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By Anas Canon
Artistic director and executive producer, Remarkable Current
I have found that the lens that is used by those who begin the search for a new faith often continues to shape their path and journey as they grow within that spiritual tradition. If one’s search is motivated by a desire to live a more holistic lifestyle then they center their intention on finding a religion that places an emphasis on avoiding things that are detrimental to the mind and body. If a person is on quest to help bring justice and equality into the world then they will likely focus on the laws that a particular religion espouses. However, if one’s objective is to become absorbed in divine presence then they will seek out a spiritual tradition with the greatest propensity to expedite that process.
Islam, like most religions, possesses the instruments that are needed to aid the seeker in achieving all of the aforementioned goals. As we know it is not the ship that that deviates from the course set by the helmsman/helmswoman, but the lack of attention paid by those who navigate the sea. Surely, Muslims everywhere are facing challenging times. Yet the same events that present the challenges also present exquisite opportunities for Muslims to show how Islam provides tools and guidelines for gracefully overcoming all obstacles.
The biggest challenge facing those who claim to be Muslim in America is allowing external and internal forces to politicize their religion. Quite often I even find Muslim organizations attempting to muster up political capital by galvanizing the community based on ethnic lines. By reacting in such a manner it weakens the very thing that makes the tradition great; its inclusiveness. Its practitioners vary in race and ethnicity and no one particular group has ownership of it. As one who has adopted Islam as a spiritual tradition, and gracefully shed the ethnic component often added by those who immigrate to America, I find it damaging to allow world events to turn a tool designed to bring one closer to the Creator into one that breeds divisiveness. The spirit of Islam does not contain an “us and them” construct.
Islam is being discussed and debated by the global community today perhaps more than it ever has in its history. It is my earnest prayer in these conversations that take place that we as Muslims can begin to identify political issues as just that, political. Just because I share the same faith as someone from Pakistan, Iran, or Saudi Arabia by no means suggests that I share the same political view points. America is without a doubt the most religiously diverse and religiously tolerant nation state the world has ever seen. If we lose sight of the very reason for which God created diversity then we are squandering perhaps the greatest gift this country has to offer the history of humanity.
“We have created you as different tribes and nations so that you may know each other.” (Quran 49:13)
Anas Canon, is artistic director and executive producer for the independent record label Remarkable Current, which he founded in 2001. Canon was named among the “500 Most Influential Muslims Worldwide” by Georgetown University and the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre the American Media category in 2009.