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Finding the Muslim Batman

MIST ID: 11-1095

Feeling extremely excited about this years topic for MIST, I quickly rushed to an old friend of mine to discuss the theme hardly realizing what I was getting myself into. The heated discussion quickly turned into a convoluted debate. My acquaintance was just as amused as I was about the quote he had just read, but had completely different views on the matter then me, There are no heroes, he appallingly blurted out to my dissatisfaction. After intense discussion, we came to a decision: despite the need for many heroes in times of tribulation in all parts of the world, but specifically among the Muslim Ummah, today there are very few out there. It is the duty and obligation of the North American Muslim Community to fill this void, due to the unique blending of religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds we embody. To understand how our dialogue came to such a conclusion, one must first analyze the quotation that sparked the debate, and the source material from which it came. You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain, spoke Harvey Dent so eloquently in an attempt to have some sort of impact on the psyche of Batman, in the recent 2008 release of The Dark Knight. The film itself was an international success, scoring surprisingly high among the critics, nominated for over 150 awards, and grossing nearly one billion dollars worldwide, and it is no mystery why. One only needs to look at the storys hero: Batman himself. Why, of all the heroes to have surfaced the big screen, is he up top? Its simple really, everyone can see a little bit of Bruce Wayne within them a fairly innocent young man that suffers a crisis and is forced to confront it. And unlike Superman who was born with his powers, or Spiderman who underwent a freak accident, Batman has no actual powers he is a human being that has to use his own wit, intelligence, and the resources he has at his disposal to solve his communitys toughest

challenges. Furthermore, it only takes a second to look at Gotham City to see that something is certainly up a bustling, polluted metropolis, with crooks and thugs running the show, and an inefficient government that is unable to support its own people due to widespread corruption, leading to deteriorating conditions. It is not that the citizens do not have the potential to stand up to these wrongdoings; there is simply no effort or desire to do so. Gothams residents expect others to solve their problems for them, or willingly accept their situation. Sound familiar? Why yes, Gotham city is a lot like our present day Earth, no matter where one lives, from Chicago to Jakarta, from London to Islamabad! But where is our Batman; who is going to stand up for our worlds injustices, and take the blame if he or she fails? Where can one find our modern day hero? One only needs to turn to the teachings of the Prophet ( ) to find that answer, The Muslims (the Ummah) are like the limbs of a man, where if the eye hurts the whole body feels pain and if the head hurts, the whole body feels pain and suffering. Well, there is a lot of suffering to go around, and it is time we, as an Ummah, address that. Batman, central to todays pop culture, and thus a reflection of the modern world, is a tale based heavily on ideals and the good will of man overcoming evils and ailing the world. These ideals are likewise reflected within the Deen of Islam, which teaches of helping others and continuous charity to the community. Folks, weve found our potential Hero! Sadly, one major issue remains: Much of the Ummah, particularly those in Muslim nations, is unable to help out, as they themselves are the ones that need aid. In fact, Muslim nations in general are today lagging behind their international counterparts. For example, not a single majority Muslim nation is a part of the G7 or G8, an organization of the most wealthy, industrialized and influential States in the world. Nor is a Muslim country in

consideration for the organizations expansion to include five more countries, despite the fact that Muslims represent one-fifth of the worlds population, they are not represented in an organization of up to 13 of the top nations. This is likewise true for other institutions, such as within the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Muslim economies drastically lag due to political instability, which hinders growth (the fastest growing being Turkey, which is still only number seventeen when ranked among other countries, followed by Indonesia at number twenty). Literacy, a hallmark of learned societies, is lowest in South Asia and Africa: Islamic countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, and Chad. Muslim countries do not enjoy all the liberties others do: For example freedom of speech and press are not high held virtues and there are many parts of the world where young girls are still not allowed to go to school due to ideological views. The most dangerous hotspots of the world, locations that need the most aid, are usually predominantly Muslim: Chechnya, Gaza, Darfur, Kashmir, the list goes on. Some conservative thinkers might argue that things like economic prosperity and education are worldly matters and pleasures that are not important in the long run. However, these theorists fail to understand the benefit these things have brought. Our deen commands us to learn, read, explore, and be educated, both about the faith itself as well as our world and how it was created. In fact, education played a huge role in the growth of Islam, and benefited the world at large, as sciences developed by Muslims spread. The Muslim Caliphate was at the heart of the world due to the work of Muslim doctors, scientists, mathematicians, writers, artists, and theologians. The strength of the Caliphate allowed for the cultural expansion of Islam, as people from all over the world flocked to cities like Baghdad and Damascus, thoroughly impressed with the advancements of the

Muslims, and returned to their homelands with the teachings of Islam. Economic power did the same, as trading among merchants helped Islam spread through Asia, as far as China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Overtime, due to division and infighting, this economic resilience and the talent of the Ummah have deteriorated. It may seem that all these issues make it difficult in finding our Muslim Batman, but the heroes we are looking for may be literally right under our noses. Thats right, the quickly growing North American Muslim Community presents a beacon of optimism - And why not, Western Muslims have been blessed with the best of both worlds: the teachings and values of Islam, as well as the economic and educational resources and social mobility to bring benefit to the world. We are the heroes we have been searching for all this time. (Surprise, surprise!) Any criticism in this unification of the east and west, the American Muslim, is most easily rebutted looking at the architecture of our very own mosques, which consistently blend Islamic attributes (domes, arches, minarets, and calligraphy) with modernized, western elements (these mosques certainly do not look out of place, no matter where they are built) to create something beautiful and absolute, not conflicting. American Muslims are undoubtedly no less different from the masjids they attend and have strived to build. We have the capability to fulfill our worlds toughest challenges. Too bad we lack the motivation. Glossing over the fact that countless young Muslims today are either unaware or apathetic to the issues that surround them, there is a prominent feeling of laziness and ineffectuality. These comments should not be shrugged off as overtly critical, for there is lots of work to be done. Instead of reflecting, planning, organizing, and executing solutions on the problems within our neighborhoods and the broader international world, adolescents find themselves obsessing over pop culture fads,

television, the internet, video games, trying to look good and impressing others the list of trivial, temporary, and useless time killers that dominate society is endless. Understand, I apply this harshness to myself before anyone else; I am just as guilty and at fault. Another hurdle is that there is no foundation from predecessors: If asked what an American Muslim Hero means to them, most youth would have no clear cut figure or even ideas in their head. In all honesty, there have not been many influential individuals coming out of our communities, we must literally start from scratch and build upwards. If our goal is to impact the world in a positive manner for our future generations, the time to act is now. The powers of the world fear the potential impact of nations like China and India, with over one billion people each the sheer size and power of their markets alone have the potential to be overwhelming - the world can and will be completely different decades down the line because of it. It is high time the over one billion Muslims flexed their strength in numbers as well, starting with the group most capable, American Muslims. There is no doubt in my mind that when we are prepared to fight the good fight American Muslims can really transform many parts of the world. The opportunities presented to us are endless, we are just not stepping up to the plate It all comes full circle many of our own teachings command us to care for those around us and the affairs of our world. Ibn al Jawzee for example states, I have never seen a flaw sadder to me than a community whose people stop working, despite having the
ability to continue. None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he

wishes for himself. (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12) Interestingly enough, this is exactly what Harvey Dents brave words meant similar to Islamic revelations from centuries earlier. Struggle and sacrifice, as in being a hero to those around you, is an

essential part of faith. If one simply turns their back in ignorance to those that need help most, they are, to a certain degree, allowing themselves to become villains. As an Ummah we will have to choose our own role both locally as individuals, and internationally as a whole.