Muslims in America are at a relatively infantile stage. We are developing as a community and are striving to put our unique imprint on society. The major organizations representing the Muslim community have to decide if they are going to stand with people struggling for just causes, or if they are going to sacrifice their principals at the altar of convenience.
In light of this, I am most distressed that ISNA has decided to go ahead and hold their Eastern Zone conference, despite a boycott of the Baltimore Sheraton hotel by the workers. One ISNA official even said, “What has a union ever done”. While ISNA is standing in solidarity with the Sheraton, and those who treat their workers unjustly, MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir, and others have expressed solidarity with the workers and displeasure with ISNA.
The displeasure with ISNA comes with the sentiment that we as Muslims in America want to be a people who stand for justice, with the oppressed, and when need be, stand with people over power. More so it is better to be known as a community who stands for justice no matter the cost, financial or otherwise, rather than a community whose path to the mainstream is through silence.
I will say to the ISNA official who said “What has a union ever done”, lets list a few:
The 40 hour work week
Child labor laws
Workplace safety standards
Paid sick days
There are much more. Without unions, none of these things would exist for American workers. I for one come from a long line of union members, so the value of unions was given to me from a young age. There are those at ISNA, perhaps a majority, which have immigrated to America from other countries. Many of the countries that they have immigrated from are filled with workers who toil in deplorable conditions. The dream was to come to America where one can earn a fair days wages, and be treated with dignity and respect on the job. Unfortunately many of our brothers and sisters new to this country do not know that whatever fair conditions workers have today was paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Labor Movement.
ISNA is at a crossroads in Baltimore, a great American city. MAS, CAIR, Imam Zaid Shakir are taking a stand with the call for justice. That sweet call of justice has fallen upon deaf ears at ISNA.
Commuting between Baltimore and DC is kind of interesting. On my way home from work yesterday I began in the Skyline area near the Alexandria/ Falls Church border in Fairfax County.
For those of you not familiar with this area it is a densely-populated suburban area just outside of DC. It is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country and home to immigrants from all over the world. Within it you will also find one of the largest Muslim populations in America anchored by the Dar al Hijrah Masjid. In this area you will find Muslims of all backgrounds with a large number of Arabs, Somalis, Afghans, West Africans and Desis. Alongside them there is a large Latino community mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The other large immigrant population you will find in this immediate area are Ethiopians which you will find all over the DC metro area.
These immigrants are mixed into a community which is also home to a lot of defense and intelligence agencies and their employees and retirees. The area has traditionally been conservative and Republican; but that has changed due to demographics overt the last several years. The surrounding areas have also attracted a lot of yuppie migration and people who are politically more liberal. No matter what the color and religion of the people (and I am sitting in a strip mall now that is home to a major Muslim organization, the local Chabad Chapter, a massage parlor and a jilbab shop) one thing that can describe this area is neat and tidy. Law and order rule here and it is a bastion of one chain-store and strip-mall after another. There is a lot of money in this area being served by fresh waves of immigrants and there are a lot of people politically connected from the children of corrupt bureaucrats from the developing world as the PC crowd says, members of royal families, leaders of opposition groups and those that serve them, diplomats, and those working for good ole’ Uncle Sam.
Leaving NOVA with a co-worker of mine who lives in Prince George’s County, MD we stooped to get some fresh fruit shakes at a Spanish joint while he had his car looked at. The papaya shakes were served to us by a 19 year old Salvadoran girl who is a junior in high school. The girl looked at our beards and kufees and asked about our religion and we had the chance to tell her about Islam (another benefit to observing the sunnah with the beard and trust me brothers you want this one in the deen).
Having spent the weekend in Baltimore and a lot of time there over the last week I can tell you that while the two cities are connected by the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the MARC train and share an airport the two cities have almost nothing in common.
Washington, DC is the nation’s capitol and it is home to the federal government and the many tens of thousands of jobs that are provided by the government. If you are not working for the government you are working for contractors who work with the government. Other than that you have political and civil-rights types of organizations in DC, think-tanks, lobbyists and various associations. In the suburbs you have a lot of information technology and low-level service jobs worked by immigrants (legal and illegal) and in Northern Virginia a lot of federal law-enforcement and military types and that is the DC area.
If you are not in black DC almost no one is from DC. The majority of the residents of the metro area are rootless coming from other areas of the country and could not even tell you the history of their generic subdivision. People wear Washington Nationals caps who have only lived in the area a month or two and that is the bulk of the fan-base of that generic team. Others cheer for DC United without even knowing the rules to soccer as they have some kind of infatuation with Europe and they think attending soccer matches will make them more European.
The average white resident of DC itself that I have seen around my apartment could be a poster child of globo yuppiedom. Males walking around in tight shirts, coochie-cutter jeans, and man-bags chatting away on I-phones in high-pitched voices on their way to overpriced coffee shops and restaurants. . They live in DC far from Cleveland or Kansas where they grew up and are acting out a life void of foundation. Few seem themselves as traditional and the vast majority shun religious observance. Atheism and agnosticism are popular with this crowd and if they dare attend religious services it is more often than not at some watered-down offshoot church or synagogue. Ironically, this group of males that has the greatest inclination towards sexual deviancy and greatest hostility to religion is the group I see more and more misguided Muslim males gravitating to (raised in the man-hating public education system and by clueless or deviant Muslim parents).
Black DC is a tad better, I guess. I mean the people are actually from DC so if they are wearing a Redskins jersey they can do it with pride and not like some moron from Cincinnati who wants to fit in with his buddies so he puts away his Bengals jersey. Black Washingtonians have roots and a foundation in DC. It is their home and there are many hard-working black men in DC, Maryland and even VA holding it down and an educated upper-class associated with Howard University and other elite institutions. Unfortunately, the DC black male also seems to be the pioneer in the “down low” field if such a thing exists and in the federal prison system.