Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

A Call to Arms— Old Post

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“A Call to Arms”

I have spent the last eight years of life trying to forge an identity. I had my phases; a brush of orthodoxy here, a touch of progressivism there, as well as months of general apathy about state of Muslim-Americans in particular, and the Muslim World in general. The one thing constant amongst all this however, was uneasiness, a desire to change our situation. Fundamentally, it was apprehension for the current state of things.

Throughout my good days and my worse days, the one verse that moved me, that to this day motivates me is when Allah says, “God will not change the situation of a people until they change it themselves”. This verse, out of all verses, liberated me from fatalist understandings of the Muslim condition. It liberated me from the false idea that humans cannot change their condition; that somehow what was happening to our people was a trial we would not get out of. Here God is saying however, don’t throw your hands up at me and give up, change things yourself.

It is this call to individual initiative that is most moving. The idea that a community of individuals dedicated to the cause can enact change in the world is what motivates me. For years, however, all I did was talk, read, write and argue. How, being this armchair-revolutionary, could I translate my ideas into actual action?

I had a chance to work on a local election after I graduated. I started out as an intern but slowly became more involved in the campaign. The candidate himself was an inspiring figure. Here was a person, fully Muslim and fully American, well educated (J.D./ MBA) and getting ready to embark on what one of our campaign workers would later refer to as “war”. And that is what it was. It was war, defined here as long periods of boredom with short, intermittent moments of pure terror.

I am writing this article for the people that have ideas, for the people who are fed up with the current state of things. If you want change, then get active. You have no right to complain if you are not out there seeking to change what you see as unjust. What my experience on this campaign has taught me is that in the end we are all just soldiers on the path. The work was not glamorous. For days it was mundane; most days are rather ordinary I have to say. But that was the practical experience I needed because even if that one-hour was ordinary, I accomplished more for our people, than I have in years of sitting and thinking.

The Prophet (SAW) said, “He who arises in the morning without the affairs of his Ummah in his thoughts is not from amongst us”. But our Prophet (SAW) would not be content with mere thoughts about our Ummah, about our people. If you say the Prophet (SAW) is your role model, then don’t only follow him in belief, in dress, in speech, but also follow him in action. He saw injustice, internalized it, sought out support and brought change to the Arabian Peninsula. You claim the follow the Prophet (SAW) but then don’t follow his struggle for social justice, for equality, for respect for his people?

Struggle is not in thought it is in action.

One of our Imams is thought to have said; “You seek the Garden, but do not tread its path. A ship cannot sail on dry land”. And how true this is. You say Muslims do not get respect. You say that Muslims in Palestine are being oppressed. You say that the Muslims have no voice in what occurs in American politics. Ask yourself why? Is it because of our numbers? We are at 7 million and growing in America; soon to outnumber the Jewish-American community. Is it because of our resources? We are one of the most educated and affluent minority groups in America; more educated than the average American of similar socio-economic status. What is it then? It is because we have not taken this Imam’s advice. You want a better life but you do not tread the path that will take you there. You want change, but you don’t act.

My experience on the campaign initially disheartened me about the nature of Muslim activism in America. Muslim in-activism was how I defined it. However, taking stock of things, I have seen Muslims raise substantial amount of funds, do the footwork that is needed in any grassroots campaign, put in hours for slave wages and less, all because they were moved to act. I have seen Muslims do great things, not in our intellectual history, but in our current reality. I am proud to say I have been part of a campaign that has shocked the racist regime that exists on my part of Long Island. I am proud to say I have been part of a campaign that has brought respect to our people; that has shown the greater community that Muslims too can lead and serve. I have been part of a campaign that says we are ready to take on the likes of Peter King and any other xenophobe that seeks to gain off the ridicule and persecution of Muslims.

Ask yourself then, what have you done to help our community? If you cannot come up with material change that you have brought into our communities, then get up, get out and get active. I don’t relate my experience as a product of the Messiah Complex that I may or may not have. I relate it because it is practical, day-to-day grunt work that our people need, not just theoretical hocus-pocus.

I end this long article with President Obama’s words that I am sure my friends are tired of hearing from me.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

– Sajed Bhandari

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Written by sajedbhandari

February 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm

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