Muslims in America are at a relatively infantile stage. We are developing as a community and are striving to put our unique imprint on society. The major organizations representing the Muslim community have to decide if they are going to stand with people struggling for just causes, or if they are going to sacrifice their principals at the altar of convenience.
In light of this, I am most distressed that ISNA has decided to go ahead and hold their Eastern Zone conference, despite a boycott of the Baltimore Sheraton hotel by the workers. One ISNA official even said, “What has a union ever done”. While ISNA is standing in solidarity with the Sheraton, and those who treat their workers unjustly, MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir, and others have expressed solidarity with the workers and displeasure with ISNA.
The displeasure with ISNA comes with the sentiment that we as Muslims in America want to be a people who stand for justice, with the oppressed, and when need be, stand with people over power. More so it is better to be known as a community who stands for justice no matter the cost, financial or otherwise, rather than a community whose path to the mainstream is through silence.
I will say to the ISNA official who said “What has a union ever done”, lets list a few:
The 40 hour work week
Child labor laws
Workplace safety standards
Paid sick days
There are much more. Without unions, none of these things would exist for American workers. I for one come from a long line of union members, so the value of unions was given to me from a young age. There are those at ISNA, perhaps a majority, which have immigrated to America from other countries. Many of the countries that they have immigrated from are filled with workers who toil in deplorable conditions. The dream was to come to America where one can earn a fair days wages, and be treated with dignity and respect on the job. Unfortunately many of our brothers and sisters new to this country do not know that whatever fair conditions workers have today was paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Labor Movement.
ISNA is at a crossroads in Baltimore, a great American city. MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir are taking a stand with the call for justice. That sweet call of justice has fallen upon deaf ears at ISNA.