In honor of our Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, the U.S. Congress passed H.R. 635 on October 2, 2007. The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and co-sponsored by thirty other House Democrats including Keith Ellison, Gregory Meeks and Dennis Kucinich. The legislation passed unanimously with a vote of 376-0.
The legislation was met with effusive congratulatory remarks from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council), and the State Department. CAIR has been working on this resolution for years, with a notably aggressive and failed effort in 2005. This year, with the election of Mr. Ellison, the Democrats couldn’t resist and the planets were aligned. MPAC executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, said, "It’s definitely a milestone for America and a positive reinforcement for the tradition of religious pluralism in our country." The State Department proclaims on its information site featuring Congressman Ellison, “A resolution recognizing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and expressing the ‘deepest respect to Muslims in the United States and throughout the world’ was adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives, October 2, by a vote of 376-0.”
Forty-one Republicans and one Democrat refused to approve the resolution and voted “present.” Congressman Mike Pence told the media, “I voted ‘present’ because I read somewhere that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” While national American Islamist organizations continue with the backslapping congratulations culminating years of effort to pass this superficial resolution, the rest of the Muslims in America should be asking whether such resolutions and discourse, when all is said and done, help America or our faith community.
The resolution certainly falls into the group of feel-good symbolic legislative resolutions often written and passed by Congress in order to acknowledge something or someone of great import. For those who cherish the separation of religion and state, such official recognition of a spiritual holiday for Muslims is not necessary – and actually crosses the line of religion and state that Islamists love to cross and the Left crosses only when it suits its own minority politics.
This is not in any way to devalue the spiritual import of Ramadan for Muslims. It is our holiest month of the year. It is a devotional month of self-reflection, renewal of faith, and a general strengthening of one’s relationship with God. Like all faiths which encourage some form of fasting, the daily fast from sunrise to sunset from food and water for Muslims during the month of Ramadan provides for a different spiritual accomplishment for every Muslim. Some learn about the blessings of health and wealth. Many read the Koran nightly and reflect in conversation with God upon our need for atonement of our sins.
These themes are about a personal journey during Ramadan between an individual and God, a virtual resetting of one’s spiritual clock during a month long personal fast. Ramadan is not about government, nation, or non-Muslims recognizing our faith. Such resolutions from the government simply politicize Islam and are equally toxic to the faith and to government. To say that there were no political motives in the discussion and passage of this resolution from any of the parties involved is to be naïve. For other than Christmas, official recognition of religious holidays in America is virtually unheard of. There is a good reason for that. In order to be “fair,” Congress should now acknowledge every other spiritual major holiday of every other faith group in the United States.
This is not to say the month of Ramadan is not a celebration or a holiday. It is a month of daily devotional practice and focus upon God, our blessings on earth, atonement, and renewal. The first day of the following lunar month (Shawal) marking the end of the month of Ramadan is one of Islam’s greatest annual holidays – Eid al-Fitr (Holiday of the Feast).
With efforts by CAIR and other Islamists dating back years to get this type of symbolic legislation passed, it poses the question: why and wherefore? Why have the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus not lobbied for similar legislation? One would be hard pressed to find any such legislation or recognition for the other squares of America’s interfaith quilt. Could it be their self-esteem as a faith community in America is not in need of such trivialities and collectivism to sell to their communities as successes? Perhaps their activists understand the slippery slope of “government establishing religion” so they keep their distance even when it involves their own self-interest and celebration?
Let’s look at what was actually passed. The House stood resolved:
- Recognizes the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world.
- Expresses friendship and support for Muslims in the United States and worldwide.
- Acknowledges the onset of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal, and conveys its respect to Muslims in the United States and throughout the world on this occasion.
- Rejects hatred, bigotry, and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide; and
- Commends Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence, and terror.
Many will attempt to reiterate that this is a harmless legislation giving American Muslims and the world a “sense of the Congress.” So why obsess over mosque and state issues? The fifth resolve finally begins to get into the ideas that a government based on freedom should endorse. But note the absence of any discussion of the real enemy of Islamism (political Islam) or Wahhabism and Salafism. Note the naïve focus on violence, terror and hatred, which are only tactics in a war based upon a conflict of ideologies. A failure of our political leadership to know and state the true ideological conflicts in this war will continue to enable the enemies of freedom at home and abroad. Our political leadership seems unable to foster or demand real accountability within the Muslim population who enjoy America’s liberty, but would rather shirk their duty to treat the cancer within our own Muslim faith community’s ideologies.
Ultimately, when this legislation is placed next to the remainder of the agenda of the American Muslim Islamist organizations, the agenda of Congressman Ellison, and the supporting victimization machinery of the Left, it only highlights how absent these groups have been from our real responsibilities as Muslims and as Americans in leading a counter-Jihad against Islamism.
Moreover, if we as Muslims were to truly honor the spirituality and purity of Ramadan, American Muslims should not be asking for symbolic patronizing niceties from Congress but rather asking for their real assistance in a counter-Jihad against radical Islamism.
Rather than Congress issuing patronizing proclamations, American Muslims should be issuing proclamations during this month of atonement recognizing all of the heavy lifting we have not done and yet must do within our own house of faith to deconstruct political Islam and its root cause effect upon terrorism.
Let’s be realistic: the only reason the media, Congress, and the State Department are so anxious to advertise this legislation is because of terrorism committed by Muslims and the weight of its threat upon the collective mind of America and the world. Thus, the response to terrorism committed by radical Muslims is for Muslims to take back the mantle of our faith and defeat political Islam. It is not for non-Muslims to recognize platitudes about Islam. They falsely believe that such feel-good language will soothe the collective soul of a nation in interfaith harmony.
What many of those 42 members of Congress who voted “present” understand is that this legislation not only crosses the line of mosque and state, but in fact when put into the context of today’s ideological conflict between the west and political Islam, it is actually insulting to Muslims who are focused on defeating the radical Islamists, Wahhabists and Salafists. Congress, State, and media are only feeding into the Islamist agenda. Congress should stay out of the business of recognizing days or months with religious significance and get back to the business of recognizing and empowering those individuals and communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, who are truly working to spread the ideology of religious freedom in America and around the world against the Islamists, who threaten liberty.
At the end of the day, as beautiful as this resolution sounds, and as much as my family and I as Muslims honor our own holy month of Ramadan in all of its deep messages, HR 635 is but a piece of paper in the archives of the Congressional Record – as inappropriate as Congressional recognition of a religious holiday may be.
Real, lasting, recognition of Islam on the frontlines of America’s neighborhoods outside the sterilized walls of Congress will only come when real Muslim moderation is manifest. It is insulting to assume that such moderation is only demonstrated by Muslims who are non-violent. Real moderation is rather manifest by American Muslims willing to take on the ideological battle against political Islam, especially those from within the devotional faith community trying to rescue spiritual Islam from political Islam.
Last month the American Islamic Forum for Democracy enumerated ideological standards which should be manifest by Muslim leaders and organizations gaining acknowledgement from media and government. Platitudes and turning a blind eye to our Establishment Clause will not win this war or achieve real lasting interfaith harmony. All those Muslims around the world who are seeking real reform and security against the ideologies which threaten our Constitutional republic deserve the attention of our leadership. We do their work a disservice by soaking up America’s bandwidth of attention to Islam with trivialities.
Let us not forget that our American motto is e pluribus Unum – “out of many one.” It is not the converse – “many out of one.”