Fighting Oppressive Structures Is A Form of Worship

My mother is an Irish Christian. My father is a Lebanese Muslim. I grew up surrounded and immersed in both faiths. I attended Sunday school (where I coloured in Jesus cartoons with a brown crayon because he “looked like my dad”), and I prayed with my family at the mosque when I could. I was not only immersed in the faiths of both my parents, but also the politics of two nations that have experienced, first-hand, the consequences of imperial-intervention: Ireland and Lebanon. Because of this, I see a deep connection between struggle and worship and I see this connection from a space of liminality; as someone who is from both a Christian and a Muslim.

I will do everything I can to smash that border (as we should smash all borders).

I was taught from an early age that part of “having faith” was pursuing justice in all situations. I was taught that I was tied, intimately, to all humans and creatures on this planet and that I had an obligation to all of my neighbors. Although I have lived a largely secular life, I cannot (and will not) separate my politics from my faith or my spirituality. I also will not refute one faith over the other. Nor will I allow this space of “liminality” to be fetishized as anything more than that which has been projected onto me by a world that resists and fears racial and religious “mixture.” But if I am going to be viewed as a transgressed border between two “worlds,” I will do everything I can to smash that border (as we should smash all borders).

I have never been confused about my faith or my politics or how the two have informed each other. In my opinion, Christianity and Islam are not inherently in conflict with each other[1], and anti-capitalist organizing is not in conflict with having faith or being spiritual. Even though I am not confused about this, confusion is often projected on to me. This is done in two primary ways: by racializing spirituality and by coding spirituality as incompatible with radical organizing.

I should add here what constitutes anti-capitalist organizing and how I see it as inherent to not only my faith, but also the fight against Islamophobia. In her book titled Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (2015)[2], Deepa Kumar writes that “… the growth of capitalism… led first to European dominance over world trade and then eventually to colonialism and imperialism” (21). Kumar writes that the hatred of Islam is grounded in a fear of being commanded to share one’s wealth (zakat) by a God who is perceived to be other than the Christian God (although Christianity commands that its followers also surrender their wealth). As such, anti-capitalist organizing is inherent to my struggle for liberation, as someone who has faith, and also as someone who understands, through familial ties, the destructive forces of imperialism and colonialism as grounded in capitalism. Capitalism is a system that allows for the open condemnation of one of the pillars of Islam and of Christianity. To eradicate Islamophobia, or, as writer Jaideep Singh refers to it, Islamo-racism[3], we must challenge capitalism itself in our daily lives.

During the month of Ramadan, we are called upon to fast and to be more conscious about our words and our actions. We are asked to pray, to meditate, and to consciously walk through life as Muslims. We survey the damage of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism that surrounds us and we struggle as worship.

This week, Linda Sarsour spoke in Washington, DC at a rally for the Poor People’s Campaign, saying that as a Muslims, we stand with the most vulnerable people in our societies, that God not only commands that we pray in the mosque, but that we pray in the material world; that God is practical, and that protest and civil disobedience are, indeed, forms of worship. Sarsour was arrested after speaking for “blocking traffic.”[4]

Fighting capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism is a form of worship and each revolutionary act brings us closer to God.

For me, nothing resounds more– and it resounds the most during the month of Ramadan– when we are called to action. We must fight injustice in all its forms and walk consciously as Muslims all year, but during this holy month, we are reminded of our obligations to our neighbors and our comrades. I am a Muslim, I am a Christian, but I am mostly a revolutionary who is concerned primarily with anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-colonial work. Although I do not fast (because of a history of eating disorders), I observe Ramadan in my own ways. Solidarity means using whatever platform I may have to enact real change in the spaces I find myself occupying. During the month of Ramadan, I am particularly conscious of my class position and what work I must do in my community.

We are not asked to fight for anyone, but with them. We are connected to each other through our struggles, and if struggle is worship, then when we struggle together, we worship together. Fighting capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism is a form of worship and each revolutionary act brings us closer to God.

[1] The construction of the “western world” and its foe, the “east” relies on a long-standing argument made by Samuel Huntington (1993) which asserts that, globally, the world is engaged in a conflict in which the “modern” and “western world,” associated with Christianity is still engaged in a crusade against the “pre-modern” or “eastern world,” which is predominantly associated with Islam.

[2] Kumar, Deepa. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Chicago: Haymarket books, 2012.

[3] Sing, Jaideep. “Don’t Call it Islamophobia, Call it Islamo-Racism: The “Otherizing” of Religion and Race.” Patheos. Web. Mar 25 2016.