Last Updated on 11th January 2021
Zane Chowdhry, Student at Georgetown University and Chairman of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.
As the United States Congress was set to convene to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, protestors from around the country converged on the nation’s capital of Washington, DC.
Across every major news network, scenes of thousands of upset supporters of the sitting US president shocked Americans and those abroad, as the nation some regard as the most advanced democracy in the world appeared to be wavering.
Thousands stood at the steps of Capitol Hill in a chaotic scene, waving flags and signs in support of Donald Trump and chanting slogans claiming that there was widespread election fraud that ultimately led to his illegitimate defeat to his democratic challenger, Joseph Biden.
While election officials, judges and state legislatures from both major political parties have repeatedly debunked these claims, the president continues to insist on them through legal challenges. Resultingly, thousands of his supporters, from Oregon to South Carolina, took to the district to prevent what is, in their minds, the certification fraudulent results.
The Capitol Police force claimed they were not prepared for such large scale and forceful demonstrations. Scores of zealous supporters of the president used this lapse to their advantage and broke into Capitol Hill by breaking windows, smashing through doors and eventually breaking into the Congress Chambers and offices of several elected officials. Security forces fatally shot one woman amid the chaos, forcing members of congress to evacuate. The scenes were truly horrific.
As the president put out a weak statement asking protesters to go home and affirming his claims of election fraud, the city of Washington announced its enforcement of a curfew.
The pandemonium of the protests prompts the question: What led to the shock of the day?
As the protests winded down throughout the night, many took to media outlets and social media to express their shock at the day’s proceedings, claiming the events that unfolded were unbecoming of the United States, even going so far as to claim that the events were similar to that of a “third-world country.”
Unfortunately, given the path the United States has followed, along with other developed nations, the unfolding of the day’s events should hardly come as a surprise.
Throughout the past decade, the United States has witnessed an increasingly bitter rise in partisanship, not just at the governing level, but along a social one as well. Political party and affiliation have become paramount – rather than working to support the rights owed to their fellow citizens, many Americans choose to support party over rights, faith and country.
This debased partisanship demonstrated itself during the assault on the United States’ Congress – some waved signs conflating political party with faith; some claimed that they were protesting in the name of both President Trump and Jesus; others displayed anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim statements.
To see citizens conflating the holy example of Jesusas and the aspects of God Almighty with any political party is deeply revealing of the need for many to introspect their relationship between nation and faith.
This is not to say that there can be no relation between the two, as Allah has stated in the Holy Quran:
“O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey [His] Messenger and those who are in authority among you…” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.60).
Allah continues in the same verse: “And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.”
The guidance of the Holy Quran remains pertinent. Clearly, a matter such as a disagreement regarding election proceedings should never devolve to the level of chaos as witnessed in Washington, DC. Instead of taking matters into their own hands, they should leave such matters to God and use the democratic process.
Apart from faith in God, faith in the United States’ democratic institutions – which the nation is infamously known to try to export abroad – remains at a grave low for millions of its citizens.
This level of partisanship and distrust that has bred such insidious hatred against political opponents did not appear out of a vacuum. The events of the riots inside Capitol Hill are indicative of the rampant spread of misinformation on social media regarding the systems of government, the nature of the pandemic and the goals of political opponents. These online echo-chambers serve only to sew mistrust and division between people and distract people from serving their duties to God and humanity.
While only a select few are driven to violent actions such as breaking into the Capitol to halt a democratic process or even plot to kidnap a governor, these incidents should serve as a sobering reminder about the deleterious effects of social media.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has repeatedly warned against the dangers social media poses as a distracting force from spiritual and worldly responsibilities and as a tool for exploitation and disinformation.
While his mistrust of social media may have appeared unnecessary for some initially, over time, his wisdom on the matter has become clear and concrete. Now, universities and think-tanks have entire departments focused on the ills of social media and research on how it is used to fuel conspiracy.
People should be more cognizant than ever about careful social media consumption and focus on uplifting their fellow siblings in humanity, especially amid a pandemic which has only increased social divisions and inequity.
In response to these growing inequities, in his last Friday sermon, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa warned against the enmity that would result out of the pandemic:
“… worldly people only have one solution to this, which is that when their own resources become depleted, they will take the resources of smaller nations, as a result of which wars will break out. In fact, some say wars have already begun.” (Friday Sermon, 1 January 2021)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s insightful analysis can be extended to the national scale, where modern day “titans of industry” and self-serving politicians have exacerbated existing wealth, social and public health disparities by refusing to properly distribute relief for those affected.
His Holiness had warned years ago of a possible civil war that could erupt in America, but back then, this was given no attention. Today, #CivilWar2 trends in America as the norm and analysts say such a war would be no shock.
His Holiness now warns of a looming world war that can engulf the world in horrific ways. It seems, thus far, that world leaders have decided not to take heed, a step they may seriously regret.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa, in the same sermon of 1 January 2021, emphasised:
“Our true happiness will be when humanity begins to recognise the rights we owe to one another, when hatred turns to love … May the world turn the attention of every nation and every person towards fulfilling the rights owed to one another.”
To prevent further degradation of the United States – and the world – it is incumbent that we all remember our duties to God Almighty, fulfil our dues to mankind and uphold absolute justice. The words of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa remain the solace for mankind; let us pray and hope that the world doesn’t look back and deeply regret the side of history it chose to side with.