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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Manipulations in Masajid

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

In Southern California, during the last 15 years, in a radius of 3 miles four masajid have sprung at a cost of at least $5 million.  Most of them remain empty most of the time and when they are frequented by Muslims in large numbers it is for either the Friday prayers or education of their children, or funeral get together or dinner in memory of some one. Sometimes lectures are offered, but the number of those attending can be counted in fingers. Masajid have yet to offer dynamic to galvanize the community and attract people to its programs and functions.

There are several reasons for the lack of involvement of people. One of the reasons is the way the Masajid are run by organizers. We have different type of models of mosque ownership.  Even though all the masajid are built with donation from people but the pattern of ownership reveals their inherent weakness to attract people in general.

1. Mosques donated by people but run by an individual or a family.

2. Mosques donated by people but run by a religious party or group

3. Mosques donated by people but run by an ethnic group

4. Mosques donated by outside religious entities and run by the followers of that entity.

5. Mosques built and run by an individual or a family

There are no standards by laws for the mosque. No one has ever attempted to draw by laws that demonstrated the spirit and dynamism of Islam, Most of the by laws are designed to ensure that the power stays in the hands of those who are controlling the management. The by laws are amended to suit the interests of those controlling power. If it suits them to cancel election, they do so, if it suits them to have election they do so.

By and large, there are not many Masajid and Islamic centers that can claim that their rule and by-laws are not designed to help a particular group of people to lose their grip.

Ironically, this kind of mechanism is played with an institution that is established in the name of the Creator, God, the source of all guidance. The very fact that most of these religious institutions are irrelevant to the needs of the people speak volumes of the divine relations with them.

In other words, most masajid serve the interest of particular group. They are like shops and businesses and their attitude is not different than usual shopkeepers. This is our shop and if you want to come here play our rules, otherwise get out.

Islam offers a different style and functionality than what is being offered. First of all, it builds any institution on the concept of God consciousness. Without being accountable to people in running affairs meant for them, one cannot be accountable to God in real honesty. Wen people manipulated behind doors and use all sorts of means to deceive ordinary people they are not honest to God or people. This is one of the most important problems that our mosque managements face. Most are not honest with people. They manipulated events. Hundreds of examples can be given to substantiate this.

Interestingly, the people involved in manipulation often claim that if they leave the board, the future of Islam will be in jeopardy. They defy the Quran in logic here. The Quran addressing the Prophet (s), the Messenger who delivered the divine message to people, said: even if you leave this world or killed, the Divine guidance would continue. Some of these people think that Islam and God depends upon them for their survival in that masjid. It is a very arrogant claim and obviously, if everyone start thinking this way, there would be no place for any change.

The cruz of the matter is that what is happening in most of our masajid is not demonstrative of Islam. It needs to be changed to serve Allah and His creation better.

How?

The only way is to develop a model based on the values of the Qurn and the life of the Prophet (s) as substantiated by the Quran. Without that it is almost impossible to think of any other ways of bringing about effective chanages.

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‘Eid in America!

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Staff

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Most of the mosques in the US celebrated ‘Eidul Fitr on Tuesday August 30th, 2011, finalizing the festival of worship and celebration that was Ramadan of AH 1432.

In this issue is a series of reports from around the USA, where TMO reporters describe their own ‘Eid experiences.

The Bloomfield Hills’ Muslim Unity Center celebrated ‘Eid on Tuesday, filled to overflowing and forced to have three separate celebrations (at 8AM, 10AM, and 11AM).  These ‘Eid khutbas focused on keeping Allah in mind “whatever you do,” the imam arguing that if you keep Allah in your mind, that will prevent you from doing wrong.  The khutbah also focused on Tawhid. 

Children at the center had a very good time, as there were rides and slides, and plenty of good food, and a festive atmosphere permeated the atmosphere of this suburban mosque.

Other reports in this issue of TMO!

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Study: Western-Muslim Tensions Getting Better

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amelia T.

After Herman Cain’s recent declaration that American communities should be able to ban mosques, it would be easy to understand why relations between Muslim and Western countries might be strained.  A new study  from the Pew Center has some mildly hopeful news: although tensions between Muslim and Western publics are still palpable, they’ve gotten slightly better in the past five years.  While both populations still hold negative stereotypes of each other, Westerners (i.e. US residents and Western Europeans) are less likely to say that they had bad relations with Muslim countries than in 2006.  Muslims, however, aren’t as optimistic.

Ironically, each population characterized the other as “fanatical and violent.”  Muslims in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia were likely to say that Westerners were “selfish, immoral and greedy,” while Westerners criticized the residents of Muslim countries for refusing to tolerate or respect women.

Even though Westerners think that relations are getting better, while Muslims say that their impressions of Westerners are as bad as they were five years ago, there may be more of a consensus on whose fault it is.  Muslims overwhelmingly blamed the West for tensions, and while many Westerners did blame Muslim countries, a sizable percentage were also willing to point the finger at themselves.

In a change that perhaps reflects the general mood surrounding the Arab Spring, “Muslims and Westerners believe corrupt governments and inadequate education in Muslim nations are at least partly responsible for the lack of prosperity.”  And both Muslims and Westerners are concerned about Islamic extremism.

What the report highlights is the extent to which assumptions about relations between Muslim and Western countries shape the stereotypes that the two populations assign to each other.  It’s important, also, to break down these monolithic categories into area-specific groups. 

For example, Indonesian Muslims are more likely to associate positive traits with Westerners, while Pakistani Muslims (for obvious reasons) have increasingly negative feelings about Western relations.

Identity is also a slippery category.  While Muslims overwhelmingly identify with their religion, rather than their country of origin, European Christians are equally likely to say that their national identity is more important than their religious identity.  There is a palpable divide in the United States, although 7 in 10 evangelical Christians identify first with their religion.  Unsurprisingly, there was a strong consensus among Westerners that Muslims living in the West did not want to assimilate into Western culture.  People without college degrees were more likely to “believe that Muslims want to remain distinct from the broader society.”

While the report does not provide answers to mending the rift between Western and European countries, it does break down some of the complexities in fascinating ways.

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