Can We Stop Tradition Erosion?

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Akif Abdulamir (Desert Classics)

I gave my children a choice where to eat when I decided to treat them. I knew the answer but I was hoping it would be some restaurant that served healthy traditional food.

Our children’s choice of eating at a famous fast food restaurant never surprises us. To them, burgers and chips never tasted so good. A plate of rice never has the same appeal since it is an old fashioned  tradition from our ancestors.

To our kids, anything that has been handed over from the past generations is backward. If they see it in  the movies or the Internet than it is “cool”, anything else is “rubbish.” The fear of losing one’s culture and customs has never been real. As we move on deep into the twenty-first century, we gradually but surely leave behind the richness of our heritage.

The truth is that very little is being done to stop the erosion. Don’t get me wrong. I am not blaming the West but the East for ignoring the basics. There is no doubt that we can still drive a car and surf the net but ignoring what is more important to life has dreadful consequences. I am very convinced we are fighting a losing battle because we welcome unreservedly a culture that has a few problems. Let me give you an example. One of my younger relatives chose to stay behind in UK to celebrate Christmas to be with his friends but flatly refused to join his family for Eid.

There was nothing his parents could do about it. Should they blame themselves for sending him abroad to study or the lack of firm upbringing? I don’t know but youngsters ignore the basics even at home. One youth told me that, “wearing a shirt and a pair of trousers does not mean I am a Westerner” when he went with me to a mosque on his friend’s wedding night.

I asked him what it meant not ever wearing the traditional clothing. He said that tradition had nothing to do with appearance but what was in his heart. I probed deeper and asked him what was in his heart. He thought about it and said, “I know who I am and my background, isn’t that enough?”

I dropped the subject seeing him getting agitated. Today’s youth are increasingly letting themselves get confused by a clash of cultures. For instance, more than half of the youth celebrate the New Year and stay out late. On face value, one would argue there that there is nothing wrong with that. On closer scrutiny, less than ten per cent of them ever notice the Islamic New Year let alone celebrate it. What has really gone wrong in the past thirty years or so? International integration of people cannot be blamed nor the fast pace of development. It is also not fair to point accusing fingers at Western education. We invited it because we need it to overcome many challenges otherwise we would have been left behind.

The ever decreasing number of traditionalists live in fear that the Gulf would soon fall under the hammer of whole-sale Westernisation. The auction is gathering momentum, so they say, and the highest bidders are examining prized exhibits.

I am not endorsing that theory nor opposing it but I would like to be an observer and write about it at a later date. To many, it is not about fast food restaurants or other external influences. It is about preserving an identity before the hammer falls down.

Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer

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As I See it

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Azher Quader

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As the Muslim world wrestles with dictatorial rulers to remove them from power and establish popular democracies, allowing for greater freedoms and greater choices, here in America an aging Muslim community of first generation immigrants are facing their own struggles, as they try to transition power at their mosques. Next to the zoning battles no other issue excites the emotions of the mosque goers more than the issue of choosing its new leaders.

Here in Chicago arguably one of the most mature Muslim communities in the country, the transition of power within our mosques is increasingly threatened with conflict. At the Muslim Community Center (MCC), perhaps the oldest mosque in the country run by an elected board of directors, the electoral decisions had sometimes to be litigated and settled in a court of law. The path for succession is no less controversial in those centers where the transition of leadership is without election. There too the inevitability of the moment and the inadequacy of the system to meet the expectations of the majority is coming to light.

Is it then appropriate to pause and ponder on where we are and whither we are going?  Is it right to win an argument within a core group of supporters or in front of a judge and claim victory over the people? Is it right to amend the rules to protect the turf and believe we have secured our future?  Is it right to concoct a system where choice is removed to eradicate dissent?

If we are serious about building institutions of trust and leaving a legacy of goodwill, we cannot be happy with these small wins. If we are committed to passing on the baton to the young, we cannot be scared to let go the reigns of power in the twilight of our lives. If we are committed to serving the welfare of the people we cannot be worried about the preservation of our selves. If we are the vicegerents of Him who gave us the freedom to choose in life, we cannot deny to others the same freedoms including the freedom to choose their leaders. Neither institutions nor nations are strengthened when choices are controlled and freedoms are abridged.

A nomination process which delivers no choices is no better than the Egyptian model of Mubarak against which the people ultimately revolted.

It is time we took a harder look at the way we are setting up systems to assure not only the smooth transition of power within our mosques but  also maintain  the highest traditions of freedom and choice.

May Allah guide us to be humble and fearless in the pursuit of right.

Azer Quader is Executive Director of Community Builders Chicago. ww.mycommunitybuilders.com.

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America Must Manage Decline

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gideon Rachman

Recently I met a retired British diplomat who claimed with some pride that he was the man who had invented the phrase, “the management of decline”, to describe the central task of British foreign policy after 1945. “I got criticised,” he said, “but I think it was an accurate description of our task and I think we did it pretty well.”

No modern American diplomat – let alone politician – could ever risk making a similar statement. That is a shame. If America were able openly to acknowledge that its global power is in decline, it would be much easier to have a rational debate about what to do about it. Denial is not a strategy.

President Barack Obama has said that his goal is to ensure that America remains number one. Even so, he has been excoriated by his opponents for “declinism”. Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist, has accused the president of embracing American weakness: “Decline is not a condition,” he declared. “Decline is a choice.” The stern rejection of “declinism” is not confined to the rabid right. Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor and doyen of US foreign policy analysts, regards talk of American decline as an intellectual fad – comparable to earlier paranoia about the US being overtaken by Japan. Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, has just published a book that is subtitled, “What went wrong with America – and how it can come back”.

What is not permissible, in mainstream debate, is to suggest that there may be no “coming back” – and that the decline of American power is neither a fad nor a choice but a fact.

Admittedly, America’s relative decline is likely to be much less abrupt than the falling-off experienced by Britain after 1945. The US is still the world’s largest economy and is easily its pre-eminent military and diplomatic power. However, the moment at which China becomes the world’s largest economy is coming into view – the end of the decade seems a likely passing point. Of course, it is true that China has its own grave political and economic problems. Yet the fact that there are roughly four times as many Chinese as Americans means that – even allowing for a sharp slowdown in Chinese growth – at some point, China will become “number one”.

Even after the US has ceded its economic dominance, America’s military, diplomatic, cultural and technological prowess will ensure that the US remains the world’s dominant political power – for a while. But although economic and political power are not the same thing, they are surely closely related. As China and other powers rise economically, they will inevitably constrain America’s ability to get its way in the world.

That is why America needs to have a rational debate about what “relative decline” means – and why the British experience, although very different, may still hold some valuable lessons.
What the UK discovered after 1945 is that a decline in national power is perfectly compatible with an improvement in living standards for ordinary people, and with the maintenance of national security. Decline need not mean the end of peace and prosperity. But it does mean making choices and forging alliances. In an era of massive budget deficits, and rising Chinese power, the US will have to think harder about its priorities. Last week, Hillary Clinton insisted that America will remain a major power in Asia – with all the military expenditure that this implies. Very well. But what does that mean for spending at home?

Few politicians are prepared to have that discussion. Instead, particularly among Republicans, they fall back on feel-good slogans about American “greatness”.
Those who refuse to entertain any discussion of decline actually risk accelerating the process. A realistic acknowledgement that America’s position in the world is under threat should be a spur to determined action on everything from educational reform to the budget deficit. The endless politicking in Washington reflects a certain complacency – a belief that America’s position as number one is so impregnable that it can afford self-indulgent episodes such as the summer’s near-debt default.

The failure to have a proper discussion of relative decline also risks leaving American public opinion unprepared for a new era. As a result, the public reaction to setbacks at home and abroad is less likely to be calm and determined and more likely to be angry and irrational – feeding what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style in American politics”.

For the fact is that management of decline is as much to do with psychology, as to do with politics and economics. In 1945, the British task was made much easier by the afterglow of victory in the second world war. Britain’s adjustment was also helped by the fact that the new global hegemon was the US – a country tied to Britain by language, blood and shared political ideas. It will be tougher for America to cede power to China – although the transition will also be much less stark than the one faced by Britain.

These days the British have learnt almost to revel in failure. They buy volumes with titles like the “Book of Heroic Failures” in large numbers. It is quite common for the supporters of a losing English soccer team to chant, “We’re shit and we know we are.” This is not a habit I can see catching on in the US. When it comes to managing decline, self-abasement is optional.

Financial Times (UK)

Muslims Rising Above The Ashes Of Misunderstanding

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, we’ll be inundated with reports and recollections of where people were at that moment, what they were doing and how their lives have been changed because of it.

This anniversary-keeping activity feels like we have a wound that we know has yet to heal, but we can’t stop ourselves from touching it — just to see if it still hurts.

It does.

The inevitable media coverage will build now until Sept. 12, when folks will try to get back to normal life still smarting from the big press blitz. Muslim Americans will have no choice but to be one of the featured main dishes in this media feasting frenzy, and we will do our part to help heal the wounds caused by those who falsely claimed our faith by telling you again that Islam had no part in this tragedy.

Over these last 10 years, the events of 9/11 taught my faith community that we had been neglecting outreach to the greater society. We’ve had to step away from the cultural comfort of our mosques, Islamic schools and homes to shake the hands of our neighbors who have been there all along, but with whom we may not have engaged with serious effort or effect. Ten years later, Muslims have made these gestures of friendship to the point that a large percentage of the folks who wanted to know us better, now do. There are others who simply refuse to let go of the bigotry and stereotyping of Muslims in America. You may know them: They have their eyes closed with their hands over their ears singing, “la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”

For the next 10 years, I am hopeful that our nation will leave these crooners of ignorance out of our society’s narrative. We’ve already seen some of Islam’s biggest haters recently outed for propagating bigotry under the guise of being “terrorism experts.” Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been exposed for their racist and bigoted craziness through a Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who referred to their hate-filled blogs and rhetoric many times in his insanely xenophobic manifesto. The Center for American Progress recently released a report, “Fear, Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” that clearly outlines the organized machine operating a small empire of hatred. Besides Spencer and Geller, the report highlights major players like David Yerushalmi (recently featured in a New York Times article outlining his role in this smear campaign) and Fox News (a network owned by the now infamous News Corp and Rupert Murdoch). These people won’t stop their work in unfairly vilifying the American Muslim community, but really, how long can that leaky bucket of lies hold water?

It’s been a challenge to refute every slam and slur against Islam, but Muslims try to follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s), who persistently treated his neighbors with respect despite their derision.

America’s Muslims look forward to our faith community rising above these ashes of misunderstandings to find ourselves welcome as fellow citizens. To make this climb, we know our focus must stay on our youth.

There are thousands of young, dynamic American Muslims already creating change in our nation’s high schools, colleges and workplaces. Their parents have put heart and soul into raising these young people — especially within the difficult context of the last 10 years. They have been nurturing their kids with love and giving them confidence to be American and Muslim in the same sentence. We have great and lofty expectations of their futures, and these young people are not failing any of us.

Young Muslims are making advances in medicine, science and technology.

Look at the list of young doctors in any teaching hospital and you’ll see Muslim names galore. Most major corporations include a cadre of brilliant Muslim engineers. Beyond technology and medicine (traditionally the career paths of choice for Muslims in the U.S.), we are now seeing young Muslims choosing to pursue careers in the less lucrative, but necessary fields of public service, social services and education. And finally, we are seeing more and more Muslim names coming up in the arts and communications fields. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as public perceptions often change through the media in all its forms. Watch Musa Syeed, a writer and independent filmmaker to produce great movies and documentaries, as well as Qasim Bashir, who wrote and directed “Mooz-lum: The Movie.” There are thousands of upcoming Muslim journalists, writers, artists, photographers and performers that we will be sure to hear more from in the next 10 years.

I’m proud to claim these honest young people who are giving us honest portrayals of Muslims through the arts and media.

We now have young people studying to become Islamic scholars within the American context through the newly instituted Zaytuna College, whose mission is “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.” We look forward to the graduates of Zaytuna to actively lead and positively shape the American Muslim community for generations to come.

Young Muslims are the backbone of American-Muslim philanthropic efforts, and what they lack in financial resources, they are making up with their time and hard work. There isn’t a single charitable event that doesn’t depend on student volunteers for its success. Muslims Without Borders has taken this legacy one step further by forming a full-blown relief agency run solely by Muslim students.

I recently had a reporter ask me if it wasn’t too big of a burden for my kids to grow up as identifiable Muslims during these last 10 years.

It was a sincere question, but I wondered how else she thought I should have raised them. Later, I realized that there are some Muslim parents who have discouraged their children from expressing their faith in any way from fear of reprisal. Recently, my heart hurt for the young checker at the grocery store who told me in a wistful voice that she was “technically a Muslim,” but that her parents didn’t want her to practice the faith in case she’d suffer here as a new immigrant. I don’t know if that statement reflected more poorly on our society, or on her parents; however, for the most part, Muslim families in America are raising their children to be proud of their beliefs and are teaching them that God is infinitely Merciful and Gracious to those who struggle for His sake. These young people who are proud of their noble faith realize that despite some people’s innocent ignorance of Islam, or other’s outright bigotry, the majority of our neighbors and greater community will have respect for them as long as their character and behavior follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s). To put it plain and simple, we are raising these young people to trust in God and do good things with their lives.

Muslims in this country are looking forward to seeing an America that once again says we have had enough of hate and fear. We hope everyone will recognize that our country becomes more beautiful with each new color and creed we accept as our own.

Kari Ansari is a Writer and Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

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Family Planning in Islam

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO
In every bed, there is a promise.     – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Politicians like to talk about “freedom of choice.” They are talking about abortion. The assumption is that if a woman chooses not to have an abortion, then the blame, and thus, the financial and emotional responsibility for the child, rests squarely on her shoulders.

Yet, others take another approach. I’ll never forget my Italian teacher in college giving us undergrads a lecture on morals. She said something I’ve never heard anyone say out loud. “When you choose to have sex, you have made that choice.” God bless her for her audacity to speak out in the face of the victimization of women and children!

Does anyone have any idea how many poor yet honest men all over the world are living without love for months and years at a time, often going to another city for work so they can send money home to their families?

Can you imagine the terrified lifestyle of a typical Afghani woman existing on a couple bags of rice, taking care of her children alone, in the middle of a violent war, waiting for her husband to come back with some groceries in a few months?

Many families who are blessed to be together are very much together. As in, living in one room. Sharing a house with their siblings and their spouses and their children. Many families, even in Europe, live in a one room apartment. During the night, the living room becomes the bedroom.

If you have never witnessed childbirth, let me explain something to you. It really hurts. It turns your body inside out. For a woman to choose to let a man put his “gushing fluid” inside her is the voluntary personal choice to go through an experience that feels about as pleasant as having a bus roll over your body very, very slowly.

Pregnancy is a time of such sickness that if she were a man, he would choose not to work that day. Childbirth can last for days. It takes a woman three years to get back the full use of her body after having a baby, if she exercises daily. No matter what, she permanently loses the strength of her eyesight and teeth. What an unthinking man might have thought was simply a beautiful moment, for her it was a life investment. There is no such thing as “accidentally” getting someone pregnant.

In Islam, men are the maintainers of women. There is none of this weird American marital squabbling about who pays what. Motherhood is a full time job. A loving woman carries the child in her womb for nine months and then nurses the child for two years, sacrificing her calories, her strength, and her free time. A mother cannot come and go as she pleases. She cannot fall asleep whenever she feels tired. And it’s not a question of whether she wants to do it or not. Women are biologically programmed to suddenly wake up on emergency alert if her baby so much as coughs in his sleep.

Full responsibility for a baby deprives the caretaker of REM sleep.

People who are deprived of sleep for a prolonged period of time spend a lot of energy merely “coping.” But somebody has to get the bills paid while someone maintains the living standard of the home. That is why parenting is a shared responsibility. There should be no burden on the woman in addition to the full time job of raising a child in a clean and safe environment. The least a man can do is pay all her expenses.

If he cannot afford to buy his family a house, his wife and the kids can share one mattress like the majority of people in the world. Even if a man is sleeping outside, he can put a tarp over his family’s head.

Because every soul born is someone that God commanded to be born and a man must take full responsibility for his family. Anything a woman spends on household expenses is rewarded by God like donating to charity, while anything a man does to help in the home is rewarded by God as charity.

In Islam, even if the marriage does not work out, the children are still the man’s full financial responsibility. He has to keep them alive and well – not just send their mother a “donation” per month.
Women have to start taking themselves more seriously. Motherhood is a full time career worthy of a six digit income. Find a man who will do everything he can to find a way to love the mother of his children, provide them with food and a roof over their heads, and if they cannot work things out he would be aware of what it costs to raise a child.

This is what you need to be thinking about on your first date. Does the man value his future offspring? Does he have a sense of personal honor?

A man must provide for his children, not only out of some ambiguous and fluctuating emotional attachment but because they are his flesh and blood, part of his lineage. A good man is looking for a good woman who has the qualities he wants in his descendants. He is always thinking long term about how to put his DNA to proper use. The sure sign of a no good man is a man who just lets things happen. Some men think that a crime is less criminal if it’s done in the heat of passion. Yet, the act is still a deliberate act. Don’t do it without getting married first.

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In Support of Rick Snyder

July 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Muslim Snyder Campaign Volunteer

May and June 012 - 2010 For the first time, Michigan Muslims are active in the upcoming primary elections to be held Tuesday, August 3.  This is a great opportunity to impact the political landscape. Michigan Muslims should not allow their choice of political candidates to be selected by others.  Voting in the primary election assures Michigan Muslims that friendly candidates will appear on the November general election. 

Getting active in the primary election will ensure that Michigan Muslims have a “halal no bacon” candidate pool to select from in the general election in November
Moreover, Michigan Muslims are fortunate on two fronts in the upcoming Primary Elections. 

One, Michigan is an open primary state.  This means that no political party affiliation is required.  Michigan voters may select either Democratic or Republican candidates in the primary election, however, no cross voting is permitted.  In the November 2, 2010 general elections, voters may cross over and vote for any mix of candidates including Democrat, Republican, other party or independent.

The second fortunate situation for Michigan Muslims is there is an ideal gubernatorial candidate that serves Michigan best interests and understands the Muslim community — Rick Synder, “the tough nerd.”

Rick Snyder is ex-Chairman/CEO of Gateway Computers.  He took it from a small company in 1991 (less than 800 employees) to a Fortune 500 (10,000+ employees in 1997). Like most of us, he is a self made person.  Rick grew up in a working class section of Battle Creek in a 900 sq. ft home, but by age 23, he graduated from U-M with 3 degrees (BA, JD and MBA). 

__1200_05 Rick Snyder is the co-founder of Ann Arbor SPARK, a very successful business accelerator, incubator, and networking organization that he wants to use as a model for the State.  Rick Snyder wants to increase incentives for legal immigration, as he believes legal immigrants will boost the economy and create jobs.

Rick does not want to apply a band-aid to Michigan’s problems.  Instead he wants to bring real world business experience to Lansing.  He is the only candidate (both Democrat and Republican) refusing to accept contributions from special interest groups.  No unions, no PACs.

For the upcoming gubernatorial primary election, Michigan Muslims must employ a voting strategy as both Michiganders and Muslims.  Most of us came to Michigan because of its robust economy.  We raised families in Michigan, established roots and laid the foundation for a dynamic Muslim community.  If Michigan’s economy does not thrive then our children will leave Michigan and thus leave behind our mosques and schools. 

Creating more and better jobs is the number one issue for Rick. Michigan needs businesses to start, grow and flourish in order to be a great state again. Rick will make that happen.

Michigan Muslims have a chance on Tuesday, August 3 to decide the political menu.  Voting for the best candidate who happens to be a moderate Republican is the best choice and best strategy.

On the Democratic side, most agree that either candidate will be friendly to the Muslim community.  Unfortunately the polls show any that Democratic candidate loses to any Republican candidate in the general Michigan election on November 2, 2010. Michigan Muslims should be on the winning side and vote for Rick Snyder.

Therefore, should we vote for a friendly Democratic Party nominee, who will likely lose in the November elections, or should they vote for the best moderate Republican candidate who is a job creator?

Vote Rick Synder in the August 3 Primary election.

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