By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except those who have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy! (103:1-3)
In 1776 Tipu Sultan, the Braveheart of India was fighting the Imperial rule of Britain. When he came to learn about the Independence of United States from clutches of the same force he was fighting, he gave tribute to this independence with a twenty-one-gun salute. A freedom movement that upholds the value of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness is cherished and honored by humankind from time immemorial.
The Declaration of Independence states 'all men are created equal,' but that was not the case in 1776. Two hundred and forty two years later, the Declaration is yet to be fully absorbed into the heartlands of America. The 242nd year of freedom must see beyond the mundane rituals of afternoon barbecues and evening fireworks.
The lonely Native American female warrior as the statue of freedom atop the Capitol Dome was casted in bronze by a Foundry that housed enslaved labor. The house that proclaims to home the liberty was built by slaves who were paid only in the coins of pain. As we embrace the dawn of a new century we must set afoot a new and whole of ourselves. The following few quotes from individuals and institutions reflect the varied human mosaic of the land of the United States.
We are living in a time marked by speeches entitled "Children First" but more children are currently suffering from lethal diseases, grinding poverty, poor nutrition than ever before. We debate to approve $90,000 for building a classroom but we do not blink to approve roughly $200,000 for a mile of new sewer line!" (Governor of Maryland)
Some 80 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 are made to work for low wages in often dangerous conditions to supply inexpensive products for the affluent. Textile workers in a Bangladesh factory that makes clothes for Wal-mart are paid between 9 and 20 an hour - far less than the countries' legal 33 minimum wage - seven days a week. (National Labor Committee)
1.3 billion people live on less than $1 a day; 3 billion live on under $2 a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to power. The human pain of poverty is all around us. (World Bank)
The deaths of more than a million Iraqi children is an acceptable price to pay in order to maintain US interests in the region, said the last US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
For the sake of brevity, we did not discuss Hiroshima, Vietnam, Civil Rights Struggle and others.
The Islamic concept of independence is simple, " to free oneself from the vices and to inculcate virtues ." Collectively, as a society, we are commanded to strive and establish good and forbid evil. Pursuing independence from the shackles of evil is a mandate and not a choice. Gaining independence from the yoke of oppression in this world is not only necessary but also imperative. The True independence lies in absolute servitude to the Creator. We pray that we be guided and blessed to think objectively of our individual and institutional triumphs. May Allah bless those who are striving for independence from the oppressed individuals, institutions and nations in the societies that we live in.
Let us not fight for a penny when a fortune is owed as our debt of independence to those who were enslaved and camped in an exit less home, called America.
( Original date of publication of the article: July 4, 2001 )