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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

American Muslims: Invisible no more???

I'm back! I have been on vacation but now I'm back! My wife and I went to my brother's wedding in Atlanta. It was great to see my family again and I'm so happy for my brother and his wife. (May Allah bless him with a happy and ever-lasting marriage.)

The wedding was very nice and did I mention that it was good seeing family again? Four days was just not enough. But, the wedding alone was worth missing the MANA conference. (Somebody give me an update as to how that went!)

We came back on Monday morning and went straight to work....with only 3 hours of sleep. After work, even though I was tired, I could not miss out on the lecture by Imam Zaid Shakir and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at Columbia University.

I try to study our American (and Canadian) Scholars as much as possible, especially Imam Zaid. This brother is a true scholar and has devoted his life to promoting Islam in America. To me he carries the demeanor of Malcolm himself. Although I really didn't know Malcolm outside of my own historical investigation, he seems to have this aura of wisdom and scholarship that matches his own physical height.

Imam Zaid, like Imam Siraj, Dr. Jackson, (and others) is African-American but predominantly supported by a large Arab and East-Asian population. Now, this has nothing to do with anything...I just find it ironic that many African-American muslims can't come together to financially support our scholars the way other American Muslims can. Probably the reason why Imam Mohammed (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) is not as widely known (but thats another post). Yet, we thank Allah for Imam Mohammed's dedication to his community.

But back to the topic at hand...the lecture was entitled on the flyer: American Muslims: Invisible no more.

Faraz Rabbani began with Obama. He spoke on 4 concepts: Hope, Change, Success, and Attitude. To sum up his part of the lecture in one sentence...Muslims place our hope in Allah with clear goals, clear means, and avidness for benefit. The state of the Messenger of Allah was reliance on Allah and the way of the Messenger was taking the means.

Imam Zaid began with Obama as well, yet his perspective took a more societal approach. He said that Obama was a son of America and a son of Africa. His most profound statement was:
"This election was a referendum on Islam in America"

He gave 2 reasons:

1. The name Barack Hussein Obama reflects the Islamic enemy that we (America) have been fighting. Yet, we elected a president based upon his MERIT and not his name!

2. Forty million copies of a DVD called Obsession was distributed free of charge during the election time heavily in SWING states. Ironically, Obama WON all those swing states except Missouri (although there would have been a recount, but it was not needed).

This suggests that the people said NO to the suggestions that Obama was a Muslim and some challenged, "what if he was". The people judged Obama upon his merits, his character, and American identity.

Imam Zaid went on to criticize the Lecture title that he was sent: Invisible no more. He said that those "invisible" Muslims of America did not accept the visibility of "visible" Muslims already establishing Islamic roots in America. Those "invisible" Muslims now feel comfortable to be visible only at the expense of those Muslims who established Islam in America, way before it was popular to do so. Why is is so difficult to inherit the Muslim Identity of those who established Islam in America?

Muslims like Hakim Olajuwon, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Mos Def, Andre Carson, Keith Ellison, etc. These Muslims have been visible and whether you see them as your examples or not, they, and others, have boldly claimed their religion while in the spotlight. We as Muslim Americans have to understand and embrace the Islamic roots already here in America. Muslims have mediated gang wars, humanized prisoners, cleaned up drug-infested neighborhoods. Like OBAMA, Muslims in America have defined their own character and let their actions speak for them instead of letting their enemies define who they are.

Now to me, Imam Zaid did not explicitly say it but this title was offensive to the indigenous (predominantly black) community. A community that has worked hard to establish Islam here in America at a time when you were scared to come out of your homes and keep your Muslim names. Now you want to ride the wave of "Visibility" without embracing, let alone, acknowledging the work and COURAGE of those before you??? How can you say "invisible no more" when Muslims have been visible in America since (for arguments sake) the 1950's but waayyyy before then.

YOU were the only group "invisible". Embrace your ROOTS!!! Your Islamic roots are right here in America! Cast your bucket down where you stand dear brothers! I am ready to work, and I am ready to make progress like never before. I love you for the sake of Allah and I see no color nor ethnicity in a true believer! Let's work for the cause of Allah.

Imam Zaid left us with a quote from Abigail Adams:

"These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Anthony? The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities, which would otherwise lie dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman."



thelegacymaker said...

Short Bios on the speakers:

Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work. He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation's top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. As Imam of Masjid al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a researcher and teacher of Islamic law. He is of Pakistani-Canadian background and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1997, with a degree in Economics. He then went to Damascus to study the Islamic sciences under traditional Islamic scholars including Shaykh Adib Kallas, Shaykh Muhammad Jumuah, and Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi. In 2000 he moved to Amman, in Jordan, to continue his studies under the guidance of Shaykh Nuh Keller.He is the Educational Director of SeekersGuidance, a teacher at The Razi Institute, a partner and legal adviser with Straight Way Ethical Advisory, a board member and teacher with Bukhari Institute, and a columnist for Islamica Magazine.

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