What Does It Mean To Be A Patriot?
M Baqir Mohie El-Deen, MPAC Policy Program Manager
Addressing the attendees at the Save America rally in Washington D.C. that took place shortly before the US Congress was scheduled to confirm the electoral college vote, President Trump stated, “looking out at all the amazing patriots here today, I have never been more confident in our nation’s future.” Shortly after his speech, those “amazing patriots’’ stormed Capitol Hill, damaging the infrastructure, looting, engaging in combat with capitol police, and causing violent mayhem that ended up costing the life of a citizen, while instilling fear in the rest of America who followed the events as they transpired.
What does it mean to be an American patriot, and were those who are responsible for this week’s chaos ‘American patriots’? Thomas Jefferson is credited with stating that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” while on the other end of the spectrum, Oscar Wilde reflected that “patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.” Patriotism is defined in the dictionary as “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” Patriotism is supporting one’s nation. Standing with your country, in support and admiration, through thick and thin, throughout the rise and fall of its inspirational, yet oft-fraught waters. However, like many concepts in life, there’s a healthy and ethical way to be patriotic, and one that’s filled with mal-intent. America’s history doesn’t leave a lot for the heart to desire; however what has made the United States different has always been its ability to address its faults, and attempt, and reattempt, to find its way towards justice and equality for all. That has always been the true-north of this nation, regardless of what path America finds itself on. Today we find ourselves at one of those crossroads where we must ask ourselves what kind of America we want to leave behind for our children. And it is our duty to ensure that the America that we leave behind after our Lord calls us back is an America that we are proud of, for our faith teaches us to better the society that we live in.
In the Quran, we are taught that Satan lost his place among the pious and the Angels because of pride and supremacy. This story in the Quran teaches us that using one’s identity as a form of supremacy is a sin so great that it could create the devil. As Americans, we should have the humility to know that God didn’t create us better than the rest of His creation, and that our national identity shouldn’t be what makes us proud to be American. What should make us proud is the ability to yield our constitutional rights to advocate for the less fortunate and the oppressed in our own neighborhoods, and around the world.
Prophet Muhammed also taught us that charity starts at home. When offering help, one should first look within their own home, and see if any of their kinfolk are in need. Once the need in one’s home has been fulfilled, then one helps out others around them, in their neighborhood, their city, their nation, and then, the rest of the world, working their way out from those closest to them. This prophetic tradition teaches us that an essential element of patriotism is the desire to tend to their own. Our patriotism begins by envisioning how we can heal our own nation first before criticizing others around the world.
In his last sermon, Prophet Muhammed reminded Muslims that “all mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Similarly, the preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator…” Those that were on Capitol Hill protesting the election results by insurrection, are demanding that many American votes should not count, because many of the disputed votes were cast by African Americans, and other minorities. Not only is this demand unconstitutional, but it also sets a dangerous precedent. It echoes President Trump’s 2016 victory speech in Grand Rapids, MI where he thanked African Americans for not showing up to vote in big numbers. “The African American community was great to us. They came through, big league. Big league. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn’t vote, and that was almost as good, because a lot of people didn’t show up, because they felt good about me.” Throughout our nation’s history, American minorities have fought and bled for their civil rights, and the fight continues today to address the racial inequalities that exist in this nation. These demands, if met, will set our nation back decades and make the sacrifices they have made in vain. An American’s voice is an American voice, and no voice should be louder than another, regardless if one disagrees with that voice or not.
American patriotism should never put us in a position where we question our values, nor should it be the sole factor that causes us to believe that we are exceptional to the rest of the world. Our patriotism should be the compass that guides us to hold our elected officials accountable for our nation’s actions. American patriotism is our tool to make America a nation that leads the world by example, showcasing how a population should be rightfully and justly treated, and how no individual is above the law. Those who were responsible for the mayhem that transpired this week are not patriots. They did not serve the Republic, nor the Constitution. They engaged in illegal activities for their own personal sake, and not for the sake of the greater good.