Over the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that urban Muslim communities – unlike suburban/progressive ones – need structure and order in order to survive into the next generation. I came to this conclusion once I noticed that the Muslims of America has been more successful at staying together and keeping their children Muslim than other groups that did not use bayah and have rigid social structure.
Many urban Muslims convert in jail and come from chaotic backgrounds where force is generally needed to get them to work with each other because they come from areas where you can’t trust anyone. In these types of neighborhoods, “civic society” is rare and the city government and police are hopelessly corrupt and lackadaisical. There is not even a pretense of “neighborhood”. So how can one build a community a social structure when one hasn’t seen it?
Many of these individuals (including myself) are drawn to Islam because they are told of a rigid social order that contrasts greatly with the mess they grew up in. Further, because of the backgrounds of urban Muslims, they often NEED discipline and stricter moral guidance in order to maintain a connection to the community. Otherwise there will be no community because many of us before Islam know NOTHING about social structure, it is important for it to be established in the Jama’ah.
So what has happened in the past 8-9 years to discourage this system amongst urban Muslims? The current power structure in the Muslim community is opposed to this version of Islam as this runs contrary to the progressive image they want to portray to the wider society. They are loathe to see pictures of pseudo-militant, disciplined black Muslims that sometimes take matters against criminal elements in their own hands to secure their communities.
They care so little about the welfare of their fellow Muslims in the urban core that they would rather see them lose all social structure that made them successful than to be embarrassed by them in the media. So the leadership expects for urban communities which are filled with people that have no background in community building to function like a suburban community filled with highly educated individuals and has a multi-million dollar annual budget.
In the rigid structure of MOA, Jamil al-Amin, Sabuqun and other communities we see that the children get married at young ages to each other and the family ties are strengthened in the entire Jama’ah.
One cannot pretend that there is one reality for Muslims in America and that the social model being advanced by the progressives, mainstream organizations, and institutes is a one size fits all. In the rush to sell the American-Muslim community as ” moderate and harmless” people have been more than willing to neglect dawah and kick those to the curb who come across as too edgy and this more often than not is the urban Muslim.
It is as if some in our community are trying to erase this segment of our community from existence and when they talk about the American-Muslim community urban Muslims are an afterthought ( if even that). The view of the mainstream is that they will select a few leaders from the urban community (mostly black) and pay them to speak at conventions, co-opt them, and then not have to worry about any real issues in the community.
Meanwhile, a fire is burning in the urban Muslim community fueled by the breakdown of the family, apostasy, drug usage, criminality, and depression. Some who come from this community would prefer that we ignore these issues because of their own issues and not wanting to be associated with this underclass of the American-Muslim community; but the future of Muslim children is more important than protecting the self-image of a small percentage of bourgeois Muslims.
We must also recognize that the major mainstream Muslim organizations, the progressives and the institutes not only have no plan on how to help urban Muslims; for the most part they have no desire. What is needed for urban Muslims is an uncompromising profession of the Truth of the Quran and Sunnah, brotherhood and unity based on the Sunnah, leadership from within the community that is strong and uncompromising, and a program tailored to the needs of the people.
Urban Muslims respect the Haqq and do not want it watered down. This runs contrary to what you will see from many in the mainstream whose ultimate goal is to be accepted by this society so many will say in priavte they belive one thing; but will say another thing to the media or change their opinion to meet with the times- that is the kind of weakness that urban Muslims will not respect.
The foundation was set in America for such Muslim organizations decades ago with the creation of the Dar al Islam Movement ( later the MOA and the Community of Jamil al-Amin), The Islamic Party, and countless other local groups such as the one I came through via Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Basheer. What all of these groups had in common was leadership, discipline, brotherhood, and they were all revolutionary protest movements against the norms of this society. Today, the mainstream and progressive Muslims would like to take this history out of our community and tell the children that their way is the only way, if you want to survive in America you have to get down with the program; but the mainstream program was never meant for and will never work for urban Muslims.
What weakened the traditional structures was first the Salafi Dawah which rapidly grew in the 1990’s and pulled from the ranks of many of these groups but did not establish any structure or institutions. So, when the Salafis imploded Muslim refugees found nowhere to go and no one to support them and one only needs to look at the children today ( ” the dawah babies”) and how many of them are astray to see the result of the failure of the Salafis to provide structure and bayah.
The Salafis were able to pull from the ranks of the existing organizations and decimate them in the field of dawah because of knowledge. Salafi Imams and teachers were well-versed, were good in Arabic, and many had studied in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Egypt. The older movements had organization and structure but for the most part no knowledge. The people wanted to learn and there was no one to teach so the Salafis filled a void.
What is needed today is a tough “take no-prisoners” urban Muslim organization that can combine the structure and commitment of the earlier groups while en-cooperating the knowledge of the later groups. This would go a long way to addressing the needs of many urban Muslims.