Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

September 9, 2007

Can a Muslim Be a Good American?

I'm sure there are plenty of people who have debunked this already, but I'll add my take. I received a forwarded e-mail that asked this question and proposed a set of ridiculous assertions pointing to an answer of "no." This came from a family member and normally I just ignore his messages. I couldn't bite my tongue on this one though.

Simply put, I have known too many good Muslims not to respond to the many misconceptions and incorrect assertions in the points that follow.

If we are to "get along" with the rest of the world, and if we are to have internal harmony in our nation, then we must understand each other. We must recognize our shared "humanity" — that, genetically speaking, an "Anglo Saxon" American is little more different from a Saudi citizen than from his own neighbor. One may have straight brown hair and the next curly black hair. One may refer to the divine with the word "God" and the next with the word "al-Lah" (which simply translates from Arabic as "the God").

That we have diverse appearance, diverse languages — do these make us essentially different in the sight of God? I do not claim to speak for God, but I think that all those who have done so (including Christ) would say that we are equal in the sight of God. Is this not what His own brother meant when he spoke of favoritism?

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
- James 2:1-4

Now I will look at each point below, briefly:

> Subject: FW: CAN A MUSLIM BE A GOOD AMERICAN?
>
> * Better think about this long and hard.....*
>
> Interesting questions for the Muslim Community to discuss & for research on our part also.
>
> I forwarded this question to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years .
> The following is his forwarded reply:
>
> Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon
> God of Arabia. Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by
> his Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256)

Allegiance to God did not prevent Ronald Reagan from being a good American. Why should it prevent a Muslim from being a good American? Before Muhammad came the Arabs worshipped many gods (just as the ancient Jews did), one of which was both the moon god and the most high deity — al-Lah. Similarly, YHWY of the Old Testament is thought by many to originally have been a god of storms and war, who was adopted by the ancient Israelites and elevated to the status of the most important deity, then to the status of the only deity. Very similar to the story of Allah.

Verse 256 of the second Surah (chapter) of the Qur'an says nothing of the sort. To the contrary, it says "Let there be no compulsion in religion." And in many places the Qur'an speaks well of Jews and Christians, saying that are to be befriended, sheltered, and protected by the Muslims.

> Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam
> and the Quran (Koran). Geographically - no. Because his
> allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

The five pillars of Islam are, essentially:

1. That there is only one God and Muhammad is His messenger
2. That believers should pray 5 times a day
3. Believers must give alms to the poor
4. Fasting in repentance of sin
5. Pilgrimage

I see nothing in these five that is incompatible with being a "good American."

I now live in Minnesota, and yet I still love Texas and look fondly to it. No, not in my prayers as such, but Texas is my land. Does that make it impossible for me to be a "good Minnesotan?" Of course not! There is no incompatibility between the two. To speak on more religious terms — if a man's allegiance and love is to God, towards whom he turns in prayer at night and at various times during the day, can he still be a good husband? Of course he can! The two things do not conflict at all.

Likewise with a Muslim, who looks toward Mecca during his prayers in order to focus his thoughts on God — which has absolutely nothing to do with his ability to love and serve his country if he is in the United States.

> Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make
> friends with Christians or Jews. Politically - no. Because he must submit
> to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and
> Destruction of America, the great Satan.

Again, this is patently false. The Qur'an encourages friendship with Christians and Jews. Now, it is true that in this day and age there is a lot of confusion and anger among the members of all three of these religions, which makes it difficult for them to have friendship with each other. But none of these religions teaches that their members cannot be friends with people of other faiths.

It is clearly true that there are some mullahs who teach "annihilation and destruction" of Israel and America. That is inexcusable. I have also heard of Christian ministers and leaders — to whose authority their congregations are often expected to submit — say that we should just destroy the Middle East (nuke 'em — turn that sand into glass). That is equally inexcusable, and hardly represents Jesus's ethos of "turning the other cheek." This kind of talk mutually reinforces the hatred that is sadly building between Christians and Muslims.

> Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and
> beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34 ).

In the same chapter, verse 4 tells Muslims that they should not marry more than 4 wives, and if they cannot treat them with equal justice, then only one. The Bible itself is less clear about the limits to polygamy.

In verse 34, the famous "Rodwell translation" (Rodwell was a Christian priest) translates the verse to say that men may "scourge" their wives. In my Qur'an that was translated by a Muslim, it says "chastise" instead of scourge. As I understand it, both are possible translations of the word, but "chastise"makes more sense — as the verse also speaks of admonishing the wife and sleeping in a separate bed if there is disagreement.

Beating one's wife was very common in the ancient Middle East. Is there anything in the Bible that prevents it? In fact I have heard of a small movement of Christians here in the U.S. who advocate beating of wives (but not the reverse). The practice is known as "Christian Domestic Discipline."Can these people be good Americans?

> Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept the American
> Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the
> Bible to be corrupt.

True — many Muslims believe that the Bible is not the exact word of God, the way that most Christians believe this. But they believe that Christianity is a divine religion, that Christ is a divine messenger of God. And I have never heard of a Muslim disagreeing with the "principles" of the Bible — so why should he not be able to accept the Constitution?

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson studied the Qur'an? It was studied to understand the excellence of its system of laws. And then he helped write the Constitution.

> Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow
> freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist.
> Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Please see the quote above — no compulsion in religion.

Palestine has a democracy, albeit not a well-functioning one. Indonesia has an elected president. Pakistan did before the military took over. Turkey has a democratically elected president. Iran had a democracy for most of the 20th century — until the U.S. government helped overthrow it and re-instate a kingdom (which was later overthrown by the Islamic Revolution). These are just countries I can think of off the top of my head.

Today it is sadly true that a number of governments in Islamic countries do repress religious freedom. Saudia Arabia is probably the prime example. Iran and Egypt in particular suppress the members of my own religion (Baha'i Faith), though not other religions. But in most Islamic countries Christians, Jews, and other religionists live freely.

> Spiritually - no Because when we declare "one nation under God," the
> Christians God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as
> heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Qurans 99 excellent
> names.

Why is it a problem that Allah is not referred to as the "heavenly father?" One of the 99 names is "The Loving, The Kind One." This statement about spirituality makes no logical sense.

> *And Braack Hussein Obama, a Muslim, wants to be our President...*

Barack Obama is actually a devout Christian (United Church of Christ), who has been invited to speak at large evangelical churches such as Rick Warren's. Now, I'm not advocating for or against Obama for President — I'm just correcting the above falsehood.