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Vote for Muslim Unity

Posted by on Feb 1st, 2008 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By YOUSEF DRUMMOND

I CONVERTED to Islam a little over eight years ago, while a college student. I made my declaration of faith, or shahada, among fellow immigrant Muslims – college students – at the Queens College MSA, or Muslim Students’ Association. Most brothers who frequented the MSA during my time hailed from Pakistan, Jordan and Afghanistan. A small minority of Muslim brothers on campus was either African-American or Caribbean. I am of Caribbean heritage, so to speak; I’m from Jamaica, the West Indies. During my college days at the MSA I befriended another brother, Ali, who is from Trinidad. To this day I correspond with Brother Ali and “the crew”. Ali and I frequent ICNA’s mosque for Jum’uah prayers; and sometimes I see other brothers whom I befriended in college at the mosque at the Islamic Circle of North America.

About a week before taking the shahada I was moving swiftly along religious book vendors along Jamaica Avenue, Queens, New York. It was one Friday afternoon, about noon. A young man, about 30 or so, who stood behind a table of religious books saw that I was interested in Islamic literature. I saw that he hailed from somewhere in the Middle East. He began to speak to me about Islam. A few minutes later he told a young boy who was with him to watch the table and he told me to come with him to prayer at a mosque. He swiftly told me to wash my face, hands and feet when we got there; we went downstairs. After doing so we tip-toed among other worshippers (I now found out we were late!) and he showed me the rudiments of the Muslim prayer when others began praying in unison. I was somewhat overwhelmed at the different postures of prayer, but he told me not to worry; he will give me a manual. We stayed there until the end of the sermon.

To this day I marveled at the simplicity of Islam. There were no statues there. The only thing I remembered hanging on the wall was a clock.

I never saw this brother again until about two years after our first encounter, on Hillside Avenue. He was walking briskly with a small child in his arms. He didn’t see me but I saw him. Since then I’ve learned that he took me to ICNA; that the religious service was called Jum’uah; and that the washing of the hands, face, scalp and feet is called ablution.

My personal experience with this brother from the Middle East represented an instance of true Muslim brotherhood. Here was one human being reaching out to another to help him with his faith. He helped me to feel comfortable among Muslim worshippers of all colors – black, white; Arab or non-Arab. We are, first of all, Muslims.

I experienced racism when I came to America, and I quickly empathized with African-Americans and their unique history as Africans here in America. I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Then came September 11th, 2001. Perhaps there is no other time in the history of this republic where a religious minority such as ours finds itself so vulnerable to tyranny of majority rule. We need true Muslim brotherhood at this critical juncture in human history, but we need to start here in the United States. Majority rule now dictates, although not intentionally, that Islam is a violent religion. U.S. political leaders strain to separate “moderate” Muslims from “extremist” Muslims; their only mission is to topple Western civilization. But to attain true Muslim brotherhood and strengthen our political will to dictate what course our future political leaders take with respect to Muslim issues or concerns, we need to learn to transcend stubborn societal barriers – those of class and race – and unite for common political causes favorable to the Muslim community.

The U.S. Constitution is now morally obligated to acknowledge civil liberties for minority groups. The moral obligation ends only in theory, however, because it remains a theory if we, as Muslims, do not agitate for civil and human rights. This Republic is an imperfect blend of majority rule and minority rights. Its imperfection is due to its European political philosophical premises concerning natural rights to property – those of the wealthy class as opposed to the “shrinking middle class” and the “other”. It seems that the Muslim community, a religious minority due to its paltry degree of political participation in this republic, is fast becoming “the other”. A neurotic obsession on the part of conservatives that Islam is a violent religion further marginalizes our political muscle. Yet, as Muslims, despair is not an option.

Lifting this lethargy, this unwillingness to participate in the popular vote, requires that the Muslim community, as Dr. Minbaj Qidawi asserts, “…consider aligning themselves with the Afro-American community”. The political status of African-Americans in Selma, Alabama at the time of the civil-rights movement is a vivid case in point. At that time African-Americans experienced “… an extreme example of the marginalization and exclusion…throughout the Deep South…with the combined force of grand-father clauses, literary and character tests, all-white primaries, poll taxes, and direct (sometimes violent) intimidation…only about 2 % of the voting-age black population were in fact registered”. Leaders of both immigrant and indigenous Muslims here in America must align themselves now. Our immigrant Muslim leaders must see fertile ground for social and political activism by listening intently to indigenous Muslim leaders about the civil rights movement. Indigenous Muslims have an unassailable position in this matter. Many of our indigenous Muslim leaders know intimately the tense interplay of majority rule and minority rights in this country. They know the social history of the United States and they are not shy about talking about its racial legacy. They know what social oppression is, first hand. Immigrant Muslims too often focus on assimilating themselves completely within American society and are therefore blissfully unaware of America’s racial legacy. In the same vein, indigenous Muslim leaders must see more clearly the vast resources available to them in terms of traditional Islamic scholarship.

This alignment is the only alternative for the Muslim community, if only to raise our consciousness concerning the popular vote.

State electors, not ordinary voters, are powerless to cast their electoral votes for a presidential candidate if the popular vote margin is not significant; the popular vote election in Florida in 2000 is one example, where George W. Bush garnered 537 popular votes vis-à-vis Albert Gore amid lawsuits filed by the N.A.A.C.P. concerning suspicious voting irregularities.

The presidential primaries are in full swing. All of the candidates, whether Democratic or Republican, switch intentionally to issues such as the economy (given the recent downturn of the economy due to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco) or immigration matters (whether to build a massive “fence” so that illegal immigrants find it harder to cross the U.S. border).  What about issues directly impacting the Muslim community?

Lets begin with Guantanamo Bay. At present, 460 Muslim prisoners have been languishing there for over four years now without legal representation; in short, they don’t know why they’re being confined there. According to the Muslim Council of Britain three Muslims so far have committed suicide. The Bush Administration has rejected suggestions that these three souls killed themselves because of their indefinite confinement. The current president, George W. Bush, has monitored the private communications of American citizens in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. He has admitted that this government has listened to our phone calls and read our e-mails without probable cause. By doing so, this president has recklessly disregarded the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches. This president has started a war of aggression against Iraq with which the United States were at peace and based this aggression on false pretenses of supposed weapons of mass destruction and connections to Al-Qaeda. This war of aggression is a direct violation of Article 52 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for military attacks only in self-defense or in cases of imminent danger. These acts of aggression are also a violation of the Principes of the Nuremberg Tribunal, formulated by the International Law Commission in 1950. This president has authorized the use of extreme measures of interrogation such as water-boarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation and electric shocks, in violation of federal anti-torture statutes (18 U.S.C. 2340A) and the Geneva Conventions. About two weeks ago the “state” of Israel “turned off the lights” in the Gaza strip, affecting some 800,00 Palestinians.

Lets strive to overcome social barriers and vote to ensure that this republic, at its peril, does not ignore our community demands.

The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: drummondhugh@verizon.net

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