Why Islamic schools should take off MLK Day

Category: Americas, World Affairs Values: Education Views: 3874

I did not get a day off for Martin Luther King's birthday. My banker did, as did my letter carrier. I, however, did not. In fact, I don't think I remember clearly when the last time I had his birthday off. We in the medical field do not take it off, except, of course, if you work in a county hospital. Yet, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the Islamic school where my daughter attends pre-school did not have a day off. It should not have been so.

All Islamic schools, except perhaps those established by African-American Muslims, have been built by Muslims who have immigrated to this country from abroad. They, even more than many African-Americans themselves, have benefited from the struggles of the civil rights movement. But for brave Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rosa Parks, and countless others, immigrant Muslims would not have been able to come to this country, establish themselves economically, live in peace and security, and build those mosques and Islamic schools. But for the brave Americans who faced the stinging spray of the fire hose, the ferocious bite of the police dog, and the blunt brutality of the officer's baton, American Muslims would not have advanced to the place in society in which they are today.

The same goes with me. But for those brave Americans (and the Grace of God), I would not been able to grow up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, a predominantly white and affluent area. I would not have been able to go to the elementary and secondary schools I attended. I would not have been able to attend Marquette University, a predominantly white and Catholic institution. I would not have been able to attend medical school. For everything that I am, after the Precious Lord, I have them to thank: those brave Americans who said "Enough!" and stood up for their rights. They stood up--endangering their lives in the process--and asked America to cash the "promissory note to which every American was to fall heir...a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," in the eloquent words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The discrimination that American Muslims have suffered in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11 is indeed shameful. The attacks on American mosques is indeed hurtful and horrible. The increased scrutiny to which American Muslims are now subject is indeed most unwelcome. Yet, they are not new. Legions before us have suffered as we have suffered. Nay, they have suffered worse. They have been murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. They have been attacked, lynched, raped, and pillaged for no other reason than their skin is brown and black.

Their houses of worship--Christian churches, not Muslim mosques--have been, not only attacked, but burned to the ground, sometimes with worshippers still inside. I have never had to sit at the back of a bus because of the color of my skin. I have never had to drink from a different water fountain because I was not white. I did not have to attend a "separate, but equal" school. I have never had to eat at a restaurant whose sign read "Coloreds Only." I have never had to pay a tax or take a test so I can exercise my constitutional right to vote. They did, however, and they struggled to end this injustice. We eat of the fruits of their struggle each and every day.

We, as American Muslims, have to acknowledge this. We, as American Muslims, would not be worthy of being called Servants of God if we did not acknowledge this. And we must be grateful. This does not mean we should thank every African-American we see on the street. No. Our gratitude must be manifested in our actions. Yes, we must stand up and defend the rights of American Muslims who have been wronged. But, as Senator Barack Obama said, "If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to [us], even if it's not [our] child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes [our lives] poorer, even if it's not [our] grandmother." An injustice committed anywhere in America must be an affront to American Muslims everywhere.

I hope and pray that my local Islamic school is in the minority, and other Islamic schools have taken the day off and, more importantly, told their students why they have taken the day off. Yet, a day without class is not the only way to commemorate this very important occasion. Many schools do not take the day off, but rather spend the day, or a substantial part of the day, talking about Dr. King, his legacy, and the civil rights movement. It is my hope and prayer that more Islamic schools do the same. It would send a very powerful message: American Muslims are not heedless of the enormous sacrifice of Dr. King and his contemporaries for equality and justice. More importantly, however, it is my hope and prayer that more Islamic schools study Dr. King and the civil rights movement and learn its many, many important lessons; for the good of the American Muslim community, and the good of the country.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.

His blog can be visited at http://drhassaballa.blogspot.com

  Category: Americas, World Affairs  Values: Education
Views: 3874

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Older Comments:
I was a participant in the civil rights movement who because of circumstances was compelled to fight against the injustice imposed on African-Americans and non-whites. I agree what the author has said and pray to Allah that Muslims seek to understand Dr. King's legacy and honor and respect all of the good things he did for our country. I hope in the future that Islamic Schools not only let the students out for Dr. King's holiday, but teach them the importance and significance of the civil rights movement.

..Now Muslims are called to promote Christianity? A pastor? In the same time when MLK was preaching his militant peace advocacy a great African-American Muslim was equally active! Malcolm X! Do the African-American community even mention him on Black History month? Or Muhammad Ali, another great African-American Muslim. If Islamic schools in US or North America for that matter want to incorporate some grass-roots traditions in celebrating heroes of the land, there I mentioned two! Why would the Muslim community celebrate MLK? Who would celebrate Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali? The fundamentalist black Christians? Don't take me wrong, I have all the respect toward MLK and a whole country, USA, gives him that, because he was a Christian. We don't need to worry about the Christians of not being recognized or respected. We need to take care of our own, who are forgotten, misrepresented, and played down on their importance. If the Islamic community do not revive the memory of these local heroes, who would? The Christian right? The Jewish lobby? The Republicans or the Democrats? Oh, please guys, snap out of Judeo-Christian colon suction activities.

What about Malik El-Shabazz who also spoke out and condemed all form of racisim and was not a mushrik, in his final days, according to his autobiography?

I think that the reasons for bringing MLK to such a status is because it reinforces the belief that people could bring change by protesting.

If that is the case what do you say, when the whole world protested against the Iraqi Occupation, and the bush administration still carried out their imperialistic agendas.

The people who are in power are happy with the way things are, change takes place when the people no longer allow the conditions, which permit the powerful to abuse and use violence against the powerless.

What I learned from MLK is how America is a police state, and still is.

Words like democracy, liberty are just words.

And the politicians are hypocrites!

In response to Khalil. I think we should take MLK off because islamically there is nothing wrong with it. For ex. we have our Independece Day off from our Indigenous country. America is our country and we should appreciate the history that lets us live here in peace. That is what I think and it is open to be challenged.

I agree with the author. The author has expressed some important points on the struggle of African Americans and to respect their heritage means to respect the presence of the minorities in America. Muslims of all people should take this article more seriously for Marthin Luther King has always supported peace against violence and is a great lesson since post 9/11 not only for muslims in America but for muslims around the globe.

I feel that muslims should learn from world history and world changes and use that to integrate with the rest of the humanity.

Our beloved prophet(saw) always reminded us to respect the rights of minorities and not only that but also support peace. That is what Martin Luther King always advocated for. The history of African American is part of humanity and we should do all that we can to support it.

The author is absolutely right in saying that without the struggle of African American for justice and rights the minorities living in America would not be enjoying the rights they have now and take it for granted aswell. Anyone who can not see this from his/her heart has not lived up to his/her conscious.

Peace for all.

A beautiful article with a very good point. African Americans in the past have done a lot to change the face of America. If it wasn't for their struggle, the aftermath for American Muslims would have been much more grim. May Allah overlook there sins and enter them into paradise. You must remember, m. jones and muayid, that Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson may have not been perfect, but they did do more good than evil, and it is Allah who is the king of judgement day, not you. So I suggest you show a little mercy to everyone so that Allah may be merciful to you, inshallah.

your insight is noble however misdirected. What does the Quran say about the greatest loosers on the day of judgement? Those who did good deeds but without tawheed, they will be like scattered ashes! I am A.American. I consider MLK's struggle to be very notworthy. You need to read about the Prophet (saw) and his struggle.His was and his companions was complete with tawheed.MLK had mistresses as did Jesse Jackson. They Believe Esa (asws) died on a cross and you know the rest. My next point, where do you find the practice of birthdays in the sunnah? Be careful what you innovate, you risk following the nasaarah! Allaah is the most powerful, if he wants harm to come to you none can avoid it and if he wishes good none can delay it. My brother dont believe everything you hear, do personnal research and put your trust in Allaah.

I am African American and I disagre, we should obey Allah and his prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and we only have two Eid's. Lets get back to the pure SUNNAH!!!!

I do not think that they should take a day off for this reason as they do not take a day off on the day of the death of the prophet peace be upon him. I think no one deserves to take a day off for except Allah the most gracious the most mercifull. I think islamic schools around the world should follow muslim holidays only (I.e. Eid al fitr and Eid al athha) and repect other faith or celebration. Many great men and great prophets did great things, and we should acknowledge the people who fought for human rights and equality but not confuse acknolegment and religion.

African "americans" a in dire/life saving need of pure DAWA from the UMMAH of MOHAMMED(s.a.w.s.)

I was once "trapped" in the slavemasters "religion":(polytheism,trinitarinism,drank,christians performing GAY marriages,catholic clergy rape etc.)until ALLAH made me REVERT back to ISLAM.

MLK had good intensions but as he said"my dream has become a nightmare"

When he was assinated by white Klan members the "christian" African "americans" lost focus and has been on a downward slide eversince with no forseeable moral,economic,spiritual,judicial,social positve rebound in the near or distant future.

Christianity does not have the moral or spiritual strength to solve the un-reversable moral DECADENCE of the AFRICAN "american""christian" community.

Just prove me wrong my brizol!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is just too much rascism in todays "version" of "christianity."

At a church where MLK celebrations were taking place there was european "image" of "jesus" in a Black church.

Islamic schools taking off would be a good DAWA.