No one can deny the beauty and significance of King's genius or the impact of the revolutionary social change made possible by his poignant leadership. King's call to action moved millions and changed the fate of our nation. It's hard not to be drawn in by the beautiful cadence of his voice and the simplicity of his message: we are all created equal, and thus must be treated as such. Lesser known and often unmentioned in textbooks was King's vehement opposition to the Vietnam War and his strong support of workers' rights and economic justice, which he saw as integral to, and interconnected with, the empowerment of African-Americans across the nation. "We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers." (Martin Luther King, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break The Silence; 1967).
His words reflect, in many ways, the message of our faith. Islam asks us to take a stance in the world and commit ourselves to the betterment of others. More than fifteen hundred years ago the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stressed to his followers, "The most excellent struggle [jihad] is to speak the truth in the presence of an unjust ruler." The Qur'an also tells us that "Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West," and that the "truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage (2:177)." For many Muslims, this call to social justice forms the backbone of our spiritual heritage. Thus, our spiritual growth, while a personal, internal process, is intimately connected with our work in the world.
Martin Luther King was a revolutionary, brave enough to envision a better world for his children, and courageous enough to devote his life to that vision. His convictions, rooted in his personal faith, sparked one of the greatest movements of our time. It is this legacy that MPV will continue to reflect on as we forge ahead with our vision and goals for 2012. In the words of King, "Now is the time." We hope you will join us.