By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
At a time when Islamophobia is rampant, and Muslims are the victims of continuous lies and distortions, one of the most valuable assets that truth possesses is a spokesperson who is both learned and articulate. Dr, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss academic and Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, is such a person. He is the author of many books and papers and is a renowned lecturer.
A poll conducted by Prospect, an English political journal, and Foreign Policy, its American twin, ranked Dr, Ramadan as eighth in a list of the worldâ€™s 100 contemporary intellectuals.
Dr. Ramadan spoke this past weekend in Garden Grove, Ca. at a banquet and fund raiser for the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC). He spoke to a dining room filled to capacity – tickets had been sold out weeks prior to the event. To the delight of the audience he raised funds to help the ISCSC launch its 16th year. The title of the eveningâ€™s event was â€œIslam in the 21st Century.â€
Imam Yousuf Edghouch began the banquet by reciting from the Holy Koran.
Dr. Ramadan was denied entry into the United States in 2004 and was unable at that time to accept a proffered teaching position at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. As he took the podium and thanked the ISCSC for its invitation, he spoke of his struggle for his rights, rights denied to him until early this year. He acknowledged the role in his struggle for justice played by the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN and, of course the prayers and support from Muslims and non Muslims willing to stand for human rights.
â€œAllahu Akhbarâ€, he said, is not just a slogan. â€œIt should come from the heart.â€ In a particularly touching personal aside, Dr. Ramadan recognized Dr. Maher Hathout and his late brother, Dr. Hassan Hathout, as the teachers of his older siblings.
He cautioned his audience not to confuse unity with uniformity. We must as Muslims unite around our principles. â€œHow can I be true to my principles and effective in the United Statesâ€, he asked. He mentioned his recent travels to Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa and praised the rich diversity found in Islam.
Dr. Ramadan urged his listeners not to confuse spirituality and emotion. Emotion is how your brain reacts to signals; spirituality is what you get at the hollow of your heart.
We need to educate ourselves to be less emotional and more spiritual; more critical and less reactive.
We must take care not to confuse ends and means, and we must nor confuse the ways with the limits Again, he emphasized that Islam is based on ethics.
Dr. Ramadan also emphasized the Prophet Mohammedâ€™s (s) continuous interaction with the poor. To be close to those who are poor is to purify oneâ€™s heart.
e spoke of a class problem in this country and warned his audience that if you are rich and forget about the poor, there will be a link with God that is missing.
Shame on the recent Arizona anti immigrant law and shame on disregard for immigrants who come to the US, said the speaker. He spoke with approval of the recently passed health care bill.
Islam is always on the side of the victim, and never on the side of the oppressor. We are here, he said, to reform the United States for the better. â€œThis is our future.â€
â€œWhat a wonderful speakerâ€ said one young woman. â€œYou get the idea that he is speaking to you individually.â€
During the event the audience watched a short film detailing the work and accomplishments of the ISCSC. Featured were the beautiful exteriors and interiors of local Islamic centers and interviews with Imams and members of the congregations. Featured also were interfaith events such as the popular Open Mosque Day.
During the fundraising portion of the evening Imams Taha Hussane and Muhammad Faqih spoke of expanding the interfaith work of the ISCSC and initiating an Islamic Muslim Youth Shura Council.
ISCSC Chairman, Dr. Maher Hathout, presented Dr. Ramadan with a humanitarian award.
During the event ISCSC Board Members Edina Lekovic, representing the Muslim Public Affair Council, and Imam Ameen Omar of Masjid al-Shareef shared the M C duties.
The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California is an umbrella organization of mosques and Muslim organizations in the Southern California area. The ISCSC has worked since 1995 to foster the spirit and culture of working together at every level in a geographic area that is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the US. The ISCSC liaises with other faith groups, public sector organizations and community based organizations to serve, in addition to Muslims, the community at large.
The ISCSC has been a template for other Shura groups formed since its inception. With the stated vision of being â€œa leading organization for unity and excellenceâ€, the ISCSC has virtually achieved this goal and is moving forward still in its role as communicator, advocate and leadership developer.