More Masjids and More Organizations: Usually More Problems

When I lived in Brooklyn there were Masjids everywhere. You could be in walking distance to a Masjid from most Brooklyn neighborhoods and of course that was very convenient. Working in Manhattan it was also usually very easy to find a Masjid or musela to walk to for Jummahu prayer. When Muslims visit NYC, and in particular Brooklyn and Queens, they are always amazed at how many Masjids there are and think that the Muslims of NYC are so lucky to be served by so many Masjids. Of course, because there are so many Masjids and Muslims numerous Muslim organizations have formed around every issue you can think of in New York.

When you go to the Midwest there are fewer Masjids and fewer Muslim organizations. Muslims have to drive farther to get to the Masjid unlike NYC where most people walk to the Masjid and there aren’t organizations set-up around obscure issues (like Left-handed Bed-Stuy Muslims Unite or Crimean Crown Heights Muslims or whatever). This used to be something I would complain about a lot. And to a certain extent it still is, but there is a benefit to this as well.

In NYC and many places in the Muslim-heavy Northeast there are a lot of Masjids for a couple of reasons in addition to the large Muslim population; every Muslim group has its own Masjid (Sufi tariqas, Madhkalaee Salafis, neo-Salafis, general Sufis, Ikwanees, Tabliquees, and more) in addition to the different ethnic Masjids like Albanian, Bengali, Yemeni, Egyptian, Pakistani, Turkish, West African and other kinds of Masjids. So every one basically has their own spot and that’s their turf more or less. In the Midwest, because the Muslim population is much smaller and spread out, everyone prays at the same Masjid no matter what there particular outlook on the deen is or ethnicity and you can see the diversity of the ummah within the Masjid. When organizations are formed they are usually formed with the entire community in mind in the Midwest as well.

The second reason there are a lot of Masjids in the Northeast is because of infighting. Brothers look at twenty Masjids in South Brooklyn for examples and say masha’Allah not knowing that perhaps half of those Masjids were formed because of infighting and bickering at previously existing Masjids. The issue the Masjid is founded on is often something religious in nature and it is often the result of a power struggle or someone getting I Wanna be Imamidous. So while many Muslims benefit from being able to attend more Masjids closer to their homes there is a definite downside.

Many times, perhaps most of the times, new Muslim organizations are founded when it would better serve the community if those founding the new organization would put their resources and energy into bolstering previously existing organizations. Organizations already exist, such as MAS, CAIR, ICNA, the MAS Freedom Foundation and others that are already doing a good job in the community but need more support. If there are issues that you feel these organizations are not adequately addressing the best way to deal with that is by becoming a part of these organizations and affecting change from the inside. As a rule; more organizations means more division within the community.

This brings me to the topic at hand, which has been posed on other blogs; do we need a new Muslim organization for Muslim converts in America? Normally I am opposed to forming new organizations, and if I was in a local community and trying to work on this issue I would probably go to my local Masjid or MAS chapter and see if they could address the issue, but I am not inherently opposed to this type of organization and nor am I for it.

In America I would like to see more unity within the Muslim community and less organizing around ethnic and racial identities so I am absolutely, with no reservations whatsoever, opposed to any new Muslim organization that is founded based on the need to serve and advocate on behalf of white Muslim converts. I am equally opposed to any organization, no matter what their ethnic and racial status, that promotes the idea of an “American” Islam (and I know those who have been discussing such a new Muslim organization also oppose the idea of an American Islam).

If the issue is specifically dealing with Muslim converts of all racial backgrounds then I could think about supporting such a group. However, in my opinion, it would be better if such a group could work with pre-existing Muslim organizations. One of the ideas I have been advocating for years is a Muslim Big Brother and Big Sister program that would pair new Muslims with existing Muslims who have demonstrated a commitment to the deen and the community. A bureaucratic Muslim organization with a website and some pamphlets cannot possibly replace a one-on-one relationship with a Muslim who can nurture the new convert into the deen.

There can be agreement amongst all that something has to be done to deal more effectively with issues involving converts and I have heard conversations on this topic for years but have seen little action.

Passengers

I had a four-hundred pound women who wore four jackets get in my cab and, unfortunately for me, she lived uphill and as the ground was full of snow it was a rough time getting uphill. She later told me that she normally catches a cab home from work because it is tough for her to make it uphill and she told me that if she fell she may not be able to make it back-up. A few days ago I had a man, who must have weighed like seven-hundred pounds or something, and his head looked like a ping-pong ball on top of a massive frame, and it took him five minutes of a mighty struggle just to get in the cab, and he struggled so hard that he shit on himself. Now I am in perfect shape by no means; but how is it possible to get that big? Where is Dr. Maxtor? Can you get that big just from eating or is it a result of other medical conditions?

Later I had a very pleasant middle-aged black woman who told me she was working two full-time jobs just to get by. We fretted about the price of heating our homes (I didn’t tell her that I’m so cheap that even though its five-degrees outside I don’t have my heat on at home) and the lack of jobs with pensions and the eminent demise of social security. What will old people do in the future we asked? Just rot away? Or will we have to change our American lifestyles and start living with two or three generations under one roof and have extended families all living in the same neighborhoods so we can watch after one another? That would actually be a good idea as opposed to the spread-out families (or no families) we have now. One thing I told her; a worker who retired from my company twenty-tears ago is getting a $2,000 a month pension and had full healthcare when they drove and we get shit!

Later I got a crazy woman I don’t wanna talk about and picked-up some regular riders. Because of the snow and cold-weather it was kind of slow; but that didn’t stop a group of females college students I saw walk down the street with tank-tops and mini-skirts on. Hey, pneumonia that’s no big deal as long as I get to go clubbin tonight!

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7 thoughts on “More Masjids and More Organizations: Usually More Problems

  1. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    I think it would be a spectacularly bad idea if a converts org focused on White people alone. I think it’s usually a bad idea when you have these “Islamic” organizations that are really fraternities for ethnic groups, no one else need apply. I’m still not sure about the idea of a nat’l converts org, that’s why I posed all those questions. I think it would be beneficial if there was some sort of initiative, a nat’l gathering of people who came up with a program, materials, training da’wah workers that local communities could take back and use to support new converts one-on-one at home.

    I really miss NY. The downside is that at a lot of them you end up “unwelcome” b/c of gender, or your understanding of Islam, or your skin color or language. Do men have the same problem of being physically prevented from praying at a masjid b/c it’s an “ethnic” masjid, or is that special experience reserved for us gals? — UmmZee

  2. Good comments. I dont think anyone, I know of, has talked about a white converts association. The idea being bandied about is for a group for all converts.

    Every convert, no matter their race or ethnicity, has issues that are not being addressed. I understand your reasoning for lobbying an existing group to address these issues, problem is, most of these current groups are already partisan in one way or the other and serving their own particular goals, which often set them at odds with other groups.

    By joining with one of these groups, we will automatically, exclude some people from joining or becoming a part of it because they object to stances or issues with the group that we have come to work with.

    I think it would be better to state a group whose SOLE agenda are converts, and nothing but converts. Many of the current Islamic groups in the US are involved in long and bitter disputes with other groups, many of them are also seen as being dominated byone ethnic group, ie South Asians, Arabs, ect. Many also have history of support from certain groups or countries that I would not find to be beneficial.

    In short, by latching onto one of these groups we will make our issues part and parcel to their own, and I also think subserviant to their own long standing agendas and issues.

    I feel our issues would be subverted and that they would use converts as a way to push their own agenda, rather than looking out solely for our own.

  3. Salam Aliakum Umar,
    I put up posts on weight issues back in Ramadan. Check it out if you have the time.
    As for your question, most people are “big” because they eat too much. Throw in lack of physical activity and you’re on your way. Fast food doesnt help either. Childhood obesity in particular, is out of control.
    There are people who do suffer from various metabolic defiencies who are predisposed to weight gain, but they represent a minority. You might want to check out Morgan Spurlock’s “SuperSize Me” documentary also.

  4. Two comments:

    Umar wrote: “What will old people do in the future we asked? Just rot away? Or will we have to change our American lifestyles and start living with two or three generations under one roof and have extended families all living in the same neighborhoods so we can watch after one another? That would actually be a good idea as opposed to the spread-out families (or no families) we have now.”

    Lifestyles would have to change. In fact, the culture of the country might have to change as well. When I lived in Korea, I discovered that the country there more or less had not have any form of “social security” for the elderly. What that meant in practical terms was a culture where, yes, there were multiple generations living under the same roof. The culture expected that the eldest son would take care of the parents until they passed away. (I can only imagine the chaos that would create in the American culture, if such a solution were implemented…or even suggested.) Here in S’pore, the government encourages families to live near each other with financial incentives. In other words, when you purchase a new flat within a certain distance of family – and that distance is usually only a few kilometers – the government will subsidize part of the flat’s purchase price. (Of course, I can’t see any government in the US doing something similar.)

    As for the idea of a national converts’ association, I don’t have any problem with that idea. Something that the S’pore Converts’ Association focuses on is education for new Muslims. Here, new Muslims are required to take a certain number of hours of classes before they convert to Islam (as converts here are required to register with the government’s Muslim liason office, MUIS, upon conversion – and, yes, I am a card-carrying Muslim ;) ). The benefit to this, IMO, is that Muslims here are better educated in their deen here than in America (although there’s always more work to be done here as well). The pro-regressive movement (to use Dr. M’s term)/anti-hadith crowd would find S’porean Muslims largely uninterested in their beliefs because they don’t lack the knowledge about Islam that many American/Western Muslims do.

  5. Umm Zaid,

    I think that may be a woman thing because I have never been prevented from praying at any Masjid in NYC; and if someone tried they would have to kill me to stop me from praying. But men also are made to feel unwelcome at certain ethnic Masjids and that is a big problem. But I can say that I have been welcomed at most Masjids and you also have the factor in NYC where everyone knows the Muslim community is under intense surveillance and that the NYPD and federal law-enforcement are monitoring Masjids so the Masjids in NYC are even more tense now than they were before 9-11. I miss NY as well; but the housing prices are absurd. Also, like I said before, at the Masjids here in St. Louis you will pray in between a salafi brother and Sufi at the same Masjid and that rarely happens in NY. Although the Muslims here do not have that same vigor for the deen and zest for learning and activity that you see on the East Coast. Most of these brothers will not even return your greeting if they see you at the supermarket and that is something that rarely happens in NYC.

  6. DR Maxtor we are talking about two different things. I am not talking about people who are just overweight. I am talking about people who weight between 400 and 800 pounds.

  7. Believe it or not Umar, people in that range got there from bad eating habits and sedantary lifestyle. Its not really that shocking. These people usually have other stressors at work which only contribute to over-eating as an escape mechanism.
    Many will claim its simply their metabolism, when it reality its that snickers bar in their back pocket. You just cant get that fat unless you’ve really let yourself go.

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