Muslims in America must act as a conscience for the country, Muslim leader Imam Sirah Wahhaj said yesterday in a lecture at the Michigan Union.

Paul Wong
Imam Sirah Wahhaj spoke of the role of Muslims and Islam in American life yesterday evening at the Michigan Union.

Wahhaj, who spoke to a crowd of more than 200, discussed the issues facing Muslims in America today and how the presence of Islam is a positive force in the country today.

“Islam is here to make America better,” Wahhaj said. “Muslim people should not be afraid to warn against the evils that we all commit. Muslims around the world are waiting for us to change policies in America for the better.”

Wahhaj said he believes that Islam will play a crucial role in the future of America.

“We are talking about a topic that has the potential to divide us, but at the same time, the great power to unite us,” he said.

Wahhaj emphasized the importance of compromise, and the ability of Muhammad to see that all people have limitations. He encouraged people to view compromise as a positive step of progress as opposed to an act of weakness.

“(Muhammad) kept it real not part of the time, but all of the time. Prophet Muhammad was the master in the art of compromise. He had the tremendous ability to see human limitations,” Wahhaj said.

Wahhaj focused on the importance of understanding the motives behind the words of Muhammad. He said it is not just an issue of what the prophet said but why he said it.

“If I were going to teach Islam in college, I would teach not only the Quran, but the context. Without the context, it’s silly. We need to stop (taking it out of context). We need to start examining and dialoguing with one another,” Wahhaj said.

Freedom makes America unique, Wahhaj said. He said this freedom is having different effects on Muslims and voiced his concern about the ability of Muslims to avoid the temptations which come with that freedom.

“The strength of America is its freedoms. What is the strength can also be its weakness. Everything has a limit; you can go too far. Everything has a boundary, so for the Muslims, we look at what are the boundaries,” he said.

Students who heard Wahhaj speak were impressed with his ideas.

“He definitely possesses a lot of charisma. He (speaks) truthfully. It’s good to get someone who is passionate about this subject,” Engineering senior Pratik Shah said.

“He brings a very good American perspective of Islam, especially when many people think that Islam can’t be integrated into Western culture,” added Engineering junior Kashif Sheikh.

Wahhaj has been Imam of Masjid At-Taqwa in Brooklyn, New York since 1981. He is also Vice Amir of the Council of Muslim Leaders in New York, serves on the Board of Advisers for the North American Islamic Trust and is Vice President of Majlis Ash-Shura Islamic Society of North America. Wahhaj was also a speaker on campus earlier this year during Islam Awareness Week.

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