I completed my enrollment for the Affordable Care Act on December 1st, 2013. I selected the Coventry Health Care-Missouri “silver plan”. I was told to call Coventry and set up payment.
When I called Coventry I was either hung up on, told the computer was down or told they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
On Tuesday December 17, 2013 I got a letter from Coventry in the mail asking me to send in my first payment by December 26, 2013 in order to be enrolled on January 1, 2014. The letter was dated December 5, 2013 and sent from Orlando, FL. How the hell does it take a letter 12 days to get from Florida to Missouri? An accident? Or something else going on?
Thursday December 19, 2013 I went to the post office, got my money order and sent in my payment by priority mail which is 3-5 days. So it should arrive December 22-24 two to four days before the deadline. With possibly a Christmas delay. Will wait and see how this plays out.
Prior to the American led invasion of Iraq I, along with many other American-Muslims, was involved in the anti-war movement. I attended anti-war marches in St. Louis, New York, and Washington DC. Some of these marches involved tens of thousands of people. In New York we even had a Jummah Prayer service attended by thousands of Muslims in Times Square. The march in DC turned from an anti-war rally to a pro-Palestinian rally and was a site to behold. In St. Louis I organized and led with a few fellow activists a large rally against the war in the Delmar Loop. Along with Tim Kaminski we leafleted against the war at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown and were physically attacked by the crowd.
While the anti-war movement didn’t get that much mainstream media coverage it was a substantial movement organized both locally and nationally. The movement was broad and consisted of pacifists opposed to any war, human rights activists, liberal Democrats, Greens, libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, a few trade unionists, Arabs and Muslims. I saw all of these factions and how they interacted with one another.
I experienced the energy and the good of this movement; but in the end I got burned out. First I got burned out after seeing that no matter what we did the administration of President George W. Bush was determined to pursue its policies of war. Secondly, because I saw the weaknesses within the movement.
The primary weakness I saw was that the movement was not growing beyond its base. Mainstream Americans of any race were not coming into the movement. Amongst African-Americans I saw a very narrow participation from people who normally are protesting someone anyway. The average black barber or school teacher was not compelled to get involved. With whites I saw very few, and I mean hardly any, working-class folks involved. I saw a lot of rich college kids, young people of privilege who were maybe slumming it in an activist phase, and professional protesters who had been protesting since the 1960’. When I attended meetings in New York, of people who claimed to be representing the masses, I had never been around a group of more wealthy and educated people with the bourgeois tastes and mannerisms of the upper-class. This was a group incapable of reaching the masses.
From a Muslim perspective I was also troubled by a few things I saw. Prior to 2001 Muslims lived in America in relative isolation. The majority of the political discussion was Islamist in nature and dedicated to overseas issues. Those that did promote voting were on the fringe and nobody really paid attention to them anyway. Amongst the Muslims I hung out with I was one of only a few who even voted. Many believed that to vote was to justify an un-Islamic system and some even said it was a form of shirk. The small group of Muslim elites that did exist at the time had campaigned for Bush in 2000. Partly because he promised to repeal the Secret Evidence law that the Clinton Administration had used against Muslim activists and partly due to paranoia of Joe Lieberman being on the VP slot of the Al Gore ticket.
After 9-11, with a full scale media, religious, cultural, law-enforcement and military assault against Islam and Muslims it was necessary for a lot of Muslims to come out of their cocoon and fight against this assault. Seeking alliances Muslims joined hands with the anti-war movement marching hand in hand with leftists and atheists for a common cause and that was the right thing to do. The good that came from this was that for the first time Muslims were getting involved in large numbers. The bad was that many young Muslims, who had no political center and limited Islamic education, were getting converted by the left into being Marxists, secularists, greens, and in turn many then supported the kufr of “progressive” Islam or just left the deen.
Stepping away from the anti-war movement while still opposing the war I returned to the kind of activism that my early teachers such as Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Basheer taught me. That was the activism of the masjid and grassroots inner-city Dawah. Realizing that you had to first change the condition of the people and all isms would fail without the foundation of al-Islam. I also became skeptical of Muslim involvement in these movements after seeing so many people losing their deen after becoming involved. A new generation of converts was arising (many white) who converted, never studied the religion, didn’t know anything about tawheed or aqeedah or basic fiqh, and immediately became activists protesting on behalf of the Muslim community. One activist I met kept up a vigorous schedule of anti-war and anti-Bush activity but did not even know how to properly make salaat. So, I began advising all new converts to not become activists until studying the deen for a couple of years first at the masjid and with a teacher (not Sheikh Google or Maulana Myspace).
Moving on to the election of Barack Obama, which most Muslims supported- many enthusiastically (I voted for him), the anti-war movement basically ended outside of a small nucleus of die-hard activists. However, the wars did not stop. As a matter of fact under Obama the wars have increased. Obama has rapidly expanded the war in Afghanistan and has declared a de-facto war on Pakistan killing thousands of its citizens. Predator Drones strikes are now occurring in several Muslim countries who are not in a state of warfare with America, American citizens are being executed with trial ( including minors) and Obama also led the NATO regime-change in Libya. Support for Israel from America has remained steady. The unjust prosecution of Muslims in America has not stopped. The shady prisons from GITMO to the CMU’s started under Bush have not been closed under Obama. Far from reaching out to the mainstream Muslim community Obama has ignored the mainstream and chooses to deal with the liberal fringe of the Muslim community. Instead of inviting known Muslims to government iftars he now invites random people with Muslim names nobody has ever heard of or fringe organizations with no real community support. A new class of Obama Muslims has arisen dedicated both to defending Obama and getting paid via patronage jobs and government contracts. It is hard to criticize a man and be neutral towards him when he is paying your way (just ask Saudi clerics).
If you are critical of Obama, just as you were critical of Bush for doing the exact same thing, you may lose your job, get your funding cut, and may not get to go on any CIA field trips for Muslim artists to Muslim countries. Abroad these Muslims are on the payroll of the Bush-Obama position and at home I fear they are violating the United States Constitution by violating the separation of religion and state. In Pakistan, Egypt or Sudan there is a state-sanctioned waqf Islam and Muslim leaders vie for the favor of the state and get their direction from it, in America the mere thought of creating such an Islam is profoundly un-American and just another manifestation of FOB Uncle politics this time perpetrated by their children.
In this context arises the Occupy Movement. A movement I will say off top I morally support and am happy to see Muslims involved in of they have an Islamic foundation and good intentions. I agree with some if the things this movement stands for and disagree with others. Wall Street is corrupt and its actions and bailouts have hurt the people- this is true.
However, it is not just Wall Street. Main Street is corrupt. It is easy to not take any personal responsibility for the problems of society and point it all towards Wall Street but that is not fair. How many of these occupiers complain about being unemployed but went to college for some nonsensical major that anyone could have told them was a waste of time? How many racked up credit card debt on non-essentials such as pricy restaurants, coffee shops, alcohol, clubbing, expensive clothing, laptops, cell phones and vacations? How many of the parents bought houses they couldn’t afford and used their homes as ATM’s? How many have lost the sense of delayed gratification? In New York City and DC the biggest plight that faces the poor, and is literally driving them out of the city, is gentrification. How many of these young white activists from say Cleveland moving into former black working-class areas in Brooklyn or Trinidad Northeast living as roommates with four other people setting a market standard which makes it impossible for working-class families to live there are actually a part of the problem? They need to take one finger and point it towards Wall Street and the finger on the other hand and point it towards themselves.
Speaking of the poor, which they claim to represent, how much time with the poor are they spending. I went to Occupy St. Louis and met some cool people who had good energy; but basically all I saw was a bunch of middle-class and rich white kids and a handful of blacks. What can the Occupy Movement do for the temp-tag drivers? You know those people who buy a car, can’t afford plates, get drunk and drive like a damn fool and then crash before they can get plates. Or the mothers who shop their children to doctors so that they can get an SSI check for their kids and use their kids as a paycheck. The parents who have premium cable and wearing Jordans in the projects but not a book in the house. If I drive to the projects a few blocks from my house the parking lot is full of pimped out rides. If I go to the government-funded day care center for kids where my friends mother works I can watch the supposedly poor mothers pulling up in Escalades with TV screens in the backseat, all black Mercedes sittin on fresh rims, and the working people who staff the place are either catching the bus to get to work or driving some piece of crap they bought from one of these scandalous used-car lots. Or how about the passengers in my cab in nice clothes, smelling of weed, who offer to sell me their food stamps (EBT) on a regular basis. The poor steal and scam, the rich steal and scam, and government steals and scams, preachers at churches feat off their congregations (some new imams studying this get rich off religion model) it’s a problem of the whole society and the culture of a nation stolen from Native Americans and built by stolen slave labor from Africa.
Wanna talk about Muslims? The poor Muslims who send their wives in hijab or niqaab into the welfare office and instruct their wives (who they have not married on paper) to tell the caseworker she does not know who the father of her children is so she can get government aid and the man not charged for it. Wanna talk to the sister in Pennsylvania I was a wali for who could not find a husband because all the brothers were interested in marrying a sister with a Section 8 housing voucher and she did not have one. Or how about the Muslim kids, who know the welfare state will take their side to break up a family, who will go and scream abuse to the state so that they can get paid themselves. Education? There is no shortage of money in urban schools. The schools have a cultural problem that cannot be solved by money or naïve white do-gooders from Teach For America or some guy like Jeffery Canada who was born in the wrong century and should have kicked it with Cecil Rhodes.
I say this to say I support the protest movement- if it expands. If it says the political system is broke, both parties do not represent the people, end the wars, end the racism, end white supremacy, and Islamophobia, change the economic system, as a matter of fact just blow the whole damn thing up. If the movement is saying that then I am with that. If it is this kind of movement I encourage more Muslims to get involved. If it is not, it is a work in progress and still possible of changing if more people get involved. There is no 99, and there never will be, because people are defined and define themselves by so much more than economics, but diverse groups can come together as a working coalition to bring about change.
At the end of the day though real change begins with ourselves and our families and that will change neighborhoods which will in turn change nations. The best model for change is not from the Left or Right; but from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and if we cling to the Quran and Sunnah and let taqwa and emaan occupy our naffs that is the most important occupation. While we are standing up and occupying the streets lets take some time out and occupy the masjid.
I normally do not read books written by politicians because as a rule they are not written by them, or are written by then and not written well, or are a blatant part of their political campaigning. I deiced to buy Dreams of My Father by President Barack Obama to read because it had been written before he was in politics and could give me some insight into the life and mind of our current president.
As most of my readers know I voted for Obama and enthusiastically embraced his candidacy from an early stage. However, in recent weeks, I have grown a little annoyed at the Obama worship I have seen by many (including Muslims).
When I go to Walgreens now to pick up an odd item they have a whole aisle dedicated to Obama shirts, hats, stickers, and any other kind of BS you can think of. At the gas station half of the magazines on the rack either have his photo or that of his wife on the front cover. Passengers in my cab wear Obama hats (which I wore during the campaign) and I see the shirts and signs everywhere. It kind of reminds me of what you experience when you are living in dictatorships like those of Mubarak in Egypt, Assad in Syria, or the former Soviet Union where you would see photos of the great leader everywhere.
To me, in America, you support your guy running for office and you do what you can to help them once in office, but you don’t become something like the Fedyaeen Saddam or Chavistas (and I happen to like Hugo but I don’t want the American political culture to become like our southern neighbors).
A day or two ago I got an email requesting I send President Obama a thank you letter for mentioning a hadith in a speech. Yes, I see why Muslims are excited, but something just rubs me the wrong way when you get all geeked up and excited for someone quoting someone far greater than themselves. Obama did himself a favor by quoting the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s.), not us.
The Interracial Relationship
Now, with regards to the book, I am far from finished, but just some points. I do not think the story of Obama is that exotic for starters. A naïve white girl with liberal ideas rebels against her parents and gets knocked up by and marries an African student from Kenya on scholarship at an American school. Far from unique, maybe somewhat in the 1970’s, but not now.
Foreign students, and many Muslims (especially Gulf Arab students), have left their seed all over this country. It is not uncommon that this seed was planted in a liberal white girl rebelling. I have met so many young people over the years whose parents were at schools like Wichita State, Southern Illinois, and George Mason who have Muslim names but have never met or barely know their father. These kids are not Muslim because when pops graduated from college he either went back home or left their mother after getting his papers.
The foreign student is away from home and like all young people is interested in sex. If they are single and come from a conservative Muslim background they may have never had the opportunity to have sex before. Then there is the question of legal status in America. A marriage and a child can help you stay in this country and earn money.
Then, on the other hand you have young women like Obama’s mother. Young, naïve, liberal, and wanting to rebel and in America an easy way for a white girl to rebel is to get with a black man. Old Black Panthers told me such women were in hot pursuit of Panthers back in the day (to the scorn of black women in the movement) and many see their sex lives as a part of their political activism. The white man stole the land of the Native Americans? Let me sleep with a Native American and wear sandals. Latinos are oppressed? Let me start buying Latino food to cook at home for my Latin prince. Muslims are treated badly post 9-11? Let me become a Muslim and marry an Arab (preferably from Gaza or Fallujah). I literally know of two such women who have run this full course and have been with all these types of men and it corresponds to their political activism.
So his mom gets left with the baby (while still making lame excuses for his father). Well, I believe St. Louis has something like an 86% out of wedlock birth-rate, so that may have been unique for those times, but today with the decline of our society it is par for the course. But, it is refreshing, in a nation with millions of out-of-wedlock children that they can know that in America you can reach the top no matter where you started or who your father is (or is not).
The Muslims in the Life of Young Obama
Issues of race I will set aside for now. The other issue I thought of while 7reading is how many Muslims Obama grew up with. I do not see this as some kind of an honor or something Muslims should be proud of.
All of these Muslims; his father and his family, his dog-eating step-father, his Muslim neighbors in Indonesia, his school teachers in Jakarta, his drunken druggie friend Hasan in college, his womanizing Pakistani roommate Sadiq, and none of these people made a serious effort to give him dawah. Reading through the book it seems like Obama had a lifelong experience with bad Muslims.
Of course liberal Muslims today would say “oh no, they are not bad Muslims, the only bad Muslims are Wahabbis, they are just cultural Muslims” (and as I say this I am thinking of two progressive activist Muslim women, one also claiming to be a Sufi, I know who sat and talked about what kind of alcoholic drinks they were going to have after leaving a CAIR dinner) Setting aside the issue that there is no such thing as a “cultural Muslim” is it not a great tragedy that no one really made an effort to give the young Barack dawah? And in his story do we not see that there are tons of lost Muslims all over this country and that we need dawah to Muslims and non-Muslims?
I will write more on this later iA.
Eight years ago on inauguration day I was not in the best of places. I woke up early and was kind of nervous. I got up, took a shower, prayed, and then went to a room where a TV was playing CNN.
I had no real idea of where I was going to go that today and sat alone with my thoughts. Sensing my dilemma three guys I knew came up to me to cheer me up; Lorenzo, a soldier in the Gambino crime family from Brooklyn, Johnny a Polish pimp out of the Irish neighborhood of South Boston, and Tommy a sometimes Muslim brother and heavy player in the black neighborhoods of Staten Island.
We talked for a while and they all gave me advice (Tommy seemed to encourage me to resume a life of crime). Then a corrections officer came and escorted me to another building where I changed clothes and received a paper bag full of my belongings. Another CO came and escorted me out of that building to a van and he drove me to a bus stop where a bus would take me from rural central Pennsylvania where we were at to another city where I could transfer.
I did not know where I wanted to go. I didn’t really have a home anywhere and did not have a solid plan for making any money. In my heart I wanted to go to DC to join the protesters who were gathered to challenge the inaugural of George W. Bush. Many, such as myself, believed that he had fraudulently won the election. I had lived in DC before and studied there; but from experience I knew it was a tough place to get a job.
I first went to Philly and decided not to go to DC as I sat a McDonalds and spilled a strawberry shake all over myself. Eventually I ended up in St. Louis and by that time W was the Prez. A few weeks later I was in NYC sleeping in subway cars and then at a masjid in Brooklyn with no heat I the cold winter until I found steady employment.
That is how the W years began for me, not so good. A lot has happened in those 8 years and the nation has been changed forever. I do not recognize the Muslim community of today that is how different it is. 9-11, the War on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and all of that has just totally changed what it means to be a Muslim in America and that for me is the biggest tragedy of the Bush years personally.
Good, Obama is ordering the gulag at Gitmo to be closed. My next question is will he order the Justice Department to take a fresh look at the political prosecutions of Muslims in America? There are two facilities in America known as the American Gitmo’s (Florence ADX in Colorado and USP Terre Haute in Indiana). Will Obama order that the brothers in these prisons be given new trials or there cases be at least looked at? If he is serious about cleaning up the image of America will he pardon Sheikh Ali al-Timimi or at least launch an investigation into his unjust prosecution by the government? Will he commute the sentences of brothers such as Seifullah Chapman and Abdur-Rahman al-Amudy who are serving draconian sentences? Will he have the Justice Department investigate the circumstances around the arrest and conviction of Imam Jamil al-Amin? Will he order the Justice Department to free the money they stole from Muslim charities and allow Muslims in America to raise money for the aid of our suffering brothers and sisters around the world? If he is really interested in justice, and not just window dressing, these are things that he will do.
Studies have shown that more than 80% of American-Muslims (including myself) voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election. It is also known that the Palestinian issue is one of the most important issues to a lot of Muslim voters in America. For this reason I have said for months that the Muslim honeymoon with Obama will end once the Palestinian crisis flare up and Muslims find out he is more on the lines of another Bill Clinton than someone who can bring a just resolution to the conflict.
Personally I have no faith in the Obama Administration with regards to Palestine. He is first and foremost a politician who cut his teeth on the ethnic and neighborhood politics of Chicago. Politically, whether it be right or wrong, he will see no benefit in taking a more Pro-Palestinian stance while one-fifth of Democratic donors are Jewish and a pro-Israeli mainstream media would attack him if he took a more just stance. This is compounded by the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the Secretary of State and Dennis Ross will be her advisor.
We are getting a sneak preview now as Obama remains silent as Israel mercilessly attacks the people of Gaza militarily after systematically starving the people for months. This is contrasted by his forceful condemnation of the Mumbai attacks. Combine these two things with the fact that Obama has promised a fool-hearted increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency (which itself is fueled by the occupation). All of this together means that as I am looking at it today Obama will be bad for most Muslims in most places in the world unless he can bring peace with Iran, Syria, and really leave Iraq.
So, why would I vote for someone who I think will be bad for most Muslims? Well, Obama may be bad for most Muslims but he is by a number of degrees better than a unilateralist and neo-conservative Republican Administration with Evangelical leanings would be.
But, even though I think Obama will be better, that is not why I voted for him. I knew that Obama would be no treat for Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. However, as I live in America and my family lives in America I had to vote for who would improve the condition for me, my family and the Muslims in America first and foremost. This means I had to focus on issues like healthcare, the economy education and other matters first. Just as the people in Gaza vote for who will do the best for them in their lives first I did the same thing here in America.