This article is a generalization but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fabrication. I happen to be from Philadelphia, and even though I have not read the entire book, “The Philadelphia Negro”, By W.E.B. Dubois, I always liked the title. So I used the title for this article although my article here has little if anything to do with the book written by W.E.B. Dubois. This article is about growing up as a Muslim in Philadelphia. One thing about growing up in Philadelphia is that you never forget where you came from. Now that may be true for many places but if you are from Philly, no matter where you move to in the country or the world, you still consider yourself from Philly and a Philly person. There is something that can be said that is the Philly vibe. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.
It is not one characteristic. It is many characteristics rolled up into one. And all those characteristics do not go for everyone. It all depends where you grew up, and how you grew up in Philadelphia; what kind of home, what kind of lifestyle, what kind of parents, what neighborhood, and one combination of home and street values where you raised upon. All that goes into who you are as a Philadelphian, and of course like I said, this is not just for Philadelphia, but I just happened to be from Philadelphia.
I grew up in a working-class, two-parent Muslim household. For the most part, we were always the only Muslims in the schools, the only Muslims on the block and for most years the only Muslims in the immediate neighborhood. Both of my parents were heavily involved in Islamic work. Our lives as I remember it, revolved around Islam. Does that mean that we were perfect Muslims, or the perfect Muslim family? No, of course not, and there’s no such thing by the way. It is just that Islam was a focal point of our lives and our identity growing up in Philly. Every city and region has it’s own personality when it comes to culture, politics, and religion. Philadelphia is no different, and when it comes to the religion of Islam in the United States, to IslamI grew up in the area of the city called Germantown. I grew up at a time where we had gangs in the neighborhood, and if you did not know anything else, you had to know how to fight, you had to know how to stand up for yourself and to stand up for your religion which was frequently under attack. Philadelphians tend to speak straight to the point, and tend to take a stand on things; for or against, with you or against you, agree with you or do not agree with you, your friend or your foe. I do not know about now, but back in the day people did not tend, at least the people that I know, to be wishy-washy.
Then there were always the con artists, and the con games, and the people who would always like to BS. I never had too much of a stomach for those types. Once you are known as a con artist and everybody tends to look at you as a con artist, and if you were a con artist you had to take your chances, if you got over, got over. If he got caught, then there were consequences and you just had to live with that. Those were the rules back then, and I do not know what the heck the rules are today. If you had a butt whuppin coming, (or worse) because of your actions, the police couldn’t save you. If you conned somebody, set someone up, or where treacherous, most likely, you had to pay the consequences for that.
I do not ever recall having to live under the guise of political correctness. I do not even think that they had the terminology back then. You would say what you meant, and you meant what you said. One of the worst things that a person could be back then was to be two-faced, to run your mouth too much about other people’s business, to be wishy-washy, or to be a coward.
Philadelphia was always a city of uppity Negroes who would dare to speak up, to keep coming back, and to not give up, and the Philadelphia Muslim Negro is an uppity Muslim who will fight off the yoke of second-class Muslim citizenry. There were times when our city was very racially polarized and we used to fight for respect. Many brothers from Philadelphia have went overseas and study Islam. There are many graduates from Islamic universities who were from Philadelphia.
The first indigenous American Muslim who memorized the Quran, Shaykh Anwar Muhaimin, is from Philadelphia. Some of the oldest indigenous American Muslim families who have four, five, and six generations in Sunni Islam are from Philadelphia. Our country was founded in Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. The underground railroad came through Philadelphia. Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist movement thrived in Philadelphia. Martin Luther King was influenced by Philadelphia during his time in Chester, Pennsylvania. Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish American Science Temple flourished in Philadelphia. The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. John Coltrane settled in Philadelphia. Will Smith is from Philadelphia, Pattie Labelle settled in Philadelphia, Grover Washington Jr. was from Philadelphia.
The religion of Islam has a very rich history in Philadelphia. We were taught from a very young age to take our Islam seriously. Although much of the history has yet to be written, Islam in America amongst indigenous American Muslim converts has a lot to do with Muslims in Philadelphia who spread out and strengthened other communities, and established communities. Philadelphia is a city of courage, and
So when I wrote the book Double Edged Slavery about the modern-day colonization of African American Muslims, you have to keep in mind that I am very much a product of Philadelphia. You may or may not understand what that means but Philly people understand what I’m saying. I was raised not to be afraid to say what I have to say. I learned this from my mother and my father, and this is what you see reflected in my writings. Much of the passion that I drew upon in writing my book, had to do with me growing up and being a son of Philadelphia, and about the willingness to call a con-game, a con-game, and that what my book is about. It’s about liberation, and removing obstacles from between you and Allah.
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a Philadelphia native, a writer, consultant, patriot, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. Currently he delivers the Friday sermon (khutba) at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom 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 new book “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at email@example.com.