Martin Luther King Jr. Day is commemorated annually in the United States on the third Monday of January, in honor of the January 15 birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a leader of the American civil rights movement.
It is a federal holiday that has been observed since 1986 in some states, and as of 2000, in all 50 states, with many offices, stores, and schools closed.
The holiday offers an excellent opportunity for Muslims to learn more about Dr. King, his legacy to America’s Muslims, and to the struggle for justice in general. It is also an ideal time to share this information with Muslim youth at home, in full-time and weekend Islamic schools, as well as in Khutbas and other educational programs in the nation’s mosques for the rest of the community.
Here are some simple things Muslims can do on MLK Jr. Day
1. MLK Jr. Story time
There are many good children’s books about Martin Luther King Jr. Buy or check one out from the library and read it to kids for a bedtime story. This can be done in Islamic weekend and full-time schools during class as well.
2. Dinnertime Discussion
If holding a family meeting or discussion is not possible in terms of time, use family dinner hour to do the same. A couple of key points:
- Who was Martin Luther King Jr. ?
- Why was he important?
- How his sacrifices reflect the continuous struggle for justice , as the movement of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was as well.
- Many American Muslims would never have been allowed into the United States, perhaps even members of your family, were it not for Dr. King’s struggles.
3. Mosque and school talk
Some Masjids offer short talks after prayers or Islamic study circles. The talking points mentioned in tip number two above can be adapted for this purpose. The same can be done in Islamic weekend schools.
4. Participate in area events commemorating the day
Google “Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2012 events (name of your city/town)” to see if there are any gatherings you can attend. If possible, contact the event’s organizers beforehand to ask if you can speak about why you honor Dr. King as an American Muslim. If possible, go as a group on behalf of your Masjid, Islamic school or organization.
5. Watch and read the “I Have a Dream" Speech
You can watch it here and read it here. Also compare this with the Prophet’s last sermon, especially where he said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action.”
6. Discuss the need to stand up against racism, even today
Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement he led did not translate into a complete end of racism. Racism has been part of the United States, and other societies, for centuries. In practical terms, that means that all of us must remain conscientious of it no matter who is the victim, and its perpetrators must be challenged in the best way.
Also useful would be a discussion of racism within the Muslim community and how this, too, must be challenged if we are to truly live our faith. An honest discussion of what we can do to rid ourselves of this cancer remains necessary, even though there has been acknowledgment of the problem over the years.
7. Report an incident of discrimination
If you have been a victim of discrimination or racism, report it. If it was because you are Muslim, report it to the Council on American-Islamic Relations here so that a record of it is made and it can be challenged. That was, after all, a large part of Dr. King’s struggle. Challenging racism and discrimination starts with making others aware of it.
This would also be an ideal social studies or even English class project, building not only writing skills, but an awareness of a lingering social issue.
8. Participate in a service project
Many communities across the United States commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by hosting a Day of Service, encouraging residents to participate in worthy causes, like volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating blood, or cleaning up park. Do your part by not only participating individually or with your family, but if possible, members of the Masjid you attend or an Islamic school or organization you are part of.