I tend to go off on tangents when it comes to social and political issues; not a lot of people can deal with my impassioned rants. My father, though, has always encouraged my interest in politics, which became apparent from a very young age. I interned with both CA Senator Elaine Alquist and Congressman Mike Honda over the course of my high school career. I started off my first semester at USF doing a fellowship with Organizing for America, President Obama’s grassroots re-election campaign. I’m also a Muslim that has been saying the Pledge of Allegiance since her preschool days, calling for the unity of “our Nation…under God.”
On Sept. 20, Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, told “Meet the Press” that Muslim Americans like me, could never become President of the United States because our faith’s tenets and our upbringing is not in line with the Constitution and American values. And he could only support a Muslim president if they openly denounce their faith, and become an “infidel”. Do tell me when the last time that was asked of a Christian candidate? Never.
So what is it about progress, equal opportunity, and justice that is un-Islamic? Since the 1930s, the Prophet Muhammad has been depicted as one of the eighteen greatest law-givers in history on the walls of the Supreme Court’s chambers. The Harvard School of Law has placed a verse from the Quranic chapter of al-Nisa (“The Women”), on a wall facing its main entrance, as one of the greatest articulations of justice:
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that ye do.” (Qur’an 4:135)
Thomas Jefferson, one of our very own Founding Fathers, owned at least one Qur’an, currently housed in the Library of Congress, and it is said that it shaped his ideas on religious tolerance and maybe even influenced the content of the American Constitution.
The preamble of the U.S. Constitution calls for a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquility, common defence, general welfare, liberty, and posterity. The Qur’an defines justice: “Verily God enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed.” (Qur’an 16:91) Domestic tranquility is addressed in the values of marriage, women’s rights, and even in issues of race, by both the Prophet and the Qur’an. The Prophet said, “The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them,” and these rights included rights to their own financial property and their partner’s, the right to divorce, the right to vote and run for election, and much more. General welfare was laid down long before there was even a declaration of human rights drafted by the United Nations: “It is provided for thee that thou wilt not hunger therein, nor wilt thou be naked, and that thou wilt not thirst therein, nor wilt thou be exposed to the sun.” (Qur’an 20:119-20)
Islamic values, ethics, and commandments are as American as apple pie, if you ask me. There’s a reason the faith has transcended cultural boundaries and has 1.6 billion practicing members. Islam is a living faith, just as the Constitution is a living document. It is a religion that recognizes the dignity of every individual, acknowledges the right to everyone’s own practice and actions, and if examined through a contextual lens, provides an accurate framework for a humane and just society. Ben Carson would be lucky to see a Muslim president in office in his lifetime who embraces both the tenets of the religion and the egalitarian document that is the American constitution.