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|John Walker Is My Cousin By Blood, And My Brother In Faith|
|01/01/02 at 03:30:06|
John Walker Is My Cousin By Blood, And My Brother In Faith
Published Wednesday December 19, 2001 Issue 40Thomas Maguire
Note: This article was submitted to MIRROR by Thomas Maquire who identifies himself as the cousin of John Walker
I first met John Walker during a trip to visit his family before my junior year of college, in 1995. Although six years his senior, I found John to be a mature and thoughtful individual whose interests and curiosities closely paralleled my own. We both nurtured a fledgling interest in Islam that chiefly centered around the pseudo-Muslim murmurs within hiphop music. While my interest in Islam stalled around issues of social freedom and self-gratification, John exhibited a glowing innocence that propelled him to openly investigate the truth of Islam.
After graduating from college in 1997, I moved to the Bay Area, and John and I had a chance to spend more time together. It was then that he finally declared his faith in Islam. Having witnessed various intervals of his journey, it was clear that conversion brought him an inner satisfaction and a sense of completion. John, now Sulayman, introduced me to some knowledgeable Muslims who were able to answer some of my nagging questions about the religion. Soon after, I took the shahada as well and accepted Islam. As I began to meet Muslims in the Bay Area, those who already knew Sulayman spoke of him with admiration and enthusiasm. I can still remember the smiles people offered me when I mentioned that I was his cousin.
Sulayman and I only spent a short time together after we had both become Muslim. I moved to the East coast, and Sulayman eventually left for Yemen to begin learning Arabic. For several years, although I identified myself as Muslim, I dragged my feet in making the necessary changes in life-abandoning haram practices, establishing prayer and fasting. It wasn't until I got married in 1999 that I began to address my lack of attention to Islam. At this time, Sulayman was in Yemen for the second time, and we began communicating by email.
Like many Muslim converts, I was disillusioned by the unfortunate factionalism in the Islamic world. When I committed myself to practicing the religion properly, I still worried about navigating the various perspectives and in-fighting among Muslims. Sulayman has been portrayed by the media as impressionable and naÔve-easily led into extremism. Yet, when I encountered different groups and schools of thought within Islam, I always found that Sulayman offered a carefully balanced and knowledgeable critique of various perspectives without condemning or damning those with whom he disagreed. In this area, Sulayman has been the most exemplary person I have known in his ability to balance an intense commitment to the purest elements of Islam with a general tolerance of other Muslims. Although he remains in the relatively early stages of Islamic knowledge, his personal qualities-faith, patience, piety, kindness-are like those that I have witnessed among the most learned in religion.
Last Spring, at age 25, I once again went to my 19 year-old younger cousin for his trustworthy and thoughtful advice about another group of Muslims-the Taliban. With doubts about the validity of Western propaganda against the Taliban, and realizing that Sulayman's experience in Pakistan may give him more direct knowledge, I asked what he thought of the movement. He explained that his view of the Taliban was built on consistently positive impressions from a series of personal interactions. He wrote that there are "many things I've seen in the Taliban that have led me to believe that they are indeed what they claim to be-the one and only purely Islamic state in the world."
Sulayman approached the Taliban like he did all Muslims-with tolerance, positive expectations, and the best of manners. Far from being naÔve and foolish, Sulayman practiced the often difficult and commonly overlooked etiquette of approaching other Muslims without suspicion. Like any self-respecting Muslim, Sulayman was attracted to the Taliban rhetoric of rule by the Qur'an and Sunnah alone. If the Taliban were insincere in pursuing their stated goals, Sulayman cannot be held responsible
Sulayman's parents assert that he was always a pacifist. Indeed, Sulayman remains a pacifist. The Qur'an clearly states that Muslims must stand up and fight for a just cause, even if their hearts are averse to war. That is exactly what Sulayman did. Newsweek reported that Sulayman first went to fight in Kashmir. While Muslims in America, including myself, are content with making duas for the oppressed, Sulayman risked his life for people he had never met, and only for the sake of Allah. Similarly, if Sulayman engaged in any fighting against a band of rapists and thugs neatly dubbed the Northern Alliance, he maintained a pattern of behavior consistent with any standard of heroism. Moreover, even if Sulayman's good intentions were wrongly manipulated during his journey in Afghanistan, he entered the country long before the current conflict, never intended to abandon his citizenship, and never actively fought against the U.S.
Sulayman's grandmother, my aunt, once accused me of "getting John into this Islam stuff"-false, but a reasonable assumption considering our age difference. Insha'Allah, I would be blessed if I was at all responsible for his development as a Muslim. Sulayman is a champion of Islam. Years ago, when Sulayman was introducing me as a new Muslim at a San Francisco mosque, one brother commented that "this deen is thicker than blood." Yes, Sulayman is my cousin, so I will support him out of family loyalty. But as Sulayman's brothers and sisters in Islam, Muslims must work to defend him against an unjust and irrational prosecution, because he is one of our best.
|Re: John Walker Is My Cousin By Blood, And My Brother In Faith|
|01/06/02 at 13:16:02|
Excellent article from [url]www.ummahnews.com[/url]
By: Musa Abdun-Nur
5 January 2002
Muslims organizations across the United States dedicate themselves to the task of dawa - propagation of the Islamic message. As a result of this noble work, Americans who sense the righteousness, equality, and truth of Islam can find answers to their basic questions, preparing them with the knowledge to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
As an Irish-American from the Midwest, and a convert to Islam, I owe significant gratitude to these Muslim organizations for equipping me with the truth - the means for success in this life and the next.
Yet, amidst the volatile climate in America today, Muslim organizations have been curiously silent about one of the greatest success stories in the modern propagation of Islam in the West, John Walker, the young US Muslim who survived the massacre of Taliban fighters in Novemberís siege of the Qala-I-janghi fort in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan.
Only rarely are Muslims honored to witness such a true hero of Islam, an individual who abandons privilege and comfort to seek knowledge and strive in the cause of Allah.
John Walkerís story parallels that of another great American Muslim, Muhammad Ali. Although Ali holds an esteemed position in American popular culture, his heroic stance against the Vietnam War in the 1960s made him a national villain. Muslim websites today comfortably display praiseworthy articles about Ali;s life and favorable reviews of his new biographical movie.
At the time, however, the American public viewed the military presence in Vietnam as a defense of freedom and responded with a nauseating patriotism. An open defense of Ali in the 1960s would have required the same courage and conviction that Muslims are obligated to display in support of John Walker.
Today, only the most obtuse jingoist views Vietnam as anything other than a geopolitical struggle with total irrelevance for the lives of average Americans (particularly those who fought and died). In time, the war in Afghanistan may prove to represent the oil interests of Bush & co. more than any real concern about terrorism. However, such perspectives stand no chance in the mainstream mediaās current festival of hysteria. With the concepts of good and evil defined around oneís willingness to angrily wave an American flag, John Walker has become a victim of wartime propaganda.
The lack of support for John Walker by Muslim organizations is a failure of their stated goals and an abandonment of the people they claim to represent. In my conversations with other Muslims in America, I have witnessed unanimous support and admiration for John Walker. Those of us who understand his motivations, the desire to learn Arabic and Islam, the sense of duty to fight for the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir, feel only pride for our vilified brother.
Trust of the U.S. government and the mainstream media is not a requirement of American citizenship. Four months after the terrorist attacks and well into a brutal military campaign, Muslims are still wading through the sensationalized and dubious evidence against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
When John Walker travelled to Afghanistan last spring, long before September 11, he was under no obligation to accept the accusations of injustice and terrorism against the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. His journey was always guided by a commitment to Islam rather than a rejection of America. If the U.S. government puts John Walker on trial for any crime, it will openly acknowledge its enmity to Islam and all dedicated Muslims in America and elsewhere.
When John Walker returns to America in the custody of the U.S. criminal justice system, Muslims should welcome him home as one of our dearest heroes. Even if we are not allowed to parade him through the streets, we must continue to cheer him in our hearts, and remember him in our prayers.
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