My American Jihad

Category: Americas, Featured, Life & Society Topics: American Muslims, Jihad Views: 3632
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I am one of you. But I am also one of "them." What do I mean? When I am told that this is a world at war, a war between the great civilizations and religions of the earth, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. "What about me?" I ask. As a practicing Muslim and a registered voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, am I, through the combination of my faith and my citizenship, an inherent contradiction?

I think not. Both the Qu'ran and the Constitution teach ideals of peace, justice and compassion, ideals that command my love, and my belief. Each of these texts, one the heart of my religion, the other that of my country, demand a constant struggle to do what is right.

I choose the word "struggle" very deliberately, for its connotations of turmoil and tribulation, both internal and external. The word for struggle in Arabic, in the language of my faith, is jihad. It is a word that has been corrupted and misinterpreted, both by those who do and do not claim to be Muslims, and we saw last fall, to our great national and personal loss, the results of this corruption. Jihad, in its truest and purest form, the form to which all Muslims aspire, is the determination to do right, to do justice even against your own interests. It is an individual struggle for personal moral behavior. Especially today, it is a struggle that exists on many levels: self-purification and awareness, public service and social justice. On a global scale, it is a struggle involving people of all ages, colors, and creeds, for control of the Big Decisions: not only who controls what piece of land, but more importantly who gets medicine, who can eat.

So where is our jihad, where is our struggle as we move on from Harvard's sheltering wall? Worthy adversaries are innumerable. We can turn our struggle to the war against oppression, poverty, disease .. But before looking outward, we must first look inward. Before deciding what we are against, we must decide what we are for. The only way to define the inner moral force that drives our struggle is to learn through action - to get our hands dirty. To strive to see the world as it sees itself, testing the boundaries of what we think we know, and how we know it. To combine our academic search for truth with a sense of empathy for our fellow humanity - to seek Veritas in Humanitas.

On one level it's simple: everyone wants the same things that we do. The true American Dream is a universal dream, and it is more than a set of materialistic aspirations. It is the power and opportunity to shape one's own life: to house and feed a family with security and dignity, and to practice your faith in peace. This is our American Jihad.

As a Muslim, and as an American, I am commanded to stand up for the protection of life and liberty, to serve the poor and the weak, to celebrate the diversity of humankind. There is no contradiction. Not for me, and not for anyone, of any combination of faith, culture and nationality, who believes in a community of the human spirit.

Some of this is a mantra that has been spoken at myriad graduations. Worth repeating, perhaps, but nothing new. What is new was taught us by last fall's tragedy and carnage. The status quo is shattered, and we have now been forced to engage more closely the troubles of this world. We are in a privileged position to shape a more just, peaceful, and honorable global society.

So I ask again: where is our jihad? Whether on our way to an investment bank in New York, or to Sierra Leone to work with orphans, Harvard graduates have a responsibility to leave their mark on the world. So let us struggle, and let us make our mark. And I hope and pray that our children, our grandchildren, and those who take our seats in the years to come, will have cause to be proud.


Zayed Yasin delivered this speech at Harvard University's commencement ceremony on June 6, 2002. Its original title, "My American Jihad," sparked a protest from students angry that the speech did not condemn the terrorist attacks of September 11. The title was changed to "Of Faith and Citizenship: My American Jihad," but Mr. Yasin did not change the content of his speech.


  Category: Americas, Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: American Muslims, Jihad
Views: 3632

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Older Comments:
USAMA FROM KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA said:
It is very nice.That is the true form of JIHAD that, allah asked us to carry out, not to kill poor souls.
2005-02-27

ZAHEEDA SAJAN FROM USA said:
This was a great speech. If Muslim youth continue in the same way, I'm sure we can make a difference in the way people think and remove misconceptions about the word Jihad.
2003-01-28

SADIA FROM USA said:
Wow, an excellent speech! Zayed is a great role model for teenagers like me who are growing in America. Keep up the good work!! We need more young, courageous people like Br. Zayed.
2002-12-03

FATIMA FROM UK said:
It is always easier for the rich to have principles and morals. For a potentially rich, young man from Harvard with a bright future, there isn't much of a Jihad.

Orphans in Kosovo, Muslim women enduring the 'women are intellectually deficient' and 'admonish your women' phrases in the Koran, know much more about Jihad than most Muslim men will ever know. What about the ordinary fakir in Pakistan or Bangladesh whose daughter is on the verge of becoming a prostitute? Does he not go through Jihad everyday?

The world doesn't need morality lessons from a kid who probably never has gone without brand name clothes for a day.
2002-09-24

MUZAFFAR THAKUR FROM KUWAIT said:
really excellent speech....
zayed explain to western communitty the real meaning of "JIHAD'
2002-06-18

KAREN HELSING FROM USA said:
I read your comments on the American Jihad with great interest. We Christians agree the true Jihad is NOT against people, it's against the evil that dwells in high places, against Satan, the evil that dwells within the human heart. There are groups that distort Christianity into bigotry and violence just as there are groups that do this with Islam.3700 Forest Avenue, Brookfield, IL 60513 USA. I wish to hear from you.
2002-06-18

JUNAID KHAN said:
excellent speech.
2002-06-17

ALI HAIDER FROM INDIA said:
well done Zayed
it makes us feel proud to have scholors like you
who represent Islam and jihad in their truest
form.
May Allah bless you with more knowledge of Quran.
ali
2002-06-17

A. IQBAL AHMED FROM INDIA said:
For all those who have been thinking that 'Muslim American' is an oxymoron, Janab Zayed Yasin's speech should be surprising & informative. Hats off to him for clearly stating what 'Jihad'(the most misunderstood word in the history of humankind) exactly means.
The world Muslim community needs more emminent persons such as Janab Yasin to analyse & present Islam in the contemporary sense to peoples of different nations & religions.
I appreciate his courage to speak the truth. I pray to Allah that he be blessed with a healthy & long life so that he could effectively work for the cause of the entire humanity(which happens to be the basic spirit of Islam). I will feel honoured if I get a personal reply from Janab Zayed Yasin.
2002-06-17

ALI AZMI FROM USA said:
Me and my family are very proud of you. May Allah bless you, may Allah strengthen your believe.
Good job keep up the good work. May Allah produce more students like you in this country & world.
Jazakallah
Ali......
2002-06-17

AMRI FATMI FROM INDONESIA said:
Assalamualaikum
I'm really aproud of yasin's action.The moslem is the lover of peace and liberty.The brotherhood in islam is stronger than the citizenship relation.
Please speak about islam.. . and let them to know what islam is....
Wassalam
Your brother
2002-06-16

SR.DEENA ALBIZU FROM USA said:
Assalam Alaikum Br.
There are many of us that struggles between many
things and only Allah and our faith keep us standing strong. I decided to convert last year
being a mother of two,married to a christian,raised on a christian society and a member of the USA forces for many years. It is a real jihad to balance all these aspects thats why I say only with Allah's help.
Salam,Sr.Deena
2002-06-16

ATIAT LAMPTEY FROM USA said:
As Salaamu Alaikum,
Al Hamdulillah, I am glad he did not change his speech it was very good and very moving.
May Allah guide you in what you do and keep you holding fast to Allah and His Prophet (saws)
2002-06-16

WHOKNOWS? FROM AFGHANISTAN said:
The Muslim Ummah as a whole is at war here and yet you do not seem to see the light. Muslims in North America are still daydreaming and giving the wrong interpretations of Jihad when our Muslim brothers back home are facing the wrath of the so-called "new world" order with "smart bombs" and chemical warfare. Need i not remind you all that the scholar Ghazali said that teh weakest of faith during war is indeed action. So keep wearing your Ralph Lauren and Hilfiger clothing while our Mujahid brothers in Afghanistan and Phillistine are undergoing the real Jihad. And remember that you're either with us or with the terrorists.
2002-06-15

ASLAM RANA FROM USA said:
May GOD bless you for the knowledge to present this message to the EDUCATORS. Now my request to those who read my comments: Please send this article to your local Newspapers and/or Radio stations. Take the message to local Churches, Schools and Universities. Of course you have to get permission from the Author.
2002-06-15

PATRICIA P.BAKER FROM USA,TEXAS said:
AS_SALAAM_ALAIKUM

My bro. Zayed,

thank you for your courage and your strength, and for your concious effort to speak out for the many muslim americans in this country. may ALLAH'S
mercy and grace be with you always.

AS SALAAM ALAIKUM my brother in the deen.
2002-06-14

AMAL FROM USA said:
Your article brings me great hope and healing.
2002-06-14

AARION FAROOQ ABU BAKKAH FROM UNITED STATES said:
I admire your ability to stand and deliver a message to educate those that believe they have all the knowledge needed in such a vastly complex world. For so many Harvard educated persons to walk blindly by listening to a television broadcast and fail to investigate the true meaning the the word Jihad is not surprising. As a law student, an African American, and a Muslim (in order of how I am viewed), I come into contact with people that assume before they investigate. This is the problem with the closed minded American who fears what they do not understand or even attempt to comprehend. Again, I applaud your effort.
2002-06-14

NOUSHEEN FROM USA said:
Great I was very pleased to read your speech, may Allah Reward you for doing good in life, take care your sister in islam ,
2002-06-14

CONSTANCE D. SHABAZZ FROM U.S.A. said:
As-Salaam-Alaikum

Dear Bro.Zayed,

As a Muslim who sat in the rain and listened to your inspiring speech, I would like to say on the behalf of many people both Muslim and non-Muslim...thank you. You dared to set the record straight about the true meaning of jihad. As we all struggle to do what is right we can ill afford to let detractors define us, what our religion is and means in its purest sense. True Muslims are not terrorists or pacifists. We wage a struggle for what is right every day with the greatest struggle being the one within.
Thank you for daring to express that despite the threats....you truly showed the courage and sense of peace that Allah grants true Believers who stand up for what is right.

Salaam

Constance D. Shabazz
Harvard Univ. KSG Grad 2002
2002-06-14

IMAM SALAHUDDIN M. MUHAMMAD FROM USA said:
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH TA'ALA I THINK THAT THE BROTHER DID A BEAUTIFUL JOB EXPRESSING HIS THOUGHTS AS A DIGNIFIED HUMAN BEING EXEMPLIFYING THE LIFE OF OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMMAD [SAWS]HIS WORD WERE VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING AND INSPIRING. I PRAY THAT ALLAH TA'ALA CONTINUES TO PROTECT AND GUIDE OUR BROTHER IN THE RIGHT WAY. AMEEN
2002-06-14

ABBAS FROM SWE said:
Great speech
2002-06-13

SYED ARIF ALI FROM USA said:
The Speech was inspirational and motivated. I sincerely hope and pray that brother Yasin will stand for his words for the rest of his life.

May Allah guide him and us all in every each step of our lives. Amin!
2002-06-13

EMAN said:
Awsome speech, and more power to him!!!
2002-06-12

ASH FROM SOUTH AFRICA said:
Mr Yasin
I am .... speechless. I can't find the right words to express the joy, sadness and understanding your speach has embodied. All I can say is simply: Well done on a superb job that not only has intelligence, simple understanding but comes from the heart with unusual wisdom. You have been able to not only express but understand the true concept of 'Jihad' and not misconstrue it the way the Bin Ladens or the Bush's of the world have. The very fact that these are influential people with so little understanding of such important concepts that use and abuse it to their gain saddens me, but to know young, emerging well educated students like you will be the 'builders' of the future gives me a new found hope and joy. I suppose true ignorance can be seen in the fact that just by hearing the original title to your speach without even knowing its contents, sparked so much of controversy. Therefore while it depresses and angers me that their are lots of people like Bin Laden out there to exploit the true religion of Islam, it consoles and makes me proud to know that their are educated people like you who with intelligence and honor, be propergating it peacefully in the path that was meant to be. Once again I would like to say 'thank you' and congratulations on a job well done. May the Almighty bless you on every step you take for the good of the world, its people and the peaceful religion of Islam.
2002-06-12

SALIM ASLAM FROM SINGAPORE said:
I brave speech spoken from the heart. I thank you Bro Yasin for eloquently voicing the whispers in many a muslim heart around the world.
2002-06-12

NAZLI HARITH FROM MALAYSIA said:
Praise to Allah, Congratulations to you. Hope and pray that Allah grant me and all of us brave heart and wisdom too.
2002-06-12

NAZMUL ISLAM FROM USA said:
You did a great job brother.
Almighty Allah give all of us wisdom so that we all can discharge our universal responsibilities.
2002-06-11

SAMINA FROM USA said:
I AM THOROUGHLY IMPRESSED BY YOUR SPEECH
2002-06-11

SISTER IN ISLAM FROM USA said:
As'salaamu alaikum,

This speech was really extraordinary, Mashaa Allah. At troubling times like these, it conveyed a true and postive message not only about the term "jihad," but also about Islam in general. It is our duty, as Muslims, especially when living in a country such as the United States, where Islam is misunderstood by so many, to take advantage and give da'wah to our neighbors, our peers, and people we communicate with in our every day lives. This brother did this and his speech can be read and heard by people all over the world now. May he be rewarded by Allah, inshaa Allah ta'ala, for his struggle to do right, Ameen. May Allah also give us strength, in struggling to do what is right, for His sake, Ameen.
2002-06-11

YASIN R. ALI FROM USA said:
ONE MUST LISTEN AND READ THIS AGAIN,,,AND NOT MISINTREPETING THE ACTUAL AND REAL MEANING OF WHAT MUSLIMS ARE AND WHAT ESPECIALLY THE BORN HERE AMERICAN MUSLIMS DO AND FEEL. I AM AN AMERICAN ISMAILI MUSLIM AND I COMMEND HIS COURAGE AND DESIRE TO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE FOR ALL OF US.AS MATURE ADULTS AND INTELLECTUALS SHOULD THINK ALIKE AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE BETTERMENT FOR ALL OF US, NO MATTER WHERE WE GO.
2002-06-11

ALI BENHAMIDA FROM USA said:
Proud to be a MUSLIM
2002-06-10

FATIMAH FROM USA said:
Assalamualaikum Zayed,
It was a very wise and impressive speech that you gave at the commencement. I am thrilled at the fact that such informed and educated young men like u are in the United States who will carry the torch of Islam through words and example. May Allah shower upon you his blessings and present u with even bigger and greater oppurtunities to spread the word of Islam.
My email add is [email protected]. If u will kindly reply to this email I would like to have a discussion with u in regards to certain topics on jihad and religion that might interest u. In Allah's care.
2002-06-10

AHMED FROM AUSTRALIYA said:
assalamu alaykum wa raxmatulah
i read your comment it was wonderful you explanation of word jihad was ammazing and i want to encourage you and all other muslims nothing wrong to talk the truth .truth is the only way make understanding all mankind and all diferent faiths. the only god can save his creation
2002-06-10

KARIMA CHIU FROM HONG KONG said:
Great to be Allah! Fear Allah but not human or others. Brother, thanks for your courage to deliver this speech and strongly stand for the truth. May Allah reward your deed!
2002-06-10

AZAD ISLAM FROM POTSDAM, NY said:
As a young graduate in a highly politicized climate, Yasin delivered a speech that hints at the struggle of a Muslim American to cope with anti-islamic attitudes/rhetoric of influencial quarters in US and his inner peace of the Abrahamic faith. Fellow Americans must learn more to see the truth in what the vast majority of Muslims do and practice, and that includes here in the USA, too. My compliments to Yasin.
2002-06-09

AYESHA LAHER FROM CANADA said:
Dear Brother Zayed,

May you continue to be a shining example of a Muslim who truly understands and describes Jihad, as Muslims throughout the world understand the meaning of the word.

The Western media together with their Muslim apologists (for political expediency) have deliberately corrupted the meaning of the word to deflect from the fact that their struggle is not to improve themselves morally and ethically but it is only about how they can acquire more material wealth and power at the expense of others.

More fundamentally, they can never grasp the true meaning of Jihad for Muslims who know that their Jihad is not for a better life in this temporal world but it is striving only so that they can hold their heads up high with pride and dignity when they meet with Allah Subhantuala and stand in the shadow of our beloved Nabi Muhammud Mustapha (sallahu alaihiwassalam) on the day of Judgement and can answer Yes, Yes, Yes to the question put by Allah Subhantuala, "Did you engage in Jihad during your life time on Earth".

No one and nothing will stop Muslims from engaging in Jihad the true meaning that you brother Ziyad ascribe to it, not the demonized version trumpeted by the Bush/Blair/Putin cabal and by the Muslim mornachists and apologists that they protect. The cabal MAY be able to protect these mornachists and apologists in this world, which cabal will they call upon for protection in the Hereafter?


Brother Ziyad and all Muslims engaged in Jihad, may Allah Subhantuala always shower his blessings and mercy upon you.

Ayesha Laher
2002-06-09

MOHAMMED SAIF UDDIN FROM BANGLADESH said:
May ALLAH bless you.I want to congratulate Mr Yasin for a wonderful and great and timely speech. He spoke the truth and talks about what is true.
2002-06-09

KARIMAH RONNFELDT FROM UNITED STATES said:
Mashallah, May Allah reward you for such a well thought out speech. Thank You for having the courage to speak your mind and to tell the truth. If more Muslims shed light on the truth, I think it will help our situation. May Allah protect you in the future and May He guide us all to the straight path of Islam!
2002-06-09

ZAFAR ANSAR FROM SWEDEN said:
Excellent speech. Title would not have been changed.
2002-06-09

SAMIA MANSOUR FROM US said:
I want to congratulate Mr Yasin for a wonderful speech. He spoke the truth and talks about what is important and what needs to be done. Allah blesses you always for your good deeds.

Sister S. Mansour
2002-06-09

KEVIN BARRETT BILALI FROM USA said:
The young brother's speech was very well written. It made me think of my personal moral struggle in the face of the Western culture in which I was raised.

I noticed that he wrote "as a Muslim, and as an American..." Islam comes first. And therein lies the struggle. Being in an American society and being muslim first and foremost in the face of the lower jihad being acted upon by our many of our brothers.

I feel also the struggle between these two worlds. But Islam is first. When Sept 11 happened, I had not been to the masjid for several months. The next Juma, I went. I needed to be with my people. I was not afraid of threats or being killed for my religion. It is our way. It is our beliefs.

Others may have hidden. But Zayid has expressed the sentiments of those of us who live in a difficult world but have Islam deep within our hearts.

Salaam wa rahmatuallah.
2002-06-09

LEILA FROM CANADA said:
Wow that waz a great speech Zayed Yasin ....."My american jihad" waz a great title.To explain Jihad in such a country would be hard but to make jihad within oneself is the important part! People need to know what jihad is, not what the consequences are. Jihad is a word of good not something people can use to describe a horrible act. Jazak allau kair Zayed

regards
your sister in islam~~ Leila Ahmed~~
2002-06-09

SOFIA SHUMS FROM USA said:
A Hemingway of nonfiction! I'm not sure if the young man will accept this as a compliment but his style, in its simplicity and eloquence, reminds me of Hemingway.

Muslims will need to excel everywhere, globally, for many years down the road, in order to live down 9/11 backlash against them. Therefore, as a Muslim, I wish to thank and applaud Zayed M. Yasin's effort and success.
2002-06-09

ALIFAH FROM USA said:
Young Brother, your speech was wonderful. You give us all something to think about. May Allah Bless you in the career/human path you have chosen.

Your mother and father should write a book on parenting.
2002-06-09

SAIRA FROM USA said:
Masha'allah. You are truly a Muslim American role model for young and old. May Allah(swt)reward you for your courage and compassion. I pray my children will become as courageous and compassionate as you. Jazakuallah.
2002-06-08

SYED F. QADRI FROM USA (LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE BRAVE!) said:
MashAllah! It was a great speech!
2002-06-08

AMANI ELDIFFRAWI FROM CA, USA said:
Br.Yasin, Thats a wonderful,strong speech. Thank you for your courage and may ALLAH bless you. I am very proud of you.
2002-06-08

ASMAHAN FROM USA said:
I want to congratuale Mr. Yasin on his speech.
It was a very good speech that spoke of the good of all humanity and it should that is what true islam is all about.
i really don't understand how anyone would protest such a speech!
Only the zionist protestted it because they do not want the american people to see the good side of muslims. I do beleive that is why all the protest was about, nothing to do with America.
asmahan


















2002-06-08

SHARFUDDIN M FROM USA said:
Thanks for posting the speech on your website. I had heard about it in the media but wasn't able to hear the whole speech.
2002-06-08

JEHAD FROM USA said:
We do need 10 million Zayed Yasins in this world.
I am indebeted to you ,Zayed, & to the Mother and Father that raised you to be a great spirit to the community of nations.

Micheala
2002-06-08

SHABBIR BALA FROM USA said:
Dear Zayed:
Thanks for your courage to do what was right. Thanks for not changing the words of your speech. It was wrong for them to make you change the title. I heard Daniel Pipes on Nightline and his anti-Muslim and pro-Israel bias showed. He is an ignorant person with no knowledge of Islam. Good luck in the future and may Allah bless you.

Sincerely,

Shabbir Bala
2002-06-08

RAFATH WAHEED FROM US said:
Congratulations brother Yasin for an eloquent and an inspiring speech. I am so very proud of you. I am a mother myself and I can visualize how proud your parents must be. I am sure Harvard is very fortunate to have a student of your calibre and depth and vision. I wish you all the best in your struggle, your Jihad for a better tomorrow. You are a role model for so many youths who direction today more than ever before. May Allah always protect you and fulfill all your endeavours.
2002-06-08