The United States of America has been facing alot of soul-searching as of late. Barely six months into the rise of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, a number of scandals, mostly political in nature, have emerged. These scandals, firings, accusations and disputes fueled by Mr.Trump's excessive use of Twitter have now played there way into yet another situation, the reinvigoration of the White Nationalist movement, commonly now called the Alt-Right!
All of our readers are certainly aware of what has occured last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. The city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee had attracted the attention of both White Nationalists types [Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and their likes] and those who are concerned about the emergence of the Alt-Right. Clashes erupted between the groups, and in one encounter, a supporter of the Alt-right ( James Fields, Jr)
As I was traveling last week, I didn't get a chance to share thoughts on this tragedy right away. The subsequent comments from Mr.Trump added more fuel to the fire, and the ultimate ending of the political drama remains to be seen, however there were a number of things I did notice, which-along with other reasons- have prompted me to have a fresh look at the Qur'an on certain topics, some of which we share below.
Blood and Soil
The sincere and essentially good people who work and hope for the public good eventually earn the wrath of what scripture calls Hypocrites. It is seemingly a universal phenomenon, which would explain why we find hypocrisy and it's holders in the Qur'an, the Bible, and the writings and stories associated with the great teachers and philosophers.
One of the slogans shouted by the Alt-Right at their rallies is "Blood and Soil". It is a Nazi-era slogan. As disturbing as that is, it does tell us the thinking of these types of people, regardless of their skin color, religious label or political party [as there types appear in every group]. It tells us that they think everything of value is to be their property exclusively, that they oppose oppurtunities for others outside of their group, that they think their color or their family name or their passport is enough of a qualification for dominion! Thus, we find the same sorts of people in opposition to government programs meant to assist those with low or no income. They oppose positive reforms in the MEDICADE and health care, they oppose welfare and they oppose public housing!
One of the statements in the Qur'an informs us "They [i.e. the hypocrites] say : Spend not for those with the Messenger of God [Muhammad] , until they leave.." ( Q 63:7).
The hyporites in Muhammad's time ( upon whom be peace) had the same mentality as the hypocrites today. They hoped to make their perceived opponent leave the town [in this case, Madinah], that way they can grab the power they believe is really theirs.
It is a strange situation for a white nationalist movement to emerge. They have had power in this country, and much of the world, for generations. The African-American population is, at most, 15%.
Despite this, the hypocrites see themselves as under threat, and they will turn to the language an rhetoric of race, color and nation in order to bring support to their lust for power.
This is not restricted to one group of hypocrites, this seems to be a repeated pattern of behaviour, in both the bigger social realm and in more private, smaller arenas.
The Qur'an goes on to say " Yet, to God belongs the treasures of the Heavens and the Earth, however, the hypocrites do not understand this." ( Q 63:7).
The operative term here is that they "do not understand this" (Laa Yafqahoon). This tells us that the hypocrites's thinking, their world view, is very limited. It is petty and small-minded! They think small.
Returning to the action of James Fields, Jr, which has received public praise from some in that movement. He was willing to kill many people, and perhaps himself sacrifice his freedom and his very life, for protecting a statue dedicated to a rebellion which lost the war over 152 years ago!
Similarly, Neo-Nazis in an American context often wear Nazi- Germany era uniforms, armbands, and engage in Nazi military salutes, yet the only Nazi state in history [Under Adolph Hitler] lost the war, leading to the occupation and decimation of Germany, and it's main ideologue, Hitler, killed himself rather than live in a world in which he was defeated!
So these types are glorifying an evil past, a past that led to defeat and ruin. It reveals serious cognitive problems, and, from a religious perspective, souls which are deeply troubled, in need of repair.
Other characteristics mentioned in the Qur'an
* They have no firm or true commitments, they simply jump on the bandwagon they deem successful ( Q 9:42)
* They want credit for work they did not do, and are often well-spoken ( Q 9:44-47)
* Have a history of trouble making associated with them, and yet see themselves as clever ( 9:48-50)
*Often already have goodly amounts of money and power ( 9:55, 75, 77)
* Little or none spirituality in their lives, always complaining ( 9:78-79)
* Truly Narcissistic in their thinking ( 9:57-58)
Do not the above characteristics describe situation of those who are now using the language of race and nation? It gives us glimpses into the hearts of such people, particularly among those with some amounts of power and authority.
You will not replace us
In connection to the situation faced by Prophet Muhammad, we read " They [i.e. the hypocrites] are saying: " If we return to the town, the most honorable [i.e. superior, Al-a'azzu] will expel the inferior [Adhilla] from it." [Q 63:8]
So the hypocrites see themselves as better than those outside of their own circle, be it a circle of race, nation, or ideology! They think only for their own collective glory. This seems to explain the other slogan chanted by the Alt-right in Charlottesville. They chanted "You will not replace us".
Media commentators have said that this slogan was directed at the Jews, and, like the previously referenced cry, is a Nazi-era expression.
Yet, in the Charlottesville clashes, we saw that perhaps a majority of people protesting against the Alt-right were themselves white! I think that this is a good sign that while the nation is no doubt in serious and trying times, a goodly number of people, of all races and backrounds, recognize that bowing down to the petty-minded and provincial racists will spell disaster for the future. Thus, it is the view of this writer that the true object of that slogan is not simply Jewish people, but rather the wider American public [who reject these bygone deadly ideas].
The hypocrites see themselves as deserving of glory, respect, honor and appreciation ['Izzah]. They desire, to use an analogy, the pay, respect, and title of an important figure, yet have neither done the work, study, or even have the genuine desire that is a natural association with authentic efforts!
There is a difference between a medical doctor, trained to be a suregon, and a person who has done nothing more than search for a YOUTUBE video on surgeries! The latter cannot be respected as a suregon, simply because he has not conducted the necessary preliminaries to wear such a label.
God says " Honor [Al'Izzah] is the domain of God, His Messenger, and the people of faith, however, the hypocrites do not know this." ( Q 63:8)
Allah gives light and respect to whomsoever he wishes, but we see that His Sunnah [pattern] is to give to the deserving, the sincere and the hard-working.
The rhetoric of inferiority and superiority, hatred and scapegoating, can only go so far. It has a limited shelf-life.
This has not been an attempt to gain converts to Islam or even to propagate the Qur'an, rather this composition is a very limited attempt on my part to record thoughts on the societal discussions currently taking place. I do hope that it inspires the reader to see the language of race as indicitive of spiritual diseases that need to be addressed. I also hope that the reader can ponder on those in their own circles, to see who and what is healthy to maintain in their own lives. Scripture warns us to stay away from both the characteristics which breed hypocrisy as well as those who are hypocrites. Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. The Qur'an itself ( 9:66) says that there is an oppurtunity to reform.
People can change if God puts it into their hearts to change, and if they recognize that there is a problem and seek to rectify it. I have been blessed to meet many such people, people who had terrible thinking and even terrible actions in their past life, whose encounter with something better directed them to reform. The most important issue to address is that of correct thinking. If our thinking, our worldview or life philosophy is largely correct and healthy, our actions will likewise be a reflection of that. Yes, we can and will make mistakes, even if our foundational roots are sound, however those mistakes would be turned into virtures, in the sense that we seek to learn from them.
It can be said that we are speaking from a prejudiced viewpoint, with our exclusive references to the Qur'an as an authoritative source, but for those who don't believe in it as a text from The Divine Source, atleast consider that wisdom, guidance, help, can be found even in unexpected sources, thus, it is prudent to think about what it says.