Celebrating President’s Day in USA, a Muslim’s Perspective

Washington

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and US Capitol Hill

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Washington’s Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February, meaning it can occur the 15th through the 21st inclusive, in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States, who was born on February 22, 1732. Colloquially, it is widely known as Presidents Day and is often an occasion to remember all the presidents, not just George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is also in February.[1][2] The term “Presidents Day” was coined in a deliberate attempt to change the holiday into one honoring multiple presidents.[3]

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Washington Memorial in the center, Lincoln memorial left of the picture and Capitol Hill on the right

The day is also a state holiday in most states with official names including Presidents’ Day, President’s Day and Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday.[1] Depending upon the specific law, the state holiday might celebrate officially Washington alone, Washington and Lincoln, or some other combination of U.S. presidents.[1] Some states celebrate Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson but not Lincoln.[1]

As a Muslim, I am reminded that in the seventh century Arabia, a middle-aged man had a vision to create a new religious and social order for a largely pagan and tribal society. The man, Muhammad, told his band of followers to behave wisely and civilly. “The best among you,” he said, “are those who have the best manners and character.” More than 1,000 years later, Muhammad’s wisdom would be echoed again, this time in the British colony of Virginia, by a 13-year-old schoolboy jotting down a lengthy set of behavioral rules that would later be published as “Rules of Civility.” The schoolboy was none other than George Washington, who would one day become the first president of the United States of America.

Muhammad and Washington may seem like an unlikely connection, but in fact, they share strikingly similar biographies. Muhammad and Washington were students of history, restorers of justice and fierce warriors who led their respective nations through successful revolutions. Both men united a large swath of political territory and served as the founding father for two unprecedented social movements — Islam and the United States of America — whose universal ideals would both spread throughout the world respectively.

Washington’s contemporary, Richard Henry Lee, once said that he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington’s nemesis, Britain’s King George III, said that Washington was “placed in a light the most distinguished of any man living” and had “the greatest character of the age.” Similarly, Muslims worldwide see Muhammad as the perfect human being. In “The Prophet of Islam,” Professor K.S. Rao said we witnessed “the union of the theorist, the organizer and the leader” in him. Even a non-Muslim, such as Mohatma Gandhi, called Muhammad “a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all mankind.”

I have borrowed this theme of common ground between the two great leaders from ; a Catholic sociologist, speaker, and writer. Continue to read this narrative: An Unlikely Connection Between the Prophet Muhammad and George Washington.

There is a not all too subtle Islamophobia in our country since September 11, 2011, at least among the Republicans. But, USA has a unique history among all the countries. It is a country where Constitution reigns supreme. Just last year, despite the Islamophobia, the US Supreme Court made two rulings in favor of the Muslims: U.S. Supreme Court rules in favour of Muslim woman who wore ‘hijab’ and Opponents Of Islamic Center Of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Have Case Declined By U.S. Supreme Court.

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Our current President often stands up for the rights of the Muslims. For example, Video: Obama reassures the nation and patriotic Muslims and promises to destroy ISIL and President Obama’s Mosque Visit Is What ‘True Islam’ Means.

No wonder: Poll: 29% of all Americans, including 43% of Republicans, say they think President Obama is a Muslim.

But, he is not the first, who is being accused of being a Muslim. The first President accused of being a Muslim was Thomas Jefferson. However, it is true that Obama’s father was and his paternal family are Muslims.

In 2016, we may elect the first woman or the first Jew to the august office of President of USA. Some day we will have a self proclaiming Muslim in the White House also. But, the non-Muslims need not worry for Shariah Law, for we are a nation of our Constitution and believe in secularism, separation of not only Church and State, but, also Synagogue and State and Mosque and State.

Suggested Reading:

Obama, Jefferson and the fascinating history of Founding Fathers defending Muslim rights

Shariah and Constitution: A Personal Journey

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