The world woke up to an executive order by President Donald Trump banning entry from seven Muslim majority countries of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. An executive order is an official statement from the President which tells government agencies how to use their resources; it is a rule or order issued by the President to an executive branch of the government and having the force of law. What this order simply means is that nationals from these countries cannot enter the US even with a valid visa and if you are with the US residency permit or green card and happen to be outside of the US, you simply cannot re-enter the US.
There has been an uproar by the entire world on this order and what is yet to come. Which countries will be added subsequently? Would Nigeria be on the list eventually? What happens to Muslims of other nationalities outside of the seven trying to enter the US? Would they be specially scrutinized? But the question really is why is the whole Muslim world interested in the US? What are we all going to do in America? Why is the US so important everyone wants access? Why are the US embassies around the world always overwhelmed? Imagine a country like Afghanistan giving an executive order, would the world blink? What has America done right that has made it attractive for everyone- for Muslims? Despite all the American absurdities and obscene freedom, it is still the country to be for Muslims. Why? What is the refugee program in Saudi Arabia, UAE? Does anyone know? Do they even have? Is it publicized? Why do Syrians prefer to go to Europe, America and shun other Muslim countries? Why are Syrians not trying to settle in Northern Nigeria? Why are Muslims always victims of persecution, rape, murder, uncertainty and insecurity and always looking towards the West for succour? Why is Syria even at war? Why would a regime sit tight and watch the world crumble around you and still hold on to power? Why are there always war, abuse, and dictatorship in Muslim countries? These are all the questions that come to mind.
I read articles and see things like: "Imagine the world without Muslims", "all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims". Why is the world against us? And why are Muslims always the needy ones? Why do we even have the terrorist label? How did we get from peace to violence? How did we allow the violent ten percent define an entire religion? Define the other ninety percent? Why does the Muslim world portray poverty, disease, and lack? If you saw refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean sea, chances are they would be Muslims. If you ask people what they thought of Muslim and Islam; bombs, violence, anger, derangement, illiteracy, poverty, early marriage are the words I hear. We cannot sit and watch a few people define our religion negatively. Boko Haram perpetrates its own violence in the name of Islam too. What is anyone doing about this? Do we just watch?
When I ask all these questions, people are quick to refer me to history; the First World War, Second World War, Hitler et al, but I'm talking about now, today and the world as it is right now. We have a bad name, a bad image and definitely bad people amongst us and no one should be comfortable until the world sees us for who we truly should be - simple, lovely and peaceful people. Our accountability is to Allah but to humanity as well. There is a lot to be done by Muslims to help our cause especially our image and that of our religion.
With so much Islamophobia and Islamophobes in the Western countries, there is the need for Muslims to be their brother's keeper. If there is a Muslim ban by the US, and Canada is offering refuge, what are the Muslim countries doing to help? Has any Muslim country offered refuge? Will we just watch the world make decisions concerning our brothers and sisters and keep quiet and behave unconcerned? That is not Islam. We are all culpable in this and should be involved.
What Muslims really need to do:
1. Fix our Countries - Enough of war, poverty, disease, persecution, human right abuses, and dictatorship. Even though Islam remains the same, the world has evolved, human beings have evolved. With current thinking, things cannot be the same. Whatever the USA is offering anybody, whatever makes the US so attractive that the ban caused so many ripples, every singular Muslim country can offer such and much more too. We need to develop our countries, it starts with selecting good leaders with proven record and making these leaders accountable and also building great and responsive institutions.
2. Take our Religion back from Agents of Hate - The ten percent violent ones cannot define the other hardworking, peaceful and purposeful ninety percent Muslims that litter the world. For posterity sake, there is need to take back our religion and drown the noise these deranged people make. This noise affects all of us one way or another. There are several ways we can achieve these collectively.
3. De Radicalise Our religion - The Prophet (SAW) was friendly with everyone including Jews and Christians. He didn't prove any point by throwing bombs. When there were war and battles, it was never about innocent people or women and children. What is happening in the world today is simply criminality and nothing more. This is no longer religion and certainly not Islam. The world is now about persuasion, dialogue, negotiation, writing and using the media to make your case. There is no gain in any form of violence.
4. Perception and the Image of Islam - Every breathing Muslim has a role in this. You cannot live in your cocoon and believe the image and perception of the religion you profess mean nothing to you. If the world says you are a certain way, you owe it to yourself and to Allah (SWT) to convince people that the religion is about peace and you are a peaceful and tolerant person. America has its own problems; it has to deal with gun violence, gangsters, homelessness, and drugs. But we do not think of all these when we think America, all we see is prosperity, innovation, technology, and advancement. Somehow, the bad image of America is watered down and good one projected. Islam needs to find a way to project its many good parts.
Peaceful living, peaceful coexistence is synonymous with being Muslim. Remember, you as a person are the only Qur’an some people will ever read; you need to live and breathe peace. Hopefully, one day the world will see us for who we really are.
We should all be up in arms (figuratively not literally) defending our religion and de marketing agents of hate and violence. This is a big challenge to each and every one of us rational Muslims. The tenets of Islam are pristine, adequate and progressive. As I always say, it is not just about living day to day, putting food on the table and paying school fees since that is our major preoccupation in Nigeria, and it is time to own up, speak up and work relentlessly to project our religion in the best possible light. There is a judgment day ahead and those are the things we will account for. May Allah help us choose the right direction in life. Salaam alaikum waramatulahi wabarakatu.
Ps: The US Muslim Ban was lifted, allowing entry by nationals of those seven countries. This is being appealed in a court.