Thursday, October 30, 2008

Million Man March Pledge

I was there and it made me very PROUD.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"The Endorsement from Heaven,"

Greetings Obama supporters,

This is my take on Kristoff's Op-Ed titled, "The Endorsement from He*&%$."
The heading is very loaded and it is supposed to have the same Bush "fear effect." Hell is a negative and in this case it's deeper meaning is nothing but, MUSLIM; ISLAM; ARAB; NON-CHRISTIAN; OTHERNESS; THEM and all the negatives that don't apply to "US." Us could be anything, depending on where one stands or sees themselves. Does the other leaning towards McCain make the Obamans better human beings? I don't think so.

The use of the new code word which is beyond HATE, connecting a religion followed by the OTHER, yes ISLAM to fascism is something despicable and it's effect is the same as "Hate yourself" as well as "I hate you because..." Why should anyone try to make Muslims hate themselves? Why should anyone make any human being hate themselves? The only reasonable answer is, the opposite of hate is a bit too hard a path for many. LOVE. (just putting those letters together, yes, LOVE has a calming effect.)
Here is a link to I love you in many languages
LOVE LOVE LOVE NAKUPENDA, Je t'aime, Ngiyakuthanda, mein ap say muhabat karta hoon
I also could not understand how Kristoff after writing:
(1) "The U.S. chose a very confrontational route," in Somalia.
(2) "The greatest catastrophe is the one endured by ordinary Somalis who now must watch their children starve. "

His conclusion was beyond basic logic that, "the only winner has been Islamic militancy," which also means, MUSLIM, ISLAM, ARAB, NON-CHRISTIAN, OTHERNESS or THEM. One wonders who the losers are. If WE, US, not THEM are the losers, then who else are the winners. One in New jersey or Oklahoma cannot see the Somali mother as US nor anything near our humanity, but THEM. Yes, that Somali mother watching her starving child must be a WINNER too. Bush believed in Us Vs THEM and after thousands of innocent deaths, many have come to an intelligent conclusion that he was very wrong, and the human as well as DOLLAR value has been too high a price to pay.

We all have to refuse the "Us Vs Them" mentality and promote building bridges between all human beings. We have come too far as a species to accept and allow a pilot to drop death on those who don't even have running water nor the mobility to go to the river. It is about time we supported our troops to feed the hungry, fight disease, celebrate our differences and never to allow the destruction of a school, hospital, dams and all that makes us human.

I was not supposed to write or share my thoughts, but to tell you the truth, I feel good and free.

I totally believe Obama will be the next president of the USA, but just in case, you never know what the GOP magician has under her/his pants. If at all something very bad happens (God forbid), we saw it in 2000 and it is still possible. I will be able to say, "five days before the election, I was free and felt great." I will work very hard the next 5 days to hold on to this feeling of being FREE by knocking more doors, making more calls and do all that is possible to help Obama win the presidency and bring POSITIVE CHANGE.

We can do it! Yes We Can!
Being an Obama believer, I HOPE and wish the Obama era will be filled with basic humanity to the OTHER. We have come a long way to go back to FEARFASCISM. ( I deeply apologize to all those beautiful letters especially A and F)

"Dehumanizing even the worst of the worst, in a way diminishes our humanity."

The whole world has voted for Obama, now they are counting on YOU and ME.

Change We Can Believe,

Mohamed Ahmed

I posted this letter on other sites
NewYork Times (comment 335)
The Philistine

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hamza Yusuf Speaks

Muslims in the USA

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Saudi Solutions ( a very telling statement)

This is a very good documentary about Saudi Women. The ending is very perfect. The prince seems a bit arrogant, but in a way he is trying to solve a very serious problem. Slow but Sure is the best way.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Imam Zaid Shakir on Segregation among Muslims in America

RACISM in the USA is "understandable," but among Muslims, it is the most dispeakable and rotten acceptable thing in many American Masjids. I am sorry to say that most of the Muslim leaders in many Muslim organizations and Imams in most of the Masjids were trained in the TOILET. While Americans are busy trying to get rid of their racist past, Muslim immigrants are busy reaching out to all the waste from the segregation out houses. The following interview is an indictment to the Muslim community and if nothing is done about it, defending the image of Islam will be impossible. Imam Zakir Shakir happens to be an indigenous American and that is why he can point at the cancer. It is about time ISNA, ICNA and all immigrant led organizations come out and say they have been busy spreading FITNA.

You can click the link below for more information.

Segregation and Marginalization is NOT the will of God

Wajahat Ali (AltMuslim)

There is a problem of race relations within the Muslim American community: Muslim on Muslim crime, if you will. Often most Muslim conferences talk about "Unity" yet we traffic in stereotyping and racial prejudice that is rampant within the American Muslim citizenry. What causes this?

Imam Zaid Shakir:
As Muslims in this country there are lots of factors that work to create divisions at a fundamental level between communities whose populations are rooted in immigration and communities of converts: African Americans primarily, but increasingly Latino and Caucasian-American. From an immigrant perspective you have people in many instances who are coming to America, who have been, historically, attracted to her through "brain drain politics."

People who were successful on their own right, people able to pass very rigid entrance exams in their respective countries - they were very privileged and talented individuals. When coming to this country, they found the universities to be very receptive, and the brightest were given scholarships and education. When you have that degree of talent, it becomes very easy to assume anyone, who just works hard and gets ahead, makes it the way "I made it" - and not to look at the some of the factors that work against everyone getting ahead just like in the country where you come from. In that country, there were, say, only 5000 seats for education, but there were millions who couldn’t pass the high school exams, and millions who couldn’t pass the junior high exams.

So, there is a tendency when one is successful to forget the realities that render a lot of people unsuccessful – to use those terms. Coming with those attitudes and seeing people whom you assume had the same opportunities you had in this land of opportunity – it works towards creating very narrow minded attitudes that are very shallow in terms of really understanding the dynamics at work in the lives of many people from different racial, ethnic groups. Those prejudices play themselves out in the mosques.

In addition, many of our societies are plagued by racialized thinking. You see a lot of color consciousness in a lot of Muslim societies - Syria and to a lesser extent Sudan. Pakistan and India where lighter skin people are looked in a different light than darker people. The daughter who has lighter skin, even if her features aren’t as attractive as the darker skinned daughter, she gets all the marriage proposals.

Wajahat Ali (AltMuslim)
She’s the number one draft pick.

Imam Zaid Shakir:
Yeah, so then you come to this country and you see a lot of African American Muslims and you have this built in mechanism to project the inherent, intrinsic racialist, racist attitudes towards those people. These create a lot of discomfort when the two groups come together and this is perceivable. Especially at those who are considered to be at the lower end of the economic spectrum. It is very important for Muslims to acknowledge this and not be in a state of denial regarding a lot of these racialist attitudes, color consciousness, and social economic snobbishness – it’s real!
You have those attitudes, you have that tension, and then you have a desire to exclusively pursue those interests. Each group is pursuing its respective interest and not looking at how coming together in certain areas could strengthen certain communities, especially in this indigenous, racial divide. So, when each group is selfish, then the everyday life activity and organizational activities of the other group becomes irrelevant.
You get a phenomenon like 40,000 people in Chicago for an ISNA conference [the largest Muslim American conference in America] and less than 1% of that is African American Muslims, even though 35% of American Muslims are African American. Or, you have Warith Deen Muhammad’s convention [Elijah Muhammad’s son] and over 99% of attendees are African American, because people feel it is relevant to their circumstance and identity. We have, as Muslims, stagnated ourselves in terms of how we organize ourselves, our interests and those advancements that deepen these divisions. We need to transcend this because we have so many ways we can help each other and strengthen each other.
Malcolm X when he went to Hajj had an observation that I don’t deny: that people of different groups tend to congregate and gravitate towards ones who are similar. Urdu speakers go to Urdu speakers, Spanish speakers go to people who speak Spanish for example. Should there be a level where we can recognize this and even celebrate it? This is part of what the Quranic message encourages: "We made you into nations and tribes." It’s a reality, it’s a cultural reality. But shouldn’t there be a higher level where we can identify some common issues that no individual group or no individual ethnic collectivity has the power to address individually? And then come together at that level to those larger issues that affect all of us? So, it’s important for us to mature to a point, where as you said, as opposed to empty cries for unity that totally ignore the sociological basis of the separation that exists in the community are replaced by a mature call for creating common agendas that don’t seek to eradicate the existing divisions, but seek to glorify and celebrate those divisions.
But, on the other hand, look at a higher level of interest where our collective resources are needed. For example, challenging the spread of prejudicial and hateful attitudes towards Muslims. That’s a massive project. The people spreading those ideas are spending lots of money, publishing books, dominating talk radio, getting their voices on major media outlets like Fox and others. So, to compete on that level and put out a countervailing message, is going to take a tremendous amount of resources that no one community possess. It will taken a common agenda, a common message, a common strategy and pooling of resources, such as a nationwide legal endowment with lawyers on retainer with ongoing research into civil rights and human rights issues that are relevant to Muslims in this country – like a NAACP legal fund but for rights of all Muslims. Responses as a community to those situations in a very effective manner: fueled jet plains loaded with resources to supply medicine ready to fly anywhere in the world for example. That’s what we are capable of doing as Muslims if we are to come together and think at a higher level and not confine our activism to issues that are specifically germane to "my corner and segment" of the Muslim community

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Monday, October 20, 2008

AN APOLOGY to African American Muslims

After coming accross this wonderful letter by Azhar Usman (on the left), I shared with friends in a Muslim group by writing the following:

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for reading and may Allah Subhanna wa taalah give you the strength to do what is right. My observation of Islam in America has been very painful and sometimes it is reflected in my writing. How can one be a Muslim and not feel the pain of outright racism. It is better to be seen as divisive than accept what is outright inhuman.

The link below is a letter of apology from a Muslim Immigrant. Please read it and pass it to others.

By Azhar Usman

On September 11, 2008, while countless American flags whipped in the wind and the television and radio waves were dominated by remembrances, recordings, and stories about the terror attacks of seven years ago, I attended the funeral of Imam W.D. Mohammed (may God be pleased with him). For me, it was a somber day, but I found myself mostly lost in thought: about African-American Muslim communities, about the challenges ahead in American Muslim institution-building, and about the future of Islam in America. If you don't know who Imam WDM was, you should look him up. The Sufis say: “The true sage belongs to his era.” And of the many gifts given to Imam WDM by God, perhaps the most obvious and beneficial one was the Imam’s profound understanding of the principles of religion, and his adeptness at intelligently applying those Islamic principles in a socially and culturally appropriate manner befitting the everyday lives of his North American followers. While carefully respecting sound, traditional jurisprudential methodologies of the Islamic religion, and the collective religious history and time-honored scholarship of classical Islam, he promulgated creative ideas and dynamic teachings across many domains of human endeavor, including theology, law, spirituality and even ethics and aesthetics, that together articulated a vision for a quintessentially “American Muslim” cultural identity. And he did all of this before anyone else, with quiet strength and unending humility—a true sage indeed.

So I stood before his final resting place, brokenhearted. And I suddenly began to feel the weight of the moment, realizing that when God takes back one of his dearly beloved friends, those who are left behind should cry not for the deceased, but rather for themselves. For the fact that they are now without one of God’s friends in their midst, and, in a sense, they are orphaned. And the tears began to well up, for I became acutely aware that I was standing in front of the grave of my spiritual grandfather, who was himself a spiritual descendant of Bilal al-Habashi (may God be pleased with him), the mighty and beloved companion of the Prophet himself. Bilal was the first Black African to convert to al-Islam at the hands of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and keep him) in the sands of Arabia nearly a thousand and a half years ago. Undoubtedly, some measure of that love, mercy, compassion, and spiritual stature that inhabited the heart of Bilal has found its way down through the ages, and I found myself begging God to transfer to my own heart some glimpse of these realities now laying before me.

Almost five years ago, my business partner, Preacher Moss (who is a member of the WDM community) founded the standup comedy tour “Allah Made Me Funny,” and he invited me to be his co-founder. Needless to say, it has been nothing less than an honor to work with him on the project. But to many, it was an unusual pairing: a Black comic and an Indian comic? Both Muslims? Working together? And before we ever even announced our partnership publicly, we met privately and swore an allegiance to one another—a blood oath of sorts—which was this: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers no one expects us to be. And built on this promise (and premise), we brought on our first collaborator, Brother Azeem (who is a member of Minister Farrakhan's NOI), with whom we toured for over two years (2004-2006) before parting ways amicably. Then we brought Mohammed Amer onto the team in the fall of 2006 (a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian refugee who grew up in a Sunni Muslim family in Houston, Texas). Mo, Preach, and I are still going strong together, and we are grateful for the unqualified support, love, and blessings that Imam WDM and the entire community have always given us.

But today, as I observed the funeral proceedings, I felt sad and heavy-hearted. Something wasn’t sitting right. Something was physically paining my heart, and it felt like remorse, shame perhaps, maybe even guilt. I began to realize that the tears flowing from my eyes were as much a function of these feelings as they were any lofty spiritual aspirations of mine.

You see, I attended an interfaith event a couple of years ago on 9/11. A group had assembled to commemorate the tragic event, to honor those who perished that day, and to pledge ongoing inter-community support and bridge-building to fight ignorance, hate, and intolerance. At that event, there was this short, middle-aged, sweet, extremely kindhearted, White Christian woman. When she took the microphone to speak, she was already teary-eyed, and I assumed that she was going to make some comments about the victims of 9/11, as so many others already had that night.

But she didn’t do that. Instead, she explained that she had become utterly grief-stricken by the constant barrage of news stories she witnessed about Muslims and Arabs being harassed, profiled, and mistreated after 9/11. She explained that she felt powerless to do anything about it, and that it made her sick to her stomach to hear of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs, and especially to hear of Christian preachers denigrating Islam and its Prophet. She started to cry, and so did many others in the room, humbled by the magnanimity of this simple woman.

And then she did what I thought was a strange thing: she apologized. She prefaced her apology with all the logical disclaimers, such as “I know this may mean nothing to you,” and “I know that I am not the one who did these horrible things," and "I know that you may dismiss this as empty rhetoric until you see some follow-up action on my part, but anyway,” she continued, “I want to apologize on behalf of all the Christians and all non-Muslims and non-Arabs who have been attacking your communities, harassing your people, and accusing your religion of all these horrible things. I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry.” I was stunned. Speechless, in fact. Though all of her disclaimers were true, and my skeptical mind knew it, her apology melted our hearts. Here was this powerless servant of God sharing some of her most deeply felt emotional vulnerabilities, and she was apologizing to Muslims for something she didn't even do? Jesus (may God bless him and keep him) once famously remarked: “Make the world your teacher,” and so I immediately took this woman as a lesson in humility. Admitting her powerlessness made her incredibly powerful.

And this brings me to the point (and title) of this essay. I would like to unburden myself of something that has been sitting like a ton of bricks on my heart for my entire life. I want to apologize to my Blackamerican brothers and sisters in Islam. I know that this apology may not mean very much; and I know that our American Muslim communities have a LONG way to go before we can have truly healthy political conciliation and de-racialized religious cooperation; and I know that I am not the one who is responsible for so much of the historical wrongdoing of so-called “immigrant Muslims”—wrongdoings that have been so hurtful, and insulting, and degrading, and disrespectful, and dismissive, and marginalizing, and often downright dehumanizing.

But anyway, for every “Tablighi” brother who may have had “good intentions” in his own subjective mind, but behaved in an utterly insensitive and outrageous manner toward you when he suggested that you need to learn how to urinate correctly, I’m sorry.

And for every Pakistani doctor who can find money in his budget to drive a Lexus and live in a million-dollar house in suburbia, and who has the audacity to give Friday sermons about the virtues of “Brotherhood in Islam,” while the “Black mosque” can’t pay the heating bills or provide enough money to feed starving Muslim families just twenty miles away, I’m sorry.

And for every Arab speaker in America who makes it his business to raise millions and millions of dollars to provide “relief” for Muslim refugees around the world, but turns a blind eye to the plight of our very own Muslim sisters and brothers right here in our American inner cities just because, in his mind, the color black might as well be considered invisible, I’m sorry.

And for every liquor store in the “hood” with a plaque that says Maashaa’ Allah hanging on the wall behind the counter, I’m sorry.

And for every news media item or Hollywood portrayal that constantly reinforces the notion that “Muslim=foreigner” so that the consciousness of Blackamerican Muslims begins even to doubt itself (asking “Can I ever be Muslim enough?”), I’m sorry.

And for every Salafi Muslim brother (even the ones who used to be Black themselves before converting to Arab) who has rattled off a hadith or a verse from Qur’an in Arabic as his “daleel” to Kafirize you and make you feel defensive about even claiming this din as your own, I’m sorry.

And for every time you've been asked “So when did you convert to Islam?” even though that question should more properly have been put to your grandparents, since they became Muslims by the grace of God Almighty back in the 1950s, and raised your parents as believers, and Islam is now as much your own inheritance as it is the one's posing that presumptuous, condescending question, I’m sorry.

And for every time some Muslim has self-righteously told you that your hijab is not quite “Shari‘ah” enough, or your beard is not quite “Sunnah” enough, or your outfit is not quite “Islamic” enough, or your Qur‘anic recitation is not quite “Arabic” enough, or your family customs are not quite “traditional” enough, or your worldview is not quite “classical” enough, or your ideas are not “authentic” enough, or your manner of making wudu is not quite “Hanafi,” “Shafi,” “Maliki,” or “Hanbali” enough, or your religious services are not quite “Masjid” enough, or your chicken is not quite “Halal” enough, I'm sorry.

And for every Labor Day weekend when you”ve felt divided in your heart, wondering “When will we ever do this thing right and figure out how we can pool our collective resources to have ONE, big convention?,” I’m sorry.

And for every time a Muslim has tried to bait you with a question about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, trying to force you to condemn him—turning it into some sort of binary litmus test of true iman—with reckless and irresponsible disregard for the historical fact that he was among the first Black men in America to ever do anything meaningful for the upliftment and betterment of Black people, I’m sorry.

And for every time you’ve heard of an African-American brother who tried to bring home a South Asian or Arab sister to meet his parents, only to learn that her parents would rather commit suicide than let their daughter marry a “Black Muslim” (a/k/a “Bilalian brother”), even as they cheer hypocritically at stadium style speeches by Imams Siraj Wahhaj, Zaid Shakir, Johari Abdul Malik, or others—or get in line to bring one of them to speak at their multi-million dollar fundraiser for yet another superfluous suburban mosque, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I want every African-American Muslim brother and sister to know that I am ashamed of this treatment that you have received and, in many cases, continue to receive, over the decades. I want you to know that I am aware of it. I am conscious of the problem. (Indeed, I am even conscious that I myself am part of the problem since curing hypocrisy begins by looking in the mirror.) I am not alone in this apology. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of young American Muslims just like me, born to immigrant parents who originate from all over the Muslim world. We get it, and we too are sick of the putrid stench of racism within our own Muslim communities. Let us pledge to work on this problem together, honestly validating our own and one another's insecurities, emotions, and feelings regarding these realities. Forgiveness is needed to right past wrongs, yet forgiveness is predicated on acknowledging wrongdoing and sincerely apologizing. Let us make a blood oath of sorts.

When the bulldozer came to place the final mounds of dirt over the tomb of Imam WDM, I was standing under a nearby tree, under the light drizzle that had just begun (perhaps as a sign of mercy dropping from the heavens as the final moments of the burial were drawing to a close), and I was talking to a dear friend and sister in faith, whose family has been closely aligned with Imam WDM for decades. She shared with me a story that her father had just related to her about the passing of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1975 (the same year I was born, incidentally). She told me that her father described the scene in the immediate aftermath of Elijah’s demise: utter confusion and chaos within the NOI and the communities surrounding it. There was much debate and discord about what direction the NOI would take, and many were still in shock and denial that the founder had actually died. Out of the midst of that confusion arose Imam WDM, and along with his strong leadership came an even more, perhaps surprisingly courageous direction: the path away from the Black nationalism, pan-Africanism, and proto-religious beliefs of his father, and instead the unequivocal charge toward mainstream Islam, the same universal and cosmopolitan faith held and practiced by over a billion adherents worldwide. In this manner, her father explained, the death of Elijah Muhammad became a definitive end to a chapter in our collective history, and the resulting re-direction by Imam WDM marked the beginning of the next, far better, chapter in that unfolding history.

Maybe I am just an idealistic fool, or maybe Pharaoh Sanders was right about the Creator’s Master Plan, but I sincerely believe that all we have to do—all of us together: Black folks, South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis), Arabs from every part of the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asians (Indonesians and Malaysians), Persians, Turks, Latinos, assorted Muslims of all stripes, colors, and backgrounds, and yes, even our White Muslim brothers and sisters—is live up to a simple promise to one another: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers and sisters no one expects us to be.

It is hoped that the passing of Imam WDM will also mark the end of a chapter in our collective American Muslim history, and perhaps now, in earnest, we can all look together toward The Third Resurrection.

May God mend our broken hearts, lift our spirits, purify our souls, heal the rifts between our communities, unify our aims, remove our obstacles, defeat our enemies, and bless and accept our humble offerings and service.


© 2008 Azhar Usman | 10 Ramadan 1429 | 11 September 2008

About the Author

Azhar Usman is a Chicago-based, full-time standup comedian. He is co-founder of "Allah Made Me Funny—The Official Muslim Comedy Tour," which has toured extensively all over the world. He is frequently interviewed, profiled, and quoted in the press, and he is an advisor to the Inner-city Muslim Action Network's Arts and Culture programs. Mr. Usman is also a co-founding board member of The Nawawi Foundation, a non-profit American Muslim research institution. He considers himself a citizen of the world and holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Minnesota Law School. Born and raised in Chicago, his parents originally hail from Bihar, India.

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Kibaki must be held responsible for the bloodshed. ECK has no excuse, they too can be charged for complicity to commit genocide. Those who are looking at the tribal hatred and murder might be naive to try to blame Raila, but the truth is Kibaki number 2, must be stopped by any means necessary. The signs are very clear, "A Tribal Dictatorship." Kenyans had no problem in the last election when Kibaki, a Kikuyu ran against Uhuru, another Kikuyu. It is time for Kikuyus to stand up and smell the chai. Kikuyus are the poorest and the most oppressed. Shoot to Kill has always been used against Kikuyus "Del Monte." The only matatus that must go to the police station for a strip search, are the ones going to Kikuyuland. There are more Kikuyus in prison than any other group. Kikuyus just like they rejected Uhuru and what he stood for, can reject Kibaki for trying to bring back the KANU type dictatorship. Raila and Luos should also be very careful when making statements about the election. Kenyans did not vote for Raila the Luo; Kenyans voted for Raila the ODM nominee.