Public Comment

A Muslim American Reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

By Khalida Jamilah
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:05:00 PM

On January 20th, Americans will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr, Day—a day to commemorate his achievements and to end racial segregation particularly for the African-Americans in the United States. Although I am not an African-American, King is one of my inspirations. He inspires me to be perseverant and courageous no matter how harshly people oppose you. And I am even more grateful because in one part of his classic “I Have a Dream” speech, I can make a connection to the Islamic teaching on equality for all humankind. This part, “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" is parallel to the farewell sermon of the founder of Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of God be upon him) said, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal…….an Arab possesses no superiority over the non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab.” 

Looking at the similarities between the two quotes, equality is an essential value in Islamic teaching. In practice, Islam’s concept of universality and equality can be witnessed during the annual pilgrimage- Hajj. No other religious experience equals the experience of brotherhood as is felt during Hajj. Seeing all men dressed in two white cloths, regardless of social status, economic status, or the color of the skin, one is forced to believe that in God’s eye there is no white or black or brown. In His eyes all men/women are equal. They differ only in their level of righteousness and nearness to their Creator. 

As a Muslim American, I am responsible to continue Dr. King’s legacy on equality because it is the teaching of my religion. So the two most influential leaders in the world had done their job in conveying the message of equality and universality. Now, what have you done?