In many khutbahs, I focus on the theme of Muslim awareness of their own realities and situations in life. I focus on shedding light on the challenges that confront us collectively as Muslims. It would be simply immoral and sinful to ignore the plight of fellow Muslims, to ignore what Muslims in China are going through, or what the Rohingyas are going through. It would be immoral to focus on topics that soothe the feelings of Muslims that reside in the U.S., who reside in relative luxury and ease. Even the most needy of Muslims in the U.S. cannot compare their plight to that of a Muslim in China or in a Palestinian refugee camp.
I talk about these issues because of the basic principles of morality and Islamic ethics. Problems Muslims confront only seem to escalate and become more exasperated as time goes by. And, God has promised us repeatedly that either we enjoin what is good and stand against what is wrong, that we embody the principle of the Muslim ummah that is worthy of carrying God’s covenant, or God will replace us with others fit to carry God’s covenant, and that they will not be like us.
It is core to Islam that there are no chosen people by virtue of their genealogy or lineage; you are chosen on the basis of your actions. Regardless of how honored your lineage, race or ethnicity may be in your view, if you do not rise up to what God demands of you in terms of virtue, you are not chosen. In fact, you can be chosen for exactly the opposite thing: God’s wrath instead of God’s blessings.
A further point I’d like to touch on is the role of a Muslim who takes the podium of the Prophet; every jumu’a podium is the podium of the Prophet. When the Prophet was not acting in his capacity as a messenger, he was acting in his only other capacity, his capacity as a teacher. The Prophet either spoke to communicate the literal revelation of God, or he taught people. This is wonderfully captured when God reminds the Prophet, “Remind them, for your role is to remind them. In fact, that is your core role. You don’t control them. You don’t have hegemonic power over them, and you’re not supposed to have that power over them.” It is a reminder of precisely what a teacher is.
If you have nothing to remind your people of, then you are not a teacher. The core role of a teacher is someone who spends a great deal of time either specializing in specific core topics, or learning about a number of topics to then serve as a bridge to these topics towards a target audience, whether the audience is students in a school or people sitting in front of you at a sermon. Whatever it is, your core role is that of an instructor, a reminder. Your role is not to exercise choices for people, it is not to manipulate people, to take away people’s autonomy or act on behalf of people, and your role is not to, in any way, mitigate the accountability of others or yourself. Your role is to remind and teach, and that was the core role the Prophet played.
We often forget that what the Prophet relied on with his companions was simple speech. He’d communicate, and either people accepted his words and made a commitment to change the course of their life on the basis of how they related to these words, or they would completely reject these words and walk away.
Every podium in Islam, since the Prophet died, has been symbolically the podium of the Prophet. Because that podium was once occupied by a great man, when you step into that podium, you attempt to fulfill a grand role that you cannot ever meet. But you at least owe that podium a diligent search for the truth, for justice, for what is educational, and for superior knowledge. You must exceed the knowledge base achieved by other human beings.
If you are unable to exceed that, then you should not step on that podium. It is not a podium for fraternal conversations, chats or friendly gatherings in a social setting. It is an instructional podium. A teaching role. And, if you are accepting a teaching role, you must teach. And, if you teach, there is a moral obligation that bonds you to your students. Those that sit before your podium, by definition, become your students. You have a moral obligation to not convey to them misleading information. Doing so may put you, as a teacher, in the position of someone who has committed malpractice, someone who has not exercised due diligence and who has failed their duties as a teacher.
What type of things could put you in that position? To give you an example from Islamic history, if a Mongol army is about to invade the city of Baghdad, and the imam gets up on the podium to talk about the specifics of how to perform wudhu, that is absolutely malpractice. You owe those who put trust in you an obligation to teach diligently, to testify honestly and testify in light of what is most serious in their life as Muslims.
I say this because the first thing that an ummah does before it crumbles is it becomes confused about its relationship to the word; the word being the secret of creation, revelation. The word is the way that God created and engineered everything. The word is what differentiates the rational, accountable human being from beings that are not rational. When an ummah loses its relationship to the word so that it is no longer guided by principled ideas, but by simple impulses and reactive modes, it is only a matter of time before that ummah disintegrates.
This is exactly what is so dangerous, for instance, among those in the U.S. who go around saying, “fake news.” The closer we get to becoming a nation that does not respect facts, whether social, scientific, ethical or political, the closer we as a nation get to completely disintegrating. In fact, if someone wanted the U.S. destroyed, they would encourage such a distrust of speech and facts. Long before that ever happened to the U.S., that happened to Muslims. It happened the first time when we wanted to say no, but instead, started saying “Insha’Allah.” We wanted to escape moral responsibility; to avoid a commitment to justice. We have turned statements meant to show our belief in God’s justice into statements we utter when we want to legitimate powerlessness, cowardliness and absolute lack of principle. It happened when we started avoiding our responsibility towards standing up for a principle by declaring, ‘We’ll meet in the Hereafter, and in the Hereafter, I’m going to prosecute my case in front of you.’ Did it ever occur to you that if you fail to defend a just cause on this earth, perhaps God will not give you the opportunity to defend that cause in the Hereafter, because you betrayed the cause by failing it on Earth?
This attitude is so rampant in the Muslim world. Every time Muslims confront injustice, I can predict that they are going to utter their trust in God, but only to escape responsibility, not because it is a statement of commitment to God’s truth or belief in God’s aid.
When the podiums of the Prophet fail, the Muslim ummah fails. For example, on the podiums of the Prophet, when imams tried to convince Muslims that Napoleon had converted to Islam and they should make du’a for Napolean, the Muslim ummah failed; either that imam was too ignorant to French history to know that the French were not there to befriend any Muslims, rather were there to slaughter, or the imam knew and was a liar. In either case, they failed the podium of the Prophet. When the imams got up on the podium to convince Palestinians not to worry about Jewish migration to Palestine, and tried to convince them to cooperate with British authorities, the podium of the Prophet failed, and the ummah fails. When the imams got on the podium to convince Muslims that Islam was a socialist religion so they should not rebel against their socialist or Marxist governments, and that they should not be troubled by the political oppression and injustice committed in Muslim countries, the podium of the Prophet failed and the Muslim ummah fails. The podium of the Prophet is a sanctified position. If you keep it clean, you keep the ummah clean. If you allow it to be sullied and allow it to be desecrated, you have destroyed the entire ummah.
The responsibility of the podium of the Prophet is a very heavy one, which often presents me with the question of what truly should be, first and foremost, on the jumu’a podium. And immediately after, I ask the interlinked question: If this should be first and foremost, then where is it in the jumu’as of the ummah?
Recently, the president of France gave a speech in France, announcing new laws that specifically target French Muslims, to “force Muslims in France to assimilate.” Of course, President Macron does not talk about the disgusting racism of the French against Turks, Arabs and Somalis in France. He does not address it as a problem, nor does he address the racism that forces Muslims in France into low paying jobs and into ghettos. I lived in France, and I can tell you that being able to rent an apartment as an Arab was a problem in Paris. As an Arab, I had to pay an exaggerated price just to get white landlords to rent to me. These ghettos are direct products of French racism, but Macron didn't talk about that; instead he blames the victims for their condition. To him, Muslims are living in ghettos not because of French racism, but because Muslims don't want to assimilate, and because Islam has a problem with the world and the world has a problem with Islam.
Macron gave a disturbing speech about how Islam is going through a crisis, that Islam has not adapted itself to the demands of modernity and that Islam is a religion that trends towards exclusivism, insularity and separateness. The remarkable thing is that Macron says things that are identical to what you would expect to read from Daniel Pipes, Stephen Emerson, Robert Spencer, or any of the Islamophobes that fill the West; and the Muslim world is in complete silence. There is complete and utter silence from the so-called servant of the two holy sites, the great representative of Muslims, Al-Saud. How about the great bastion of tolerance, the Emirates, that is so outraged by religious intolerance that they invite the Pope and build a huge church in the middle of Abu Dhabi? Not a word. When it comes to religious intolerance against Muslims, the Emirate is not interested. They are only interested if those being persecuted are Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus. If you want to persecute Muslims, the Emirate has no problem.
There is complete silence all over the Muslim world. The only voice that spoke up was the president of Turkey, who described what the French President said as insolent and rude. But podiums of the Prophet from all over – at least mosques in the West – remain silent. Here is the French president talking about targeting the 68 million Muslims in France – wanting to create further restrictions on wearing hijab and on Islamic schools that teach the Quran, doing so in an atmosphere of rampant Islamophobia – and we remain silent. Much of the language that Macron used is identical to the language used by Anders Breivik in his manifesto before he committed his infamous massacre, yet the Muslim world is absolutely silent.
How many Muslims know that just this past year, there were over 1,000 hate crimes committed in Paris alone against Muslim institutions and organizations? Shortly after Macron made his speech, Baraka City, a major Muslim NGO that provides humanitarian relief to millions of Muslims around the world – which, incidentally, Macron's government has investigated repeatedly for links with terrorism and found nothing – was raided, its furniture destroyed, and the couple who run Baraka City arrested and mistreated.
But there is a more core problem. Macron went on about how Islam doesn't understand French values of liberty, egality and fraternity, as well as how Islam is a danger to civilized values like secularism. How many khutbahs talk about the fact that this same French government has made the rapprochements towards Christianity in France, that are unprecedented in the history of France since the French Revolution? The French Revolution was rabidly anti-Catholic, so for many years, Catholicism and the French government had nothing to do with one another. At the same time that Macron is attacking Islam, he is bringing France closer to Christianity than ever before. How many people realize that this same French government, that is talking about secularism within its borders, has built and is running more Christian schools in the Muslim world than any other Western government? France claims to be the bastion of secularism, yet there is hardly a Muslim country that does not have a Christian French school being run on its soil.
France established Christian schools in every country they colonized. They are there not to teach colonized people democracy and liberty, they are there to teach colonized people Christianity. How many former colonies were taught democracy and liberty by the French? None. How many were taught the French language? All. How many were given a taste for French fashions? All. How many were inculcated with doubts towards their own faith, like Islam? All. How many of these countries had French Catholicism spread in them? All.
What is even more remarkable than what the French President said was that, shortly thereafter, the Mufti of Egypt, following the orders of the Egyptian government, said that of second and third generation Muslims in the West, half of them belong to ISIS and that all of them are heavily influenced by the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood. Demonizing Muslims in the West instead of responding to Macron's racism, sends out a message that is loud and clear: Muslims in the West are a source of danger not to be trusted.
The message uttered by the Mufti of Egypt mirrors the message given by the president of Egypt when he was visiting the U.S. and warned Western governments against Islamic centers in the West, saying, ‘Don't let political correctness fool you, monitor these Islamic centers very carefully, because they can all be a source of radicalism and extremism. Don't trust Muslims.’ This happens to mirror what the ambassador of the U.A.E. said repeatedly in Europe and in the U.S. It also happens to be exactly what Netanyahu says about Muslims in the West, which happens to be identical to what Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes have been saying about Muslims in the West for decades.
Why should we know about all of this? Why can't we go on living our lives oblivious, so that the podium of the Prophet would not be troubled? Well, here is a concrete result. The mosque of Sultan Sulaiman Atiq in Bosnia was vandalized for the millionth time. In an article detailing the rise in Serbian nationalism, Serbian and Croatian triumphalism and Islamophobia, it is remarkable that Bosnian Muslims are anticipating the coming of another genocide.
The first Bosnian genocide brought the creation of rape camps, where thousands of Muslim women were raped systematically and regularly for months on end. Islamophobia, after creating the genocide of the Rohingyas in Burma, after creating the concentration camps in China, after giving rise to Trump and the betrayal of Palestinians, is once again laying the grounds for yet another genocide against Bosnian Muslims. It will happen; it is only a matter of time. Islamophobia also gave rise to Muhammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and to Mohamed bin Zayed in the Emirates. Islamophobia is the demon in our bed, yet we want to continue on talking about our nice little topics.
Recently, the authoritarian government of Cuba drafted a statement in support of the Chinese government and its policies towards Chinese Muslims. At this point, it is not just the Uyghur Muslims, but the Kazakhs and all other Muslims that are now being thrown in concentration camps and dying in the thousands. Here is the list of Muslim countries that signed Cuba's statements supporting the genocide against Muslims in China: Bahrain, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the U.A.E. and Yemen.
If you are a conscientious Muslim that actually cares about the podium of the Prophet, first, urge your imams to speak about these issues. Second, if you are a conscientious Muslim, demand that your imams have a clear and unequivocal position towards all the governments that I just read, because these governments are exactly like the governments that supported Nazi Germany.