Sudan, Pakistan and The Blood of Women

Meriam and her Christian husband. What a beautiful couple.

Meriam and her Christian husband. What a beautiful couple.

While Yussf Estes and the Deen Show are making dawah pitches in videos spinning the tale of a decadent America with a lost people and an Islam with all the solutions, the alphabet organizations are lobbying for American support to the Syrian rebels and critiquing Pope Francis’ visit to Israel/Palestine , and the hash-taggers are doing their thing I am curious as to where is the widespread American-Muslim outrage on two atrocities in the Muslim World.

Which atrocities? A fair question.  There are so many. No I’m not discussing turning a blind-eye to the Shia Genocide in Pakistan , charities funneling money to takfiri rebels in Syria, Libya falling apart, or Boko Haram. Perhaps for another time and of course most of the issues are either ignored or given quasi-support by many American-Muslim leaders.

Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Christian mother. Meriam never identified as a Muslim and is proud of her Christian faith. In any sane society, in any just society, it is the basic human right to pick and choose your religion or leave your religion. A forced faith is no faith at all.

Yet in 2014 Meriam had to deliver her baby in shackles in a Sudanese jail for the crime of being a Christian and being in a loving marriage to a Christian. .

Meriam was given four days to denounce her Christian faith and she refused to.  I have a lot of respect for Meriam and I have none for her captors or the barbaric judicial system that has sentenced her to die. If you claim to love justice, if you claim to stand on the side of the oppressed, and if you have any respect for human-rights this case has to anger you.

No American celebrity-imam should be allowed to give a lecture without taking a stance.

No convention or conference should be held without forcing speakers to take a stance. 

Everyone should be on the record.

It is a yes or no question. Do you support Meriam being sentenced to death? 

Action

I talked to Shahed Amanullah in DC last week about organizing a protest-rally outside of the Sudanese Embassy. I am not sure how much support it has gotten yet. Imagine if all these hashtag activists who were all worked up over Abu Eesa would make this an issue or if the major Muslim organizations would get behind such a protest? If you’re members of such organizations (CAIR, MAS, MPAC, ICNA, etc.) you should be calling them and pressuring them to take a stand on this issue.

A Protest Outside the Sudanese Embassy in DC

Hunger-Strikes in Solidarity

These are suggested actions.

Pakistan

Moving onto Pakistan, Yes I know, a usual suspect. While Desi Muslims in the West are busy cheering on the Pakistani Cricket team and telling of the fun they had on their recent visits “back home” while ignoring the ongoing genocides against Shia, Christians, Ahmadiyas and others. Yes I am against drones as well. Yet, they aren’t any worse than the violence  Pakistanis inflict on one another on a routine basis. Or the oppression of women , “honor killings”, acid-attacks and the like. Instead of getting defensive and finding examples of non-Muslim honor-killings ( as if that mitigates the problem) how about a serious human-rights campaign and actions on Pakistan?

Which brings me to the horrific tragedy of Farzana Parveen. Farzana was murdered in cold blood by her family as the police and other onlookers just watched. Her head bashed in with bricks. Her crime? Marrying the man she loved. Something to think about one of these American-Muslim birdbrains contemplates “hijrah to the land of the Muslims” or one of the Pakistani masjid uncles tells you how great it is back home.

We have well-oiled campaigns in support of Palestine. Which is great please don’t stop. Yet there are more people living under fear, death and oppression in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. Where is the organizing in the American-Muslim community? The calls for divestment?

Action

American-Muslims could boycott visiting Pakistan, refuse to send any money to Pakistan other than money to their family and charities, and could organize a pro human-rights lobby from America.

I know there are individual Muslims, bloggers and writers who have taken stands on these issues. Where is the communal response? Where is the energy from the organized Muslim community? And, if it is not there, what does that say?

 

 

 

 

No Daleel to Not Beat Your Wife: Domestic Violence and the American-Muslim Community

The other day I was discussing with my religious-advisor MW Tariq Nelson how our blogs had opened up the discussion in the Muslim community and permanently changed the dialogue within the community. Gone were the days when Muslims felt it taboo to discuss internal problems such as racism, classism, colorism, self-induced poverty, cults, stranger-marriage and other issues in the community. The days of “Deen Show” like whitewashing were gone. No longer was it acceptable to turn a critical eye to non-Muslims while turning a blind-eye to internal Muslim problems in the name of not wanting to air dirty laundry and covering your brother’s faults. The public myth that the Muslim community was Utopia was shattered and the reality dealt with.  We influenced others to begin blogging on these topics and otherwise previously taboo topics. Even folks like Amad Sheikh of Muslimmatters who initially didn’t like us discussing controversial topics eventually began doing the same thing and even taking it to the next level. The same can be said of my old friend Imam Suhaib Webb.

While we discussed the problems of marriage, divorce, halal bootycalls, Imam Abuse, pedophilia and other issues in the community I regret we never really got into the issue of domestic-violence in any kind of serious-manner ( although we did touch on it from time to time).

Thank God the community is much bigger than us. One of my favorite Muslim scholars in America Imam Abdullah bin Hammad Ali recently delivered a speech entitled  ‘Contextualizing the Hitting Verse in which he gave a scholarly context to the verse which brought us to the sane 21st Century consensus that men don’t have the right to beat their wives. 

Allow me to make three basic statements:

1. I am not innocent in this issue. Nor are a lot of other people. If only the blameless were allowed to speak we would be having a very limited conversation. I realize this is in contrast to the “gotcha culture” and hashtag cyber-bullying Muslim activism. Still, I will not allow that to discourage me from trying to add something positive to this conversation.

2. And I speak solely as an American-Muslim, what is going on in other countries is not for me to discuss; but in America I do not believe you will find hardly any indigenous Muslim imams who will condone spousal-abuse. If there are such imams please bring it to my attention. What I do know is that the security-teams of indigenous mosques have dealt with and intervened in domestic-violence situations for years. Abu Muslimah in New Jersey even set up a response-team just for domestic-violence.  This is not saying there is not abuse among indigenous Muslims, which clearly there is, I am just stating that I know of no indigenous communities where it is given sanction. Nor do I believe in very many second-generation ethnic Arab, South Asian, West African, Somalia, Turkish and other communities you will find much sanction outside of a few isolated incidents.  What I have seen with my own eyes is that in many immigrant Muslim communities not only is domestic-violence a serious issue it is often condoned or ignored by imams and mosque leaders. Two incidents I witnessed with my own eyes. An Arab sister coming to a mosque with a badly beaten face only to be told by the imam to “put on makeup, look pretty, care to his needs and be patient”. In Brooklyn, New York I met an Arab woman whose nose was broken and the mosque refused to help her so she accepted help from two Jewish neighbors. For a bonus I knew an imam in the Midwest who beat his wife and kids with a chain. The community didn’t approve; but hey he was the imam.

3. These are my words and not the words of a scholar…..there is no daleel against domestic-violence. Literalists will always say “bring me your proofs from the Quran and Sunnah”. Salafis as an example claim to practice the purist form of Islam and go back to the original sources. The truth of the matter is that there is no daleel for not hitting your wife. Sure, some modernist and politically-correct scholars can twist words and cherry-pick and ignore hadith and centuries of scholarship, yet they cannot bring any direct proofs from Quran and Sunnah. There are numerous accounts of the sahabah beating their wives and slave-girls. This includes prominent sahabah like Umar ibn al-Khattab (R.A.) and Imam Ali (R.A.). There is also a hadith in Sahih Muslim which suggests the Prophet Muhammad ( s.a.s.) hit Aisha (R.A.) in the chest.  The hadith are there for everyone to read as are the stories of the sahabah, Of course they compliment the classical tafseers on the “Hitting Verse”.

 

If we are to follow Quran and Sunnah literally there is nothing wring with striking your wife, just don’t go overboard with it. Yet, how many view that as acceptable today? How many want our sisters and daughters to be hit?  On this issue we must have a deeper understanding. (there are some small Salafi communities in America where it is still taught that it is acceptable to hit your wife).

In 7th Century Arabia ( and nearly every other place in the world) it was normal to hit your wife. Muslims did it, Jews did it, Christians did it and everyone else. That was just that time period. The mere fact that Quran and Sunnah called for moderation in hitting was an advancement in women’s rights at the time. Just as Aisha (R.A.) being a child-bride was the norm in that era and is not seen as the norm today outside of a few backwards places ( and among some Salafis) we must view domestic-violence in the same manner.

We do not oppose domestic-violence because Quran and Sunnah tells us to do so, because it doesn’t, we oppose domestic-violence because we respect women, respect justice, and we are products of the modern world. For us indigenous Muslims in America we are a product of this culture. Domestic-violence is a serious problem in America; yet there is nobody in the American mainstream or anyone seen as positive who thinks it’s OK. That is why we are against women being hit. Not the Quran and Sunnah. if we lived in 7th Century Arabia we would be going all Ike Turner. However, we live in 21st Century America and our families raised us better than that.  In many immigrant Muslim cultures a brother may cover for his brother if he is beating my wife. I have personally been involved in stomping the shit out of a friend of mine for beating his wife. That’s our culture. If I never took shahadah I would be against domestic-violence and so would other indigenous Muslims.

Now, back to number 1. I was raised in a household with a lot of violence. Both domestic-violence and the abuse of children. And when I say abuse I am talking about severe-abuse. However, we are all accountable for our actions. During my relationship with my oldest daughter’s mother we had numerous physical-altercations. Several times I hit her. Once I knocked her down a flight of stairs. Once she hit me in the back of the head with a pot and once she almost killed me by shoving a butcher-knife down my throat.  I had a hot temper and she had a hot temper.

Yet, since that time, I have been romantically involved with several different women and have never laid a hand on them. Been in plenty of fights, arguments and yes divorces and been mad as hell but I never thought about raising my hand. Why is this? Did I go to therapy? I did not. I discussed this with a friend of mine who had a pretty similar experience and he didn’t have any answers either.

Perhaps we learn as we grow older or we mellow out with age or just learn. As an example I was raised in a home where beating children was seen as normal and that was not uncommon in the homes of my childhood friends. When I had kids living in my home I didn’t mimic the things I grew up with but I did spank them. Since that time, thanks to the teachings of Rais Mujahid on this issue, I no longer believe in spanking or any form of corporal-punishment for children. The Quran and Sunnah didn’t teach me that, in fact there is plenty of daleel for hitting kids, it was life-experience and Brother Rais that taught me that.

In closing I will say I think know the answer as to why I never repeated that behavior. It was not the Quran and Sunnah. It was Islam. Going to the masjid for fajr, reading Quran, learning the deen, being around pious brothers. Older brothers who were teaching me how to be a good Muslim man and I knew from these good Muslim brothers one thing a good Muslim does not do is hit his wife.  Over time that changed me and that change was brought about by brothers living the Quran and Sunnah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gentrification, The Contract With the Community and 50-50-20-15

Gentrification. Everyone knows the word yet how often are the the pros and cons of gentrification really discussed? Recently filmmaker Spike Lee discussed some of the negative consequences of gentrification in Brooklyn and took a lot of heat. Michel Martin, of the recently cancelled Tell Me More program on NPR, chastised former DC Mayor Marion Berry for even discussing the negative consequences of gentrification.

Why doesn’t the media cover gentrification more? It has always been my belief that the media doesn’t cover gentrification because a large percentage of media professionals, especially among the young generation, live on the front lines of gentrification. It is hard for them to be critical of themselves and their neighbors.

The narrative is that cities were dying. White-flight had created a problem of crime, a declining tax-base, failing schools, and vacant housing and white people came to the rescue. These white people are heroic saviors and the infallible generation of millennials coming to save the cities not only should be welcomed there interests should also be put above all others.  Never in these discussions are the issues of affordable-housing and family-upheaval examined. Nor is the question of Americans having to commute hours to work because they cant afford to live in the city or folks being outright priced out of metro areas discussed.

Now there are a lot of things about gentrification that are problematic and can be debated; governmental-support, policing, racism, insensitivity, the lack of respect for existing residents, the refusal to support minority and “non-hipster” businesses, a cultural relationship with dogs that is not universal many feel is imposed upon them, bike-lanes in controversial places, and the list goes on.

One area where I think we can come to so agreement though is employment.  Travelling throughout the country and visiting gentrified neighborhoods and seeing businesses that cater to hipsters one thing is apparent; the employees are heavily white and few have lived in the neighborhood for any great length of time. These are neighborhoods that have suffered for decades from lack of businesses and jobs and then jobs finally come to the neighborhood and instead of hiring locals they hire mostly white newcomers.

Despite couching itself in progressive and “green” rhetoric a quick examination will show you gentrification and hipsterism succeed due to two things; racial-solidarity and class-solidarity. Not very progressive and not very new.

In any city you will find most of the gentrification crowd are coming from affluent white suburbs. Even when they move into the city and into neighborhoods where people of color are a majority you will find it common they will go out of their way to support white-owned businesses that cater to their class. The flannels may be on, bodies may be covered with tattoos, the Bentley may have been traded for a bike, and pants may be tight; but at the end of the day most are bringing the same racial and class biases as their fathers in the country club had.

A real step that can be taken to soften the negative consequences of gentrification is to create a Contract With the Community. This contract would help end the discriminatory hiring practices of many new businesses and create jobs in the community for the people who actually need them. Instead of unemployed liberal-arts grads from places like the suburbs of Kansas City getting hired at new businesses in places like Bed-Stuy Brooklyn you will see those from the Marcy Projects getting hired.

50% From the Neighborhood

50% People of Color or Under the Poverty-Line

20% Ex-Offenders

$15 Minimum-Wage

The Contract With the Community. Local businesses could volunteer at first to sign the contract at which point they’d be given a “Hood Certified” endorsement. Local governments could be lobbied to make such a contract an ordinance in cities across the country struggling with discrimination. This contract could make a major difference in the lives of many Americans.

 

 

 

 

Wrigley Field and Chicago Weekend

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With Ustadh Ubaydallah Evans and Dr. Musa McGuire after a delightful Turkish meal

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Reppin STL at Wrigley Field

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Toasted-ravioli. A St. Louis invention now stolen by Chicago

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Giodano's Chicago-style lasagna-sandwich pizza

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MCC Pulaski & N Elston

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First time I've been there since the great Amir Ali passed now ran by his son Amir whose doing a great job

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The old printing-press that made all those pamphlets

My Endorsment: Do Your Duty Vote For Dooley

 

MY dear friend and local businessman Zuhdi Masri with Charlie Dooley. Do Your Duty Vote For Dooley!!! Tell Every Jack and Julie Vote For Dooley!!!

MY dear friend and local businessman Zuhdi Masri with Charlie Dooley.
Do Your Duty Vote For Dooley!!!
Tell Every Jack and Julie Vote For Dooley!!!

You work hard and so does Charlie Dooley. That is the message of the campaign for the re-election of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. Can anyone dispute Dooley has worked hard for St. Louis County? Like Mayor Francis Slay Dooley represents a hands-on leadership that takes him out in the field. Personally I’ve run into Dooley all over the city and county. You can see Charlie Dooley schmoozing at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton; but you can also find him rubbing elbows with union members in Lemay and reaching out to poor children in Kinloch.

 

Charlie’s worked to make St. Louis County the best place to start a business, raise a family and develop a great career. Again, can anyone question this? From the Bosnian families achieving the American Dream and purchasing their first home in South County, to the white-collar professionals buying new homes in West County, to the working-class families in Pine Lawn and Northwoods Dooley has promoted pro-business, pro-family and pro working-class policies for St. Louis County.

 

Charlie helped create thousands of new jobs making us the #1 county for job growth and new business starts in the state.  Over 5,000 new jobs created in 2013 alone. Again, can you dispute this? I remember a time when streets like Evans and Terwood in Berkeley were some of the most dangerous and drug-infested blocks in the region. Today they are home to Express Scripts and a Hilton Hotel. I remember watching the Chesterfield Valley go underwater in the Great Flood of ’93. Today it is home to thousands of jobs pumping large amounts of wealth into the local-economy.

 

His tough leadership guided the County through the financial crisis, we have the highest bond ranking by the three agencies in the state, saving taxpayers’ millions. Again, who can deny this? North St. Louis County was one of the hardest hit places in the country during the sub-prime meltdown and financial-crisis. Of course this is combined with issues of massive white-flight to St. Charles and Lincoln Counties. Yet, in the midst of all of that, we have seen tremendous development in North County. A pedestrian and bike friendly shopping and nightlife area has emerged on Florissant Rd in Ferguson, the city of Florissant has completed a number of successful developments over the last few years, and there has been new construction throughout North County.

 

He fought to protect our families reducing crime to a 42-year low.  And he’s expanded access to mammograms and healthcare.   Our health system has the highest accreditation score in the state. Again, who can deny this? St. Louis County is suffering not from a high crime-rate (outside of a handful of problematic areas that were in bad shape a long time before Dooley as elected); but from a perception of high-crime often fueled by racial stereotypes. Crime is at a 42 year low in St. Louis County, it’s a safe place to live and work, and Dooley is pursuing policies to continue that success. Dooley has also worked with DePaul and SSM Health-Care, Christian Hospital and BJC, St. Anthony’s Hospital, and the various hospitals in West County to ensure the county government is doing its part in promoting effective health-care to the people. In addition to this under the leadership of Dooley St. Louis County has built new and first class health-clinics for the un-insured.

 

Now Charlie is creating bold public-private partnerships to bring the county more jobs and build stronger neighborhoods.   The Mosaic Project and St. Louis Economic Development Partnership are models for attracting talent, entrepreneurship, and industry. Again, can anyone in their right mind question the wisdom of the Mosaic Project?

 

He’ll work with Mayor Slay to consolidate government services to save taxpayers’ money, create growth and provide better healthcare to our families.  Let’s keep the County moving forward with Charlie Dooley. Again, who would be against this? Instead of a city mayor and county-executive at each other’s throats we have two progressive leaders promoting regionalism. We are one region and working together is a whole lot better than being at one another’s throats and fighting over resources. A great historical mistake was made when St. Louis City decided to leave St. Louis County. We finally have two leaders interested in righting that historical wrong.

 

In closing allow me to say this. Even though I was born in North St. Louis and currently live in Old North St. Louis I grew up in North County and attended school in the Ferguson-Florissant School District and later the St. Louis Job Corps Center in Pine Lawn.  Most of my family is still in North County and NoCo is very near and dear to my heart.

There are many things Charlie Dooley is being blamed for which are out of his control. North County began its decline in the 1980’s when white folks (including family members of mine) began stampeding out to St. Charles County. De-industrialization also hit St. Louis County hard which outside of West County was mostly a blue-collar middle-class economy based on good union jobs. On top of that this entire nation is witnessing a phenomenon of double-migration. Mostly young, socially-liberal, mostly single, secular, affluent and often gay, people moving back into the city fueling gentrification sometimes and other times rejuvenation of declining neighborhoods. The other migration is that of middle-class and upper middle-class families out to exurbia (St. Charles, Lincoln, Warren, Franklin and Jefferson Counties).  This leaves the inner-suburbs with an older housing-stock, newer and poorer residents priced out of cities, and an aging population. A very difficult terrain to navigate. Yet, Charlie Dooley has managed to steady the ship.

This is also a new St. Louis County. A diverse County with a growing African-American population. A Mexican-American community in the Ritenour School District larger and more vibrant than Cherokee Street in South City. A county with a rapidly growing Muslim population with new mosques opening in north, south, and west county during the Dooley Administration. A county with one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the Midwest.  A county with an emerging Chinatown in University City, Bosnian neighborhoods emerging in South County and Russian clusters emerging in West County.  Some may remember a bland and vanilla county. That’s in the history books if it ever existed. These days a weekend trip to Queeny Park in West County will have you seeing Indians and Pakistanis playing cricket and at a trip to St. Ferdinand Park in Florissant you’ll see Nigerians playing soccer. At every step, at every opportunity, Charlie Dooley has let it be known that he fully supports diversity in St. Louis County and sees it as a blessing and not a problem to manage.

Charlie Dooley has also strongly opposed right-to-work and strongly defends the right to organize and labor. He deserves the full-support of Labor Unions and as Dooley has always stood with labor it leads me to question why some in labor aren’t returning the support.

In the race for St. Louis County-Executive I strongly encourage voters to re-elect Charlie Dooley.

Mother Agnes Interviewed by Umar Lee in St. Louis

Please bear with us. The volume is low. We didn’t have access to a professional camera. Mother Agnes also speaks low. However, if you listen to the words I think you’ll find wisdom

 

 

Outspoken Syrian Nun Mother Agnes recently visited St. Louis and gave two lectures on the horrific carnage brought about by al-Qaeda and other extremists in Syria. Here she is interviewed by local St. Louis writer Umar Lee. After the interview Mother Agnes and Sister Camel were led on a tour of St. Louis by Umar Lee and local-activist Tim Kaminski. Mother Agnes visited the Gateway Arch, Mississippi Riverfront, the Old Courthouse, St. Raymond’s Lebanese Maronite Church, the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, St. Alphonsus the Rock Church and the scenes of violence and despair in the city. Mother Agnes prayed at a homicide scene on the 1300 block of North Euclid in North St. Louis.

Her call is for an end to terrorism in Syria and the return of a peaceful society where all religious and ethnic groups are respected. Her tales of the current horror in Syria reminiscent of medieval barbarians are saddening to say the least. Pray for Syria!!! Write and call your Members of Congress and Call the White House and tell them WE DON’T WANT AMERICAN WEAPONS IN THE HANDS OF AL-QAEDA AND OTHER TAKFIRI REBELS!!!

Mother Agnes Visiting St. Louis From Syria on a Mission of Peace

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Mother Agnes Mariam and Sister Camel pray at St. Raymond's Lebanese Maronite Catholic Church in St. Louis

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Mother Agnes Mariam and Umar Lee outside of St. Raymonds in St. Louis

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Mother Agnes Mariam and Umar Lee outside of the St. Louis Gateway Arch

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Mother Agnes Mariam paying here respects at a homicide scene on the 1300 block of North Euclid in north St. Louis

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Mother Agnes and Sister Camel pray at the St. Louis Cathedral Basillica