a spontaneous manner and feel that we have done our part. Furthermore, many of us think that since we pay Zakat we do not need to make any other contributions. However, we are facing an uphill task. We need to support the many Muslim groups involved in charitable, social and political fields in a consistent and substantial manner. The suggested 3% of income is in addition to Zakat, which is inherently a part of our religious obligations. We need to go beyond the minimum requirements. Our circumstances demand it. Also, since we are U.S. citizens, we should make regular contributions to the many worthy social, political and charitable organizations in this country. 2% of income is a suggested figure as a baseline for these types of donations.
4. Do at Least 2 Hours Weekly Voluntary Work for Muslims and 1 Hours Weekly for Others.
A vast majority of Muslim Americans are well educated and highly competent in various fields. However most of these people use their professional skills only to advance themselves and their families. We should make it a part of our life to share our skills with the community on a purely voluntary basis and allocate at least 2 hours per week for Muslims and at least 1 hours per week for others. For example doctors, attorneys, teachers, businessmen and other professionals can provide free consultation to the community members every week by being available on weekends at a local Islamic Center for a few hours. This will generate tremendous goodwill and many people will benefit from the advice of the professionals. Similarly, we should contribute our skills on a voluntary basis to organizations of other faiths. This will create a very positive impression of Muslim Americans on the outside community.
5. Participate Actively and Visibly in America’s Social, Economic and Political Activities.
Muslim Americans are lagging behind almost all other minority communities in active participation in America’s social, economic and political activities. The majority of our activists are working mostly for Muslim related issues and organizations. This is of course commendable but our circumstances urgently demand that we get involved in the issues related to our cities, counties, states and the nation. Such organizations as CAIR, AMA, AMV, MPAC and UMA are a few organizations which are working on issues somewhat outside purely Muslim concerns. There is a great need that a large number of Muslims, particularly young ones, get involved in local, state and national issues. Many non-Muslim organizations which are working on such issues as Homelessness, Health care, foreign policies and many other social, political and economic issues already exist. We must join and work with these organizations actively and visibly to establish a reputation of being seriously concerned with issues of this country. It will also help us in becoming an influential community.
January 6, 2004