So Go the Lions, So Goes Detroit

Yesterday the Detroit Lions played their final football game of the 2008 season. They became the first team in the history of the NFL since the beginning of the 16 game season to go 0 for 16.

Commentators have remarked that it could not have happened to a more fitting city. Detroit, a dying city in a dying state, has the worst team in the history of the league just as the automobile industry, what made Michigan what it is today, is on life-support.

This was not always the case for Detroit. It was once among the top 4 biggest cities in America with a booming economy based on the auto industry. The region attracted workers from all over the country to work for the Big 3 (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).

Amongst the many moving to Michigan were a number of Arab-Muslims who have made the Detroit-Dearborn area one of the biggest Muslim populations in the nation. They joined Irish, Italian and Polish and other European immigrants who flocked to the area in search of work (which they usually found).

African-Americans and rural and small town whites from the South and the lower Midwest flocked to the area as well in search of work for the Big 3 and for work in related industries.

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Meeting With the FBI at a St. Louis Masjid Over The Actions of Minnesota Somali Youths

Last night I attended a meeting of about 20 local Muslim leaders with two special agents from the local FBI field office at Masjid Bilal (the old Islamic Center on the campus of St. Louis University).

I did not really want to attend the event but was encouraged to do so by a friend of mine. The meeting seemed like a bad idea to me from the beginning. The agents have been canvassing the local Muslim community informing us about some Somali kids in Minnesota who went to fight in the conflict in Somalia. At least one of them was apparently a suicide bomber.

When I was first told about this my response was “what the hell does this have to do with us in St. Louis?” These kids were from Minneapolis so talk to the people there. There is also the fact that the agents went to mosques that have almost no Somali attendees. So, are these kids in Minneapolis really the issue, or is this just another excuse to harass some Muslims?

I was under the impression this would be a big town hall event; but it ended up being just some local Muslim leaders meeting in a room with two agents. Those in attendance included Imam Muhammad Hasic ( a local Bosnian imam and power-broker), the imam of the new Nigerian mosque in North County, the Amir of the Northwest Islamic Center, Sheikh Minhaj from the Dar al Islam Masjid, Adil Imdad ( a local mover and shaker), brother Tim Kaminski, Sheikh Nur the Amir of the local Bantu Somalis, and others.

Before attending the event I thought out three basic questions/comments to hurl at the agents. The discussion was more informal and while I had a brother tape it the quality is not good. So, I will just list here my three basic points to the agents and there responses.

  1. Group Indictment.

There is no need to harass the entire community over the actions of a few. Bernard Madoff is Jewish, the majority of his victims are Jewish, and his crimes are intimately intertwined with the Jewish community. Yet, it is highly doubtful that synagogues with no connection to Madoff across the country are being canvassed.

Similarly, for every one Muslim in America remotely connected to terrorism or some facet of the Islamic movement the government deems to be illegal, there are dozens of Catholic priests who have a thing for raping little boys. Yet when the feds investigate the widespread pedophilia amongst American Catholics, they move very lightly.

Why is it that when it comes to the Muslim community they do not use the same good judgment?

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A Car Crash, a Small Town Experience, and Gratefulness to Allah

Last night I sat at home watching my favorite show on TV The Next 48 Hours with my wife when I got a call from a Muslim brother who I have known for years telling me that he had a guy in his cab wanting to go to Chicago. He asked me if I would be able to make the trip since he had to pickup up a school kid in the morning and I said sure.

The St. Louis to Chicago run is about $550 or so and given the fact that I have a lot of bills and a baby on the way insha’Allah I can use all the extra money I can get. The week had already been good thanks to the bad weather and I had been able to catch up on some bills I was behind on and get a few extra things for the house and had planned to stack my money on Thursday to give me some padding to go into the weekend and then go shopping Sunday night.

My thinking was that an extra few hundred dollars in my pocket from this trip would put me in a great position. While in Chicago, I thought, I would buy my wife a couple of black jelbabs from the Muslims women’s clothing store (they do not have a Muslima store in Da Lou) and check out the Muslim school in Bridgeview.

The guy who needed the cab is a college student in St. Louis from China. He told me had to get to China because there was an emergency that was “worse than your mother and father dying”. He told me he had bought a last minute plane ticket for thousands of dollars.

I am notorious for not watching the weather and while I knew it had been bad all week I had been driving in it fine and had never had a problem in bad weather before having driven my cab in a number of blizzards and ice storms.

My passenger went to sleep in the backseat and I drove the roads that, while they were bad, were manageable. About 40 miles outside of St. Louis my Cricket cell phone went out of service so while Cricket is cheap and a good deal for people looking for a phone that does not do credit checks or mandate contracts that is something potential customers may want to keep in mind.

Things were going fine until I got around Springfield, IL. For those of you who do not know, Springfield is the Illinois state capitol, where Obama kicked off his presidential campaign, and home to the excellent Lincoln Museum.

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Hasim Rahman: Thanks for the Memories Brother, Now Go in Peace

I can remember back to the year 2001 when Muslims in America were overwhelmed with joy when Hasim Rahman scored a stunning knockout victory over the then heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis in South Africa.

I did not see the fight live because I was on a Greyhound bus traveling from St. Louis to New York. I found out Hasim pulled off the upset at a rest strop in Pennsylvania where a group of Muslim brothers were talking about it.

The next day in Brooklyn and New Jersey I heard a lot of Muslim brothers excitedly talking about Hasim and a lot of brothers were trying to get a tape of the fight. These were all African-American brothers; but a few weeks later I was in the DC area at the home of a Bangladeshi brother and he and his friends were equally excited.

It was not just the fact that Hasim was a Muslim, because there have been numerous Muslim titleholders in boxing from Muhammad Ali to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad to Naseem Ahmed, it was the fact that Hasim was such a vocal and enthusiastic Muslim.

After he defeated Lewis he attributed his victory to the fact that his salat had been right and he used a number of Muslim phrases in his interview with HBO commentator Larry Merchant. Most Muslims did not know at the time of the fight but learned shortly after that his father, Yahya Cason, is an imam in Baltimore and a prominent figure in the Muslim community. We also did not know that Hasim was married young and had a Muslim family. So, the more Muslims learned about our brother the more we learned to like him.

After the first Lewis fight Hasim was given a lucrative contract by Don King and I have it on good authority every Muslim within shouting distance came running to get a piece of the money for their community projects. I am told he donated a nice sum but after a time grew a little leery (which is understandable).

In the buildup to the rematch with Lewis in a televised joint interview on ESPN Hasim further impressed Muslims by physically attacking Lewis after his sister was disrespected. Watching the program I could almost read the mind of Hasim and it said “I cannot let this man disrespect a Muslim sister”.

So, while most Muslims were not in the camp of Hasim leading up to the first Lewis fight, Muslims in America were fully on board for the rematch and there were PPV watching parties for Muslims all over the country. American-Muslims were prepared this time around to support our man; but there was a little problem, Lewis was also prepared.

Rumor had it that Lewis did not train hard for the first fight and had been too busy on the set of the Hollywood film Oceans 11. He looked sluggish and out of shape going into the fight; but for the rematch he had trained well with Emanuel Steward and was in prime condition and ready to avenge his loss. Muslims watched the tables be turned that night as Lewis scored a viscous knockout victory over Hasim after landing a classic right hand.

For the moment, the Muslim hero had been vanquished, and American-Muslims were left with only a few fringe contenders like Zahir Raheem and rumors about Bernard Hopkins being a Muslim (his camp is almost entirely Muslim and I have been told he is a Muslim).

Hasim would have a few other good moments and some good wins; but his career would never again gain the kind of notability he had after the Lewis win thanks to losses to guys like John Ruiz and getting knocked out by Oleg Maskaev.

However, like a lot of Muslims I know, I was still pulling for Hasim when he fought the Ukrainian Heavyweight and universally recognized best in the world Wladimir Klitshcko last Saturday. And, like a lot of Muslims, I cringed as Hasim took a straight up beating at the hands of Klitschko.

Now is the time, and all fighters get to this point, for Hasim to look in the mirror and say ” I have made good money, given good memories, and left my mark, now it is time to retire”. That would be the best course of action for Brother Hasim. Go out while he still has his health and work on his deen.

There will be other Muslim boxers to come up like Saddam Ali a young Yemeni kid from Brooklyn, Amir Khan out of England, and Rock Allen out of Philly; but no matter what they do they will have a hard time topping the excitement Hasim created on that night in South Africa.

A Plea to Help a Brother and Two to Make Duah For

There is a brother I know well and have long respected that if I said his name many Salafis in America would know. For the sake of his privacy I will not mention his name. This brother was a pioneer of the Salafi Dawah in the 1980′s and was known for his expertise on Islamic movements in America. He had a college degree in a secular field and then pursued an education in Medina. Many brothers benefited from the life and work of this brother.

In the 1990′s this brother manned an office dedicated to Islamic studies and befriended young brothers throughout the country such as myself. Whenever I had a question I knew this was a brother whom I could call and talk to and would give me the time of day. Traveling throughout America I cannot tell you how many young Muslims I have ran into who benefited from the knowledge of this brother. He was never a die-hard Salafi with an S on his chest and was thus not popular with some American Salafis (even though he was one of the early African-American Salafis himself); but all had to respect his knowledge.

So, that is why I am at pain today to tell you that this brother who I love so much has fallen on hard times. While he has an advanced Islamic knowledge and a college degree he was long associated with Sheikh Ali al-Timimi (May Allah free him) and because of this cowardly Muslim leaders and schools are afraid to help him in any way even though he has never uttered a jihadi word in his public life.

Recently, this brother’s wife left him with the children, and now he is living in a basement apartment that a brother has provided to him at a low cost. He is now in a very poor state of mind and has been crushed by what has happened. I am pleading to the people of eeman, who love Allah and fear the Last Day more than they fear any flack they may get for helping this brother, to help this brother find employment and lead him back to the stable life that he once led.

May Allah reward anyone who can help this brother. He lives in the DC area.

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Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 7: Conclusion and What Will Umar Do?

(Comments are now open)

A brother who has read this series told me on the telephone that I am overly optimistic about the future of Muslims in America. That sounded odd to me because most people accuse me of being negative and pessimistic. However, as I have outlined in this series, I do believe that a good future is available for American-Muslims if we can address the social ills that ail us while holding onto the rope of Quran and Sunnah at the same time.

There can be no solution to these problems though unless we successfully raise our children as Muslims and we do our part to help build and sustain Islamic institutions. Dawah is important and should never be forsaken; but more important than dawah is sustaining the existing Muslims.  So, if you are living in a city that is not conducive to the Islam of your children or does not nurture your Islam then you need to go.

The problems of raising Muslim children vary depending on the race or ethnicity of the family and children. The offspring of affluent immigrant suburban Muslims are at risk of just falling in love with the dunya and the modern secular world. With an elite education and the ability to materialistically achieve at the highest level while having  a minimal Islamic identity it is highly probable that the bulk of these young Muslims will raise children less Muslim than they are and that many will not raise Muslim children at all. This will weaken with every generation with the remaining Muslims falling into the categories of the very conservative Muslims who have clustered themselves in areas with a high concentration of Muslims (which will be the biggest category), a few progressive Muslims who want to hold onto a non-white identity and have some kind of loose connection with their roots while not professing to follow the Sunnah, and fresh immigrants. More so than any of the categories though you will find people with names like Blake Siddiqhi and Lisa Faruq who are descendents of Muslim immigrants who did well financially ; but they have no connection to Islam due to intermarriage and a lack of Islamic education by their parent or grandparents.

I do not feel that these projections are particularly difficult to make. Those seeking a modern and reformed Islam, almost by definition, want to be a part of the modern world and lack an enthusiasm for traditional Islam. They were born and raised into more traditional Muslim families so they have a semblance of Islam; but without such a benefit given to their children they will have even less Islam, if any at all, and it is highly doubtful that the generation after that will identify as Muslim at all.

The clustered Muslims who practice selective engagement have the greatest chance of ensuring Islam is spread to the future generations in America. This idea is not unique to Muslims. In his book entitled “The Vanishing Jew” the Harvard law professor and Jewish activist Alan Dershowitz projected that the American-Jewish community of the future would be much smaller and yet much more religious. This would happen, Dershowitz argued, because with the high-rates of inter-marriage, low birth rates, acceptance of Jews, and secularization, those who are non-observant Jews or Reformed today will more than likely not exist in any significant numbers in the future. So, the Jewish community will be more pious, but less visible and politically influential. The remaining Jews for the most part will be orthodox Jews living in Jewish neighborhoods (think Borough Park in Brooklyn or Rockland County upstate).

I think the analysis of Dershowitz applies to the typical middle to upper middle-class immigrant Muslim family. Particularly, the ISNA or progressive types (and possibly even some Zaytuna types), for the same reasons as the reformed and non-observant Jews they will fade away with the generations. However, just as they will fade away, those Muslim communities who cluster on the North Side of Chicago, Bridgeview,  Brooklyn, Queens, North Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, the DC Area, Michigan, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and a few other places will survive and what do they have in common?  Maybe they are Taabliqui, maybe they are MAS, maybe they are ICNA, maybe they are Salafi, maybe they are Sufi; but what they all have in common is that they are religiously traditional and conservative and, in practice, not theory and not through pandering, they are racially diverse ( albeit with more work to be done).

Unlike the Jewish community though the Muslims in America benefit from two things that Jews do not and thus makes the comparison not an exact fit. Islam is an evangelistic religion, a religion of dawah, we are mandated to spread the message of Islam wherever we live. As a matter of fact many ulama have ruled that it is haram to live in this country if we are not making dawah.  Judaism is not such an expansionist faith like Islam and Christianity and therefore it can only grow through having a high birth-rate. There is also the issue of immigration. There are maybe 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and many live in failed-states and this is not going to change any time soon. While Muslims are living under poverty and in oppression in Muslim lands they will migrate to the West and in this case America. For the sake of their children and their akhira I would advise them not to come to America, but regardless of what I think and advise they will come here, and they will add to an increasing Muslim population here and offset some of the losses from those who have apostated and children assimilated.

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Eid Mubarak, Series Conclusion Wendesday, and Some Notes

I am holding off the conclusion of the Working-Class Muslim Families in America Series until after Eid insha’Allah. Eid al-Adha is a time to celebrate, slaughter and feast and I will be observing the holiday along with the rest of the ummah. The conclusion will be up Wednesday and the comments section will be open for the discussion. This will not only give readers time to celebrate Eid; but it will also give those who may want to read through the entire series before the conclusion a chance to do so.

Brief Notes

Can anyone who watched the systematic destruction of Oscar De La Hoya at the hands of Manny Pacquiao deny that Pac-Man is the pound for pound best boxer in the world? If I were a betting man I would put my money on Pacquiao walking right through Ricky Hatton and giving Floyd Mayweather a run for his money should he opt to step back in the ring…You can watch an interview that a local TV station did on the auto bailout with Brother Tim Kaminski and myself here…I need some of the East Coast Muslumeen to get at me using the contact link on the side or via facebook.

Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 6: Marriage

There is no thriving Muslim community anywhere in the world or a future for Islam in America without strong marriages that bind our community together. It is the job first and foremost of the married Muslim couple (and Muslim marriage is exclusively heterosexual and every child is given only one mother and one father) to raise the next generation of Muslims who can carry on the dawah of al-Islam to the next generations.

Yet, despite the fact that we all agree marriage is important, and almost all  will agree that there is a marriage crisis in the Muslim community,  there has not been a serious discussion on how to fix these problems ( if they can be fixed while living in a non-Muslim society hostile to the values of Islam).

There is widespread disagreement in the Muslim community on ideals of when and how to get married and you will find a deep dived between various immigrant Muslim communities and indigenous American-Muslims, working-class and non working-class.

I was recently at the blog of Hijabman, and no disrespect to him because he is a nice guy, but I have to say I was thoroughly depressed after leaving. I will not go into detail about the things that depressed me because the opposition to the Sunnah and the promotion of secular ideologies such as feminism and gay rights are known on that site, so that is not what had me down. What had me down was reading an article on the marriage crisis by a Muslim sister. The article in and of itself was also not what got to me although there as plenty in it that was upsetting in its own right. No, what got me down was that in reading this there was a crystallization of the fact, that no matter how figures such as Rami Nashashibi and Azhar Usman try and bridge the gap, we as working-class indigenous Muslims simply live on a different  planet than the vast-majority of second-generation immigrant Muslims.

The way that marriage is discussed with the second-generation is not the way it is discussed within the working-class Muslim community and the problems and desires discussed are alien to most of us. A lot of these Muslims, who are mostly Desi, come from very common experiences no matter where in America they may have grown up. The children of immigrant professionals, reared in middle to upper class suburbs surrounded by white non-Muslims, somewhat rebellious to their parents, educated in non-Muslim schools, Islamically educated in ISNA-style masjids, can all vibe with one another and write blogs to discuss their common issues and even publish magazines geared towards this experience. But, while they may be able to relate to the concerns discussed in these publications, these issues mean very little to your average working-class American-Muslim.

Quite simply we are not struggling with trying to find a Punjabi or Palestinian Muslim to marry to please our parents. We are also not being encouraged by anyone to marry our cousins. Our men, men like me, were reared in areas where men acted like men and we didn’t see men “getting in touch with their feminine side” so working-class Muslim men in America are not struggling to assert their masculinity and nor are they turning off some women by their softness (maybe by their hardness). The serious working-class American Muslims, male or female, are also not even contemplating marrying a non-Muslim. As Dawud Adeeb once said in a lecture I attended “I have never met a Muslim serious about their deen who has decided to marry a kafir”.

The working-class American-Muslim girl is not struggling with her attraction to her Jewish or atheist classmate; because she has not bought into some romance novel version of love. She knows that more than being about some cheesy notion of an intoxicating love marriage is about a partnership and group submission to Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (s.a.s.) and that will bring about a love that will not fade with time. Most working-class American-Muslim girls will recognize that the kafir sitting in the class with her may be bright, witty, and handsome; but if he is the agent that Shaytan will use to lead her into the hellfire all of those qualities are worthless.


The grounded and rooted American-Muslim girl has this mentality. Obviously there are some American-Muslim girls who do not think like this; but almost always these are girls with other problems in their lives. Their lives snowball out of control and it culminates in their laying up with a kafir. I know indigenous Muslim girls like this and they will admit what they have done and also admit that it is haram and most will feel shame. This contrasts them to many of the second-generation immigrant sisters. They will lay up with a kafir and then try and change Islam to suit their sins. Will write eloquently written articles trying to justify their acts and completely ignore what Allah and His Messenger (s.a.s.) have said.

The second-generation boys of course have their own set of problems. Like their sisters they have also been trained to marry “one of their own” and like their sisters they also may desire a kafir that they go to school with. I do not know how the parents can expect otherwise when they raise their boys in non-Muslim suburbia and send them to white schools for their education. They will grow up and think and act like those they have grown up with (only possibly with an inferiority complex or hatred of their culture).

If the boy is at a non-Muslim high school, where your average girl today is wearing clothes reserved for hookers 20 years ago, can anyone be surprised that his natural sexual desire will be aroused by those he sees? If he goes to college single with a minimal level of Islam while his parents expect him to remain celebate in this hyper-sexualized society they are dreaming. If he is not having sex it is because he cannot get any; not because the desire is not there. Just as the non-Muslim girl raised in this society has the desire to lay-up with kufar so does the Muslim young man and he is doing so at a higher-rate with less of a struggle with his parents; but I doubt Islamically the children will have any more deen than those of the Muslima marrying outside of the deen.

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Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 5: The Mainstreaming Option, Education and Selective Engagement

At this point in time there will be many reading this who are thinking one of two things (or both). First, they are thinking the issues I am discussing and the dreams and aspiration of working-class Muslims in America I speak of are in my head and do not really exist on a wide scale. I can assure you that I am not making this up. If you think that I am, email me personally and tell me where you live and I can either put you in touch with people in your city or tell you where to go to meet people in the predicament of which I speak.

The second thing people are thinking is, and I think perhaps maybe this opinion may be the majority in many circles, is why am I making a fuss? Hey, we are in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Muslims are dying to come here and raise their children and you are complaining about having to raise your children here? America is the land of opportunity. If you work hard and get a good education here you can succeed materialistically no matter your race, religion or ethnicity. And, finally, they will not see what I see. Maybe they are cloistered in immigrant Muslim communities, or maybe they see the American-Muslim community and approve of the direction it is heading too. Their goal is the “mainstreaming” of Islam in America and they see this as achievable. More mosques are open and more Muslims are visible, so what is the fuss? A mainstream Islam for a mainstream America is being created!

Well, I am sorry, but if I waned to be in the mainstream of America I would have never became Muslim. When I took shahadah, I was embracing a faith that offered me a radical alternative to the American way of life.  A faith not at one with liberals or conservatives or any other religion or political ideology on this planet. If I believed in religious pluralism, in the sense that all religions are the same and no one should profess the exclusivity of the correctness of their faith, I would have never became Muslim.

It is the belief that Islam is the Haqq, The Truth, which sustains me and guides my plans for my family. I am an extremely flawed Muslim and human being, and I am not setting myself up as a role model by any means, but the brothers I have met and loved in this deen have struggled because we are trying to get closer to Islam and live the Sunnah in our lives. Those who seek the mainstream struggle to get farther away from Islam, and closer to an American or secular humanistic model.  So, when you talk about unity in the Muslim community, between the immigrant and the indigenous, you have to take these things into consideration, many of us are on the same highway but we are headed in different directions and I want to take my family in the direction that brings them closer to attaining Jannah and not the one that brings them closer to a suburban McMansion.

Jews are a model for Muslims in America. I have found that almost every shade of Muslim I have encountered who has discussed some future model for the Muslim community has invoked the Jewish experience as a model. Progressive Muslims invoke the Reformed model which basically means you can believe anything and still call yourself a Muslim. The model is based on modern humanist thought and anything in Islam that violates the edicts of global secular thought has to go. For them, Islam becomes just some empty traditions made modern and cute. The word Muslim has a cultural meaning and not a meaning of submission to Allah and adherence to the Sunnah of His Messenger (s.a.s.). Socially, this will lead to failure and will die within a few generations (just like Reformed Judaism now is looking at a dire future) and religiously you can call this Islam, but in fact it is not Islam. You can call me the King of England, but that does not make me a king, and you can call a butterfly a mocking bird but that does not make it a mocking bird. You can invent your own Islam out of the words and thoughts of humans, but it will not be – and will never be – al-Islam.

The model the progressives have for our children is a model that will take them out of Islam. And, as the beliefs of the progressives gain momentum – and they can be found in most of the major Muslim organizations and in Muslim schools throughout America – the ascendency of this thought must be taken into consideration when thinking about what kind of Muslim future there is in America for your children. These organizations may not call themselves progressive or reformed Muslims but many in them hold those beliefs.

At this stage in America however these reform minded Muslims do not define the mainstream.  The mainstream of Muslim organizations is the alphabet organizations that directly deal with the lives of Muslim children in America: ISNA, MAS, and ICNA.  You can also say that Zaytuna and al-Maghrib are organizations that are central to Muslim families and children in their unique ways as well (but are not operating schools).

ISNA and MAS have the most Muslim schools attached to them and in some areas operate the only schools. Therefore, the direction these two organizations are headed, and their definition of the mainstream (which they both seek to be in) is crucial in analyzing a future for Muslim children.

No organization has a greater effect on the identity of more Muslims and the religious and scholastic education of Muslim children than ISNA. This is particularly the case for Desi Muslims; but the reach of ISNA is wide and ensnares the entirety of the American-Muslim community. In many cities, such as St. Louis, the only school operating full-time for Muslim children is a school at an ISNA-affiliated masjid. Therefore, if you want your child to be professionally educated by Muslims and socialized with Muslim children, you have no choice other but to send them to an ISNA school.

There is good in ISNA and their efforts to move American-Muslims into the mainstream if that means that Muslims are not looked at funny or what have you can be positive. But, if that means that the uniqueness of Islam, the Sunnah, Dawah, and the fundamental truths of Islam will take a backseat in terms of effort and emphasis to the need for moderation, mainstreaming, and image-making to the non-Muslim society, then I do not see ISNA-related schools as those where it is safe to entrust the future of working-class Muslim children or their Islamic education too. If interfaith comes before aqeeda and PR gimmicks to gain support or sympathy comes before the Sunnah then I do not think Muslim children are in the best environment to grow.

With regards to the ISNA educated children, we have tens of thousands of examples to look at to see how it turned out. An entire generation has graduated from ISNA schools and is now in young adult hood. Financially, most of these young Muslims are doing well. Educationally, the majority have received college degrees. Politically, most are voting and moderate. So, by the standards of American society these young Muslims are doing great and their educational model should be one that working-class Muslim would be ready to accept for our own children.

But, there is more to the story. There are no figures, but go to city after city and masjid after masjid, and you will find that the community has lost the bulk, if not the majority of those educated in Muslims schools. It is not that most of these young Muslims do not still indentify themselves as Muslims – they do – but they are absent from the life of the Muslim community and living lives that are not distinguishable from their non-Muslim peers. For those who are still practicing – and there are many but I would venture to say they are  a minority – there is a strong propensity towards an Islam that is diluted in order to not conflict with modern American society.

I do not blame these young Muslims; rather I blame ISNA and the social thought of those around that influenced their direction. These schools were largely opened in middle to upper-class suburbia in areas that were not heavily populated by Muslims. Indeed, if you look at writings in many Muslim publications in the 1990′s there were Muslims writers, somewhat bizarrely, writing that it was a plus that the Muslim community was spread so thin and not geographically concentrated.  In real life what did this mean?

It meant that young Muslim immigrant kids would grow up in areas surrounded by non-Muslims. Non-Muslim kids would be their neighbors and friends and later their lovers and spouses. When they went to the mosque or Muslim school they felt out of place because they felt they could not behave as they wanted to. That is why when you go to an ISNA masjid or school and see the youth they normally have no outward signs of being Muslim nor do they have the speech of Muslims; rather they have the speech and dress of their non-Muslim neighbors.

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Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 4: “Hijrah”

Those indigenous Muslims from isolated areas not satisfied with moving to the east coast always have the option of hijrah. As a matter of fact hijrah is an option for all Muslims in America and you see indigenous Muslims from all areas, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Down South, making “hijrah”.

Different people make hijrah for different reasons; but before I talk about those reasons and the pros and cons I first want to briefly deal with the concept of hijrah. There are some American-Muslims who have very sane and rational views about why they should make hijrah and how they should go about doing so and how this will benefit their children.

If your plan to make hijrah consist of getting as tourist visa, overstaying your visa and living off of the meager savings you have from America then you need to rethink your plans. If you are a grown man with children and you plan to go overseas, not work and study Arabic or deen full-time this may not be considered hijrah and instead may just be considered becoming an international deadbeat. If you plan on moving somewhere full time, have no prospects for employment there and have to come back to America for three, four, or six months out of the year leaving your family you may also want to rethink the soundness of your plans.

Technically, all of the things stated above are not hijrah at all. Most of these things involved becoming an illegal immigrant in a Muslim Land. You are not a citizen, your children there will not become citizens and you may not have the lawful right to even work or own property. You may be living full-time or part-time in a Muslim land but your children have no permanent legal status there, will never be considered a local or native and your status there is iffy at best.

As I write this I know of bitter Muslim young adults who grew up in Saudi Arabia and never knew America. They were never considered Saudis, but they were sheltered from all things American; now since they have no legal status in the KSA they are back in America feeling lonely and isolated in a non-Muslim land they did not grow up in and are resentful towards their parents. There parents may have done a lot of things; but they definitely did not make hijrah.

Just like there is a revolving door of Midwestern and Southern Muslims moving back and forth to the East Coast there is also a revolving door of families moving back and forth from overseas. When they are in America they work hard, save up a little money and then go overseas until their money runs out. Any benefits their children receive from living in a Muslim land are negated by the chaos in their lives. The children will more than likely grow bitter and their constantly having to move will mean their education will more than likely be lacking because they miss days of school.

It should be noted that there are ulama that encourage all Muslims in America to make hijrah and there are many Muslims, especially Salafis, who follow that opinion. For them hijrah is the goal at all times and they may or may not have a good plan. Their children could come back to America married to Muslims and fully grounded in the deen and they could come back unable to speak English in complete sentences.

To be quite honest the majority of those American-Muslims who I have known to make hijrah have came back to America in utter failure. Some of them come back with horror stories. Others come back with stories I dare not repeat.

Does this mean I am anti-hijrah? Of course I am not. As a mater of fact, if done properly hijrah is the best option. Instead of struggling to move from one city in a non-Muslim land like St. Louis to another like Philly you could move to a land where there is almost nothing but Muslims. There are many factors that exist though that makes this option very difficult even for the most thoughtful Muslims.

It is sad but true that the majority of the ummah live in poverty. Migrating to a dirt-poor developing nation when you are already poor is not a realistic option. Other places in the ummah are not that poor but are ruled by tyrants who are hostile to practicing Muslims. Such places are also not an option. Other places are mired in civil-conflict and terrorism. These places are not good, not only because you may be putting your life and the lives of your family at risk; but you also may be accused of being a terrorist when coming home to America, be harassed for the rest of your life and have your passport taken.

What does that leave us?  That leaves us with a handful of Muslim countries to work with. Many, if not most, indigenous brothers and sisters are not college-educated. Now, the figure for those who are college-educated is growing masha’Allah, but I will just deal with how it is now. Without a high-level of education this means that brothers who want to provide for their families will have to live in relatively prosperous societies that can afford to pay decent wages for jobs that are not high-skilled. Or live in places with a big need for English teachers for example. This leaves Muslims with the choice of the rich Gulf Arab States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain), Indonesia, and Malaysia. Thee are also other countries that if well-connected one can make it on a modest wage such as Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan.

If one is not wealthy and looking to move there you must put employment ahead of ideology and conviction. Because, no matter how much you may want to live in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, if you cannot get a job then it is just a dream. If you manage to get over there and do not have a job then in all actuality your family will be suffering and it is a long way from home to be broke.

If a Muslim is not only able to get a good job; but also able to get along well with those of other cultures and have a gift for language, hijrah can be a great option if done with balance, realistic expectations and care. The entire family can enjoy the benefit of living in a Muslim land and can grow together. The key is to grow as Muslims and enjoy your time in a Muslim land without totally detaching yourself from the American-Muslim community and remaining aware of the fact that while your intention may be hijrah you are a visitor and you do not want to put yourself in a  situation where returning to America will be a hardship.

If brothers in Muslim countries only knew how badly many American-Muslims just wanted to live in a Muslim land where they would not be given strange looks, where their wives could cover freely and be given their rights, where the kids could be inculcated into the culture of Islam, where if you die you will get a proper Muslim burial, where you don’t have to worry about food being haram, and where you hear the adhan 5 times a day, if brothers in Muslim countries only knew how badly your heart yearend for Dar al Islam then you would think they would be helping working-class Muslims resettle in Muslim lands for the sake of their children.

Yet, with very limited exceptions, there are normally not wide open arms at the other end welcoming the American brothers and sisters. Instead, we face bureaucratic and visa nightmares fro “Muslim” governments and hostility from Muslims in Muslim lands and often return home and are harassed by the fed’s because we are seeking to grow closer to Allah. As we go closer to Allah American law-enforcement will try to stand in between us and the One who created both of us; but as the old Christian saying goes “you demons get behind me”.

These are prospects for hope involving hijrah, and there are reasons for concern, but no matter where we will go we will always have the swagger and speech of an American, because that is what we are, and believe me wherever you go in this world people will not let you forget that. No matter what circumstances we were born into, no matter how horrific the kufr of our childhoods was, and no matter how much we often carry our Americanness like an albatross around our necks, a greater hope may be available for our children if hijrah is done right, and if it is done wrong our children may see and bear horrors we have not even imagined.

Working Class Muslim Families Series Part Three: Moving To a Better Muslim Community

I cannot tell you how many dozens of Muslim friends I have from St. Louis and other parts of the Midwest who have one desire burning in their heart and that is to get out of the Midwest ( or South or wherever they live where the community is weak) and go to the East Coast. This is a desire I have had (and still have) and a desire that has left St. Louis empty of most of its most ardent young Muslim converts who have left for the East Coast.

The reasons for this departure are partially covered in the post above. But, one issue not covered, is one that comes up before there is children, and that is marriage. In communities such as St. Louis there are many more brothers than sisters. It is often very difficult for indigenous brothers to get married and some resort to marrying non-Muslim women. These interfaith marriages often result in the brothers feeling even more isolated than they did before they were married. Before they were just isolated at work, school, or with old friends; but now they even feel like strangers with their own spouses.

Brothers look to head to the East Coast (or even Chicago or Atlanta). For single brothers and sisters this is a place where they can easily find a spouse and for Muslim families these are places where their Muslim children can be socialized and out in Muslims schools with other children like them. If Muslims make these moves they often come with hardship. Particularly, East Coast cities tend to be tribal and nepotistic. This means getting a good job can be difficult without personal connections or a network and job security is minimal in places where you just doubled your cost of living. For this reason you see a flow of Muslims moving back and forth (I include myself in this category). I have several friends who I can never keep track if they are on the East Coast or back home in the Midwest. If they are back home I can assure what I will hear from them when I talk to them “Oh akh I’m just trying to hustle up some money to get back to the East Coast”. We move to the East Coast to be in a vibrant Muslim community; but because we are poor in our own cities where we are connected we become dirt-poor on the East Coast where we are not connected and living is more expensive making life very difficult.

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Working Class Muslim Families Series Part Two: American-Muslims Living in Isolated and Backward Communities

This category is one of Muslims living in rural areas, in the west, or in Midwestern and southern cities with very dead Muslim communities. Many immigrant Muslims may not need to live in a vibrant community. Their Islamic values were reinforced by their upbringing and education. They do not need new Muslim friends because they have Muslim family. When they are in desperate need of seeing Muslims they can go home on vacation and see nothing but Muslims. The American-Muslim, especially the convert, needs to be in a place where they can grow.

If you convert to Islam and there are no Muslims at your school, none at your work, none in your family and you see no Muslims in your everyday life you may feel lonely. You may very well eventually quit being Muslim (and I have seen this happen maybe hundreds of times in St. Louis).

The convert needs to go to a masjid where he is welcomed and there are other Muslims like him. He needs brothers he can talk about fiqh with and discuss the NFL with, a brother he can tell about how much fitnah it is being celibate for this first time since he was a young teen and not feel he is a bad Muslim, a brother he can go to an aqeedah class with and then watch a PPV boxing match with over pizza.

If a brother has this, just this, he has a good chance of survival in the Muslim community. Having Muslims friends who you can relate with is so crucial to our experience. Friends can give you advice and tell you to say no when you want to say yes. When you are tempted to “make dawah” to or marry a non-Muslim girl that brother can tell you no. The immigrant may not tell you no. He may be married to a non-Muslim or have been married to one at one time; but his deen may also not be as fragile as yours.

Sadly most brothers in thee types of small communities end up either going to ISNA-style masjids that, for the most part, are not youthful or vibrant. They have little to offer the new Muslim and offer very little in terms of Islamic education. American-Muslims who want to advance in their knowledge of the deen will often be shut out at these masjids. This is not out of malice from the immigrant Muslim. The immigrant Muslims for the most part are warm and friendly to the convert; but simply do not know what to do, or do not have the spare resources, to accommodate them. This often drives indigenous Muslims in small communities to small, and usually fledgling and cash-strapped, African-American masjids in the inner-city. These masjids may be very small but they do teach Islamic knowledge, are strict in their observance, and offer a place for socialization.

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