An American Muslim’s prayer: Forget love, let’s just be civil (COMMENTARY)

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Hussein Rashid is a professor of Religion at Hofstra University, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Truman National Security Fellow. He works at the intersection of religion, art, and national identity. Photo by Ali Ansary

Hussein Rashid is a professor of Religion at Hofstra University, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Truman National Security Fellow. He works at the intersection of religion, art, and national identity. Photo by Ali Ansary

(RNS) As an American Muslim, I am acutely aware of the physical attacks, racial slurs, taunting and discrimination faced by my fellow believers.

Of course, it is not just Muslims who face increasing Islamophobia. It is also people who look like Muslims: Sikhs, Hindus and anyone with a brown complexion (despite the fact that many American Muslims are African-American).

Yet even with all this vitriol, I do not want your love.

Every time someone says “Let’s meet hate with love,” I applaud the sentiment.

At the same time, I know it means more work: I have to shovel out the hate thrown at me and fellow Muslims, and I have to make a cup of tea for you while I am shoveling.

Love is a nice sentiment. Real love, though, is work. I can have love in my heart, but to love someone is to know that person. It means having compassion and empathy, and being engaged. You and the person you love have to commit to each other.

But I do not know you enough to love you, and I do not want to have to get to know you that well. It is too much work.

I do appreciate the idea. I know it is coming from a good place. It just makes me carry the pressure of fixing someone else’s problem. It tires me.

Here’s the thing, though. If love is work, hate has to be work, too. People who hate me have to have an incredible reserve of energy to keep going, especially since they don’t know me. The only thing I can think of is that they hate themselves, and simply express it against me.

The funny thing is, Islamophobes hate me because I am a Muslim, and groups like the so-called Islamic State hate me because I am not the “right” type of Muslim. Maybe the two groups could just go on and hate each other, and leave me alone.

I do not want your love. I do not want your hate. It is too much work.

I am a New Yorker. I am proud of that. And here’s the secret to New Yorkers’ success: We are not rude. We just want to be left alone. Eight million New Yorkers get that worldview. We help people who drop their hats, or who need help opening a door. We give up our seats on the bus and the subway to people who need them more. We say “please” and “thank you.” Those are my New York values.

Hussein Rashid is a professor of Religion at Hofstra University, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Truman National Security Fellow. He works at the intersection of religion, art, and national identity. Photo by Ali Ansary

Hussein Rashid is a professor of religion at Hofstra University, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Truman National Security Fellow. He works at the intersection of religion, art and national identity. Photo by Ali Ansary

And we also value relationships. We take them seriously, and we know that they are something to be nurtured and cherished.

So, while I want people to stop hating me, I am not looking for someone to love me.

Maybe what we need is to have love in our hearts, and to recognize that love in action is called justice. Then, maybe, we can have liberty and justice for all.

(Hussein Rashid is a professor of religion at Hofstra University)

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  • samuel johnston

    Hi Rishid,
    I condemn any lack of civility, but you have not addresssed the source of the problem – fear. The “Clash of Civilizations” appears to be a sensible analysis, not just a matter of bad manners. I am unable to imagine an integration of Muslim values with Western ones. You know the list. Unless educated Muslim leaders, like yourself, commit to free speech, woman’s rights, and tolerance of atheism
    amd other religious deviations from the traditional teachings of Islam, I see no happy future for you here. I look at Europe and see little integration and much strife.
    I welcome your vision that would show me that I am wrong.

  • Jim

    This is fine. let the Moslems (not just one or two, but all of them) start beha ving in a civil manner, by not stezaling, raping, wheedling and begging and so forth. When they all begin to act civilized in a consistent manner, then we can reciprocate. If they can’t then we can also reciprocate and go after them.

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  • Diogenes

    I appreciate the point of view and sentiment of the author and recognize that his is not an anomalous perspective; however I question whether there is a sufficiently large number of his co-religionists of like mind to assuage the fears of other citizens. Islam like Christianity is not monolithic, it too has warring sects, heretics, fanatics and moderates. Atheist Max, and others of his ilk, will argue that the answer is to do away with religion altogether. This will never happen. Humanity is intrinsically religious by nature. While I’m certainly prepared to agree to disagree with Islamic moderates, I’m not prepared to accept the risk from religious homicidal maniacs of any persuasion.

  • Jack

    The author should know that the answer to hate isn’t whining. Every religious and ethnic group that came to America was initially the recipient of hate. The reason is that human beings often have a fear of the “other.”

    What the author also must realize is that the way to combat the hate is to dispel the fear-driven myths behind it.

    The myth that drives hate of any group is that most people in the group are dangerous.

    How do you combat it? By going out of your way, by word and deed, to show people a different picture.

    For Muslim Americans, the author knows how to do this. The Muslim American community must cooperate completely with law enforcement on a host of issues relating to radical Islamist terrorism. It is no secret that parts of that community have been reluctant to do so.

    Another effective counter against hate would be a God-bless-America national rally of Muslims supporting the war on terror.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    We need to cherish the gift of life.