"Are Muslims even allowed to be loyal to the United States?"
This was the question a non-Muslim friend asked in an email. The question seemed timely as November 5th marks the one year anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting -- an attack perpetrated by an American who was also Muslim. The answer, while simple, requires some context.
19th Century British India was a hotbed of religious and political debate, particularly on the issue of non-Muslim government loyalty. British missionaries promised the Queen to win India for Christ, while Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam all jockeyed for converts. Muslim clerics, unable to withstand the preaching of Christian missionaries, twisted the religious debate into a political debate and declared that Islam forbade Muslims from pledging allegiance to non-Muslim governments. Clerics delivered sermons and edicts denouncing the British Government and inciting violence through calls for jihad. As much of the Indian subcontinent had already pushed for liberation from the British, extremists' propaganda seemed logical to the ignorant masses.
At the same time, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad rejected such claims. Ahmad was the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community -- the only international Islamic organization to fully endorse loyalty to the country in which one resides, regardless of the ruler's religion. He declared, "What authority do [Muslims] have to justify the killing of innocents, I wonder? Why do their [clerics] not stop them from these awful actions which bring Islam into disrepute? One cannot enumerate the comforts which the Muslims have under this British Government." The British Government not only established a rule of law in India, but also established schools, hospitals, and religious freedom. Ahmad continued, "The tradition prevalent among Muslims of attacking the people of other religions, which they call jihad, is not the jihad of Divine religious Law [Shariah]. Rather, it is a grievous sin and a violation of the clear instructions of God and [Muhammad]."
Ahmad's declaration was in accordance with the Qur'an (4:60) and Prophet Muhammad's actions. As a practical example, after laying claim to prophethood in Mecca, Muhammad and his followers faced relentless persecution at the hands of the pagan Meccan Government. For nearly 13 years, Muhammad witnessed his followers, inclusive of his relatives, dragged through the streets, crushed with boulders, and tied to horses to be literally ripped in half. Records show that the only response Muhammad allowed to this non-Muslim government, despite their cruelty, was to migrate some 240 miles to Medina -- a month long journey, unimaginable today.
Extremists cite the wars Muhammad fought in a disingenuous attempt to justify disloyalty to non-Muslim governments. What of those wars? The Qur'an states, "Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged..." (22:40). The permission -- not commandment -- to fight is only in defense, against those whom war is made. Last I checked, the American Government has not waged war against American Muslims nor sanctioned in their persecution. On the contrary, America has upheld its rule of law, recognizing the equality of its citizens regardless of background, and champions a universal freedom of religion. For a Muslim, loyalty to the United States is not simply lip service but a fundamental requirement of faith.
This is not to say that an American-Muslim automatically agrees with every decision of our government. Muslims exercise judgment, which leads to conflicts between their view of how the government should function, and how the government actually functions. Sound familiar? Like Jews, Atheists, Conservatives, Independents, etc., Muslims have opinions -- sometimes strong opinions. In such scenarios, Islam only allows change to occur through the venues that the law offers its citizens. The peaceful democratic legal process America offers is the process incumbent upon any Muslim who disagrees with government policy. Peaceful difference of opinion, therefore, does not jeopardize, but strengthens loyalty to the government. As Thomas Jefferson points out, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
With that said, let me refer back to my friend's email. I responded that as an American Muslim, I was not 'allowed' to be loyal to the non-Muslim American Government. Instead, I am required to be loyal to the American Government. Any behavior to the contrary would not only be un-American, but also un-Islamic.