All Muslim Cemetery to Open in Flint

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Farmington–May 12–Any Muslim who enters a non-Muslim cemetery to visit a relative or friend is confronted with a difficult dilemma, that in order to approach the grave of his friend he must walk across the graves of other people, or must sit on the graves of other people–meanwhile there are ahadith that this is a terrible act.

Thus, we Muslims need a cemetery planned from the beginning around Islamic law, where in order to visit a friend or relative, or to pray jinaza for that person, it is not necessary to walk across or sit upon the graves of other people.

And so it is a welcome event that a new all-Muslim cemetery is launching in Flint.  Garden of Peace is a fledgling cemetery with so far approximately five people interred–the cemetery features Shari’ah compliant planning, competitive pricing, and maintenance and ownership all by Muslims.

Hossam Shukairy, Abed Khirfan, Muhammed Saleem, and Dr. Khalid Shukairy held a meeting this past weekend to introduce the cemetery to local imams. And in attendance were imams and other representatives from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, and Flint.

The initial effort of the Garden of Peace meeting held this past weekend was to spread the word about the cemetery, and especially to introduce the idea of each local mosque buying plots of 25 to 50 gravesites to distribute to the people who attend that mosque. 

One person in attendance emphasized that “They offered any mosque who buys 50 plots at one time, will get the best deal.  50 or more.  And price, they didn’t want to haggle about price right now.”

Some in attendance at the meeting from Detroit expressed doubts about buying gravesites in Flint, hours away, when for $1,400 one can buy a site in Detroit.
The new cemetery is intended to build to “10.5 acres in 3 phases,” explained Dr. Shukairy, the head of the cemetery committee.  The three phases comprise growing from its present modest size of five graves to 2,500 graves in 10.5 acres, with more than adequate parking.

Dr. Shukairy explained that each grave will be aligned facing qibla, pointing to the Northeast. 

The graves will be covered with uniform stones parallel to the earth, with uniform markers perpendicular, to show names and dates of birth and death.  Not like the public cemeteries with all different kinds of stone markers.

People will be interred on their right sides with their heads toward the qibla, and the graves are designed to acommodate both Michigan law and Shari’ah, so that each person is enclosed in a concrete vault as required by Michigan law, but without a casket and in contact with dirt below and above as required by Islamic law.
According to Michigan law, Dr. Shukairy explained, bodies must “be transferred in a wooden casket… but at the [burial site] the vault is opened from the top, the body placed inside without a casket, and with dirt inside, and the vault is sealed from the top–More acceptable from Shari’ah,” explained Dr. Shukairy.

There will be adequate space in the cemetery for maneuvering the heavy machinery required for digging graves–without their needing to drive over occupied graves.

Dr. Shukairy explained “the other advantage is that a public cemetery is maintained by [non-Muslim] public cemetery management; when they are digging or cleaning, they might not respect our concerns about respecting gravesites.  People might step on graves or not know the direction of graves.”

A theme on which Dr. Shukairy’s focused was the issue whether it is acceptable in the presence of an all-Muslim cemetery for Muslims to continue to be buried at mixed cemeteries.  The “point is, when we have a purely Muslim cemetery, an Islamic cemetery, is it desirable or allowed to use non-Muslim cemeteries?”

The cemetery is “very very close” to the Flint Islamic Center [on Corunna, west of Flint], which is only 7 minutes away.

The cemetery directors have also made efforts to smooth the entire transition from life to death.

For example, Dr. Shukairy explained that “assuming someone in Flint dies in the hospital, a shaykh or scholar does the preparation of the body, a funeral home transfers the body to the Islamic center, there is a prayer over the deceased, and a funeral home takes the body to the cemetery to be buried, and according to Shari’ah guidance.”

Imams were present from the Detroit Muslim Unity Center, Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, Muslim House in Flint, the MCA in Ann Arbor, and several others.

“It was a really good gathering, imams were present from Lansing, Ann Arbor, and so forth–we believe this is a good service in Michigan,” said Dr. Shukairy.

“We tried to invite mosques through the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan–we know we did not do a complete job–some imams probably were not invited and we will invite them later.  Spread the word,” he said.

Some issues regarding the cemetery are still in flux.  For example prices, and arrangements for individuals to buy pre-need. However, Dr. Shukairy emphasized that “I believe prices will be less than other public cemeteries or at least comparable, with the advantage of having been buried in a purely Islamic cemetery.”

The cemetery is at 1310 South Morrish Road, in Swartz Creek, Michigan.  For more information, you can call Hossam Shukairy, 810-691-7738, Abed Khirfan, 810-877-1415; or Muhammed Saleem, 810-730-1776.

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Non-Muslim’s Use of Islamic Law to Resolve Disputes Scares Some, in Britain

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Guardian, UK

Muslim Arbitration Tribunal reports 15% rise in non-Muslims employing Shari’ah law in commercial cases

Islam.Shariah Campaigners have voiced concerns over a growing number of non-Muslims using Islamic law to resolve legal disputes in Britain despite controversy over the role of Shari’ah law.

A spokesman for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said that there had been a 15% rise in the number of non-Muslims using Shari’ah arbitrations in commercial cases this year. Last year, more than 20 non-Muslims chose to arbitrate cases at the network of tribunals, which operate in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Nuneaton and Luton. “We are offering a cheap and effective service for Muslim and non-Muslims,” said MAT spokesperson Fareed Chedie.

“95% of the people who come to us for arbitration do not feel they need legal representation.” Chedie said that tribunals deal mainly with civil and commercial cases, including mosque disputes referred by the Charity Commission. But the tribunals have also continued to hear cases in the field of family law and divorce, Chedie said.

“We are increasingly dealing with reconciliation and mediation in marriage,” said Chedie. “Many of these are cases where women have petitioned because they have a difficult marriage and want some guidance and direction. If they then want to terminate the marriage then we can help with that.”

The increase in marriage and divorce cases comes as one law firm has begun offering advice on civil Scots law and Shari’ah law, making it the first in Britain to offer both civil and Islamic law as part of one service.

Glasgow law firm Hamilton Burns says that it is responding to a greater demand from Muslim clients who want advice on Shari’ah law alongside civil advice under Scots law. It has teamed up with Shaykh Amer Jamil, a Muslim scholar who specialises in Islamic family law.

“We hope that by incorporating Shari’ah family jurisprudence against a background of domestic Scottish legislation, we can provide our clients with as much relevant information as possible,” said Niall Mickel, a solicitor advocate and managing partner at Hamilton Burns. But some groups have criticised the move by the Scottish firm, arguing that the recognition of Shari’ah law decisions in Britain is regressive and harmful to women.

“We have a petition signed by more than 22,000 people saying that all religious tribunals should be prevented from operating within or outside the legal system,” said Maryam Namazie, a spokeswoman for the One Law for All Campaign, which campaigns against Shari’ah law in Britain. “I have spoken to women who are losing custody of their children in the Shari’ah councils – under Shari’ah law custody of a child goes to the husband after a certain age, irrespective of the welfare of the child.

There are cases of domestic violence where women have dropped criminal charges and the Shari’ah councils have sent the husbands on anger-management courses. That is just not how we deal with domestic violence in this country,” Namazie said. Many Muslim lawyers have challenged criticism of Shari’ah law in Britain as “islamophobic”, arguing that there is a distinction between Shari’ah councils – which largely operate outside the law – and arbitration tribunals, which are subject to the Arbitration Act passed by parliament.

“The media get this out of context and hyped up,” said Dr Saba Al-Makhtar, from the Arab Lawyers Association. “Under English law there is room to settle disputes on any ground that it is acceptable to the parties involved, provided it doesn’t conflict with English law .… it is an extremely good idea.

Critics deny that the campaign against Shari’ah law is targeted specifically against Muslims, however. “Our campaign is focusing on Shari’ah but we are against all religious tribunals including the Jewish beth din,” said Namazie.

“Human rights are non-negotiable and religious tribunals puts religion before people’s rights and their freedoms. Law based on any religion – whether the Bible, Torah or the Quran – is completely antithetical to rights woman have in this day and age. Many of the rights women have now result in the UK is the result of a hard fight to wrestle control out of church hands.”

12-12

Egypt/Palestine : The Wall of Shame

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tariq Ramadan

2010-02-10T110526Z_497589140_GM1E62A1H2L01_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL

Palestinians tries to break off bricks from a building at an abandoned airport that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip February 10, 2010. Israel launched an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian rocket fire, an army spokesperson said on Wednesday.

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

It is common knowledge that the Palestinians have long been direct victims of the directionless, spineless and hypocritical polices of the Arab leadership. It is equally common knowledge that the State of Israel need make no effort to impose its vision, its methods and its objectives. Given the support of the United States, Europe’s guilty silence and the compliant passivity of the Arab regimes, we know what to expect. The foreign policy of most Arab states has been described with good reason as “pro-Zionist.” Their cowardice and treachery comes as no surprise.

Following last year’s murderous attack on Gaza by Israeli forces, we may have thought we’d seen the worst. That judgment failed to take into account the ingenuity of the “worse yet” scenario produced by the Egyptian regime and the “religious authorities” of al-Azhar. In the name of “national security”, of the fight against “terrorism”, and ultimately, of combating “corruption”, “smuggling” and “drug trafficking”, the Egyptian government is building a wall reaching twenty meters below ground level to stop the “Gazans” from carrying out their “illegal” activities and from digging “smuggling tunnels.” Of course, the Egyptian government has no intention of confining the inhabitants of Gaza to their hell; of course, the measure is dictated only by concern for national security! So persuasive is the argument that the committee of religious experts of al-Azhar quickly endorsed the government decision, declaring it to be “islamically legitimate” (“in conformity with the Shari’a”) for the country to protect its borders. (The al-Azhar scholars were responding to a fatwa issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars that had ruled the exact opposite, that the Egyptian decision was “islamically unacceptable.”)

For shame! So this is how justice is mocked, how power and religion are misused. The Palestinian people, and most of all the inhabitants of Gaza, are denied their dignity and their rights; deprived of access to food, to water and to basic health care. And now, the Egyptian government becomes the ally of Israeli policy at its worst: isolating, strangling, starving, and smothering Palestinian civilian life after having eradicated hundreds. The aim is clear: to choke off all resistance and to destroy its leadership. The Egyptian government has blocked convoys attempting to deliver badly needed aid to the Palestinian people in an effort to raise the siege of Gaza. The mobilization that brought hundreds of women and men from around the world to Rafah was met by refusal upon refusal by the Cairo authorities, along with a strategy of selective humiliation.

For shame! No wonder the Israeli government purring with contentment. After all, a new and “promising” start for the “peace process” has been announced! There will be something for everybody: the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt has spared no efforts to draft a new and “comprehensive” program. A splendid “peace process” indeed, in whose name civilians have suffered months of blockade before their leaders are invited to take their place at the “free” and “respectful” negotiating table. Israel can keep on purring: it can play for more time without making the slightest concession. Settlement activities are to be temporarily frozen—except for construction projects already underway. Finer negotiations would be hard to find!

It cannot be repeated often enough: the Egyptian “national security wall” is a wall of shame. The religious authorities that have legitimized it have behaved exactly like the notorious “ulama” (Muslim scholars) or “Islamic councils” that openly serve power, whether of dictators or the forces of colonialism, or of some self-styled Republic specializing in the manipulation of religion. What can possibly remain of their credibility after issuing a “political fatwa” that lends the Islamic endorsement of craven scholars to the power of dictatorship? Silence would have been far better.

We must condemn these unacceptable acts, and stand beside those who resist with dignity. If successive Israeli governments know one thing—with which we must agree—it is this: the Palestinian people will not surrender. For those who may still harbor doubts, we must add a second certainty, that of time: History is on the side of the Palestinians; it is they who represent, today and tomorrow, hope for the noblest human values. To resist oppression, to defend one’s legitimate rights and one’s land, to never yield to the arrogance and to the lies of the mighty. As for the power of the Israelis, the Egyptians and others, as for the fatwas of government-appointed ulama, these things too will pass; they will pass, and will be forgotten. Happily forgotten. For the duty of memory is transformed into forgetfulness when it comes to the names and the acts of dictators, traitors and cowards.

12-7

Qaradawi: Egypt’s Steel Wall “Forbidden in Islam”

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

qaradawi1 The president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars has said that the steel wall being built by the Egyptian authorities along their border with the Gaza Strip is prohibited according to Islam. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi added, “Egypt, which fought four wars for Palestine, should not carry out an act that is 100 percent against the Palestinians.”

In a press statement, Dr. Al-Qaradawi said, “The construction of the steel wall, which Egypt is building along its border with Gaza, is prohibited by the Shari’a, because the intention behind it is to block all exit and entry points for Gazans, to intensify the siege around them, to humiliate them, to starve them and put pressure on them to kneel in surrender to Israel.”
He added that the people of Gaza had to resort to tunnels in order to find an alternative to the border crossing at Rafah, which is closed on most days, even for humanitarian relief convoys. “It is”, he said, “as if Egypt is telling the Palestinians, ‘Die, and let Israel live’.”

Shaikh Al-Qaradawi expressed his shock at hearing the news about the wall: “I denied it at first and thought that the story was intended to drive a wedge between Egypt and the Palestinian people. Even Egypt denied the news.” When the story was confirmed as true he was stunned.

In response to statements by Egyptian officials that the wall is a matter of national sovereignty, Sh. Al-Qaradawi agreed that Egypt is free to preserve its sovereignty over its borders, “but it is not free to help in the killing of its Palestinian brothers and neighbours.”

He stated that it is not permissible, no matter which way it is looked at, for Egypt to construct such a wall. “It is not permissible from an Arab perspective, because of Arab Nationalism; it is not permissible from an Islamic perspective, because of Islamic brotherhood; and it is not permissible from a humanitarian perspective, because of human brotherhood. Egypt must open the Rafah border crossing for Gazans, because it is the only lung for them to breathe through. It is a religious and legal duty for Egypt not to suffocate the people of Gaza and collaborate in their murder.”

While calling on all the friends of Egypt to pressurise it to back down over this unjustifiable criminal act, Sh. Al-Qaradawi also called upon the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to intervene “to stop this tragedy”. Furthermore, he warned Egyptian officials “to fear God when it comes to their oppressed brothers and sisters,” and not do something that is “100 percent against the Palestinians, and 100 percent in the interests of Israel”.

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Book Review

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ayesha Jalal,Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), $29.95.

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Madison (Wisc.)–With many contemporary books, I find myself merely skimming over the text.  (I think this comes from reading information over the computer.)  This book by Professor Jalal is too absorbing to do that, though. 

I was commissioned to do a scholarly a chapter on Jihadi websites here and in an abridged form in Orlando during early April.  I was encouraged to read Ayesha Jalal because it is the latest and most authoritative statement on Indian Jihadism.

Jalal goes into the fascinating South Asian history and theology of Jihad.  This is a challenging book to comprehend, but it is well worth it.

To a sincere traditional Jihadist, Shari a does not prohibit nationalist wars.  Therefore, a Jihad is not always a “physical” struggle for God (Allah [SWT]).  Still, some temporal rulers employ the concept against the “infidel” (both those who practice different forms of Islam and the non-Muslim), and, thus, in essence these rulers along with their militaristic entourages are imperialistic.  Still, there are those who believe that there is an intrinsic relationship between outward physical Jihad and violent resistance and faith in their concepts of religious concepts of personal and collective identity.

Nonetheless, Jihad has high ideals, but the tragic end to so many Jihadi fighters has led to a eulogistic and nostalgic fog concerning their actions.

Even such outstanding thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal theorized on Jihad, but he saw Jihad in the original Arabic sense which denoted “a struggle within, or as he states in a poem:

“Jihad with death does not befit a warrior

One [who] has faith [is] alive and war[s] with himself.”

Iqbal’s originality gives elucidation to the love of God (i.e. Allah [SWT]).  Further, Muhammad Iqbal saw his poetry as an explication upon the Koran; consequently, therefore, he wrote upon his vision of inward Jihad “In…the ‘sword’ of men” which found expressed in his life, throughout.

Finally, in her study, Jalal brings Jihad into the contemporary period, and the perversion of the concept of Jihad amongst a minority of Muslims who have reinterpreted it as a violent struggle: “Equating Jihad with violence and terror makes a sheer tragedy of a concept… [that]… remains [at] the core of Islamic ethics.”

Dr. Jalal points to the lack of understanding by the counter-insurgent:  While The American-led [War on Terror until recently promoted] a military dictator in Pakistan [Musharraf] while seeking, at the same time, to spread democracy in the Middle East…”

Your critic considers Ayesha Jalal’s study to be an essential one on the subject.  It is important reading for all Muslims – especially here in the West – where one hears so much erroneous claims and counter-claims on Jihadism.  

Parisians of Allah is not only a book for education for Muslims, but the information presented can here help to explain the true nature of Islam to those outside the faith and to clarify the misrepresentation on many subjects to the non-Islamic world.

12-1

Muslim Revival in Chechnya

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adapted by TMO from an article by Amie Ferris-Rotman, Reuters

2009-12-16T135212Z_01_BTRE5BF12J600_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-RUSSIA-CHECHNYA-ISLAM GROZNY, Russia – Adam, 52, keeps his three wives in different towns to stop them squabbling, but the white-bearded Chechen adds he might soon take a fourth.

“Chechnya is Muslim, so this is our right as men. They (the wives) spend time together, but do not always see eye to eye,” said the soft-spoken pensioner, who only gave his first name.

Hardline Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov is vying with insurgents for authority in a land ravaged by two secessionist wars with Moscow. Each side is claiming Islam as its flag of legitimacy, each reviles the other as criminal and blasphemous.

Wary of the dangers of separatism in a vast country, Moscow watches uneasily as central power yields to Islamic tenets. It must choose what it might see as the lesser of two evils.

Though polygamy is illegal in Russia, the region of Chechnya encourages the practice, arguing it is allowed by Shari’a law and the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

By Russian law, Adam is only married to his first wife of 28 years, Zoya, the plump, blue-eyed mother of his three children, with whom he shares a home on the outskirts of the regional capital Grozny.

His marriages to the other two — squirreled away in villages nearby — were carried out in elaborate celebrations and are recognized by Chechen authorities.
The head of Chechnya’s Center for Spiritual-Moral Education, Vakha Khashkanov, set up by Kadyrov a year ago, said Islam should take priority over laws of the Russian constitution.

“If it is allowed in Islam, it is not up for discussion,” he told Reuters near Europe’s largest mosque, which glistens in central Grozny atop the grounds where the Communist party had its headquarters before the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

“As long as you can feed your wives, and there’s equality amongst them, then polygamy is allowed in Chechnya,” he added.

Islam is flourishing in Chechnya which, along with its neighbors Dagestan and Ingushetia, is combating an Islamist insurgency which aims to create a Muslim, Shari’ah-based state separate from Russia across the North Caucasus.

Though Islam first arrived in the North Caucasus around 500 years ago, in Dagestan’s ancient walled city of Derbent on the Caspian Sea, religion under Communism was strongly discouraged.

Kadyrov, like most of his region’s one million people, is Sufi, a mystical branch of Islam which places a greater focus on prayer and recitation.

Political analysts say that in exchange for successfully hunting out Islamist fighters, the Kremlin turns a blind eye to Kadyrov’s Muslim-inspired rules.

Today Grozny’s cafes hold men sipping smuggled beer out of teacups as alcohol has been all but banned, single-sex schools and gyms are becoming the norm and women must cover their heads in government buildings.

Clad in a tight hijab, Asya Malsagova, who advises Kadyrov on human rights issues and heads a state council dealing with the rights of Chechen prisoners, told Reuters: “We believe every woman should have a choice — but we prefer she covers up.”

Animals are also being used to reintroduce Islam at Chechnya’s round-the-clock Muslim television channel, where 60 young bearded men and headscarved women create children’s programs in large studios adorned with photos of Mecca.

A bevy of bumble bees joyfully scream “Salam Alaikum” (Peace be with you) upon entering the studio of Ruslan Ismailov, who is making a full-length cartoon on hi-tech Apple computers for the channel, which is called “Put,” meaning “The Way” in Russian.

“The bees appeal to children, and they will teach them how to live properly by the Muslim faith,” Ismailov said.

Set up two years ago by the state and broadcast to thousands across the North Caucasus, instantly becoming one of the top channels in the region, it also features programs for women on how to keep home and reading Qur`an throughout the night.

“It’s no secret what Chechnya has been through,” said the channel’s general director Adam Shakhidov, sporting a ginger beard and traditional black velvet cap.

“Two wars, the Soviet Union and today’s Muslim extremism… it’s time to show the true beauty of Sufism and install the basis for Shari’ah,” he said.

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Save the US Ummah!

March 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Bloomfield—March 10—Jeffrey Lang, converted Muslim and prolific author, spoke passionately this past Saturday night at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center on the need and methods to keep our children within the fold of Islam.

About 300 people packed the banquet facilities at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, by far the biggest crowd this reporter has seen at the facility.

Lang, professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas, is an important intellectual voice in the American Muslim community. Lang was born January 30, 1954 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Born Catholic, he went through several phases of belief through his sincere quest for belief in the truth; during periods of agnosticism and atheism, before he accepted Islam, he had recurring and comforting dreams of himself performing the communal prayer—this was eventually to become reality, as Professor Lang did in fact become a Muslim in the early 80s.

Lang has written four books addressing the core problem the American Muslim community faces, that of the disaffection of American Muslim youths and converts with what they see of the practice of Islam in their local communities and mosques. His books include Struggling to Surrender (1994), Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America (1997), and Losing My Religion: A Call for Help (2004).

While Islam may be the fastest-growing religion in America, he said, it may also be the fastest-shrinking. He began his speech with an engaging and essential statement, that while perhaps 80% of Muslims in the United States are native-born, either coming to Islam through conversion or birth to Muslim parents, the population at any communal mosque service has only a minimal percentage of such native Muslims—typically even less than 1% of the active membership in most mosques. Therefore, “by the most essential measure,” our situation is very bleak. The main purpose of his speech was to describe what has brought about the disaffection on the part of those who have left their mosques in droves, so that the community can redress the grievances that drive people away from the mosques.

The professor explained the fundamental process by which young Muslims distanced themselves from the religion—as they grew up they had many deeply painful and viscerally felt experiences relating to their own Muslim community, which led them in later life to a visceral distaste for the community. Converts did not at first have this visceral reaction to problems in the community, but developed it over time. One experience at a time, the community delicately hammers away at converts, until they feel at a visceral level unwelcome, and—frequently—leave.

Lang’s essential solution lay in refraining as Muslims from imposing questionable “Shari’ah” interpretations on newcomers to Islam. Confronted with just the five pillars, he said, many people will already be unwilling to change their lives to fit Islam. If Muslims approach newcomers to Islam with immensely heavy and debatable “Islamic law” they will drive away the remaining people who would have been willing to practice Islam–they would have prayed, made hajj, abstained from what is plainly haram.

Lang explained that his interest in the subject began about two decades ago, when a brother at his local mosque, after they prayed ‘isha together, explained in tears that, “Brothers, I lost him—I have lost my son.” Not to death, but to a life without real devotion to Islam. This story, of course, has been repeated many thousands of times in other American Muslim families since then. In reaction to this event, Lang wrote his first book about Islam, Struggling to Surrender—he received many letters from other converts, who he said had followed a similar trajectory to his own on becoming Muslim. They accepted Islam with spiritual ecstasy, went through a period of extremism as they learned the extreme views of the religion from the most vocal members of their communities, then—many times—went out of the religion as they were faced with cultural barriers and inconsistencies in the way that Islam was portrayed to them.

Under pressure from the Muslims he knew to not ask the questions that had originally brought him to Islam, he wrote Even Angels Ask, about the basic fundamental challenges to belief that many born Muslims find so disturbing that they really cannot face, but which he said must be faced in dealing with young American Muslims whether they are converts or 2nd generation Muslims in America. In reaction to this book he started to uncover a great hidden mass of people within America, second-generation Muslims, disaffected by what they saw of Islam in their homes and communities, unable to find answers to the basic questions of belief that they encountered as they grew up in a secular but—in many ways—just society. In reaction to their letters and emails, he wrote Losing My Religion—based on opening the basic issues that came up in his correspondence with these youth who found themselves confronted with the impossibility of opening fundamental issues with their home communities (parents and imams). When these youth tried to bring up fundamental issues with parents or imams, they were called “kafir” or sometimes instructed to hide their disaffection from the community they were in—to hide their fundamental questions of belief for the sake of appearances in their parents’ social community.

Lang said that growing up, Muslim youths go through a process of imbibing the ethos of America at a deep level, building their fundamental assumptions on the American ethos which many times, he pointed out, is fairer than their own communities (not to say Islam) on issues important to them—for instance race. Living astride two cultures, they grow up going through a psychological process of trying to accept only those parts of each culture that do not conflict with the parts of the other—and they end up with fundamental questions about the assumptions and lifestyles of their parents.

The essential questions that our own Muslim people face and question within Islam are the following, in descending order of their impact on disaffected youths: (1) the treatment of women in American Muslim communities, (2) the cultural chasm between mosque culture and the culture of the outside world, (3) in Lang’s words “problems with traditional theology,” (4) the perceived race problem of the Muslim community in America (which he said caused many converts to leave the community).

Lang was at pains to say that the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center is in fact an enlightened mosque which has as a part of its charter 30% of its board members women, and is very friendly to Muslim women.

Issues he described with the treatment of women were first that the issue of “segregation” of women is a charged issue in America, so any time women are asked to go to a separate, inaccessible and inferior part of the mosque for their prayers, the psychological effect on converted women is immense. Young Muslims saw their mothers and other women discouraged from attending the mosque, asked to attend parts of the mosque that were “small, poorly maintained, and dangerous to children.” Women are denied positions of power in the mosques, except there is a frequent practice of allowing one woman to act as a token representative to the men who run each mosque. Muslim women are sometimes viciously unwelcoming to newcomers—he told the story of how one woman he knew was accused, her first time entering a mosque, of having come only to find and marry a Muslim man. The social structure among American Muslim women, he said—based on his experience with American mosques, his family’s experience, and with his contact with the community—is hierarchical as follows: Muslim newcomers to the US are accepted directly proportional to the inverse of their time in the US (if they arrived yesterday they have higher status than if they arrived 2 years ago), then children of the first generation are in a group considered behind that first group, then converts come after that; race and color are also factors in this hierarchy. An essential problem is that American converts to Islam are treated as third-class people in their own country when they try to integrate with the community. Discouraged from attending the mosque, these women are extremely isolated when they convert to Islam. Despite this, he said, women were actually the best and most devoted Muslims, “hanging on by their fingernails” to this religion.

He described his own mother’s once-interest in Islam: after she visited the community and was asked to attend prayers in a separate dirty room accessed only with difficulty, she told him, “There is no place for me in this religion.” He also explained that while he had tried to raise his daughters with abundant contact with the mosque he had reached a point where other men in his community would try their best to dissuade them from attending the mosque.

The second problem Lang perceived was the divisions in Islam by ethnicity—a different mosque for each ethnicity. Each has its own culture which it imposes on newcomers as “Islam;” violation of the norms of that culture will lead to ostracism or verbal attacks by that community.

The third problem, he said, is “problems with traditional theology.” He said that young people receive no answers to their questions. When they use mainstream resources to find answers to their questions their minds end up in the hands of people who hate Islam and provide information with a view to undermining the Muslim community—for instance, if a child does a search on “women in Islam” he/she will likely end up at virulently anti-Muslim sites—which in fact are most of the sites available on the issue. If they go to the library or to their educational institutions they face the same problem. Muslim scholars, he said, should make themselves available to US Muslims so that the latter can find legitimate answers to their questions.

Lang’s arguments relate to an important point, which is that studying Islam from non-Muslims has none of the light associated with it that has been transmitted from Muslim to Muslim from the time of the Prophet (s).

Finally, he hinted that the Muslim community in the United States must recognize its fundamental race bias. In supporting his perception of bias he recounted his own experience of converting Islam to the rapturous love of his surrounding community, while African American converts of similar background were ignored by the community. He pointed out that at his mosque, white converts were celebrated and remembered regardless of their piety or commitment, while African American converts frequently went ignored and unknown in the community.

Professor Lang’s speech was deeply troubling to many members of the community, challenging as it did many of their fundamental beliefs relating to Islam and challenging also many of their habits, traditions, and beliefs. While his core point is valid and requires attention, Muslims must maintain a balance between their belief and their assimilation with mainstream American culture—that balance should be struck in a way that accommodates American/Western culture better than we do. His speech’s essential truth shows that we have failed to strike that balance, and instead have perhaps lost an entire generation due to our blindness to our own flaws.

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