Posts Tagged ‘ US Muslims ’

Muslims in America: A mosque rehabilitates its image

Conversations / Live Q&A Washington Post

ABOUT THE HOST
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik serves as the director of Community Outreach for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. He was the first Muslim Chaplain installed at Howard University. The imam is the former chair of Government Relations for the Muslim Alliance in North America [MANA founded by Imam Siraj Wahhaj] and is the founding President of the Muslim Society of Washington, DC Inc and Associate Imam of First Hijrah Islamic Center in Washington, DC.

Known nationally for his fundraising efforts for masjids, schools and relief organizations, Imam Johari is a founding member of the Muslim Advocacy Commission of Washington, D.C. and “Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence” [MMADV] and has edited a book on”What Islam Says About Domestic Violence”.
ABOUT THE TOPIC
Dar Al-Hirjah is one of the largest mosques in America, and it can be linked to many terrorism suspects in some way. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik discussed the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, rehabilitating the mosque’s image after 9-11, how 9-11 has affected Muslim life in America, and more.

Read: Imam serves as public face of an embattled mosque
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
Salaam-Shalom-OmShanti-Peace,

I would like to thank The Washington Post and especially William Wan and Jahi for their work on this article. I pray that it will inspire more bridge building

– September 19, 2011 11:03 AM Permalink
Q.
CHANGES IN SENSITIVITIES
What are examples of what you have heard from fellow Muslims to any changes in how they have been treated since 2001? How much of a difference has there been? How often do they find themselves in a situation where someone has said or done something offensive or hurtful?
– September 19, 2011 10:43 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
The overall experience has actually been positive. However, the negative experiences have been structural (Homeland Security, etc) but I expect that those things will change with time. I am a very positive person and I expect things to continue to only get better

– September 19, 2011 11:06 AM
Q.
AMERICAN MUSLIMS
Salaam alaykum, Imam Johari I am a devout American Muslim woman (and a convert like yourself), but after reading this, I would be terrified to attend your masjid. Instead of honoring your women, you make them go through a separate entrance in the back, for what? To protect men from seeing their wives and daughters? In the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, men and women prayed in the same space. So my question is this, how can you hope to move from simply defending your community to integrating them into the country at large? This type of isolation and anger only breeds mistrust and silently encourages the behavior of men like Aulaqi. I truly wish you luck and will pray for your community. Please believe that there is another way. My masjid in Brooklyn is nothing like this.
– September 19, 2011 10:57 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I agree with you that the architecture of the mosque is not women friendly. I am working first to change to minds of people who attend the mosque and then we have to work on reconstructing the bricks to be more women and family friendly.

– September 19, 2011 11:09 AM
Q.
SHARIA
Do you agree with sharia?
– September 19, 2011 11:02 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
Firstly, “sharia” for me, is similar to keeping kosher for Jews. I don’t believe that my beliefs or practices should be enforced on others. In short, I don’t believe that stoning or cutting off hands are what the Qur’an intended for the 21st century

– September 19, 2011 11:09 AM
Q.
PEDOPHILIA
Do you think its OK for a 53 year old man to marry a 6 year old girl? If so, why?
– September 19, 2011 11:03 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I would advise you not to do!

– September 19, 2011 11:10 AM
Q.
COEXISTENCE
What kind of outreach are you doing to local Christians and Jews?

– September 19, 2011 11:09 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
We have been working with several churches and synagogues in the DC metro area for the past decade and have built many strong relationships…

– September 19, 2011 11:13 AM
HALEY CRUM :
What’s the most common question you usually get?

– September 19, 2011 11:15 AM Permalink
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
The most common question to me is as a convert “how did you become a muslim?”.

– September 19, 2011 11:15 AM
Q.
FGM
Where do you stand on female genital mutilation?
– September 19, 2011 11:05 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
FGM: Is not a practice of Islam and although many cultures before Islam practiced it and this unislamic practice continues. I am working with relief organizations and interfaith organizations to end this horrible pracitice.

– September 19, 2011 11:15 AM
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I wanted to mention here that it is my hope that terms such as “non-Muslim” and “Muslim World” will cease to be used as I see those terms as divisive. I always make it a point to correct anyone that I hear use these terms. I prefer “people of other faiths/traditions” when speaking of those that do not share my faith

– September 19, 2011 11:21 AM Permalink
Q.
AMERICAN MUSLIMS
But how do we change hearts and minds? Especially in a climate that seems to have grown more hostile to us? It’s difficult to tell other Muslims, especially conservative immigrants that they should embrace change and their new country when we’re being told we can’t build mosques. Park51 (aka the supposed Ground Zero mosque) is the perfect example. We worked so hard and against so much opposition for this place. Yet when I attended services a couple Fridays ago, a community member began berating a young Muslim woman for leading two male journalists in for both being uncovered and talking to a man. It’s humiliating.
– September 19, 2011 11:17 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I have learned so much from the examples of great people and the prophet Muhammad and Jesus (peace be upon them). We have to increase our efforts for the positive, try to understand the other. New immigrants have their baggage as everyone does. Dr. King said, ‘Let us overcome them with our capacity’ to love

– September 19, 2011 11:30 AM
HALEY CRUM :
What has the Muslim community done for America lately – is America a better place because of Muslims? – rickdumbronski

– September 19, 2011 11:30 AM Permalink
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
First of all, there is single “Muslim community”. There are many different “communities” of Muslims with many diverse ethnic groups and sects. Secondly, there are Muslims in the US Armed Services and working within Homeland Security (including the FBI) that are serving their country with honor. Thirdly, there are many Muslim civilians that are working with law enforcement and are the very key to keeping us safe from terror plots. Without the help of Muslims, it would be much more difficult to fight terror

– September 19, 2011 11:30 AM
Q.
HOW TO COMBAT SHARIA STEREOTYPES?
I’m a humanistic Jew, and while I do not practice traditional Jewish law, I’m well versed in them. I personally don’t see a difference between Sharia and the Talmudic laws that also dictate not just keeping kosher, but divorces, shabbat, how, when, and where to pray, conversions, and all other sorts of elements of daily life. There are orthodox rabbinic courts, Beit Dins, that are sometimes used as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms instead of regular secular courts. The Catholic Church has ecclesiastical courts that gives annulments and hears other similar sorts of cases. How can we better express that Sharia is no different from the rules and institutions of other systems?
– September 19, 2011 11:21 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
You are right on brother! We all need to speak this truth from the hill tops. Criminal law needs to stay in the hands of law enforcement.

– September 19, 2011 11:32 AM
Q.
THE ETHICS OF A FAIR FIGHT
Salam dear brother. Islam, as a way of life, prescribes an appropriate way to deal with oppression and systemic injustice. While it was recently reported that Muslims in the U.S. are less likely to justify attacks on civilians (Source – http://www.gallup.com/poll/148763/Muslim-Americans-No-Justification-Violence.aspx) than other groups, there are specific limits on what is acceptable when engaging against an oppressive military, even in self defense. Could you provide an example of a just war, at level of a country, based in what Islam teaches us? Could you provide an example that could apply to daily life at an individual level? Salam!
– September 19, 2011 11:28 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
The “just war” theory seems to have only been applied to justify war. As they say, “war is hell”.

– September 19, 2011 11:37 AM
Q.
SHOUDLN’T YOU LEAVE THE COUNTRY?
In view of the past associations like Awlawki and the obvious distrust with which you and your mosque are held, don’t you think it is time you moved to a country like Pakistan or Yemen where you would find a more positive response to your preachings? Face the facts you don’t really fit in here.
– September 19, 2011 11:29 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I take great issue with the hate speech of Anwar Awlawki.

I’m from Brooklyn, NY. I am the decendent of enslaved Africans – I have every right to live in my own country. The first amendment affords me the right and responsibility to practice my faith alone with my fellow Americans.

– September 19, 2011 11:37 AM
Q.
TRUST
Mosques are places of public worship. What is wrong with the FBI monitoring places of interest in these times of distrust and international Islamic terrorism? Muslims in the West must accept a reasonable amount of observation given the facts. Muslims rooting out and identifying the dangerous extremists amongst them is not an unreasonable expectation of the non-Muslim citizenry. Trust has to be built by both sides. – Cretius

– September 19, 2011 11:19 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
I agree that trust works both ways. My issue is the engagement with the leadership of the mosque as a partnership. I have worked with law enforcement on many cases but they only come to me after the fact. There have been instances where had they been a partner early on perhaps our security as a nation could be better secured. I like president Obamas new a approach – “Empowering Local Partners to prevent violentextremism in the US” . We are safer when we work together.

– September 19, 2011 11:37 AM
Q.
MUSLIME IN THE WEST
Many Muslims who came in an earlier age, assimilated well — but the new iimmigrnts refuse to assimilate but continue to wear Muslim dress, demand we set aside muslim holidays in our schools etc. don’t you think these muslims would be better off staying in a country which is predominately muslim.?
– September 19, 2011 11:37 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
The question remains: Is American the great melting pot or the mulligan stew.

In the melting pot – all of the ingredients get boiled down.

I believe that what makes the great dish are the spices of every culture that adds to the favors of America, while still being able to identify the fruits.

– September 19, 2011 11:42 AM
Q.
ON TO THE NEXT
Do you think people view Muslims as “the enemy” now and will move on to another religion/ culture when the next big attack happens from another group? Is this a vicious cycle?

– September 19, 2011 11:40 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
While Islam is the issue of time, we should not be in denial about the violence that is besieging our societies. All ideologies that promote violence as a mechanism for social change are dangerous whether they are so-called Muslims, White Supremist or drug cartels….non-violent resistance for social change must become the new revolution.

– September 19, 2011 11:46 AM
Q.
PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Don’t you think that your and your mosque are part of the problem and not part of the solutions? After all when you see the number of terrorists who have passed through your mosque, how can you not see yourself as part of the problem?
– September 19, 2011 11:45 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
knowledge is power! I think the article addresses this issue well. I believe that my work is to counter-radicalization.

– September 19, 2011 11:52 AM
Q.
AMERICAN A MELTING POT FOR WESTERN EUROPE
The American melting pot, a description beloved of so many who know no history, forget that that melting was for people from W. Europe who came from similar backgrounds as Americans. The melting pot image lack veracity when you include non Westeners in the picture – it is they who have created the problem and ripped appart the melting pot immage.

– September 19, 2011 11:48 AM Permalink
A.
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
With the melting pot only being for W Europeans, you are forgetting that there were slaves that were brought here from Africa 400 years ago. What is to happen to their decendents? We must work together -ALL OF US – and build bridges and not fantasize about an all white country that will never happen

– September 19, 2011 11:55 AM
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK :
This has been a wonderful conversation and only increases the need for more dialogue and understanding. I would like to thank the Post for this wonderful medium of exchange – The On-Line Chat. Please share your experience with you friends and family –

‘You have been created into tribes and nations that you might know each other..verily the best among you are those who have faith and good deeds’-Quran

Muslim American Artists Strive to Bridge a Chasm

By Thalia Gigerenzer for The New York Times

When Wajahat Ali, a young Muslim American playwright from Fremont, needed to build an audience for his work, he produced his plays in cramped Pakistani restaurants in the East Bay and used Facebook to get the word out.

His play “The Domestic Crusaders” went on to open at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2005, and then moved to Off Broadway. Now, family members who were initially skeptical of Mr. Ali’s decision to pursue writing see great power in his profession.

Mr. Ali said his uncle had told him that he wished he had “made his son into a journalist,” because “after 30 years of living in this country, I turn on the TV and see myself as a terrorist.”

Mr. Ali is one of a growing number of Bay Area artists who are reimagining one of the country’s most complicated compound identities: Muslim American.

At a time when Islam has been heavily politicized, many Muslim artists say they hope the arts can expand understanding of their faith among non-Muslims as well as bridge American and Islamic traditions.

“We’re at a point where Islam is really being defined in this country, and it’s going to be through the arts,” said Javed Ali, founder of Illume, a Muslim online news, arts and culture magazine based in Newark that serves as one of the central nodes of the Bay Area Muslim American network.

Bay Area Islamic organizations, including the much-heralded Zaytuna College in Berkeley, have embraced the shift toward culture. In January, the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California will open a new gallery in the center to showcase Muslim artists.

The cultural center, in Oakland, decided to increase its arts programs six months ago, said Ali Sheikholeslami, its executive director. The center regularly hosts an event called “Islam and Authors,” which invites authors to discuss topics related to Islam.

“We want to break through common stereotypes and present the whole spectrum of Muslim reality,” said the cultural center’s marketing and development director, Jason van Boom.

Hatem Bazian, one of the Islamic scholars behind Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts institution in this country, echoed that thought.

“In American society,” Mr. Bazian said, “artistic expression is the way we narrate our story, so Muslims are beginning to draw their own narrative.”

The Bay Area’s Muslim population, estimated to be 250,000, is one of the most diverse in the United States.

Mr. Bazian, who is also a senior lecturer at the departments of Near Eastern and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said the wide mix of ethnicities and large number of converts in the Bay Area’s Muslim population “creates synergies” that can be seen in new art forms that break ethnic molds.

Some local artists have taken an online entrepreneurial approach to Islam. Khadija O’Connell, a Hayward resident, started her Web-based arts and craft business, Barakah Life, in 2003 as a way to bring a modern, handcrafted aesthetic to Muslim items most commonly found in gaudy, imported styles.

Ms. O’Connell relies on online tools like blogging and Facebook to promote ideas like her pop-up crescent moon cards that would look at home on the popular crafts site Etsy.

“People used to adapt neutral Christmas ornaments, like stars, and hang them up for Ramadan,” recalled Ms. O’Connell, who converted to Islam in college. “I wanted to bring new traditions to Muslims living in the West.”

For local Muslim American artists whose art has been deemed “radical” by more conservative Muslims, the road has not been an easy one.

Audience members walked out of an early November U.C. Berkeley performance of the play “Hijabi Monologues,” which features the stories of Muslim women and contains sexual references. “I’ve spent more time and energy negotiating with the community whether music is haraam [“forbidden”] than putting out content,” said Anas Canon, a convert and the founder of the record label and Muslim artist collective Remarkable Current, which includes the Bay Area MC/spoken word artist Baraka Blue. The label’s music ranges from soul to hip hop and has collaborated with artists such as Mos Def.

When Remarkable Current, which is based in both Oakland and Los Angeles, recently held a masquerade-themed book-signing with a D.J. in an Oakland home, debate erupted online ostensibly over men and women in costumes interacting together. An impassioned Facebook note condemning the event unleashed heated comments from Muslims across the Bay Area.

In the wake of controversies like the one over a proposed Muslim cultural center near ground zero in New York City, some second-generation Muslims’ art is tinged with a sense of urgency.

“Our narrative has been stolen from us,” Wajahat Ali said, referring to the common depiction of Muslims in the American news media.

The tendency of his parents’ generation to push their children to prestigious professions like medicine and business discouraged creative voices, he said.

But Bay Area Muslim artists are fast creating new narratives. Mr. Ali’s play, which depicts a modern Pakistani-American family, is featured in McSweeney’s literary magazine this month.

For many years, Mr. Ali said, he had described the local arts scene as “latent, with a heartbeat.” But now, he said, “it’s dancing.”

Muslim-Americans: Bracing For A Backlash

By Christopher Alessi for The Huffington Post

Adil Najam, a Pakistani-American professor at Boston University, took his 12-year-old son aside before sending him off to school last Wednesday. He told him to hold his head high, even if the other kids make fun of him and call him a terrorist.

In the days following this month’s attempted car bombing in Times Square by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, Pakistanis and other Muslim groups in the U.S. have been taking precautions to prevent a public backlash similar to the one Muslim-Americans faced following 9/11–but they are still preparing for the worst.

“We are so grateful, thank God, that the bomb did not blow up, but the real damage here is to the Pakistani community,” Najam said. “Everyone [Pakistani-Americans] now gets ready for the office – or school – knowing he will be looked at differently.”

As a result, community leaders, such as Dr. Saud Anwar, the director of Connecticut’s branch of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee, are counseling fellow Pakistanis to jump on the offensive. “We’re hoping we’re not going to be marginalized and we’re trying not to be scared, so we’re mobilizing the community to condemn the incident,” he said.

After 9/11, Anwar made a choice to be more “politically active and to build bridges with the law enforcement community.” He now works closely with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to help identify suspected terrorists. He has also encouraged his fellow Pakistanis in Connecticut to become more engaged with the police, in part to counter the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorist-sympathizers.

If Muslim-Americans don’t take an active approach, Anwar believes, they will only be further marginalized, which in turn will lead to increased “identity crises” and subsequent radicalization in the greater Muslim community–an arguably vicious and deadly cycle.

Najam also contends that Muslims are being “more vigilant against crackpots within their own communities,” by reporting them to the authorities. “We are trying to deal with incidents involving black sheep much better,” he said, referring to fellow Muslims that are suspected of harboring radical and violent agendas.

Both Najam and Anwar are trying to preemptively thwart the onslaught they say their communities faced after 9/11. Back then, both men argue, many Muslim-Americans felt they were put under a microscope by the mainstream American media and society at large. “There was a very high level of apprehension immediately after 9/11,” Najam said. “‘American-Americans’ – whatever that is – were apprehensive about Muslims, and we were internally apprehensive about how we were being viewed.”

Prof. Sinan Antoon of New York University believes that U.S. government policy and rhetoric following 9/11 only compounded the situation for Muslims. “The war on terror discourse and the manichaean view of a world populated by those who are with us and those others who are against us spelled danger and disaster for Arab and Muslim citizens or immigrants,” Antoon said. “After 9/11,” he added, “Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans were all guilty by association.”

Indeed, for many ‘ordinary’ Americans – non-Muslims, or “American-Americans,” as Najam put it – ‘Muslim’ became the codeword for ‘terrorist.’ As a result, many Muslims felt forced to take responsibility for the acts of religious (and political) fanatics who happened to share the same faith.

Antoon further argues that Muslims were easily linked with terrorists after 9/11 because “terrorism was explained in cultural and civilizational terms, not in material history and politics.” “The result,” he explained, “was for the U.S. government to absolve itself of its own responsibility in supporting foreign jihadists in the 1980s…and skirt the blame to the cultural sphere and simplify phenomena and events as simply a class of cultures.”

But Najam is optimistic that things could be different this time. He believes that mainstream American society has evolved since the time period following 9/11. “Society is more adept at handling these [terrorism incidents] as acts of criminality,” he said. Most Americans, Najam argues, no longer see the actions of individuals such as Shahzad as representative of an entire cultural or religious group.

Anwar, too, is trying to remain positive. “There are over 1 million people of Pakistani heritage in the U.S., and there was one idiot that couldn’t think straight,” he said.

“I think America is better than that–blaming the whole community.”

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