Philly Muslims caught up in Black Friday brawl. See video here. That’s that daawaah akhee. You know straight from a Dawud Adib lecture that Sunnah beard lookin good. Praise be to Allah for those government checks and Black Friday. FYI akhi, go visit Brother Naazim- your boxing skills are deficient. Merry Christmas. #LifeontheMinhaj
Tariq Nelson did a post on “jailhouse Islam” and the criminality in the community. Adding to that is this article in the Philadelphia Magazine by Matthew Teague which highlights some of the issues in the community. It is informative; but it comes from a non-Muslim perspective and makes a number of mistakes in my opinion.
For those of you who read the ten page in-depth article I am just going to comment as I read.
Page 1-3 Commentary by Umar
( I cannot Cut and Paste so am providing the links as we go)
First, on the issue of jailhouse Islam. I think that the law-enforcement official quoted, Joseph O’Connor, and the writer both exaggerate the pressure to become Muslim. While it is true that some become Muslim because of peer pressure and just are joining a prison gang there are many who are using their time in prison to grow closer to their Lord and gain an understanding of who He is.
There are countless of Muslims going quietly about their business who embraced Islam in jail and have now turned their lives around and are productive members of society. Their stories get lost in the narrative of this writer and of O’Connell who do not see the spiritual aspect of many of these conversions and sees the study of the deen as indoctrination (would he say that about the study of the catechism?).
There is also the issue of race he mentioned implying that all Muslim conversions in jail happen within the African-American population. While it is true that the overwhelming majority of converts are black you will find a handful of white and Latino convents as well. You will also find many black inmates in the Christian chapel and no one is chopping their heads off.
The historical analysis of the criminal history of the Muslim community in Philly is important as the writer goes back to the days of the Black Mob and Mosque Number 12 under the NOI. It is possible that they laid the ground for some of this criminal culture to develop.
Page 4 – 6 Commentary by Umar
Next the article descends into the pure fiction that Muslims are converting in prison in large numbers due to the influx of Saudi Salafi money. This is a myth. Muslims are some of the least well funded people in prison and even on the outisde you will find black Salafi mosques the least well-funded and brokest mosques in America ( as an exmaple Masjid ar-Rahma in Newark is being evicted for failure to pay the rent and the Masjid on 18th and Monroe in DC has no heat, so the whole Saudi funding thing to black Salafis is a load of BS).
Compare the amount of money and books that Muslims receive in prison with the massive amount of funding Evangelical Christians get from local churches and groups like Prison Fellowship and you will see it pales in comparison.
Prisoners often have to write letters repeatedly begging local mosques for support and the vast-majority of Muslim organizations, whether Salafi or non-Salafi, American or across the water, look at these letters and the appeals from prison chaplains and say to themselves ” Oh, just what we need, more black prison Muslims, no thank you.”
Muslim prison dawah is underfunded and it is laughable to say that some black Muslims in a Pennsylvania prison who think going to Camden is an exotic vacation will some how be enthralled by ” the riches of Saudi Arabia”. Islam sells itself. What you do with it once you have it tells about who you are not what the deen is.
Teague and Philly Police Chief Ramsey joins in saying that prison may do more harm than good if it radicalizes people and on this I agree. I would also note that this is not limited to Muslims; but also to neo-Nazis, Aryans, street-gangs and others.
Next Teague looks at the issue of the growing trend of Muslim male criminals to wear niqaabs while committing robberies. On this issue, I am truly disgusted. These brothers are putting our sisters in jeopardy (and many of these same brothers abuse their wives and marriage anyway), making a mockery of the Sunnah, and just in general mixing criminality with Islamic practice.
The writer asks is this a Philly thing or a Muslim thing? Well, let’s take a look. Philly has long been one of the most violent, dangerous and lawless cities in America. Of the murders and robberies in Philly in a given year how many are committed by Muslims and by non-Muslims ? And, ok, let’s look at other communities with very large Black Muslim populations. Where are the burqa bandits in DC, Maryland, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit? I would argue there is something strange going on in Philly and my experience with any number of crazy Muslims I have met when in Philly only confirms that. Now, I am not saying this is only in Philly, but the problem of Muslim criminality seems to be by far the worst there.
O’Connell, the FBI guy, disagrees, and now I must talk about him. It is important to know that a lot of these FBI anti-terror guys are conspiratorial and like to hype-up threats because it not only makes them seem more important than what they are; but it also increases their funding and is a big cash cow for the bureau.
This is not terrorism, it is Philly ghetto crime, plain and simple. Do you think a group of criminals such as this would rob a bank and go and send the money to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan? Or spend the cash getting a second wife in Philly, buying a new car, getting some new clothes, and maybe dropping off some cash at the sadaqa box of the local masjid? It is also important to note that the Salafi Masjids these guys attend in Philly never mention politics or jihad. They are detached from current affairs and the world around them. While mosques in Northeast Philly and New Jersey were giving strong sermons about Gaza during the Israeli attack the black Salafi mosques I understand did not even mention the crisis.
Page 7-10 Commentary by Umar
The mentioning of the infamous Philadelphia Meeting between Hamas reps is telling of the lack of knowledge Teague has about the local Muslim community. These Palestinians in Philly pretty much have a disdain for most black Muslims and positively do not like Salafis and would not touch them with a 100 foot pole regarding any criminal activity.
Finally, in closing, Teague is on the money in that what is needed to solve this problem in Philly is for people to speak out against it, isolate those involved in crime, and for leaders to emerge who can deal with it. There are such Muslim men who exist in Philly in the black Muslim community and they are working hard. I only wish he would have interviewed them.
The Muslim Town Hall event at Masjid al- Jamia in Philadelphia attracted a lot of attention and a big crowd masha’Allah. The religious outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee was on hand, along with representatives of the campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe calling in.
A number of imams from throughout Philly were on hand and the event was broadcast live on 900 AM WURD by the Threshold Media Group and host Nafis Bouie. After the event we were entertained by Muslim comedian Preacher Moss. Also interested in the event was a character we could have done without and that is an investigator from an Islamophobic group who follows Muslim events nationwide. Alhamdudilah, I showed him the door before the event began and snapped a picture of him for the benefit of the community.
This is a new step in the political enfranchisement of American-Muslims as led by MAS Freedom, Imam Mahdi Bray the Muslim League of Voters of Philly and others. Yesterday this event was at a masjid; but in the years to come these events will be held in sports arenas as our community becomes more politically savvy. The eyes of the nation will be on Pennsylvania on Tuesday and North Carolina afterwards. In both states, MAS Freedom is organizing the Muslim vote. So, I encourage all Muslims to make your voices heard.
Allah is the best of planners and I went to a brother’s house to watch the Hopkins-Calzaghe fight after the event ( I know, I know Brits) and the brother gave me a mini-tour of Philly, which I greatly appreciated, before dropping me off at the Amtrak station. Unfortunately for me, the ticket counter was closed and all I had was cash and was told by a cop that I could not buy a ticket, so I jumped into a cab and headed to the Greyhound bus station.
Over the last several weeks I have had to go to Philly a number of times. As I have written a number of times before, Philly is a city that I love and have a lot of personal history with.
Last week while in Philly I had a chance to visit the MAS Youth Center. This is an excellent addition to the already vibrant Muslim community of the area. The center will go a long way to address some of the problems our youth are facing. It deserves the support from those of us who are interested in preserving Islam for the future generations in this country.
Muslims have a strong presence in Philly. As I’ve mentioned before, the “Muslim look” is both common and well-known here. No one mistakes the brother with a big beard and his pants above his ankles for a vagrant or a brother with ill-fitting clothing. People know what they are looking at. This is refreshing given the fact that we have many Muslims who themselves shy away from a “Muslim look” (albeit there is no agreement on what this look is). The clothing and beard are symbolic of the fact that Muslims are comfortable in their skin in Philly whether they be on the bus, working on the assembly line, or grabbing a bite at Halal Bilals.
With the advancements of Muslims in Philly there have been setbacks. Philly is a tough city with a tough culture. It is not a city of metrosexuals and girlish men (outside of a few pockets of yuppies mostly not from Philly); but rather it is a city of hard-working men who are often in your face. It is the city of Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, and many other prizefighters in history, and home to sports fans who regularly boo their own teams. The city is diverse, vibrant, and home to some of the best architecture, parks and cultural institutions in America. But at the same time, it is home to some of the most depressed ghettos and mean streets in the world.
The enormous African-American Muslim population of the city is now in it’s third-generation. Its roots are in the mean streets of Philly, even while a large percentage of that community is no longer in poverty or in the ghettos. As the community has its roots in those areas mostly of North and West Philly. The problems that affect those communities affect the Muslim community. There is high crime in these areas thus we have a lot of Muslim criminals. The family has been destroyed and out of wedlock birth the norm thus we have Muslims marrying 20 and 30 times. Violence is a common language on the streets, thus disagreements between Muslims often are resolved in a language that all parties in Philly understand. This is the community as it as, as it exists. It is not the upper-class Muslim community that some writers have recently created out of their imagination while looking down their noses at the masses of Muslims. They lack any real cultural connection to the community, which cannot be purchased in credits from say, Howard University.
Walking the streets of Philly, even Germantown, where I am supposed to be hated, I get nothing but love from the Muslims. Muslims in Philly are quick with the greeting and don’t look around and see who is listening before they return yours. The good by far outweighs the bad. Yet, having said that, the bad is out there and it should not be ignored.