Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 7: Conclusion and What Will Umar Do?

(Comments are now open)

A brother who has read this series told me on the telephone that I am overly optimistic about the future of Muslims in America. That sounded odd to me because most people accuse me of being negative and pessimistic. However, as I have outlined in this series, I do believe that a good future is available for American-Muslims if we can address the social ills that ail us while holding onto the rope of Quran and Sunnah at the same time.

There can be no solution to these problems though unless we successfully raise our children as Muslims and we do our part to help build and sustain Islamic institutions. Dawah is important and should never be forsaken; but more important than dawah is sustaining the existing Muslims.  So, if you are living in a city that is not conducive to the Islam of your children or does not nurture your Islam then you need to go.

The problems of raising Muslim children vary depending on the race or ethnicity of the family and children. The offspring of affluent immigrant suburban Muslims are at risk of just falling in love with the dunya and the modern secular world. With an elite education and the ability to materialistically achieve at the highest level while having  a minimal Islamic identity it is highly probable that the bulk of these young Muslims will raise children less Muslim than they are and that many will not raise Muslim children at all. This will weaken with every generation with the remaining Muslims falling into the categories of the very conservative Muslims who have clustered themselves in areas with a high concentration of Muslims (which will be the biggest category), a few progressive Muslims who want to hold onto a non-white identity and have some kind of loose connection with their roots while not professing to follow the Sunnah, and fresh immigrants. More so than any of the categories though you will find people with names like Blake Siddiqhi and Lisa Faruq who are descendents of Muslim immigrants who did well financially ; but they have no connection to Islam due to intermarriage and a lack of Islamic education by their parent or grandparents.

I do not feel that these projections are particularly difficult to make. Those seeking a modern and reformed Islam, almost by definition, want to be a part of the modern world and lack an enthusiasm for traditional Islam. They were born and raised into more traditional Muslim families so they have a semblance of Islam; but without such a benefit given to their children they will have even less Islam, if any at all, and it is highly doubtful that the generation after that will identify as Muslim at all.

The clustered Muslims who practice selective engagement have the greatest chance of ensuring Islam is spread to the future generations in America. This idea is not unique to Muslims. In his book entitled “The Vanishing Jew” the Harvard law professor and Jewish activist Alan Dershowitz projected that the American-Jewish community of the future would be much smaller and yet much more religious. This would happen, Dershowitz argued, because with the high-rates of inter-marriage, low birth rates, acceptance of Jews, and secularization, those who are non-observant Jews or Reformed today will more than likely not exist in any significant numbers in the future. So, the Jewish community will be more pious, but less visible and politically influential. The remaining Jews for the most part will be orthodox Jews living in Jewish neighborhoods (think Borough Park in Brooklyn or Rockland County upstate).

I think the analysis of Dershowitz applies to the typical middle to upper middle-class immigrant Muslim family. Particularly, the ISNA or progressive types (and possibly even some Zaytuna types), for the same reasons as the reformed and non-observant Jews they will fade away with the generations. However, just as they will fade away, those Muslim communities who cluster on the North Side of Chicago, Bridgeview,  Brooklyn, Queens, North Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, the DC Area, Michigan, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and a few other places will survive and what do they have in common?  Maybe they are Taabliqui, maybe they are MAS, maybe they are ICNA, maybe they are Salafi, maybe they are Sufi; but what they all have in common is that they are religiously traditional and conservative and, in practice, not theory and not through pandering, they are racially diverse ( albeit with more work to be done).

Unlike the Jewish community though the Muslims in America benefit from two things that Jews do not and thus makes the comparison not an exact fit. Islam is an evangelistic religion, a religion of dawah, we are mandated to spread the message of Islam wherever we live. As a matter of fact many ulama have ruled that it is haram to live in this country if we are not making dawah.  Judaism is not such an expansionist faith like Islam and Christianity and therefore it can only grow through having a high birth-rate. There is also the issue of immigration. There are maybe 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and many live in failed-states and this is not going to change any time soon. While Muslims are living under poverty and in oppression in Muslim lands they will migrate to the West and in this case America. For the sake of their children and their akhira I would advise them not to come to America, but regardless of what I think and advise they will come here, and they will add to an increasing Muslim population here and offset some of the losses from those who have apostated and children assimilated.

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Debate With bin Gregory on White Muslim Identity in America

I want to respond to a post disagreeing with my views on the roles of white Muslims in America by a white Muslim brother by the name of bin Gregory over at his blog. My response to him is not out of a spirit of hostility our animosity towards him; but rather in a spirit of trying to clear up any confusion with regards to my arguments.Below is the post of bin Gregory and my new commentary is in dark type and his words are in italic.

bin Gregory: Umar Lee, whose website is frequently enraging but always engaging, is presenting a series of ideas about what it means to be white and muslim, and they are at such odds with each other I don’t know how they stay on the same page.

First of all,

( quoting from Umar) One thing you cannot be and be white in my mind is Muslim.which he believes to be true across the board.

Second, about himself,

(quoting from Umar again) African-American brothers … are the Muslims I have always been the closest to and have been able to identity with the most.

Third, on his favorite punching bag, other white muslims,

( quoting Umar) I despise the patronizing and phoniness of guilty white liberals, but the Muslim community is full of them. These Muslims take shahadah and immediately begin a full imitation of some group, Arabs, Pakistanis, African-Americans, etc, and are subservient and un-critical of these cultures while being fiercely critical of any white culture…. I think that some of these Muslims, but not all, embrace Islam to stop being white…

Several commenters on his site have picked up on the inherent contradictions in these three opinions, the biggest one being, what exactly is the difference between Umar Lee gravitating to the black community, and other brothers gravitating to the Arab or the Pakistani or the black community? I’d sincerely like Umar to answer that, since he is so vicious in his anger at these other brothers. From where I’m standing, there’s no difference at all, except perhaps that Umar had some prior connection to the black community before becoming Muslim

Thank you for this question because this is equivalent to one of those ripe fast balls right down the middle of the plate thrown to Mark McGuire during his great home run chase with Sammy Sosa in 1998. I think gravitating was the wrong word for me to use. Before and after I took shahdah I lived in areas and went to schools and existed in a family that were heavily African-American. I did not see my kinship with the African-American Muslim brothers as a cultural breakthrough or something any different than I would have been doing if I was not Muslim. It is hard for me to see how given the upbringing and living the life I have led that I could be expected to have the same outlook on things and identity as those who had  amore traditional white upbringing.  I saw these brothers as basically coming from the same experience and set of circumstances I had though obviously there are differences due to the fact that we had different skin colors and despite what you may hear from your professors or from the ivory-tower thinkers race matters jus as much in America as it every did and it colors every issue in this society. If I would have thought that I had to gravitate to something foreign, like Arab or Pakistani culture, I would not have taken shahadah, so for the most part, shariah issues aside, I did not change the essential nature of who I was after becoming Muslim. I stopped eating pork but didn’t stop eating the food I liked in order to eat like an Arab or Desi and I wore the clothes I had always worn for the most part without feeling the need to wear a kufee most times or a thobe.

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The Weak White-Muslim Brother Getting Hitched

This is a delicate subject and I do not wish to hurt anyone’s feelings with this. However, because I have seen this situation play itself out so many times in the Muslim community, and it deeply saddens me, I think that it must be addressed.

In previous posts I have addressed the complicated dynamics of marriage in the American-Muslim community and I think we all know that it is not easy getting married for a lot of American-Muslims. Just as in America at large, there are also racial dynamics within the Muslim community in America and this can shape the preferences of Muslims as to who they want to marry. During my time as a Muslim, and my traveling through Masjids in dozens of American cities, and meeting several hundred white American Muslim males and knowing them by name, I have to say that the vast majority, as a matter of fact almost all, are married to either African-American sisters or immigrant Muslim sisters. It is also my observation that in everyone of these marriages that I personally know what is going on in the home, that the woman is wearing the pants, she is dominant, and the Muslim man who is supposed to be the head of his household is made to look like a weak soft prisoner to the will of his spouse in front of his children.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and I do not know all of them, but I will address a few. Let me also say that it is possible that this is not the case with all of the white Muslim brothers, for instance a brother like Abu Sinan or a Mustafa Nicholas, who are more masculine in their nature, are less likely to play the Edith Bunker role, than a lot of other brothers; but the fact that these brothers are weak is not just my observation, it is a conversation that has come up time and time again during my conversations with African-American Muslim and immigrant Muslim brothers and sisters.

First let us deal with the backgrounds of most white American Muslim males. These brothers disproportionately come from middle-class (and higher) suburban backgrounds and a large percentage grew-up in homes and were educated in schools that were culturally very liberal ( which of course may have given them the open minds they needed to embrace Islam).

These brothers grew-up in an era after the cultural revolution of the 1960’s and were educated in schools that promoted liberal values. A key part of all this was the mistaken belief and desire in a gender-neutral society. This gender-neutral society, from pre-school to college, shunned and discouraged any outward displays of masculinity, medicated boys for being boys, and encouraged boys to be more sensitive and get in touch with their feminine side.

Sports in many of these schools, a traditional way for men to sharpen their leadership skills and build character, was diluted during this period. Winning was no longer the most important thing, it was how you played the game, and that strong competitive edge was dulled in favor of a kind of touchy feely attitude that placed more premium on not wanting the losers to feel bad than on winning. Participation in boxing, football, and other contact sports that took a lot of courage to participate in dwindled in these schools and areas while sports like soccer and tennis flourished

These brothers grew-up being told constantly to show their emotions, tell people when they were sad, and it is OK for men to cry, and that there is no real difference between the sexes. They were indoctrinated to separate themselves from the ways and traditions of their grandfathers. They grew up with an idealized and romantic vision of love that was more befitting of teenage girls in previous generations than of men.

During this same time girls being raised in the same environment were being encouraged to be aggressive and to aspire towards leadership and to be competitive. So, in this environment, the female became dominant, and the male became her willing subordinate.

Let’s contrast this from the environment that the vast majority of our African-American and immigrant sisters grew-up in. If they grew-up in a Muslim country they grew-up in cultures and homes that it was understood that a man was to be a man, that there are clearly defined gender roles, and that the man is the leader in the household and her job is to support him and to negotiate with him, and barter, on behalf of herself and children. More than likely this sister sees marriage as a sort of a business contract, and not a fairy tale love romance, and her job is to play the game to win. When she sees her white husband not being emotionally strong, not being a leader, and with his mouth wide open like a teenage girl, she see the opportunity to move in and take over and call the shots and he becomes a slave to her desires. The brother sees it as being good to his wife, like the Prophet (sas) encouraged, while the sister sees it as her getting over on a weak and naïve brother.

The African-American sister grew-up in a community where the masculinity of the black male was celebrated (and to a certain extent this is true of the Latin community as well, but there are not enough Latino Muslims to make any generalizations). If the black man was around, which was a big if, he was wearing the pants (even if he didn’t deserve to), at least in some superficial way. At a minimum he didn’t cry and bawl and have the emotions of a ten-year old girl like many white men. Like the immigrant sister, she may want and seek love, but she grew-up in a community that was real enough to let her know that love doesn’t pay the bills and there is a lot more to a relationship than love and in a relationship it is your job to negotiate and maneuver on your own behalf. The game was passed down to her from her mother and female relatives, reinforced by her friends, and so by the time she has met any Muslim brother to marry her game is sharp as a knife. Couple this with the fact that while the brother may be soft from his background; this sister may be equally hard from her background and surroundings.

So there you have the two and how do they come together? First and foremost the answer is the naiveté that exists in the American-Muslim community. We are told that Islam is a magic cure-all for everything and that once you enter the deen it is all good and that any cultural and racial differences that people have become irrelevant. The fact that this is nonsense doesn’t seep in to people until after they have been Muslim for some time and seen all of the hypocrisy and nationalism in the community.

This leads to brothers trying to hook-up a white brother, who may be a male-version of Mary Poppins, to a sister who may be a female version of Mike Tyson, and of course the results are predictable.

While this brother seeks to be sensitive and soft to his wife, like he had been told to be since he was emasculated as a child, the sister sees him not as kind; but as weak and a punk. She does not see this as an opportunity to have a 50-50 relationship (as the priests of political correctness say), but as an opportunity to put this brother in check and make him a slave to her desires and make him shut up and do what the hell she says.

How will this affect Muslim children who see a weak father and a domineering mother? How will the little boys deal with this? These are things we need to be thinking of.

Since I am in the realist camp, whenever I see a situation such as this, I immediately tell the brother not to marry the sister; because I already know what is going to happen. Two questions also arise; why do the brothers want to marry these sisters and why do the sisters want to marry the brothers?

I think that most white-Muslims, including myself, see that entering Islam creates a separation from themselves and whiteness, and want their children to be raised to be part of an African-American or immigrant Muslim community. These brothers are also open-minded and idealistic about the value of inter-marriage (when in all reality they are much better suited to marry a white sister). Many times, because these brothers have much less game and are so much more naïve than those around them, slick-talking African-American brothers are able to pass off on them the sisters that nobody else wants who are crazy or less than physically appealing. Immigrant brothers may hook them up with a sister who is related to them and the brother is thinking deen and love and she is thinking Green Card and money.

The immigrant sister who is coming directly from overseas marries the brother for obvious reasons a lot of times; for the good of herself and her family as she will be able to live in America, send money home to the family, and arrange for her relatives to come over. This is strictly business for her and if the brother doesn’t approach it in that way, and none of these white Muslim brothers I know married to such sisters do, he will be steamrolled by the sister.

You have the other immigrant sister who has grown up in America , or has been here for a while, so she is not interested about papers; but may not want to marry her cousin, a dominant immigrant brother, and may have grown-up fetishizing American pop culture and this white brother is the closest thing to Brad Pitt she can find. This sister may still maintain a lot of the cultural values of her family when it comes to marriage and when she comes in contact with this brother she will dominate him, even if in a less overt way. For all practical purposes though this marriage will be a typical liberal-American marriage, which means that the woman will call the shots behind the farce of a 50-50 relationship.

Then you have the most grotesque example and that is of the African-American sister. This sister may have already been married (possibly multiple times) or even if she has never been married she is being hipped by those around her and she is seeking to avoid one of the many broke black brothers at the Masjid and she isn’t interested in marrying someone for papers and she has gotten word that these white brothers are an easy meal ticket. They will work, give you their money, not talk back and do what the hell you tell them to do. Because this brother is naïve; you can manipulate the hadith and the Sunnah of marriage to your advantage and sucker this brother into a miserable situation while you are spending his cash and there you have it.

If people in the Muslim community were using common sense they would be able to easily see that the best match for these white brothers is fellow white Muslim female converts or African-American and immigrant sisters who grew-up in similar backgrounds; but this is not happening. Partially because the white brothers are not thinking and do not want the white sisters, and the sisters themselves are being hotly pursued by immigrant brothers who have a white –fetish and what is best does not happen.

Let me also say that all white men do not fit this category and that I grew-up around white men who were men and the biggest man of them all in my life was my grandfather and even my father. But, there are few Muslims from the background I came from and many from the kids whose lunch money we used to steal.

What I recommend for white Muslim converts is classes on the art of Manliness and defeminization classes after taking shahadah and having some wise brothers counsel them before they get married, and even during their marriage, so they don’t disgrace themselves in front of their children. In closing I will say that this is the reason that I promote boxing, wrestling and other combat sports for Muslim boys, as is the Sunnah, to toughen them up in a nation of increasingly weak men.

“What is this love? What is this love Americans are always talking about? There is no love”.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Hanooti

“What you are going to learn here, and what you will leave here with, will stay with you for the rest of you lives. You will walk the streets as men, walk with confidence, you will know how to defend yourselves and your family, and you will be men.”

Coach Charlie Sherertz

The White Masjid of the Future

An African-American Muslim brother recently told me that Islam would be a true success in America when we have mostly white masjids in cities throughout America like we have predominantly African-American masjids in every sizeable American city (and several in many). The brother constructed a vision of the white masjid in his mind as being one in the suburbs with a golf course and akin to a megachurch and I have a different vision. Given the demographics of the white people who come to Islam and those descendants of immigrant Muslims who mix with white Muslims I see the white masjid as being an urban masjid more like a Reformed Jewish Synagogue or an Episcopalian Church. So here is my vision,

-The Imam has a degree from al-Azhar and an English Litterateur Degree from a liberal arts college and you can still see the whole in his ear from where the ring was. In his khutbah he often references things such as butterflies, rainbows and waterfalls and kind of sounds like Garrison Keeler.

-Jummahu and prayers start on time and anyone late will miss out and once the building reaches its capacity, as set by the fire marshals, no one will be allowed to enter by the sisters guarding the door. Carpooling to the masjid will be encouraged and there will be bike paths leading to the masjid.

-Low-fat and low-calorie Ramadan iftar dinners will be served. You will be able to sign up for an Atkins compliant, South Beach compliant, and veggie compliant dish.

-Fundraisers will include bake sales, craft shows, and canoe trips.

-The imam will be an employee of the female dominated shura.

-The masjid will have sports teams for the youth but they will all be non-contact and low-risk sports and helmets and padding will be required for bike riding on masjid premises.

-The masjid will be a public polling place for elections.

-The masjid will host community events such as neighborhood association meetings, Red Cross events, fundraisers, interfaith events and self-help seminars.
-There will be a Muslim therapist on staff.

More on White Muslims

I stayed up late last night talking on the phone to two Muslim brothers that I have known for years. It is a marvel of modern technology that brothers in three different cities can talk on the phone at the same time. All three of us are distressed by the infighting and decline that has hit the American-Muslim community and we talked about the late 1990’s, a period of time when the Salafi Dawah was so strong and ever-expanding and the poor condition it is in today. There will be another day to address this topic of the decline of the Salafeeyah, because it is a very complex issue as while the Salafis were busy mindlessly infighting, they were hit from every side one can imagine by people who hated the dawah.

All three of us are American-Muslims, two white and one black, and the topic turned to the White Muslim after we talked about the racial divisions in Southern California and a possible future civil-conflict there (one of the brothers was on the phone from the LA area).

We talked about how the White Muslims really does not have a place in the community. He can go to the African-American Masjids, and he will become friends with the brothers and will be welcomed; but there will be something missing and at the end of the day he will be in some kind of a lesser role.

Then we discussed the immigrant Masjids. In New York immigrant Masjids are geared towards one nationality so anyone that is not a part of that group will be left on the outside looking in. In most of America though immigrant masjids are made up of Muslims from throughout the world and there is often not one dominant immigrant group or there is a jockeying for power amongst two or three of the groups. In this masjid the white Muslims will be welcomed and will make friends, but just as in the case of the African-American Masjid there will remain something missing. It is also at this Masjid where the white Muslim will be used and showcased to the greater community, and some white Muslims go for that, but most thinking Muslims will get tired of being a pet rather soon.

Another group of White Muslims we are seeing in the post 9-11 era are the “guilty white-liberal” Muslims. They see Muslims as a marginalized and oppressed group and therefore want to identify with and become a part of this group. However, they seek to do this without belief in Allah and His Messenger (s) which makes the Islam of many of these post 9-11 converts invalid. For them the five pillars are End the Occupation of Palestine, End the Occupation of Iraq, Civil-Liberties for American-Muslims, Stop Threatening Iran, and modernize Islam.

The only place that White Muslims can find a real home at this time with other White Muslims is in Sufi circles, and many of those circles seem to have a lot of White Muslims in them; however if you are like me, and not attracted to Sufism in any way, then that doesn’t mean a whole lot.

In the short-term I think that White Muslims just have to find Muslims who share a common vision of the deen with them and be a part of those organizations and that will be different for different Muslims. When I sat with Sheikh Ali al-Timimi or Sheikh Abdul-Rahman all the brothers were one and not because of skin-color, we were all of different colors, we all had a common vision of Islam and what it meant to us.

The White American Muslim is forced to ask himself three questions;

– What does it mean to be white and be a Muslim? Myself I believe that the acceptance of Islam equals apostasy to whiteness because whiteness is based on what you are not and not on what you are and Muslim is one of the things you cannot be and be white.
– What does it mean to be an American? In this post 9-11 era this has become a critical question and many American-Muslims have been forced to examine this question.
– What is the future for me as an American-Muslim with white skin and where will I be able to do best for my family? This is different for different people and could mean hijrah for some.

 

The White Muslim

Abu Sinan has recently started a conversation about the treatment of white Muslim converts in the Muslim community in the United States. He argues, correctly, that white converts often do not have an easy time finding a home within the Muslim community upon entering the deen. They enter the deen with the sincerity and vigor of a new convert and then quickly find out that a lot of Muslims are just lousy and that many may not be able to culturally relate to them and others may just look at them with suspicion.

There are stereotypes out there about the white Muslim convert; there is the stereotype being circulated by the yuppie Muslim crowd over at Muslim Wake-Up that white men come to Islam because they want to become the “other” and to reject their historical white privilege in society and be looked upon with suspicion and that men and women come to the deen because they are marrying Muslims. Both of these neglect the fact that many, if not most, white Muslims come to the deen after long spiritual and theological journeys that leads them to believe that Islam is the truth. Those who have suspicions of the motives of white Muslims, particularly the Muslims (or those who were born to Muslim parents who may or may not be Muslims), are in reality saying that Islam is an inferior deen to Christianity, Judaism and secular humanism and that for any white westerner to reject those faiths for Islam somehow has some sort of mental or spiritual deficiency.

To be sure white Muslims enter the deen and do not have a group to immediately gravitate to like African-American Muslims do and the Muslim immigrant groups. Most of these white converts come from backgrounds were they may have not had a lot of experience in dealing with non-whites and if they did it was on their own terms and they come from an American mindset and mentality about how to live their lives which is alien to a lot of existing Muslims. The younger generation of white Muslims also has some of the characteristics of their generation, good and bad, like being more open to other cultures and races and studious while possibly coming form households and schools that didn’t believe in discipline which helped to create sarcastic brats who have never been told no. Myself I didn’t really have many of those problems since I grew-up estranged from the white community more or less and didn’t have any white friends when I entered Islam (or prior to that), the only white friends I were to get in my life were white Muslims like Ismail Royer, Suhaib Webb, Tim Kaminski and others for many years to come. I was used to being the minority amongst African-Americans so it was no big deal for me, in fact it was a real treat, for me to enter a community with so much ethnic and cultural diversity and I never had any problem making friends with Arabs, Indo-Pakistanis, Malaysians, Somalis, Turks and others. At times there are cultural things that I just don’t get, or think is nuts, but I don’t dwell on those things and would rather concentrate on what we have in common.

It is my belief that white Muslims are not seeking to become “the other” when they enter Islam but because of religious conviction, like the Sahabah before us and many others, we forfeit our white privilege for the sake of Allah. You cannot be a Muslim, and definitely not a sincere Muslim, and be fully accepted at the table of white America. Those on the right will look at you as some sort of white nigger or anti-American wanna-be terrorist (no matter how many statements you make to placate them) and those on the left will look at you as backwards, misogynistic, homophobic and unenlightened mortals.

When you enter Islam you become a minority within the Muslim community as a white Muslim. So who does the white Muslim gravitate towards? As the faith in Islam and the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of His Messenger Muhammad (sas) is the commonality between all Muslims then the white Muslim should, and does, gravitate towards those who are sincere in the deen. The Sunnah is full of examples of the importance of Muslims socializing with one another and Islam is a communal faith and therefore interacting with the believers not only increases your faith but it helps you learn more about the deen and how it is practiced (but you have to be careful who you are around because you can pick-up some bad things as well).

The white Muslim is often exploited by those in the community who cannot wait to put that white face in front of the cameras or in some key position at the Masjid. They particularly go for the clean-shaven white man with an America –sounding name or a white women with long blonde hair named Suzy who can represent the community; but may not even know al-Fatihah. Many Masjids are made-up of and ran by immigrant Muslims who have inferiority complexes to whites many who have relationships with the white West going back to colonialism. The white female convert is often pursued with the vigor of a government contract from Halliburton. Sisters will get inundated with dozens of wedding proposals within months of becoming Muslim and the community often does not do a good job in protecting these sisters from unscrupulous characters taking advantage of their naiveté.

Other times the white Muslim is looked upon with suspicion at the Masjid and in the community, particularly from my experience in Arab circles. There exists a large-segment of the Muslim community who are obsessed with Jews and the CIA and think that if you are white and want to be around people as stupid as they are that you must be some sort of spy. Of course this is a laughable; the American Muslim, white and black, has made hijrah to Islam and the Muslim-immigrant has made hijrah to a land of non-Muslims. More than anything in the word most of these immigrant Muslims want to stay in the US to make this good money, and while they may have some anti-American rhetoric or complain a lot, most will do anything for anybody to stay in America and if anyone should be looked at with suspicion it should be them and not the white Muslim who has an American passport and citizenship and cant be threatened with being sent to the gulags of Hosni Mubarak or Bashar al-Asad.

There is another type of white Muslim I run into frequently who is the butt of jokes because they are overzealous and fanatical in their approach to the deen. They end up running to the desert to study with Sufi sheikhs, or to the mountains of Yemen to study with Salafi scholars, or whatever and then come back to the US and are almost too much to bare. The mutawwa of Saudi Arabia is their model I guess and they come to the Masjid and chastise all for being in error in a zealous manner, which may or may not be true but there is a certain etiquette to maintain, and are looked at by those who remembered them coming to the Masjid when they were not even Muslim and dint even know how to make wudhu with humor. In my opinion we should be easy on these Muslims who are young and immature in the deen because at least they are making a sincere effort to seek knowledge of the deen.

You also have the experience where the new Muslims of all colors are heavily recruited by all in the Muslim community. At one point or another I was approached by the Jamat at-Tablique (repeatedly), Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Sufi groups, Shia, al-Ikwaan, and anything else you can think of. Alhamduduilah for me that I was blessed to have great teachers like Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Basheer and Sheikh Ali al-Timimi (please make duah for him) and inspirers like Imam Siraj Wahaj.

The new white Muslim that I am seeing and hearing about more and more often is the so-called “progressive” and “reformed” minded Muslim. These are white Muslims who are educated and more often than not come from middle to upper-class backgrounds who wish to be Muslim, or have some connection to the deen, without changing their yuppie lifestyles. They seek an Islam that is compatible with the coffee-shop crowd and the sidewalk sandwich-eaters. For them they want the endorsement of the Muslim community and the likes of Woody Allen (the child molester). Practices and beliefs within Islam that prohibit them from fully integrating into this secular urban and affluent lifestyle they wish to pursue are disregarded or refuted. The Quran and Sunnah no longer has authority over their lives; rather authority is given to academia, Western philosophers, pop culture, humanism and in general everything un-Islamic. In this pursuit of a reformed Islam they find allies in those second and third generation immigrant Muslims who were born to parents with inferiority-complexes and were sent to the best American schools and surrounded by white students their entire lives and were always made to feel like the “other” even if they bent over backwards and desperately sought the acceptance of their peers. More than anything, more than wanting to be a Muslim, they want to be accepted as equals amongst the latte and tofu crowd in Manhattan, Georgetown, Cambridge, Hyde Park, South Beach, Hollywood and the like. They are gravitating towards secular America, a secular America that is extremely hostile towards all religion and people of faith, and there is no place for sincere religious practice in these circles.

Like the Reformed and Conservative Jews before them these progressive Muslims (white or not) seek to maintain the name Muslim; without actually believing in the religion or adhering to its principals. Islam is based on the belief in the Kalima and not based on what your name is or where your parents came from. In Judaism if you are born to a Jewish woman you are Jew; there is no equivalency in Islam. If you do not believe in the deen you are not a Muslim. There is no such thing as a “secular Muslim” and the like. I should also point out that much of this progressive movement has come out of a fearful reaction to the wrath of white America after 9-11. Muslims couldn’t wait to jump up and proclaim their peacefulness after 9-11 and while those who took the arguments of the right and became Muslim neo-cons and the like those who felt the stinging critique of the secular-left towards Islam couldn’t stand being out of the fold and sought to create a movement to immunize themselves from the scorn of the cultural-elite. It is also interesting to note, on a historical note, that Reformed and Conservative Judaism are in crisis as that movement has led to a mass exodus from the Judaic faith and Reformed and Conservative synagogues are now seeking ways to become more orthodox in their approach. The same can be said of Christianity; where liberal mainline-protestant denominations continue to see a decline in their memberships while Evangelical churches are rapidly growing. A faith based on no faith cannot succeed.

All of these problems and obstacles haven’t stopped many white Muslims in this country from achieving excellence in the community.

You have scholarly white Muslims who have excelled in the learning of the deen like Suhaib Webb, Salim Morgan, Musa Richardson, and Hamza Yusuf. The Islamic University of Median and Um al-Qurra in Mecca have dozens of white Muslim students at this time as did the schools of Sheik al-Zindani and Sheikh Muqbal in Yemen in the nineties. Within the Muslim community in America there has been no hindrance towards these white Muslims achieving positions of leadership. Then you have those who have done very well on the activist front such as Ibrahim Hooper and Ismail Royer and sisters like Sheila Musaji (who has gone off the deep end but nonetheless she ahs a track record) and Ingrid Matson. Of course you also have the thousands of households of white-Muslims all over the US that are silent success stories every day as these Muslims strive along with their families to practice the deen in a society that is often hostile.

Islam is a universal religion for all of humanity. The Messenger of Allah (sas) was sent as a mercy to mankind as the Quran states. The Quran and the Sunnah is of equal value to all peoples of the earth. For us as white Muslims it is important that we do not let any of the negativity from within the Muslim community, deviant ideologies or pressure from non-Muslims distract us from our goal of living lives in adherence to Islam which in these days is hard for anyone.