By: Magda Elkadi Saleh
Having lived in this community for over 25 years, I have seen many people come and go. I have bid farewell to people who have moved to different cities, states or countries, and I have bid farewell to people who have departed from this world into the next. Each person who has departed has left his or her mark on the community and on our hearts. In this past week, we lost two very dear members of our community, one to illness and the other to an accident; one was older, the other was a young man, rahmatullahi alayhim. Such has been the case almost every week of every month over the past years.
At the same time, I have witnessed just as many weddings, births and graduations. The sadness of loss is always offset by the pure joy of blessed events and successes. Such is the cycle of life.
Having lived in this country for almost 50 years, I have been witness to the many changes that the Muslim community has gone through over the span of almost half a century. As new immigrants to this country, we were often the only practicing Muslim family in the small towns where we lived. As we became teenagers, we were definitely the only hijabis in our schools. We reveled in the successes of Mohammed Ali in the early 70's and were thrilled that he had brought the name Mohammed into common conversations; after him, rahmatullahi alayhi, other prominent Muslim athletes helped make our names - Ahmad, Ismail, etc. - common names in the Western world. We lived through the Iran Hostage Crisis, when we were harassed and told to go back to our country, even though we were not from Iran. And, of course, we lived through 9/11, one of the most tragic events to touch the US, after which no one would feel the safety and security that we had felt growing up in this great country.
We began to see the growth of Inter-Faith Dialogues and Hijabis in both the White House and in Target commercials; we had gone from being on the fringe to being mainstream. Mainstream, however, is not where some members of this society want to see us. No matter how mainstream we become, no matter how positive our impacts are on the society, there are some who make it their goal to paint us as "radicals" and "anti-American."
We ARE American. We do not understand or accept the oppression and tyranny that exists in the countries whence our parents came. We ARE Muslim. We have been raised with our Islamic values without the cultural baggage that can very easily wear Muslims down and put a distance between them and their deen.
Masha'Allah, our community is a vibrant, loving and productive community, a community that we must cherish and grow.
We must know, with every fiber of our bodies, that, no matter how much negative media attention we get, we are way ahead of where we were 40 years ago. Subhan'Allah, after the tragic killings in Orlando, there was much discussion on Facebook about Muslims and the Qur'an. I was amazed by the number of Christians defending Islam and making it clear to the detractors that neither Islam nor the Qur'an condone the mass killing that took place.
We have made progress. We must continue to make progress. We must continue to get to know our neighbors and be good neighbors. At the same time, we must be vigilant, and we must keep in mind that, though they are the minority, there are those that would like to hurt us. At our masajid, we must support the efforts of our community-members to provide enhanced security, and we must be grateful to them and stand by them.
This is our community. This is our country. This is our history. This is our now.