Audio of speech given at 3rd Annual Malian Association for Peace & Tolerance Conference in Bamako.
With the name of Allah, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Reedeemer
The praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may the most excellent prayer and the most perfect peace be upon our leader, our prophet, and our beloved Muhammad the trustworthy one, and upon his purified household and his pious companions and what follows.
One of the characteristics that America is most known for in the world is religious pluralism. As America being the only modern nation state, which has residents from every country on earth, it also contains virtually every religious group known to man.
The Founding Fathers of America wrote in the preamble of the United States Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This is a statement of recognition that America was and would continue to be a work in progress in ensuring the rights of all people including religious rights.
As the earlier colonists and their children came to America to escape tyranny of European monarchies and domination of the Anglican and Catholic churches, many engaged in systematic, forced conversion of African slaves who were animists and Muslims.
In American history, the Puritans, a sect of Christianity comparable to modern Salafis, were called witches and burned alive, Catholics suffered housing and employment discrimination causing some to hide their religious affiliations, and Mormons were forced to move from their homes to various states because of persecution.
Through the many growing pains of this unique society in the history of humanity, America has evolved to be one of the world’s most tolerant societies regarding religious expression and practice. This does not mean, however, that Americans can neglect striving towards realizing “a more perfect Union” in terms of religious accommodation.
Muslims being slightly less than 2% of the American population enjoy many liberties yet face serious challenges.
American Muslims enjoy freedom to express diversity of religious interpretation and the richness of all of the schools of thought without interference from the government unlike what Muslims face in several Muslim majority countries.
Unlike the rising trend in Western Europe, American Muslim females are not overtly subjected to populist xenophobic discourse that seeks to make niqab and hijab illegal. Moreover, the wearing of the beard has not become a marker of an “Islamist” that would bar Muslims from working in the government or public sector as in some Muslim majority countries.
Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001, American Muslims have been subjected to increased discrimination from racial and religious profiling by law enforcement, a rise in hate crimes, work place discrimination, to the recent trend of some citizens and elected officials protesting the construction of new mosques. Late last year, an Imam named Luqman Ameen Abdullah was shot 21 times including twice in the back during a raid by law enforcement agencies based upon an investigation of his mosque, which ended up proving no links to terrorism or treason. And in recent months, mosques in the states of Tennessee and Florida have been firebombed by anti-Muslim bigots.
Fortunately in America, there are many people of faith who share the collective spirit of tolerance and justice. There is a tradition within America for religious groups to side with others to ensure the freedom of religious expression and justice for all.
The Qur’an says of believers in Islam in Surah Aali Imran, ayah 110:
You are the best community evolved for people because you enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.
Likewise, the Qur’an says about those with like spirits who are Jews and Christians in Surah Aali Imran, ayaat 113 – 115:
They are not all alike among the People of the Book; there is an upright group who recites the signs of Allah in the watches of the night and prostrate in worship.
They believe in Allah and the last day, and they enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, hasten to excel in good deeds. These are among the righteous.
And from what they do, it will never go unappreciated, and Allah fully knows the conscious, pious people.
America is continuing its evolution in becoming a more tolerant nation because there are people among different religions and interfaith communities who advocate for the rights of all. America is not perfect. But as along as there are people of good will, Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, who follow the spirit of the Divine precepts of advocating for human dignity and discouraging compulsion and oppression in religion, America will be continue to move closer to realizing “a more perfect Union.”
In the speech that I just said, May Allah forgive me and forgive you, and the praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Audio of qasidah from the Mourides of Senegal at conference.
Audio of Qasidah Burdah at conference (Excellent).