Dr. Sherman Jackson Lecture in Chicago “What is Our Mission?”

What is Our Mission? Islam Beyond Ritual and Words by Dr. Sherman Jackson

(Written on the Amtrak to St. Louis forgive me if there are errors)

This past Sunday December the 8th I had planned to be coming back from Brooklyn, NY after attending the boxing matches. As fate would have it I was not able to attend the fights and heard about the Dr. Jackson lecture at Masjid al-Faatir on the South Side of Chicago. $54 roundtrip on the Amtrak and a $25 room and I was in the Chi just in time for the snow.

Before I get into my analysis of the Dr. Jackson lecture let me just give a shoutout to the Pilsen neighborhood of the Lower West Side of Chicago. I walked the streets and viewed the amazing Mexican-American street art and architecture. Before I was picked up by brother Ahmad Mubarak I had a chance to attend the National Museum of Mexican Art. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Chicago.

Now to the Dr. Jackson lecture:

Who are the Bani Hashim?

One of the central points of the lecture of Dr. Jackson was this question above. Bringing our situation today into the light of the Serah Dr. Jackson illustrated how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a member of Bani Hashim and that because he did not alienate himself from that community he was still able to retain a degree of support which operated as his foundation as the message of Islam began to spread. The argument is that you need such a foundation to function as a geographic and ethnic safe-haven for believers. The question is who are the Bani Hashim in 2013 America?

 

The African-American Foundation

Dr. Jackson pointed to the fact that the African-American is the only person in America who can say they are a Muslim and not be either looked at funny or asked “where are you from?” The question of where your wife is from or what is your ethnic origin will not be asked to the African-American: because being a Muslim is seen as a normal thing within the African-American community. Later in the question and answer section Dr. Jackson quoted Rev. Al Sharpton who in a post-911 Tavis Smiley State of Black America forum stated that Muslims are no stranger in the black community because every black family has a Muslim in it.

I find this true in my own life as well. When I converted to Islam in 1992 the first question I was normally asked by people was “how can a white person be a Muslim?”. Islam in St. Louis was seen as a “black thing” as it is in most such areas. While in deeper suburbia and in the post-911 climate Islam has come to be seen as foreign, exotic and dangerous.

The argument Jackson presents is that Islam has no natural home in the white community. There is no such history of Islam in the white community. No association with Islam cleaning up lives and cleaning up streets or of giving hopes to the hopeless. Making lost young men on dark corners into upright God-centered young men in the mosque. No white version of Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Yusuf Lateef, Keith Ellison and countless other examples. No white version of Rock Allen wearing a kufi in his United States Olympic photos. Or Lupe Fiasco, Freeway and Mos Def. And I could go on and on.

When I tell a black person I am a Muslim I never get any hostility. I may get asked if I converted in the joint: but that’s about it. Normally I will get my brother or cousin is a Muslim and get asked if I know them (and half the time I do). When I tell a white person I am Muslim I get a pause, an odd look and then questioned about where my family is from or where my wife is from. Then I might get a shrug, a few curious questions or some downright hostility.

Dr. Jackson also mentioned that black Americans have far fewer problems from their families about conversion to Islam. I have found this to be true as well. I have seen Latino and Asian converts outright disowned by their families. A white convert I knew was sent to the insane asylum after converting by his mother. Most black converts I have known have either got little resistance from their families or full support.

My case is a little different I guess. I took Shahadah at 17. Between 13 and 17 I had been arrested at least 40 times. Assaults, gun-possession, car break-ins, fighting, drug-possession, distribution, etc.. I had been involved in shootings, stabbings and numerous fights and a lot of my friends were getting shot and killed. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Labor-Democrat home Islam was seen as very foreign by my family. My grandmother didn’t even know what Islam was saying “you mean you going to stand wearing a suit with them black men selling newspapers?’.

When I did convert though they embraced it because they saw it as something that could keep me off the streets and out of trouble. My father put up theological resistance: but even he saw it as a good thing. I went from being always high and drunk getting locked-up committing crimes and running the streets to spending my time with Muslim brothers and reading. Good older African-American brothers like Mukhtar Abdul-Malik, Naji Fakhrid-deen, Pi, Jerome Hampton and Kariem Abdul-Haqq who could relate well to my family. They saw this as something good in my life even if it was strange for a white person.

Racially of course I had problems as well. I grew-up in a very racially-polarized area with a lot of fights and racial-tension. Everything was about race and everyone knew it. My father had all the racial-attitudes of a blue-collar North St. Louis white guy. Which is to say he was a lot like Archie Bunker. But our relationship wasn’t good anyway and my mother (who I did not see) was married to a black man with my bi-racial younger siblings. I never really felt at home within the racial paradigm of North St. Louis County. So, at 14 while getting into trouble I was also reading books like Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver . When I read the story of Malcolm X I was ready to be a Muslim but we will get to that next.

 

White Guy with a Race Question

Dr. Sherman Jackson asked the audience if anyone thought that he was anti immigrant-Muslim or anti-white. One white guy in the crowd said yes based on having read Jackson’s book (he did not get the chance to elaborate).

I remarked to Abdul-Malik Michael Ryan after the talk that the racial-attitudes of young white-converts is radically different than our generation. To a man almost all of the converts of our generation came to Islam after reading Malcolm X (and the whites from the generations before were influenced by the Black Panthers and the “movement” spirit). I was recently told that in an interview with a white-convert the convert said they didn’t like Malcolm X because he was “anti-white”.  In the past week there has been a very active Facebook discussion between an African-American Jackson student and a white-convert who has displayed all of the racial-attitudes of your average white Bubba in the Tea Party. The day when people like that would be Muslim I never thought would come. However, as few as they may be, it reflects a change in the climate.

Unless whites live in racially-mixed areas they are never forced to look at race or examine race. Even when they live in such communities many still do not. America is racially-divided it is a small percentage of whites who care to understand or spend time on the other side of the divide ( and more than liberal-arts majors and do-gooders it is poor urban and inner-suburb white folk who spe

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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New Series: Questions for Working-Class Muslim Families in America

( Note: The coding problem has been fixed so you can view the spot properly and comments are closed to the end of the series but I really look forward to the discussion insha’Allah)

I recently spoke to a brother who is amongst the brightest minds and a leader of what is known as the second-generation immigrant Muslim community in America. These are Muslims who grew-up in America and are the children of Muslim immigrants. The brother and I talked about efforts from second-generation Muslims to reach out to African-American Muslims and we both noted that while there is goodwill there is also a lack of understanding of the nuance and complexities in the African-American Muslim community and a cultural gap for many. After speaking with him I have become motivated to write a short seven-part series on raising Muslim children in America.

This article is geared towards what I have titled Working-Class American -Muslim families. These Muslim families are overwhelmingly African-American; but there are other indigenous American- Muslims such as myself that fall into this category. Our struggles on many levels are not those of second-generation immigrant Muslims so I will write from a standpoint of the challenges and perils as we see them from our religious, social and economic perspectives.

One of the issues that separates many of our communities is the issue of class and how that affects the family situation and the raising of children. Not only does there seem to be a different approach regarding the raising of children and interaction with the non-Muslim society between indigenous American-Muslims who are friends of mine; but there also seems to be different way in which class alters our decision-making process regarding the raising of children. As an example, American-Muslims such as myself tend to look at universities, law-enforcement, and other institutions of this society with a weary eye, while many first and second generation immigrant Muslims view them in an idyllic light. As an example I am no fan of academia, but I love pro sports; and many of my second-generation Muslim friends love academia and hate sports. It is a mater of culture and taste.

Religious immigrant Muslim families tend to look at things much differently than indigenous Muslims (or at least those I have known). Because most came to America for business and to make money they will choose to live where they can get a job or where they can make the most money. Not to sound pompous; but just as my friends and I talk about moving places where there are the most Muslims they will often talk about where they can move to make the most money. This does not mean they are greedy or irreligious; it just means they came here with a purpose, and that is to get an education and make money, and that is going to be first and foremost on their mind. They figure since they are Muslim and are teaching their children deen and sending them to the masjid and even to a Muslim school that the deen of their children will be fine no matter if they live in small, isolated, and backwards Muslim communities. What we are witnessing today is that many of the children of such immigrant families are growing up and becoming religious just as their families anticipated; but many are not. Many have very little if any connection to the Muslim community, know few Muslims outside of their family, and are marrying non-Muslims and holding views contrary to Islam. Some are outright leaving Islam. The parents cant be blamed; they thought by earning a good life and providing for their children’s education they were doing the right thing and just as none of their family back home left the deen or stopped practicing or made up a “new” Islam they could not imagine their children doing so. The parents did not realize the importance of socialization with other Muslims, population-clustering and the dangers of public schools and universities. Immigrant Muslim families in older and more established communities have a different set of issues to deal with but their children largely benefit from socialization. You will find in these large communities Muslim identity is more rooted and young Muslims are more forward with their Islam and while some areas of vibrancy are shared with indigenous Muslims in the Northeast there are some areas that are uniquely vibrant for immigrant Muslim communities (Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Michigan, Cleveland, Boston, and possibly even Minneapolis-St. Paul).

The less traditional and conservative, yet active, younger generation of Muslims also happen to be the group the most prone to want to reach out to indigenous Muslims and more specifically work to heal the rift between immigrant Muslim communities and African-American Muslims. These brothers have good intentions; but since they tend to be more liberal, and the bulk of indigenous American-Muslim families more conservative and traditional, and since there is an economic-class divide, it can be difficult for these activist oriented second-generation immigrant Muslims to relate to the issues I am going to speak of. Recently a well-known second-generation Muslim who is very steadfast in trying to bring immigrant Muslims and African-Americans together spoke at a gathering. As good as his intentions were he could not connect culturally. He spoke in a very bland and academic manner with a soft voice and wore tight-fitting yuppie style clothing and several brothers asked me afterwards if he was gay (and not with an approving tone).

I am writing this series for Muslim families like mine. Conservative in their outlook, traditional, and working-class.  Muslims who struggle economically yet strive to follow the Sunnah. Indigenous Muslims not at peace with the norms of this society and not wishing for their children to return to the kufr they may have come from. Muslims like my wife and I whose main goal for our children is that they be Muslim and we hold that goal for them higher than any dunya goal. This is for those brothers and sisters who struggle and make mistakes and often have a hard time finding a home in the community. I pray that this can be of some benefit to you.

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An Attempted Exorcism and Thoughts on the American-Muslim Future

Insha’Allah I will finish the Sharia post when I have time. I have been working so many hours lately I am fatigued and do not have he mental energy when I am off work to tackle such a serious issue.

Business has been slow so I have to work longer hours and besides, with the pregnancy of my wife, my expenses are going up. Maybe these days I am looking a little more intense than I have at other times in my life. A high school teacher once told me that I was one of those students who teachers would never forget because of the intensity of my eyes (whatever that means).

Maybe it was this intense look to lead an elderly black female passenger leaving her home to give me a dirty look before she got into the cab. Before she got in she said “yea I know you…take your hat off…are you a black boy?”

Once she got in she went on a tirade “you are full of evil and you are trying to fool people but you cannot fool me. You have done terrible things and are going to do more terrible things in a few days.” A few moments later she took both of her arms ad put them around my neck and put them on my chest and told me “I don’t want you I am gonna take the devil out of you” and at this point I had been driving about 20 hours with only short breaks for the essentials and I pulled over and told her she had to get out.

That was on Friday and despite having that deranged older lady wanting to perform an exorcism on me, the day ended up pretty good. Things went downhill on Saturday as I just could not catch a decent trip until the end of the night, and by that time I didn’t want it because by that time I was so tired I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stay awake to make it home.

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Message to American-Muslims on the Eve of the Election

The night before last a police officer who had been on the job for decades was shot and killed in his squad car. His car was parked in a spot I frequently parked at and from all reports a deranged man just approached the car and began firing.

Last night a man rode in my cab who several months ago had been a strong young man and UPS truck driver. As he sat in my backseat he had no legs, was unemployed and could not walk. One day he had been coming home from work with a friend and co-worker when his truck was hit in the back. When he got out of the car to exchange insurance information with the other driver he was ambushed by the passengers in the other car and shot 7 times. His passenger was killed. The gunshot wounds led to lead poisoning and my passenger’s legs had to be amputated and last night I was taking him to visit a dying friend he had met at the hospital. He said that the accident has helped to put his life into perspective and that he would be at the polls on Tuesday at 6:00 AM sharp to cast his ballot for Senator Barack Obama.

Last Tuesday I gave my wife a ride to the Board of Election Commissioners to cast an absentee ballot. She is 5 months pregnant and did not want to stand in the long lines on Election Day. I sat out in the car and did not plan to vote early because I wanted to be at the polls on November 4th and be a part of the experience. However, while sitting in my cab, I thought about all of the things that can happen in a week and how everything is decreed by Allah. We are not the masters of what will happen and we cannot control events. So I said to myself that while Allah has blessed me with my health and freedom that I should go in and cast my ballot for Obama because I may never have another chance to do this.

This is a vote I felt good about. I do not consider Obama to be the lesser of two evils. I consider him flawed like every politician (and indeed every human) but also as a man that can change America as we know it for the better and can change the image of what it means to be an American. I see him as a man who has got people interested in politics who previously have never voted or even watched the news. Passengers in my cab, shift workers at fast food joints, cabbies, Muslim brothers who have never voted before, are all enthusiastic about Obama. Hip-Hop clubs throughout America, once one the most apolitical of places in America (with the exception of the relatively few more conscious joints) will host hundreds of election watching parties throughout America come Tuesday night.
There are those who are not excited about Obama; such as the guy in my cab the other night who said Obama would push reparations and Black Power and put Farrakhan in the cabinet and the guy who told me that he was dressing as Obama as the Taliban for Halloween (the night where you can see most clearly the cultural and moral decay in America from the frolicking to the bigoted costuming).  Others, on the idealistic left fringe of American life and reality, will not support Obama because he does not match up with their ideological purity (and let’s face it the vast majority of these voters are wealthy white liberals, and those seduced by them, who will be fine no matter who is in office).

The Muslim vote has the possibility of being crucial in a number of states; Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio. All indications are that the vast majority of Muslim voters will be voting for Obama (although Muslim Republicans are not dead especially in the South Asian community).  An Obama Administration will not be perfect for Muslims, and it will not be perfect for some Muslim causes such as Palestine, but on the core issues of civil-liberties, health-care, education, diversity in America and creating a more equitable and just society Obama will be right there with us.

MANA sent out a group email on the election. It included a piece by Imam Zaid Shakir that I did not quite relate to and a well-written intelligent piece by Yasmin Mayaan binti Bobo considering the 200th or something presidential run of Ralph Nader, the man who brought you W and thus the Iraq War and GTMO, and Cynthia McKinney who lost her congressional seat in Georgia and based on that defeat is running for the highest office in the land. McKinney has been a friend of Muslims but so has my grandmother that does not mean I would throw away my vote and vote for her (although she would get about he same amount of votes as McKinney if on the ballot). McKinney and Nader represent the politics of idealism and Obama represents the politics of consensus which is a more mature and responsible outlook.

It is the piece by an elder statesman of Islam in America, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York, which I will most encourage readers to read. He encourages Muslims to a make a mature, responsible, non-idealistic vote for Obama based on a number of factors. Imam Talib came of age before there were Muslims Republicans and Muslims who confuse the Prophet ( PBUH) and the Sahabah as a band of politically-correct Marxist hippies. He has a purely American-Muslim take on the race and he comes down decidedly for Obama.

Tuesday I will begin work around 5AM insha’Allah taking election judges to the polls and I will stop working around 6PM to come home and watch the results with a few Muslim brothers. The results from the East Coast will come in first and if Obama wins Pennsylvania , maybe with the help of the large Muslim population in Philly, then we will know he will have  a good night. If he can win in Virginia or North Carolina then we will know this election is over and again the Muslim vote may be the factor in these states.

Error in the War on Error

There is a new book out by an Atlanta-area Muslim attorney by the name of Melody Moezzi titled “War on Error: Real Stories of American-Muslims”.The book is an attempt by Moezzi to give another vision of the lives of young American-Muslims to the public in order to say “look, we are not evil, and we have all the complexities and diversities everyone else has” in order to combat the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists or extreme in nature.The effort to give non-Muslims a more accurate portrayal of who Muslims are is noble and to a certain extent Moezzi does this in some of her profiles; but at the end of the day as an American-Muslim I am offended by the manner in which Muslims are portrayed in this work ( aside from the good intent I am sure Moezzi had, I am sure).

With her tales of Muslim lesbians, people with Muslim names who do not believe or practice, rootless and shifty Muslim yuppies, Muslim body builders, she is not lying because it is true that all of these elements exist in significant numbers in the Muslim community and there story is valid. What I am offended by is her implying that these groups represent either a majority of young Muslims in America or that these are the good Muslims who are acceptable as opposed to the bad Muslims who do things such as pray, fast and observe the basic tenets of Islam and generally have a Third World mentality.

That is why this book is pointless in my mind. Muslims already know that if you completely assimilate into non-Muslim society and take the values of secular humanism as your own you will be accepted, that is no big surprise. If you are a Muslim male who is an effete latte sipper carrying a man bag in Manhattan on the way to the art gallery you will be accepted by that crowd because you have accepted their values as your own and given them supremacy over the values of Islam. The same can be said to any other number of Muslims who assimilate into different segments of American society. It is a given, it is a known, that if you leave your deen, or at least have a very loose commitment to it, you can gain acceptance into mainstream American society by most people ( outside of the Ann Coulter, Robert Spencer, Joe Kauffman crowd).

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A Follow-up to the Texas “Honor Killing” Piece

I think that there have been a lot of good comments to the piece the other day on the killing of the two Muslim girls in Texas, masha’Allah. I am in agreement that it is true that many in the media and outside political forces will use whatever they can to give a bad reputation to Muslims and there are those who will take advantage of this case and use it for propaganda purposes. However, I think that if Muslims are keeping it real, and being honest with themselves, they will also admit that we have a problem in the community and saying that others do the same thing is not exactly addressing the problem.An example of this came to me this morning when a Muslim couple was having a conversation on this topic. The husband, an African-American Muslim said he wished he would see the guy who killed his daughter so he could either beat him or collect the reward for capturing him; but the wife, a Muslim woman from Morocco, defended the man, chastised the dead girls, and said that “America is a bad society” because fathers are not “real men” and do not “defend the honor” of their girls.

This is not the first time I have heard something like this and it will not be the last. A Palestinian brother who was a friend of mine who I used to do security at the masjid with told me that he saw what is known as “honor killings” as a part of the deen. He was not a bad person, as a matter of fact this was a very nice brother who volunteered a lot of his time to the community; but he grew-up in a culture where this was seen as a part of the deen and it had never been challenged in his mind.

So, I am not going to say that this is not a problem in the Muslim ummah and then try and say this happens with other people too, because it has no logical bearing on the situation within the Muslim community.

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Email From a Detractor in the City of Brotherly Love and Muslim Madness

We saw that silliness you wrote about salafeeyah and we’ll address it

Please, I am waiting brother, but remember my attack is against some who claim salafeeyah like they claim their allegiance to a street gang, the Thugafi Dawah,  you know, the kind of dawah that leads brothers to jump off bridges when running from the police and hold up Wal-Marts and take out armored-truck drivers?  I guess those brothers are  on “the Haqq”  and their minhaj is right; but God forbid they had a CD of Imam Zaid Shakir in their car or a voter registration card on the way to do their dirt and they would be off it, right?

…..So you left salafeeyah(ali tamimi isnt salafeeyah they’re on takfeer) to be with a bunch of beard shaving sooofeees?

When and where did Sheikh Ali make takfir and upon whom? This is one of the problems with brothers of your ilk they are so concerned with labeling other people and putting them on it or off it they do not even bother to check the facts. Is your heart that hard that you do not feel any compassion for a fellow Muslim that has been unjustly incarcerated for the rest of his life? Is your gang affiliation that serious brother? Is there no mercy and brotherhood in your Islam? Or have you put being down with your gang as the most important article of faith?

 I see you have the haram music rappers everything  that secularist understanding of islam let’s you do. subhannnalaah…..Not to mention the nationalism they push that must be strange for you sitting amongst that.

I did not see any nationalism on display at MANA. I saw recognition of a reality that many brothers ignore that different cultures need to have different ways of solving their problems. You cannot import a way if thinking from the Najd into America and think it will succeed. Solutions have to be home grown but inspired by the Quran and Sunnah. This is in contrast to the attitudes of many African-American salafis I have met over the years who told me they were “no longer African-American” or even they were no longer black. Once such brother I know from the DC area, a hardcore Salafi till this day, went to Medinah with that understanding, and tried to correct one of his Saudi brothers. The Saudi looked at this dark-skinned black man told him to come here and the brother came up to him smiling and was promptly b####-slapped by a 140 pound Saudi who couldn’t beat up my sister. This brother, a former prisoner in the DC Prison and street thug, walked off without saying anything. Would he have let this happen in America? By a fellow African-American? By a white man? No, that would have never happed, but the Salafi dawah, and the way this guy digested it, led him to feel like a subservient b#### to an Arab. Now, do not get me wrong, I am not saying this was the dawah Ibn Baz, al-Albaani or Ibn al-Uthaymeen ( may Allah have mercy upon them), but I am saying that is a way a lot of brothers digested it.

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Debate With bin Gregory on White Muslim Identity in America

I want to respond to a post disagreeing with my views on the roles of white Muslims in America by a white Muslim brother by the name of bin Gregory over at his blog. My response to him is not out of a spirit of hostility our animosity towards him; but rather in a spirit of trying to clear up any confusion with regards to my arguments.Below is the post of bin Gregory and my new commentary is in dark type and his words are in italic.

bin Gregory: Umar Lee, whose website is frequently enraging but always engaging, is presenting a series of ideas about what it means to be white and muslim, and they are at such odds with each other I don’t know how they stay on the same page.

First of all,

( quoting from Umar) One thing you cannot be and be white in my mind is Muslim.which he believes to be true across the board.

Second, about himself,

(quoting from Umar again) African-American brothers … are the Muslims I have always been the closest to and have been able to identity with the most.

Third, on his favorite punching bag, other white muslims,

( quoting Umar) I despise the patronizing and phoniness of guilty white liberals, but the Muslim community is full of them. These Muslims take shahadah and immediately begin a full imitation of some group, Arabs, Pakistanis, African-Americans, etc, and are subservient and un-critical of these cultures while being fiercely critical of any white culture…. I think that some of these Muslims, but not all, embrace Islam to stop being white…

Several commenters on his site have picked up on the inherent contradictions in these three opinions, the biggest one being, what exactly is the difference between Umar Lee gravitating to the black community, and other brothers gravitating to the Arab or the Pakistani or the black community? I’d sincerely like Umar to answer that, since he is so vicious in his anger at these other brothers. From where I’m standing, there’s no difference at all, except perhaps that Umar had some prior connection to the black community before becoming Muslim

Thank you for this question because this is equivalent to one of those ripe fast balls right down the middle of the plate thrown to Mark McGuire during his great home run chase with Sammy Sosa in 1998. I think gravitating was the wrong word for me to use. Before and after I took shahdah I lived in areas and went to schools and existed in a family that were heavily African-American. I did not see my kinship with the African-American Muslim brothers as a cultural breakthrough or something any different than I would have been doing if I was not Muslim. It is hard for me to see how given the upbringing and living the life I have led that I could be expected to have the same outlook on things and identity as those who had  amore traditional white upbringing.  I saw these brothers as basically coming from the same experience and set of circumstances I had though obviously there are differences due to the fact that we had different skin colors and despite what you may hear from your professors or from the ivory-tower thinkers race matters jus as much in America as it every did and it colors every issue in this society. If I would have thought that I had to gravitate to something foreign, like Arab or Pakistani culture, I would not have taken shahadah, so for the most part, shariah issues aside, I did not change the essential nature of who I was after becoming Muslim. I stopped eating pork but didn’t stop eating the food I liked in order to eat like an Arab or Desi and I wore the clothes I had always worn for the most part without feeling the need to wear a kufee most times or a thobe.

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