Why American Muslims should not vote as a bloc by Imam Luqman Ahmad

blogvoteph2016As provocatively empowering as it may sound, American Muslims should not consider voting as a bloc. None of the terms used to describe Muslims living in the United States; Muslim American, American Muslim, or Muslims in America if you like, describe or represent any single race, class, ethnicity, religious or theological category of Muslim Americans. There is no such thing as a distinct ‘American Muslim perspective’, or a specific American Muslim political aspiration. There is no political platform or published manifesto that legitimately or conclusively represents ‘American Muslim values’. The only thing that can be rightly categorized as genuine Islamic values are those contained in our scriptures and religious texts. Otherwise, American Muslim values are as varied as American values are, and have a wider spectrum of diversity than there are colors in a rainbow.

American Muslims are different, with different views, different aims and goals, different attitudes about religion, different politics, and different sets of allies and adversaries. Even within our faith, there are different philosophies, groups, sects, madh’habi associations, and influences both foreign and domestic. Many Muslims in America are staunch, free and proud individualists not aligned with any particular group, political or otherwise, others are hardwired sectarians.

There are Muslims who are apolitical and care nothing at all about politics, and there are those who politicize nearly everything and would politicize eating a Snickers bar if it served their interests. Despite the falsely propagated narrative that American Muslims are the same with the same politics, domestic trajectory, and aspirations, nothing could be further from the truth. American Muslims have different views on liberalism, race, money, sexuality, islamophobia, morality and moral priority. We also have varying levels of education, insight into American society, national allegiance outside our borders, and patriotism.

Some American Muslims are recent immigrants, some have dual citizenship, some not yet citizens and some were born here having never set foot outside of this country. Of those born here in the United States are the descendants of slaves, as well as second and third generation sons and daughters of immigrants. Some American Muslims are multi-lingual, and others only speak English. Some are refugees with enough problems already than to be pulled further into the bowels of Muslim American politics. As far as political preferences go, some of us are principled individualists, others are theologically sectarian, some are perpetually undecided independents and some, when operating politically, do it from a markedly pronounced tribal or group perspective.

In my view, people who advocate Muslim Americans voting as a bloc are simply opportunists, championing a fanaticized version of reality. According to a 2014 PEW survey, Muslims are less than 1% of the population in America, hardly enough to be considered a ‘make or break’ constituency in any national or federal election. The only things that Muslims in America do as a bloc perhaps are to worship, attend Friday prayer, make Hajj and recognize our two religious holidays; (Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Ad’ha). None of these functions will be affected one way or another way by one presidential candidate winning over the other.

In their enthusiasm to be regarded as a political force, many Muslim mega-organizations mix politics with religion. This enthusiasm, is understandable except that to do that effectively in an advanced constitutional republic like the United States, one must both understand the true essence of the religion of Islam, and the nature of electoral and campaign politics in America. I’m not questioning anyone’s understanding of religion here, but as far as American electoral politics goes, people go into the voting booth as individuals. We don’t have group votes, ethnic votes, tribal votes, or religious votes. Those who want to advance and control a ‘Muslim vote’ in America should go ahead and start their own political party, and be transparent about it so that the rest of us won’t get labeled and typecast by the politics of a few. We do not need at this juncture, opportunistic Muslim politicians seeking brownie points claiming they can deliver the ‘Muslim’ vote.

Muslim Americans who intend to vote, should vote their conscious, and look more to local elections to make a difference. You can vote as a citizen who happens to be Muslim or vote as a Muslim, who happens to be a citizen.  In each case, a presidential victory by either Donald J. Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton is not likely to affect whether or not you will go to heaven or whether or not we can pray our five prayers, pay zakat, fast the month of Ramadan or make the Pilgrimage to Mecca. If an American Muslim wants to enhance their level of faith and practice of Islam, then the work must start within ourselves and in our mosques with a focus on faith issues, and the way that we treat people and serve humanity. All of which can be handled outside of the electoral process.

Both the official 2016, 51-page Democratic platform, and the official 58-page Republican platform, contain points that on the one hand support certain aspects of Islam, and on the other, contradict moral axioms of our faith. Otherwise, the political platform of both parties is fundamentally secular in nature. Voting according to your conscious offers the best bang for your electoral buck in the short and long term for American Muslims. At least then, people may start not to lump us all together as some zombie class and start to see that American Muslims are people just like everyone else; each with his or her individual way of looking at things including personal differences, preferences, and religious intensity. In doing so, we would be debunking the idea of the Muslim fifth column in America.  An idea that American Muslim organizations extolled, and who by attempting and failing to represent us all, helped to create the stereotype in the first place.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is a writer, public speaker, consultant, Imam and Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights, and President and CEO of Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank. Contact him at imamluqman@icdph.org. Donate to our da’wah and educational work and to establish a place of worship by clicking here.

 

 

 

Black Lives Matter. But How Much and to Whom?

black-lives-matterBlack Americans are the most oppressed, most despised, most marginalized people in the United States, and for the basest and most immutable reason; simply because they are Black. This type of racial oppression and injustice is not only a crime against people, but a crime against God, and a rejection of His Sovereignty and His attributes of Completeness and Perfection. According to the Islamic faith, differences in peoples’ language and color are signs of Allah and not badges of superiority or inferiority. “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge“. 30:22

What makes racism so heinous a crime against God is that it subverts the message of a just God, that people are judged by what is inside, not by what is outside. The Prophet (SAWS) “Verily Allah does not look at your shapes or your attire, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds“. [Muslim]. Black people in America are not oppressed because of their religion, their politics, their occupations, their choices of clothes, cars, or houses; Blacks suffer oppression in the United States simply because of the color of their skin; a color which was chosen by their Creator. “It is He who fashions you in the womb in whatever way He chooses.” 3:6

The first racist act known to man originated from none other than the devil himself. God said, “What prevented thee from submitting when I commanded thee?’ He said, ‘I am better than he. Thou hast created me of fire while him hast thou created of clay.” 7:12 This shows that racial discrimination was a crime against God even before it was a crime against man. As an African American, I find racial injustice repugnant to the highest degree, and as a Muslim, I find it especially abhorrent because it is in defiance of the Lord.

Racism is one of the premier issues of our time, and Muslims, although they don’t realize it, are right in the middle of it. When Muslims engage in the practice of racism, exploit the slave mentality amongst Blacks in America, and assume the role of the master, it is no less a crime against God, a rejection of His sovereignty and an assault upon tawhid [monotheism]. “Verily the most honored of you to Allah are the most God-fearing of you.” 49:13

Although I’m not the protestor on the street, make a lot of noise, sign carrying type of person, I understand the ideals of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black people are routinely shot, killed, arrested, manhandled and harassed by police officers in this country for no other reason except that they are Black. The protests and the movement are meant to bring attention to this travesty, and for it to stop. I get that.  We decry police brutality and excessive violence and rightly so but the police save more Black lives than they oppress becase if we didn’t have them in the hood, we’d probably kill each other even more. Brother look over their shoulders for the police and the brother right next to him ends up being the one who turns on him. So while we wait for the system and the culture of institutional racism to change, we ourselves need to make some changes in the interim.

For Black Lives to matter, Black lives have to first, matter to Blacks more than they matter to non-Blacks. That would necessitate that we protest more when we kill each other than when others kill us, that we monitor our families more than we follow families on television, and that we respect our own wealth more than we support the corporations that market their products to us.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let us consider that all White police officers are not racist – and not all of them, or even a majority of them – are out to kill, assault, oppress or deny African Americans their human rights, their constitutional rights or rights granted to them by God Almighty. We should also recognize that there does exist a culture of crime, violence and family breakdown in the black community that creates an impression, that in some ways, Black lives do not matter to Black people in the ways that they should.

On the other hand, when it comes to dollars and cents, Black lives matter a whole lot to many people. From the profit-driven prison industrial complex which depends on high percentages of African American males to spend time in jail, to the thousands of local municipalities in America that salivate over revenue gained from disproportionately issued traffic citations, municipal ordinances and petty fines for African American residents, Black lives matter in real dollars and cents. To the many business interests who profit from racially biased policies, laws, and ghettoes, Black lives matter in bllions of dollars.

Court-appointed attorneys value the lives of poor Blacks because they make a living off of them by pretending to defend them in a racially biased criminal justice system. Sometimes they even make a collegiate attempt to work on their behalf, defend them earnestly, and seek acquittals. Either way, it’s their livelihood, it pays the bills, and it is done disproportionately off the backs of Black Americans.

Black lives indeed matter to the false hair, false nails, and false eyelash industry that rake in billions a year supplying Black women (and men) with a wide assortment of falsities. Black lives certainly mattered to the subprime lenders, banks, and mortgage brokers, who became multi-billionaires by way of unscrupulous lending and left poor unsuspecting families – disproportionately African-American – in debt and without homes.

Black lives matter to auto insurance companies to the tune of about $800 more per year, per driver. Black lives matter to the party and liquor store owners, many with names like Muhammad, Abdullah, and Ibrahim, who send their kids to college with profits earned from outrageously priced groceries, a full range of liquid intoxicants, and the sale of candy-colored rolls of lottery tickets.

The companies that make and supply marijuana rolling papers and blunt wrappers can appreciate that Black lives matter since Blacks helped create a whole new industry for them on a silver platter. Black lives matter a whole lot to the abortion clinics and organizations like Planned Parenthood that rake in billions each year off Black abortions. So all this fuss about Black lives matter needs to be put into perspective; it would indeed seem that black lives matter to everyone else except blacks.

The cold truth is that Black lives matter to the people who profit from Black Americans. From the media and pundits who make money off covering and pontificating about the rallies, and the protests, to the millions of dollars in law enforcement overtime and hazard pay generated when people take to the streets. People and corporations are making money off the politics and economics of racism, but it’s not going back to the communities that need it. Then we return home from the protests and marches with souvenirs, selfies, and stories to tell the kids and Grandkids, but the conditions in the neighborhoods stay the same.

Police brutality, deeply-entrenched institutional racism, and injustice against Blacks and other minorities in America is real. Although we have made tremendous progress since slavery, and since th days of Jim Crow, we are far away from being at the end of this struggle. Part of that struggle needs to be an honest and intrepid self-assessment about what we may need to change in ourselves, and what we can do to improve our condition.“Verily Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves“. 13:11. As Black American Muslims, our community deals with the effects of racism on several fronts simultaneously. From neo-Jim Crowism and institutionalized racism that begins before birth, to our own slave mentality, self-hate, and crabs-in-a-barrel syndrome, to the racism, racial bias and marginalization we find in Muslim America.

Racism in the American Muslim community negatively impacts not only the way many new Muslims perceive the culture of Islam, if affects the way non-Muslims view Muslims and the religion of Islam as well. More disturbingly, it impacts in monumental ways, the trajectory of Muslim communities where converts are the majority, as well as the ones in which they are a minority.  So given the prominence of race in our national domestic dialogue, when will the American Muslim community step up to the plate and be open and honest about race relations in our own religious community? When will we unpack that conversation beyond the usual party line? We hardly even want to admit that it is a problem. As race relations have improved in America, it has done nothing but deteriorate in the American Muslim community. This is the truth whether we care to admit it or not.

This whole conversation about race in America is a teachable moment for American Muslims. Racism is a moral issue at its core, and has to do with the way we view and understand God Almighty. If you are a Muslim and think that this issue has nothing to do with you. Think again.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Executive Director, Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights, he can be reached at imamluqman@icdph.org

 

What it Doesn’t Say in Our Scared Scriptures, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

quran laid out.jpgIt doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we should condemn some atrocities while remaining silent about others. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we try to convince people that Islam is a religion of peace; and not try to make peace between the Muslims who are arguing fighting and killing each other in such large numbers. It doesn’t say in our scriptures that we should work so hard to convince people how tolerant we Muslims are when we all know full well how intolerant we are of each other even in things such as beards, hijabs, birthdays, and having a personal opinion. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we pretend to be unified knowing full well that we are woefully divided according to race, ethnicity, class, tribe and economics.

It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that liking something is better than doing something. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that getting people to like us is a praiseworthy goal. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that wealth, fame and material success are the ways to obtain Allah’s pleasure. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we should blame all criticism of Muslims and islam on islamophobia and not consider that perhaps there are some things about our own behavior that contribute to people’s negative attitudes.  It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that the dead and living scholars about whom we fuss and argue and sever relationships are infallible or have been promised paradise.

It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that the best of you is the one who is the cutest, most handsome, has a perfect body or has the most money. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that men should assume the roles of women and women should assume the roles of men. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we need to refute every detractor, chase after every insult, or complain about every hardship. It doesn’t say anywhere is our scriptures that we demand our rights from society and ignore the rights of the poor, the needy , the oppressed and the indigent.

It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we question the words of Allah, and His Messenger (SAWS) but do not question the words of our politicians. it doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that one race of people are better than the other. It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we curse each other, and reveal what goes on in our bedrooms on the internet.  It doesn’t say anywhere in our scriptures that we should work so hard to change others and not admit or even entertain the idea that perhaps we need to change. Our scriptures are the Quran, and the authentic sunna of the Prophet (SAWS), and It doesn’t say any of that. – Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, patriot, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. Recently he headed up a new organization (Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights)to address the needs of Muslims, specifically new Muslim converts in the City of  Sacramento CA. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamluqman@icdph.org

 

What Muslim Americans need to understand about America, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

“America is more than what many Muslims think of her. I’m not blind to her faults but it is wrong to believe that our country and our history is without virtue’. – Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmadfreedom of speech

These are the United States of America, and I respect the right of every American to have his or her own opinion, and to speak their mind.  The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Amongst those receiving the most severe punishment on the Day of Judgment, is the two faced person. The one who goes to one group bearing a face, and to another group bearing another face“.

Speaking of having your own opinion, I personally do not like it when people immigrate to America, benefit immensely from what our country has to offer, make a few dollars, buy a house in the suburbs, and then starts trashing our country saying that America does not live up to their expectations. I’m not knocking anyone for expressing their views or criticisms. I’m talking about the one who completely trashes everything about our country and insinuates that there is no good here and thesis just an awful evil place. That’s just my personal opinion, and some of you may have your own opinions about my opinion and that’s your right. There’s no need for anyone to be offended, to be in a tizzy, or to unleash upon me a tirade of indignation. However, you can if you want to, just try not to make it personal. If you have a problem with my previous statement, then you’ll probably feel some kind of way about what I’m about to say next. Especially those to whom it applies.

New American Muslims should stop complaining so much about their new country and perhaps use the freedom and liberty afforded to them as American citizens to to ask the hard questions about how we practice Islam outside the din of polemical debate, political rhetoric, and public relations considerations.  Immigrant dominated national Islamic political and advocacy groups as well as the new class of Muslim activists — while advancing the argument that American Muslims are as American as apple pie — demonstrate in many ways, especially in the way they confront islamophobia, that they do not quite understand America.

While declaring that the principle cause of islamophobia (a term that I do not agree with) is that Americans do not understand Muslims and Islam, there needs to be a parallel acknowledgment by American Muslim immigrants, and anyone else who supports such an oversimplified, nonsensical notion, that there are lots of things they need to understand about America, and Americans whose acceptance they crave.

There is hardly any other personal liberty dearer to us than the right of every individual to speak his or her mind and to have our own personal views or opinions. To put it simply, we do not like being told what to think, or who we can like or dislike, or which religious group we can or cannot talk about. In America, if someone talks negatively about Christians, the whole of Christian America does not come down on them. It doesn’t elicit a nationwide, multi-denominational Christian rebuke, nor does it catapult the matter onto the American Christian agenda as the suggested topic for next Sunday’s sermon. That’s just not the way we do things in this country. Jews are criticized just as much as Muslims and are probably the most parodied religious group in America. The whole Jewish nation does not come down on every alleged anti-Semite, or scour the news hunting down people’s campaign worthy biases. Even if some Jews address it or some organizations say something (and that’s a big if), it doesn’t become a nationwide rabbinical campaign.

However, if someone, especially a prominent person or politician says something about Muslims, or God forbid articulates what Muslims activists believe to be an islamophobic sentiment, Muslim advocacy organizations capitalize on it and feeds it to the Muslim community as a campaign worthy issue, and from there it wafts into our nations mosques. That’s not cool. Not cool at all. If someone talks about Muslims, the whole Muslim community should not come down on them. That’s so freakin un-American.

When some people in our country demonized Muhammad Ali, he withstood it with dignity, now he is loved by some of those same folks. We excoriated al-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), he withstood our criticism and we ended up making a movie about him. We said bad things about the Mormons. They withstood it and got their own state. I could go on and on but the point is, no one in the history of the United States has succeeded in silencing their critics simply by complaining and calling them bigots, racists, islamophobes, nigger-lovers, or any other verbal counter-punch.

With all the degreed and advance degreed professionals we have in the American Muslim advocacy department,  it should be well understood that American Muslims will never succeed in shutting down all criticism of Islam and Muslims in America. We love that freedom of speech clause in the constitution and we’re not going to give it up. Even though some people may hold their tongue just to avoid the drama, Americans will continue to think and believe as we please, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. For every so-called islamophobe who cowers, or is silenced though bribery, professional censure or public pressure, another one pops up under the radar; in part due to the censure of the former. Some Muslims are still responding to statements made by Donald Trump more than three weeks ago.

During his Farwell Sermon, the Prophet (SAWS) re-emphasized Islam’s moral stance against racial and ethnic prejudice, and never once mentioned that we should concern ourselves with public image, chasing after peoples’ negative statements, or seeking acceptance of the people.  What a pathetic irony, that more than 1400 years after the Prophet’s last sermon, some American Muslims find themselves obsessed with the image of Islam, having to challenge every act of bigotry, and getting approval of the people, while almost completely ignoring our own debilitating racial, and ethnic prejudices that violate the moral code of our religion, and fuel the negative images of Islam and Muslims, that we find ourselves so obsessed with. – Imam Luqman Ahmad

Epilogue: So what do you suggest we do Imam? Answer: I suggest that we shift from responding to things politically to responding according to the dictates of our scriptures (Quran and Sunna). Simply put, we need to shift from political Islam to the religion of Islam and understand that they are not entirely the same. Yes, politics is a part of our religion, however, politics should be subordinate to religion, not the other way around. As Muslims we need to be more concerned with obeying Allah, and following the Prophet than we are with obeying our egos,  and following our political action handbooks. It’s that simple. More on this later. In the meantime, God bless the United States of America.

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant,  patriot,  Imam of  the Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamluqman@icdph.org

 

 

 

 

American Muslim converts; looks like you are on your own. By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

basmala

The Prophet ‫ﷺ said, “No people ever went astray, after they were guided, except that they were overcome by  arguing”. [at-Tirmithi]

Indigenous American Muslims seem to have developed an unhealthy appetite for arguing amongst one another, and it is certainly not just limited to us living here in the United States. Arguing and disputing with one another takes up an incredible amount of time.  We argue about aqeeda, we argue about food, we argue about clothes, we argue about family ties, we argue about who has the most hate for the kuffaar, who is imitating the kuffaar, and we argue what constitutes kufr and who’s faith is at risk. We argue about who is on the haqq, and who is not. We argue about Allah, we argue about His Holy names and attributes, we argue about His mercy, who deserves it and who doesn’t. We argue about who is guided and who is astray, and we don’t stop arguing, night or day.  We argue about the length of our pants, the shortness of our beards, and we even argue about the sajda marks on our foreheads.

Historically, everyday  Americans do not argue back and forth a whole lot about religion and religious doctrine. We live in a country where people are free to believe in whatever they like, and if a person is comfortable with his or her faith, they don’t feel the need to argue about it or defend it over and over to others. Baptists and Methodists don’t go back and forth arguing about doctrine, calling each other names, and neither do Jews and Christians.

Arguing back and forth about religion is a relatively new phenomenon that entered Muslim America along with the culture of sectarianism which Muslims have yet to resolve. The culture of arguing and sectarianism has made it pass our borders, and found a home amongst indigenous American Muslims. It seems that fourteen century’s worth of debates around theology, Islamic law, worship, faith, heresy, Muslim politics, and who should be in charge — which have taken place during the course of Muslim history — have all been resuscitated and given new polemical life here in the good ole USA.

We argue about groups, we argue about gatherings, and we argue about saying hello to a stranger. We argue about alliances and disavowal and we argue about friends as well as enemies. We argue about sects of Islam that do not even exist anymore. We argue about words, we argue about the meanings of words, and we argue about the meanings of the meanings of words. We argue about class, we argue about race, and we argue about titles that we make up and proclaim to be sanctified. We invent new titles and then argue about those.

So while we were busy arguing

So guess what Muslim American converts? While we were busy arguing amongst one another about shoes and socks, and madhhabs and minhajis, and sparring with one another using the views of your sheikhs as if you’re playing Rokem Sockem robots, something extraordinarily consequential has occurred. Actually, a few things have happened, but I don’t want to drop it all on you in one reading. It didn’t happen overnight, so you might not have noticed at all, but while we were engaging in theological proxy wars on the internet, trying out different identities, different paths, tariqas, movements, and championing every Muslim cause that was handed to us, (except our own of course) something has happened. And for many of us, it slipped right by without the slightest notice. Are you sitting down? Okay, I’m going to tell you.

A new group of Muslims leaders, communities and organizations have arrived on the scene who are better educated, have larger, stronger communities, are more organized, have more money (lots of money) and spread out across the nations cities and suburbs. They are the new American Muslims. Many of us complain that the narrative of Muslim America portrayed in the media, on national television, in commentaries, from the pens and mouths of many national Muslim leaders, activists and pundits, does not include the American Muslims who’ve converted to Islam. You know the ones I mean; The ones who are not searching for an identity, are not trying to figure out how to assimilate , who are not afraid of deportation, who do not have a “back home” to go to. Yeah, the converts to Islam and their children, and children’s children, and their children’s children.

The convert narrative is missing  because the convert community, many of whom are African American, are not included in the future plan being concocted for Muslim America. In fact, you are hardly mentioned except anecdotally. And you, the American Muslim convert community; of African American, White and Latino Muslims, are more of a novelty, a showpiece and a passing mention, than a serious part of any national conversation about Muslims. The tremendous amount of monetary and other resources coming from inside and outside of the United States in support of the new Muslim America, is not being funneled into your communities.

You should have seen this coming

Now don’t be alarmed, you should have seen this coming but you were preoccupied worrying about everyone else except yourselves. Some of you even believed them when they said you cannot be yourself, think for yourself, do for yourself, or even love yourself.   Some of you believed it when it was said that its not necessary to build your own masaajid, establish your own local communities, and to be honest, there was some Kool-Aid served and yes, some of us did take the drink. So while many of you were trying to figure this out, the new American Muslims, through their powerful organizations, began to speak for you (even though they don’t know you), tell you what issues should have priority, and even out the kindness of their hearts offered you a new identity. Now isn’t that nice.

It is appreciated that you were kind enough to put your own issues and more immediate needs on hold,  such as family issues, building Islamic schools for your children, building masaajid in your neighborhood where you live, addressing poverty issues were you live, crime in your communities where you live, and partnering with people and organizations where you live,  just to support the causes of the international Muslim community. That was darn good of you. Your service and commitment to the causes and agendas of Muslim peoples all around the world is duly noted. You championed Palestine, you championed Egypt and the Arab spring — which ended up being the Arab nightmare — you championed Darfur, you championed Libya, and when they told you to curse Gadhafi, you cursed him. When they told you to worry about ISIS, you started to worry, even though we have the strongest military in the world to handle ISIS. All in all,  your dedication and your commitment to the greater good of the world’s Muslims is admirable. It would have been needed if the world’s Muslims were just as concerned about you. Sadly they aren’t, except for a few. Today’s American converts to Islam will be remembered and recorded in the annals of history. At one point in history there was a need for you by the greater body of Muslims, and there is still a need for you in photo ops, cameo appearances, and of course a must item for every mega masjid to have at least 1 or 2 token African American or Caucasian Muslims.  However, at this point the convert community has outlived our usefulness to the larger community of the new American Muslims.

Yes converts, you are on your own but you are not by yourselves

Now you must deal with the reality that you are on your own as converts to Islam. Your communities are declining, many of your masaajid have closed its doors, and in the last 20 years as hundreds of new masaajid have been built around the country, there have been less than five new masaajid built in your communities. Some of you al-humdu lillah have stuck to the Masaajid and communities, and have stuck it out through thick and thin. Others amongst you who have converted to Islam found yourselves in a state of shock. You were immediately told that you have to give up your identity, give up your reasoning, give up your spirituality, your common sense, and even your Americanism, and for that we owe you a sincere apology. The Islam you were invited to is not the Islam that was shown to you after you converted.

So dear convert community, understand that you are on your own. However, you are not by yourselves. Remember that it was Allah who guided you to Islam, and it was His divine will that you become a Muslim. He didn’t do it because He wanted you to to be a colony in your own country, or a slave to anyone else besides Him. Allah did not bring you to Islam simply to fight the same fights, argue the same arguments, and perpetuate the same bigotries that have plagued Muslims worldwide. He didn’t guide you to Islam to buy into anyone’s sect, schism, or parochial version of Islam, or to become second class Muslims in your own country. He didn’t bring you into Islam to ague back and forth with islamophobes while your children are dying in the streets, or to spend your time trying to change people’s hearts, when you could be working on your own hearts. Allah called you to Islam to lift you, to purify you,  to dignify you, to strengthen you, and for you to be true to the principle that religion belongs to Allah, it is for His sake, and that we worship Allah alone without partners.  Believe that He will continue to guide you if you remain true to Him. You must realize that you are free to think, free to challenge, free to ask questions, free to resist any so-called Islamic authority that is not of your ranks and who does not represent your best interests.

There are many Muslims in America from all backgrounds who agree with me. Some people get it,  some people are in denial, and some people will catch up later in sh Allah. Many Muslims are just as sick of Muslim sectarianism  and marginalization of the American convert community as I am. There are many Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, Afghanis, Asians, Africans and European Muslims, who understand the need for real unity and equality amongst Muslims, and they are plenty. They will stand with you but you as the convert community must speak your mind, you must not be afraid to work for what’s in your best interest in this life and in the hereafter, speak for yourself, and stand for yourself. You might have you go into rebel mode. The slave traders took away your identity once, and you got it back through Islam, don’t let other Muslims take it away now. It is okay if you disagree with me, it s okay if believe that I am rocking the boat.  It’s okay if you want to argue, but please argue with yourself, or with someone else besides me. This is only my advice. I am a free American Muslim man and I am liberty to speak my mind and offer my advice to my fellow Muslims. Wal Allahul Musta’aan, wa sallalaahu alaa Muhammad wa alaa aalihi wa sah’bihi wa sallam.

Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad, is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at, imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

Next: Part II – Moving forward

Top Ten Priorities For American Muslims in 2016, by Imam Luqman

image2016 Top Ten Priorities for American Muslims

(faith based list)

  1. Remove politics from the practice of our faith, and give the religion back to Allah. Everything we do in the name of our religion should be for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of our public image, for the sake of popularity, or for the sake of defraying criticism.
  2. Have an open and honest discussion about the racial divide in Muslim America. We have to be true to our faith and candidly address the issue of racial division in Muslim America. This will be a sober conversation. However, we can get through it and we will be much better off at the other end. It will free us from denial.
  3. Separate politics from the religion. We cannot serve two masters. In the midst of decrying that ISIS has hijacked our religion, our politics seems to have hijacked our morality.
  4. Give American Muslim Imams the autonomy to shepherd their communities according to what their own knowledge and experience tell them and not based upon some national consensus. The ones in America who need to be representing Muslims are the imams, not our political leaders. We need to let our imams assume their rightful roles as stewards of our faith, and not silence them or control what they can and cannot say.
  5. Stop emphasizing ‘American’ in everything we do and say. It doesn’t have to be; American Muslims do this, or American Muslims did that, or look at us; we are American Muslims! We need to stop that. At this point it’s overkill, and It getting old.
  6. To national Islamic, political, advocacy, and policy organizations; Stop presenting a single narrative of Muslim America that excludes indigenous African American, White, and Latino Muslims. No one has to right to represent all American Muslims. We are too diverse of a group with a diverse history, sentiments, understanding of moral priority and  different sense of politics.
  7. Stop sloganizing our religion and cease from using these stupid slogans and talking points; “somebody hijacked our religion”, “Islam is peace”, “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam”, “Islam is as American as apple pie”, “Islam is just like Chistianity”.
  8. Give up the idea of crafting a singular identity for American Muslims. Each Muslim American, if they don’t already have one, needs to simply get their own identity. It’s not that difficult you know. Making or crafting an identity summons images of Frankenstein, the Borg, or impersonating God, and I’m pretty sure its haram anyway.
  9. Stop denying that there are two Muslim Americas, one for immigrants and one for indigenous Muslims. The sooner we can accept our reality and deal with what needs to be dealt with, then the sooner we can move on as a people of faith.
  10. Stop thinking that you have to respond to every insult, and every criticism of Islam and Muslims.
  11. Find out the true identity of the person or persons who are in charge of the anti-Islamophobia campaign.

Top Priorities for American Muslims (Politically based list)

  1. Defeat islamophobia and crush the islamophobes once and for all.
  2. Do more networking with non-Muslim organizations so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  3. Do more charity work and get good press and pictures so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  4. Register one million voters so that we can create a Muslim voting block to target islamophobic politicians and defeat islamophobia.
  5. Make sure that America knows that Muslims are afraid of islamophobia so that people can take pity on us and we can defeat islamophobia.
  6. Hold more conferences with themes centered around islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  7. Get more people to say good things about Muslims and perhaps target some celebrities and prominent Americans for this so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  8. Shut down any dissent from within the American Muslim community about the insanity in how we fight islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  9. Keep talking about islamophobia so that Muslims will stay focused on islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  10. Do more interfaith work, pray in more churches, consider celebrating Easter, and get better at denouncing terrorism, so that we can defeat islamophobia.

American born Luqman Ahmad, is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com.  The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at, imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

An Open Letter to American Muslim Imams Regarding The San Bernardino Incident, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

minbarIn light of the recent attacks in San Bernardino which were declared as acts of terror, we as American Imams and khateebs must resist being swept away by the wave of emotions and fear of backlash from dedicating our Friday prayers or our Friday sermons to anything or anyone except Allah Be He Exalted, for this would constitute a breach in our commitment to tawheed (Islamic monotheism). For our Lord has declared;

فَمَنۡ كَانَ يَرۡجُوۡالِقَآءَ رَبِّهٖ فَلۡيَـعۡمَلۡ عَمَلًا صَالِحًـاوَّلَايُشۡرِكۡ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهٖۤ اَحَدًا

“And whoever wishes to meet his Lord then let him work deeds of righteousness and not associate anyone in the worship of his Lord”. 18:110

Our Lord demands, and our congregations have a right that Imams are honest, forthright, sincere, and unhindered in what we impart to our communities in the way of scriptural exhortations, religious instructions, and advisements on the sacred day of Jum’ah. The faithful congregations that we serve in our nation’s mosques have placed in each of us their trust that we speak as free men. It is their right that we speak according to our knowledge of the Book and of Prophetic tradition (Sunna) and not according to the talking points suggested by Muslim politicians.

We should be reminded that Allah has ordained the Friday prayer to be for the remembrance of Allah. Thus it cannot serve as a memorial for any person living or dead;

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِي لِلصَّلَاةِ مِن يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“O you  who have attained to faith! When the call to prayer is sounded on the day of congregation,  hasten to the remembrance of Allah, and leave all worldly commerce: this is for your own good, if you but knew it.” 62:9

Therefore, speak as you will dear brethren, on whatever topics that you see beneficial at this time, but deliver your sermons as free believing men of conscience, inspiration and choice, being obligated to no one except Allah, be He Exalted and Glorified. For it is hypocritical, and disingenuous for any of us to say that we stand for freedom of choice, freedom of speech, or liberty, and for the best interests of our religion, and our country, if we allow anyone, including Islamic organizations, Muslim leaders outside of our congregations, law enforcement agencies, the media, or politicians, to control the messages we deliver from the pulpit.

Lastly one of the most egregious forms of tyranny, is to restrict the words of a khateeb while he is speaking on Friday inside of the House of Allah. The message we deliver in the Friday sermon, should never be compromised, sold, auctioned or bartered, or loaned to anyone, at any time, in any mosque. If we allow that to happen, then we have betrayed our country, our community, our religion and ourselves.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He is also a founding member of COSVIO (Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations). This article represents his views, and not those of any other person or organization. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

 

The Conning of the American Muslim, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

bamboozledNo one likes to admit that they’ve been conned. Nevertheless, there comes a time when you have to cut your losses and get out of the game which is what most victims of scams are advised to do. It seems that many American Muslim leaders have trouble recognizing a con job; even when they are conning themselves.

Just for the record; the practice of speaking on behalf of others without their permission, and without authority, is fundamentally un-American, not withstanding that it is wholly un-Islamic. When one or two Muslim organizations speak on behalf of all American Muslims about our fears, our politics, our emotions, our faith, our patriotism, or our response to this incident in San Bernardino, it undermines, and contradicts everything previously expressed about wanting to assimilate, or having already assimilated, or that we are just like other Americans, that we’re not a fifth column, or that we believe in freedom.

It says that we all think the same, feel the same, are of the same mind, in the same condition, have the same priorities, and accept the same absurdities. It also sends the message that we are disingenuous, and not to be trusted. When have you every seen or heard of a Christian or Jewish political or advocacy organizations get on national television and say they are speaking for all Christians or all Jews. Even our beloved Prophet (SAWS) allowed the Arab tribes to speak for themselves in many matters.

American Muslims are the only so-called religious demographic that allows their political and advocacy organizations to speak on behalf of their religious congregations. When these organizations bring along highly respected scholars such as Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui and religious leaders to a press conferences as window dressing while they do all the talking, it confirms for many Americans that Islam is a political ideology more than it is a religion. It says that we are fundamentally secular with little moral fortitude.  It also s the message that we are dishonest, have no stable identity and that we practice a moral code other than what our scriptures teach. All of this is dangerous and fuels the very thing [islamophobia] that we say we trying to stamp out.

Now I’m a Muslim, I love Muslims and this is all abundantly clear to me. Imagine those who are not Muslim, or those who never had a problem with Muslims but come to a negative conclusion about us because of the way our politics have hijacked our morality. You may not agree with me but you do not have to look very far to read what many ordinary Americans say about Muslims as they bring up these very points as well as many others. The sad irony about us is that we are so arrogant, so pompous, so blinded by ego and wanting to be accepted we do not even believe anymore that we could possibly share some culpability for the anti-Muslims sentiment that plagues us so much.

We complain so much that they do not understand Islam while we make it abundantly clear that perhaps we do not understand Islam. Not even enough to know that the word Islam means submission and not peace. We think that the press is doing us a favor when they convey our message to the entire country how all Muslims Americans are now in fear, dismayed, disheartened, disappointed, that America has let us down, that we’re bracing for the backlash. When in reality what the media is doing is showing the extent of our moral immaturity.  We may be cheering, but others are seething with disdain, many are laughing, and some of us are crying.  At least if we took an Islamic approach to these matters we would have the hope of spiritual growth, and reward from Allah. Attempting to craft a pre-packaged sanitized Muslim identity through the very media that we blame for distorting our identity is like trying to beat the devil at his own game; we have nothing to show for it except disappointment. I know that certain groups of American Muslims have a lot of education and we think we’re really smart, and maybe some us are, but not that smart if we think we can play poker with Shaitaan and win.

We have our children and teenagers crying that we cannot practice our faith anymore because of all this islamophobia. People read these types of statements and conclude that Muslims are so full of themselves that they cannot see the forest for the trees. There is nothing, nothing at all that prevents any Muslim living in the United States from believing in Allah and the Last Day, from praying five times a day, from giving zakat, or from fasting during Ramadan. People practiced Islam here while they were slaves! Yet we cry anytime our ego is bruised. The sad reality is that we’ve raised a whole generation of Muslims Americans who cannot distinguish between Muslim political hype, and actual Islam. Ask your child or teenager the meaning of Islam. If they say ‘peace’, then you have deceived them already, and if we think that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will accept the excuse of Islamophobia for not praying, not giving charity, and not fasting, we have deceived ourselves. – imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad

imamluqman@icdph.org

 

 

 

 

 

The Massacre in Paris; Assessing the Muslim Response, by American Imam, Luqman Ahmad

Iterror-attack-paris-510x287 do not regard lightly, the loss of any innocent life that Allah has made inviolable. Innocent life is sacred, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, nationality, or ethnicity. It is Allah who grants life to whomever He pleases, and no one has a legitimate right to take that life unjustly. When people die, other people’s lives are affected. When innocent people are mercilessly killed, slaughtered, gunned down, beheaded, massacred, blown up, suicide bombed, or droned for no sense at all, it amplifies the tragedy.

I agree wholeheartedly that condemning violence against innocent souls is an appropriate Muslim response as it falls into the category of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil (al’amr bit a’roof wal nahyi an al-munkar). However, condemning selected instances of violence, while remaining silent about others that are equally if not more heinous, only perpetuates the widely held notion that Muslims living in the West are disingenuous, and self-serving. If Muslims are in fact, morally outraged about the terrible slaughter in Paris, then we should be equally outraged when it happens in Beirut, North Africa, Palestine, in suburban Connecticut, or in a Chicago slum.

There is a difference between taking a firm, unequivocal, morally principled position against injustice and murder of innocent lives of any kind, and taking episodic stances against occurrences of extreme violence’s against innocent civilians, according to hyperbolic pressure from the media, or our own political, and public relations considerations. This recurring, and seemingly automated Muslim reaction to these types of selected and sensationalized acts of extremism only takes us deeper into an ostentatious black hole, with no foreseeable ending or win game.

If we still believe that selective condemnation of Muslim violent extremism will somehow convince the media and vocal critics of Islam, and Muslims, to put the brakes on their vitriol, and give the rest of us a break, then history has shown that we are terribly wrong, and have not succeeded by any measure.

That we continuously find ourselves in the circuitous predicament of feeling compelled to condemn yet another incident of Muslim violence, and then complaining with the same frequency that no one’s listening, is testimony enough that just as violent extremists have hijacked the image of Islam, our politics has hijacked our morality.

We cannot continue to calibrate the shelf life and intensity of our moral consciousness based upon the length of a news feed or the broadcast schedule of the news media. Politicizing our Islam has virtually eviscerated Muslim moral credibility in the West. If people believed that we were truly a people of conscious and not a people of convenience, there would be no expectation of Muslims to condemn selected instances of violence, nor would we feel any compulsion to do so.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad has been the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento California, for close to 20 years. He is the author of the Book: ‘The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafiyyah Sect, a detailed analysis of extremist salafiyyism, which is the mindset of the modern ISIS extremists. Available on Amazon.com. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

The Islamophobia Charade ; American Muslim Leaders Just Don’t Get It

I wrote this blog post in January of 2011, and as of November of 2015, five years later we are still stuck in the same predicament that we were then. I would rather that my predictions were wrong. Sadly, they weren’t. Read it for yourself. I reblogged it without changing a single word.

The Lotus Tree Blog

One of the most perplexing dilemmas faced by Muslim Americans is what is seen as the rising tide of anti-islamic sentiment. It tops the agenda of virtually every mosque, Islamic center, and Muslim political or religious organization in the country.
Whether or not the negative views of Islam and Muslims held by some Americans amounts to a civil rights crisis of the magnitude that some American Muslim leaders claim, is doubtful. When Americans think about civil rights, we summon the images of blatant discrimination, such as, denial of housing, employment, and education. We don’t usually think of name calling and negative sentiment as a civil rights issue.
Nevertheless, many Muslim American leaders and organizations have declared fighting islamophobia as the number one priority for Muslim Americans, and to make matters worse ; they are trying to sell it to the rest of us. Quite frankly, I’m just not buying it.

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