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

The Alcohol, Crack Pipe and Lottery Ticket Da’wah, By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Liquor stores

One of the reasons that Muslims who knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate marginalization have very little to say is that their argument cannot hold to a legitimate discussion. Our scriptures unequivocally reject marginalization or oppression of one Muslim people by another. This is one reason why the issue of Muslim owned liquor stores is a muted discussion in Muslim America despite its devastatingly harmful effects on our inner city neighborhoods. The neighborhoods where many of us live and do da’wah. Such a terrible blemish on the legacy of Islam in America.

So what does beer and alcohol, lottery tickets, drug paraphernalia, and pornography have to do with Muslims living in inner city America? Well ideally, the two should be worlds apart. After all, the religion of Islam is strictly against all of the above. Besides, we as a society are all too well aware of the dangers of illegal drugs, alcohol, gambling and pornography. Volumes have been written and researched about the harms of these things.  However, at least for now, the two appear to be inextricably connected to one another. It seems that almost every place that you find Muslims and masaajid in inner city neighborhoods in America, you’ll find nearby, Muslim owned liquor and party stores.

Thus, in the inner cities America, where the majority of converts to Islam reside, you have two competing da’wah messages coming from the Muslim community; you have the da’wah of the masaajid and faith community, calling for worship of One God (tawheed), social stability, morality, freedom from drugs and alcohol, aversion to pornography and freedom from gambling, and then you have the da’wah from a portion of the Muslim business community that says that we are just here to make money, at any cost. Theirs is a message that facilitates and profits from the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, and encourages people to gamble away their money on lottery tickets, and buy over the counter pornography. Welcome to the reality of modern-day Muslim America; Salaamu alaikum boss, have a Hennessy.

All across this great land, thousands of unscrupulous Muslim businessmen have set up shop in poor neighborhoods populated primarily by African Americans and Hispanics where they are purveyors of alcohol, beer, lottery tickets, drug paraphernalia, and pornography, all in the name of making a buck. They cater to, and aid and abet the very harmful types of activities that our Lord, be He Exalted and Glorified, has condemned and prohibited in His Own Holy Words, and that have proven to be destructive to individuals, families and neighborhoods. Sometimes you can even find behind the cash register counter on the wall, a placard with the name Allah or the name Muhammad, as if somehow the prominent display of Allah’s Holy Name will bless their endeavor or make up for the fact that they are selling alcohol and lottery tickets.

It some cities like Detroit, Chicago, friction has developed between African American residents in these neighborhoods and the Muslim businessmen (almost all immigrants) who have set up these liquor and party stores. Regardless of how much success a person may enjoy for his or her family in these types of business, there is no blessing in it and it does not offer real success in the long run:

 [“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper”. 5:90]

The thousands of Muslim businessmen who prominently sell alcohol, pornography, lottery tickets and all sorts of drug paraphernalia in our neighborhoods and act like leeches, preying upon the addict and the alcoholic, constitutes one of the most disgusting ironies of Muslim life in America. That is undermines the teachings of our beloved religion of Islam and of the work of the masaajid in this country is an understatement. It seems that across the country, no low income neighborhood is unscathed from this scourge. Just take a walk through any of the low income neighborhoods in any major American city; Harlem, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Charleston, Buffalo, New Haven and in many others, you will find a non-nondescript Mosque attended primarily by converts to Islam and right near it you will find Muslim owned liquor stores. Even if there is no masjid in these neighborhoods, there will be Muslim owned liquor stores.

Muslims who try to invite people to Islam in these neighborhoods often face an increasingly uphill battle as they try to convince people of Islam’s moral value. As one young Muslim put it; “here we are on one corner, inviting people to Islam and explaining to them the morality of Islam, and the detriment of a 40 ounce drinking, weed smoking, crack smoking lifestyle, while there is a Muslim business on the other corner selling them everything they need to partake in that behavior”. It’s interesting to note that in my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city that without a doubt the da’wah (call) to Islam has penetrated more than any other American city and the city where there is less opposition to Islam and Muslims than in other major American cities, all of the liquor stores are owned by the State of Pennsylvania, and the beer market is dominated by Asians and indigenous Americans. The phenomena of the Muslim owned liquor store does not exist in Philly, and probably contributes in some way to the mass acceptance of Islam amongst people in that city.

Liquor, beer and drinkable intoxicants are a 50 billion dollar industry and Muslim liquor store owners are amongst the wealthiest and most affluent members of our communities. Many of them try to justify their businesses by saying that they are not selling to Muslims while others offer no justification at all and simply retort that this is America and they can do whatever they want. Some are marginally repentant when asked about it and say that they are only trying to support their families and many say that part of the proceeds from their liquor sales is to support poor Muslims in their home countries. Still no matter how you look at it or try to rationalize it, the prominence of liquor and party stores that sell in addition to high priced groceries; beer, wine, liquor, lottery tickets, and drug paraphernalia is not a good thing and does not represent what the majority of Muslims in America want to be known for.

This issue is particularly disturbing and troublesome to American Muslim converts, many of whom live in these neighborhoods. Why is that? You might ask. Well the reason is many converts to Islam in America have come from a lifestyle that includes alcohol, drugs, gambling, and sexual promiscuity. So the notion that fellow Muslims would come to this country, a place where there are so many opportunities to be in any business you want, and make it their business to sell alcohol, pornography, drug paraphernalia, and lottery tickets in neighborhoods that we live in and that are already suffering from the ills of these products, is absolutely reprehensible. It’s sickening! Imagine if during the time of the Prophet (SAWS), people converted to Islam and found that the Muslims, people who they look up to and admiring the faith they profess, were in their neighborhoods promoting idol worship, selling idols, selling swine, and selling alcohol!

In a recent Lotus Tree Poll[1] conducted on a prominent social network, over 90% of respondents felt that the existence of Muslim owned liquor stores in America’s inner cities is a detriment to the da’wah to Islam. 93% felt that it contributes to the negative image of Islam in America, and nearly 96% feel that is takes away Allah’s blessing.  One has to wonder if some of the turmoil, famine, poverty, and unrest that we see today in Muslim countries is not a result of the ways we are handling our affairs. It’s bad enough that Afghanistan, a Muslim country, is the #1 producer of heroin and is responsible for 75% of the world’s opium production according to the New York Times[2] and other sources. Now we have Muslims business owners right in our own back yard, profiting and contributing to the ills of drug addiction and its deleterious effect upon our communities.

 [Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that ((Allah)) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil).” 30:41]

As the world grows smaller, we as Muslim must increasingly concern ourselves with events and actions that not only affect individual Muslim but have a profound impact upon modern Muslim civilization; here in the United States as well as abroad. Muslim Americans must take a clear and decisive moral stance against this plague. Many converts and indigenous Muslims have tried and some have made a little headway. However, I doubt very much that we will ever get a handle on this issue until the immigrant community as a group stands up to this behavior and makes it unacceptable. Many of these liquor store owners have served on boards of masaajid and Islamic Centers are touted in the Muslim communities as examples of successful Americans.

This is a difficult issue to address, and nearly half of the people in the Lotus tree Poll mentioned earlier, felt that there is an unwritten taboo against speaking about it publicly. However, whether you care to accept it or not, this is indeed an issue of consequence. There has been a long-held belief by many of the Muslim businessmen who sell alcohol and drug paraplegia that since we are in the United States, our divine religious and spiritual laws of morality and common good do not apply. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  This is not a matter of anyone being holier than thou, or an unwarranted attack upon Muslim business in America. This is merely a reminder that Allah is our Lord;  we are accountable to Him, Islam is our religion and that we, not withstanding our faults because all of us are only human, have a standard of righteousness and morality that we must attempt to uphold, despite the way the world is moving. Every people shall have their time upon this earth. This is our time, and what we do, does in fact matter. And Allah knows best. Imam Abu Muhammad Luqman Ahmad

 

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom and Executive Director of Mosque Without Borders. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com

 

African American Muslims; Making Hard Choices That Will Change Our Condition

Indigenous African Americans have been converting to Islam for decades; however, the phenomena of massive and continuous conversion amongst African-Americans to Islam has not evolved generationally into indigenous American Muslim families, extended families or home-grown institutions that serve our faith needs, reflect our faith and it’s principles, and serve our overall best interests from a religious and spiritual perspective. Granted, we are all American Muslims, and brother and sisters in Islam. However, if we take a closer look, it is evident that there are clearly two, distinctly different, Muslim Americas. One comprised primarily by immigrants from Muslim countries, and their children, and the other from American Muslim converts. As immigrant communities are growing, thriving, and blanketing the landscape with multi-million dollar masaajid, schools, and cultural institutions. African-American Muslim communities are struggling, lack physical resources, lack influence, and are very small in comparison.

Here are the facts; 80% of American Muslim converts are African-American, and African-Americans are dead last in virtually every socio-economic category that measures well-being; unemployment, access to health care, illiteracy, education, single parent households, broken families, incarceration rates, diabetes, hypertension, home ownership, and infant mortality, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, African-Americans are about 33% of the American Muslim demographic. This reality comes at a time of great spiritual, economic and civilizational decline, as we are entering into the time of the Dajjaal (anti-Christ), and the coming of Jesus, son of Mary (AS).

The post conversion reality that is played out in Muslim America is important because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims (emphasis on practicing) evolves,  not just as individuals, but as a family unit, the moral and religious beliefs and values of Islam takes root, are reinforced within the family and upbringing, and becomes part of the lifestyle.  Once that occurs, these values are passed on to the extended family, and onto ensuing Muslim generations.  Thus, one of the most important institutions that we must care for and strengthen, is the family, after that, it is the religious communities (jamaa’at), because without the critical mass of common purpose and support, it is very difficult erect and maintain religious based institutions. Therefore, we have to be very careful in the marriage and divorce decisions we make, in the decisions we make about community and Masjid participation, and in the decisions we make about child rearing, and Islamic education because these decisions will affect us, our families and our children for a long time to come.

As African-American Muslims, our civilization is in a near shambles. We are fighting and arguing in many of our masaajid, the numbers of full-time, affordable Islamic schools that serve the needs of African-American Muslim children are down, most of us are without leadership, and considering our numbers there are very few real congregations left in the country that serve our needs. Most of our children are being raised in single parent households, many of our sons are in the criminal justice system in some way or another, and many of our daughters are being courted by the non-Muslims, and have children out-of-wedlock. Drug and alcohol abuse is very high (no pun intended) in the African-American Muslim community, and African-American Muslims are less educated and less affluent than our immigrant counterparts, and our communities do not have adequate material resources.  However, we do have choices, and these choices contribute to our betterment or detriment.

There is nothing we can do to change the past beloveds, but we have an opportunity before us for a better future. However, it requires that we submit wholeheartedly to the moral and liturgical principles of Islam. Changing the condition begins with the self. If there was ever a place to begin then I suggest that we begin with the salat. The family that prays together is way more likely to stay together than those who don’t; and that’s a choice. Brothers who attend the Masaajid for the salat tend to be more spiritually enlightened that those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who are married with problems, but choose to patiently endure, instead of opting out of the marriage simply because they are not happy that day, or that week, or that month, are much more stable in the long run than those who don’t; that’s a choice.

Brothers who work and spend money to support their families are better men in a key area of manhood, than those who don’t, and try to live off of their wives; and that’s a choice. Sisters who are obedient and dutiful to their husbands (in what is right) tend to be much more spiritually stable than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who take the time out to learn a little something of their religion instead of sitting in front of the television all day, playing a wii, or seeking to be entertained all the time, tend to be more religiously intuitive than those who don’t; that’s a choice People who make their hereafter a priority and realize that it often requires sacrifice tend to have a better gauge about what’s important in life then those who don’t; that’s a choice.

People who love thug culture and try to live according to jaahiliyyah codes of life, tend not to be as steadfast in their religion than those who follow the Quran and the sunna; that’ a choice. People, who smoke weed, use drugs, drink alcohol or abuse prescription drugs tend to be more mentally unstable than those who don’t; and that’s a choice.  People who do the boyfriend/girlfriend, relationship thing, are less chaste than those who get married and are faithful to their spouses; and that’s a choice.

People who are part of religious congregations (jamaa’aat) tend to stay in the religion in higher numbers than those who aren’t; and that’s a choice. People, who have imams or Amirs, and have reciprocal accountability between leaders and followers, tend to be stronger Muslims than floaters, who are not committed to anything; and that’s a choice. Muslims who backbite, treat people badly, and are always engaged in some sort of fitna or another cause more destruction and severance of personal and communal relationships than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People, who know how to love and forgive for the sake of Allah, are better and more lasting friends than people who are consumed by hate and not inclined to forgive; and that’s a choice. People who give sincere advice the ummah, to the imams, and to their leaders tend to be more sincere to our cause than those who don’t; that’s a choice.  We have an abundance of resources available to us, inherent in the choices we make individually and as a Muslim people. In fact, Allah has given us all that we need in order to be successful and to build strong communities and institutions, however, by and large, too many of us have chosen otherwise. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is an American born Muslim and a full time clasically trained Imam of a Masjid and community  in Northern California. He can be reached @ imamabulaith@yahoo.com

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