The United States of America is not crumbling. It is unraveling. As competing interests and conflicting values take hold, arguably the central tenet of this great nation, pluralism of thought (or ideologies), has become its very weakness. Pluralism is a thing of beauty. But without a centrifugal force to sustain its cohesion, it is a dangerous business that eventually results in dispersion and displacement of the whole. Consider that a central planet may hold together, by its gravitational pull, the configuration of multiple planets within its orbit. But if that central planet’s gravitational pull were to weaken or disappear, the other planets would shoot off into space – either whirl away forever into oblivion or become subject to the gravitational pull of another, larger planet. A central cohesive force is crucial for the well-being of any system, including that of a nation-state. America is unraveling because it lacks a central cohesive force. American nationalism no longer seems to be doing the trick (if it ever did). America today lacks a singularity that might hold together with grace its vast differences. It lacks an absolute directive at its core. What America is being consumed by is its multitude of gods. A singular God is the need of the hour and is at the crux of a long-term solution.
This article will look at current American ideology as it pertains to gender and race politics. First, it will discuss how America’s blind acceptance of every vein of thought, with no central tenet against which one can gauge the validity and worth of viewpoints, is resulting in a conflict. This conflict is the competing thoughts that lie within the concept of a nation-state, vying against each other and threatening to pull apart the fabric of the nation-state itself. It will then offer, as a comparison, the Islamic approach and shed light on Islam’s capacity to effectively provide a particular directive while providing a flexible framework that accommodates differences, but which, on account of the prevailing singular directive, does not encourage divisiveness and does not desert good sense.
America’s openness to different ideas and ways of life is admirable. It is key to the country’s success. This openness is an excellent source of power, for excessive boundaries stifle growth. On the opposite end of the spectrum, zero limits also wreak havoc. Consider, for example, that currently America is delving into an identity crisis perhaps never before seen in history. A strange kind of social chaos is emerging wherein biological sex has become subject to discussion and interpretation.
Biological sex, once considered immutable, has gone from a fact of life to an interpretive point of contention. People are allowed, even encouraged, to question whether they identify with their biology and if they do not, they are allowed, even encouraged, to alter their biology. This conversation is not limited to hermaphrodites (a condition rarely found in humans in which individuals are born with male and female organs). Instead, the current discussion encompasses all males and females with particular biological sex but does not “identify” with it (1).
Current American social discourse allows for this departure from physical biology to accommodate different ways of life and different modes of thought, catering to the needs of multiple demographics and interest groups, catering to individuals who believe in absolute freedom; to lobbying groups who derive strength from adding transgender rights to their identity politics; catering to those who have anti-religious sentiments and believe progress lies in discarding religious beliefs entirely. It, ironically, also caters to the spiritual elements which oppose such world views. America assures all sides that they are each within their constitutional rights, and America allows everything. And, therefore, America is great. Is there a cost to serving competing interest groups without a central tenet to keep them aligned toward a common goal? When multiple groups are facing different directions, pursuing other goals within a singular framework, and pushing against that framework for ever-increasing allowances in power, the framework will either do one of two things, it will, like an elastic band, extend and then snap back (hard), or it will simply snap and break. We already see the beginnings of both these scenarios within America.
An overarching socio-political framework, to be practical, must be accommodating. Still, it must also be mindful of the consequences of its accommodation. For example, what are the long-term medical and social implications of the U.S.’s rising number of sex reassignment surgeries? (2). The framework must be accommodating but not so weak as to allow it to suffer for failing to consider the consequences of accommodation. Likewise, it must be strong, but not so rigid as to limit the scope of agency of the individuals who reside within that framework (individuals must be allowed to have different world views, but those views must exist within some moral orbit, rather than enabling chaotic, freewheeling trajectories). That is to say, the overarching framework must be vast and powerful, with clear direction, but it must also be flexible, much in the way that Islam is.
Concerning biological sex, the Islamic view, while straightforward, is also nuanced and pivots to accommodate different people, based on their needs, without foregoing Islamic tenets of modesty and decency. For example, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih V (aba), said regarding transgender rights:
Thus, Islam maintains an overarching religious framework, but one characterized by the flexibility to adhere to religious injunction while preserving the dignity of all of Allah’s creation.
Race is another point of America’s unraveling. Caucasians remain the single most powerful racial group in America (4). But the national social narrative is shifting against them. There appears to be an increase in anti-white sentiment in America (5). Interestingly, this strange inversion in racial fortune has been heralded on social media as progressive, the beginnings of the shift in privilege. Mainstream media and academia seem to endorse this shift in privilege if not outrightly applauding effectively. And so, previously, whereas America catered to the predominant racial groups’ (racist) sentiments, it is now catering to the minority racial groups’ (racist) ideas. Once again, the system is catering to different demographics and multiple lobby groups. In America we find multiple groups pursuing different goals within a singular framework and pushing against that framework for ever-increasing allowances in power. The framework will extend and then snap back, or it will simply snap and break. Both will result in social catastrophes.
The overarching race-based framework in America requires a gentle uprooting and re-routing. Rather than redirecting hateful sentiments, what is necessary, per Islamic teachings, is a recognition of our shared humanity. The Holy Qur’an states:
“O mankind, We have made you tribes and sub-tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you” (6).
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih II (ra) writes in his Commentary of the Holy Qur’an:
“The whole human race is but one family. The division into tribes, nations, and races is meant to give them better knowledge of one another to benefit from one another’s national characteristics and good qualities. On the occasion of the Last Pilgrimage at Mecca, the Holy Prophet (sa) said:
‘O ye men! Your God is one, and your ancestor is one. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white is in no way superior to a red, nor, for that matter, a red to a white, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man. Therefore, the most honored among you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you’” (6).
Thus, Islam maintains an overarching framework in which all of humanity is united regardless of race. All races are deemed equal before the one true God. It is the beauty of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) that even centuries ago, he knew that any race could become victim to cruelty, and any race could become so arrogant as to wield that cruelty with pride. The singular Islamic directive of homage to the one true God and the fostering of humility generates unity despite racial and cultural differences and national and historical rifts. And so, Islam, rather than shifting the finger of blame to indulge different groups at different times, encourages an approach geared toward unity. For divisiveness is a dangerous business. And Islam does not cater to it. America would, no doubt, benefit from a similar approach.
Can you feel the changes? They are not subtle, as they once were, spanned across generations. They now occur within the span of a few years. These changes are pronounced and powerful. The horizon has begun to shimmer. The earth has already started to shift. Socio-political tectonic shifts are both revealing and creating fault lines. Technological advancements are occurring at a phenomenal pace, and our legal and sociopolitical infrastructures are failing to keep up. Ideas are flitting back and forth between continents at the speed of light, with little grace given to assessing their value, as our moral compasses become bogged down in a quagmire of moral ambiguities. The social narratives on which hinge our individual and communal identities, and our very sanity, are daily receiving new rounds of beatings, being forcefully molded into new shapes, their innards constantly reconfigured until they are tangled and treacherous.
So then, what can you rely on? Who can you trust? Can you even trust your judgment when you are subject to the chaotically changing elements? This is the question that is hounding America today. In need of a singular, centrifugal, cohesive force that offers both gravitational pull and the capacity to provide each its right to its orbit, America needs a singular God that is both a single point of direction on the horizon and as vast and accommodating as the horizon itself.
1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Canada. “Hermaphroditism.” Britannica.
https://www.britannica.com/science (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
2. “Transgender Identities.” Planned Parenthood, 2021.
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/transgender (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
3. “Lajna Imaillah Holland Have Honour of Two Virtual Meetings with World Head of Ahmadiyya Mulsim Community.” Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Press & Media Office, 2020. https://www.alislam.org/press-release/lajna-imaillah-holland-have-honour-of-two-virtual-meetings-with-world-head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community/ (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
4. Lu, Denise; Jon Huan; Ashwin Seshagiri; Haeyoun Park and Troy Griggs, “Faces of Power: 80% Are White, Even as U.S. Becomes More Diverse.” The New York Times. September 9, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/09/us/powerful-people-race-us.html (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
5. Hockstein, Evelyn. “U.S. mother accuses school board of teaching her daughter she was born evil because she is white.” Reuters. November 1, 2021. https://www.rt.com/usa/539042-loudoun-county-school-mother-white-evil/ (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
6. Holy Qur’an (49:14), Commentary: https://www.alislam.org/quran/app/49:11 (Accessed: November 20, 2021)
Last modified: January 2022