'Islam Day' should foster understanding
I am a Muslim American born to Christian parents and my family has been in this country for more generations than I even know. This should not matter; I should not feel that I have to defend my Americanism simply because I adopted a different faith — but I do.
When I first became Muslim I did not cover my head with the hijab (headscarf). People saw a white girl, heard no accent and assumed I was Christian, therefore no one treated me differently. Those that met me couldn't tell that I was Muslim; this did not make me less Muslim, it only made me less obedient to my creator.
When I started to wear the hijab people no longer treated me the same. But I was the same, I am the same — only more observant of the tenets of my religion, causing me to be kinder, gentler, more patient, more forgiving, more understanding.
When America was devastated by the events of Sept. 11, this affected me too; I am an American. The tragedy not only shattered my country but also hijacked my religion and further separated the Muslim world from America.
Muslims in the U.S. have since been on the defensive trying to showcase the beauty of Islam and demonstrate that violence and terrorism are incompatible with its teachings. It seems the more we speak out the more the vocal minority becomes fearful and cruel. They misquote our Quran and take verses out of context to further sow the seeds of fear and hatred. Any book can be misconstrued; the Bible is no exception.
My husband, Hakim Ouansafi, president and chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i, thought in order to counter this and replace fear and mistrust with peace and harmony a specific day could be designated where Muslims and non-Muslims could get together to "talk story." Hence the idea of "Islam Day" was born, and what better place than the land of aloha that already celebrates a day for Buddhists, Baha'is, Confucians and many others.
The aloha spirit was demonstrated when 100 percent of our state representatives and all, except three of our senators, voted to pass this resolution, which is like-minded with the direction of our country and the world.
President Obama said "We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans." Similarly Pope Benedict XVI said he has "deep respect for the Muslim community."
Unfortunately two senators used bigotry and fear, while a third hid behind the facade of "separation of church and state" to justify their vote against the resolution. This started an unwelcomed controversy, which Fox News, and the vocal minority of a similar agenda, capitalized on by interjecting their venom into the purity of the resolution.
HCR 100 (Islam Day) is an opportunity to build a bridge of hope and understanding, extending a hand between Muslims and non-Muslims in America, and America and other Muslim nations.
It was never intended to be a "religious" holiday as it is not even permissible within our faith to introduce new holidays. This resolution reached far beyond our shores, showing the citizens of those countries that America is not the oppressor they are led to believe, that Americans are people that lead by example and reach out to include people of all faiths, colors and creeds.
Our president said, "The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam." Unfortunately the vocal minority does not share this viewpoint and neither do the terrorists. For Hawai'i to recognize the contributions of Islam goes against the recruitment propaganda the terrorists spew to increase their membership. What the Hawai'i legislators did in one vote has far surpassed anything done by our government over the last nine years by way of relationship building. We applaud our Hawai'i senators for planting the first seeds of inclusion, and admire their courage to stand up when it would have been so much easier to just sit down. Our founding fathers would be very proud.