I really don’t plan on writing very much on Islam in America anymore or the situation within the American-Muslim community. I am still basically on the “Jummah at the Crib” tip that I alluded to an in earlier post. Mosques, religious organizations and imams are not speaking to the needs of the people so people must organize themselves at a small level. The Earth is a masjid so surely your living room can suffice as a masjid.
For the last several days I have been thinking about an incident in Northern Virginia after speaking to a well-connected Muslim brother and friend there. I thought about our conversation again as I attended a Muslim Organizing meeting in St. Louis on Saturday. One of the attendees spoke to the communal nature of eastern cultures and the selfish individualistic nature of western societies. To a large extent this is true of course and there are pros and cons to both. Traditional Muslim cultures with their emphasis on families and tribes ensure many things. Homelessness is rare, loneliness is less common, marrying is easier, and there is a sense of belonging and shared responsibility. The negatives of course are this can stifle individuals which stifles creativity and leads to stagnation and often a culture of hiding and covering up anything that would make the group look bad even if it means the problem festers. Which brings me back to Northern Virginia.
A few years ago I wrote about the situation with a security-guard at a large mosque in Northern Virginia. The guard was a middle-aged non-married man with a white-collar job who volunteered as a guard and became a trusted member of the community. In addition to his security duties he could often be found in the office of the mosque weighing in on other matters related to the administration of the mosque.
A single brother, decent looking with a good job will be courted by many Muslim sisters and families for marriage. This brother never expressed any interest in marriage or women. Meanwhile he became very close to a number of young boys in the community and began hosting sleepovers. These same boys over time all began displaying effeminate behavior and formed a clique at the mosque of similar boys who all shared the connection to the security guard. At least one of the boys admitted in private to having been sexually molested by the guard during a sleepover.
Made aware of this situation a few years ago while in Virginia I talked to a celebrity Imam living near the mosque and he approached the leadership who dismissed the information. It is important to note that one of the most influential people in the mosque and indeed one of the most respected people in Brotherhood circles in America had his own son at these sleepovers (who began displaying effeminate mannerisms shortly thereafter and is now living in DC in an openly gay lifestyle. Now his sexual-orientation is none of anyone’s business, that is not the issue, the fact that he was possibly molested by a mosque employee is another).
While at the time the mosque did nothing the security-guard was eventually fired and told not to come back to the mosque. I asked my friend the other day what explanation the mosque gave and he told me “they said he was messing around with the boys”.
Good riddance. Glad he is gone. However, pedophilia is illegal. A crime. People who molest children are not subject to the discipline of the Board of Directors of mosques they are subject to criminal prosecutions in America. This is precisely the problem Catholic Churches had. Instead of reporting pedophile priests to the authorities they handled the matter within the church and it festered. Priests were transferred and went onto abuse children again. It was more important to uphold the reputation of the church than to protect children.
The same thing happened with Muslims in Northern Virginia. Not only was this matter not brought to the authorities but this individual is free to go work at other mosques again. To work with children again. To abuse children again. But why? Because revealing his crimes and taking them to the authorities would have hurt the reputation of the mosque, would have dishonored the families, and aired dirty laundry. So, injustice is less important than keeping up appearances in the community. Living your life for these communal expectations. Others knowing your boy was molested is a greater crime than actually getting molested. Instead of a victim the child would be seen as damaged-goods if made public.
So, I have a few questions:
1. Where is this individual today? Is he working security at another mosque? At a school? Is he working around children?
2. Or is something more sinister going on? This is a mosque where there have been several prosecutions of members.Numerous members are serving lengthy prison-sentences. At least one former attendee has been killed in a drone-strike. It is documented that the mosque has been under heavy-surveillance (indeed some of those middle-aged Ikhwaani uncles would speak to one another in whispers at times, meet with the lights off, or cover their mouths when speaking) . How could this behavior go unnoticed by the government? Or was it unnoticed? A guard in such a place has a lot of information at his fingertips about a lot of people. He hears a lot of conversations. There could be reward, or looking the other way, if he were to share such conversations with interested parties.
In conclusion it is no secret the problems the Catholic Church has had in this area. It is also no secret that The Gulf, Pakistan and the security guard’s home country of Afghanistan have had problems with the abuse of young boys. That is a problem we can do without and the backhome mentality of shaming the victim is not good there and it is not good here.
I have not been writing because as I stated before I have just moved into a house and decided that I would not write until after my wife gives birth inshaAllah. However, there is one topic that I would like to briefly address.
All of us as humans have our complexities and we all repeatedly sin and make mistakes (some of us more than others). I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and have had up’s and downs and seek the mercy of Allah. Whenever I go astray I always know that there is guidance in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (s.a.s.) to guide me to the right path and that in the example of the sahabah and the early generations of Muslims we are given a clear example of how to live our lives as a Muslim community.
Sometimes I get the feeling that there are those who believe that Islam is a private club that they can bar entrance to or kick people out of. Many Muslims such as myself have sinned and made mistakes in the past; but should the masjid be closed to us? Should we be pulled from the ranks of the lines of salat? We are Muslims not a private sect or the Gambino Crime Family, Khawaraj or some kind of mafia and we should have love and forgiveness towards our brothers and sisters.
I know of brothers who right now, today, sell drugs and are womanizers; but when I see them at the masjid I smile because I am happy to see them. Because I know that as long as they keep praying to Allah they will be guided one day. I know of sisters who are currently involved in sexual relationships with non-Muslims and when I see them wearing hijab and going to the masjid I also smile; because I know they are still Muslim even though they are commiting a major sin and as long as they believe in tauheed there is hope for them. I know all of this because all of the mistakes that I have made and that as long as belief was not erased from my heart I was able to return to the right path and that today I feel stronger in my deen than ever.
In my life I have made a lot of mistakes and as I am not a Catholic and do not need to go to confession I will keep them to myself and pray that Allah forgives me. In my writing, which is public, I have also made mistakes.
There have been those who I have spoken ill of I should not have and those who I offended who I wish I would not have. In particular, there are a few people I offended whose forgiveness I seek and those people are Haroon Moghul, Margari Hill and Marc Manley. I disagreed with them, and on many issues still do, but I did not observe the adhab of a Muslim while doing so.
There are others I angered by writing certain things; but for much of this I have to stand firm and say that I believe what I was doing was right, I have got the support of many Muslims, and I feel that I had the best interest of the Muslim community at heart in exposing those people and movements I feel are a danger to our community and who others fear while they disagree with so they remain silent. It may not be popular with all; but I believe it was right and I am willing to stand on yam ul-qayam.
There has been a recent controversy regarding Imam Mahdi bray and an expose on his criminal past by Steve Emerson who is a professional anti-Muslim working for pro-Israel interests for the most part. Some Muslims have taken the Emerson info and ran with it because they have personal issues with Mahdi and that is unfortunate.
Before I say what I am going to say let me first state that about a year ago I had an online feud with Abdurahman Muhammad of the Singular Voice blog. He has been one of those most prominently attacking Mahdi and mentions me, although not by name, in his piece.
The feud of a year ago was foolish on both of our parts as it accomplished very little. I was not told to write anything by Mahdi and he was not even aware it was written until after it had been posted (although it is true I worked for Mahdi at MAS at the time). What I found upsetting was what I saw as Abdurrahman’s neo-con like rhetoric and his apparent ideological affinity with Islamophobes and his wholesale attack on the leadership of the Muslim community. The argument got personal and for this I apologize to the brother; but on substance I have to still disagree with him.
I worked side by side with Mahdi and saw him everyday. He worked 16 to 20 hours a day everyday and traveled to several cities a week the whole time. He never had enough sleep and was always a little short on cash. He woke up in the morning and went to bed at night serving the Muslim community to the point of physical exhaustion often falling asleep at his desk.
There would be times when Mahdi would come from speaking to groups in 2 or 3 different cities and then come to the office directly from the airport to work on an issue of anti-Muslim discrimination that never hit the media.
When I was short on money Mahdi was always there for me and when any Muslim I knew needed someone to talk to they could always talk to Mahdi. When he would find out I was doing something questionable he would lecture me good. He has been a good brother to me and as I have witnessed with my own eyes a good father to his children.
When I got out of prison in 2001 Mahdi was one of the first people I saw in New York City and he took me to a restaurant and gave me a lecture. He told me life is short and that I needed to get on the right path and he told me that he had been in prison, made many mistakes, been without a home, but through the grace of Allah had worked to get where he was. That night I slept in a subway car in Brooklyn but I thought of what Mahdi had said and never forgot it.
This brother has sinned, sinned while a Muslim as I have, but he has turned his life around and lives a life of service to the Muslim community. No one is perfect and Allah is the Master of the Day of Judgment so what is the benefit in exposing all of these things from his past?
Similarly, with regards to the other leaders. Yes, Khalid Yasin has made some misstakes; but how many people has he guided to Islam? How many people have taken shahadah after hearing him speak? How many good deeds is that brother earning every hour from these new Muslims? And then I ask how many people took a shahadah after hearing us speak? And, if you bring Khaild down who will replace him? Does this mean I will make him a treasurer? No way; but will I invite him to give a dawah lecture? You bet I will.
Dawud Adib is someone I assume does not like me and I have had my disagreements with things he has done. However, can anyone deny that he has taught knowledge to generations of Muslims? That he has dedicated his life to the deen? I will agree that his serial-marriages and those of many other Salafis is deplorable, and he is just one of many brothers who I know have good hearts who I would nonetheless shoot before I let them marry my daughter, let us just pray that Allah guides Dawud and other Salafis on the issue of women and allows him to continue to teach Islam (particularly aqeedah) for many more years.
The others he speaks of I have no knowledge of so I cannot comment; but let us be brothers to one another. I love Abdurrahman for the sake of Allah and because of this I make duah that he stops attacking Muslims and doing things that do not benefit the community and feed into the plans of the enemies of Islam. And, even if he feels that he has to, as sometimes I feel that I have to, that he does it in the best of manners.
Let us make duah that all of the Muslumeem from Mahdi Bray to Umar Lee to Abdurahman Muhammad to Khalid Yasin to Dawud Adib to Marc Manley to all of our leaders, Muslim sinners, and struggling Muslims are blessed and guided to the right path- Ameen.
I cannot tell you how many dozens of Muslim friends I have from St. Louis and other parts of the Midwest who have one desire burning in their heart and that is to get out of the Midwest ( or South or wherever they live where the community is weak) and go to the East Coast. This is a desire I have had (and still have) and a desire that has left St. Louis empty of most of its most ardent young Muslim converts who have left for the East Coast.
The reasons for this departure are partially covered in the post above. But, one issue not covered, is one that comes up before there is children, and that is marriage. In communities such as St. Louis there are many more brothers than sisters. It is often very difficult for indigenous brothers to get married and some resort to marrying non-Muslim women. These interfaith marriages often result in the brothers feeling even more isolated than they did before they were married. Before they were just isolated at work, school, or with old friends; but now they even feel like strangers with their own spouses.
Brothers look to head to the East Coast (or even Chicago or Atlanta). For single brothers and sisters this is a place where they can easily find a spouse and for Muslim families these are places where their Muslim children can be socialized and out in Muslims schools with other children like them. If Muslims make these moves they often come with hardship. Particularly, East Coast cities tend to be tribal and nepotistic. This means getting a good job can be difficult without personal connections or a network and job security is minimal in places where you just doubled your cost of living. For this reason you see a flow of Muslims moving back and forth (I include myself in this category). I have several friends who I can never keep track if they are on the East Coast or back home in the Midwest. If they are back home I can assure what I will hear from them when I talk to them “Oh akh I’m just trying to hustle up some money to get back to the East Coast”. We move to the East Coast to be in a vibrant Muslim community; but because we are poor in our own cities where we are connected we become dirt-poor on the East Coast where we are not connected and living is more expensive making life very difficult.
Since I am not going to be able to make it to MANA here is some advice for all of those who will be attending.
- Sisters, that brother from Philly is not really interested in taking you to Bilalian Gardens to teach you the finer points of the Sunnah or to correct your aqeedah.
- Brothers, if that sister from Germantown lifts up her niqaab, looks at you and says “brother, all I need you to do is come see me once a week and I’m straight” she is not under the false impression that you are an auto mechanic.
- Brothers, when lowering your gaze as the Brooklyn sisters walk by lower your gaze all the way, TO The FLOOR, do not let your eyeballs stop at any point in between her head and the ground when viewing from the back.
- The brother offering you a “business opportunity” is really trying to crawl from under the debt he incurred investing in a pyramid scheme.
- If you see some brothers talking like they are still Black Nationalists from the 70’s ( but may not even be black); don’t worry you have not went back in time, that is just some of the Midwestern delegation talking who are a little behind the times.
- Ten packs of incense bought in the bazaar does not suffice for a dowry. Nor does teaching a sister your jacked-up tajweed version of any number of short surahs.
- A retreat to Camden, NJ is not a romantic post-MANA honeymoon.
- Marrying a sister you met at a lecture by Imam Siraj on the Sunnah when you already have two wives and no job does not qualify as “reviving the Sunnah”.
- Sisters, marrying the brother you met at the “prisoner reintegration” session and letting him come in your house and live rent free, beat your kids, and eat all of your groceries, is not doing your part to help out with the effort.
- Also, FYI, if you have to fly back, or for that matter even get on the train or bus, I would advice you not to rock one of those ” Jihaad is My Way” t-shirts they were selling last year in the bazaar.
I was searching the internet yesterday and was researching the topic of marriage and the Muslim family and was brought to a forum where the question was asked “why do reverts get married at younger ages than born Muslims?”
The people in the discussion form had different theories, some of them on point and some of them off, one of those that I agreed with is that in the case of the sisters, especially if they are good looking, the brothers swarm on them like bees on honey as soon as they step foot in the Masjid.
What was not mentioned is something that is fairly obvious to me; most of us converts were sexually active from a young age and do not look forward to going any length of time without sex.
When a young American man takes shahadah, who like me had been sexually active since the age of 12, the biggest Fitnah we have is remaining celebrant because this is something we have not done since puberty, and most of the convert brothers I know never touched pork or alcohol but they got some on the down low after they were Muslim and before they were married, the Fitnah is that big for the brothers. I cannot speak for the sisters in this matter, but I do know this; it is unrealistic to expect women who have been promiscuous and flirtatious in the jahiliya to all of the sudden start acting like they are uncomfortable with sex and being around men ( unless they are just putting an act on) and I am sure that desire for a man, which has been met before, does not leave them after becoming Muslim.
What kind of an environment does this create at Masjids full of converts? Masjids where all the brothers are sitting around talking about how they got to get married or they are going to explode and asking everybody they know if they know of any sisters looking to get married, and sisters sitting around saying “girl, you better not marry him”. I know, because I have been there myself. With all of the rush to get married these Muslims often end-up in stranger marriages or just the first warm body to come along no matter how incompatible the other person may be out of a sense of desperation (been there too).
Now, while I encourage Muslims getting married young who were born Muslims, I have seen too many problems to encourage people getting married who are brand new Muslims. The new Muslim needs a time to Islamize their selves and their lifestyle before making that leap and the Muslim community should help them in this effort.
Most large Masjids have classes for new Muslims, or classes dealing with basic Islamic education that cater to converts, and it is not uncommon for me to hear brothers telling me they attend such classes looking for women, and they say this in a whispering tone. I do not see the need for a whisper.
Getting Muslims together for marriage should be one of the main purposes of such classes. Brothers and sisters should not be embarrassed if that is one of the reasons they have for attending such functions where they know they will meet fellow Muslims of a similar interest. Such a class can be the foundation, and the next step can be if the teachers see two that may be interested in one another, or two they feel are suited for one another, to transfer them to a separate class that should be created on Islamic marriage for couple interested in getting married.
If we are going to have such classes in the Masjid shouldn’t this be one of them? If marriage is half the deen doesn’t the believer need some instruction in this matter? These classes could be taught in a two-fold way, the first half being the fiqh and the Sunnah of marriage, and the second half being married Muslim couples who are happy in their marriages coming in and giving practical advice- and after 15 years of being a Muslim I am still in need of such a class!
Or do we just wait until the couple is getting ready to have a divorce to have a counseling session or when these brothers and sisters are going crazy because they can’t find a spouse to chastise them when we have done nothing to help them?