on American-Islamic Relations, presented certain facts about both candidates and asked Muslims to do their research and be responsible citizens of this country. He asked the audience to hold politicians responsible for their promises and to always act smartly because of the amount of antiIslamic sentiment, the 73 legislations of anti-Sharia law and the misrepresentation of Muslims around the world. Awad said the Muslim population is greatly “disappointed” with the current administration because of racial and “religious profiling” of Muslims that is still seen in the U.S. from the media to airports and to work on a daily basis. The Muslim population greatly supported the Obama administration in the 2008 presidential elections, but it seemed like these votes were taken for granted, Awad said. He emphasized that Muslim Americans must clearly state their demands to the government and elected officials. As a civilized community, Muslims must question their leaders and make sure they are not just seen as commentators collaborating with the government but as playing an active role as citizens whose voices are heard.
Meeting of Faiths ISNA banquet highlights religious pluralism. By Aliya Karim
SNA’s Annual Interfaith Unity Banquet, coupled with the main session on “Faithful Alliances for the Public Good” addressed issues crucial to community building among various faiths at this year’s convention. At the banquet, guests from different faith traditions spoke about recent attacks on mosques and the Oak Creek shootings at a Sikh gurdwara. “Hate crimes are nothing less than an attack on those values and the pillars of our republic and the guarantors of our freedom. They erode our national well being,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “They seek to tear us apart from within, pitting American against American, fomenting violence and civil discord.” According to renowned historian Karen Armstrong, such acts are “failures of the religious spirit,” and people should not respond with similar actions. “It is important to put yourself in the position of other people and understand that those actions are in reaction to anger, fear and ignorance. We must understand that as human beings, we all behave badly,” Armstrong said. “How we take action is we remain compassionate every day.” Islamic Horizons November/December 2012
“It is not an option to stay at home,” Awad said. Muslims must make sure they have registered as voters, especially in states like Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio. Awad said Muslim Americans should look at this year’s elections with an open mind and look at what all the candidates have to offer. Azizah al-Hibri, a professor of law at the University of Richmond in Virginia and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, supported President Obama, insisting that Muslim Americans should not be afraid of the anti-Sharia legislations or the antiIslamic sentiment seen in the media and society today. “We need to change,” Al-Hibri said, emphasizing that Muslims should implement democratic principles in their lives. Al-Hibri said that Muslim Americans must fund and create think-tanks, build national leadership and “be committed to all of it.” At this moment people are fearful of Muslims, and that is why a council of wise people is needed. Al-Hibri also mentioned that the political process is Saperstein said there have been historical periods of tolerance between Muslims and Jews that society tends to forget. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, agreed that such tolerance must be practiced on a regular basis. “We are not just neighbors. That can be misinterpreted. We’re not just companions on a journey,” McCarrick said. “We’re brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters in God’s wonderful family […] and if we really believe it, then it affects the whole way we deal with each other.” During the evening banquet, Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, ISNA’s national director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, asked for a minute-long moment of silence for the Oak Creek, Wisc. victims. “As Muslim Americans and American Sikhs, we are resolved to fight against all forms of hate on all religions,” Syeed said. ISNA presented its Interfaith Unity Award to the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an organization representing 11 faith traditions that promotes dialogue, cooperation and advocacy for social and economic justice in the Washington, D.C. area. At the main session earlier that day, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) referenced the story of Prophet Muhammad and his Companions arriving in what was then known as Yathrib. He said the Prophet allowed others to practice their own faiths and had a constitution written up that “recognized the unity of God and therefore the unity of all humanity.” “We stand up here in line with that essential recognition of all of our right to be human and who we are,” Ellison said.