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

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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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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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