There Are Many Ways of Speaking Truth to Power

January 26, 2017

Linda Sarsour and Imam Mohamed Magid (right).
Linda Sarsour and Imam Mohamed Magid (right).

As leaders in the American Muslim community, Linda Sarsour and Imam Mohamed Magid both understand the critical importance of engaging with policymakers and opinion shapers. However, both have been publicly attacked in the media for being outspoken figures for our community.

American Muslim Leaders in the National Spotlight

Donald Trump became President of the United States on January 20th. On that same day, Imam Mohamed Magid, Executive Director of the ADAMS Center, was asked to deliver the call to prayer at the interfaith inaugural prayer service. Instead, he requested to recite two verses from the Qur’an (30:22 and 49:13).

These verses celebrate diversity of race, language and thought — especially at a time of such tremendous division. His appearance at the interfaith service at the National Cathedral was the subject of severe scrutiny; some disagreed with his decision to participate.

The next day, Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., got on stage in front of over 500,000 people and declared that she is “unapologetically Muslim American.” She was smeared by the alt-right, white supremacists, and other Islamophobes.

Difficult Dialogue Requires Principled Engagement

Both Imam Magid and Linda spoke truth to power, albeit in different ways. Imam Magid as a religious leader and Linda as an activist are prime examples of American Muslim civic engagement and the valuable contributions they bring to American society. At this time, we cannot afford to be absent from any gathering of civic or religious leaders considering the speed and ferocity at which the Trump Administration is operating. We American Muslims must enhance our presence in all spheres of American society.

There are different approaches to civic engagement, and we are fortunate to have leaders in our community who approach this work in different ways. These different approaches are all meant to accomplish the same thing: advocating for the interests of American Muslims to benefit American society overall.

During these next four years, we should have difficult conversations regarding the efficacy of approaches and tactics with the Trump Administration. Difficult dialogue requires principled engagement — engagement based on our Islamic and American values of working for equality, mercy, and justice.

There is a false perception that one way of creating social change supersedes another. We need multiple approaches. We need people who will push for the boycotts and lead the resistance. We also need those who will work with our government institutions, and not cede more ground to the anti-Muslim extremists.

Promoting Civic Engagement By Empowering Others

Imam Magid’s decision to participate in the interfaith inaugural prayer service led to an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon where he discussed Islam in America and explained the message of diversity he was sending President Trump and his administration.

Linda’s service as co-chair of the Women’s March has inspired millions to mobilize with their sisters and brothers. Now, attendees of the march are looking to take their political advocacy to the next level under the leadership of an American Muslim woman.

Linda and Imam Magid are important American Muslim voices adding to the national conversation on the future of our nation. At the end of the day, it is our presence in any and all activities involving one another that will help secure our civil rights. Our community must continue to be civically and politically engaged to ensure our work creates significant social change for our nation.

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