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Qasim Rashid Lecture: An Islamic Perspective on Social Justice

On Feb. 21, St. Mary’s College of Maryland hosted Qasim Rashid, a human rights attorney and the executive director of the American Muslim Institute for the Advancement of Peace and Security. He gave a lecture titled “An Islamic Perspective on Social Justice.”

The event was hosted by the departments of Religious Studies and Philosophy, as well as Women Gender and Sexuality Studies and
Asian Studies.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Betül Başaran also invited Rashid to speak to her religious studies topics course, American Muslims: Towards Social Justice. This course is offered as a first-year seminar and an upper-level topics course. “I strongly believe that we need to integrate social justice perspectives into our curriculum and the Muslim perspective is often marginalized,” Başaran told The Point News through email.

Rashid is a member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an Islamic religious movement that has been persecuted within the Muslim
world. He has written several best-selling books, “#TalkToMe: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education,” “EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere” and “The Wrong Rashid began his lecture with the concept of choice, saying there’s a lot we don’t have a choice in, however,“there’s a lot we do have a choice in: who we associate with, how we dress, what we believe, where we go to school, what philosophies we choose to follow and not follow.”

“When we talk about choice there’s another conversation that immediately follows that and that’s privilege … some people who have privilege have more choice than others,” Rashid explained as he encouraged people to not put a wall when hearing the word privilege.
Rashid referenced a Pew Research Center survey stating that “roughly 70 percent of the world lives under some kind of governmental
or societal oppression on conscience.” Our ability to speak freely about religion “gives us a privilege and also a responsibility.”

He spoke of many uncomfortable truths we have to confront about our history. When America was founded in 1776, it was stated that all men are created equally, but “simultaneously, slavery was still considered legal, women were still considered property and only white landowners could vote or play a role in the political process.” A hundred years later, slavery was officially abolished, but “it wasn’t actually abolished, it was simply relegated to the prison system.”

Rashid says that we must face more uncomfortable truths about the world we live in. “Look at the fact that black youth are shot at a rate at 21 times more than white youth are shot at. The rates of drug and alcohol abuse are lower among black youth than they are among white youth, but black youth are charged and incarcerated at a rate 6-8 times higher,” Rashid stated that these facts are privilege at work. White supremacy terrorism was ignored in all 25 presidential debates in 2016, even though “the FBI and 382 police departments acknowledge that white supremacy terrorism is the gravest terror threat to America, not Muslims and not refugees.”

Rashid outlined his thoughts on solutions using social justice with the acronym RISE (re-educate, identify, serve and elevate). To re-educate, people need to learn about different faiths and background from the people themselves. Next, identify our own implicit biases and acknowledge where our comfort zone is in order to step out. In order to serve the community, we need to serve people how they want to be treated, “don’t speak up for the voiceless, pass the mic.” Lastly, “elevate minorities with your platform and your privilege.”

Rashid ended his lecture with the sentiment that we must “recognize the internal truth that life is more dangerous inside that comfort zone than outside that comfort zone.”

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