A Brother Observes ISNA

I did not make it to the Sheraton (out of solidarity with the workers) and did not make it to the Radisson either because I was not feeling well. I did get an update on what happened from some brothers who attended.


Brother Amir informed me that Imam Zaid Shakir mentioned the strike and the conditions of the Sheraton workers before every talk from the Radisson which is very commendable. Especially given, as commenters have pointed out, ISNA and those young people who grew-up in ISNA either have no knowledge of the fact that they benefit from the Labor Movement or are steeped in a caste-lite mentality.


An African-American brother and friend of mine mentioned to me that he saw only a handful of non-immigrant Muslims or their children. Those that he did see were white Muslims married to Desi or Arab sisters who were basically assimilating into the culture of their women (he did not add, as I do now, that Islamically lineage is passed down from the father). He told me that in his mind what he was seeing was an example that Islam in America is on two different trajectories and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. African-American Muslims and Muslims such as myself are just not going to ever see the world or Islamic activism in the way that ISNA does. I am never going to be comfortable in a deep-suburban masjid full of clean-shaven doctors and hijab-less women in which the biggest religious event they have as an interfaith gathering.  


As an example of this division the brother told me that at the convention an immigrant brother from India said “15% of Muslims live in India. So we should take 15% of all the money raised by Muslims here and send it to India.”


Now, I am sure that brother thought he made a lot of sense. Just like brothers who say we should send all of the resources from the Muslim community here to Palestine or wherever do as well. But, the fact of the matter is, you are not going to get that many American-Muslim converts or their children who think it is a good idea to neglect community-building and infrastructure in America, where it is sorely needed, to send it halfway across the world. The money raised in our communities for the most part needs to stay local as the vast-majority of Muslim communities in America don’t even have the basics they need to prosper.


I am not trying to strike division between immigrants and the indigenous. Some organizations do better than others. AS a result of the recognition of this problem the Muslim American Society set-up the Freedom Foundation with Imam Mahdi Bray.


9 thoughts on “A Brother Observes ISNA

  1. Salaam Alaikum,

    “Those that he did see were white Muslims married to Desi or Arab sisters who were basically assimilating into the culture of their women (he did not add, as I do now, that Islamically lineage is passed down from the father)”.

    This is a baseless assumption which we make far too much about our brothers and sisters. Did he speak to any of these brothers or did he just look at their clothes and assume? As for the bit about Islamic lineage, does that mean mothers cannot pass anything from their culture to their children?

    The rest of your post is on point, but I’m tired of the same old digs.

  2. Exactly! It is even difficult to get people to donate Qurans for prison. It’s embarrasing. The Christians turn away donations of Bibles at times, because they have so many. It would be real nice for one of these big organizations to donate a box of Qurans once in awhile. Many people have given me leads and addresses. To date, only one brother from Philadelphia, may Allah (swt) reward him, has responded and came through.

  3. I think ISNA may had already signed a contract with the hotel thus making it hard for them to boycott it without paying cancellations faces and a possible lawsuit against them.

  4. “sighs”

    Yeah, what can i say that hasn’t already been said?

    Sometimes , I think the Muslim community in America is going to go the way of the Jewish community if it already isn’t like that. We have the orthodox Salafee/Wahhabi groups, the progressives and on top of that we have the cultural/racial and class differences.

    On top of that we have the current American society to deal with, with all it’s temptations and reminders to forget Allah (swt), constantly bombarding us as adults and even worse, the kids.

    Sometimes, I think this is a negative thing. Eventually the groups will be so distant from each other that people set up whole different beleifs and ways of life that are completely incompatible with each other, erasing Islam and the generations after us won’t be Muslim, just have Muslim names.

    Other times, I think it’s a positive thing as it’s best not to have your eggs all in one basket and Islam is for everyone; therefore there’s going to be differences of opinion, just like there always has been. The differences in opinion being a blessing.

    I once had the fortune of being able to speak with Imam Siraj Wahhaj and I asked him the question “Do you find the desi/Arab/immigrant Muslims getting together with the native/ Black American Muslims?” He said “It hasn’t been there all the way , but it has improved over time, and will continue Inshallah. One thing I keep in mind is that it took the Prophet (saws) some time to get the Ansaar and the Muhajirun to come together. ”

    I think that was a wise thing to say and I think that we should have that as the ultimate goal when discussing these topics.

  5. Assalaamu alaykum,

    I just wanted to note your point about the divide between immigrants and North American muslims on the issue of where funds should be directed. I would suggest that this is more of a generational divide, given that most of the youth have very little connection with “back home,” and the majority really are more interested in creating viable communities in America, since most of us see ourselves living out the rest of our lives here, and raising our children here too.

    Also, maybe sending money “back home” has a little to do with guilt about living in the west in the first place?

  6. I don’t see the point of the “lineage” remark, and what it has to do with culture or assimilation. I have always attempted to inculcate in my children the necessity of taking the good and leaving the bad. So, regarding cultural heritage, it could be from my (Scots) side or my wife’s (Moroccan) side. Frankly, if I may say so, we both have a lot to offer thats worth taking – and plenty that’s not.

  7. This is an excellent article but a few points

    “Those that he did see were white Muslims married to Desi or Arab sisters who were basically assimilating into the culture of their women (he did not add, as I do now, that Islamically lineage is passed down from the father)”.

    Surely its the other way round- that “immigrant” Muslims are assimiliting into US culture? After all these couples kids will speak English better than they do Arabic or Urdu.

    The point the African-American brother makes is a valid and painful one. There is terrible racism towards AA in parts of the community. But isnt ther also another factor? The couples mentioned above tend to be middle class and so tend to marry those of that background regardless of race. How many middle-class African American brothers are there? Dont educated African American sisters (I mean Muslim sisters- non-Muslim African Americans arent our brothers and sisters) complain about the lack of educated AA brothers?

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