Dirty City Politics, Beheading, and HIV Dilemna

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown recently had a column that caused quite a bit of controversy. I would like to share it with my readers because I feel that two lessons can be learned. One lesson is that even though Barack Obama is president we are very far from a post-racial America. If you read the comments section you will see that white readers take any criticism of the white mayor, Francis Slay, as a racially based attack given that brown is black. Lesson two is that the mostly white yuppies who are making up the forces of gentrification and urbanism are making bedfellows with some like Slay who is far from “new, hip, techie, progressive, and urban” and is an old school product of a hard-nosed political machine that is ethnically and racially based.

Beheading

I have not posted a story on the Bridges TV co-founder and President who beheaded his wife because the story is everywhere. It is obviously tragic. I was never  a big fan of the station and maybe if I was it would have hit me a little harder but I saw it is a little too wishy-washy and apologetic. Regardless of that a Muslim sister was killed and it is a loss and may Allah have mercy on her. Domestic violence is a problem in our community, as it is for many other communities, and this will be used by the enemies of Islam. But, this incident is only an indictment on the individual who perpetrated the act and not the Muslim community as a whole.  How many Muslims in America have chopped their wives head off? This is the only incident that I know of and there have been very few Muslims in America to kill their spouses in any other kind of way. Meanwhile, hundreds if not thousands of spouses kill one another every year who are not Muslim, so lets keep this in perspective.

Project HIV Dilemma

A passenger of mine recently faced a moral conundrum. His mother lives in a public housing building that houses those with HIV and AIDS. As a part of the lease you are not supposed to tell anyone the building is for those with the disease. A neighbor of his mother is an attractive young woman who has a lot of different men in and out of her house and due to the thinness of the walls he can hear they are engaged in sexual activities. He wants to tell these men that she is HIV-positive but does not want to get his mother evicted. A tough call.  This is just one of the many problems in public housing and the bureaucracy of the incompetents that staffs them. Working-families have been turned away from the projects and this has torn families apart and created an incentive for separation because with the father around the voucher will not be given and the list goes on of problems that I hope one day will be fixed inshaAllah.

Perspective, Digital-Divide, Online Persona and Reverse Hijrah

In a recent conversation with a Muslim brother I told him “you know from what I see most of the second-generation Muslims I see online don’t see to like Islam that much and they positively hate the Sunnah. If you say something against Valentines Day or make any Islamic judgment they label you an extremist and they are only comfortable with a Muslim-identity as a social construct and not as a religious one.”

He pointed out to me the fact that these same Muslims, who will not judge any Muslim no matter how deviant (unless that Muslims is what they call a Wahabbi), are ready to excommunicate anyone who is not “green”, “organic”, or feminist, and he pointed out this is because they derive their beliefs from their educations from non-Muslims and their peers and not from Islam. Islam only re-enforces what they already believe and if Islam contradicts what they believe then they negate that aspect of the religion. We both noted that a tragedy of this era is that the Muslim organizations such as IANA and the Mahad have been closed by the government and a scholar who could have combated the issues of our times such as Sheikh Ali- al-Timimi is incarcerated. So those who are in opposition to this mindset such as myself are easily isolated and vilified; because I do not carry the weigh of a Sheikh Ali. Of course there are others, who do carry weight, and who agree with me on any points, who have run from the fight. Still more who disagree who are large in numbers, as a matter of fact much larger than these online forces of the Muslim Left, who are content just to be to themselves and say the internet is a fitnah.

The Digital Divide

I am a little older than many of my readers and due to this I came of age slightly before computers became the norm for schools and were common in the homes of people. So, I did not grow up knowing how to use a computer and didn’t type for the first time until I was in high-school and I have never learned how to type properly or use most computer functions (and do be quite honest I do not find computers all that interesting).

The first experience I had on the internet is when I was 22 years old and was a roommate of Ismail Royer. He was working at CAIR and had been educated at elite schools and knew a lot about computers and he taught me a few things; but I still did not have an email address and still could not really figure out what to do with a computer.

Around 1998 my curiosity in the internet was peaked because a lot of brothers were communicating with one another on AOL such as Idirs Palmer and Tariq Nelson and I wanted to get in on their conversations. I still did not have a computer but would go on computers at college campuses to see what the brothers were doing and then I discovered all of the Islamic knowledge online, info on Muslim events and communities, Muslim matrimonial sites, and what not.

It was not until maybe 2002 or 2003 when I was already in my late 20′s that I began to be on the computer on a daily basis and owned a computer and then it took me a while to figure out what to get out of it.

The core of who I am was already established without the influence of a computer. This means I am much more comfortable to talking to someone face to face than online. I do not have an online and an offline persona and my friends generally tend to be people I have known, in person, for years. Most of my Muslim friends do not have Facebook pages and do not read blogs. If they own a computer it is for business or for the kids and like me they grew up without computers.

These are brothers who go to the masjid everyday and pray and many are very active in the community and well-read (and a number quite wealthy); but I can’t get them to read my blog or even pick up their email (which they do a few times a year).

Contrast this to many Muslim bloggers and other only Muslims who have grown up with computers, studied them, love them, and maybe even work with them. A lot of their identity is online. Just as I grew up playing sports, fighting and riding my bike they grew up on the computer and playing video games. In many cases this will mean that I am more physical and aggressive and they are more computer literate and it can mean that while I would rather call you or see you in person they would rather text or email. It also means that many ideas I have that would seem normal, or I would even say unquestioned and orthodox, to many of my offline brothers, seem radical, stupid and bizarre to many online Muslims who have grown-up online.

False Perceptions From Online Identity

From the time I took shahadah I never knew any Muslim men who were openly soft and “in touch with their feminine side”. I never knew a Muslim, not a single one, who believed homosexuality was not haram. From time to time I would go to masjids and Muslim events and there would be women who did not cover and there was free-mixing; but this was rare and almost all of the masjids I went to the men and women were separated and the women were covered and as I told my sister-in-law I do not know the names of many of my good friends wives and I would not recognize them if I saw them in the street and I have dined in their homes many a time.

I lived all over the country and I never attended a masjid were the ideas many Muslim bloggers espouse were the norm. When I started blogging I started to encounter Muslims for the first time who praised the feminization of Muslim men, vilified jihad, praised feminism, looked the other way on homosexuality, tried to separate Islam and politics, and showed a general weakness on many Islamic issues. These are Muslims who scorn Muslims and praise un-Islamic ideas such as anarchism, vegetarianism, humanism and the like. These were ideas I had not run into in my visits to hundreds of masjids in dozens of cities.

After I started blogging I felt the need to talk about these issues and then after I saw these problems online I then began to see them in the community mostly among the young second-generation Muslims of Desi and Arab backgrounds, white Muslims, and what Tariq Nelson refers to as the “Mulatto Mafia”.

In my day to day life outside of the blog I seldom if ever discuss any of these issues with brothers I know or at the masjid. The reason for that is I do not have to. There is no discussion; because everyone agrees with me and this does not matter if I am in St. Louis, New York, or Virginia. At TalkIslam my ideas may be controversial, and may cause someone like Johnpi to have paranoid thoughts about me, but at most American masjids my ideas are nowhere near as controversial and can find far more in agreement with than the far-left ideas of the progressives, Quransits and others discussed there and that is why they are relegated to online activity for the most part ( this is not to say that maybe some of my political views are not outside the mainstream but on religious issues my views are far more closer to the norm than those you will see discussed at forums such as TI and on many blogs).

Online there becomes a culture clash between those who come from the grassroots such as myself and the bloggers and online Muslims who tend to represent the crowd I previously referred to. This also happens to be a crowd that tends to be upscale financially, suburban, and ready to accommodate the greater-society. Their cultural background often means they are interested in inter-faith whereas the brothers I know are interested in giving dawah (even if we don’t do it like we should). Our outlook towards the greater society tends to be oppositional (even if we are not physically opposing and are productive members of the society) as Yusuf Smith pointed out and theirs tend to be accommodating, non-threatening, and filtered through secular educations and ideologies.

Salafi-Sufi Divided is Overhyped

The Salafi-Sufi divide is relatively minor to this discussion. I do think there is a confluence between so-called Traditionals, some Sufis, Modernists, and Progressives and at some point they all come together; but that is not the main issue.

On the social issues I discuss, for the most part, Salafis from Masjid ar-Rahma in Newark, NJ, Sufis from the Jamaat of Muhammad al-Shareef in California, Taabliquis at Masjid an-Nur in Chicago, MAS brothers at Dar al Hijrah in Falls Church, VA, attendees of Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn, followers of Imam Jamil al-Amin in Atlanta are all going to essentially agree with one another and with me. All of these Muslims represent grassroots Muslims and on social issues are all pretty much on the same page and that page is very far from that of the Modernists, Progressives, Cultural Muslims and yes even a number of pages away from Zaytuna even if some have friendly relations with one another.

None of them see this as the ideal society, all believe Islam can transform this society, all believe in dawah, none of them filter Islam through humanism or their secular educations, none of their masjids have free-mixing, uncovered women, gay-acting brothers, veggie meals, readings of Greeks, none are scared to use the word kafir, and the like and I will say that these types of masjids represent a very large percentage of masjids in America.

However, while there is a difference between these grassroots, often working-class, Muslims and the Zaytuna and Traditional types who tend to be more liberal, non-aggressive, less traditional on social issues,  and put a heavier emphasis on their secular educations, that is not the biggest divide.

You will not find that many brothers at the masjids I described going to the salon, wearing hair full of gel, wearing tight jeans, going by non-Muslim names,  and yapping on their cell phones while sitting with a Mac Book at a coffee ship drinking frappaccino, shopping at Whole Foods, and having an “organic lifestyle”. All of these groups espouse a masculine Islam and the brothers would tend to see most of this as less than manly and therefore not befitting of Muslims ( although not haram) and in this there is a cultural divide within the community between these Muslims and the Zaytuna and traditional crowd that also tends to merge into a racial divide.

Reverse Hijrah and Its Problems

As a product of the Reverse Hijrah that began to take off in the 1970′s to America where so many Muslims left Muslim countries to live in America and other Western nations we have a large group of the children of these Muslim immigrants who are now young adults.

The results have not been good. The vast-majority of second-generations Muslims, are not Salafi and going to attend an Almaghrib event or a Dawud Adib lecture and are not Sufi and going to a Zaytuna event or a dhikr circle. No, they are completely detached from the religion and this is the majority.

The biggest group of second-generations Muslims are those we see everyday who do not pray, do not dress as Muslims, do not talk as Muslims, and often marry non-Muslims and will not raise their children as Muslims. Most may still call themselves Muslims although many are open apostates or will say “my family is Muslim”.

Then you have the cultural Muslims, who seem to be a large group online. These are the children of mostly religious Muslim families who see being a Muslim just as part of what they are. That does not entail any serious belief and they tend to be scornful of anyone who takes their religion too serious.  It just means they accept Islam as sort of an ethnic-group and a social construct; but are not too crazy about observing the Sharia in their lives or in gaining any knowledge of the deen. You cannot argue with them because an Islamic daleel means absolutely nothing to them. You give them Quran and Sunnah and they retort with an article from the New Yorker or a book they read by a non-Muslim academic. You mention an Islamic scholar who is not John Esposito or Karen Armstrong and who, God-forbid, graduated from a Muslim university, and they become suspicious. If they have any energy to be used towards the deen it will be to try and change the religion and they are often joined by white Muslims who maybe have been Muslim a few months; but are quickly promoted by darker Muslims with colonial mindsets.

Many of these cultural Muslims are liberals and in this era having a Muslim identity, which is seen as non-white, gives them street-cred with the Left. If you observe there gatherings you will not know that you are observing a gathering of Muslims as boyfriends and girlfriends are together and few, if any, tend to be dressed in any kind of Islamic manner. These cultural Muslims, sitting alongside their non-Muslim demographic group, will tend to have few children and few of these children will grow up to be Muslim.

The smallest group is the religious and maybe Hamza Yusuf and the like can appeal to those cultural Muslims for some reason.

This leads me to two thoughts; do not make hijrah and the indigenous-immigrant divide will never be erased in the Muslim community.

Looking at the disaster of the second-generation how could any Muslim in good faith advise a Muslim to raise their family here if they do not have to?  That is why whenever a brother emails me and says “hey I got a visa and I am coming to America” I tell them to burn the visa and stay in a Muslim land even if it means poverty. The poverty of this life is nothing compared to the fires of Hell. In Pakistan or Egypt your children may grow up and be poor, and bad Muslims, but they will still be Muslim. In America there is a very good chance your children and grandchildren will not be Muslim.

This is not to say that there are not successful examples of raising good Muslim children in America and not plenty of good second and third generations Muslims here, because there are, they are just a small minority though. And, even the ones who have held on to their deen and even prospered in the deen, cannot very well tell Muslims don’t make Revere Hijrah because they themselves are a product of Reverse Hijrah.

The grassroots convert and their offspring, no matter if they are Salafi or Sufi or like most Muslims don’t say they are either, can say “look, I know this place, don’t come here.” It is our home, and we have nowhere else to go, and as long as we are here we will contribute and try and make this place better for everyone, but if we did not see the error of the society and its religion we would have never embraced Islam.

Mayhem in St. Louis

I guess it all started last Saturday night and then went crazy last night. I was driving South on Nebraska on the South Side when I had to pull over because there was a hot pursuit police chase. An hour or so later as I was winding it down and ready to go home I got caught in the middle of another high-speed chase; but this time it was not between cops and robbers, but between two carload of gang-bangers racing down Lafayette towards Jefferson.

It was a wild night but I made some decent money so I was really not trippin. Then came Wednesday night and that is when things officially went nuts.

First I picked up a young woman who is a cashier at a Midtown gas station and took her to what used to be the Cochrane Projects just north of downtown. She told me that normally she catches the Metrolink train, but she had a bad experience the other night. While waiting on the train to come a young man sat down next to her. She said he appeared to be in his early twenties and was not bad looking.  Looking out of the corner of her eyes she saw that both of his hands were in is pants and something was moving and when she turned to see what the man was doing he looked at her grinning while masturbating.

When she saw this she got up and walked away fast, and the guy started to follow her; but then he jumped on a train running the other way. I told her “that is why all women out at night need to carry a weapon…at least some kid of a blade” and she told me she had one and was ready to use it if he came closer and I told remember the drill “stick and turn, stick and turn”.

After a few short trips I then went to pick up what I thought was a pretty safe ride at a senior building in the fringes of the Central West End. The only problem was some idiot had blocked the entrance to the driveway by parking in a no-parking spot. I saw who I thought the guy was and began honking but he did not budge so I got out of my car to confront him.

The guy was on the phone that you use to call people to buzz you in and he was yelling and crying. Apparently, he was arguing with his girlfriend. When I asked him to move his car he gave me a dirty look and he started to move so I started to punch him in his face because in these situations the one who strikes first usually wins the fight. It turned out that I didn’t need to do that because the guy turned around put his head on the wall and started crying; but before you feel sorry for him it should be known that as he bent over to put his head on the wall a loaded gun could be seen in the small of his back.

I then walked back to the car to radio the dispatcher to tell the people to come out to the street and they did. Three teenage girls going on the North Side by O’Fallon Park came out. One asked me if I could stop at the Schnucks on Sarah and Lindell so she could go get some baby formula with her WIC (a federally subsidized food program).

After she came out I headed North on Taylor and in front of there was a car driving erratically. When I got closer to them I could see that there were two men in the car punching one another; but the driver still had control of the vehicle.

As I assessed this along with my passenger, all of the sudden we saw several police cars as we were now on Newstaed and it appeared that the police were trying to kick in the door of a small church and this sent all of my passengers into an uproar. However, the church thing really didn’t get to me because I do not know the circumstances, what had me scratching my head is the conversation my passengers were having.

They were talking about how they go into shopping malls and steal and about some guy they knew who was very good at it. Then one of the girls said “yea, I got a lot of shit tonight, this sweater is a real blessing”. And, I was like, hmm? A blessing? As in a blessing from the Creator who has prohibited stealing for humanity?

I told that story to a bus driver I picked up about an hour later and he laughed; but then told me his bus had got shot up in North County the night before. When I asked him what happened he said he didn’t know. A teenage boy just randomly fired off several rounds into the bus, but thank God no one was hurt.

All of these things were spinning in my head as I made it downtown. However, as I was downtown, there were police cars everywhere and some kind of a crime scene in front of the Main Post Office; there was a manhunt going on.

Mayhem, Mayhem in the city. Alhamdudilah tomorrow is Jumma.

Reading Obama: Cult Mentality?, The Interracial Relationship , and The Muslims in His Life

I normally do not read books written by politicians because as a rule they are not written by them, or are written by then and not written well, or are a blatant part of their political campaigning. I deiced to buy Dreams of My Father by President Barack Obama to read because it had been written before he was in politics and could give me some insight into the life and mind of our current president.

Cult Mentality?

As most of my readers know I voted for Obama and enthusiastically embraced his candidacy from an early stage. However, in recent weeks, I have grown a little annoyed at the Obama worship I have seen by many (including Muslims).

When I go to Walgreens now to pick up an odd item they have a whole aisle dedicated to Obama shirts, hats, stickers, and any other kind of BS you can think of. At the gas station half of the magazines on the rack either have his photo or that of his wife on the front cover. Passengers in my cab wear Obama hats (which I wore during the campaign) and I see the shirts and signs everywhere. It kind of reminds me of what you experience when you are living in dictatorships like those of Mubarak in Egypt, Assad in Syria, or the former Soviet Union where you would see photos of the great leader everywhere.

To me, in America, you support your guy running for office and you do what you can to help them once in office, but you don’t become something like the Fedyaeen Saddam or Chavistas (and I happen to like Hugo but I don’t want the American political culture to become like our southern neighbors).

A day or two ago I got an email requesting I send President Obama a thank you letter for mentioning a hadith in a speech. Yes, I see why Muslims are excited, but something just rubs me the wrong way when you get all geeked up and excited for someone quoting someone far greater than themselves. Obama did himself a favor by quoting the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s.), not us.

The Interracial Relationship

Now, with regards to the book, I am far from finished, but just some points. I do not think the story of Obama is that exotic for starters. A naïve white girl with liberal ideas rebels against her parents and gets knocked up by and marries an African student from Kenya on scholarship at an American school. Far from unique, maybe somewhat in the 1970′s, but not now.

Foreign students, and many Muslims (especially Gulf Arab students), have left their seed all over this country. It is not uncommon that this seed was planted in a liberal white girl rebelling. I have met so many young people over the years whose parents were at schools like Wichita State, Southern Illinois, and George Mason who have Muslim names but have never met or barely know their father. These kids are not Muslim because when pops graduated from college he either went back home or left their mother after getting his papers.

The foreign student is away from home and like all young people is interested in sex. If they are single and come from a conservative Muslim background they may have never had the opportunity to have sex before. Then there is the question of legal status in America. A marriage and a child can help you stay in this country and earn money.

Then, on the other hand you have young women like Obama’s mother. Young, naïve, liberal, and wanting to rebel and in America an easy way for a white girl to rebel is to get with a black man. Old Black Panthers told me such women were in hot pursuit of Panthers back in the day (to the scorn of black women in the movement) and many see their sex lives as a part of their political activism. The white man stole the land of the Native Americans? Let me sleep with a Native American and wear sandals. Latinos are oppressed? Let me start buying Latino food to cook at home for my Latin prince. Muslims are treated badly post 9-11? Let me become a Muslim and marry an Arab (preferably from Gaza or Fallujah). I literally know of two such women who have run this full course and have been with all these types of men and it corresponds to their political activism.

So his mom gets left with the baby (while still making lame excuses for his father). Well, I believe St. Louis has something like an 86% out of wedlock birth-rate, so that may have been unique for those times, but today with the decline of our society it is par for the course. But, it is refreshing, in a nation with millions of out-of-wedlock children that they can know that in America you can reach the top no matter where you started or who your father is (or is not).

The Muslims in the Life of Young Obama

Issues of race I will set aside for now. The other issue I thought of while 7reading is how many Muslims Obama grew up with. I do not see this as some kind of an honor or something Muslims should be proud of.

All of these Muslims; his father and his family, his dog-eating step-father, his Muslim neighbors in Indonesia, his school teachers in Jakarta, his drunken druggie friend Hasan in college, his womanizing Pakistani roommate Sadiq, and none of these people made a serious effort to give him dawah. Reading through the book it seems like Obama had a lifelong experience with bad Muslims.

Of course liberal Muslims today would say “oh no, they are not bad Muslims, the only bad Muslims are Wahabbis, they are just cultural Muslims” (and as I say this I am thinking of two progressive activist Muslim women, one also claiming to be a Sufi, I know who sat and talked about what kind of alcoholic drinks they were going to have after leaving a CAIR dinner) Setting aside the issue that there is no such thing as a “cultural Muslim” is it not a great tragedy that no one really made an effort to give the young Barack dawah?  And in his story do we not see that there are tons of lost Muslims all over this country and that we need dawah to Muslims and non-Muslims?

I will write more on this later iA.

The Muslim Population Number is a Mystery

Tariq Nelson has an interesting discussion going on at his blog about Muslim population figures. A study has come out saying that about 400,000 African-Americans are Muslims or about 1% of the black population of America. This contrasts with the 5% figure some Muslims have put forward and on this issue I tend to side with the low number, but I still feel it is a little low ( off the top of my head I think there may be 700,000 given the large numbers in some East Coast cities).

If Muslims are 5% of the black population they have accomplished astoundingly little. However, at 1% the state of the community becomes a little more realistic if not desirable.

There are some cities where there are more black Muslims than others. The East Coast cities have the most; Philly, NYC, New Jersey, DC, and Baltimore. Then you have those places where EC Muslims migrated such as Atlanta and the Carolinas. Next you have the old Midwestern cities that were strong in the NOI back in the day such as Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.

But, outside of those areas, you will find the black Muslim populations pretty small. It is true that in Philly, Brooklyn or Newark you will run into black American Muslims sporting beards and hijabs/niqaabs all day long. But you may walk the streets of dozens of other cities for weeks without seeing a Muslim.

In prior conversations Tariq has told me there are probably 20 active black Muslims in Memphis and Memphis is a city with a huge black population. In a city like Wichita, where I have spent time, there are maybe 50 black Muslims in a city with 60,000 African-Americans.

Let’s look at St. Louis. At all of the masjids in the area there may be 200 African-American Muslims at jumma at all the masjids combined every week in a metro area with almost 500,000 African-Americans. I will grant you there are a few thousand lax Muslims out there; but are there tens of thousands? Even if so their children will not be Muslims more than likely.

The Muslim population in general is a mystery. Some Jewish organizations have said there are only about 1 million Muslims in America (and I once heard someone say 500,000) which both are absurdly low given the fact that a city with a dead Muslim population like St. Louis has between 70,000 and 100,000 Muslims. Some Muslims have said the Muslim population here is as high as 17 million which is absurdly high. Muslim organizations have touted the 6 million figure and that number keeps growing; but this in my mind was always a number put forth for political reasons to say that there as many, if not more, Muslims than Jews in America.

One thing that we do know if we compare the Muslim-Jewish populations is that our numbers are growing and theirs are declining. No one would dispute this. All of the major Northern industrial American cities that had historically large Jewish populations now have large Muslim immigrant and second-generation communities. This is not to mention there are growing and vibrant Muslim populations in cities with virtually no Jewish presence. So, if the number for Muslims is not 6 million, I think it may be close. But, at the end of the day, our population remains a mystery.