Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent
Civil War. Two words to describe today. No one would have conceived that America — the greatest country in the world — could even be categorized to be in a state that could be described as a “civil war.”
But one man did: His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In 2016, CBC news reporter Peter Mansbridge interviewed His Holiness about the proposed policies of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump:
“If [President Trump] tries to implement whatever he is saying, then I fear that there’s going to be big civil war … [The American people] will rise against the government. Because if the government takes harsh measures just to try to deny all their rights in any way, then there are so many hundreds of people. See, to create any disturbance or nonsense, a single man can even single-handedly do it … So they have to use sense. I don’t think a president of America, if ever elected president of America, would take any measure that is senseless.”
His Holiness’s wisdom alludes to the Declaration of Independence, where it states: “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends (i.e., that all men are created equal with unalienable rights), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
Unfortunately, the government’s policies have at times appeared senseless. COVID-19 has been the crucible that has tested these policies. These policies have amplified the fear and unrest associated with COVID-19 as Americans lost their jobs and associated health care.
The murder of George Floyd, an echo of our country’s unfortunate past with slavery, was aided by policies enacted by the government. In February 2017, the government would no longer pursue civil rights lawsuits or investigations related to accusations of police misconduct. The government signed an executive order in August 2017, which provided police departments with surplus military equipment for free or with use of federal dollars.
When we take a moment to reflect on America today — it becomes as if a tale of two cities. Police officers are equipped like soldiers while doctors are not even equipped like doctors. Billion-dollar companies are bailed out again when the individuals who actually need it are provided with a single $1,200 check for the three months they are forced to stay at home.
Policies like these have slowly stripped the rights of Americans. Today, we are not actually in a civil war. But the government’s policies have often forgotten the rights of the forgotten, coupled with current events, shows the possibility of the civil war His Holiness foreshadowed. The question becomes: How do we stop such a civil war that would only result in the bloodshed of Americans?
Fortunately, in 2013, His Holiness held a special reception in Los Angeles, which included then-mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, who provided His Holiness with a key to the city, and then-California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. In talking about global peace, His Holiness stated:
“When a Muslim praises the ‘Lord of all the Worlds,’ the beauty of God’s Creation comes before him and he is compelled to praise and be attracted to it. When this beauty is acknowledged, one cannot harbor any ill will or malice toward God’s Creation.”
As individuals, we need to incorporate this love for our fellow man, who is the pinnacle of beauty of all creation. As an American, a day or even week of protest won’t prove consequential. What truly matters is changing the systemic injustices that allowed for such ideas to be possible. What can we, in our individual and professional capacities, do to create more equality?
As a Muslim, I am taught the importance of loyalty to one’s country of residence. Even if we may not agree with President Trump’s policies, he is our president. We are one nation, under God, who seek for liberty and justice for all. We have to work with our elected leaders — not against them — to create the change we wish to see in our country. If a nation like America could be seen as in civil war, then it is a nation like America that would know how to get out of it too.