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A Ramadan Reflection: IANA, the 90’s and a Homeless Brother

I want to tell you the story of a homeless Muslim brother. First off though I must briefly tell the story of the 1995 Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) convention in Dearborn, Michigan. I would meet many major figures in Islam in the West and make some good friends for life including Tariq Nelson. There are those on my Facebook friends list I met at that convention including Abu Noor Abdul-Malik Ryan and Abdul Aziz Suraqah.

Speakers at this convention from America included Sheikh Ali al-Timimi, Jaffar Sheikh Idris, Jamal Zarabozo, Idris Palmer, Mukhtar Curtis, Salim Morgan, and a young dynamic graduate of the Islamic University of Medinah bringing an enthusiastic following by the name of Abu Muslimah of East Orange, New Jersey. On the international side scholars such as Suhaib Hasan from the UK and Abdur-Rahman Abdul-Khalaq of Kuwait attended.

A lot of knowledge was being dropped. Imagine me a kid from St. Louis who attended a masjid where few brothers knew the word fiqh or Aqeedah and had never seen a niqaabi in person now surrounded by Arabic, ‘ilm, beards, niqaabs, and smiles. Being that this was the 90’s and pre-911 you also had a little edge to some attendees. A clueless young American I sat and listened to a private discussion between Taliban reps trying to convince Saudis their group was the right group to invest in. I met the Arab Amir of the Mujahideen in Bosnia and was invited to Kashmir as his guest. This was before I put on weight and I was still in wrestling shape which prompted several brothers to suggest I go overseas and fight.

I drove back to St. Louis with a Palestinian brother, Ismail Royer, and one other person I can’t remember. We left with contacts with other American brothers, cassette tapes, books and memories. One brother I met stood out though.

Brother R was a smooth talking tall and slim cat from DC. Beard was on point, thobe above the ankles, and brand new white socks. I told him I’d be traveling to DC soon to visit Ismail who was attending American University and he gave me his number.

When I got to DC I met up with R. He had a van and worked as a street-vendor mostly selling clothing. He told me he was born and raised in DC, had done some time; but took shahadah, married a Moroccan and was now raising his kids in the Virginia suburbs. He gave me the DC Muslim tour and I put a visual to the places Zaid al-Timimi had been telling me about during our after halaqa sessions at Steak’n Shake. The brother seemed to really have it together and he was respected in the community.

On my several different stints living in DC-VA (which is really a second home to me) I would always see that brother and he seemed to be doing good. A few years ago things began to change. He was having trouble in his marriage. Then he was divorced. Next thing he wasn’t looking too sharp. Then he was homeless. Next thing he was on drugs, begging for money and brothers told me they saw him standing in food lines.

In the DC area you can hardly get an apartment for under $1,000 per month. It’s also been ranked the worst area for non college-graduates in America. Massive gentrification. How does a brother like that get better even if he gets off drugs? And who is even going to help him get clean?

Thinking of Brother R makes me think of so many things. How special the 90’s were in the American-Muslim community, divorce, drug-addiction, gentrification, homelessness and the lack of services we have in our community. I wouldn’t know how to reach him and get him help at this moment. All I can ask for is that this Ramadan you keep Brother R in your prayers.

DC-Baltimore Man Comparison

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.

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