By Imam Qasim ibn Ali Khan
As I drive down the streets of my neighborhood on any given United States federal holiday, I acknowledge the homes and tree lawns displaying the American flags, whose owners proudly flaunt their perception of patriotism. â€œOld Gloryâ€, they call itâ€¦the historical Stars and Stripesâ€¦ a concept by General George Washington, Colonel Ross, and Robert Morris, who recruited Philadelphia seamstress Mrs. Betsy Ross to apply her talents to stitch. In the years since that morning in 1777, and stars were added to correspond with the addition of each new state to the union, the sentiment surrounding the flag increased, giving birth to songs, and the nearly sacred Pledge of Allegiance.
During my Christian life as well as deep into my Islamic life, I too enjoyed showing my â€œAmerican prideâ€ by displaying the American flag on my house, automobile, and clothing. I would stand, placing my hand over my heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, assuming I was making a statement by slightly adjusting the recitation to say, â€œâ€¦.and one nation, under Allahâ€¦.â€. I would use my inherited melodic baritone voice to impress audiences with the National Anthem, accepting all of their compliments with pride. I recall even once trying to convince boxing promoter Don King to contract me to sing The Star Spangled Banner at a Mike Tyson fight. (By the way, he refused, telling me that I wasnâ€™t famous enough.) Yes, even as a devout Muslim, I was about as typically American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.
In the meantime, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, (RA), inspired by his fatherâ€™s (RA) vision, also designed a flag, originally calling it the â€œNew Flag for the Nation of Islamâ€, but more importantly, making a statement of devotion to the book that is the epitome of the oneness of Allah and loyalty to His final Messenger (SWS)â€¦.The Qurâ€™an Kareem. It would be an original flagâ€¦something the Muslims could truly call their own. It would be a flag amazingly not stigmatized by the mediaâ€™s warped portrayal of Islam by a handful of radical Muslims who wave flags bearing the Arabic inscriptions of â€œNo God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allahâ€, while contradicting the spirit of Al-Islam with unjustified violence, corruption, and other haraam (forbidden) acts.
For many years after the introduction of the flag designed by Imam Mohammed (RA), I proudly displayed it alongside the American flag, almost as if they were equal. For many years I considered myself an â€œAmerican Muslimâ€, insinuating that I am an American who happens to be a Muslim. Since then I have arrived to the realization that much more importantly, I must be a â€œMuslim Americanâ€â€¦.that I am a Muslim who happens to be an American, because my Islamicity must come first.
Only out of sincere respect for what it means to others, do I show respect for the American flagâ€¦and stand for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, however without saluting or placing my hand on my heart. I say only out of respect for what it means to others, because to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of Americaâ€¦.the good, the honest, the law abiding citizens who fear The Creator of us all. To me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America who cry at the news of suffering of complete strangersâ€¦or the good people of America who wish the bad people would either change or go awayâ€¦or the good people of America who pray daily for the trillion dollar wars around the world to stopâ€¦.or the good people of America who are tired of spending billions of dollars annually on security systems for their homes, cars, and businessesâ€¦.the good people of America who have to stand by struggling to take care of their families while legislators with almost unlimited expense accounts take our tax dollars to give themselves raises. No, brothers and sisters, to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America, instead it seems to represent an unjust and contradictory government that although it is of the people and by the peopleâ€¦it is not for the people. When I see the American flag, with all the respect that I show it, I donâ€™t think about the American people any more than I think about the people who designed it.
Proudly displayed on the front of my home from dawn until sunset is an Islamic flag, designed by Imam W. D. Mohammed, yet admittedly that display is not a salute to him, nor do I think of him when I look at my flag. To me, the Islamic flag I display is a salute to the inscription emblazoned in bright gold letters, surrounded by a green silhouette of the Qurâ€™an Kareem, casting a glowing ray onto a crimson backgroundâ€¦it is a flag that represents everything that I live and work forâ€¦La illaha ilAllah, Muhammadur Rasulullah, There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah! Although this is the testimony that was introduced to me by Imam W.D. Mohammed (RA), yet whose interpretation of patriotism I may not completely agree withâ€¦.when I raise that flagâ€¦.when I gaze upon its flowing beauty in the wind, gracing the front of my dwelling place that I have made into a place of worship, I only think about Allah tâ€™Ala and His Messenger (SWS). This wonderful design, that I display, that I salute, that I pledge allegiance to in the same language that is bound upon it, that represents everything that I am aboutâ€¦ this Shahada-tain, to this Muslim American patriot, is my flag, my deen, my life.