As a Muslim, I know what many other Muslims that have an interest in politics have been told. Our parents, often a generation that came to this country fleeing persecution from Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, or Europe, are never fond of the prospect of their children involving themselves in political discourse. “Stay silent and live your life.” That is an accurate summary of what we’re often told, and we understand why they say that. The time has come, however, to become serious about our presence in the political sphere. I say presence, not influence or acquisition of power, for specific reasons.
I write this, not to the parents, but to the Muslim youth that are reluctant to study political science, engage in activism, or go to law school. Kamran Pasha, whose hyperlinked biography will do more justice than any introduction I can give, made a very powerful statement in a conversation between us: stop chasing financial security. The time is long gone for Muslims to establish themselves financially in this nation. Thankfully, we have many doctors, businessmen, and engineers. We need more politicians and activists. Many of you are worried that you will not be financially stable if you pursue politics or dedicate your lives to activism. To the non-Muslims reading this, excuse me while I invoke religious teachings. Muslims: we are all familiar with the concept that God controls our provision. We can work harder than ever and come out impoverished, or we can find ourselves undeservingly rich. The examples are endless and the theology of our faith upholds this idea. We are a people that view the world as temporary, a test, to determine our standing in the afterlife. Would you rather stand before our Lord as one who lived a normal life as an engineer enjoying financial security, or one who used every ounce of energy within to improve the trajectory of American Muslim life? Do not forget the concept of Tawakkul. Put in simple terms, submit your affairs to God and trust that He will take care of you. Dedicate yourself to the service of humanity. Fight for civil rights.
Then the question is presented of how far a Muslim can get in politics. Well, we will never know if we continue to avoid participation. Even if the answer is, as many would expect, not far, your goal should not be to rise to the presidency or global power. Focus on establishing a presence. Become the Muslim politician or activist that the youth of tomorrow can look up to and idolize. Do not chase power. Chase influence. Influence is established first and foremost by presence. It takes a lot of soul-searching to dedicate your life to this, so I recognize that it is not easy. We all struggle. To my Muslim sisters and brothers, establish your intentions and pray. To the rest, support us or get out of our way.