At Stop the Killing Rally and Interviewing Boone

Over the years I’ve had countless friends murdered in St. Louis. My brother-in-law was killed less than two weeks ago.  I support any positive effort to reduce violence in our community.  Tonight the Rescued Church held a Stop the Killing March leaving from Sarah and Washington.  I interviewed church member Renata and her friend. 

On this same corner billboard sign company owner Boone is camped out on top of a billboard until their is seven consecutive days in St. Louis without a murder. Right now there has been three days.  Let me also state that I don’t disagree Boone strongly on some matters.  Boone allowed the Islamophobia hateful billboards of Pam Geller.  He also indicated he isn’t really a supporter of Black Lives Matter.  However,  on the issue of stopping the killing in St.  Louis we’re in complete agreement. I’d like Boone to extend his compassion to Muslims.   Check out our interview

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St. Louis: Reflections on Our Violent City After the Death of My Brother-in-law

For years our big urban progressive supporters have said St. Louis isn’t dangerous.  “Oh its just the way they count the numbers” or “they don’t include the county and they include East St.  Louis” . Studies like this are making those arguments harder and harder. 

There has never been any doubt in my mind St. Louis is dangerous.  Over the years I’ve known dozens of people who’ve been killed on these streets and I’m hardly alone. Many in this city have known many more victims than me. Many have been dodging bullets since elementary school. 

This past Saturday my brother-in-law Shelby Polk was shot and killed leaving a bar in Soulard. His father was murdered eight years ago. Shelby, or “Chubb”, as he was known, leaves a widow (my sister Sunni) and 5 children ages 3 to 16 (I’ve asked her if she wants me to raise money for her online; but she was too distraught to even think of that).

Life is short. We’re not promised tomorrow. Everything is in the Divine Decree and man plans; but Allah is the best of planners.  I don’t believe in prolonged mourning.  I believe in learning lessons and actions. 

The greatest issues in our city aren’t the lack of Uber,  bike lanes,  and cocktail parties. The greatest issues for our city are the same as they were 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Racism,  poverty and violence. All three are related.

This city isn’t alone in dealing with these issues;  but this is where we live. We need a regional plan for combating violent-crime that isn’t just about hot-spot policing and greater surveillance.  We need a plan that addresses root causes. A plan that’s bigger than government and bigger than progressive inclinations of throwing money at problems and feeding already failing bureaucracies and NGO’s.  A plan that includes houses of worship engaging with the community, schools,  and families. 

A young person with nothing often feels no fear of death or taking another life. Everyone has failed them in their eyes why should they care about those who don’t care for them? We need to give them something to live for. Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change the conditioning of themselves (Quran).

Alpha Brewing Aims to Use Islamophobia to Strike it Rich

The craft beer industry is very competitive these days.  In the St. Louis area alone I’ve lost count of how many local breweries we have. 

Alpha Brewing is located in downtown St.  Louis on Washington Avenue.  It’s not a big player in the local market like Urban Chestnut or Schaffly.  It’s also located in an area hurting for business.  Due to a mostly false perception of crime many are choosing to party at Ballpark Village and Wheelhouse which they perceive as safer options.  I’ve been told in the last week that business at Dubliner is down 40% from two years ago and the pizzeria on Washington and Tucker is on the verge of closure.

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In this climate comes Alpha Brewing with a label highly offensive to Muslims.  The label itself borrows on tired stereotypes of Muslims.  The label isn’t funny. Nor is it harmless.  The offensive label comes in a climate of hate and fear of Muslims.  There is an Islamophobia industry in America that works on this full time. 

The goal of the campaign of otherizing and dehumanizing Muslims is ultimately political and racial. The political aim of dehumanizing Muslims is to gain either silence or support for drone strikes against Muslims,  wars against Muslims,  support for Israel, and the erosion of civil-liberties of Muslims in America. 

The racial goals are the product of otherizing Muslims in opposition to Euronormative belief and practices. Instead of complaining about immigration and jobs being taken by non-whites the critic or jokester can hide behind the religion isn’t race card.

Alpha Brewing has shown the ugly side of St. Louis.  The St. Louis with centuries of racial oppression and turmoil perpetuated by a white elite. The St. Louis we saw light up after the killing of Mike Brown. 

There is a much better side to St. Louis.  Last night I broke my Ramadan fast at the Dar al-Jalal Mosque on Dunn Road in Hazelwood. The mayor of Hazelwood,  the city manager,  the fire chief,  and members of the city council joined us. Thursday night there will be a similar open house at the Dar al Islam mosque in West St. Louis County. 

You can always win a few friends by dividing people just like you can always get laughs by picking on the unpopular kid at school. If that’s how Alpha Brewing wants to operate that’s their right. I’d ask the beer buying public to not support a company that deliberately seeks to offend an already marginalized segment of the population. 

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A Ramadan Reflection: IANA, the 90’s and a Homeless Brother

I want to tell you the story of a homeless Muslim brother. First off though I must briefly tell the story of the 1995 Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) convention in Dearborn, Michigan. I would meet many major figures in Islam in the West and make some good friends for life including Tariq Nelson. There are those on my Facebook friends list I met at that convention including Abu Noor Abdul-Malik Ryan and Abdul Aziz Suraqah.

Speakers at this convention from America included Sheikh Ali al-Timimi, Jaffar Sheikh Idris, Jamal Zarabozo, Idris Palmer, Mukhtar Curtis, Salim Morgan, and a young dynamic graduate of the Islamic University of Medinah bringing an enthusiastic following by the name of Abu Muslimah of East Orange, New Jersey. On the international side scholars such as Suhaib Hasan from the UK and Abdur-Rahman Abdul-Khalaq of Kuwait attended.

A lot of knowledge was being dropped. Imagine me a kid from St. Louis who attended a masjid where few brothers knew the word fiqh or Aqeedah and had never seen a niqaabi in person now surrounded by Arabic, ‘ilm, beards, niqaabs, and smiles. Being that this was the 90’s and pre-911 you also had a little edge to some attendees. A clueless young American I sat and listened to a private discussion between Taliban reps trying to convince Saudis their group was the right group to invest in. I met the Arab Amir of the Mujahideen in Bosnia and was invited to Kashmir as his guest. This was before I put on weight and I was still in wrestling shape which prompted several brothers to suggest I go overseas and fight.

I drove back to St. Louis with a Palestinian brother, Ismail Royer, and one other person I can’t remember. We left with contacts with other American brothers, cassette tapes, books and memories. One brother I met stood out though.

Brother R was a smooth talking tall and slim cat from DC. Beard was on point, thobe above the ankles, and brand new white socks. I told him I’d be traveling to DC soon to visit Ismail who was attending American University and he gave me his number.

When I got to DC I met up with R. He had a van and worked as a street-vendor mostly selling clothing. He told me he was born and raised in DC, had done some time; but took shahadah, married a Moroccan and was now raising his kids in the Virginia suburbs. He gave me the DC Muslim tour and I put a visual to the places Zaid al-Timimi had been telling me about during our after halaqa sessions at Steak’n Shake. The brother seemed to really have it together and he was respected in the community.

On my several different stints living in DC-VA (which is really a second home to me) I would always see that brother and he seemed to be doing good. A few years ago things began to change. He was having trouble in his marriage. Then he was divorced. Next thing he wasn’t looking too sharp. Then he was homeless. Next thing he was on drugs, begging for money and brothers told me they saw him standing in food lines.

In the DC area you can hardly get an apartment for under $1,000 per month. It’s also been ranked the worst area for non college-graduates in America. Massive gentrification. How does a brother like that get better even if he gets off drugs? And who is even going to help him get clean?

Thinking of Brother R makes me think of so many things. How special the 90’s were in the American-Muslim community, divorce, drug-addiction, gentrification, homelessness and the lack of services we have in our community. I wouldn’t know how to reach him and get him help at this moment. All I can ask for is that this Ramadan you keep Brother R in your prayers.