Before the Interfaith Service Bureau
September 30, 1999
The Honorable and Distinguished Guests, My Fellow Members of the Interfaith Family, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you very much for giving me the honor to stand before you trying to articulate the hopes and dreams of the American Muslim Community as a member of the larger Interfaith American Family of Faiths.
First allow me to call you my brothers and sisters. I truly look at you as my brothers and sisters in the Love of God, the Service of God and the upholding of the most basic values of decency, justice, love, equality and liberty for all. The magnanimous presence of God is so overwhelming that many of us express their belief in God in many different but complimentary ways. He is the Creator in Buddhism, the Present and the Originator in Sikh religion, the Savior in Christianity, the Source of the Ten Commandments in Judaism, the Force in Hollywood's Star Wars and the Compassionate, the Wise, the Merciful and all the above and more in Islam. No one can deny, even those who claim the non-existence of God, that there is a supreme force that is the source of everything. God is the source of the winds, the rain, the waves, and, most precious of all, the source of life. We believers call that source God and we have made it our choice to be His servants.
I look at you as the most important asset for the process of bringing the masses back on the righteous path. The path of freedom in order to defeat the slavery of the body, the slavery of the thought, the slavery of the imagination and the slavery of the mind.
I believe that our great country, AMERICA, works because we Americans have a will not just to succeed but to lead, to forge new trails, to ponder new technologies and services, to fly higher, go farther and set new standards. It is our duty as the American servants of God to continue to bring these American values to the field of serving God through serving people.
Here is a broad-brush painting of what we need to remember:
1. We are all servants of God by our choice and by our acceptance of God's presence. In doing so, we have accepted the most difficult and responsible job in the world. It is not a job we do from 9:00 to 5:00 but it is a responsibility of the soul, the body and the mind in every minute of our lives.
2. In our efforts to serve God we do not expect financial rewards, fame, gratification or popularity. We all aspire for one thing and that is the acceptance by God of our efforts, actions and deeds, and ending up in heaven in the closeness of God in the hereafter. So, money, centers of power, political influence and personal gain are not our goals and aims. The rewards of this business, the business of serving God, are not measured in dollars and cents. They are measured in the number of households and lives that we serve, and that we touch by making a difference in the way they live. Our real reward is the pleasure of God.
3. We, the servants of God and our faith and belief in God, are not for sale for the highest bidder of money, political influence and/or affluence.
4. The real battle is not between religions and religious people. The real battle is not between the servants of God. The real challenge is between those who serve God and those who do not want God in their and our lives. That is why it is imperative and necessary that the servants of God never waste their most valuable resource, time, in trying to undermine and discredit each other. We need to save our energies, time and resources to stand strong against those who make violence look attractive, abuse of power and greed cool, sex and drugs the new fashion and killing a justified way of getting even. We must work with each other as members of the interfaith family. The challenge is huge. It can only be met by working with people, one person at a time. That takes time and effort but that is where we should invest our time.
5. We need to bring back respect and glory to the most important institution recognized by all faiths, the institution of marriage and family. That is a huge challenge.
6. We need to make full utilization of the many houses of God that we build. It is extremely wasteful to build a huge sanctuary that is used for a few hours one day a week and is left empty the rest of the week. We need to bring life to our places of worship. It is true that our political system is built on a deep-seated belief in the separation of church and state. But, it is our responsibility and our duty to send to the state those believers and servants of God who are qualified to lead, those who are fair in their judgment because they love God and those who do not discriminate because they know that we all have been created equal. This can be done by making the houses of God the places for families to get together, to socialize, and to enjoy the meaning of having a family and of getting married. These houses of God should be used as centers to network, to discuss the problems in the neighborhoods, to question the political representatives, to debate a TV program or a movie and to discuss educational programs with the school district and/or the school principal and staff. The houses of God should be used to utilize the tremendous energy that our youths have.
7. We need to cooperate to bring back the real meaning of providing credit to a family or to a business that needs it. We need to work hard to establish and promote an important human right. I believe that Financial Credit should become a human right. Every citizen should be able to get credit regardless how small that credit is. We need to bring to America the images painted by James Stewart and Frank Capra in the movie "It's a Wonderful life."
8. We need to actively participate in an overall renovation of the American school system. Schooling is not only a matter of teaching sciences and literary arts but it is the place to acquire moral, ethical and civic values and responsibility. We should actively promote the involvement of the family in the schooling of our children, our future.
9. We need to get together to provide the community with a solution to what I consider the most dangerous problem to America's future. That is Single Parent Children. Statistics prove beyond doubt that the majority of gang members and violent crime perpetrators come from single parent families. This is our duty and we cannot continue to be silent or lax about it. We need to find ways and means to get the unmarried men and women, single fathers and single mothers to get married as soon as possible. If America can make it to the moon, then we should be able to make this happen.
We need to present our true character and our own well-defined ways and means when we invite people to the way of serving God. We need to address people's minds. The change of mind and heart are more permanent than an emotional high on the pulpit or on a TV screen.
In conclusion, we need to strive and work together to accentuate what is common, not what is different. We need to put our hands together in order to make a difference in this world. We need to remember that the world is wide open and that we should not be fixated on competition. We need to create new possibilities for a better life for all, especially the oppressed and destitute.
We need to join hands and combine our energies in order to build in America what I like to call the Ideal Society:
1. A society that is built on intellectual and mental persuasion in which the mind, the most valuable gift from God, is the key to knowing and loving God.
2. A society that looks down at and bans the use of drugs, alcohol and superstition.
3. A society that does not condone gambling, speculation and greed.
4. A society that believes in the purity of the soul and body and of respecting promises.
5. A society that believes in marriage as the institution of building a family.
6. A society that believes in volunteering oneself and resources to serve God and the community. Professor Stephen Carter at Yale in his book, Civility, defines civility as the total sum of sacrifices and voluntary actions made by individuals for the benefit of others to live together in peace and harmony.
7. A society that believes in respecting people's properties, self-dignity, and the right to live honorably.
8. A society that never hoards and never uses usury and loan sharking and abuses the services of credit cards in its financial dealings. By the way, a large portion of the profits made by many financial institutions today comes from credit cards with interest charged at 18% or more.
9. A society that never allows the individual to overburden himself/herself with liabilities, debts and promises that cannot be met.
10. A society that believes that all the above and more can be done not through socialism, or any other "-ism" but through the love, the decency, and the civility of serving God.
Please join me in praying that we all shall be up to the challenge of working together to glorify God and the causes of justice and peace as revealed and taught by God since the dawn of humanity. Please join me in praying that God will support our goal of making the 21st century the century of serving God and God's most valuable gift; that is man - male and female.
God Bless You, God Bless America.