By El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
IT'S been a while since I last visited the MAS Center in Brooklyn, New York, and so when I saw the following announcement (for a very important forum) it grabbed my attention.
Muslim American Society Presents:
Preparation and Power in the Age of National Security and Anti-Muslim Bias
Friday November 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm
MAS Bath Avenue Youth Center
1933 Bath Avenue, Brooklyn New York B/D to 20th Avenue
A Town Hall and Hands-On Training for the average community member, activist, student, parent and business owner. Join MAS discuss and learn about:
- FBI Raids and how they affect you;
- Your rights at Airports, in your homes, schools, at rallies and your community centers.;
- When and how can you donate to charity;
- What can you expect when you want to become politically active; and
- Share your concerns and ideas and practice your power with hands on interactive trainings
***MAS welcomes CLEAR, NLG-NYC, and Al-Awda-NY to present detailed and interactive trainings to give you the chance to learn and implement your knowledge.
Attorneys will also be present at the end of the night to handle your private questions and concerns.
As someone who has worked in the field of human rights activism for almost half of his life, and as someone who heads a grass-roots organization that has been in the trenches - addressing some of the most difficult cases and issues impacting Muslims in America (since before 9/11) - I believe I can offer some much needed advice to those who will be participating in the upcoming forum (below).
1. FBI raids (especially when conducted at homes) are meant to terrorize; this is why they primarily take place in the wee hours of the night/early morning - for maximum shock value. The targets of these acts of psychic violence should try to remain as calm as possible (a very difficult thing to do under the circumstance) and not surrender their constitutional rights - the first of which is your right to remain silent, and to consult with an attorney.
2. It is absolutely imperative that the young and old be educated on their constitutional rights; that they have a good working knowledge of the Bill of Rights (considered the heart and soul of the U.S. Constitution). You cannot practice or defend what you don't know.
3. It is our right as Muslims, and as citizens (or residents) in America to contribute our money to any charitable or advocacy organization that we wish to support - whether it is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization or not - as long as it is not on the U.S. government's list of alleged terrorism connected organizations for whom material support would be considered illegal. It is very important that Muslims not allow any government authority to intimidate them from practicing one of the most important principles/pillars of our deen (zakat & sadaqa).
4. What we can and should expect, as Muslims, when we become active in striving to actualize and defend our deen (Islam) is opposition. This is the way it was during the time of the Prophet's (peace be upon them all), and this is the way it will always be. The Noble Qur'an says: "Do men [or women] think that they will be left alone on saying we believe, and that they will not be tested?"
5. I strongly advise our brothers and sisters (and especially the young and highly emotional) to channel whatever legitimate anger/rage they feel about what's happening to Muslims (here and abroad) in the most productive ways, and to remember at all times, all non-Muslims are not the enemy! There are a lot of good-hearted people in America who are on our side! WE MUST HAVE FAITH IN OUR FAITH, and be willing to work in coalition with all who are willing to work with us for positive societal change.
6. If you become active - and ever serve as spokespersons for the Muslim community in America - never betray your deen/religion and never betray your community (which includes your fellow Muslim, who may be accused of heinous crime, but innocent).
7. Lastly, I strongly advise my young brothers (as I do all over the country) to avoid the jihadi websites and chatrooms. They are both poisonous to the soul, and serve as TRAPS that help ensnare unsuspecting young dupes into terrorist conspiracies (often orchestrated through a government paid agent-provocateur)!
May this brotherly nasiha (sincere advice) find a resting place in as many fertile hearts and minds as possible. Ameen.
(El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan is Director of Operations, The Peace Thru Justice Foundation)