A Brother Observes ISNA

I did not make it to the Sheraton (out of solidarity with the workers) and did not make it to the Radisson either because I was not feeling well. I did get an update on what happened from some brothers who attended.

 

Brother Amir informed me that Imam Zaid Shakir mentioned the strike and the conditions of the Sheraton workers before every talk from the Radisson which is very commendable. Especially given, as commenters have pointed out, ISNA and those young people who grew-up in ISNA either have no knowledge of the fact that they benefit from the Labor Movement or are steeped in a caste-lite mentality.

 

An African-American brother and friend of mine mentioned to me that he saw only a handful of non-immigrant Muslims or their children. Those that he did see were white Muslims married to Desi or Arab sisters who were basically assimilating into the culture of their women (he did not add, as I do now, that Islamically lineage is passed down from the father). He told me that in his mind what he was seeing was an example that Islam in America is on two different trajectories and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. African-American Muslims and Muslims such as myself are just not going to ever see the world or Islamic activism in the way that ISNA does. I am never going to be comfortable in a deep-suburban masjid full of clean-shaven doctors and hijab-less women in which the biggest religious event they have as an interfaith gathering.  

 

As an example of this division the brother told me that at the convention an immigrant brother from India said “15% of Muslims live in India. So we should take 15% of all the money raised by Muslims here and send it to India.”

 

Now, I am sure that brother thought he made a lot of sense. Just like brothers who say we should send all of the resources from the Muslim community here to Palestine or wherever do as well. But, the fact of the matter is, you are not going to get that many American-Muslim converts or their children who think it is a good idea to neglect community-building and infrastructure in America, where it is sorely needed, to send it halfway across the world. The money raised in our communities for the most part needs to stay local as the vast-majority of Muslim communities in America don’t even have the basics they need to prosper.

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ISNA at a Crossroads in Baltimore

Muslims in America are at a relatively infantile stage. We are developing as a community and are striving to put our unique imprint on society. The major organizations representing the Muslim community have to decide if they are going to stand with people struggling for just causes, or if they are going to sacrifice their principals at the altar of convenience.

In light of this, I am most distressed that ISNA has decided to go ahead and hold their Eastern Zone conference, despite a boycott of the Baltimore Sheraton hotel by the workers. One ISNA official even said, “What has a union ever done”. While ISNA is standing in solidarity with the Sheraton, and those who treat their workers unjustly, MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir, and others have expressed solidarity with the workers and displeasure with ISNA.

The displeasure with ISNA comes with the sentiment that we as Muslims in America want to be a people who stand for justice, with the oppressed, and when need be, stand with people over power. More so it is better to be known as a community who stands for justice no matter the cost, financial or otherwise, rather than a community whose path to the mainstream is through silence.
I will say to the ISNA official who said “What has a union ever done”, lets list a few:
The 40 hour work week
The weekend
Child labor laws
Workplace safety standards
Paid sick days
Paid holidays
Healthcare benefits

There are much more. Without unions, none of these things would exist for American workers. I for one come from a long line of union members, so the value of unions was given to me from a young age. There are those at ISNA, perhaps a majority, which have immigrated to America from other countries. Many of the countries that they have immigrated from are filled with workers who toil in deplorable conditions. The dream was to come to America where one can earn a fair days wages, and be treated with dignity and respect on the job. Unfortunately many of our brothers and sisters new to this country do not know that whatever fair conditions workers have today was paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Labor Movement.

ISNA is at a crossroads in Baltimore, a great American city. MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir are taking a stand with the call for justice. That sweet call of justice has fallen upon deaf ears at ISNA.

Good Read: Many Florida Jews Express Doubts on Obama

From the New York Timeson Florida Jews and their reservations about Obama and the recent rightward turns of this traditionally very Democraticcommunity.  If there is a anti-Obama feeling rising in the Jewish community there is a Pro-Obama tide in the Muslim community.  It would be interesting to see a comparison piece.

 

Mr. Obama is Arab, Jack Stern’s friends told him in Aventura. (He’s not.)

He is a part of Chicago’s large Palestinian community, suspects Mindy Chotiner of Delray. (Wrong again.)

Mr. Wright is the godfather of Mr. Obama’s children, asserted Violet Darling in Boca Raton. (No, he’s not.)

Al Qaeda is backing him, said Helena Lefkowicz of Fort Lauderdale (Incorrect.)

 

 

Painkillers Please!

My back is killing me today and I mean I woke up feeling fine and then all of the sudden boom it was out. By the time I got to the train station I could barely walk. Because of that I have not had the energy to write like I want to because I have been doing exercises and stuff trying to make it feel better.  

 

I wanted to talk more about feminization and how some Muslim groups have been more affected by this than others (i.e. this was something that I didn’t even know existed before I began venturing out of Salafi and African-American Sunni circles).

 

Also on the topic I want to talk about sports. I cannot tell you how many shows I have seen over the years where the father is presented as a bad guy because he is pushing his son to play sports. I also can’t tell you how many Muslims I have heard of late parrot this line; but I think the developing of sports for Muslim youth as we have seen over the last few years is one of the best things that can be done for Muslim boys and girls.

Commute Home: Immigrants, Dead Bodies, and Gunshots

Commuting between Baltimore and DC is kind of interesting. On my way home from work yesterday I began in the Skyline area near the Alexandria/ Falls Church border in Fairfax County.

For those of you not familiar with this area it is a densely-populated suburban area just outside of DC. It is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country and home to immigrants from all over the world. Within it you will also find one of the largest Muslim populations in America anchored by the Dar al Hijrah Masjid. In this area you will find Muslims of all backgrounds with a large number of Arabs, Somalis, Afghans, West Africans and Desis. Alongside them there is a large Latino community mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The other large immigrant population you will find in this immediate area are Ethiopians which you will find all over the DC metro area.

 

These immigrants are mixed into a community which is also home to a lot of defense and intelligence agencies and their employees and retirees. The area has traditionally been conservative and Republican; but that has changed due to demographics overt the last several years. The surrounding areas have also attracted a lot of yuppie migration and people who are politically more liberal. No matter what the color and religion of the people (and I am sitting in a strip mall now that is home to a major Muslim organization, the local Chabad Chapter, a massage parlor and a jilbab shop) one thing that can describe this area is neat and tidy. Law and order rule here and it is a bastion of one chain-store and strip-mall after another. There is a lot of money in this area being served by fresh waves of immigrants and there are a lot of people politically connected from the children of corrupt bureaucrats from the developing world as the PC crowd says, members of royal families, leaders of opposition groups and those that serve them, diplomats, and those working for good ole’ Uncle Sam. 

 

Leaving NOVA with a co-worker of mine who lives in Prince George’s County, MD we stooped to get some fresh fruit shakes at a Spanish joint while he had his car looked at. The papaya shakes were served to us by a 19 year old Salvadoran girl who is a junior in high school. The girl looked at our beards and kufees and asked about our religion and we had the chance to tell her about Islam (another benefit to observing the sunnah with the beard and trust me brothers you want this one in the deen).

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DC-Baltimore Man Comparison

Having spent the weekend in Baltimore  and a lot of time there over the last week I can tell you that while the two cities are connected by the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the MARC train and share an airport the two cities have almost nothing in common.

Washington, DC is the nation’s capitol and it is home to the federal government and the many tens of thousands of jobs that are provided by the government. If you are not working for the government you are working for contractors who work with the government. Other than that you have political and civil-rights types of organizations in DC, think-tanks, lobbyists and various associations. In the suburbs you have a lot of information technology and low-level service jobs worked by immigrants (legal and illegal) and in Northern Virginia a lot of federal law-enforcement and military types and that is the DC area.

If you are not in black DC almost no one is from DC. The majority of the residents of the metro area are rootless coming from other areas of the country and could not even tell you the history of their generic subdivision. People wear Washington Nationals caps who have only lived in the area a month or two and that is the bulk of the fan-base of that generic team. Others cheer for DC United without even knowing the rules to soccer as they have some kind of infatuation with Europe and they think attending soccer matches will make them more European.

The average white resident of DC itself that I have seen around my apartment could be a poster child of globo yuppiedom. Males walking around in tight shirts, coochie-cutter jeans, and man-bags chatting away on I-phones in high-pitched voices on their way to overpriced coffee shops and restaurants. . They live in DC far from Cleveland or Kansas where they grew up and are acting out a life void of foundation. Few seem themselves as traditional and the vast majority shun religious observance. Atheism and agnosticism are popular with this crowd and if they dare attend religious services it is more often than not at some watered-down offshoot church or synagogue. Ironically, this group of males that has the greatest inclination towards sexual deviancy and greatest hostility to religion is the group I see more and more misguided Muslim males gravitating to (raised in the man-hating public education system and by clueless or deviant Muslim parents).

Black DC is a tad better, I guess. I mean the people are actually from DC so if they are wearing a Redskins jersey they can do it with pride and not like some moron from Cincinnati who wants to fit in with his buddies so he puts away his Bengals jersey. Black Washingtonians have roots and a foundation in DC. It is their home and there are many hard-working black men in DC, Maryland and even VA holding it down and an educated upper-class associated with Howard University and other elite institutions. Unfortunately, the DC black male also seems to be the pioneer in the “down low” field if such a thing exists and in the federal prison system.

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Special Congratulations to Omar

I want to send a special congratulation to my good friend Omar for graduating from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. I know this brother worked long and hard on this and his journey was not easy. He was born in aisle 6 of a C-Town on Fordham Road to a Puerto Rican Vietnam Veteran father and a Turkish mother who is a coinsurer of clocks. This Turkorican attended Walton High School in the Bronx (a school that had a 20% graduation rate at the time) where he learned very little other than his analyzing phenotypes and worked with his Uncle at C-Towns and on vending routes form a young age. Later he traveled down to Northern Virginia and attended the Islamic Institute for Arabic and Islamic Sciences in America to study Islam while going to Northern Virginia Community College part-time where he continued his analyzing phenotypes and was  living with 10 other brothers in a one-bedroom apartment ( half of them being GED dropouts from Philly). He did all of this while working and supporting himself and riding his bicycle all over the DC area ( just as he had done in NYC as a bike messenger) before he received a scholarship to the Islamic University of Medinah. After attending the school for a brief time and almost causing an international incident he came back to the US and attended Marymount and worked many different jobs until last week when he received his degree in history. He now plans to become a teacher and is looking for a job. It was a long road for him but masha’Allah he did it so I am sending him a special congratulations and I guess I will have to take him to a Yankees game or something.

Lesson From Islamophobic Teacher Firing

It is important to remember when we are discussing issues of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias in America that there are real consequences to Islamophobia and they are often felt most by Muslim children. Take this story as an example out of Michigan City, IN where a teacher by the name of John Scheimann was fired after he called a Muslim student’s father a terrorist and made other unsubstantiated claims about the man. The lesson of this is two; number one it is that teachers, doctors, cops, nurses, judges, and many others in positions of relative power over us may listen to right-wing talk radio, read Islamophobic sites, and watch FOX News, and then in turn they will act on the hate they have been filled with often to the most vulnerable, and second we should also recognize that while there are many full of hate there are many others who are not and in this case the system did the right thing.

Tariq Sets The Table and Manley and Manji Meet

There are two pieces from fellow Muslim bloggers and friends I want to draw reader’s attention to. The first is Tariq Nelson issuing the opening argument in the “Masculinity and War on Our Boys” series of posts we are working on. The second is by Marc Manley on his blog and it is a very interesting account of his encounter with the professional Islamophobe-for-profit Irshad Manji at Temple University. This story is a must read that gives a deep insight into what kind of person Manji actually is and the shallow and misinformed nature of her arguments. .

ISNA Crossing a Picket Line?

It has come to my attention that the ISNA Zonal Conference will be held from May 24-26 in Baltimore, MD at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center. There are a lot of great speakers planned for this event and it should be worthwhile to attend. I always enjoy attending ISNA-sponsored events no matter where they are held and always enjoy hearing the likes of Altaf Hussein and Abdullah Ali.

 

However, it has come to my attention that the Hotel Workers at this location are on strike because of the poor conditions under which they work. It is important for the American-Muslim community to stand up as a people that support just causes from people of all faiths and races. A part of the spirit of social justice that Muslims in America need to embrace is in aligning ourselves with organized labor as they strike and negotiate for better conditions and wages for their workers.

 

The major Muslim organizations led by those such as the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation have also came to this conclusion and held a number of events and seminars in conjunction with the labor movement. A basic part of having solidarity with labor is honoring striking workers by not frequented the companies which they are striking and therefore bringing economic consequences on those being targeted. Crossing a picket line, especially for any organization, is a sign that the struggle of the workers is not important and you see no value in a strike.

 

That is why it is most unfortunate that ISNA is holdings its event at a hotel that is currently having a strike. As I am writing this I am trying to find out more details; but if the strike is still ongoing and ISNA goes forward with this conference I will be very disappointed. If the strike is resolved this is a non-issue; but if it appears that this picket line will be crossed by ISNA then I will encourage all readers who are about the rights of workers to make their displeasure heard. And, to give credit it where it is due, if ISNA does the right thing in the event the strike is ongoing I will be the first to sing their praises. I am still seeking more info.

 

Burma Relief

MYANMAR (BURMA) CYCLONE RELIEF FUND APPEAL
click to Donate online now
 
“The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
 
Devastating Cyclone hit Myanmar (Burma). More than 22500 people were killed & injured and thousands missing.
The death toll is estimated to reach far more .
Many areas of the country are completely cut-off from aid due to severe flooding and extensive road damage. Burmese state television has declared five regions with a combined population of 24 million people to be disaster zones.
click to Donate online now

Helping Hand has established Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Relief Fund to help the victims of this disaster.

HELP US TO HELP THE HELPLESS
click to Donate online now
Please visit  www.helpinghandonline.org
1-888-808 HELP (4357)
 
 
 
 
“Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
 
12346 McDougall Street Suite 200 Detroit, MI 48212, USA
Toll Free: 1 888 808 HELP (4357), Tel (313)279 5378, Fax (313) 366 0200
Email: info@HelpingHandOnline.org, http://www.HelpingHandOnline.org
 

A Crime Against the Sisters

I have been reminded by my elder of Islam and life in Philly of something that I had overlooked regarding the Muslim brothers who robbed a bank dressed in niqaab and then killed a Philly cop. He told me what I should have thought of off top and that is the fact that this action first and foremost (besides from its obvious criminality) put Muslim women in jeopardy. Sisters will now be looked at with suspicion and maybe even be asked to remove their niqaabs in some places. This was not only a crime against the state but a crime against our Muslim sisters who we are supposed to be the protectors of. It is already hard for sisters to wear the niqaab ( and May Allah reward them for their dedication to the sunnah and rejection of false desires) and for sisters who wear hijab ( May Allah reward them as well). Prison Muslims forming gangs on the street do not need to make things harder on them. I have also included this photo of the cross-dressing Muslim and maybe his taste for women’s clothes was something that was picked up while in the joint.

 

Obama Has Won and I’m Excited

For the last several weeks I have been real tired of this election process and have been paying less and less attention to it. After last night however and the all but certainty that Sen. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for the Presidency I am once again enthused.  As I have stated before I am an Obama supporter. Contrary to what some on Islamophobic websites have stated my support for Obama has nothing to do with the fact that his father was a Muslim. I support Obama because I believe that he represents a real change in American politics and to the ideals of where a president can come from and what he should look like.

Race has been the central issue in American public life since this nation was founded and to have a black man in the Presidency of the United States will make a strong statement about where the nation is and what it can aspire to. It will send an image of America to the world, which is mostly non-white, as an open and diverse nation in contrast to the phony John Wayne image that Bush likes to portray.

This is not just about Obama and his blackness. This is also about who he has been as a man. This is a man from humble middle-class roots, who lived in Indonesia as a child, is an Ivy League grad yet worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, and is married to a black woman from the South Side. Yesterday on TV Mitt Romney made fun of his background as an organizer; but to me it is one of the best things about Obama. When guys like Romney laid people off men like Obama stood up to help them when they could have been getting rich.

On the core issues that Americans care about the most; the economy, health-care, education, and the war Obama has the best stance on the issues. Is he perfect? No, he is not and no politician is and anyone looking for perfection in politics and is more than two years removed from college needs to grow-up.  I also vote first and foremost for issues right here in America and who will be best for me, my family, and the people closest to me. I do not expect a Palestinian in Gaza to think of what is best for Americans when they head to the polls and I do not think of them before my family. Issues in the Muslim World and ending the war in Iraq are important and need to be dealt with in a better way by America but those issues take a backseat to me to what is going on right here. I want to know who is going to help get ex-offenders jobs, who is going to bring us universal health-care, who is going to make education more equitable and relevant, and who can bring people of all races and religions together.

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