Originally published in TIME (Nov 10, 2016)
One of the high marks of Islam that Prophet Muhammad taught is that loyalty to your country is part of your faith. I can sympathize with the anger and fear that many have about a Donald Trump presidency: I’m a person of color; I’m a Muslim; I have young children. But these are the cards we’ve been dealt, and we need to find ways to continue working to build bridges of understanding and peace, because the alternative, which leads to more fear and more violence, is simply not a tenable option.
There is a great deal of ignorance about Islam and what Muslims believe. The word “jihad” means struggle, and the Prophet Muhammad said that the greatest jihad is the struggle against self to become better human beings through peace. Our goal as American Muslims should be to wage true jihad of education, compassion and service to humanity.
Now is not the time to throw in the towel. It’s the time to work even harder to live values of pluralism and to start conversations and over- come fear. It’s easy to do that when there is no opposition. But when you face a counter-narrative, it becomes that much more important. That’s when jihad really matters. That’s why it’s called a struggle.
I do not believe America is perfect, but I believe in our Preamble that we can and must strive together to become a more perfect Union. This will require commitment from both the Trump administration and from all Americans—whether they voted for you or not. As American Muslims, we need a President who does not tolerate anti-Muslim sentiment, pushes back at the 89% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, and refuses to conflate Islam with radicalism. I believe that our Founders enshrined religious freedom as an inalienable right in our First Amendment to ensure a government that protects all of its citizens with equality.
As an American Muslim, I commit to working to uphold the tenets of justice and equality as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. I commit to working with Trump’s administration to combat extremism in every form. I commit to working with the administration to educate my fellow non-Muslim Americans on the tenets of true Islam, as opposed to the extremism touted by terrorist organizations like ISIS and the Taliban.
Over the next four years, I believe we can make our country safer and stronger and greater, but only if we work together. Political gridlock, blanket demonization, name-calling and cyber-bullying, and extremism have no place in America—they should have no place in a Trump administration. Rather, we must work together to ensure our government is one based on absolute justice.
In this spirit the Qur’an 4:135 declares, “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor.” Incidentally, Harvard Law school has recognized this verse as ‘one of the greatest expressions of justice.’ Likewise, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam Mirza Masroor Ahmad declared at a national peace symposium last month, “those who are elected and handed the keys to government or power should exercise their duties with honesty, integrity and justice. This teaching is the model of democracy that Islam champions.”
I have no illusions that we will always agree. But I have confidence that we can work with dignity and respect of one another. To my fellow American Muslims, keep your head up. To non-Muslim Americans, we’re still here, proud of our faith and proud of our identity as Americans. We want to continue to make our country better.