When you are a compassionate person, you also fight against injustice.
As a Muslim, I have always been taught to be compassionate.
When I was about 15 years old and lived in upstate New York, I was part of a track club. This club, a group of high school runners, competed during the school year and through the summer. Our coach was a man from the Bronx who brought us to competitions in New York City. My mother lived in NYC at the time (and still does) and once accompanied us to a competition as a chaperone. We drove there, in a van, my mother and coach sitting in the front seats. The drive had us passing the Gay Pride Parade, which none of us were aware was happening that day.
At the time I was a young, naive, somewhat ignorant youth which included being homophobic. These were also the characteristics of a number of the other young athletes in the van. Gawking out the windows, we made jokes, laughed, expressed dismay -- and did so loudly and crudely.
My mother then turned around and snapped at us, "What you're doing is exactly what happened to black people 30 years ago!"
The van was quiet. For the rest of the ride through the Pride parade, we were silent and thinking about what she said. Most of us came from working and middle class black families where the lessons and stories of the civil rights and black liberation movements were fully integrated into our understanding of the world. For me, that same story was intertwined with the freedom of religion that is intrinsic to the American experience. Were it not for that basic principle, then I would not be the man I am -- following a religion of my own choosing.
This brings me to today. This weekend, the New York State legislature approved gay marriage in an eleventh hour push that brought people to the streets of New York City and set up yesterday's Gay Pride Parade as a celebration of years of pushing and overcoming the failed promises of two Governors (Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson).
As someone that is part of two minority groups in the United States (Muslims and African-Americans) I feel that this ruling is a victory for all of us. Majorities in the country have attempted to define the American experience in limited and controlled terms. To be American means you need to be white, Christian, and of course, straight. There is nothing further from the truth. To be American and to enjoy the rights and privileges therein you simply have to live here and pay taxes. This is a diverse nation and to limit the rights of one group opens the potential to limit your rights.