by Imam Aslam Abdullah, Jamia Masjid, Member of the Interfaith Council, Las Vegas
From the Board – Recognizing Goodness Regardless of the Rhetoric
There, in the small curvy streets of the hill town Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, a few girls are being introduced to other residents of a small house. They have one thing in common. Until they met, they were all living like slaves bought by their owners in India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. An elderly woman was instrumental in buying them back from the owners and bringing them to the house she had prepared from her own money. Many of these girls came from Islamic and Hindu backgrounds.
No, that woman is not a Nepalese. Nor is she a Muslim or a Hindu. She is a white American woman who moved to Nepal to help these enslaved women buy their freedom. Once the girls are freed, she teaches them skills that will help them stand on their own feet financially. She instills dignity in them and teaches them to live in harmony with others. She encourages them to continue to follow their faiths.
Then there is this young man who was deployed in Pakistan in 2005 to assist the earthquake victims. Subsequently, he formed the Community Disaster and Relief Services and decided to settle in Pakistan to provide relief to deserving communities in Pakistan. With over 100 employees and hundreds of volunteers, this young man has devoted his life to educate the poor, the neglected, and disadvantaged children so that they face the future challenges of life effectively. He left his well-settled life in the U.S. to live in conditions with which many upper class rich Pakistanis would not identify.
Then in Las Vegas, there are these ten or twelve young men and women who take time from their busy professional lives and go to Chennai, India, to live among young lepers whom they clean with their own hands and to whom they teach music so that they can take pride in their own abilities despite the stigma that society attaches to them.
There are hundreds of Americans who have volunteered their lives and resources to help the poor and the neglected mostly in the Muslim world. They are unknown to Muslims with the exception of their beneficiaries.
Then there is this group of immigrants who moved from Pakistan or India or Bangladesh to this country in the late 1960s and made a life for themselves on the basis of hard work and integrity. Now they are spending their resources in building schools in various smaller towns of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to help educate the poor and the needy.
They do this because they believe in goodness and they believe in serving humanity. Perhaps the verse of the Quran, “You are a people whose task is to serve and secure the good of people,” applies to them most appropriately. Perhaps they are the ones who deserve at least silent thanks from each one of us as they do not seek to be recognized for what they do.
They are there serving people regardless of 9/11 or 7/7 or violence that often permeates Pakistan and Iraq and other parts of the world. They are a sign from God that good and evil are not equal, and if someone is doing wrong, good should always be given the priority.
Many Muslims blame America for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Muslims criticize America for drone attacks. But Muslims are not the only ones who feel this way. Millions of Americans have made their rejection of the militaristic adventures in the past and continue to do so. But these Americans do not punish fellow Americans for the mistakes in foreign policy. They never abandon their commitment to the good.
Can’t we Muslims be more rational, realistic, and fair in our assessment of what the citizens of this country have been doing in different parts of the word? Can’t we Muslims be appreciative of them and remember them in our prayers for the good they are contributing, and can’t we Muslims join their hands to strengthen their work rather than being critical of America?
This is the America we Muslims rarely talk about in our institutions and homes. This is not how Muslim groups and parties in the Muslim world introduce America to their followers. They pick on everything that is negative in America while ignoring their own ills.
Don’t you think that these Americans deserve a salute from all of us? Don’t you think that we are blessed to be among good people, full of good actions regardless of the rhetoric that tries to divide and incite us?