2011: Loyalty: The Key to Faith and Citizenship
Before revelation ever reached the unlettered man named Muhammad, he was renowned amongst his people as the most trustworthy of his society. Before he ever made a public proclamation, before he ever urged others to feed the poor or care for the orphans, before he ever criticized his society for their immoral practices of infanticide or alcoholism, Muhammad was the most beloved merchant of Mecca, a simple man known for his honest and gentle manners. Despite the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of his society, all of his fellow countrymen knew that at least here was a man they could depend on for his integrity. It was only after living 40 years of his life as an upstanding citizen of his society that he was met with a higher calling: to bring a message of mercy to mankind.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) didn’t need a birth certificate to prove that he belonged: he spoke the language of the people, he obeyed the laws of the land, he sincerely wished well for his people, and above all, he made positive contributions to his society. Indeed, his commitment to his principles allowed him to serve his society faithfully, even when the majority of his people turned against him once he started speaking out against their societal ills. Is there any better definition of citizenship?*
Centuries later, people of faith still face the same sort of opposition as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once faced. With new concepts such as nation-state citizenship in the modern age, loyalty might be an even harder concept to grasp. So what does it really mean to be an American or Canadian, and conversely, what does it mean to be a person of a particular faith? Are they necessarily exclusive definitions? Must Muslim-Americans identify themselves as American first and Muslim second? Can’t they just be both? If so, how? If not, is the promise of a liberal democracy broken, with its freedoms of religion and speech for all? Would Muslims need to flee from persecution as they did 1400 years ago (and as many other groups have had to do throughout history), or can we still avoid some of the same pitfalls of the past today?
At MIST, we ask you to decide. We challenge you to take a deeper look into the North American Muslim community and analyze the various concepts surrounding this theme. Be creative! Projects and submissions with the most creativity and insight will receive the highest points. Hint: Please do not use imagery of keys in your creative projects. Remember, this theme will encompass all of the MIST competitions and workshops at both the regional and national levels. If you have any questions regarding this theme or anything else MIST-related, please do not hesitate to contact us!
*Now, it should be noted that in contrast to the believers who fled persecution to Medina with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and who were later provoked to armed conflict, the comparison we are trying to draw between our own time and theirs more aptly continues with the community that emigrated to then-Christian Abyssinia due to the religious freedom they were afforded as a minority under the Negus. For reference, see this lecture (particularly 12:30 onward). This link is shared for educational purposes only. The views expressed therein are the speaker’s own, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of MIST, its organizers, or its affiliates.