So Go the Lions, So Goes Detroit

Yesterday the Detroit Lions played their final football game of the 2008 season. They became the first team in the history of the NFL since the beginning of the 16 game season to go 0 for 16.

Commentators have remarked that it could not have happened to a more fitting city. Detroit, a dying city in a dying state, has the worst team in the history of the league just as the automobile industry, what made Michigan what it is today, is on life-support.

This was not always the case for Detroit. It was once among the top 4 biggest cities in America with a booming economy based on the auto industry. The region attracted workers from all over the country to work for the Big 3 (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).

Amongst the many moving to Michigan were a number of Arab-Muslims who have made the Detroit-Dearborn area one of the biggest Muslim populations in the nation. They joined Irish, Italian and Polish and other European immigrants who flocked to the area in search of work (which they usually found).

African-Americans and rural and small town whites from the South and the lower Midwest flocked to the area as well in search of work for the Big 3 and for work in related industries.

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Meeting With the FBI at a St. Louis Masjid Over The Actions of Minnesota Somali Youths

Last night I attended a meeting of about 20 local Muslim leaders with two special agents from the local FBI field office at Masjid Bilal (the old Islamic Center on the campus of St. Louis University).

I did not really want to attend the event but was encouraged to do so by a friend of mine. The meeting seemed like a bad idea to me from the beginning. The agents have been canvassing the local Muslim community informing us about some Somali kids in Minnesota who went to fight in the conflict in Somalia. At least one of them was apparently a suicide bomber.

When I was first told about this my response was “what the hell does this have to do with us in St. Louis?” These kids were from Minneapolis so talk to the people there. There is also the fact that the agents went to mosques that have almost no Somali attendees. So, are these kids in Minneapolis really the issue, or is this just another excuse to harass some Muslims?

I was under the impression this would be a big town hall event; but it ended up being just some local Muslim leaders meeting in a room with two agents. Those in attendance included Imam Muhammad Hasic ( a local Bosnian imam and power-broker), the imam of the new Nigerian mosque in North County, the Amir of the Northwest Islamic Center, Sheikh Minhaj from the Dar al Islam Masjid, Adil Imdad ( a local mover and shaker), brother Tim Kaminski, Sheikh Nur the Amir of the local Bantu Somalis, and others.

Before attending the event I thought out three basic questions/comments to hurl at the agents. The discussion was more informal and while I had a brother tape it the quality is not good. So, I will just list here my three basic points to the agents and there responses.

  1. Group Indictment.

There is no need to harass the entire community over the actions of a few. Bernard Madoff is Jewish, the majority of his victims are Jewish, and his crimes are intimately intertwined with the Jewish community. Yet, it is highly doubtful that synagogues with no connection to Madoff across the country are being canvassed.

Similarly, for every one Muslim in America remotely connected to terrorism or some facet of the Islamic movement the government deems to be illegal, there are dozens of Catholic priests who have a thing for raping little boys. Yet when the feds investigate the widespread pedophilia amongst American Catholics, they move very lightly.

Why is it that when it comes to the Muslim community they do not use the same good judgment?

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A Car Crash, a Small Town Experience, and Gratefulness to Allah

Last night I sat at home watching my favorite show on TV The Next 48 Hours with my wife when I got a call from a Muslim brother who I have known for years telling me that he had a guy in his cab wanting to go to Chicago. He asked me if I would be able to make the trip since he had to pickup up a school kid in the morning and I said sure.

The St. Louis to Chicago run is about $550 or so and given the fact that I have a lot of bills and a baby on the way insha’Allah I can use all the extra money I can get. The week had already been good thanks to the bad weather and I had been able to catch up on some bills I was behind on and get a few extra things for the house and had planned to stack my money on Thursday to give me some padding to go into the weekend and then go shopping Sunday night.

My thinking was that an extra few hundred dollars in my pocket from this trip would put me in a great position. While in Chicago, I thought, I would buy my wife a couple of black jelbabs from the Muslims women’s clothing store (they do not have a Muslima store in Da Lou) and check out the Muslim school in Bridgeview.

The guy who needed the cab is a college student in St. Louis from China. He told me had to get to China because there was an emergency that was “worse than your mother and father dying”. He told me he had bought a last minute plane ticket for thousands of dollars.

I am notorious for not watching the weather and while I knew it had been bad all week I had been driving in it fine and had never had a problem in bad weather before having driven my cab in a number of blizzards and ice storms.

My passenger went to sleep in the backseat and I drove the roads that, while they were bad, were manageable. About 40 miles outside of St. Louis my Cricket cell phone went out of service so while Cricket is cheap and a good deal for people looking for a phone that does not do credit checks or mandate contracts that is something potential customers may want to keep in mind.

Things were going fine until I got around Springfield, IL. For those of you who do not know, Springfield is the Illinois state capitol, where Obama kicked off his presidential campaign, and home to the excellent Lincoln Museum.

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Hasim Rahman: Thanks for the Memories Brother, Now Go in Peace

I can remember back to the year 2001 when Muslims in America were overwhelmed with joy when Hasim Rahman scored a stunning knockout victory over the then heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis in South Africa.

I did not see the fight live because I was on a Greyhound bus traveling from St. Louis to New York. I found out Hasim pulled off the upset at a rest strop in Pennsylvania where a group of Muslim brothers were talking about it.

The next day in Brooklyn and New Jersey I heard a lot of Muslim brothers excitedly talking about Hasim and a lot of brothers were trying to get a tape of the fight. These were all African-American brothers; but a few weeks later I was in the DC area at the home of a Bangladeshi brother and he and his friends were equally excited.

It was not just the fact that Hasim was a Muslim, because there have been numerous Muslim titleholders in boxing from Muhammad Ali to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad to Naseem Ahmed, it was the fact that Hasim was such a vocal and enthusiastic Muslim.

After he defeated Lewis he attributed his victory to the fact that his salat had been right and he used a number of Muslim phrases in his interview with HBO commentator Larry Merchant. Most Muslims did not know at the time of the fight but learned shortly after that his father, Yahya Cason, is an imam in Baltimore and a prominent figure in the Muslim community. We also did not know that Hasim was married young and had a Muslim family. So, the more Muslims learned about our brother the more we learned to like him.

After the first Lewis fight Hasim was given a lucrative contract by Don King and I have it on good authority every Muslim within shouting distance came running to get a piece of the money for their community projects. I am told he donated a nice sum but after a time grew a little leery (which is understandable).

In the buildup to the rematch with Lewis in a televised joint interview on ESPN Hasim further impressed Muslims by physically attacking Lewis after his sister was disrespected. Watching the program I could almost read the mind of Hasim and it said “I cannot let this man disrespect a Muslim sister”.

So, while most Muslims were not in the camp of Hasim leading up to the first Lewis fight, Muslims in America were fully on board for the rematch and there were PPV watching parties for Muslims all over the country. American-Muslims were prepared this time around to support our man; but there was a little problem, Lewis was also prepared.

Rumor had it that Lewis did not train hard for the first fight and had been too busy on the set of the Hollywood film Oceans 11. He looked sluggish and out of shape going into the fight; but for the rematch he had trained well with Emanuel Steward and was in prime condition and ready to avenge his loss. Muslims watched the tables be turned that night as Lewis scored a viscous knockout victory over Hasim after landing a classic right hand.

For the moment, the Muslim hero had been vanquished, and American-Muslims were left with only a few fringe contenders like Zahir Raheem and rumors about Bernard Hopkins being a Muslim (his camp is almost entirely Muslim and I have been told he is a Muslim).

Hasim would have a few other good moments and some good wins; but his career would never again gain the kind of notability he had after the Lewis win thanks to losses to guys like John Ruiz and getting knocked out by Oleg Maskaev.

However, like a lot of Muslims I know, I was still pulling for Hasim when he fought the Ukrainian Heavyweight and universally recognized best in the world Wladimir Klitshcko last Saturday. And, like a lot of Muslims, I cringed as Hasim took a straight up beating at the hands of Klitschko.

Now is the time, and all fighters get to this point, for Hasim to look in the mirror and say ” I have made good money, given good memories, and left my mark, now it is time to retire”. That would be the best course of action for Brother Hasim. Go out while he still has his health and work on his deen.

There will be other Muslim boxers to come up like Saddam Ali a young Yemeni kid from Brooklyn, Amir Khan out of England, and Rock Allen out of Philly; but no matter what they do they will have a hard time topping the excitement Hasim created on that night in South Africa.