Do You Own Your Muslim Identity?
When it comes to integration, the religion of Islam encourages it. As long as any other identity, whether it's American, Arab, any other form, does not clash with the principles and the values of these three things: servitude, submission and taqwa.
As long as these are kept as the governing identity, Islam says you can integrate. Indeed, what Islam encourages is what? It mandates exemplary citizenship. The Qur'an states that by wearing this identity with pride and honour, you are able to come forward wherever, living in the world, and present a good picture of the religion and yourself.
You can be indeed a beacon of light, an example for people to look at when it comes to the principles that human beings all share: peace, coexistence, love, tolerance. Islam says when you adopt this particular identity, you are able to indeed move forward in your journey, present yourself in the best possible way.
Yet at the same time, it discourages the idea of assimilation. Meaning what? There is a difference between integration and assimilation. We should not sacrifice our own values in order to reach the satisfaction of others. What do you mean? I come to the mosque, I come to the Jami'a, to the center. I am a Muslim. I am praying. I say salam to others, a sister, wears hijab. I go to school, I go to my office.
The Muslim identity, unfortunately, sometimes is left is left at home, is left at the Jami'a. So, for instance, sisters may take their hijab lightly. Brothers, when it comes to speaking to others, they are afraid of expressing their Islamicness, their Islamic background, their Muslim identity.
And we see this present in many shapes of forms. Yet today we are told there are some inspirational stories out there, which highlight to us how we should be proud of our identity. And Allah, Tabaraka wa Ta'ala would bless us, and would give us strength and success, if we stand there and wear the badge of the religion of Islam with pride and honour.
How? You've heard of the story of the lady by the name of Na'ima in Belgium, 2005. She wears hijab, and she works in a factory, packaging food. What happened was that the manager of the factory in Belgium, in Europe, receives a letter. The letter says that we will attack this particular factory and later on, the letter contains a bullet. If you do not stop employing ladies wearing hijab, then your death is soon. He was threatened with death. This lady hears about it. She is struggling with the notion. What does she do? Does she come and say to her manager, you know what? I'm going to take my hijab off, for you. It's okay, you know, I have to fit in. No, she doesn't!
She stands by her principles. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says: "man kana ma'a Allah, kan Allahu ma'aah", if you support the cause of Allah, Allah will be with you. It might be an examination, it might be a difficult position that you may go through, but rest assured, you will attain success at the end. Look at this story as an example.
Her boss says to her, don't worry. She says, what do you mean? Her boss says to her, Keep wearing the hijab. Notice, that sometimes non-Muslims adhere to these principles. She keeps wearing the hijab. He collects 20000 signatures from the city itself and from the company to demonstrate what? Support for this lady Na'ima, when it comes to wearing the hijab. And to stand against the extremists who are threatening this particular institution.
Later on, the King because this particular new episode gets publicity. The King of Belgium is traveling in the area, hears about this, visits the same factory and stands next to this Na'ima and the boss and addresses the people of Belgium and says we are against discrimination. People are free to wear this particular dress code and to express their religion. Can you imagine? That Allah, Tabaraka wa Ta'ala indeed, grands success and prosperity to those who are firm and steadfast.
Likewise, I remember one of my friends, and this is a true story, that sometimes you and I may go through. He worked in a particular office and it so happens that every time when it comes to salah, he goes to a particular corner and he prays, he performs his salah. One day his manager saw him. He says, what are you doing? He said, I am performing my salah. He said, you should not do so here. I don't like religious expressions in the office, you must do it outside. He said, I can't do it outside. The weather doesn't help. There's no mosque or place of worship close by. He said, Take it or leave it. You are not allowed to perform any religious form or worship here in the office. What did this man do? He said, thank you very much, I resign. He said, what? You will resign? He said, yes. My religion is important to me. If you do not allow me to practice it, then I cannot work here anymore.
He himself tells me what did he say? He said, I placed my resignation on Friday. He said the manager said, Fine, you can go. He said, By Monday I received an offer from a company, and the salary was much, much bigger and the job was much better [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa Aali Muhammad].
These are demonstrations and examples that we are presented with, when it comes to feeling a sense of pride and at the same time confidence in our belief in our Muslim identity, in coming forward with this notion. Because sometimes we assess ourselves with regards to where we come from, with regards to our families, there is no problem when it comes to cultural tendencies. Sometimes culture has a lot of value, has a lot of meaning. Islam is not against culture. Many of us should adhere to the culture provided it doesn't clash with the Islamic principles.