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A brother who has read this series told me on the telephone that I am overly optimistic about the future of Muslims in America. That sounded odd to me because most people accuse me of being negative and pessimistic. However, as I have outlined in this series, I do believe that a good future is available for American-Muslims if we can address the social ills that ail us while holding onto the rope of Quran and Sunnah at the same time.
There can be no solution to these problems though unless we successfully raise our children as Muslims and we do our part to help build and sustain Islamic institutions. Dawah is important and should never be forsaken; but more important than dawah is sustaining the existing Muslims. So, if you are living in a city that is not conducive to the Islam of your children or does not nurture your Islam then you need to go.
The problems of raising Muslim children vary depending on the race or ethnicity of the family and children. The offspring of affluent immigrant suburban Muslims are at risk of just falling in love with the dunya and the modern secular world. With an elite education and the ability to materialistically achieve at the highest level while having a minimal Islamic identity it is highly probable that the bulk of these young Muslims will raise children less Muslim than they are and that many will not raise Muslim children at all. This will weaken with every generation with the remaining Muslims falling into the categories of the very conservative Muslims who have clustered themselves in areas with a high concentration of Muslims (which will be the biggest category), a few progressive Muslims who want to hold onto a non-white identity and have some kind of loose connection with their roots while not professing to follow the Sunnah, and fresh immigrants. More so than any of the categories though you will find people with names like Blake Siddiqhi and Lisa Faruq who are descendents of Muslim immigrants who did well financially ; but they have no connection to Islam due to intermarriage and a lack of Islamic education by their parent or grandparents.
I do not feel that these projections are particularly difficult to make. Those seeking a modern and reformed Islam, almost by definition, want to be a part of the modern world and lack an enthusiasm for traditional Islam. They were born and raised into more traditional Muslim families so they have a semblance of Islam; but without such a benefit given to their children they will have even less Islam, if any at all, and it is highly doubtful that the generation after that will identify as Muslim at all.
The clustered Muslims who practice selective engagement have the greatest chance of ensuring Islam is spread to the future generations in America. This idea is not unique to Muslims. In his book entitled “The Vanishing Jew” the Harvard law professor and Jewish activist Alan Dershowitz projected that the American-Jewish community of the future would be much smaller and yet much more religious. This would happen, Dershowitz argued, because with the high-rates of inter-marriage, low birth rates, acceptance of Jews, and secularization, those who are non-observant Jews or Reformed today will more than likely not exist in any significant numbers in the future. So, the Jewish community will be more pious, but less visible and politically influential. The remaining Jews for the most part will be orthodox Jews living in Jewish neighborhoods (think Borough Park in Brooklyn or Rockland County upstate).
I think the analysis of Dershowitz applies to the typical middle to upper middle-class immigrant Muslim family. Particularly, the ISNA or progressive types (and possibly even some Zaytuna types), for the same reasons as the reformed and non-observant Jews they will fade away with the generations. However, just as they will fade away, those Muslim communities who cluster on the North Side of Chicago, Bridgeview, Brooklyn, Queens, North Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, the DC Area, Michigan, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and a few other places will survive and what do they have in common? Maybe they are Taabliqui, maybe they are MAS, maybe they are ICNA, maybe they are Salafi, maybe they are Sufi; but what they all have in common is that they are religiously traditional and conservative and, in practice, not theory and not through pandering, they are racially diverse ( albeit with more work to be done).
Unlike the Jewish community though the Muslims in America benefit from two things that Jews do not and thus makes the comparison not an exact fit. Islam is an evangelistic religion, a religion of dawah, we are mandated to spread the message of Islam wherever we live. As a matter of fact many ulama have ruled that it is haram to live in this country if we are not making dawah. Judaism is not such an expansionist faith like Islam and Christianity and therefore it can only grow through having a high birth-rate. There is also the issue of immigration. There are maybe 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and many live in failed-states and this is not going to change any time soon. While Muslims are living under poverty and in oppression in Muslim lands they will migrate to the West and in this case America. For the sake of their children and their akhira I would advise them not to come to America, but regardless of what I think and advise they will come here, and they will add to an increasing Muslim population here and offset some of the losses from those who have apostated and children assimilated.
Those descending form less affluent Muslim immigrants have a whole other set of problems. These are the children of Yemeni bodega owners in Brooklyn, Pakistani gas station owners in areas with small Muslim populations, Palestinian children of liquor store owners and beauty supply store owners in places like Memphis, and dirt-poor Muslim refugees often in places hostile to Muslims and surrounded by evangelical Christians. Some in this group will convert to Christianity or their descendants will just as the decedents of Eastern European Muslims did in the early 20th century. Many will fall prey to the ills of this society such as criminality, out of control sexuality and alcohol and drug abuse, and many others will just live a very lowly existence.
And, what of the decedents of indigenous converts such as myself? Some of the issues we share with the immigrant community and as the generations go by our communities will become more and more intertwined. However, we do have our own unique set of issues and problems that will affect the future of our children and what our legacies will be.
We are at a greater risk of losing our Islam and thus our children are at a greater risk. For those of us who are first generation Muslims this is even more so the case. Masha’Allah I am married so if I am sick or die my wife can ensure that I be given my Islamic rights; but what of all those single Muslims in places like Alabama and Montana? If they get sick their ties to the community will die as they will either be cared for by non-Muslim family or put in a non-Muslim nursing home. When they die they will be buried as if they were a kafir.
Praise be to Allah that my wife’s family is Muslim; but there are many more out there whose parents on both sides are non-Muslim. If a tragedy should come to them and they could no longer care for their children who would care for their children and guide them in the deen? It is unfortunate that I can say I know of several cases where the children were raised in the church after such a tragedy occurred. This is a serious issue for indigenous converts and if organizations such as MANA are going to have a useful purpose this needs to be tackled by them.
So, while we are at risk and our children are in the present, how much more so will this be the case in the future? Let us compound this with the fact that many of us are struggling financially and this means we often cannot protect ourselves or our children from those things that are harmful.
Ethnically and racially our children can also more easily re-assimilate back into the general non-Muslim culture of this society. If you are raising African-American Muslim children, as the vast majority of indigenous Muslims are, then you are specifically at risk of your children and the next generations getting caught up into the pathologies of the African-American community and an un-Islamic culture. If these children are being raised in the ghetto, even a ghetto with a lot of Muslims, they are also at risk of falling victim to the entire drama which ails the ghetto.
We are living in a generation today were young ghetto Muslims, the children of working-class Muslims who made hijrah, are back in America in the streets. The boys are working the corners and the girls are knocked up by the corner boys. Some of these young Muslims are not products of families who made hijrah but grew-up in very strict and observant homes. There are the children of famous indigenous lecturers and imams in America who are now in the streets.
This was a lesson I learned not too long after being a Muslim. There is a famous African-American imam, and if I said his name everyone would know him, and one day I went to visit a conference and met his sons. We decided to explore the community and I asked where are the other masjids and they both laughed and said “The masjids! Where the hoes at, akh?” A daughter of one of my beloved teachers, who has an immense knowledge of the deen and beautiful recitation of the Quran, now walks around half-naked, has tattoos all over her body, and has three children by an incarcerated kafir gang-banger.
I say this not to depress you; but to let you know that despite our best efforts we are swimming upstream in this society with regards to our children. Living and raising children in this society is a living embodiment of what Umar ibn al-Khattab (r.a.) was talking about when he spoke of walking through the thorny brush.
This should not discourage us though. If you go to communities where the population is relatively clustered and there is a fervor amongst the Muslims you will find it very common to see second and even third generation indigenous Muslims (no place is this more common than on the East Coast).
The lesson for me is that clustering the population is a must. As working-class American-Muslims or other converts we do not have the luxury to live in isolated communities. If you decide to live in isolated communities, or even send your children to public schools, then it is my belief that you have an extremely small chance of having Muslim grandchildren and a very high chance of your children not even being Muslim.
The bulk of the areas where working-class American-Muslims have clustered are in East Coast black ghettos (many which are under change due to the forces of gentrification by liberal-minded mostly affluent whites displacing the local residents as they move in). To migrate to such an area involves a gamble. The risk is that your children many come out short on the Muslim part and long on the ghetto part. However, I believe that the risk of your children losing their Islam and giving you kafir grandchildren in Nebraska outweighs the risks of living in North Philly or Prince Georges County, MD. If you are working-class or poor your children will be at risk no matter where they live; so if my son is going to become an apostate gang-banger in St. Louis with 5 children by non-Muslim women or be a niqaab wearing bank robber in Philly with children by a Muslima I would much rather see him in the niqaab. Why? Because as long as he has Islam there is hope and that hope extends to the next generations.
We are travelers in this dunya. The comforts of this life are insignificant when weighed against the test of the Day of Judgment and the glory of Paradise. I would advise working-class American-Muslims to trade their comforts in places like Missouri for the hardships of living on the East Coast or of making hijrah to the Muslim lands if you fear for your children and the next generations.
There is the notion by some African-American that a kafir is only white. Dr. Sherman Jackson has referred to this when he said that many black Muslims never changed their rhetoric form jahiliya and just changed the term “white man” with “kafir”. But, from an Islamic standpoint, the kufr of a white man in suburbia or Manhattan is no different than the kufr of a black man in the projects or penthouse. If your children melt away into mainstream black culture they are melting into an un-Islamic culture where out of wedlock children are the norm, consumption of alcohol is socially accepted, and Christianity is the main religion. Black people may not have a homicidal fervor for the blood of Muslims, as many whites do, and many blacks may be politically friendly to Muslims and we may be inspired by their struggle, but at the end of the day unless they are Muslim they are just another kind of non-Muslim who I would not want my child marrying or growing up to be like no matter how successful they may be.
White and Latino converts are smaller in number, and as I do not know enough about the Latino experience to comment on (although I know plenty of Latino Muslims), I will just briefly comment on white Muslims.
As I have stated before, and I know that many passionately disagree with me, I believe that if a white person embraces Islam in America with all sincerity and follows the Sunnah that they have left white America. As Professor Tim Wise of Vanderbilt says “whiteness is based on what you are not and not what you are” and I believe that a firm commitment to Islam negates your whiteness. Islam does not change the color of your skin, and it does not mean that people will not view you as white or that if there is a race-riot you may not get lynched, it just means that culturally you are not white and if you raise your children in the deen they will have very little connection to whiteness.
White civilization and all of its trappings is inherently opposed to Islam. This was the case with the Romans who fought the spread of Islam, with the Europeans who launched the Crusades, with the colonialists that plundered the ummah, and it remains the case today. If you look to the right you will find white people who dominate the military, federal law -enforcement, right-wing media and think-tanks, Evangelical Christianity, and every other group that is hell-bent on spreading war in the ummah, defaming Islam, and subjugating Islam in America. Their world-view and hatred of Islam fulfills an historical grudge with Islam and non-white cultures and they are the modern day crusaders. They do not walk around wearing swords and shields; rather they may pull you over and give you a speeding ticket, sell you a TV at an electronics store, or serve you coffee, but they all have in common a violent and aggressive hostility to Islam and anything perceived as non-white and un-American.
They are the heirs of a civilization that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, conducted the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade, carried out the genocide against Native Americans, and sent Jews, Gypsies and others to the death camps in Europe, and this is a reminder of what this civilization, with its values, is capable of if you look at unreformed conservative Americans and Westerners. It is a reminder of the mindset that underpins the US armed forces and law-enforcement and a reminder of the militaristic and anti-Muslim nature of traditional Christianity.
If you are white, and have white children, then you are at a far greater risk than African-American Muslims. Their children may become bourgeois black folks or children of the ghetto; but it is highly unlikely they will join the forces of Western Supremacy. However, white children, if they shed their deen and maybe even their names, can join a civilization that has a bloodlust for Muslims. They are not only at risk of being non-Muslim, if raised here they could in fact one day become the oppressors of Muslims. Instead of your children giving you good deeds from the grave they could be tormenting the Muslims while you are gone.
Some will say, hold on I am white and I am not going to raise my children around white bigots. I will raise my children around those with liberal secular values in multi-cultural places. My response is that at the end of the day, the liberal left has just as big as an issue with Islam and non-white cultures as the rightwing does.
Can you not remember the carnage in the ummah that communism represented? The oppression of Muslims in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and other lands? You will say I am not talking about communism; I am talking about the people today who have green values, who are tolerant, and peaceful. Well, these white people (and the people of color who follow them), have a passionate hatred for religion and traditionalism.
They will only accept Islam and Muslims if you change Islam. Islam as it is, based on the Quran and Sunnah and not flexible to suit the whims of the time, is not acceptable to them. Religion for them should only reinforce their secular humanist values. If Islam has a greater influence over the people than their modernist thought, and is not reformed to their liking, then Islam is seen by them as something that holds the people back from progressing.
Islam as it is, and as it always has been understood, contradicts all of the major values of the secular humanist left. We are patriarchal and have well-defined gender roles and they do not believe in traditional maleness or gender roles. We believe the Earth and every creature and human was created by Allah and they believe it all to be a fluke of science. We believe what is right and wrong was brought by the Prophets and they believe they are the prophets and are far wiser than them.
Just as the right fears the growth of Islam, so does the left. Their weapons are not missiles and bullets though. Their weapons are abortion clinics, International Planned Parenthood centers throughout the Muslim World to curb the population growth of Muslims, the promotion of homosexuality which will further curb population growth, university educations teaching un-Islamic values, international feminist organizations trying to pry Muslim women away from the Sunnah, the funding of “reformed” Muslim groups, and a hostility towards public displays of faith, satellite television, Hollywood, pop music and more. All of this is nothing more than a “Soft Crusade” by liberals.
While many white Muslims get angry with me when I talk about the incompatibility of whiteness and Islam let us look at their actions. I recently talked to a well-known Muslim blogger, an African-American brother, and he told me he did not know a single white Muslim brother who had a white wife. I told him I knew of two and they had both been married prior to entering the deen.
I am sure I will now get a flood of information on white Muslim couples; but the point both of us were making is that amongst whites active in the community and traditional, almost all opt to marry non-whites.
Why is this the case? Some of it has to do with physical taste and some of it may involve some white Muslims having fetishes; but I believe there is something deeper. There is an unspoken ideal shared by white Muslims that may not be spoken, that white society and culture represents something un-Islamic by its nature, and therefore when you embrace Islam you are leaving your whiteness behind (some will say they are embracing their humanity but that in and of itself is a white concept).
White Muslims seek spouses from Muslim societies who can give them a more Islamic household or they seek African-American Muslims who come from a culture more open to Islam. Upwardly mobile people in America, Latin America, the Middle-East, India and other places have sought to marry lighter people to lighten up the future generations. In America white Muslims are marrying darker people and thus will have darker children and offspring.
I do not see this as a bad thing. White Muslims face social problems within the Muslim community. People accuse you of being federal agents, shun you, or try and exploit your whiteness for PR value, why would you want this for your children? If having dark children can help them socially within the Muslim community is that not a good thing? If having darker children can help insulate them from returning your family to white kufr and hostility to Islam is that not a good thing? For me I think it is, and I think that it is a good thing for white Muslims to marry non-whites as long as they are socially prepared to do so (this means that white men need to learn how to be men and get out of touch with their feminine side so they do not get hen-pecked and bossed around by traditional women used to real men).
For me this was not a hard choice. I prefer black and Latin women and there weren’t a million white women beating at my door anyway. It is my prayer, Insha’Allah, that my children will have no connection to whiteness and this will be best for them in the afterlife and best for the future generations that can bring me good deeds while I am in the grave. If this means that I will often have to be out of place and maybe even suffer from time to time that is fine masha’Allah.
What will I do? Sitting here and writing and thinking from my apartment in the Lafayette Park neighborhood in St. Louis I know that if I want what is better for my afterlife and for the deen of my children and their children then I have to make a move.
My situation is similar to that of a brother from Wichita, KS I spoke to on the phone last night. We both love the Muslim brothers in these communities and are in a relative comfort zone living in St. Louis and Wichita. But, both of us are very realistic and pessimistic about raising Muslim children in these places. We know that we need to leave but we don’t know how to get to where we need to be.
We don’t have fancy degrees and we don’t have a lot of money and wherever we go we will struggle. The simple act of finding a job, and I am talking about a job that even pays 12 or 15 dollars an hour, in a place like Philly, New Jersey, NYC or the DC area, is a daunting task. These are places that are very tribal and nepotistic and if you do not have a strong network it can be almost impossible to find a decent paying blue-collar job. Yet, staying put is not an option if we fear Allah and the Last Day. This leaves both of us scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get jobs on the East Coast for the sake of moving their for our children and not having any Muslims there, despite both of us knowing many, willing or able to hook us up. Whenever I have lived on the East Coast before I have either been single or married with no children and what I did then I can’t do now.
For my situation, right now at least, the East Coast option is the best if I can find employment. Philly is my first choice, but anywhere on the East Coast is better than the Midwest. If that cannot be achieved then I will be looking to relocate to a Muslim land insha’Allah. Both of these moves, whether it be moving to Philly or Cairo, will require a hardship and sacrifice, but I am willing to endure this for the sake of the future generations of my family.
I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, committed more sins than many, and if I could go back would have done a lot of things differently. I believe a part of raising children and being a good Muslim is trying not to make those same mistakes and trying to protect your children from them. That will be where my efforts will lay in the future.
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