This is the thing: as Muslims, we are not to buy into other ideologies in exchange for clemency but we are to uphold our agreements and contracts. What about as Americans? Are we citizens before anything else? No; citizenship is a secular concept that cannot override our identities. So the question is, as Americans, have we signed some social contract? Have we bought into something that maybe isn’t the wisest investment? And, most importantly, do we have a choice? No, yes and absolutely. It was Franklin himself who said: “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” But inalienable rights are God-given and self-evident, they do not depend on the establishment of a man-made government; legislatures and legislation are employed only to maintain the peace, they are not requisite. If full-blooded Americans want to stand up for the sanctity of their own doctrine, whatever it may be, the Constitution or an imagined social contract, it might be good for everyone, but it’s not really what Muslims and Islam are about. It is the Muslim who says otherwise that has “hijacked the narrative”; the Muslim embodies the principles of his faith, not the ideals of the people, whoever they are. If we want to stand up for truth and justice, we need to look farther than to our respective flags and borders. This is the fine line between secularism and faith. Look at the treaty of Hudhaybiyya with its conditions that seemed to disfavor the Muslims, ultimately proving the validity of their cause and their standing amongst the people. And none of this is new. The Classical Liberals, the less-modern Libertarians, and plenty of off-shoot politically separatist factions all understood this grave danger of dependence on politics and government; they are those who recognized the value of freedom and liberty and chose not to exchange either for worldy success. But because they are simply the ideals of honest men and not the whole, complete, undiluted truth, they are often drowned out in the seas of unscrupulous voices. If we have to rely on others for peace and prosperity we’ve damned ourselves to uncertainty and doubt. If we are subjugated and subjected to humiliation or even torture, the faithful understand that all are tested. This does not mean we don’t act. It means we learn from our mistakes. It means we need to pick and choose our battles. It means we need to stand together, even if it’s ugly. And that means we need to know where we actually stand on all fronts, socially, spiritually and intellectually. With balance lay true power, not idealistic equality. Economies are the tell-tale sign of adherence to sound principles and virtuous ideals: social forces are in constant competition–long live the free market; we all chase excellence in every regard and no one can “distribute” the wealth. When policies become like marketing ploys and marketing sounds like politics, you know people are in trouble; no one knows who to really trust and an ugly majority will rule, one that has no control over its body and arms yet touts the ideal of the individual and calls for the protection of the minority while they silence the both, as though knowing best. And what happens next is dissolution and poverty of identity. Those who are born into such a world (and) accept the will of the masses as most supreme, whether out of ignorance or innocence, they follow its dictates at every level they find themselves in. They no longer retain distinct social, spiritual or intellectual identities, they accept themselves as subjects of the times in every sphere of influence, and whether or not they believed they become disillusioned and quiet. No one can say they have not witnessed this in their countries. But yet we still hoist our flags and pledge our allegiances. You don’t have to be born in Russia like Emma Goldman to see how evil patriotism can be. It is said that, in Arabic, the word for people is related to the concept of “forgetfulness” because they are fickle and disorganized; “an-naasu yansoo”, “the people forget”. And so to me, whatever solidarity we believe we have garnered through bureaucratic (or even cultural) means is only an ornate illusion whose power reaches a peak only to crumble and reveal an intricate network of lies and deception. Our true power is with what we know is true. If we can’t agree, we can still work together, but let not that, mere compromise, be the height of our ambition nor the basis of our message. When we aren’t bound to men, their labels, parties and ideals we embody our principles and faith, and that speaks for itself without adopting narratives or a socio-politico agenda that consumes who we are. Otherwise, it is not only as a people that we become divided, at a loss for much more than words. This land is not your land or my land, this God’s land; we have been offered a temporary stay and all await the account of their actions and the weighing of their deeds. May we be made not of “those who have gone astray in their efforts for worldly life, and while they think that they excel in their work” (18:104).