Just because I haven’t written in a while doesn’t mean nothing is going on


Take this bit of news which must really upset the Orientalists bent on emasculating the once great Ottoman Empire.  Turkey has been agitating for some time to become a part of the European Union and Europe has succeeded in keeping them out based on the hypocritical notions that any country interested in joining the E.U. should’ unconditionally harmonize with E.U. values, effectively uphold fundamental principles, such as the rule of law, democracy, respect of international humanitarian law, the human rights declarations, minority rights, political asylum rights and civil liberties.’  Two countries heavily invested in denying Turkey entry, Germany and France, have the biggest problems with several of the above stated principles; just ask France’s Muslim and Germany’s Turks, but that’s neither here nor there. What Turkey has done is become another voice in the legitimization of opposition to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, something which Israel considers an existential threat.Turkish ship Mavi Marmara

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that any formal reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is impossible without the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

The comments come in spite of frequent announcements from Turkish and Israeli officials that the two countries were only weeks away from reconciliation.

“What happens in Gaza is unacceptable, the occupation by Israel must end,” said Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman adding that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza needed to be addressed.

……..he added that on Monday that the two countries “do not agree 100 percent,” and that there were “still certain hurdles we must overcome.”

Israel and Turkey used be two of the staunchest allies in the Middle East with the former being the first Muslim-majority country to recognise Israel in 1949.

However, the killing of nine Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara ship, which was attempting to break the siege of Gaza, in 2010 led to the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

‘Nuff said??

prayingI ran across something that has an historical perspective for African-Americans and African-American Muslims as it deals with Malik Shabazz, aka Malcolm X. Many have said as long as Shabazz dealt with the very narrow minded and limited racism of the Nation of Islam and its pseudo religious bent he was harmless.  After all America is a country of racists, many far more virulent and oppressive than anything offered by Shabazz or his tutor Elijah Muhammad but when he left that movement and started identifying with the larger international Muslim movement the theory goes he was far more potent and dangerous. Shabazz seems to discount that notion in his own words below but no doubt his ability to attract listeners and perhaps even followers to his message meant he became a threat to more than one group of people. In the months before his death he undertook a tour of the Muslim world going to Saudi Arabia for hajj and on to other predominantly Muslim countries.  One stop he made and where the photo above was taken was to Geneva, Switzerland where he met with members of the nascent Muslim Brotherhood movement who wanted to make sure of Shabazz’s conversion to Islam.  This is what came out of that encounter

Taken from Al-Muslimoon Magazine, February, 1965

note – This set of responses to written questions from the Arabic-language monthly Al-Muslimoon, published by the Islamic Center in Geneva, Switzerland, is the last record of Malcolm’s thinking. He wrote most of the responses the night of the fire-bombing of his home and wrote the last two as he sat in a Manhattan hotel the night before his death.

AL-MUSLIMOON: The Black Muslim Movement is one of the most controversial movements in the United States. Having been for a considerable period [of time] its main organizer and most prominent spokesman, could you kindly give us some concise firsthand picture of the background of this movement, its history, its main ethics and its actual strength?

MALCOLM X: Elijah Muhammad allowed himself to become insanely jealous of my own popularity, which went even beyond his own followers and into the non-Muslim community, while his own prestige and influence was limited largely among his immediate followers. While I was still in the movement and blind to his faults by my own uncompromising faith in him, I always thought the jealousy and envy which I saw — constant signs of was stemming mainly and only from his immediate family, and it was quite shocking to me whenever members of his own family would warn me that it was their father (Elijah Muhammad himself) who had become almost insane with jealousy.

When Elijah learned that his son Wallace had told me how his father had seduced his teenage secretaries (by telling them that he was the prophet Muhammad, and making each of them think she was to be his favorite and most beautiful wife Aisha) Elijah feared that my position of influence in the movement was a threat to him and his other children who were now controlling the movement and benefiting from its wealth. Because they feared my popularity with the rank-and-file Muslims, they were careful about any immediate or open move to curtail my authority without good cause, so they patiently waited until they felt that my statement about the late President Kennedy’s assassination would give them the proper public support in any kind of action they’d take to curtail or remove me.

At the time they announced I was to be suspended and silenced for ninety days, they had already set in motion the machinery to have me completely ousted from the movement, and Elijah Muhammad himself had already given the order to have me killed because he feared I would expose to his followers the secret of his extreme immorality.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Should these differences be of a basically ethical nature and on essential matters of faith? What, in your opinion, are the prospects of radical reform within Elijah Muhammad’s followers now or in the future?

MALCOLM X: No, Elijah Muhammad himself will never change. At least I doubt it. He’s too old, dogmatic, and has already gone too far in teaching that he is a greater prophet than Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He is too proud to confess to his followers now that he has deliberately taught them falsehood. But as his well-meaning followers become exposed to the true religion of Islam, they themselves will leave him and practice Islam as it should be. This is why it is so important for centers to be established immediately where true Islam can be taught. And these centers should be located at this time primarily in Black communities, because at this particular time the American Blacks are the ones showing the most interest in [the] true religion.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Have any of Elijah Muhammad’s followers left the movement with you, and do you think that your breakaway from the movement has affected its main body in any considerable way?

MALCOLM X: Yes, many of Elijah’s followers could not go along with his present immorality, and this opened their eyes to the other falsities of his doctrine. But we have not been able to regroup and reorganize them as we should. It takes finance, and we left all treasuries and properties with Elijah, and he uses this wealth that we amassed for him to fight us and keep us from getting organized. He is fanatically opposed to American Negroes hearing true Islam, and has ordered his own well meaning followers to cripple or kill anyone of his followers who wants to leave him to follow true Islam. He fears that true Islam will expose and destroy the power of his false teachings.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Do you plan to just stop at voicing your opposition against Elijah Muhammad and his group or do you have any course of action in mind towards establishing some new organization in the field? If so, on what basis and for what specific near or distant goals?

MALCOLM X: With what little finance we could raise, we have founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., with headquarters here in Harlem. Our sole interest is to help undo the distorted image [that] we have helped spread about Islam. Our mosque also is for those who want to learn how to live the life of a true Muslim.

However, since we live as Black Americans in a white racist society, we have established another organization which is non-religious, known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and which is designed to unite all Black Americans regardless of their religious affiliation into a group that can fight against American racism and the economic, political, and social evils that stem from white racism here in this American society. With the Muslim Mosque we are teaching our people a better way of life, and with the OAAU we are fighting on an even broader level for complete respect and recognition as human beings for all Black Americans, and we are ready and willing to use any means necessary to see that this goal is reached.

AL-MUSLIMOON: What have you been actually doing since you broke away from Elijah Muhammad’s movement?

MALCOLM X: I have traveled to the Middle East and Africa twice since leaving Elijah Muhammad in March of 1964, mainly to get a better understanding of Islam and the African countries, and in turn to give the Muslim world a better understanding of problems facing those of us here in America who are trying to become Muslims. Also, in Africa to give our people there a better understanding of the problems confronting Black Americans in our struggle for human rights.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Is it true that even after your breakaway from Elijah Muhammad you still hold the Black color as a main base and dogma for your drive under the banner of liberation in the United States? How could a man of your spirit, intellect, and worldwide outlook fail to see in Islam its main characteristic, from its earliest days, as a message that confirms beyond doubt the ethnological oneness and quality of all races, thus striking at the very root of the monstrosity of racial discrimination. Endless are the texts of the Qu’ran (Koran) and prophetic sayings to this effect and nothing would testify to that more than the historic fact that heterogeneous races, nations, and linguistic entities have always mingled peacefully in the homeland.

MALCOLM X: As a Black American I do feel that my first responsibility is to my twenty-two million fellow Black Americans who suffer the same indignities because of their color as I do. I don’t believe my own personal problem is ever solved until the problem is solved for all twenty-two million of us.

Much to my dismay, until now, the Muslim world has seemed to ignore the problem of the Black American, and most Muslims who come here from the Muslim world have concentrated more effort in trying to convert white Americans than Black Americans……

AL-MUSLIMOON: Africa seems to have captured most of your attention and eager concern. Why? And now that you have visited almost every part of it, where do you think Islam actually stands? And what, in your opinion, could be done to save it from both the brainlessness of many, or rather most of those who are considered to be the champions of its cause, and from the malicious, resourceful alliance of Zionism, atheism, and religious fanaticism against Islam?

MALCOLM X: I regard Africa as my fatherland. I am primarily interested in seeing it become completely free of outside political and economic influence that has dominated and exploited it. Africa, because of its strategic position, faces a real crisis. The colonial vultures have no intention of giving it up without a fight. Their chief weapon is still “divide and conquer.” In East Africa there is a strong anti-Asian feeling being nourished among the Africans. In West Africa there is a strong anti-Arab feeling. Where there are Arabs or Asians there is a strong anti-Muslim feeling.

These hostilities are not initiated by the above-mentioned people who are involved. They have nothing to benefit from fighting among themselves at this point. Those who benefit most are the former colonial masters who have now supplanted the hated colonialism and imperialism with Zionism. The Zionists have outstripped all other interest groups in the present struggle for our mother continent. They use such a benevolent, philanthropic approach that it is quite difficult for their victims to see through their schemes. Zionism is even more dangerous than communism because it is made more acceptable and is thus more destructively effective.

Since the Arab image is almost inseparable from the image of Islam, the Arab world has a multiple responsibility that it must live up to. Since Islam is a religion of brotherhood and unity those who take the lead in expounding this religion are duty-bound to set the highest example of brotherhood and unity. It is imperative that Cairo and Mecca (the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Muslim World League) have a religious “summit” conference and show a greater degree of concern and responsibility for the present plight of the Muslim world, or other forces will rise up in this present generation of young, forward-thinking Muslims and the “power centers” will be taken from the hands of those that they are now in and placed elsewhere. Allah can easily do this.

Indeed.

Islam in America


cvrI think it’s very important for Muslims to document their presence in America in order to preserve the legacy of Islam in this country, to pass it on and because quite simply no one else will.  To that end, one community in North Carolina is doing just that with a book that can by purchased online for all to see.

Durham,North Carolina used to be a town known for its tobacco and thriving black middle class.  Situated in the heart of that state, the city is now more commonly known for Duke University with tobacco playing no role at all in the city’s growth or prosperity.  It is also home to a thriving Muslim community that has been active and in existence for many, many decades and which has played a part in the development of that city.  The Athaan in the Bull City, written by Nazeeh Abdul-Hakeem chronicles the growth of Islam in Durham, North Carolina from a very personal perspective; it is devoid the polemics commonly associated with a discussion of Islam in this country and speaks solely of that city’s Muslims building an institution that could be viable for Muslims living in that town.  It should be required reading for America’s Muslims and a template to use for other locales to document their own presence in America.

There were anti-Islam rallies across America this month and this is how America’s Muslims reacted


Cynthia Cox de Boutinkhar hugs "Annie" an anti-Islam protestor at a Hilliard, Ohio masjid

Cynthia Cox de Boutinkhar hugs “Annie” an anti-Islam protestor at a Hilliard, Ohio masjid

It’s not everyday that you run across a coordinated effort to defame a religious community in America…..some might call that “terrorism”…..but one weekend in October such an event was planned by a group which named its effort, “Global Rally for Humanity”.  This group even mapped out Muslim places of worship where they wanted to protest/demonstrate and the masjid/mosque Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, Ohio where Ms. de Boutinkhar worships was one of them.  However, de Boutinkhar, picture above on the right, decided to hug her antagonist and thus set into motion a dialogue that Islamophobes probably didn’t count on.  This is not to say all of the coordinated demonstrations had such sentimental graphics.  In this day and age of gun violence the demonstration planned for Dearborn, Michigan encouraged its participants to bring their weapons and openly carry them in front of the Islamic Center of America.  That protest site was changed to the Henry Ford Library in Dearborn.   All in all, those planned events went on without being too newsworthy for the average American but they underscored a few points. Islamophobia is very much alive in America; there are many among all faiths who oppose it and the Muslim response of either ignoring such events, silently preparing themselves for it and embracing those who participate in them demonstrate the seriousness with which America’s Muslims take their religion

ISIS Ideology Is Not True To Islam, And These Imams Are Fighting Back


Britain Imams
Using a twisted version of Islam, the militant group Islamic State, or ISIS, has pushed online campaigns to attract youth to its bloody crusade in Syria and Iraq. Now a group of British imams and scholars is looking to “reclaim the Internet” with a new magazine aimed at shifting the conversation and spreading a message of truth.

Haqiqah, meaning “the truth” or “the reality” in Arabic, is a digital magazine created by Islamic scholars with the purpose of educating young people about the realities of extremism, according to its backers at Imams Online. The goal, they say, is to “drown out” the voices perpetuating violence.ImamsOnline

“Someone has to reclaim that territory from ISIS, and that can only be imams: religious leaders who guide and nourish their community,” Qari Asim, senior editor at Imams Online, told the BBC. “But now that we live in a digital mobile world, some young people are not coming to the mosque so we must reach out to them -– and this is the Muslims’ contribution to combat radicalization on the net.”

More than 100 imams were reportedly present at the launch of the magazine in London Thursday night, including influential U.S. scholar Hamza Yusuf and Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, president of the Forum for Promoting Peace. One imam told BuzzFeed “Haqiqa would reach out to vulnerable people, who are often targeted by extremists on social media.”

ISIS-masjidCNN reports ISIS claims to have a $2 billion budget that it can use for the recruitment of youth around the globe, including funds for the production of videos and social media efforts. It’s been estimated there may be as many as 70,000 pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter alone, and according to The Independent some 700 British people have traveled to join the group in Syria.

The first issue of Haqiqah calls ISIS an “empty banner” and states that “interspersing the occasional out of context Qur’anic verse with hyperbolic arguments” doesn’t equate to legitimacy. This misconstruction, the magazine argues, is not Islam.

They are individuals who study Islam from a superficial point of view and emerge with their own ideas and imaginary interpretations, which often diverge greatly from established Islamic principles. We can see that many of the characteristics found in these young men and women are similar to those identified as the Khawarij (Extremist/Dissenters) by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They have no grounding in Islamic sciences or jurisprudence and yet want to establish an ‘Islamic state’/‘Islamic System’. In the pursuit of their illintended aim, they are prepared to bulldoze the fundamental teachings of Islam.

Those in the wider Muslim community are optimistic about the effect a publication like Haqiqah can have.

“If this is part of community-led initiatives to counter ISIS, then it is exactly what’s needed,” Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told The Huffington Post in an email Friday. “Governments and their military forces cannot bomb away ideas of violent extremism. Authentic and credible community voices can wash away the filth from the cult of death, bring the the light of life to lost souls, hoping to rehabilitate them so they don’t destroy themselves and their families.”

Taking the Muslim call to prayer across America


A First: Calling the Athaan In All 50 States- Jameel Syed

A First: Calling the Athaan In All 50 States- Jameel Syed

Written by Hena Zuberi, Muslim Link Staff Reporter

On April 3, 2015, one American Muslim will attempt to become the first  person to call the athan in all fifty states.

Called “Project Muaddhin” is the history making journey by Jameel Syed from Michigan. He intends to share the beauty of Islam, stopping to collect stories in each state, making the Adhan and delivering the Last Sermon of the Prophet Sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam at each stop.

“I made my intention to become the first Muaddhin (Caller of the Adhan) in history to make the Adhan in all fifty states across America. It’ll be a journey that gives the international Muslim community the opportunity to dictate the terms of their own narrative across the world. Instead of reacting to headlines, they’ll be creating their own by building a positive story around the community,” said Syed.

Starting from Farmington Hills, MI, Syed will stop and the ADAMS Center in Sterling, VA and Islamic Community Center of Laurel in Maryland on Friday, April 10, 2015. The Grand Canyon and Harry Potter World are also on the schedule.

This very American tradition of driving across the United States will be a world record, but for Syed it is also a spiritual journey to gain the pleasure of Allah.

“Through travel we get to know God better, it’s that simple. I have had some of my most spiritual moments staring out across a mountain range, a desert, lake, or even just humanity going about its daily existence,” says Syed. “Travel makes the familiar unfamiliar to us and in doing so we come to better appreciate God’s creation. Throughout the Qur’an verses ask man to reflect on what has been created on earth and in the heavens – what better way to do that than through travel?”

“I want to be a part of the legacy,” he said on his choice of reading the universal Farewell Sermon, which he says is the antidote to the many ills of society. It is a simple solution to a complex problem, said Syed. Project Muaddhin will also collect adhans of different muaddhins from each state and compile the journey into a documentary.

It’s a matter of telling our own stories, said Dr Malik Bella, Director of Islamic Studies at Oakland University, while endorsing Project Muaddhin. “The adhan- this message of Islam is for all people.”

Every home should have a designated muaddhin, recommends Syed, who wants to give this position the honor that it deserves. Many muaddins are the unsung heroes of their communities.
A father and committed husband, he will leave his family behind to travel the country telling the stories of American Muslims.  Syed is a marketing professional, a youth leader, and was the official muaddhin for the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2014. He credits his Islamic schoolteacher at the Michigan Islamic School, Isa Abdul Baseer, for taking him as a personal mission and taming his youthful hyperactivity. Baseer, who is active in the jamaat at-tabligh movement, taught him the benefits of calling people to worship.
His father, the late Dr Salam Abdus Syed who passed away in 2004, also inspires Syed.
The project is looking for 35 families to sponsor each day of their historic journey. For $500, families can choose a cause of their choice to be highlighted during the trip and on social media. For more information, email info@muaddhin.com and to follow the journey, go to Facebook.com/muaddhin or on Twitter/Instagram: @themuaddhin .

Why I converted to Islam


It’s not easy being Muslim in America, but my choice was a spiritual transformation

by @kaj33

Early Kareem

I was born Lew Alcindor. Now I’m Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The transition from Lew to Kareem was not merely a change in celebrity brand name — like Sean Combs to Puff Daddy to Diddy to P. Diddy — but a transformation of heart, mind and soul. I used to be Lew Alcindor, the pale reflection of what white America expected of me. Now I’m Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the manifestation of my African history, culture and beliefs.

For most people, converting from one religion to another is a private matter requiring intense scrutiny of one’s conscience. But when you’re famous, it becomes a public spectacle for one and all to debate. And when you convert to an unfamiliar or unpopular religion, it invites criticism of one’s intelligence, patriotism and sanity. I should know. Even though I became a Muslim more than 40 years ago, I’m still defending that choice.

Unease with celebrity

I was introduced to Islam while I was a freshman at UCLA. Although I had already achieved a certain degree of national fame as a basketball player, I tried hard to keep my personal life private. Celebrity made me nervous and uncomfortable. I was still young, so I couldn’t really articulate why I felt so shy of the spotlight. Over the next few years, I started to understand it better.

Part of my restraint was the feeling that the person the public was celebrating wasn’t the real me. Not only did I have the usual teenage angst of becoming a man, but I was also playing for one of the best college basketball teams in the country and trying to maintain my studies. Add to that the weight of being black in America in 1966 and ’67, when James Meredith was ambushed while marching through Mississippi, the Black Panther Party was founded, Thurgood Marshall was appointed as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and a race riot in Detroit left 43 dead, 1,189 injured and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.

I came to realize that the Lew Alcindor everyone was cheering wasn’t really the person they imagined. They wanted me to be the clean-cut example of racial equality. The poster boy for how anybody from any background — regardless of race, religion or economic standing — could achieve the American dream. To them, I was the living proof that racism was a myth.

I knew better. Being 7-foot-2 and athletic got me there, not a level playing field of equal opportunity. But I was also fighting a strict upbringing of trying to please those in authority. My father was a cop with a set of rules, I attended a Catholic school with priests and nuns with more rules, and I played basketball for coaches who had even more rules. Rebellion was not an option.

Still, I was discontented. Growing up in the 1960s, I wasn’t exposed to many black role models. I admired Martin Luther King Jr. for his selfless courage and Shaft for kicking ass and getting the girl. Otherwise, the white public’s consensus seemed to be that blacks weren’t much good. They were either needy downtrodden folks who required white people’s help to get the rights they were due or radical troublemakers wanting to take away white homes and jobs and daughters. The “good ones” were happy entertainers, either in show business or sports, who were expected to show gratitude for their good fortune. I knew this reality was somehow wrong — that something had to change. I just didn’t know what it meant for me.

MalcolmX bioMuch of my early awakening came from reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as a freshman. I was riveted by Malcolm’s story of how he came to realize that he was the victim of institutional racism that had imprisoned him long before he landed in an actual prison. That’s exactly how I felt: imprisoned by an image of who I was supposed to be. The first thing he did was push aside the Baptist religion that his parents had brought him up in and study Islam. To him, Christianity was a foundation of the white culture responsible for enslaving blacks and supporting the racism that permeated society. His family was attacked by the Christianity-spouting Ku Klux Klan, and his home was burned by the KKK splinter group the Black Legion.

Malcolm X’s transformation from petty criminal to political leader inspired me to look more closely at my upbringing and forced me to think more deeply about my identity. Islam helped him find his true self and gave him the strength not only to face hostility from both blacks and whites but also to fight for social justice. I began to study the Quran.

Conviction and defiance

This decision set me on an irreversible course to spiritual fulfillment. But it definitely wasn’t a smooth course. I made serious mistakes along the way. Then again, maybe the path isn’t supposed to be smooth; maybe it’s supposed to be filled with obstacles and detours and false discoveries in order to challenge and hone one’s beliefs. As Malcolm X said, “I guess a man’s entitled to make a fool of himself if he’s ready to pay the cost.”

I paid the cost.

As I said earlier, I was brought up to respect rules — and especially those who enforced the rules, such as teachers, preachers and coaches. I’d always been an exceptional student, so when I wanted to know more about Islam, I found a teacher in Hammas

Hammas Abdul-Khaalis, leader of the Hanafi "movement" in the U.S.

Hammas Abdul-Khaalis, leader of the Hanafi “movement” in the U.S.

Abdul-Khaalis. During my years playing with the Milwaukee Bucks, Hammas’ version of Islam was a joyous revelation. Then in 1971, when I was 24, I converted to Islam and became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (meaning “the noble one, servant of the Almighty”).

The question I’m often asked is why I had to pick a religion so foreign to American culture and a name that was hard for people to pronounce. Some fans took it very personally, as if I had firebombed their church while tearing up an American flag. Actually, I was rejecting the religion that was foreign to my American culture and embracing one that was part of my black African heritage. (An estimated 15 to 30 percent of slaves brought from Africa were Muslims.) Fans thought I joined the Nation of Islam, an American Islamic movement founded in Detroit in 1930. Although I was greatly influenced by Malcolm X, a leader in the Nation of Islam, I chose not to join because I wanted to focus more on the spiritual rather than political aspects. Eventually, Malcolm rejected the group right before three of its members assassinated him.

Abdul Jabbar's parentsMy parents were not pleased by my conversion. Though they weren’t strict Catholics, they had raised me to believe in Christianity as the gospel. But the more I studied history, the more disillusioned I became with the role of Christianity in subjugating my people. I knew, of course, that the Second Vatican Council in 1965 declared slavery an “infamy” that dishonored God and was a poison to society. But for me, it was too little, too late. The failure of the church to use its might and influence to stop slavery and instead to justify it as somehow connected to original sin made me angry. Papal bulls (e.g., “Dum Diversas” and “Romanus Pontifex”) condoned enslaving native people and stealing their lands.

And while I realize that many Christians risked their lives and families to fight slavery and that it would not have been ended without them, I found it hard to align myself with the cultural institutions that had turned a blind eye to such outrageous behavior in direct violation of their most sacred beliefs.

The adoption of a new name was an extension of my rejection of all things in my life that related to the enslavement of my family and people. Alcindor was a French planter in the West Indies who owned my ancestors. My forebears were Yoruba people, from present day Nigeria. Keeping the name of my family’s slave master seemed somehow to dishonor them. His name felt like a branded scar of shame.

My devotion to Islam was absolute. I even agreed to marry a woman whom Hammas suggested for me, despite my strong feelings for another woman. Ever the team player, I did as “Coach” Hammas recommended. I also followed his advice not to invite my parents to the wedding — a mistake that took me more than a decade to rectify. Although I had my doubts about some of Hammas’ instruction, I rationalized them away because of the great spiritual fulfillment I was experiencing.

But my independent spirit finally emerged. Not content to receive all my religious knowledge from one man, I pursued my own studies. I soon found that I disagreed with some of Hammas’ teachings about the Quran, and we parted ways. In 1973, I traveled to Libya and Saudi Arabia to learn enough Arabic to study the Quran on my own. I emerged from this pilgrimage with my beliefs clarified and my faith renewed.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, in Jerusalem in 1997.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in Jerusalem in 1997.

From that year to this, I have never wavered or regretted my decision to convert to Islam. When I look back, I wish I could have done it in a more private way, without all the publicity and fuss that followed. But at the time I was adding my voice to the civil rights movement by denouncing the legacy of slavery and the religious institutions that had supported it. That made it more political than I had intended and distracted from what was, for me, a much more personal journey.

Many people are born into their religion. For them it is mostly a matter of legacy and convenience. Their belief is based on faith, not just in the teachings of the religion but also in the acceptance of that religion from their family and culture. For the person who converts, it is a matter of fierce conviction and defiance. Our belief is based on a combination of faith and logic because we need a powerful reason to abandon the traditions of our families and community to embrace beliefs foreign to both. Conversion is a risky business because it can result in losing family, friends and community support.

Some fans still call me Lew, then seem annoyed when I ignore them. They don’t understand that their lack of respect for my spiritual choice is insulting. It’s as if they see me as a toy action figure, existing solely to decorate their world as they see fit, rather than as an individual with his own life.

Kermit the Frog famously complained, “It’s not easy being green.” Try being Muslim in America. According to a Pew Research Center poll on attitudes about major religious groups, the U.S. public has the least regard for Muslims — slightly less than it has for atheists — even though Islam is the third-largest faith in America. The acts of aggression, terrorism and inhumanity committed by those claiming to be Muslims have made the rest of the world afraid of us. Without really knowing the peaceful practices of most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, they see only the worst examples. Part of my conversion to Islam is accepting the responsibility to teach others about my religion, not to convert them but to co-exist with them through mutual respect, support and peace. One world does not have to mean one religion, just one belief in living in peace.

North Carolina’s good and pretty damned bad news


NC

North Carolina state government is run solely by Republicans, known for being the party of family values and tough on crime.  Today it is neither, instead if you’ve got business you want to conduct and need the help of the Republican controlled government you can hire call girls to convince the State’s legislators to do your bidding. The opinion of the State’s  “Ethics Committee has just opened up a major problem for their state — they just made it legal for lobbying firms to purchase prostitutes to service politicians.” In a ruling that’s just as bad as the Citizen’s United case decided on by the $50KUS Supreme Court which gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other ‘political tools’ to defeat or promote individual candidates or policy. Legally armed it seems the Republican party will go to any lengths to pursue it’s agenda even when the means are totally against the Party’s claims of standing for moral, traditional values. That shouldn’t come as any surprise, politicians in general and Republican governors in states bordering North Carolina have come under recent scrutiny for unethical, sometimes illegal behavior. (I’m speaking of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford) What’s even depressing is that it seems given the chance the electorate prefers morally corrupt Republican officials to sanitized Democratic policy…….NOT GOOD.

the 3's silhouetteThe good news coming out of North Carolina is the prosecutor’s office handling the murders of three young American Muslims has said it will seek the death penalty against Craig Hicks who had confessed to the crimes. There is no doubt he did it; he turned himself in immediately after killing his victims and it was clearly a capital murder case which the prosecutor confirmed with this decision.  There are still those who claim this was about a neighborly dispute, i.e. parking and that insistence might strengthen the DA’s case for seeking the death penalty judging on what has been found in Hicks’ possession;

A search of Hicks’ computers showed he kept pictures and notes on parking activity in the lots around his condo, police said in the warrants.

which would surely prove intent and premeditation but it’s also equally clear from

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

Hicks’ own Facebook posts he hated religion and or religious expression.  The clearest manifestation of religion, indeed the in-your-faceness of the Muslim women who wore hijab were his Muslim neighbors who he killed.  Hats off to the Durham county district attorney.  North Carolina trends towards a conservatism stronger than the Nation’s and with the current Islamophobia prevalent on the national stage whether the DA can prosecute towards a death penalty will depend on the judge accepting his evidence for such a ruling.  Stay tuned; it ain’t over yet.

 

FoxNews and its Muslim guests


I have often times said ANYONE who goes on FoxNews is a sadist who likes self-flagellation and any Muslim who goes there is literally physically attacked and abused.  It’s gotten so bad I can no longer look at that network’s programs so I was more than a bit intrigued to see this headline, 5 Times Muslim Guests Actually Got Their Points Across On Fox News.  I’ll let you take a look and see if the title is accurate.

 

 

This is still very much my reaction to FoxNewsFoxNews

An American Muslim speaks on Ferguson


I’m glad to see that some in the Muslim community in America are engaged with what’s going on in Ferguson and have been since day one.  One prominent Muslim American who lives in the Ferguson, Missouri area has been writing and chronicling what’s going on there since the days after Mike Brown was gunned down.  You can read what he has written on his blog, here. There is also a facebook page “Muslims for Ferguson” where you can catch some snippets on Ferguson and its daily struggles.

The one item that caught my eye was this piece from American Muslim, Linda Sarsour who speaks very poignantly about the responsibility of people of Deen to what goes on around them.

I do not come as a preacher. I come to you as a mother of a 16 year old boy. I come to you as a Muslim. As a New Yorker. More importantly I come to you as a human. I also come angry and frustrated. I went to Ferguson. Ferguson taught me that it is OKAY to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are working against injustice. Injustice, sisters and brothers is supposed to make us angry. It reminds us of our humanity. And that anger can be translated into systemic change. I was PROUD to be angry — which is something we are told not to be. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry and we were alongside people who were angry but showed us so much LOVE. It was something I never felt before in my life.

Sisters and brothers, I ask of you today to focus on the real injustices. Don’t condemn and chastise those that chose to channel their anger in ways you deem unproductive. Pray for them. Love them. We may not condone their actions but I am not ready to discard them, disassociate with them — society has already done that to them. Ask more questions, what must happen to a human being for them to behave in certain ways?

Malcolm-KingWhat examples of Black American non-violent heroes has our country produced for them? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Reverend George Lee, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X in his later years — what do they all have in common — MURDERED.

They called for non-violence, they marched, they organized their people and they were SHOT. Understand history — Black American history is your history. American History is YOUR history and it hasn’t always been a history you can be proud of. Pastor Willie from First Corinthian Baptist Church broke it down. He said America was born with a birth defect. We have never truly dealt with it so it continues to be there. I will add that because we haven’t dealt with it we have exported this birth defect to other lands where we kill innocent people in the thousands through unjust wars or target civilians some of whom are Americans, through our drone policies. ‪#‎WAKEUP‬

This sisters and brothers is not just about #MikeBrown

This is about black men/boys/women/girls across the country including right here in our own backyard. Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Tim Stansbury, Mohamed Bah, Nicholas Heyward, Jr, and the list goes on and on and on. This is about police officers who walk free as if the people they murdered were cattle in the street. This is not just about police violence. This is about an education system that is set up to fail children of color. An education system that has been called a monopoly. An education system in which it’s quality is based on the neighborhood you live in. It’s about a justice system that takes you in as a young person, follows you around as an adult — stunts your progress. You can’t get away from it. Its about lack of opportunity. Its about a system that doesn’t believe in your potential and operates that way.

Let us come to a place where we recognize that there is structural racism in our country AND that we all do not have to experience it to believe it exists. IT EXISTS. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, prominent Black American Imam and a mentor said yesterday that immigrant Muslims generally speaking had it good in America benefitting from artificial white privilege prior to 9/11, but on 9/11 and the subsequent years after they realized they were just another n*gger. This may be a hard statement for folks to swallow. Reflect. Breathe.

We have Muslim brothers and sisters withering away in Communication Management Units in places like Indiana — many of whom convicted on “secret evidence” (no one knows why they were convicted, not them, not their lawyers) or under the ambiguous “material support” laws stripped of every right they have, some have never had trouble with the law up until that dreaded day, never were a harm to our society — no access to family, media, television — they languish in small cells for 23 hours a day. Muslims make up over 85% of the CMUs and we are less than 1% of the population. Who marches for them? Is the system working for them and their families?

Don’t tell me about a justice system that doesn’t work in the same way for everyone. A justice system that protects celebrities and law enforcement and too often turns its back on the ordinary person.

Racism is REAL. It doesn’t have to be REAL for you for it to be REAL.

Don’t treat everything as an isolated incident or case. Use your intellect. Analyze. Ask questions. The justice system isn’t a robot or a calculator that always gives the right answers. The justice system is made up of people. People sometimes make mistakes. Humans make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

For some of you its a story of one unarmed Black boy shot on the streets of Ferguson. For others its one small drop in an ocean of dehumanization, discrimination, demoralization that has been passed on from one generation to the next. For some — this is what it is. Some have given up.

I am exhausted hearing people say we are all playing the race card

Sisters and brothers these are the cards the system has dealt. Trust me, deal a new set, a set with equality, justice, liberty and pursuit for happiness FOR ALL, a set that values all human life the same, a set that sees the potential in ALL of our children and we’ll gladly accept it and play those cards.

Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press

Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press

I am not asking you to feel sympathy for Black and brown people, they definitely don’t want your sympathy, I just want you to believe in your hearts that ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and stop expecting for Black and brown people to prove their humanity to you. They are EXHAUSTED. Reverend Chloe Breyer, a White Episcopalian priest said what makes her aware of her white privilege is that she doesn’t feel exhausted, she sleeps well at night. That sisters and brothers is courage and honesty. Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help uplift others.

By no means should anyone feel guilty about their privilege — I have plenty but I can not in good conscience walk around in this world with the fallacy that we live in an equitable and just world just because that’s how its working out for me. I ask for some selflessness for a moment. Just imagine for ONE MINUTE that #MikeBrown was your son in all his complexities yet all his simplicities and the SYSTEM didn’t think your child was worth a trial. It was never about guilty or innocent for Darren Wilson — it was about his day in court. The system didn’t think it was worth their time. Would you have sat back with the memory of your slain child and took it? Unless you experience the murder of your child in this same vain — you again are speaking from a place of privilege and I will continue to say CHECK IT.

If we do not see ourselves in each other — if we do not believe that we each deserve freedom, equality — if we do not believe that we are brothers and sisters and ALL the children of GOD — then it is we that are failing our children, our future, humanity.

I have been saddened by the responses I have been seeing from “friends”. Diverting from the true injustices once again. This is not about Black and White. This is not about us vs. law enforcement. I am not anti-law enforcement, I am anti-law enforcement misconduct and so should everyone else. We should be against misconduct where ever it is happening.

What’s interesting is that people will support the plight of Palestinians or Syrians or Egyptians to resist by any means necessary but won’t afford that right to others. Not taking a side either way just asking for some consistency for your own credibility.

Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests

Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests

For me, I recommit to working for justice for ALL. I am keeping my eyes on Ferguson, my heart in the movement and my feet on the streets of New York City because Ferguson is everywhere. I hope you join me.

These remarks are adapted from a speech Linda Sarsour gave at an interfaith gathering on November 25th at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.

Modesty, Islam and the streets of NYC


Much has been said about the woman who walked around in the streets of New York city for ten hours while men of all descriptions made unwanted advances to her.  Of course it shows how uncivilized men’s desires can become but it also shows a degree of acclimation and expectation people have when confronted with their notions of beauty and attraction in today’s America. The link to the Hollaback video for your viewing pleasure is here.

However, there is another video in two parts that shows both the predictable reaction of men to women regular wearing regular attire walking for several hours and the same woman wearing a black abaya and hijab walking with vastly different results.  In the case of the woman with the “Islamic” clothes there are no recorded interactions between the veiled woman and men she passes on the streets.  In fact they seem not to even notice her as she walks mere inches away in some cases.  Perhaps the reason is because of the clothes…..Muslim women are told in their sacred scripture, The Quran, one of the reasons for the covering is to be easily identified as women of modesty and faith yet perhaps another reason is because men know that interacting with women like that will result in no reaction at all.  Operating on the principle that if one randomly approaches scores of women solicitously they may get one to accept their advances they have come to realize through interaction with Muslims that no matter how many times they make similar advances with Muslim women they will get no response at all.  If that’s the case, it is a praiseworthy on the part of the Muslim woman not to advance such societal norms with interaction.  Take a look at the video and decide for yourself what is the reason for the difference in how men react to the two examples…..

Did you know the latest American hostage held by ISIS is a Muslim


Peter Kassig, an American is also an American Muslim who went to Syria to HELP Syrians not fight them and he is the latest hostage of the terror group ISIS to be threatened with death.  In a letter to his parents he talks about how he is at peace with his religion and his decisions he made that took him to Syria but also that he is afraid of the uncertainty of death at the hands of this terror group.  Is there anyone who still thinks the group has anything to do with Islam?  It kills its native sons from all over the world; sounds more fascist than Islamist.

Bargaining from a position of moral clarity


ramadanThat’s what Tariq Ramadan says should be the attitude of Muslims in the West and anything less than that is unacceptable.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

Another perspective of from the tragedy of last year’s Boston Marathon


RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON IN A HIJAB

Leanne-290Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 a.m. sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los Angeles Times originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Leanne ScorzoniScorzoni was raised Catholic, but she abandoned the Church in 1999, shortly after family members publicly announced that local priests had sexually abused them. “I was eighteen; I was angry. I was just like, I’m not doing this anymore,” she said, adding that she would often belittle friends and family members over their religious beliefs.

Years later, one of her relatives who had been abused told Scorzoni that he had gotten over his anger toward religion and that she needed to do the same. When she moved back to Boston, in 2011, she remembered seeing many ads for the I.S.B.C.C. on public transportation around the city, and later found out that the center was two blocks from where she lived. She first visited the I.S.B.C.C. in the summer of 2012; on her way to the grocery store, she asked a woman who was leaving the mosque if anybody could visit. “I was thinking it was like Mormonism, where only Mormons can go in,” she said.

Scorzoni went into the center’s bookstore, where she met Sam for the first time and engaged in a three-hour discussion about religion with the shop’s owner. As she began to make new friends at the mosque, she would observe prayer services and occasionally sit on prayer rugs and meditate. The I.S.B.C.C. thus became a special place for her: it was she where she began to feel comfortable again with being in religious surroundings. In Islam, Scorzoni found “more of a sense of ritual and meditation and contemplation I wanted in my life.”

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

While she regularly attends services and will wear a hijab on Monday, Scorzoni also carries what she describes as “white privilege,” which many other Muslims do not have. She works part-time teaching English as a second language; many of her students are young Muslims living alone in the United States or working seventy-hour weeks to support their families here. She knows that the Tsarnaev brothers, who lived in the United States for almost a decade, also had better upbringings than many other Muslims in the area, and thinks that their actions left lingering scars for those who dissociate from their radicalism.

“I just see it as the same way there’s good Catholics and you have the Westboro Baptist Church,” she said, referring to the extremist group that often stages protests against the gay community. “It’s just such a helpless anger, when you curl your hands into fists and you just want to say, ‘You’re forcing everyone else to go five steps back from where they’ve come from.’ These two kids just cheated other people out of their livelihood, their spots—people who could’ve made their own lives better.”

Two other I.S.B.C.C. members will join Scorzoni on Monday to run in the marathon. Officially, Scorzoni is running to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. But, when people ask Scorzoni what they can do to help, she tells them to go to the marathon and show that the tradition will continue, uninterrupted.

On Monday, when Scorzoni crosses the finish line, her family will be there to cheer her on, as will Sam and other friends from the I.S.B.C.C. “I believe we are moving away from, ‘Hey, look, a Muslim doing something normal,’ ” Scorzoni said. “Now we see a myriad of cultures and religions here, as it should be.”

 

 

Lies, damned lies and statistics


The following article is not so much about statistics as it is about the how and why Islam has become popular in America but in reading it what angered me is the use of a statistic…the number of Muslims in America.  The statistic of 1,349,000 Muslims in America as of 2012 is hilariously funny and pathetically short of the real numbers.  I understand however why the number HAS to be that low for it makes it far more comfortable for people to fathom and tolerate a religion that has been so beguiled and vilified.  In other words it keeps the mass hysteria and panic down, for now, to a minimum.  But all one need do is look up the numbers for themselves to see that the number of Muslims in America is much greater than 1.3 million with figures ranging from the equally pathetic 2 million to 7 million and all of these numbers are merely guesses because such data is not allowed to be collected in a government sponsored census for reasons of privacy and freedom from suspicion of suppression of religion.  These are my pet peeves; the article below is about how people come to adopt and practice Islam in an increasingly secular country.  I hope you enjoy it

 

Though Will Caldwell was born, raised and college educated in Georgia, he is uncomfortable praying there.

He has felt that way since a clear summer evening in 2007 at a nondescript gas station off a nondescript interstate somewhere between Savannah and Macon. He was on his way home to Saint Simons Island from Emory University, where he had just finished his junior year. Caldwell had pulled his red Mini Cooper into the rest stop because the sun was starting to set and, since he had converted to Islam one year earlier, this meant that it was time to pray.

In the empty field next to the gas station, he found a discrete corner, laid out his mat and began to recite the holy verses, first standing, then bent forward, then on his knees with his head to the ground. He noticed two people looking at him, secretively peering out from behind their truck. Uneasy, he rushed through the ritual, folded up his mat and got back in the car to leave. As he pulled away, he could see in his rear view mirror a cop car pulling into the parking lot. The people who had been staring were flagging down the police officer and pointing at Caldwell. He drove on at an intentionally moderate pace, and the cop did not follow, but he has not risked praying publicly in the South since.

Caldwell is soft spoken. He pauses thoughtfully before talking and sometimes between sentences. He wears a plaid button down shirt, slacks and small, round wire-framed glasses. His wide-set green eyes gaze out earnestly from his creamy white face. One quickly gets the sense that he is a kind and spiritual person. Perhaps this is his fatal flaw. After growing up in the Episcopal Church, Caldwell rediscovered his spirituality in Islam and decided to convert. Now, less than a hundred miles from where he was raised, onlookers see Caldwell’s prayer as a potential threat. Why might this be?

“The political context we are in is so charged with anti-Muslim rhetoric that it’s almost impossible, I would say, for that conversion not to have some kind of political ramifications even if the convert in no way intends it,” says Brannon Ingram, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, who specializes in Islam and Sufism. In July of 2013, Fox News correspondent Lauren Green interviewed religion scholar Reza Aslan about “Zealot”, a book he just had written about Jesus Christ. She repeatedly questioned his credentials and asked him to explain how a Muslim could write about Christianity. In 2013, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that 45 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination.

Negative sentiments about Muslims most often link to an association of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. A 2007 document by the New York Police Department entitled “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” says, “Jihadist ideology is the driver that motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out an ‘autonomous jihad’ via acts of terrorism against their host countries.” Because of these beliefs, the police instated surveillance over New York City’s mosques and Muslim communities using informants, neighborhood mapping, photos and video footage. When the American Civil Liberties Union caught wind of this policy in June of 2013, they sued the NYPD.

Muslim converts have received extensive media attention. Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the notorious Boston Marathon bombers, began practicing Islam after meeting her husband. Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow” after her husband’s 2005 suicide bombing in London public transit, is among the suspects implicated in the Nairobi mall massacre in September 2013. She, too, is Muslim convert. Nicholas Brody, a main character of the popular television show “Homeland”, becomes a Muslim while he is imprisoned by al-Quaeda in Damascus, Syria. Once back in the United States, he collaborates with his captors to plot and execute terror attacks.

Karen Danielson, DanielsonDirector of Outreach at the Chicago chapter of Muslim American Society, says that any event that brings Islam into the public consciousness — for negative or positive reasons — generates interest. “After 9/11 for example, there was a large influx of converts. Sometimes people come forward hostile, but then even they end up converting because of what they discover,” she says. “They investigated, they read the Quran, and it answered a lot of questions that they had before.” Danielson herself found Islam in 1983 when she was a young adult. She has worked in community building for Muslims ever since and has interacted with hundreds of converts and support groups.

Despite their powers of attraction, these terror-infused portrayals are very problematic for converts, says Iqbal Akhtar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University. New Muslims are forced to view themselves as outsiders in their own culture and are not given the opportunity to reconcile the different parts of their identities. “Even if in day-to-day interactions you can pass for being American or not being differentiated, you live in a society where the media is constantly defining the Muslim as an ‘other,'” says Akhtar. “All these things fit into how you define yourself.”

Converts to any faith seem increasingly abnormal as the United States gravitates farther away from religion. According to a Pew Research study, the number of Americans who do not affiliate with a religion has gone up by 5 percent in the past five years, from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINYet the number of Muslims in the United States is increasing. In the seven years that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Muslim American population grew from 1,104,000 to 1,349,000, according to the 2012 census. And in a study of that same time frame, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40 percent of Muslims in the United States were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

This anomalous increase in religious practice may be because conversion to Islam is quick and very simple. “It really just requires reciting a formula called the shahada in front of a number of witnesses,” says Ingram. He translates the verse to mean, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.” And that’s it. There’s no training, no test. You just recite the creed. Ingram attributes the successful global spread of Islam to the ease of this process.

The difficulty for many converts comes in the change of daily customs, rather than in the change of faith. In 2005, at the age of 36, Jennifer Gauthier converted from Catholicism to Islam in order to marry to a Muslim man. The pair has since moved to Alexandria, Egypt. “I would say the greatest challenges I face are more related to Islamic cultural traditions rather than what I understand from the Quran,” she says. “My dad and I have had many conversations about Islam and Catholicism and have found many overlaps.” She says it made a big difference that she already felt comfortable with the idea of one god.

American faceSaba Safder, Scholarship Manager at the national non-profit Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim convert from Methodism, speaks to the challenging cultural adjustments. “In the beginning it was hard to fit in. Sometimes when I came to the mosque, my scarf may not have covered all my hair, or my sleeves may not have been as long as they should have been,” she said. “There were many times that women would correct my praying or how I dressed.”

Many converts also felt alienated because of their whiteness. DanielMooreIn theory, explains Ingram, Islam is meant to be a race-free religion. But in practice, he says, this is not the case. “In the popular imagination Islam is still very much,” – he makes air quotes with his fingers – “a brown person’s religion.” And this belief, he continues, is somewhat valid. “American Muslim communities can be very closely knit in terms of some ethnic background,” he says. “Not just immigrants from or descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, but even specific regions in India.”

As a result, when Caldwell enters a Muslim center for the first time, he says he gets one of two reactions to his whiteness. The first is suspicion. In a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he recalls, he could feel everyone’s eyes on him. Muslims sometimes suspect that he is an FBI agent, working for the aforementioned government surveillance, he says. “I just try to deal with it because I understand it.” he says. Others place him on a pedestal. Immigrants trying to assimilate into white American society take his race as a sign of their success. “Seeing a white person [practicing Islam] sort of validates their own religious existence. There’s a lot of embedded racial assumptions about that,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a desirable situation for me or for them, but it is the case nonetheless.”

Some converts are forming their own groups, one of which is Ta’leef Collective. Founded as a resource for new Muslims and prospective converts, Ta’leef runs classes, discussions and support groups. Its headquarters are in Fremont, Calif., but it opened a Chicago chapter in 2012. Ta’leef stays away from the media for fear that it will portray them badly. “Our concern is both one of how we are represented to the larger American population and how we are represented to other Muslim communities,” said Caldwell, who is a participant. “A lot of what we do would be controversial to other Muslim communities in the sense that it’s not a mosque but it’s a Muslim community. That doesn’t fit so well into the parameters of what they expect.”

New Muslims often especially need this social outlet after distancing themselves from their former lives. “I very rarely associate myself with the community I was raised in. I have strong contacts with my family, but many times I just feel like it is hard to belong,” says Safder. “There are too many media influences that give people a preconceived idea before seeing that I am still the same person.”

If not at home, how do converts find Islam? Danielson was in her first year at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. She intended to lead missions targeting Muslims. To prepare, she studied the Quran and was deeply moved by it. “It was through my personal reading of Quran that I had my own private conversion,” she says. “I felt like my questions were answered. The deep bigger questions about justice and life in general. What is the universe all about? What does everything mean?” She says she never found this type of spiritual guidance in the Bible and converted to Islam one month after.

Caldwell’s story of coming to Islam is strikingly similar. An altar boy in his youth, Caldwell looked up to his Episcopal priest and wanted to follow in his footsteps. While an undergraduate at Emory University, he learned that seminary students studied Greek but not Hebrew. In order to understand the Old Testament, he started taking Hebrew classes. These led him to Jewish studies classes. Judaism introduced him to the possibility of practicing other religions, but it was too connected to an ethnic and cultural history for him to fully embrace it, he says. “I guess in a lot of ways Islam is a natural place to look at that point.” He started reading the Quran and spent the summer and fall of his junior year in Jerusalem. He promised himself that he wouldn’t make any big decisions until he finished it. One month into his studies in Israel, he finished the Quran and converted to Islam.

Ingram has noticed a trend in why people like Danielson or Caldwell may gravitate toward the religion. “I’ve spoken to a few white converts over the years who said Christianity never made sense to me, the trinity never made sense to me, the idea of God being one and three at the same time never made sense to me,” he said. “Islam doesn’t have that problem. People are attracted to the comparative simplicity of Islam’s notion of God.”

Their strong connection to Islamic theology helps converts deal with stigma. “We know that Islam does not preach terrorism. We know Islam does not preach extremist radical thought. Those things are not linked to Islam. They’re linked to Muslims,” says Danielson. “Muslims are people. They have so many factors that motivate who they are. Yes, Islam influences them, but they have their economic condition and their political situation, too.”

Gauthier puts this idea concisely. “A saying I’ve heard often — and I think it applies to all religions — is ‘Don’t look to Muslims to understand Islam. Look to Islam itself,'” she says.

But, according to Danielson, converts need to change people’s preconceptions about Muslims. “We have to get our voice heard better. Islam should be understood better, and that’s a difficult position to be in,” she says. “First-hand knowledge of Islam and Muslims needs relationship building and a genuine commitment to long-term cooperation.”

You know it’s bad when it’s written about by non-Muslims


islamophobiaThe “it” here is Islamophobia and it’s rearing its ugly head again in circles of the GOP.

Yesterday I wrote about the danger of demonizing Muslims. I cited remarks fromseveral Republican politicians who argued a couple of years ago that no mosqueshould be allowed near the site of the 9/11 attack in New York.

Today I looked at a speech given last night in California by Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. Jindal’s speech, which asserted a religious right to practice anti-gay policies in private business activity, echoed the argument made 14 years ago by Bob Jones University in defense of its policy against interracial dating. The resemblance is uncanny. You can read the whole article here.

But Jindal’s speech raised another problematic theme as well: the idea of a war between Islam and Christianity. Here’s what he said:

In nation after nation, Christians are being slaughtered by radical Islamists for their beliefs. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. … When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” And today, around the world, many Christians are living out that calling. That is a shooting war over religion, not a silent one.

In targeting Islam, Jindal is hardly alone. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another likely Republican candidate for president, asserted two years ago that “Sharia law is an enormous problem.” And last fall, a third likely candidate, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, told an overwhelmingly Christian audience at the Values Voters Summit:

Today I want to tell you about a war the mainstream media is ignoring. From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity. …

Ever since 9/11, commentators have tried to avoid pointing fingers at Islam. While it is fair to point out that most Muslims are not committed to violence against Christians, this is not the whole truth and we should not let political correctness stand in the way of the truth. …

We send billions of dollars a year to Pakistan and Egypt. We helped put new Islamic regimes in place in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama now sends arms to Islamic Rebels in Syria. In Egypt the mob attacked our embassy and burned our flag. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that terrorists who kill Americans tend to do so in the name of Islam. It’s quite another thing to accept them as representatives of their faith, to affirm their message of enmity between Christianity and Islam, and to portray Islamic law as a threat within this country.

Do the Republicans running for president really believe that? Do they think such talk will make this country safer? Do they think it will make us more free?

The answer to the last three questions is no but demagoguery has never been about truth, it’s about power and that’s why members of the Republican Party do it to reclaim power from the party of the first black President.

Islam in America-The Source


I’ve always thought if you wanted to get information the best place is the source.  Islam is a diverse, multi-ethnic community that has been progressive, influential and peaceful force in America.  Here is one perspective of the religion in America

Now, don’t say you haven’t heard or don’t know.

Islam and the West-A history shrouded in mystery


It shouldn’t be……Islam has been a constant in the western world just as much as Christianity and the European empires of England, France and Spain, yet far too many people don’t know that about the Islamic religion.  I’ve posted on this blog before the lecture of one American Muslim scholar, Jerald Dirks that relates historical documents about Islam and Muslim interaction with Europeans and indigenous people of North America that dates anything written by contemporary historical scholars.  Here again I post his lecture

Now comes word of the reasons why Thomas Jefferson possessed an English copy of the Quran, which leads me to wonder has anyone asked themselves why would he want one?

Long before Europeans governed Muslim colonies, interest in Islam and its cultures ran high in Europe. Part of the reason was political. Three Muslim empires dominated large parts of Asia: the Ottomans in Anatolia, the Mediterranean and Arabia; the Safavids in Persia; and the Mughals in India.

These Muslim dynasties were not just powerful but were also admired for their refined arts and culture — music, poetry, gardens, ceramics and textiles. Moreover, books in Arabic offered knowledge of many fields to those who learned the language. Not just the sciences and philosophy but even Arabic literature enticed European translators. Thus, in 1704 a Frenchman first translated the “1001 Nights,” whose tales soon became an enduring classic of European as well as of Arabic letters.

Above all else, the religion of Islam itself seemed an especially compelling field of inquiry to a variety of European scholars and thinkers. How had a handful of Muslims emerged from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century to conquer so much of the known world? This was one of the great questions of world history, as both the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and the English historian Edward Gibbon agreed. In addition, philosophers and freethinking Christians deemed the central tenet of Islam, the unity of God, more rational than the mystery of the Christian Trinity. Thus, many different Europeans attributed singular importance to Islam and the language of its revelation, Arabic.

The GOP is a bad joke


Louie Gohmert - Caricature

Louie Gohmert – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Perhaps this is why Republicans are against immigration because they see an Islamist in every Hispanic immigrant that comes into this country.

‘Radical Islamists’ Learn Spanish, Pretend To Be Hispanic, Claims Rep. Louie Gohmert

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, believes he has solved a terrorist tactic.

While speaking to the Longview, Texas Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Gohmert claimed “radical Islamists” were learning Spanish “because we don’t have any fear of Hispanics coming into the country.”

Gohmert added that he is opposing immigration reform based on the theory, noted News-Journal.com.

“The FBI director has confirmed more than once that we know that there are radical Islamists that change their names to Hispanic-sounding last names, they come to Mexico and get and ID, and some of them even learn a little bit of Spanish so that they can try to act as if they’re Hispanic,” Gohmert said (video below). “Why? Because we don’t have any fear of Hispanics coming into the country, but we’ve got concerns about radical Islamists.”

He also suggested that real undocumented Hispanic immigrants might lie about how long they have been in the United States in order to stay under the DREAM Act, which is supposed to be for immigrant children who were brought to America by their undocumented parents.

Gohmert also said the United States was the best country “because most Americans, generally speaking, had a faith in God, they had a devotion to family and they had a hard worth ethic,” but lamented that might not be true today.

It seems the only policy this demented party has is to instill fear and hatred in the hearts of Americans against others who are different.  The GOP accentuates differences, points them out and builds policy around them which is not very constructive in a country of over 300 million people from all walks of life, if not suicidal for a political party.  All of that doesn’t seem to matter to the likes of Gohmert, who has taken boorish behavior to a new level as a member of Congress.  Want to see more of his outlandish actions go here, here , here and here.  A four time elected US representative, Gohmert resonates with that part of the DemonicGOP that believes Obama is a foreign socialist Muslim who wants to destroy the American way of life….and did I mention he’s been elected FOUR times!  God help us!!

Ramadan in America


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