The Role of Faith in a Culture of Fear in America

By Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Shaykh Ilyas Islam)

Delivered at the 54th Annual ISNA Convention on Friday, June 30, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois

A‘udhu billahi min al-Shaytin al-rajim. Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. Alhamdulillahi rabb al-‘alamin wa salawat ‘ala khatim al-nabiyyin, Muhammad al-Amin, wa ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi ajma‘in.

I take refuge in Allah from Satan the Rejected. In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and blessed be the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad, the Truthful and the Trustworthy, as well as all his Family and Companions.

Ladies and gentlemen. Brothers and Sisters. Distinguished panelists. I wish you all a warm welcome to the 54th Annual ISNA Convention and thank you for selecting this session on the most timely of topics: The Role of Faith in a Culture of Fear.

Welcome to America! A country rooted in fear: the fear of the First Nations, the savages who, in many ways, were far more noble than the civilized. A country rooted in the fear of African slaves and ex-slaves who grew so numerous that they posed a threat to the white supremacists and colonialists who brought them here in the first place. A country rooted in the fear of foreigners, particularly the Hispanic, feared by the capitalists who brought them here by the millions as a source of cheap labor. A country founded on the fear communists, a convenient excuse to engage in wars of imperial domination on a planetary scale.

And now, a country founded on the fear of Islam and Muslims, a pretext to attack, destroy, invade, and occupy sovereign nations for highly profitable geo-political purposes. They make a killing by killing. Billions of bucks to buy bombs. They make a killing by stealing natural resources. Billions of dollars in fossil fuels and the building of pipelines for natural gas. And they make a killing by rebuilding. Billions of dollars in business deals.

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I am America. I am part French Canadian and part First Nations: Michif-Otipemisiwak: 500,000 strong, in Canada, and the United States. Proud to be Métis. We hold no grudges. We have no hatred in our hearts. As our elders teach us, “Meet hatred with love. Meet evil with good.”

We live in a culture of fear. The foreign policy of the US government and the Western world contributes to this culture of fear both internationally and nationally. The corporate-controlled mass media is now devoid of any real connection to journalism. They are propaganda engines that pump out sensationalistic one-sided stories that stoke the flames of fear.

Muslims, in particular, are stigmatized, demonized, and dehumanized. The media blames Muslims for terrorism. The media expects Muslims to bear the burden of blame for the thousands of victims of terrorist actions, actions that Muslims neither committed nor condoned. The media also ignores the fact that Muslims make up 95% of the victims of terrorism.

The media focuses on the thousands of innocent people killed by terrorists while completely ignoring the fact that the “War on Terror” has killed millions upon millions of innocent Muslims. That death-count speaks for itself: the War on Terror has become a War of Terror.

The foreign policy of the United States can only be described as a Sick Circle. The CIA supports Takfiri extremists in the Muslim world as part of its proxy wars: the Mujahidin and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Takfiris in Libya, and the Takfiris in Iraq and Syria. They use them to fight their enemies: the Russians, the Libyans, the Syrians, and the Iranians.

The conflict caused by these Takfiri terrorists provides grounds for military intervention in the region. The Americans and their allies get embroiled in actions abroad. The terrorist groups that they have supported all along turn around and target the Western world. This heightens sentiments of Islamophobia.

If Westerners witnessed the atrocities committed by Western governments in the Muslim world, public opinion would turn against them. They would demand an end to military actions. If they saw images of the millions of civilians that were slaughtered by their governments, they would be protesting in the streets. There would be an Anti-War Movement like the one that existed during the Vietnam Era.

So, what do you do? How do you ensure that the public continues to support the War on Terror which is really a War on Islam and Muslims? By means of terrorist attacks. By means of false flag operations. That way, the eternal and endless war of the globalist, totalitarian, fascists, continues unabated to the pleasure of Big Brother or, as we known him in Islam, the One-Eyed Liar. The philosophy is clear: keep the focus on fear. So, let us examine the issue of fear, its dangers, and its consequence.

As Imam ‘Ali, radi Allahu ‘anhu, may Allah be pleased with him, the first Imam and third Caliph of Islam stated: “People are enemies of what they do not know.” In other words, people fear what they know not. Ignorance leads to fear. Fear leads to hatred. Hatred leads to violence. And violence leads to suffering. I sound like Yoda. I know many of you have thought about it but it is high time for someone to say it: Yoda is a Muslim and all the Jedi Masters are Muslims. They believe in the Force. They believe in Eternal Life. They abide by a code of morality and they adhere to a path of spirituality.

So, what is fear? A phobia is a fear: an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. There are literally hundreds of phobias. In some cases, the phobic person feels sentiments of dislike, disapproval, prejudice, hatred, discrimination, and hostility towards the object of the phobia. Ignorance is the breeding ground of fear. It is the petri dish in which the bacteria of fear is cultivated.

Fear of the unknown is a survival mechanism. Human beings lived in family groups, in family clans, and in tribes for tens of thousands of years. People who were known to you, people who looked like you, people who acted like you, and people who spoke like you were a sense of security and safety.

Outsiders or Others were unknown. They were un-vetted. They were viewed and treated as a threat. This fear of the unfamiliar is the root of tribalism, racism, sectarianism, and nationalism. If unchecked, it gives rise to colonialism, imperialism, and globalism. It leads to death, destruction, and suffering. Hatred is the product of fear. Fear is the product of ignorance. So, what is the opposite of ignorance? Knowledge. So, what is the cure to ignorance? Knowledge.

The Prophet Muhammad, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa alihi wa salaam, made the seeking of knowledge obligatory on all Muslims, male and female. He told us to “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.” He told us to “Seek knowledge, even in China.” He commanded his Companions to learn foreign languages and learn about other religions and cultures.

Knowledge is of two kinds. Knowledge of Self and knowledge of God. But both are intertwined. As the Messenger of Allah, ‘alayhi salawatu wa salam, said: “Whoever knows himself knows God.” The path to the Divinity passes through our singularity. Or, to help our young people comprehend: our souls are like cell-phones that are connected to the Master Server.

We are the mirrors in which God sees Himself. When we know ourselves, we know God. When we see ourselves, we should see God. Everything that exists is a manifestation of God. Everything that you see or sense is a sign of the Supreme. Every signifier points to the Signified.

As the Quechua-Aymara Indians teach their children when they are young: “As you see others they see you.” They instill in their children that they are the same as other children and other children are the same as them. They instill a sense of unity and humanity. If I see God in Myself and Myself in God, I will see God in Others and Others in God.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Métis and other First Nations consist of Respect, Love, Truth, Bravery, Wisdom, Generosity, and Humility. The first Teaching or Commandment is Respect: Respect your fellow living beings. Do not look down upon others. They are all children of the Creator. The second Teaching is Love: Love yourself so that you can love others. The third Teaching is Truth: Judge yourself before judging others. In other words, focus on your own faults before focusing on the faults of other. Forget about your qualities and work on improving your shortcomings. When dealing with others, look at their strengths instead of their weaknesses.

The fourth Teaching is bravery, the product of right mind and right action. The fifth Teaching is Wisdom which is defined as eloquently expressing one’s ideas and the ideas of others. For indigenous people, wisdom is the ability to understand others. The sixth Teaching is Generosity which means the ability to meet the needs of others and to stand together. Finally, the seventh Teaching is Humility, namely, humbling oneself before other fellow human beings.

The traditional teachings of the Eastern Woodland Indians and Métis of North America are completely compatible with the traditional teachings of Islam. They are teachings based on Tawhid that were transmitted by the prophets, messengers, and friends of the Creator who were sent to the people of Turtle Island, the continent you know as the Americas.

We need ‘ilm or knowledge. We need ma‘rifah or direct knowledge of the Divinity. We need knowledge of Self that translate in knowledge of Others. As Almighty Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, makes explicitly clear in al-Qur’an al-Karim:

O humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (49:13)

Humanity is called to Unity. We are called upon to be One with each other and to be One with the One. As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.” He did not say “Muslim neighbor.” He said neighbor. In short, the command applies to all human beings. As Almighty Allah asserts in the Holy Qur’an:

As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did. (6:159)

We must oppose destructive sectarianism in the Muslim Community. There can, and should, be diversity; however, there should also be unity within that diversity. As Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, is reported to have stated: “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people” [ikhtilafu ummati rahmatun li al-nas]. We must move away from destructive theologies of hatred and injustice to constructive theologies of compassion and justice.

We must build bridges between the People of the Qiblah and the People of the Book, namely, between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Speaking of the Ahl al-Kitab, Almighty Allah has this to say:

Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. (3:113)

Jews and Christians are not all the same. They must never be condemned categorically. We, Muslims, have been stereotyped. Like us not do to others what we do not like others to do to us. As Imam ‘Ali, karama Allahu wahjuhu, may Allah bless his glorious countenance, said: “Our enemies are not the Jews or Christians, but our enemy is our own ignorance.”

If Jews, Samaritans, Christians, Zoroastrians, and members of other faith communities only understood each other better, they could come together on common ground. In fact, this is precisely what the Qur’an commands:

Say: O People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (3:64)

The Ummah of Muhammad, the Community of the Prophet, was never the realm of exclusivism: it was always the real of pluralism. We must reconnect the Muslim masses with the true teachings of the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Shari‘ah. We must reconnect the Muslim masses with the true teachings of spirituality: tasawwuf and ‘irfan. We must reconnect the Muslim masses with ethical principles or akhlaq. We must reconnect the Muslims masses with a true understanding of history. And, most importantly, we must teach Muslims how to think critically so that they do not succumb to the scourge of literalism, fundamentalism, and extremism.

In America, today, in 2017, we live in a culture of fear. There are those what sow, fertilize, irrigate, and cultivate hatred. You reap what you sow. You sow what you reap. If you spread hatred and violence you get served with hatred and violence. It is a sick circle. Let us help break that cycle. The only way to fight fear is through faith. The only way to fight fear is through faith. The only way to fight ignorance, is through knowledge: knowledge of Self and Knowledge of God. So, let us pray together, in the words of the Glorious Qur’an: “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge” [Rabbi zidini ‘ilma] (20:114).

Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam) is a Métis Canadian Muslim scholar who embraced Islam over thirty years ago at the age of sixteen. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over three decades at the hands of both traditional Muslim scholars as well as Western academics. He completed post-doctoral studies in Arabic in Fez and Rabat and considers Morocco to be his second home. Dr. Morrow worked as a university professor for two decades, retiring from teaching after reaching the rank of Full Professor. He has authored a vast body of work, including over one hundred academic articles and thirty scholarly books. One of his most influential studies, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, inspired the creation of The Covenants Initiative, an international Muslim movement devoted to promoting the letters, treaties, and covenants of the Messenger of Allah with the People of the Book. An activist and advisor to world leaders, he received an ISNA Leadership Award in 2016. He can be followed, and His videos can be viewed on The Covenants of the Prophet Channel on YouTube.

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Dr. John Andrew Morrow is a senior scholar specializing in Islamic, Indigenous, and Hispanic Studies.