Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Day

(1/16/06) Today commemorates the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. We often overlook the importance of this commemoration, or don’t feel connected to it, yet Muslim Americans today reap the benefits of the struggle that he and others in the civil rights movement strived and sacrificed for. All people of color – and all Americans owe these pioneers a debt of gratitude for reasserting the values that this nation was founded on, values such as “liberty, freedom and justice for all” that have not always been applied to all people.

Especially for those who came to this country for greater education and greater opportunities, we too often take for granted the idea that we will be valued and rewarded for our contributions and capabilities. This was not always the case, as he so eloquently said in his famous speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

These words are a reflection of the famous prophetic saying, that “There is no difference between an Arab and non-Arab except in piety”, a hadith that we often like to quote, but often fail to live up to in our dealings with people of other ethnicities. Let us take the opportunity of this anniversary to renew our commitment to racial equality that is a fundamental principal of Islam, and to a heightened appreciation for the opportunities and privileges that we enjoy, to a great extent due to the road paved by our brothers and sisters in the civil rights movement.

ING has been participating in Dr. Martin Luther King commemorations for many years. Today, ING’s president and Santa Clara County Human Relations Commissioner, Maha ElGenaidi attended the Santa Clara County breakfast in honor of Dr. King, which was attended by hundreds of county employees, executives, politicians, school administrators and community organizations.

May each of us feel called to work toward Dr. King’s dream:

“…I have a dream today.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

“With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

“Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

“Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

“Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

“But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

“Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

“And when this happens, when we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.””

– An Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s Speech in 1963.