Q. Recently I read a media report that following September 11, 2001, a Muslim attorney and his family requested a patent for the crescent and star as a Muslim symbol, in line with the star of David for Judaism and cross for Christianity. The U.S State Patent and Trademark office granted the patent in December 2003. Is the crescent and star a symbolic representation of Islam?

A. Perhaps one ought to know the history of symbolic representation. In early Islam, there was a black eagle, and later it changed with the different dynasties. The star and crescent is the latest, and particularly problematic, since it has a clear pagan source. Why are we in need of a symbol? The mere fact that Islam should not have such a symbol is beneficial, because it connotes that Islam is not some concrete thing – another “ism” that one creates – but an inner concept that motivates one to practice that which is right, what is proper. For Islam encompasses the finest of what Moses, Jesus, and the other prophets taught. Once more, we have succumbed to what the opponents of Islam want to do, lure us to accept cultural icons, so that we may be thought of as "the other."

We are not the other, we are to be that indistinguishable element of societies the world over. This being my opinion, I don't understand how the crescent and star will somehow make us forget or alleviate the suffering of September 11, 2001. Instead I see a negative side effect. Now people have something concretely "Islamic" to append to an event of infamy that led to more events of infamy. This being said, I wish to make it clear that my position is against the concept, and that I do not think that the well-meaning seeker of the patent had any ulterior motive. In fact, I feel that he acted with good intentions, and that the philosophical and political ramifications were not fully explored. And since in Islam, we know that actions are by intentions, may Allah reward those who registered the patent.

Posted January 4, 2004