Experience of a lifetime

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Internship with the Center for Global Understanding

By Moshtayeen Ahmad

Moshtayeen_Ahmad_120811So basically, all interns come to the District of Columbia because they are trying to save the world. If not that, it is all about resume boosters and looking good on paper. In reality, let us hope that an intern’s intentions match that of the first motivation over the latter.

Before I began my internship, I definitely saw myself saving the world one day and getting involved in activities for the greater good. But I guess the world was too much for me to tackle, so I decided to conquer D.C. first. Don’t worry world, I’ll be there one day.

When I embarked on my journey to D.C., I was a bit all over the place.

I’m a senior at Florida State University majoring in International Affairs and Middle East Studies, with a minor in Urban & Regional Planning. With the thought of graduation so near, before I left for D.C., I was rushing to take the GRE, finishing up the first chapter in my honors thesis and getting more and more excited to get into the city. I imagined running into Obama where we would become great friends on a level where I could say “I’m in the hizhouse,” more commonly known as the White House. I also fantasized about running into Hilary Clinton at the Department of State where we would be drinking coffee as we discussed the next move in America’s foreign policy and I would lightly mention how I read her memoir in the eighth grade and that I loved her since! It is good to dream, especially when D.C. is filled with infinite possibilities.

With all the craziness set aside, I packed my bags and left for our nation’s capital. When I arrived, I was seeing exactly what I was expecting to see, everyone running around in suits looking very professional. I arrived to the housing facility and loved my new home right away. I was a very fortunate person and got stuck with the ideal roommate and we both aided each other through the process of adjusting to the city, internship, and classes. With this program, I not only networked with higher officials, but I made relationships with my peers that will be lifelong and valuable.

Having an internship is a great  experience, but it is programs like The Center for Global Understanding (CFGU) that really enhances it.

Their mission is “to provide a platform to cultivate the next generation of American leaders through internships in Washington D.C.

and continued training and education on leadership development.” CFGU provided a scholarship to me and 17 other students from across the country in the summer of 2011 to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. For summer 2012, CFGU is offering 25 scholarships for Muslim American college students to intern in Washington D.C.  You must be a college sophomore in an accredited college or university to participate in the program.

Because of CFGU, I attended lectures at various embassies, networked with potential employers, and met prominent figures in our community, as well as the Muslim American community. I did not just meet the stereotypical “political representatives,” but I got perspectives from leaders of all ages with various backgrounds dealing with issues ranging from improving a community to global health. We had discussions with well known Muslim American Leaders such Ambassador Rashad Hussain  from the State Department, Ambassador Islam Siddiqui from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Noosheen Hashemi, former Oracle Corporation executive and a Social Entrepreneur among others. It is extremely important for minorities to foster skills to become future leaders of America, which is the main mission of the Center for Global Understanding.

Through my experience in D.C., I attained hands-on experience with things I never expected to have. I saw myself making a difference as I got more civically engaged. I lobbied on the hill, volunteered at a homeless shelter, and made a stance on issues I believed in strongly, such as women’s rights. I contacted people of prestigious titles and spoke to various officials from several embassies as if they were my colleagues. Not many twenty-one year olds are blessed with such amazing experiences. Words cannot fully describe the thrills of Washington D.C.

So it isn’t really the world that I’ll be saving, but I do see myself impacting our community. This past summer gave me the confidence to feel this way, and encouraged those that I work with to be confident in me. The Center for Global Understanding guides their interns towards a more successful future and endless opportunities. You can visit http://www.centerforglobalunderstanding.org for more information or contact me, Moshtayeen, at mba08c@my.fsu.edu.

Moshtayeen Ahmad is a senior at the Florida State University majoring in International Affairs.

13-51

Understanding the Basics of Business Structures

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

business-structure-basicsRecently, I was approached by a client who was interested in starting a business, however he was curious to learn about the different business structures available, and which would be most suitable for him. Considering this was not the first time I have addressed such an inquiry, I felt it prudent to elaborate on the various structures and explain the differences between each.

Please be aware that this is not a comprehensive description of the structures and it is always advised to speak to an attorney who would better be able to provide sound advice on which structure is most suitable for your particular needs, expectations and business.

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to creating a business is that many feel that an incorporation is automatically the best structure to use; however, that is not always true. In order to fully understand why, or why not, an incorporation is most applicable, it is important to get a basic understanding of the other available business entities.  

In Michigan, there are three common business structures that owners can typically choose from: Partnership/Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, and Limited Liability Company.

1. Partnership/Sole Proprietorship: The major difference between a partnership and a sole proprietorship is in the number of owners. In a sole proprietorship, there is essentially only one owner; hence the word “sole.” On the other hand, in a partnership, it is comprised of two or more owners who come together with the intent of advancing their mutual interest.

Depending on the specific type of business you are operating, creating a sole proprietorship or a partnership is not always recommended. Under either of these structures, you, the business owner, are responsible for all taxes. However, the method in how you file your taxes does not differ from your current procedure, as the income received by your company would simply be inputted in your personal tax returns.

However, probably the biggest drawback with a sole proprietorship and partnership is that in the event your company is involved in any legal action, you are ultimately responsible for any and all judgments, whereby your business assets and your personal assets can be seized to satisfy any judgment. 

2. Corporation/Limited Liability Company (LLC): One of the biggest benefits of setting up a corporation or an LLC is that it reduces the exposure of the owners and their assets in the event of a legal action. Because corporations and LLC’s are considered separate entities, requiring a separate tax ID number, a separate tax return, the only assets that can be seized for judgment are the assets owned by the corporation/LLC; therefore, the owners are not held personally liable, and thus have their assets safeguarded from potential liability.

With respect to the taxes, the profit obtained by a corporation/LLC is taxed to the company when earned, and if the shareholder (under a corporation) decides to distribute dividends, the shareholder would also be taxed individually. Thus, this creates a double tax, which is not always appealing. This double taxation can be avoided through the use of an LLC, where there are no shareholders, but rather members to the company. Please speak to an expert for further information in how to reduce your taxes through the set-up on an LLC.

As indicated above, it is always best to rely on the expert opinion of an experienced attorney who would be able to discuss in more depth the differences between each respective structure and determine, based on your specific needs, which structure is most efficient for you. Although starting a partnership/sole proprietorship is the easier and cheaper selection, it may not always be the most optimum, as you could be opening yourself up to unnecessary liability.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

13-40

Commemorating 9/11

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Detroit Area Muslims Observe Anniversary

By Adil James, TMO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farmington–September 11th–The 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent scrutiny on the Muslim community has lasted until this date 10 years after the event.

Muslims have attempted to rebuild ties and bridges of mutual trust and understanding on this 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy through a multitude of different events.

Imams spoke at a CIOM event in Dearborn on the morning of the anniversary, and before the anniversary came, there was a huge food distribution done in Flint, also in the name of rebuilding connections.  Muslims across the nation, individually and through their organizations, also attempted to show their mercy and compassion for 9/11 victims by offering prayers and words of solace to the 9/11 families. 

In this issue of The Muslim Observer, we have attempted to collect some reports from around the country of Muslim events to honor the memory of the tragic events of 9/11.  The following Michigan events are not an exhaustive list of 9/11 commemorations, but a few good examples.

Flint

The Flint event distributed food to “about 1,000 families,” according to Iman Meyer-Hoffman, interfaith director of the As-Siddiq Mosque, from which food was distributed this past Thursday at 5:00PM.  

Each family recipient had to show a distinct i.d. in order to receive food, and the 1,000 family representatives who picked up food at the mosque came in about 300 carloads, showing Michigan’s desperate economic position after years of recession and layoffs.

The Flint Islamic Center in coordination with the As-Siddiq Institute and Mosque and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan arranged the event.  Ms. Meyer-Hoffman said of the event that “the two mosques felt it was important for the community to work together.”

Flint Islamic Center coordinators for the event were Bilal Ali, Mohammed Aslam, and Macksood Aftab.  They publicized the event extremely well, and planned it well also–occurring several days before almost all 9-11 celebrations it successfully attracted a great deal of attention and put Muslims in a very good light by helping them to serve the real needs of the larger community.

The immense enthusiasm of Mr. Aftab in building media knowledge about the event and advertising the event to local non-Muslims helped to make it a success.

“We are doing this because we are part of this community and this country. Most Muslims are peaceful people who care about others,” said Meyer-Hoffman.

PWAM Acts of Kindness

The Pakistani Women’s Association of Michigan was one of the other organizations to hold an event to commemorate 9/11.

The organization, in association with CIOM and other organizations, took advantage of the event to discuss past contributions, including helping out at Interfaith Health Fair and Soup Kitchen at the Muslim Center Detroit, as well as active involvement in the annual CIOM Unity Dinner.

Here, PWAM partnered with CIOM, ACCESS, the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, the City of Detroit, United Way, WISDOM, J-Serve and Focus: HOPE, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Arts & Scraps, and Detroit’s Cities of Service “Believe in Detroit” Campaign to participate in the “Acts Of Kindness, Transforming 9/11” which had been called for by President Obama to counteract the incredibly negative and divisive event which took place ten years ago.

Hundreds of volunteers participated in projects such as park beautification, vacant lot clean-up, food packaging, sorting art supplies for local schools, and writing thank you cards to U.S. troops serving abroad. As they worked side by side, their energy and dedication helped transform 9/11 into a day of learning about each other’s interests, families, and faith traditions. After the projects were completed, there was a structured dialogue series designed to increase tolerance and understanding, with the goal of promoting a sense of unity, peace, community-building, and mutual understanding.

Dearborn

In Dearborn the morning of 9/11 was marked by a well-coordinated event at which several prominent local imams had the opportunity to speak about 9/11 and its broader meaning to Muslims after 10 years have elapsed. 

This event was held at the prominent Islamic Center of America (ICA), said to be the largest mosque in America–a huge mosque on Ford Road in Dearborn that unfortunately has served as a lightning rod for criticism of the Muslim community.

The CIOM statement about the ICA event stated that “The tragedy … will never be forgotten… The date brings back painful memories.  American Muslims…. wish for our fellow Americans to begin a renewed era of understanding, tolerance, freedom and justice for all.”

One of the prime movers for this event was Ghalib Begg of CIOM, known for his leadership and and hard work, and for his political and interfaith connections.

Some of the prominent imams present were Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom, Imam Qazwini of the ICA, Imam El-Turk of IONA, Imam El-Amin of the Muslim Unity Center in Detroit, Imam Aly Lela of IAGD,  Shaykh Ali Sulayman Ali of MCWS, Imam Kilyani, Imam Al-Azom, and Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan.

Imam Elahi said at the ICA that the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 constituted a crime, against Americans but also against Islam, agains the teachings of Islam–over 90 nationalities were among the victims, including many Muslims.  “We as Muslims joined to show solidarity with the victims.”

The tenth anniversary, he said, was a day of prayer for the victims, to show national unity, to build dialogue and interfaith cooperation, to build towards “a better America, with justice, peace, and working together.”

He said of 9/11 that it could have been a much worse event, and that the calm and involvement of Muslim and non-Muslim community leaders in the aftermath had managed the event to avoid it being worse for all concerned.

Following the ICA event there were other commemorations attended by prominent Muslim speakers all over the Detroit area and literally all day long, so that the scheduling for the events shortened the ICA event; similar events were held at mosques, churches, and synagogues.

13-38

Reaching Out

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

BLACK_AND_WHITE_Aqeela_NaqviAfter the tragic events of September 11, 2001, communities around the nation came together to help each other grieve, to support those who had lost loved ones, and most importantly, to help each other heal. One aspect of this healing was seen in many interfaith communities, as the horrendous acts by terrorists on 9/11 had sent waves of discord through interfaith relations.

In order to keep communities together and keep interfaith relations strong, many communities reached out to centers of different faiths. One such is the Freehold community, where three centers of different faiths: Muslim (Bait-wali-ul-Asr, IZFNA), Catholic (St. Robert Bellarmine Church), and Reform Jewish (Temple Shaari Emeth), came together in 2006 to form a program called Project Understanding. This program, according to the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, was created to “promote positive human relations amongst diverse groups in Monmouth County through interaction with interfaith groups and community service projects, such as the collecting and delivering food for the Open Door Food Pantry, serving meals at the Freehold Area Lunch Program, and collecting and distributing food and clothing to homeless in the Midnight Run Project.” The Midnight Run Project involved youth from three different faiths in collecting clothing, food items, and toiletries at their respective centers, and coming together on a cold, winter night, to load the items on a bus, and distribute them to the less fortunate at midnight in New York City.

DSC05266At the completion of the program, the youth were awarded with certificates of appreciation, presented by the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission. The program is now inactive, but memories of the positive effect it had on creating relationships based on understanding and friendship between youth of different faiths calls for more programs of its kind. By focusing on the youth, programs like these will allow for the future leaders of the world to build the foundation of their interfaith understanding today, instead of waiting for tomorrow, so that in the years to come, acceptance and understanding between the communities can continue to grow, and ties of friendship will continue to be passed down for generations to come, Insha’Allah.

13-38

Understanding the Basics of Medicaid Planning

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

080416medicaidgeneric46 (1)

It has become quite evident that more and more aging Americans are beginning to rely on governmental assistance for their health care needs. In fact, Medicaid is officially the country’s largest health program when it comes to recipients – serving approximately 56 million Americans.

Although the laws of Medicaid continue to evolve each year, the planning and focus given should also adjust accordingly to ensure the recipients are keeping up-to-date. It is always important to learn the new laws in the event you have a loved who is considering being entered into a nursing home.

The following are three (3) basic questions that are often misunderstood when it comes to planning for Medicaid:

Do I have to give up all of my assets to qualify for Medicaid?

No. With careful planning, you can help increase the number of assets you are allowed to keep. Medicaid applies differently depending on the marital status of the applicant. However, in general terms, any applicant applying for Medicaid is allowed to keep the following “exempt assets”:

Vehicle

Home

Personal belongings

$2000 cash

Life insurance with total face value of $1500 or less.

Prepaid irrevocable funeral contract

Exempt asset are assets that are not countable for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Any remaining assets are considered “non-exempt” assets, and these must be “spent down” in order to become eligible for Medicaid. However, it is always advised to consult with a professional when applying for Medicaid as any experienced attorney would be able to guide you and recommend ways for you to increase your “exempt” assets.

What does it mean to “spend down” my assets?

Once you’ve determined your “exempt” assets, anything remaining is considered “non-exempt” and thus counted towards your eligibility. However, with crafty planning and proper advice, there are ways to lower your “non-exempt” assets and that is by spending down the value you carry. For example, purchasing a home, renovating your home, buying personal property, buying a new vehicle, purchasing an SBO trust (“Sole for the benefit of”) or a single premium immediate annuity. These are all permissible ways of “spending down” your countable assets.  

What does Medicaid pay for?

The average cost of a nursing home in Michigan is approximately $6500 a month. A person who enters into a nursing home Medicaid certified, the government will cover the cost of the care, less the patient-pay amount, which is based on a formula.

The formula itself begins with the Medicaid beneficiary’s monthly income that they receive from Social Security and any possible pension. In addition, the beneficiary can keep $60 for their personal needs and any money needed to pay for private health insurance.

Please note that the above information is simply a guide providing you with the basic understanding of Medicaid. It is always advised to seek professional advice when applying as you would learn how to maximize the assets you can keep and receive assistance in spending down the assets you can’t. Despite the government’s generousity in providing such assistance, it is always best to find ways to preserve your own money for your benefit.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

13-35

ICNA Launches Campaign on Understanding Sharia

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Rida Fozi, ICNA

Hartford, CT (June 5, 2011) – From a thought-provoking performance at Sunday’s entertainment night, to jam-packed sessions with various scholars the ICNA-MAS Convention was the place to be this Memorial Day weekend.

2011 convention videos are now available exclusively on ICNA TV channel.

More people attended the ICNA convention this year than any other in the past 4 decades.

A record 18,900 people attended the three-day conference entitled “Quran: Guidance Towards a Just and Balanced Way,” 4,900 of which were unique online viewers. Convention-goers benefited from nearly 80 sessions by over 100 prominent scholars, leaders and activists from across the country and around the world. The overwhelmingly successful Youth Conference ran parallel to the ICNA-MAS Convention, and crowds lined the entrance as speakers discussed “Diamonds in the Rough: Heroes of the Past.”

Reverend Dennis Perry of the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Alexandria, VA was honored for his interfaith and community work with the Community Service Award.

National and local leadership of organizations including ISNA, CAIR, MSA, MANA and MUNA attended the convention this year, and were recognized at the Community Leaders Luncheon on Sunday.

The Islamic Circle of North America launched its nationwide, yearlong “Understanding Shariah” campaign at this year’s conference, which, according to president Zahid Bukhari, “will educate the American public on the definition and place of Shariah in Islam.” Says Bukhari, “Our campaign will also counter Islamophobia that is fostered and spread by groups who hide behind the false guise of an anti-Shariah movement.”

ICNA plans to develop an online portal as part of the campaign in order to support those engaged in similar efforts to shed light on religious freedom and the concept of Shariah. The organization also hopes to mobilize the Muslim community to undertake several grassroots efforts to better explain Shariah, and intends to partner with various faith and civic organizations to reach this goal.

The convention also marked the beginning of ICNA and ICNA Relief’s Back to School Giveaway campaign, a two-month long initiative that will culminate in a series of free school supply giveaways in low-income areas in the month of Ramadan (August 2011). The Back to School Giveaway, previously hosted in New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC is now expanding to Houston, Chicago and Southern California. Mahmood Aijazi, national director of the Back to School Giveaway hopes more cities will follow ICNA’s lead and host giveaways in their respective areas.

Aijazi says the initiative is necessary because “it’s part of our duty to help our society. We need to go out, reach out to others and give back to our communities.”

Social media played a significant role in this year’s convention, with ICNA hitting its 10,000th Twitter follower and 14,000 Facebook likes over the weekend. Perhaps the most creative initiatives at this year’s conference were the “surprise events”, exclusive to those who are members of ICNA’s social media fan base.

The attendees then enjoyed one-on-one time with renowned speakers. ICNA also offered a live webcast of selected sessions for the second year in a row, and families as far away as Trinidad were able to enjoy the lectures. One convention attendee said this spurred his family to raise the money to attend in person next year.

And bringing families together is a staple of the convention. In the middle of the day you’ll find parents and their children lunching together or friends strolling through the bazaar searching for the perfect gift. Strangers will stop you and ask your opinion on the right hijab color or ask you to borrow your charger to recharge their cell phones. The ICNA-MAS Convention is that experience that brings together people of all backgrounds for a unified purpose. And as one speaker said, “It just gets better and better every year.”

Credits:
Article: Rida Fozi. Photographs: Arfa Aijazi, Waqas Syed, Rida Fozi. Videos: Talha Faruqui, Anas Faruqui

13-24

Jihad Jane is Media Catnip

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dan Gardner, CanWest News Services

The name Colleen LaRose may not be world famous but the pseudonym LaRose allegedly used in an Internet-based terrorist plot certainly is. A Google search of Jihad Jane delivers 1,760,000 hits.

What makes that number especially impressive is that it was only last week that American prosecutors announced LaRose invariably described as a green-eyed blonde had been charged with conspiring to kill a Swedish cartoonist. To go from the obscurity to worldwide notoriety is no small feat. And Jihad Jane did it without actually committing a major act of terrorism. Or a minor act of terrorism. She did it, allegedly, by discussing a single murder.

Now contrast that with Andrew Joseph Stack. If you follow the news closely, the name probably rings a bell. He is the Texas man who became so enraged with the IRS and the American government that he climbed into the cockpit of his plane, flew to the IRS building in Austin, and nosedived. The building was mauled but, miraculously, only one person died along with Stack.

That was on Feb. 18. A Google search of Stacks name almost a month later came up with around 430,000 hits.

One person crashes a plane into a building in an attempt to commit mass slaughter and his crime gets some modest attention. Another expresses an intention to kill someone, is arrested, and gets vastly more reporting and discussion. That’s quite a discrepancy.

Is it because LaRose’s case is so much more important? Prosecutors suggested so. The arrest underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face, a U.S. Justice department official said. It shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance, the chief prosecutor added.

But is that remotely true? Richard Reid, the bumbling shoe bomber, is half English and half Jamaican. John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, is a Caucasian Californian. So is Adam Gadahn, a longtime al-Qaeda spokesman who changed his name from Adam Pearlman.

So what exactly is new about Jihad Jane? That she’s a woman prepared to murder in the name of Islam? There are plenty of those, unfortunately. Thats shes blonde? Well, yes. That’s different. But somehow I don’t think her arrest means terrorists of the future will look like Jan Brady.

So if its not the intrinsic importance of the case that explains why Jihad Jane is walloping Joseph Stack on Google, what does? One might think its the fact that LaRoses views are shared by many others and so she represents something bigger than the crime she is alleged to have committed. Andrew Joseph Stack was just some nut with a grudge and a plane.

But that doesn’t work either. Stack left a suicide note which was essentially a long anti-government tirade that bore a striking similarity to warnings in a Department of Homeland Security report issued in 2009. Domestic anti-government extremism was on the rise, the report noted, and there were growing suggestions it could turn violent. The situation was similar to that of the early 1990s, the report concluded, when right-wing extremism culminated in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

In the months and years after the Oklahoma City bombing, an immense amount of attention was paid to anti-government militias and other extremists. The Sept. 11 attacks erased that threat and replaced it with that of Islamist terrorism, but the reality on the ground didn’t change a great deal. It just wasn’t talked about. It still isn’t.

And that, I think, is what explains why Jihad Jane is winning the battle of Google.

The human brain is compulsive about making sense of things. It orders, categorizes, and systematizes. And once it thinks it decides something is settled, it works hard to keep it settled: It eagerly grabs onto anything that supports the existing understanding while avoiding, or waving off, anything that contradicts that understanding. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.

Now, what is terrorism? Mention that word and certain images come to mind, certain ideas and beliefs. That is the settled understanding of what terrorism is and who terrorists are.

In 1995, the horror in Oklahoma City shattered that understanding and created something new. After Oklahoma City, terrorism was about right-wing crazies. And in the years that followed, media reporting bolstered that understanding by seeking any tidbit of information, no matter how small, that supported it.

But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and the frame changed again. Terrorism was about Islamic religious fanatics.

If Joseph Stack had done exactly what he did for the same reason in 1996, the news coverage would have been massive and everyone in the world would know his name. But he did it in 2010, when he and his motives didn’t fit the popular narrative of what terrorism is.

But Jihad Jane fit the frame. Better still, she was superficially different. Thus, her story confirmed our fundamental beliefs about what terrorism is while it simultaneously delivered a delightful sprinkle of novelty catnip for the media. And that combination just happens to be a perfect formula for grabbing popular attention.

This is of more than theoretical interest, of course. Media coverage, and popular attention, is constantly distorted by the interaction of underlying assumptions and psychology. What we hear, read, and talk about is not a complete and objective reflection of reality.

Put it like that and anyone would say, well, no kidding. But ask people why they believe something to be true and, often as not, youll hear something like, its happening all the time. Just look at the news. See the problem?

As always, a little more skepticism is in order.

12-13

South Asian Traditional Islam vs Western Islam

April 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy “Yursil”

After reading through a number of works discussing South Asian Islamic history, and also many of the references, I have thought a lot more deeply about the traditions of South Asian culture than my last series of posts on this subject. Every time I read the numerous moving stories, I marveled at how totally lost Muslim South Asians, especially expatriates and their children, have become from their traditional past. While the first Masjid in India was built in Kodungallur by Malik Bin Deenar(R), a Sahabi (during the Prophet’s (s) lifetime), it certainly seems that most of what occurred after that point has been forgotten by South Asian Muslims living abroad.

The Islam that I experienced in American South Asian dominated mosques and organizations was so utterly disconnected from the traditional understanding of Islam of India, that without being mentally prepared, I would certainly have considered what I was reading as pure fiction. The attraction of Muslim South Asians in America to various agenda-driven forms of Islam (and their lack of awareness as to their shifted reality by these agendas) has been complete and total. This has made the alien into the norm and the norm into the alien.

The sheer volume of information on the subject of the spirituality, plurality, tolerance and strength of South Asian Muslims, combined with the natural understanding as to how South Asian society flourished with Muslim and Hindu interaction for over the 1400 years, makes it clear that the fiction was that which I was sold most of my youth.

In fact, it was the desire and clearly defined curriculum of organizations such as ICNA and early administrations of the various masjids that I attended (dominated by South Asians at nearly all levels of organization) that Muslim youth study the life and works of Seyyid Qutb, Maududi, and Bilal Phillips.

This created an entire generation (including most of my friends) that had never heard the name of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (R) much less the name of a single one of the countless saints buried in South Asia. The importance of knowing those names (and therefore, understanding and respecting their teachings) is vitally important for immigrant South Asian Muslims in the West for a proper return to the spiritually moving faith connected to the Prophet (S), as practiced by these holy people who carried Islam to us.

The difference between what has become ‘modern Islam’ and the traditional Islam of South Asia and other traditional Muslim communities is striking.

One is focused on a singular attempt at ‘authenticity’ and ‘purification’ of Islam using new understandings of Hadith and discussing their authenticity, the other is focused on the application of the immediate tradition for the purpose of bettering the soul.

One is focused on the political, absorbing worldly power and doing so with various levels of crassness, looking for religious and legal legitimacy the entire time, while the other has always been about building bridges between hearts with subtlety and care.

The Islam of South Asians in the West has mirrored that of converts. Many converts were in love of the faith of Islam primarily due to its claim of textual authenticity of the Quran (and hence the faith), which was unchanged for centuries. This was in stark comparison to the faiths of the West which suffered from deep questions of relevancy and authenticity, faiths which they had left for just those reasons. There is no doubt that the weight of the extreme desire for textual authenticity led to the ‘off’ switch of South Asian immigrants in examining the Islamic faith as understood by their families for generations.

The lack of textual information about Islam in South Asia certainly did not help. Modern South Asians were brought up appreciating the written word much more than that spoken word, a side effect of making education the largest priority in their lives (a means to escape poverty of the homeland). The idea of following a way of life which couldn’t be immediately checked, verified, and looked up for confirmation led most to the path of various forms of Wahabism.

Of course, most of groups eschewed the name ‘Wahabi’ itself, preferring to claim the title ‘Muslim’ for themselves. Interestingly enough their use of ‘Muslim’ was to the exclusion of their ‘grave worshipping’ ancestors or family members, which they considered to be misguided and confused. Most likely, however, the situation was actually tragically reversed, with modernized South Asians being extremely confused about their faith and the ‘ignorant’ visitors of graves seeing with a spiritual clarity.

Many South Asian parents had not bought into their own intellectual superiority, and hence many had not adopted the Wahabi ideal in order to critique the problems ‘back home’. These parents were quiet on the subjects of question (saints, graves, intercession, etc), and very few had the ability to respond back to the arguments presented by Wahabi philosophies from their children. Growing up their entire lives in that society, it was difficult for parents to forsake that which they had learned was de-facto Islam, an Islam which had run their lives and so many loved-ones lives could not easily be discarded… Saints, Milad, Naats, Qawaali, and all. Largely, they kept their distance from argument and supported the now adjusting faith of their children.

Interestingly enough, this comfortable nature of the different Islam between father and son, mother and daughter, in matters of practice of faith was a direct consequence of the open nature of the parents Islamic faith. It is this same South Asian pluralism which had created large periods of relative peace between Hindus and Muslims over a span of centuries, which now allowed children to look, dress, and act radically different from their parents, with hardly more than a word spoken.

This is not to say that parents did not fear the children would become ‘Christian’ in the West, indeed such fears existed and were a large part of growing up South Asian in the West. However, I would argue the fear towards Christianization was much more focused on the change in culture, and what that would mean for marriage, dress and social standings than what it meant to their soul. The pluralistic values of South Asia centered around a common culture, where often the weddings of the Muslim were not so dissimilar from that of the Hindu, in terms of dress and celebration. Exiting this culture was much more profound an issue than disagreements over details of faith.

After coming to terms with the reality of the rigid nature of a singular interpretation of Islam, the American convert experience, a struggle and challenge in its own right, seemed to need an understanding of how Islam survived with pluralistic flexibility in order to continue and progress in their faith. The first struggle for those espousing a return to the traditional understanding of Islam was to establish authenticity. This was done by focusing on the Madhabs, the schools of Islamic Law. Within these Madhabs lived the intellectual contribution of all Muslim legal scholars for centuries.

However, the reality was that the average South Asian Muslim had never heard of Madhabs in any Islamic sense. Since the overwhelming majority of their society was Hanafi, there was no need to even learn the names of other approaches in matter of form or externals. So, in fact, in American Masjids, it was those espousing “Madhabs” who ended up looking as if they were speaking of something new.

As a completely wayward path, the Wahabi agenda of puritanical groups looking to take over Islam in the West was rebuffed with this larger understanding of Islamic Law. The only escape for American converts from this type of Islam, was a broader understanding of the faith with multiple legal opinions. This has become to be known as “traditionalism”, espoused by famous converts and speakers such as Sh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Sh Nuh Keller.

However, this following of converts, with their own issues of reconciliation of culture cannot be followed by South Asians descendants who plan on keeping their own culture alive. It seems the South Asian child’s only two choices today are assimilation into three categories: the secular West, the Western Islamic discourse dominated by anti-traditionalists, or the Islamic discourse of Arabized traditionalists. As noted in my previous articles, it is clear that a traditional South Asian Islam has been ignored by the West. Revivalists of traditional sciences in the West have ignored the South Asian contribution for too long.

A focus on historical personalities and works of South Asian descent is a personal priority of mine. It is time the Milad, Ghazal, Naat, and Qawaali was understood and loved again, not simply analyzed through the lens of a protracted argument about good and bad “innovations”.

“That is so 90’s.” It’s time to move on.

10-18