It is not an exaggeration to say that the biggest challenge that confronts us collectively as Muslims can be summed up as a challenge of the formation of Muslim consciousness. Week after week, day in and day out, what we are actually struggling for is the shape and the content and the nature of Muslimconsciousness. As much as we believe in Islam as an objective truth in our hearts and in our intellects, what we do with this objective truth that we believe in is between us and God. But what we are duty-bound to perform is, other than our convictional state with God, and other than purifying, strengthening and solidifying that convictional state, is to look beyond ourselves and to contribute effectively to the shaping of the Muslim consciousness.
The world is complex. Causality is often imperceptible. The sum total of decisions that influence causation in life are often beyond our ability to monitor or calculate, and quite often even to understand. But what moves the world we live in is billions and billions of imperceptible, even sometimes subconscious acts that take place every moment of existence by numerous individuals around the world.
Consciousness shapes decisions. Consciousness affects acts and acts shape the reality of the world we live in. Consciousness is what decides what we perceive to be normal and acceptable in life. Consciousness is what decides what offends us, what makes us take exception. Consciousness affects what we consider to be consistent with our sense of dignity or our sense of honor. Consciousness decides what embarrasses us, and what affirms or what validates us. But beyond that, it is consciousness that will influence our choice of friends, the decision to study or not study, the decision whether to work hard or not work hard. Consciousness affects the decision of how we invest money, even when we do not notice how we invest money or what we spend money on. It affects our choice of words. It affects our choice of clothes. It affects our choice of everything. So we struggle to affect, shape and influence Muslim consciousness.
As simple and straightforward as this is, it also underscores how heavy our responsibility is, because in the struggle for the formation of consciousness, those who are aware that this indeed is what the struggle is about, are then obligated to rise to the occasion of God's charge. God reminds Muslims in Surah Al-Baqarah that the reason they as Muslims stand to inherit the legacy of the Prophet Abraham and the legacy of all the prophets (from a Muslim perspective, they are all prophets of God; we do not differentiate between them and we do not discriminate between them) is, as God puts it, that we are supposed to be an exemplar unto others. When God says, “You are the best of nations,” God is not affirming an empirical fact. God is affirming an aspirational statement. In other words, ‘You ought to be the best of nations.’ Best in what sense? The richest? The most powerful? The most bombastic? The funniest? Obviously not. We ought to be the best as a moral exemplar, and it is because of this position of being a moral exemplar that we can then start thinking about the obligation of testifying and witnessing for God.
Muslim consciousness: what fills their head? What one can say of the average Muslim? What shapes their nervous system? What constitutes what is acceptable from what is objectionable? How do they relate to the world around them? This is the struggle, and this is why whenever you stand on a podium and you choose to speak in an event marked by God in the Qur'an as the day of jumu’a - that Friday where we get together to remember God - we not only remember God just in simple silent prayer, but we remember God in the form of a nasiha - the word of counsel. If the word of counsel is not designed to shape consciousness, then what value is it? What use is this nasiha?
Let us pause for a second and see what this week yields. I will start out from an unusual point. An American man who is ethnically Uyghur from East Turkistan, the so-called Xinjiang Province in China, goes to Mecca wearing a T-shirt that reads, "Pray for the Uyghurs. Stop the genocide in China." He is promptly arrested by Saudi forces. This fellow, however, is lucky, not just because he is a US citizen, but because his son is active in American politics and has connections in American legislature. Through his contacts in the legislature, calls are placed to the State Department and the State Department contacts the Saudi government, and so this Uyghur Muslim is released after being arrested.
But what the story leaves out is that while this individual managed to be released because he is a US citizen with connections to American politicians, there are another 22 Uyghur Muslims who remained languishing in Saudi prisons who have no connections, no contacts, do not have the right citizenship; and their only crime is that they called attention to the genocide committed against Muslims in China.
How important is this event? How do you relate to this event? How does it influence your decisions in life? How does it shape your attitudes, your behaviors, your decisions? That depends on your consciousness. If you have a certain type of consciousness, it may deeply, thoroughly offend you; that someone visiting the holy sites, the sacred space of the Prophet, the place that is supposed to be the sanctuary for Muslims; that in a place like this, the consciousness being affirmed for Muslims is that they should mind their own business and ignore their fellow Muslims being thrown in concentration camps, being persecuted, being harvested for organs, being raped, being forcibly prevented from practicing Islam. In the heart of the Prophet, you are not allowed to say a word.
Remember, it is your consciousness. With a certain type of consciousness, you may be so outraged that you say as a matter of principle, "The holy sites are in the wrong hands and under the wrong control. As a matter of principle, I cannot rest until our holy sites are in more trustworthy, moral and ethical hands." But if you have a different consciousness, when you look at the story, you may shake your head and just go on unimpeded, unobstructed, unbothered.
This individual was freed not because of his dignity as a Muslim, not because of anything related to Islam, but because of connections with a superpower that the caretakers of the holy sites deemed as valuable. They seem not to care about anything in the world except what this superpower thinks of them. This person was released because of his connections and his American citizenship, while other Uyghurs have been arrested and handed over to the Chinese government by the Saudi government. Other Uyghurs continue to languish in prison with no hope of ever being released without charges, without trial, and even if there was a trial, we know that we could not trust it. That is because apparently, just asking Muslims to pray for their fellow Muslims in China is something that warrants, in the holy land of the Prophet, your life being destroyed forever.
Everything in our world is interconnected and interrelated. Our morality, vis-a-vis the holy sanctuary and who is in control of the holy sanctuary, is reflective and defining as to our morality vis-a-vis everything else. Human beings are either frivolous, dumb, ignorant, unintelligent and cowardly or they are not. You see, this event seamlessly connects to another reality in our Muslim life. The type of Islam that comes from those that control the holy sites is an Islam that celebrates apathy, that celebrates cowardliness, that celebrates frivolity.
If you want to sing and dance in a rock concert organized by the Crown Prince, you are celebrated and honored. If you want to attend a Nicki Minaj concert organized by Saudi leaders, you are fine. You are a good Muslim. But if you want to wear a T-shirt bringing attention to the plight of your fellow Muslims, you are a problematic Muslim. You are a problem. I will talk about this until I die.
All of us are aware that once upon a time, Muslims in Arab countries dreamt of freedom. What that freedom meant is something that is taken for granted all over the world. What that freedom meant is simply the right to choose who rules you, to change through the ballot box who rules you and to hold officials accountable; something that is taken for granted all over the world. But because this is the heartland of the Muslim world, because this is the Middle East, the entire world conspired to destroy the dreams of freedom in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain.
The most recent incident is in Sudan. The Sudanese, after hundreds if not thousands were killed and imprisoned and tortured, overthrew a corrupt military ruler, Al-Bashir. They dreamt of something that is taken for granted all over the world. They dream of choosing their own government and holding those who rule over them accountable. After massive demonstrations and a long struggle, they managed to strike an agreement with the military. The military would share power with a number of civilians, but the military would be in control for a period of time before handing over power to civilians. The military all around the Muslim world is a well-known instrument of oppression and despotism. The military all around the Muslim world is the most corrupt, the most uneducated, the most morally decrepit, yet they are invariably those who hold power and decide the fate of Muslims everywhere.
So what happens in Sudan? What happened is the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia sent a very clear message to the military, "Squash the dreams of democracy. Destroy the civilian movement and we will enrich you." What Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Israel once did in Egypt, they again sought to do in Sudan. Tunisia was another case in point. The revolution in Tunisia resulted in a civilian government, free elections and a nascent democracy. But of course, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt put pressure on Tunisia until the military staged a coup with a symbolic civilian at the helm and so the dreams of democracy quickly came to an end in Tunisia.
But with Sudan, we have another element. Right before Trump left power, the Trump administration did not think of Sudan as human beings, nor did they think of Sudan as an actual nation with dreams and aspirations. Instead, the Trump administration thought of Sudan as merely a trophy for Israel, and so the Trump administration told Sudan, "You want off the list of countries supporting terror? You want an end to American sanctions? Make peace with Israel. If you warm up to Israel, suddenly you will change from being supporters of terrorism to being kosher.” The Sudanese government obliged because they needed American aid and they needed an end to American sanctions.
But it gets even worse as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Israel chime in. Three weeks before the military staged a coup in Sudan, a not so secret Sudanese delegation visited Israel. Immediately after the coup, a secret delegation from the Mossad visits Sudan. This was reported in Haaretz, the Israeli paper, not even in Arabic or Islamic media. Haaretz freely admitted that Israel wanted to make peace with a corrupt authoritarian military, because Israel wanted the military to give it an intelligence base on the Red Sea. They knew that if there is a democratic government in Sudan, they would then have to deal with the Sudanese as human beings that have opinions, and therefore engage in debates and discussions.
We would rather have a corrupt Army officer in charge; one who we can control, one we can give money to, so that they can have homes in Switzerland and France. In return, they give us our intelligence bases on the Red Sea and do everything undercover, but dealing with elected governments? That has vetting, that has oversight, that has debates. Everything is interconnected. Yet there are Muslims who until today will say that the Trump administration was not that bad. Trump was not really an Islamophobe. This is the same administration that moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. This is the same administration that forcibly made Morocco and Sudan normalize relations with Israel. This is the same administration that cheats Muslims for a thoroughly racist paradigm. You only matter to the extent that those we care about benefit from you, and yet you have Muslims that say, "What is the problem? Trump is not really an Islamophobe, he is just a politician."
Why is it that people around the world have the natural expectation to have an opinion, to express that opinion, to care about something, to work, to serve the cause they care about, except when it comes to Muslims? There are Muslims not only who are apathetic about Trump and his empty Muslim rhetoric; there are Muslims who not only do not care about the crushing of freedom in many Muslim countries, like Sudan, but their consciousness is so deformed that they will go visit Mecca. Where will they stay in Mecca? They will stay in the Hilton - after the Hilton built hotels on land that once had mosques; mosques that the Chinese government destroyed. Although there are some organizations that called upon Muslims to boycott the Hilton, the boycott has been largely ineffective. Why? Because of Muslim consciousness.
If Muslim consciousness is so decrepit that not even the Hilton in Mecca is affected, then how do we know the best of nations? In what way do you bear witness? You do not even have the freedom to bear witness, because yourMullahs and your Imams have taught us that we can somehow bear witness without freedom, although God obligates us to bear witness. Somehow they have taught Muslims that we do not need to worry our little heads about it. The authoritarian rulers of Islam will bear witness for you. They will tell us what to believe and they will tell us as to what we should testify to and how we should testify. This is in the religion that established the principle of personal accountability before all else. When the Hilton sees there are no consequences. When the world sees that in every place where Muslims dreamt of freedom, it was crushed with no consequences. When the world learns that in the entire Middle East region, the only place that matters is Israel and the rest are just gap fillers and fodder.
Then we find that Muslim institutions even in the United States and Europe are filling the minds of Muslims with what? With talk about how we should have freedom in Mecca? With talk about how oppression has soiled the sanctity of the Prophet's sacred space? With talk about how the Sudanese, the Egyptians, the Tunisians all have a right to aspire for freedom? No, none of that. The same corruption fills these institutions, the same Muslim institutions that have banned someone like me, like the Islamic Center of Southern California. I will continue to name them and shame them until the day I leave this earth. They fill your head with what? Everything is interconnected.
An event that I just became aware of right before this khutbah speaks volumes. The European council has a division that is intended to worry about human rights standards in Europe. The division in Strasbourg, concerned about the rise of Islamophobia all over Europe, including the sharp increase last year yet again in attacks against Muslims and mosques, and the steep rise in anti-Muslim attacks, launched a campaign. The advertisement for the campaign says, "Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab. How boring would the world be if everyone looked the same? Celebrate diversity and respect hijab." That is all the campaign says; respect hijab.
Who is upset about this campaign? France, the same country whose government displayed pornographic cartoons insulting the Prophet. France used their spokesperson, a woman by the name of Sarah El-Hairy, a minister of State for Youth and Engagement and notably, a woman with an Arab-sounding name. This is typical colonialism. They bring a Muslim informant, a Muslim Sauftraitor, a Muslim sell out, and put them in a position to spew hate against their own kind. France objects to this anti-Muslim hate campaign, this anti-Islamophobia campaign, this “respect the hijab” campaign. They described it as shocking. Why? Because to them, the hijab is not a symbol of freedom but of submission. According to another right-wing French politician, Islam is the enemy of freedom. This campaign is the enemy of truth, and so France objects.
The European Convention for Human Rights has 47 members. Forty-seven states belong to that council. But because France objected to the anti-Islamophobic campaign, the campaign was immediately suspended. Although France has the largest Muslim minority; although France also experienced the largest jump in anti-Muslim attacks and attacks on places of worship; although France just last week announced that it will close down another seven mosques, the other 46 nations in Europe could not tell France, "Where are all your teachings about freedom of speech and human rights?" Because the campaign calls for respect for the hijab, France announced that this campaign is anti-French and must immediately stop, and indeed it is stopped. All the material was deleted.
Everything is interconnected. Why? Because France insulted the Prophet. When Muslims attempted to organize a campaign to boycott French products, those Muslims were arrested in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Because your leaders in Zaytuna and in the Islamic Center of Southern California did not tell you this is a worthy cause. But you must immediately boycott. Translate your consciousness into your purchasing power, boycott products made in France.
If there was a reaction by Muslims the way that there is a reaction by Jews when someone is being anti-Semitic, the French economy would have suffered so enormously that they would have quickly learned their lesson. Instead, when they insulted the Prophet, not only did Saudi Arabia oppose the boycott of France, but the president of Egypt flew to France to assure the French Prime Minister of Egypt’s support. There are plenty of Muslim Egyptians who continue to support Sisi. They even invented a myth that he flew to France to demand an apology, although Sisi never mentioned the apology and no apology was given.
Consciousness. How many Muslims? How many Muslim institutions? How many Muslim podiums? How many members speak about what matters? Where are the principles of freedom of speech? Where are the principles of human rights? France says that this campaign to respect hijab supports the Taliban in Afghanistan and ignores the plight of women in Afghanistan. France during the entire time Western powers have occupied Afghanistan, during the numerous human rights violations committed in Afghanistan, France did not object once. During the numerous sexual assaults committed by coalition forces against Afghan women, France did not object once.
When the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court wanted to launch an investigation into war crimes committed against Afghans by Western powers headed by the United States, the Trump administration threatened to bar the prosecutor and members of the International Criminal Court from entering the United States, to freeze their assets and even to arrest them and charge them criminally. Did a single Muslim voice talk about this? No. Did the scholars in Zaytuna say, "How dare Trump threaten to arrest and prosecute people who wanted to investigate war crimes under the Geneva Convention?" No, because Muslims are expected to be stupid and ignorant, just how they like to keep us. Because the Trump administration threatened the International Criminal Court, the pretrial chamber in the International Criminal Court dropped the investigation, ordered the prosecutor not to investigate further, and it was dropped.
France never objected to the war crimes committed in Afghanistan. France has committed and continues to commit sexual assault, human trafficking violations, torture and abduction through its peacekeeping forces throughout Africa: in Mali, Somalia, in Mauritania. Muslim leaders never talk about that. But if there is an anti-Islamophobia campaign, they take a firm stand. Why? Because they know Muslims do not matter. Because they know that your consciousness is empty. Because they know that you celebrate the likes of Hamza Yusuf and the likes of the Islamic Center of Southern California; that is what is in your brain and so you are zeros. That is why.
Another story. Human Rights Watch along with a number of other human rights organizations have meticulously documented the fact that after the Taliban took control, foreign aid offered to Afghanistan by the US, other Western countries, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates were all frozen. Many humanitarian aid organizations evacuated the country. As a result, many displaced Afghans starved and in order to eat, case after case was documented by Human Rights Watch of Afghan families selling their young girls to rich older men who buy them. Girls ranging from ages 12 to 14 are sold to men ranging from 50 to 70 years old.
Everyone knows what will happen to these girls. They will be raped. They will be forced into sexual slavery and labor. They will be used and abused as human beings and they will probably die early. Many of these girls, because they are already malnourished, have unusually small bodies. Even those who are preteens have not developed like normal kids their age because of malnourishment. Yet, their families, in order to settle debts or in order to earn money, sell these little girls off to men. These men make it clear: there are no visitations, no continued contact. "I am going to take your daughter, say farewell."
We have Muslim countries that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on soccer teams, and hundreds of millions of dollars on yachts, and hundreds of millions of dollars on paintings, and hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons; a single missile fired in Yemen that kills a whole load of civilians could feed one of these families for five years, if not more.
What occupies your mind? What circulates in your mind? What runs around in your intellect? What do you think about? What do you do with the money you make? You review your accounts. You pay your taxes. What are your thoughts? Why do you decide to listen to a lecture by Hamza Yusuf, or go to the Islamic Center of Southern California to listen to what they have to say? What occupies the space inside that intellect? Do you think of these girls? Do you lose sleep over these girls? Do you sit, supplicating to God and find yourself crying because you can imagine the rape that these girls will go through? Do you have a sense of responsibility for these little children? Are you an ‘angry’ Muslim or are you an immoral, apathetic, disgusting Muslim? What are you? This answers another question: What are we? Your answer to that first question determines the answer to what we are. Think about it before it is too late and you stand before God with no excuses. “But I enjoyed listening to this guy or that guy.” “No, but I thought Trump is not really an Islamophobe, that he was just a politician.” Think about it before the truth confronts you right in the face, the truth that you innately and intuitively know to be real, pure and honest.