The first speaker in the order is Suhail Khan. Suhail Khan is a young lawyer. A graduate of Berkeley. And a J.D. from University of Iowa next door. He currently is press secretary and counselor for Congressman Tom Campbell and those of you who know Congressman Campbell, he’s a Republican and he is a conservative Republican with values that are very close to Muslim values. Family values, a lot of his stands are very close to us. I’ll have first Suhail Khan take the first crack at it.
[ARABIC] Mr. Chairman, honorable speakers, brothers and sisters, [ARABIC] It is indeed a cherished honor for my family and for me to be given this opportunity this morning to address you on how we as a community have come in securing—how far we have come in securing our rights as Muslims and how far we have yet to travel. And the paramount importance of this struggle for not only our survival and our preservation as a community, but for the betterment of man. It is a special honor for me to be here before you today because I am always reminded of the legacy of my father, Dr. Mahboob [PH] Khan, an early founder of the Muslim Students Association in the mid-60s and an active member of the organization through its growth and development in the Islamic Society of North America. His story and the story of my dearest mother, Malika [PH] Khan as is the experience of many of you is one of hardship, struggle, bravery, and perseverance. All in the face of continued adversity and hardship. As a husband, a father of five, a professional, an activist, an American, and as a Muslim, my father inspired in me and those who knew him an Islamic spirit of hard work, vision, and justice.
In Surah [UNCLEAR] of the Holy Koran, almighty Allah instructs us, Oh ye who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, your parents, or your kin and whether it be against rich or poor. For Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve and if you distort justice, or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do. Justice. We as Muslims are enjoined, we are obliged as adherents to our faith to make every effort to take every opportunity to strive for justice for all. Muslims and non-Muslims, black and white, man or woman, poor and rich, we, no one else, for us, with the help and guidance of almighty Allah, are the men and woman who must strive for the good against all that is evil, unjust and oppressive. In Surah [UNCLEAR] of the Holy Koran, almighty Allah describes the believers. Men and women are protectors of one another. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil. They observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and his messenger. On them Allah will pour his mercy for Allah is exalted in power and wise.
We are charged by almighty Allah to protect our fellow brothers and sisters and we know of many, so many, here in America and across the globe who are in dire need of protection. And who seek justice and relief from oppression. If an ummah reported that the messenger of Allah [ARABIC] a Muslim is a brother to a Muslim. Neither he harms him nor does he hand him to another for harm. Who comes in need of his brother, Allah comes in hardship to his aid. And whosoever removes the calamity of a Muslim Allah will remove a calamity of his on the day of reckoning. And whosoever conceals a fault of his brother Allah conceals a fault of his on the day of judgment. Everywhere we turn, everyday of every week we hear of those who need help, relief, a voice. And many times, those who need the greatest are ourselves. Bosnia, Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, Kosovo, the cries of our oppressed pierce our hearts. Here in the United States, Muslims are often faced with discrimination, harassment and outright hatred. Mosques are burned. Islamic centers are vandalized, desecrated. Mosques and Islamic centers and schools face constant discriminatory zoning decisions. Muslim families are harassed and hindered from travel from at airports as they are profiled as quote unquote terrorists or security risks. Muslim women who choose to wear an Islamic headscarf are excluded from jobs as are Muslim men from wearing the Islamic beard. Most recently a qualified Muslim was excluded from a federal commission on domestic terrorism because of his political beliefs. Worse, almost two dozen Muslims are being held in federal prison today without federal charge, without bail, and without the most Islamic and American opportunity to face their accuser and to challenge the evidence used by federal authorities to deprive them of their right to due process, their right to speech, association, and their very right to freedom. Our freedoms, my dear brothers and sisters, are under attack. Our freedom to associate with whomsoever we choose, to speak out politically and religiously, to travel, to practice our faith as Allah has instructed us as God-fearing men and women must be protected. And these rights must be defended with all the determination, all the resources, all the unyielding vigilance of the believing mujahid.
That is the spirit of Islam. The mark of the Muslim. These are the life and death struggles that we Muslims face every day of our lives. The struggle is by no means a new one. From the earliest, very first days of Islam men and woman have tenaciously defended Islam in the face of hardship and oppression. One of the companions of the holy prophet of Allah [UNCLEAR] was a slave captured from Africa who belonged to Omaya [PH], the chief of the Jumah [PH] tribe, a clan of Mecca. Bilal [PH] was one of the earliest to embrace Islam. And his cruel owner would take him out midday and would force him to lay on the hot desert sand on his back, pinned down by a large crushing rock placed on his chest. His master would torture Bilal in this cruel manner, demanding that he denounce his belief in one god and his allegiance to the holy prophet [UNCLEAR] Bilal would endure this torture and would not give in, painfully yet steadfastly whispering, [ARABIC] one, one. This is our determination. This is the fierce determination we must resolve to bear in every facet of our lives. This is the mark of the Muslim. The earliest defenders of Islam would defend their more numerous and better equipped oppressors, because the early Muslims loved death, dying for the sake of almighty Allah more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case where we—when we are fighting life’s other battles.
Yesterday evening I was watching on the television the program about the boxing match between the champion Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. And in describing Muhammad Ali, George Foreman describes his tenacious spirit as a Muslim. Here’s what George Foreman said. Here’s what he really was. He was brave. I hit him. I hit him hard. And he’d just keep at me. Nobody had ever done that before. He’d come ready to die. Now what are you going to do with a guy like that? Indeed, what are our oppressors going to do with people like us? We’re prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam. That’s the way we must be in the face of discrimination, hatred, and oppression. Firm, unyielding. This goes for the seemingly insignificant and the most crucial life and death battles of our life. I’m so inspired by the struggle of another Muslim slave. This one here in America, Kunta Kinte. Kunta Kinte was one of 98 slaves, forcibly brought here to Annapolis, Maryland from West Africa, aboard a slave ship, the Lord Legionnaire, in 1767. He was only seventeen years old. As a Muslim, he endured vicious whippings in his effort to secure his freedom. His master even amputated a portion of his foot. In this lonely struggle to preserve his Islam, Kunta Kinte endured lash after lash of the whip over his name alone. According to Alex Haley, in his book, Roots, on the day of his birth in Gambia, West Africa, Kunta Kinte’s grandmother Yaisa smiled with joy as she witnessed the birth of her grandson and a special blessing [ARABIC] had given her son Omaro and his wife Binta. Later, when [UNCLEAR] the new baby, the imam made a dua [PH] to Allah to grant him long life, success, and many children to his family, to his village, and finally, to the strength and the spirit he deserved to bring honor to the name he was about to receive. Seventeen years later, as a slave, strung up from a tree in Maryland, Kunta Kinte resisted painful, humiliating lash after lash of his master’s whip in his fight to protect his name as a Muslim. And how easily, how shamefully do we often hide our beautiful Muslim names. How often do we say, [ARABIC] Sam, Mike, and Bill. This life, dear brothers and sisters, is difficult. This life is hard. The late Dr. Martin Luther King said, this life is hard as steel. But we should not for a moment despair. Almighty Allah has pledged to help us in our struggle. And it is him that we seek our refuge and seek his mercy and help. It is he that will give us protection. But in doing so, we must take the steps necessary to help ourselves, to help those around us. Almighty Allah promised us that if we take a step towards him, he takes several. If we walk towards him, he will run. We are his creation and he is the most merciful, most just. But the first step is ours.
In 1955, Miss Rosa Parks, late in the evening after working a long day’s hours on her feet in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on the bus because she was black and her brave gesture of defiance in the face of racial segregation sparked the fires of freedom for an entire generation of African-Americans weary of a life of injustice. We like the brave Miss Parks are weary of discrimination with which we are faced. And like her, we refuse to take our place at the back of the bus. We are Muslims, we are Americans, and we demand justice for all, rich or poor, black or white, man or woman, Muslim or non-Muslim, citizen of America or citizen of the world. American Muslims have made progress. We’ve established scores of mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and many religious and social institutions and organizations. American Muslims have become ambassadors, congressional chiefs of staff, political advisers, and increasingly [ARABIC] publicly elected Muslims of service. But while we’ve made progress, we’ve a long way to go in securing our rights and demanding justice for our children, our brothers, our sisters, and for our community. Islam in America remains in its youth. We are still in the heady days of promise. Where in the chrome and the brass and the sheen of our youth, we often make mistakes. We may stumble. When this occurs, my dear brothers and sisters, don’t criticize and abandon us. Guide us and help us. Don’t condemn our efforts. Cherish and nurture our spirit.
As the many oppressed said during the civil rights movement in the sixties, we must keep our eyes on the prize. The prize being almighty Allah’s pleasure and blessing. The results of our effort are in his good hands. I have pledged my life’s work, inspired by my dear father’s shining legacy, and inspired further by my mother’s loving protection and support to work for the ummah. Join me in this effort. Join hands with me in supporting the work of the many valuable organizations who have dedicated themselves to our protection. To our empowerment as a Muslim ummah. Together, hand in hand, we can work toward the cause of Muslim self-determination. Whether born in a refugee camp in Palestine, in occupied Kashmir, in Kosovo, whether Muslims are harassed, brutalized and arrested and thrown in jail because of the government labels as terrorists, we demand our rights. We demand respect as men and women. We pledge to assert our God-given right in this country, in this time, on this earth, because we are human beings that deserve no less. I hope and pray to almighty Allah that we will renew our commitment to working towards a brighter future for all men and women regardless of religion, regardless of color, nationality, but for all people who love justice and for those who love freedom. [ARABIC]
Allah akbar. Thank you brother Suhail. You remind us of your father and please continue your work.