It was a site full of promise: 30,000 Muslims gathered in Chicago to celebrate the progress made by the Ummah from across the American landscape. They celebrated a steady string of small victories that include the placing of a plastic crescent on the White House lawn, half-hearted apologies by Congressmen who are trying to conceal their openly racist remarks against Islam, and of course, the launching of the US Post Office's Eid stamp which officially 'honors' America's Muslim community.
"We are part of this country!" proclaimed a regiment of national Muslim leaders: "This proves we have been accepted and recognized by America." The idle flock that stood in their wake responded with half-choked Takabeer and frail clapping. Some of those in attendance wondered about who actually elected the new American Muslim leaders - and how this could be possible when the 55% of American Muslims were holding a separate conference just a few miles away in Chicago.
Two days after the party, the Federal Government sent 90 agents to raid and shut down the offices of InfoCom, a Muslim-owned internet hosting company. Among the websites that were shut down were those of the Holy Land Foundation, CAIR and Al Jazeera - sites that are known for helping the oppressed and speaking against injustices in America and elsewhere. The closure of InfoCom is part of a six year investigation that has tried unsuccessfully to prove a non-existent connection between the company's Muslim founders and the so-called 'Islamic terrorists' in Palestine.
The raid - which was conducted by agents from the FBI, Secret Service, INS, Customs Department and other Federal agencies - sends a clear message to Muslims across this country: enjoy your Islam as long as you limit it to stamps and songs. However, if you dare think about actively supporting Palestine, Kashmir or Chechnya, it won't be smiling faces from the US Postal Service that will give you a visit.
Why are Muslims subjected to this bigotry in spite of a (theoretical) just constitution? Unfortunately, the law occasionally fails to protect its citizens and is abused by powerful special interest groups. The pro-Israel lobby realizes that Zionism is losing its war against helpless teenagers - and the lobby is desperate to do anything it can to snuff out any flame of Muslim American support for the Palestinian cause: InfoCom and HLF are flames of such support.
Now is the time for American Muslims to really prove their worth : will we continue to celebrate symbolic events like the Eid stamp while remaining idle when it comes to the very life of Muslims and existence of Islam in America - or will we show the mettle of Muslim courage and stand up to this injustice? We must re-energize our activism and regulate them with two guiding principles: loyalty and unity.
First, our loyalty must be to none other than Allah and His Prophet. It is the command of Allah to follow all just laws without abdicating our loyalty to Allah in favor of those who are His enemies: "O ye who believe! take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport (5:57)" Let us recognize that Eid stamps and plastic crescents on the White House lawn are gestures of good faith - but they do not represent good faith in action. That will only happen when the US Government ceases its witch hunt against Muslim activists in America and reverses its support for oppressive regimes in Tel Aviv, Moscow and New Delhi.
Second, we must form a sincere national leadership for Muslims in America. It is a disgrace that there are no less than six major national Muslim organizations, each one having its own charter and convention. Muslim American leaders must hasten to unify the Ummah; they must earn legitimacy to their offices by involving all Muslims in all spheres of life - let us not have any more closed sessions, fractious infighting and elections that are restricted to small groups of self-appointed delegates.
Heed the words of the Quran: "And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favor on you....ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided. (3:103)"
Without absolute loyalty to Allah, the Most High and broad-based unity and freely elected leadership, Muslims in America and their organizations will be worth nothing more than the weight of a paper stamp.