Wednesday, June 28, 2006

south florida black community objects to building new islamic center

The Islamic Center of Florida located in Pompano Beach, Fl recently faced some resistance when they tried to get permission to build a larger structer. The Islamically Center narrowly received permission to build but I almost wish that it hadn't. It would have been a serious wake-up call to encourage Muslims to take better care and greater interest in the communities where we live.
Commissioner Pat Larkins was one of the most outspoken critics of a new mosque. Larkins, who is black, said there is a perception in the neighborhood he represents that Muslims do not give back to the community.

"I am not opposed to constructing the facility," Larkins said. "I am opposed to the conduct of the Muslim business community in our neighborhood."

Larkins drew applause from those in attendance at Tuesday's City Hall meeting when he said there was no need for the mosque in a predominantly black neighborhood.

His comments raised furor among the Muslim community when he was quoted by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel as saying Muslims "don't contribute a nickel to any cause in terms of improving the community." He went on to say "most black folks see them as people that come in to rape the community and go away."

Larkins said he is opposed to the way some Muslim business owners operate and treat blacks.

"I think it's a shame when I see beer and wine sold by people who claim that they preach Islam at 4 o'clock in the morning in my community," Larkins said.

Sam Smith, who lives in the neighborhood where the mosque is supposed to be built, agrees with Larkins.

"The ones that own the stores, they're very disrespectful to our kids," Smith said. "…They think all the kids here are trying to steal."

But Areeb Naseer, a member of the Council of American Islamic Relations, objected to Larkins' comments, saying that the decision to allow a new mosque in the neighborhood should not be based on perceptions

(full story)

even more marvin x

Marvin X (who also goes by Maalik El Muhajir) is one interesting brother. He is coming out with a new book entitled Towards a Radical Spirituality but apparently some excerpts are already available over at Chickenbones: A Journal:
love and spirituality
ancestors and spirituality
sectarianism and spirituality
language and spirituality
nature and spirituality
prison and spirituality
death and spirituality

I feel a little odd about including him since he is kind of a poet and a free spirit and isn't totally into being "orthodox". But at the same time, especially if we allow for a certain amount of poetic license, he isn't particularly unorthodox either. Feel free to let me know what you think of his ideas. I especially like What If (There was no god but God)?

And here are some older Grenada links which also ultimately connect back to ChickenBones:
marvin x
more marvin x

interview with head of somalia's islamic courts organization

Saturday, June 24, 2006

what would a white mosque be like?

Umar Lee starts off his recent piece: The white masjids of the future by saying:
An African-American Muslim brother recently told me that Islam would be a true success in America when we have mostly white masjids in cities throughout America like we have predominantly African-American masjids in every sizeable American city (and several in many).

Then the African-American brother mentions what he thinks such masjids would be like ("in the suburbs with a golf course and akin to a megachurch") and Umar fleshes out his own conception with a lot more detail. My own experiences with white (i.e. Anglo-American) Muslims have been generally positive. I would just add two general observations or impressions to Umar's vision based on my own experiences.

Firstly, the white Muslims I've met are overwhelmingly Sufis (Naqshbandis and Shadhilis mostly) at least compared to Muslims in America as a whole. In fact, the only times I've been in a gathering with mostly white Muslims were Shadhili dhikr sessions. (This reminds me of a Chicano friend of mine who was nominally Catholic but was a "political Muslim" if you know what I mean. He once said to me "White people sure love Rumi".) So I would strongly expect that in the future "the white masjids" would probably be pretty Sufi-friendly. (Furthermore, if it weren't for groups like the Nation of Islam, Moorish Science, etc. it is very likely that the face of American Islam today would be overwhelmingly white Sufis)

The second feature is more of a question in my mind than a distinct impression. And I'm not sure if I totally understand the trajectories which a typical white American would take to Islam, but I wonder if there is a tendancy towards a kind of conservatism.

First, I should probably say that in general, I've found that it can be difficult to put Muslims into a small number of simple ideological camps. Muslims can be right/left on social justice issues, conservative/liberal on "family values" issues. Muslims will take different stances on foreign policy questions. On matters of religious practice, an individual can be strict or liberal. But a seperate question is whether you are traditional/orthodox, Salafi/Wahabi or something else. And it is possible to find Muslims which are examples of every possible combination of positions.

And I should note that just the fact that a white person would be willing to convert to an "Oriental" religion and join a community where they would be a small minority speaks to a certain amount of open-mindedness when it comes to racial/multicultural issues. And that might tend to be associated with being politically "liberal".

But apart from that, one thing which which makes me wonder if white Muslims have a conservative streak is the fact that a significant and vocal group of Western converts to Islam identify themselves as "Traditionalists". (While I admire some of their writings, I sometimes have to wonder about them because intellectually they share some influences with honest- to- goodness Fascist movements.)

Furthermore, there is the example of someone like Stephen Schwartz (Suleyman Ahmad Al-Kosovari) who is somewhat of a neo-con and even has his articles posted on the conservative Front Page Magazine website.

And in general, I've often wondered to what extent Muslims in America are taken in by the religious right's bait-and-switch of right-wing politics and religious values (Especially after an umbrella group of Muslim organizations endorsed George W. Bush in the 2000 Presidential election). African-American political wisdom encourages Blacks not to conflate the two, but I honestly don't know what the trend is among white Muslims.

So the white mosques of the future, will probably be full of Sufis, and could possibly lean to the right. what do you think?

Friday, June 23, 2006

miami and the seas of david

Check out: Miami and the Seas of David to read some commentary on the recent situation in Miami.

nammu muhammad?

Also, I should add that I got a few more hits searching for information on "Nammu Muhammad" than "Nammu Mohamed" so it is possible that the former is more accurate than the latter.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

vote nammu mohammed

From: African American Green Candidates to Watch in 2006
Nammu Mohamed, candidate for County Council in Richland County, South Carolina, is focusing his campaign on the needs of local families. "Families and children in Richland County need more than just words from the council, they need action," said Mr. Mohamed. "From jobs to education to juvenal justice, the county has let the people down long enough. It's time to elect a defender of children and families to the county council."

I honestly, don't know if Nammu is Muslim but given his last name, you kind of have to wonder.

And for past Planet Grenada articles on the connections between the Green Party and Muslims or Muslim causes, you might want to check out:
the spiritual left
khalil bendib
malik rahim
the green party supports divestment

A version of this post can also be found at Planet Grenada.

us muslim clerics seek a modern middle ground

NYTimes: U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground is a recent piece on Imam Zaid Shakir and Shakh Hamza Yusuf and how Zaytuna is participating in the Third Resurrection. (They don't actually use the term, but if you think about it, that's what is going on).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

sleeper cell - finally watching it

I had read about this series some time ago before it actually aired, but I haven't actually seen any of Sleeper Cell until now. (The series just came out on DVD and so I can watch the whole thing over a weekend) I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it yet. I've gotten through the first two DVDs and I'm taking a break before starting the finale.

Michael Ealy stars as an African-American Muslim FBI agent who is working undercover in a terrorist cell. I think the premise had a lot of promise, and the show is entertaining so far. It has its interesting bits. But to be honest, I'm not totally geeked about the series.


Simply by virtue of having to tell a story over a long period of time about a small central cast, the writers had to flesh out the Muslim characters and give them different backstories. So it's portrayal of Muslims almost couldn't help but be more humane and realistic than the typical stock terrorist villan which usually populates this type of story. The terrorist cell consists of: A Bosnian who saw his entire family being butchered by Serbs. An ex-skinhead from France who found Islam through his Morroccan wife. A young white American with liberal parents (clearly modelled on John Walker Lindh). The head of the cell is Saudi (Although for most of the series, his background is not specified, and during work hours he passes as a Sephardic Jew. This character is by far the most cartoonish).

In general, most of the Muslim characters are portrayed as deeply conflicted and contradictory in matters of religion. From the very first episode, we see the members of the cell hanging out in strip clubs, drinking. We find that they raise funds by dealing in heroin, child prostitution and pirated DVDs. The French Muslim is married but commits adultery with little restraint (At one point, he has sex with the mother of one of the other terror cell members).

We even see the "good" Muslim FBI agent order (and presumably drink) beer in a bar as a part of an assignment given to him by the terror cell. On top of that (and this takes us into a whole other level of issues) the "good" successful Black Muslim FBI agent also starts a sexual relationship with a white Catholic beautician (a "single" mother who later turns out to be married). We later meet one of his former girlfriends, an African-American women with a successful career in the State Department but we are never told explicitly why their relationship didn't work out.

Another level of contradiction appears when the members of the cell actually kill a genuine mujahid. In fact, pretty much all the pious (non-terrorist, non-drinking, non-fornicating) Muslim characters of any significance (a mainstream Yemeni scholar, a white American who fought to defend Muslims in Bosnia, a young Afghan boy who spent time in Guantanamo) end up dead by the end of whatever episode focuses on them. It makes it seem as if the "subliminal" message behind the series is: Compromise or die.

As I said in the beginning, this is definitely better than most Hollywood portrayals of Muslims (e.g. see Planet of the Arabs). And it is definitely a huge step to have a television series with an African-American Muslim lead character, and with actual Muslims involved both in front of and behind the camera. At the same time, there is definitely room for improvement.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Deconstructing the Coz

Salaam alaikum,

When you get a chance, please read my thoughts about Bill Cosby's crusade in the Black community.

While taking a break, I went into the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. I notice last Sunday's issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution with a picture of Bill Cosby and the title "Cosby gives Black folks a 'whuppin'." At that moment, all my thoughts about the whole Cosby Crusade finally came together. When Bill Cosby decided to speak his mind about the plight of Black America, I felt conflicted. Part of me felt like it was about time that someone, a public figure (ie: celebrity), came out and said the things that we've all been thinking. But another part of me felt like he was airing out our dirty laundry, even though our dirty laundry is hanging on a clothesline for everyone to see. But this time I had it. What I thought was a tough love message to the African-American community is really a crusade to mock and denigrate poor Black people.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

the hidden black iraq

Enter the words "black," "city" and "fuel" into the search engine of the American psyche and you'll conjure up the image of a Chevron station in Detroit. But add a historical element into the equation and you come up with Basra, Iraq. [...]

There has been a black presence in Basra -- present-day Southern Iraq -- as early as the 7th century, when Abu Bakra, an Ethiopian soldier who had been manumitted by the prophet Muhammad himself, settled in the city. His descendants became prominent members of Basran society. A century later, the writer Jahiz of Basra wrote an impassioned defense of black Africans -- referred to in Arabic as the Zanj -- against accusations of inferiority which had begun to take root even then. [...]

Led by an Iraqi poet named Ali Ibn Muhammad, the Zanj uprising of 868 galvanized thousands of black slaves who laid siege to and eventually overran the city of Basra. In short order, black soldiers in the army of the ruling Abbasid emperors based in Baghdad began to desert and swelled the ranks of the rebellion. Similar to later rebellions that created liberated "maroon" communities throughout the new world, the 15-year conflict, known as "The Revolt of the Zanj," led to the establishment of an independent Zanj capital city, minting of currency and the decade-long control of Basra -- one of the most important trade ports in the Abbasid empire. At their zenith, the Zanj armies marched upon Baghdad and got within 70 miles of the city.

From Alternet: The Hidden Black Iraq (for the whole story)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

story of a black qatari

From the blog of Umar Lee:
A friend of mine recently almost came to blows at his job with a co-worker from Qatar. The Qatari man was upset and wanting to fight because my feind, who is Puerto Rican, told him that he is African. The Qatari man, who is dark-skinned and about the color of say Barry Bonds with kinky hair, was livid that anyone would suggest that his roots are not Arab and they are African and wanted to fight my friend whom he told " you are really a Mexican and you just want to be black that’s why you say you are Boricua."

For a black man to deny his roots are from Africa is no different than George Bush or Denny Hastert denying their roots are from Europe ( which they would never do). This speaks to the fact that many black people have a negative image of Africa and blackness in their mind and I will give a few examples.

In middle school I once sat in a classroom full of kids, and it was a mostly black class, and the teacher asked us all to give our roots to the class and say where our ancestors came from and all of the black kids, except one, said they were Native American. Now in America it is common for a lot of people, black and white, to lie about some Indian grandma no one has ever seen, but when you have a room full of black kids say they are not African there is a problem.

Warith-deen Muhammad used to say that Fard Muhammad, when he brought up the concept of the "Asiatic Black Man" or the "Afro-Asiatic Black Man" he was doing this because he knew black people had a bad image of Africa. Indeed when I was a kid I saw many fights between black kids over being called some kind of "African booty-scratcher" or something of the like.

My next encounter with this was when the Somali immigrants began arriving in America in the 1990's and I would talk to them and they would not only tell me they were not African and Somalia is not a part of Africa; but that they are not black. Of course this is rubbish; they may not be black in Africa but in the US they are right next to Leroy, Bubba and Skillet ( for those who get that).

Black Africans have been brought to the Arabian Peninsula for centuries as slaves and now they are free and most of them, in some places all of them; have become completely Arabized and they now can call the Arab culture there own since it is all they have ever known similar to the African-American; but their roots are still in Africa.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

will minnesota send the first muslim to congress?

From Alt.Muslim:
A Muslim elected to Congress? Many Muslim Americans have tried in vain to attain this elusive office, their efforts stymied for various reasons including weak campaign skills, lack of political experience, and continuing suspicion of Muslim American loyalties. But one Muslim politician has done it the hard (i.e. right) way - by working his way up the political ladder and building a wide constituency of supporters in his district - not just those in the Muslim community. With his endorsement last week by the Minnesota DFL (affiliated with the Democratic Party), two-term state legislator Keith Ellison is well positioned to succeed retiring Congressman Martin Sabo in Minnesota's heavily Democratic Fifth District and make history as America's first Muslim member of Congress. Running on a progressive platform that some liken to the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Ellison doesn't emphasize his Muslim faith, but he doesn't shy away from it either. "It's good for people to see a reasonable, moderate face of Islam," said Ellison, who has worked with the local Muslim community to promote civic participation. But despite the advantages of party endorsement and a favorable electoral demographic (the Fifth District is one of the most liberal districts in the US), Ellison still faces some obstacles in his road to Washington, DC. A few Democratic candidates who lost out on the DFL endorsement will run against Ellison in September's primary, and his Muslim faith coupled with his past participation in the Million Man March (along with, uh, a million other people) is already drawing attacks on right-wing websites. Ellison, however, remains unfazed while he hits the campaign trail. "I just started studying [Islam] and found it interesting," said Ellison of his conversion many years ago. "I lead my life in a way to not make religion a big deal."