My Thoughts on St. Louis Bosnian Lives Matter

image

image

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ferguson Behind the Scenes – The View from One Local Muslim Journalist/Activist

My piece for Patheos Muslim on the aftermath of the non-indictment in Ferguson.

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Watch “Ferguson Standoff” on YouTube

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Watch “Caught in the Middle of Fighting” on YouTube

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Photos of Events Since Darren Wilson Non Indictment

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Muslims in Ferguson: The Real Story

The events following the tragic police killing of Michael Brown Jr. on August 9th of this year in Ferguson, MO have drawn both national and international media coverage. The role of Muslims in Ferguson has been a frequent topic of conversation. Conspiracy theories have arisen in the right-wing media and amongst opponents of the protest movement in the St. Louis area pointing the finger at a sinister Muslim conspiracy in Ferguson. Within the Muslim community there has been debate regarding the appropriate Muslim response to the surrounding issues. This is a piece I have decided to write to help clarify the role of Muslims in Ferguson.
image

 
Let me start by giving readers a sense of place. Ferguson is a predominantly African-American, although racially-diverse, suburb of St. Louis located in North St. Louis County ( where I was raised incidentally). It is more accurate to think of events in Ferguson in the context of St. Louis rather than Ferguson alone. The majority of protesters you will see on the streets live in other parts of the St. Louis metro area and a number of the events associated with the protest movement have taken place outside the city limits of Ferguson.

North St. Louis County is home to a growing Muslim population. There is a historic African-American Muslim community in North City and County. Within a short distance of Ferguson is Masjid Umar (formerly the Institute of Learning) located in the rugged Mark Twain neighborhood of North City.Masjid Umar has a Nigerian-American imam and a predominantly African-American congregation. To the north of Ferguson in the city of Hazelwood you have the Dar al-Jalal Mosque ( the largest mosque in the St. Louis metro area). Dar al-Jalal is a predominantly Arab (specifically Palestinian) congregation with a high percentage of store-owners in North City and County as congregants. Closest to Ferguson is the West Florissant Masjid in the city of Jennings. The West Florissant Masjid is a predominantly Nigerian congregation with a very diverse crowd at friday prayers. Also close to Ferguson in the Walnut Park neighborhood of North St. Louis you have Muhammad’s Mosque #28 of the Nation of Islam.

 
From day one Muslims have been on the ground in Ferguson. The Facebook group Muslims for Ferguson and other efforts were just later manifestations of what was already happening. Muslims were in Ferguson first and foremost because we live in the community like everyone else and are concerned about its well-being.

 

image

Anthony Merrill and Umar Lee

Along with Brothers Anthony Merrill and Naji Fakhrid-deen Adams I (Umar Lee) was on the ground in Ferguson on the first night. I grew up in the area and have been talking about issues of violence and policing and surrounding economic issues for years. For me it was a no-brainer to stand in solidarity with those protesting in the streets. Brother Anthony also grew-up in the area and has been vocal on local issues for years. Brother Naji is a reformed East St. Louis gang leader and substance-abuse counselor who works in the community every day.

image

Talal Ahmad addresses the crowd at Occupy SLU

Talal Ahmad was also on the ground from day one. A native of the O’Fallon Park Neighborhood in North St. Louis living in Jennings Brother Talal is a local independent-journalist who emerged as a protest leader with the group Tribe X. Brother Talal was instrumental in the successful occupation and subsequent negotiations with St. Louis University.

image

Brother Anthony Shahid keeping the peace

Brother Anthony Shahid of the Tawheed Youth Group and Masjid Tawheed is a long time St. Louis activist and veteran of the African-American struggle for justice. Brother Shahid was on the ground from day one and played a pivotal-role as a peacekeeper. Missouri State Senator Jamillah Nasheed and her aide Eric Vickers, both Muslim, have also been mainstays at the protests. Ministers Donald and Akbar Muhammad, members of the Fruit of Islam security, and the Final Call News and others components of the Nation of Islam have also been active on the ground as have members of the Moorish Science Temple.

image

Mustafa Abdullah in back. Nihad Awad, Zuhdi Masri, Farres Abdul-Basit, and Umar Lee also pictured

Mustafa Abdullah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has not only been active on the ground he has taken local police to court over the “5 second rule” and other egregious abuses of civil-liberties. Faizan Syed Director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations along with community-activist and hafiz Abdul-Basit Syed have also been of assistance to activists starting at an early date.

The above mentioned Muslims come from different racial, theological and socio-economic strains; but are all St. Louis area Muslims brought to Ferguson out of a sense of justice. This by no means suggests there is a complete uniformity and tactical agreement among Muslim activists. It is just a recognition of some Muslims who’ve been on the ground and this by no means is a complete list.

The economy of North St. Louis and increasingly many parts of North County has been abandoned by chain stores and mainstream American staples. This has created an environment conducive to immigrant entrepreneurs and in St. Louis the biggest group is Palestinians. Corner grocery stores, gas stations, beauty supply stores, cell phone stores, fried fish and chicken restaurants, furniture stores, in the St. Louis Northland are all likely to be owned by Palestinian-Americans. While there are a number of these business owners who tend to have less than desirable relationships with the community there are shining examples.

image

Zuhdi Masri and Umar Lee

Zuhdi Masri is a Palestinian-American businessman who has owned Yeatman Market in North St. Louis near O’Fallon Park for over 30 years. A longtime community and political activist Brother Zuhdi has been involved in many efforts for peace over the years. With events in Ferguson Brother Zuhdi has had to wear many hats; supporting peaceful protesters calling for justice, helping Palestinian store-owners who had their businesses looted, and using his stature as an elder to reach out the the St. Louis establishment.

image

Bassem Masri livestreamer in action

Bassem Masri, the son of Zuhdi, has emerged as a popular livestreamer covering protests day and night. The father and son have different methodologies and ways of going about things; but at their core both are motivated by a love of justice. Zuhdi representing the immigrant store-owner. Bassem representing the second-generation immigrant kid who grew-up in the store navigating himself in this dunya.

image

Linda Sarsour in Ferguson

The events of Ferguson attracted many national leaders representing different religions and political philosophies. National Muslim leaders who came to Ferguson include Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of CAIR, and Linda Sarsour of Brooklyn.
image

The events of Ferguson have also highlighted some divisions within the Muslim community. This came into focus during the recent election for St. Louis County Executive. A number of affluent South Asian ( and other) Muslims from the western suburbs of St. Louis along with factions within the Bosnian Muslim community in the southern suburbs of St. Louis supported Democrat Steve Stenger. Stenger, the Democratic nominee ( referred to as a Dixiecrat by this writer and many others), drew the ire of the protest movement due to his close relationship with St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough and his general poor relationship with the African-American community. While the West County upper-crust Muslim establishment opted to back Stenger along with many Bosnians a number of African-American Muslims and others either opted to cross the aisle and support the Republican candidate or write-in a protest vote.

There is no Muslim conspiracy in Ferguson, extremism or even Muslim unity. What you’re seeing is Muslim community involvement. “Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil”. May Allah guide us all to the right path and spread His mercy and justice on the St. Louis area during this turbulent time.

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Eight Observations on Current Status of Events in the St. Louis Area.

1. The media has taken a sharp turn against protesters. This coincides with protests coming into the city in proximity to where many media members live and close to expensive homes and prestigious institutions. In Ferguson unrest was a novelty only affecting a working-class community few non North County/City people had a connection to and it was seen as a novelty. When the situation hit close to home the tune changed.

2. Bassem Masri has been setup by the police and some local media in full- compliance as the villian. A Palestinian-American Muslim who gets overheated at times and doesn’t think before he speaks ( I’m also guilty of this) Bassem is an easy villian for them to create as he is so “other” to white America. If he lives I really believe Bassem is going to do great things. My fear is Bassem will be killed by police and the plots for his death are being hatched now.

3. I believe you’ll see Allen West, Herman Cain, and the other favorite black flunkies of the right-wing in St. Louis before you see President Obama. President Obama will continue to seem aloof and phone it in from afar unless there is an LA Riots type of situation or greater.

4. This movement has totally destroyed the fake image of a modern, progressive, racially harmonious region that local boosters and “deep thinkers” have tried to promote. You’re not going to be able to attract the young people and immigrants this region needs when you have such an entrenched culture of racism in the region.

5. The hate and death threats against me began when Mark Reardon of KMOX radio began attacking me on the air. Reardon and other conservative talk-radio hosts make a good living spreading hate and inciting fear. There is an angry, confused, bigoted, and often uneducated white population in America that doesn’t understand changes in society and is fearful. Instead of using their position to educate people those like Reardon use their position to prey on their worst instincts. While men like Reardon, Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh incite they won’t be around for any of the action. That will be left to the simpeltons who soak up their message while they’re busy living the cosmopolitan-elite lifestyle they rail against.

6. There will be blood. Everyone knows it’s coming. Not what I want. Not what excites me. It’s just unavoidable at this point. A lot of people are going to die in the coming weeks ( mostly by police) , a lot of property damage, and the economy of the city and NoCo will tank. This can be a moment of death for our city or a chance to be born again from the fire and blood of the martyrs.

7. I’ve directed energy towards St. Charles County and other counties west of the Missouri River because that is the belly of the beast. If you can’t change the racist culture of St. Charles County you can’t change Noco. If you can’t change St. Charles County you can’t change the political math in the state of Missouri. In the past week I’ve also talked to so many people who shared with me stories of racism against them and their families in St. Charles County so for their sake alone we must go out there. Troy and St. Charles County are equivalent to the Mississippi of the Civil-rights Movement era. The fact that talks of protests in St. Charles County and Lincoln County have drawn responses where 90% include talks of guns, killing protesters and outright racist language reinforces the need in my mind. There is also the issue of St. Charles County apparently feeling the Constitution of the United States doesn’t apply to their white-flight county as they’ve threatening to charge myself and others with felonies if we engage in a protest out there.

8. We have some very good elected officials in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Many have been active in Ferguson. However, these individuals are not representative of the dysfunctional and outdated political culture we have in the region. A large swath of the Democratic Party in the area are nothing more than 1950’s style Strom Thurmond Dixiecrats. This includes Governor Jay Nixon, Bob Mcculloch, Steve Stenger, some south city Alderman, and many others. Jeff Roorda is a Dixiecrat and much more. Roorda is a truly dangerous hate figure in our region. The Republicans of course are most often much worse and have become a laughingstock in Jefferson City passing some of the craziest right-wing legislation you can imagine. Nonetheless I will cast my vote for Rick Stream as a protest vote. Yes Stream is very problematic; but those areas he’s nutty on he won’t have any authority on as County Executive. What he’s committed to is NoCo where’s he’s been everyday for the last several weeks. The Democrats cannot continue to take people’s vote for granted. I happen to love and respect Zaki Baruti but I’m not idealistic about politics and don’t vote for third party candidates unless they’ve got a reasonable chance of winning

Posted in St. Louis | Tagged , , | Leave a comment