Atheists have, to a large extent, been a fringe minority in the American landscape for a large part of the last century. So much so that aside from Scientific circles, meeting an atheist was quite rare up until the mid/late 90’s when Atheism and people characterizing themselves as “non-religious” became much more common; “non-religious” being a common characterization to avoid the social stigma associated with calling oneself an atheist.
Over the past decade, this dynamic has started to change. Atheism is no longer a fringe movement, but has come to be considered a legitimate philosophy, often times seen as intellectually superior to their religionist counterparts. This mentality has been coupled with an unprecedented outspokenness by atheists, challenging the fundamental tenants contained within the Abrahamic faiths on issues ranging from the start of creation to salvation and the hereafter.
Yesterday I read an article about a billboard sponsored by an Atheist Organization in Charlotte, North Carolina that read “One Nation Indivisible,” with the glaring omission of “Under God.” Typically, a billboard like that wouldn’t have gotten much publicity, but the billboard was plastered on Billy Graham Parkway and naturally, there were many who saw the sign as offensive and spray painted “Under God” on the sign themselves.
Even more recently, President Obama addressed the nation in regards to the BP Oil Spill. At the end of the address, President Obama said the following:
“Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”
Whether those statements were born out of genuine conviction or political pandering, only Allah Knows, but the statement itself was clearly within the realm of appropriateness. Sadly- and somewhat predictably- it drew the ire of outspoken liberals like Jeneane Gorafolo who referred to the statements as “anti-intellectual.” If that isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black, then I don’t know what is. Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, furthered those sentiments in his radio show, saying that although Gorafolo’s branding of the prayer as ‘anti-intellectual’ may have been too abrasive, the concept of praying to God for change to occur was downright silly.
The larger question for us as Muslims and, in a broader sense, people of God, is how we can begin to effectively counteract this tide. Muslims have become smitten with Liberal politics, preferring candidates who have favorable foreign policy positions to those with stronger moral convictions. The year 2008 saw a mass exodus of voters re-aligning themselves politically, with Obama winning convincingly over McCain and the Democrats winning substantial majorities in both the House and Senate. Along with that, Liberal pundits like Jon Stewart, Bill Mahr, and Keith Olbermann have become increasingly popular. The result of all of this has been damning. Religion is slowly being moved out of the public sphere, and although Islamophobia is on the rise, so too is the anger and cynicism for religion as an enterprise.
Religion is under assault, and we have to ensure that our future in this country is one of dignity and respect for not only Muslims, but for Allah. And in a very real sense, this is what Allah Ta’ala tells us to do throughout the Quran- be people of action, call to good, and forbid evil. Become a moral compass for society and pray for the help of Allah, for if Allah helps you, then no one can overtake you.
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity. Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty,- On the Day when some faces will be (lit up with) white, and some faces will be (in the gloom of) black: To those whose faces will be black, (will be said): “Did ye reject Faith after accepting it? Taste then the penalty for rejecting Faith.” But those whose faces will be (lit with) white,- they will be in (the light of) Allah’s mercy: therein to dwell (for ever). These are the Signs of Allah: We rehearse them to thee in Truth: And Allah means no injustice to any of His creatures. To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: To Him do all questions go back (for decision). Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors.”
May Allah make us from those enjoin the good, forbid evil, and call to the Path of Allah. Ameen. And Allah Knows Best.