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Lessons on power and oppression from Moses 6

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

God! There is no deity but He! To Him belong the most Beautiful Names. Has the story of Moses reached thee? (Qur’an 20:8-9)

Sometimes, it takes time before God’s justice will manifest. Oppressors are sometimes given many chances for repentance and transformation.  Some receive, while others reject and grow in delusion.

I was trying to decide which article by scholars on trauma to share, but the reading is quite long and difficult to follow.  However, I found this article on psychotherapy which is a very easy reading that can help you follow my analysis in this piece.  Try to read it before continuing with the rest of this reflection piece.

God opened a door of repentance, and, in the case of the magicians, they saw the truth and told Pharaoh:

So the magicians were thrown down to prostration: they said, “We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses”.

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Lessons on power and oppression from Moses 5

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage MN

God! There is no deity but He! To Him belong the most Beautiful Names. Has the story of Moses reached thee? (Qur’an 20:8-9)

Oppression works in many ways. One way is by convincing people that they’re bad: that they’re thugs, savages, or terrorists. A people can be controlled psychologically when an oppressor makes them feel as though they can’t overcome a mistake that they’ve made or defines them by their worst moment. This is also true if an oppressor defines the “other” by the worst actions of the fringe amongst them.

An oppressor thus doesn’t allow people to grow. To oppress another, you have to dehumanize them in your eyes first and then, later, in the eyes of others, then in their own eyes.  An oppressor takes the worst act and the worst moment and keeps people hostage to that act or moment.

Sometimes, we react to this by trying to show only our best moments. This creates a cycle of showing good Muslim, bad Muslim, good Muslim, bad Muslim, and doesn’t advance the discussion.  A case in point is 9/11 or the Paris attacks, where many in the Muslim community reacted to being demonized by working to prove that Muslims are model citizens.  

Even though it doesn’t seem so, it’s counter-productive for Muslim-Americans to present everything that Muslims do as good. It feeds into the psychological construct of oppression by not allowing Muslims to admit error and grow. We cannot “prove” that Muslims are perfect, because there are also bad and ugly aspects of Muslim communities like everywhere else. Our argument should be, we are human and then turn the mirror around and say, like you.

Craig Hicks, who assassinated three young people in Chapel Hill, counted himself an atheist, but this hardly proves all atheists would act in this way. But it does tell Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, two atheists who are also prominent bigots, that you and your group are human, too.

But we can’t just condemn Dawkins and others. We also need to give opportunities for growth and repentance, because God is a perpetual forgiver.   

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Speaking Truth to Power

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

God! There is no deity but He! To Him belong the most Beautiful Names. Has the story of Moses reached thee? (Qur’an 20:8-9)

As a former YourVoices blogger for the Star Tribune, I began a series of essays on power and oppression, extracting lessons from the Life of Moses, upon him peace.  I stopped at Lesson 4, when my term as a blogger ended.

Before I continue with the series, I want to clarify that the blogs on power and oppression are reflection pieces.  I began the series with some wisdom from the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, which she expressed in a TED Talk about the danger of a single story.  In the talk, she explains that if we only hear a single story about another person or group, and make it the definitive story, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Likewise, I do not expect these pieces of wisdom to be taken as the scholarly or definite analysis on power and oppression.  They are meant to foster a relationship with the Qur’an and help us connect with the Prophets, upon them peace and blessings.

In Lesson 4, I stopped where Moses, upon him peace, was told to go to the Pharaoh.

Some responded to me that President Bush claimed that God told him to go to war. How do we know the difference between a false commandment and a real one?

Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, preached against seeking to meet the enemy (in warfare) but rather to pray – “O God I place you before them and I seek refuge from their evil.”

As I described in Lesson 4, Moses, upon him peace, was not looking forward to speaking with the Pharaoh. God did not tell him what he wanted to hear. In the case of Bush or others who falsely claim God spoke to them, God seems to tell them what they want to hear. Bush said about the war: “Bring it on!”

Many want to speak truth to power, but what does that mean?  And how can one challenge themselves to discover whether they really are speaking truth to power or just promoting themselves as brave and fearless?

Lesson 5 will explore these questions.  In preparation, I’d like to clarify a few of my observations about truth.

Sometimes, people question God’s justice and His power over tyrants.

They accuse Him of being impotent.

They accuse Him of not having an intelligent response to falsehood.

They wonder why He won’t bring down punishment.

These questions come from a failure to understand what falsehood is, how it emerged, and how truth responds and emerges.

I heard from a scholar that during the time of the early salaf (righteous people), those who closely followed the companions wondered if the time of the dajjal (Anti-Christ) was around the corner. The scholar responded that if the dajjal was to show up now the children in the city would play with him like a football.

Their connection to God was so strong that they had the spiritual insight to see through his deception.

I heard from another scholar once that God allows falsehood to prevail and become prevalent before allowing truth to emerge. It must prevail by revealing itself by itself. This revelation must happen at all levels: mentally, emotionally, and socially.

We see many stories in the Qur’an which point at this.

Why does God allow this to happen?

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