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NEW YORK, NY (January 20, 2014) – Nearly five decades after his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continues to be an example in the fight for dignity and equal rights in America.
Affected by the threat of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric, the American Muslim community can emulate Dr. King’s methods of peaceful engagement to overcome hate and intolerance.
As he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King recognized that the Civil Rights movement was part of a universal struggle for human rights.
“We are facing many challenges in our society today,” said Naeem Baig, president of the Islamic Circle of North America.
Just as Dr. King struggled against injustice, Americans must strive to erase the false lines of division and fight against the evils of religious bigotry, sexism, racism, classism, and economic exploitation. Examples of these evils are unfortunately easy to find.
Religiously motivated verbal abuse is, for instance, an all too common occurrence. What is particularly unfortunate is its prevalence in school settings. A report filed last month by the Council on American Islamic Relations reveals the mental and emotional struggles students endure when subject to hurtful verbal abuse.
Racism, too, continues to be entrenched in society despite the work of Dr. King and others like him. For example, looking at the prison system, mass incarceration disproportionately impacts racial minorities who are often unfairly targeted by the police and courts system. A black man is six times more likely to be incarcerated than a white man.
On the socio-economic side, millions of Americans struggle to raise their families due to severe economic injustices. Corporations continue to acquire ever-increasing profits, while their workers are struggling to make ends meet –often living close to the poverty line. Although levels of unemployment have steadied across the country, the percentage of underemployed has jumped dramatically.
“We must fight for better living wages so that people are able to live decent lives,” said Baig. “We must ask ourselves why our houses of worship are turning into ‘Food Pantries’ and ‘Feeding Centers’. The poor are becoming poorer because of income inequality.”
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “For every day on which the sun rises, there is a reward for the one who establishes justice among people.” Combating injustice is a moral duty for Muslims, and they can take inspiration from inspiring leaders like Dr. King.
While his dream for a truly equitable society is yet to be realized, the legacy of Dr. King, as a champion of human rights, justice, and equality, can live on through continuing efforts to transform his vision into reality.