Uthman Badar is the media spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia. You can follow him on Twitter @UthmanB
Uthman Badar writes an open letter to the American Imam who recited the Quran at the “Washington National Cathedral’s Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Service” for President Donald Trump.
Dear Imam Mohamed Hag Magid,
You partook in the Washington National Cathedral’s Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Service for Donald Trump on Saturday [https://goo.gl/zu3HwY]. Prayer services such as this are the quintessential example of modernity’s domestication of religion, which has rendered it an empty shell that does little more, in the political sphere, than offer token “blessings” for oppressive power. A lowly pastime for what otherwise had a sublime duty to stand up against oppression and injustice.
In justifying your participation you said: “One of the tasks of the religious leader is to convey the truth and the values of Islam to everyone, including those in power, to advocate for what is good, and to address those who misunderstand and have misconceptions about the beauty of Islam.”
In an interview with Don Lemon on CNN you said: “My model and my example is my Prophet (peace be upon him). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spoke to people he disagreed with him and people who spoke ill of him and he engaged them. And I do believe that for people to understand who we are, we have to engage with them.”
These are rather remarkable statements.
First, do you really think Donald Trump says and does what he does because he misunderstands Muslims? That if we join his ceremonies, playing the role of good, law-abiding, America-loving, socially-contributing Muslim citizen, he’ll finally understand us and change his ways? The vile piece of work known as Donald Trump has had no shortage of exposure to Muslims or information about Islam. He does what he does with knowledge of Islam, not out of any misunderstanding.
As for conveying the truth, well the truth is that Trump is a racist bigot who thrives on stoking fear and hatred. The truth is that the office he is being inaugurated to, and for whose prayer the service was held, is a source of violence, terror and misery all over the world. Which of these truths did you convey to President Trump?
We digress, however, by speaking of individuals. The issue, in the first instance, is not the individual. Swap Trump for Obama. Obama understands Islam, right? You’ve met Obama yourself. You’ve invited members of his administration to your centre. He’s had countless meetings and White House iftars and “engagement” with “good Muslims”, right? The result? Seventy-two bombs a day dropped on the Muslim world in 2016. Untold death and destruction inflicted over his two terms.
Earlier this year, the FBI – no less, that bastion of upright conduct and goodness! – awarded your centre their Director’s Community Leadership Award for 2015 for “building partnerships between law enforcement and the Muslim community to enhance mutual cooperation” [https://goo.gl/ZQxMMX]. As “engagement” of this sort has increased, Islamophobia has also evidently increased. Is this not a sufficient indication that the matter is not one of misunderstanding that needs to be corrected by engagement?
Indeed, the problem is not some individual and his or her misunderstanding. The problem is the system, the institutions of society and the ideology on which they stand. The problem is structural: the secular, liberal, capitalist system that weighs down on the world, enslaving the 99% to the 1%; the kufr and rebellion against Allah, the Exalted, which brings corruption to land and sea.
Meekly reciting some ayat of the Qur’an in a majlis of evil, which send an equivocal ambiguous message at best, is no way to address this. Such a deed – and I say this with all due respect knowing that your intention was thoroughly sincere – is incredibly shallow, reflective of a defeatist mentally. Indeed, such an act betrays the nobility of the Qur’an, the pure and noble scripture that deserves honour even in its propagation – one of the lessons from the opening ayat of Surat Abasa. This is the Sunnah of the noble Prophet – Allah bless him and grant him peace – which brings me to the second point.
Yes, the noble Prophet spoke to everyone. But what did he say? Yes, he engaged with Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab, but in what broader struggle and context? He spoke to them and engaged with them within the broader context of an intellectual and political struggle against them, their way of life and their oppression. A struggle that he initiated. He openly critiqued the dominant (kufr) ideology of the society. He explicitly called Quraysh and its leaders to adopt and implement Islam. He plainly spoke against their oppression. He did all this, knowing the consequences, and stood firm in the face of the persecution that followed.
He did not play the role of a prop who moves around, or rather, is moved around, within the agendas of others. He set the agenda and made others follow. He had them reacting because he went on the offensive with a new and fresh way of life, challenging their beliefs, social practices and way of life.
The beloved Prophet – Allah bless him and grant him peace – is far removed from a weak, defeatist approach of engaging kufr and its leaders. His noble seerah stands in stark contrast: open, explicit, confident, proactive, principled, noble, uncompromising, setting the agenda, initiating the struggle. When you do this, your engaging with someone like Trump is entirely different to when all of this is absent. In the latter case, you end up only furthering his nasty agenda. Providing a token cover for him. It’s a dangerous game.
You would have done much better leading the crowds on the streets protesting against Trump, conveying the truth in clear terms as is your duty.
Finally, I hope you can appreciate why young, aware Muslims all over the world increasingly feel distant from the politics of the religious leadership you typify. They see right through it. It’s trivial, despondent, and reactive. It’s all posturing with little to no substance. It has no roots in the model of politics expressed in the Qur’an and demonstrated by the noble Prophet. It’s an unworthy afterthought that seeks to fill the glaring gaps of that handmaiden of late modernity, secularised Islam.
Your brother, Uthman Badar
This open letter was cross-posted from Uthman Badar’s Facebook page.