Marc Manley – Muslim Chaplain at Drexel University
It is with great pleasure and honor that I announce the piloting of a Muslim chaplaincy at Drexel University. The MSA at Drexel has been working tirelessly to bring this about and the University has stepped forward in the momentous occasion to support the Muslim student body. My duties with be in will be assisting the University and the MSA as chaplain for the next few months in getting this position off the ground. We’re hoping it will lead to the permanent establishment of a Muslim chaplain program at Drexel so please stay tuned for future fundraising activities.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers,
My tenure as Muslim Chaplain at Drexel came to an end this summer. It was a great opportunity to help the Muslim community move in a new and bigger direction. I pray that Allah will continue to bless their successes in this life and the next.
Islam at times can seem, to the outside observer, to be a peculiar religion in that there is no formally established hierarchy or pecking order. There is no priesthood, no monasticism (though there are traditions of asceticism). A Muslim’s “confession” of sin is directed solely to God without an intermediary, so to speak, as is the role of the priest in Catholic traditions. In this context, what is the role of an imam? How does it differ from other religious traditions?
It was my pleasure to have been invited on NBC 10′s @Issue, hosted by Steve Highsmith. The show was about religious leaders and how they try to lead Muslims, Christians and Jews toward peace in a post-9/11 era. I was joined by Rabbi Richard Hirsh and Rev. Sherri Hausser, both of whom I enjoyed meeting and hope to work with again in the future.
The three segments are below. If you have trouble loading them, you may view them here.
It is my great pleasure to announce my acceptance of the Muslim Chaplain position at the University of Pennsylvania. I am deeply humbled and honored at Penn’s trust in me to carry out this role. I ask Allah for guidance. Amin. I would like that thank all those involved, especially Adnan and Carolyn, whose shoulder’s I will be riding on and doubtless, without whose support I would not be embarking on this journey.
The Muslim community at Penn has been of tremendous benefit to me over the last four years, whatever contributions I have made have been far outweighed by what I have religiously, spiritually, and developmentally profited from. I hope to be able to give back to all of those who gave generously to me.
The Muslim Student Association is a fabulous organization, one where many Muslims “come of age” and become our new leaders. It is my goal to aid and assist this journey through compassionate advice and earnest spiritual work. I look forward to serving the Penn Community for the next year, God willing.
It was only a slight exegeration that I have 27 web sites. The number is in reality much closer to two: the fine virtual establishment you’re patroning now, and my Tumblr blog, Tumbled Thoughts On American Muslim Life. It’s a place that I put some doses of material that I feel are better fitted to a venue of their own. Quotes, videos and the like can be found their [by all mean, click away]. The kind folks at Tumblr were kind enough to feature me in their Spotlight on Spirituality. Check it out and check back frequenlty as I often update this blog at a more frequent pace.
The capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the American government’s most wanted terrorist, came as a surprise last night as I was turning in for bed. Like many Americans, the news brought about a flux of emotions, from relief to something more along the lines of morose. I say morose because as a person of faith, it’s an odd mix to feel elation at someone’s demise, even if there were someone as nefarious as Bin Laden. Muslims were not alone in these feelings. Vox Nova, a Catholic blog, wrote a piece, The Death of Bin Laden, where Henry Karlson asked the question in relation to the rejoicing we see on the evening news: “But should there be?” Karlson continues with, “Taking the life from someone else will never be an act of justice – it does not restore what has been lost, but rather, brings further loss onto the world.” While I personally do not agree that taking a life can never be an act of justice, nonetheless, Karlson’s words resonate with what I observed from a broad stripe of Muslims. The moral quandary had less to do with Bin Laden’s death being just but more with the celebratory spirit with which it is being observed. However, in the current climate it is unlikely that many Muslims will feel free to express this sentiment out of fear of their commitment to America will appear to be weak or suspect. In this manner, we Muslims owe our Catholic neighbors a debt of gratitude for speaking out on this topic, helping to add a much needed nuance to an ever shrinking dialog.
Beyond all of the speculation of right, just, or wrong, lies another set of questions that many American Muslims have and that is: Even with a proponent’s stance on Bin Laden’s death, what dividends will this pay for brokering a more fair and equitable viewpoint on Muslims in the American public sphere? Many Muslims that I spoke with and observed harbor a cynical attitude towards the significance of Bin Laden’s death. Many fear that instead of smoothing over the perception of Muslims in the broader public dialog, it may even induce further backlashes. Evidence of these fears was seen in the vandalizing of a mosque in Maine as well as a hit-and-run accident in Florida which looks to be the result of a hate crime. The perpetrator, Gerald Prebe, of Clearwater, Florida, said, “he intended to kill” his target because he “looked Middle Eastern”. However, the victim, Terry Butler, was found out to be African-American.
It remains to be seen if the death of Bin Laden can make life for American Muslims any easier to live [this was the gist of my interview on Philadelphia’s CBS3 below via Oren Liebermann - click here for a direct link to the video in case it doesn't load below]. But as a person of faith, I am committed to an optimistic outlook, even if I have to work on it day by day. For now, we will all have to sit back and see what further facts can unfold from this bizarre and emotional story.
Muslims in Phila. have three reasons to rejoice
By Alfred Lubrano, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Amidst the din of a meat-cutting machine quartering a lamb carcass at Al Aqsa Halal Meats in the Northeast on Monday afternoon, store manager Ray Hamidah shared a thought about his adopted country:
“A bullet in Osama bin Laden’s head was something the American people needed. Revenge relaxes people.”
A Jordanian-born U.S. citizen, Hamidah, 42, is a pragmatist who saw bin Laden as a “perverter of Islam” who brought pain and prejudice to Muslims in America.
“This will be better,” Hamidah concluded, the fresh lamb being sliced at his butcher counter an apt symbol of springtime renewal. “We’re not celebrating. But this is better.”
Arabs and Muslims in the Northeast as well as in mosques and professional organizations around the city are expressing a sense of relief that U.S. Navy Seals in Pakistan killed the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks during the early morning hours Monday.
Still, the killing has not alleviated the fear that Muslims will long be linked with terrorism, forever viewed with suspicion.
“My main worry is that anybody in the world can do something bad now and people will blame Muslims avenging bin Laden,” said Aeman Ali Mohamad, 26, owner of Safe Side Services, an insurance firm on Wyoming Avenue across from Al Aqsa.
Weary of being associated with terrorism, Mohamad, a North Jersey native, explained his distance from bin Laden.
“Al Qaeda has nothing to do with me, with most Muslims, and I hope they die with Osama bin Laden,” he said. “I feel relief that he’s gone.”
Down the street, it was more of the same at Pizza Point, where manager Mohammed Jubran, 27, bristled that bin Laden “wasn’t good for the Muslims, killing innocent people.”
The Jerusalem-born Palestinian, now an American, spoke as though the constant heat of his pizza ovens scorched his words as he spoke them: “The man deserved to die.”
Along with the businessmen of Wyoming Avenue, the Arab American intelligentsia of imams and advocates in the area detailed their delight in bin Laden’s end.
“As Arab Americans, we’re triply happy,” noted Marwan Kreidie, executive director of the Philadelphia Arab American Corporation, a social service agency.
“First, he killed at least 3,000 Americans on 9-11, and we’re glad he got his just due.
“Next, as Arab Americans, we know the vast majority of people killed from his reign of terror are Muslims.
“And third, his actions caused reactions here, making us unfairly targeted – a community under fire.”
Kreidie added that bin Laden’s message of a violent Islamic revolution yanking the world back to the 14th century never took hold among the youth of the Arab world.
The proof has been the so-called Arab spring, in which young revolutionaries have gathered and fought for democracy – not jihad – in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere.
Moein Khawaja, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that as an American and a Muslim, he cheered when he heard of bin Laden’s demise.
“My wife and I were watching the Phillies game where they announced his death,” Khawaja said. “As people at the game chanted, ‘U.S.A.,’ we yelled, ‘We got him!’”
He added, “I never forgot the day our country was attacked so brutally, and at the same time the religion of over 1 billion people was tarnished.”
Among the religious, a paradox develops around bin Laden’s death.
“I’m not not happy he’s dead,” said Marc Manley, a South Philadelphia imam not associated with any particular mosque.
“But I do feel odd about being happy a human was killed. Is it appropriate?”
Manley also wondered what changes would develop from bin Laden’s demise.
“Will we Muslims get screened less often in airports now?” he asked. “Will we not be used as political hockey pucks during election campaigns that include anti-Muslim feelings?”
Manley said he’d like to be optimistic that pressure on Muslims will lessen.
“But,” he added, “the cynical side kicks in, and you say, ‘Of course this isn’t going to change everything.’ At least not yet.”
Dr. Laurence Brown was kind enough to interview me for his blog. Dr. Brown is a graduate of Cornell University, Brown Medical School, and George Washington University Hospital, where he did his residency. He is an ophthalmic surgeon, specializing in cataract and refractive surgery. Dr. Brown retired from the Air Force, whereupon he continued on his medial practice as the medical director of a major eye center in Saudi Arabia. He divides his time between America, England, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Dr. Brown is also an acomplished author, with two of his previous books written in the field of comparative religion: The First and Final Commandment and God’ed. In addition, he has also written fiction, the latest The Eighth Scroll. Dr. Brown and his wife live in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, with their daughter.
In the past weeks, we have seen the role that social media has come to play in religious life, from the Pope’s tentative endorsing of social media to the impact it has had on movements in Tunisia and Egypt. I myself have used various social media component such as this blog, Twitter, and Tumblr, to “help get the message out”. It has provided me a means of communicating with fellow Muslims as well as reaching out beyond the Muslim community. Today’s [February 3rd, 2011] Philadelphia Inquirer has penned an article about the developing role that social media plays in American religious life. The articles author, John Timpane, was kind enough to reach and include myself in his piece. You may read it here online.
National Public Radio recently did an interview of Imam Anwar Muhaimin of Masjid Quba here in Philadelphia [ma sha'Allah, nice picture Imam Anwar!], my wife, as well as yours truly, asking how and why Blackamericans, despite the phenomenons of 9/11 and more recently, the FBI raid in Detroit, are drawn to Islam. I spoke at some length with the gentleman from the Associated Press, as did my wife, about the continuing evolution of Islam in the Blackamerican experience. You can read the article here. Even though AP did mention the part about Blackamericans being drawn to Islam for many of the social reasons, it did leave out some of the points I tried to elucidate concerning the breadth of reasons why Blackamericans come to Islam: social, spiritual, and otherwise. In other words, the reasons are as vast as there are people coming to it. Perhaps in the future this point can be discussed further at length.
Hat tip to Safiya for putting the AP in touch with us.
Update: Since the article seems to not be on NPR’s web site any longer, I’m going to insert it directly here.
JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer
By now, Sekou Jackson is used to the questions: Why does he need to leave a work meeting to pray? Don’t black Muslims convert to Islam in jail? Why would you even want to be Muslim?
“It’s kind of a double whammy to be African-American and Muslim,” said Jackson, who studies the Navy at the National Academy of Science in Washington. “You’re going to be judged.”
Jackson’s struggle may have gotten harder when the FBI on Wednesday raided a Detroit-area warehouse used by a Muslim group. The FBI said the group’s leader preached hate against the government, trafficked in stolen goods and belonged to a radical group that wants to establish a Muslim state in America. The imam of the group’s mosque, a black American named Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was killed in a shootout with agents.
Although the FBI was careful to say those arrested in Detroit were not mainstream Muslims, it has accused other black Muslims of similar crimes, most recently in May, when four men were charged with plotting to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down a military plane.
Yet the Muslim faith continues to convert many average African-Americans, who say they are attracted by Islam’s emphasis on equality, discipline and family.
“The unique history African-Americans have faced, we’re primed for accepting Islam,” said Jackson, 31, who grew up in a secular home and converted to Islam when he was about 18.
“When someone comes to you with a message that everyone is equal, that the only difference is the deeds that they do, of course people who have been oppressed will embrace that message,” Jackson said. “It’s a message of fairness.”
It was a message of black pride in the face of dehumanizing prejudice that launched Islam in America in the 1930s.
Created by a mysterious man named Wallace Fard, the “Lost-Found Nation of Islam” strayed far from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, but its mixture of self-reliance, black supremacy and white demonization resonated with many blacks. Some 30 years later, Malcolm X began the African-American movement toward traditional Islam when he left the Nation of Islam, went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and proclaimed that all whites were not evil.
In 1975, the Nation split into two factions: a larger group that embraced orthodox Sunni practices, and another, led by Louis Farrakhan, that maintained the Nation’s separatist ideology.
Today, it is difficult to determine the number of Muslims in America. A 2007 Pew survey estimated 2.35 million, of whom 35 percent were African-American. Lawrence Mamiya, a Vassar College professor of religion and Africana studies and an expert on American Islam, said Muslim organizations count about 6 million members, a third of them black.
Most African-American Muslims are orthodox Sunnis who worship in about 300 mosques across the country, Mamiya said. The second-largest group follows Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, which has about 100 mosques in America, abroad and U.S. prisons, Mamiya said.
He said the third-largest group is the Ummah, founded by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the black activist formerly known as H. Rap Brown. The group has about 40 or 50 mosques. The organization targeted in the raid near Detroit was part of the Ummah, the FBI said.
“The vast majority of African-American Muslims are using the religion to strengthen their spirituality,” said Mamiya, who has interviewed many black Muslim leaders and congregants. He said the number of black Muslims is growing, but not as fast as before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Few white Americans convert to Islam “because the tendency is to view Islam as foreign,” he said. “For African-Americans, it’s part of their African heritage. There’s a long tradition (in Africa). … It moves them away from the Christianity they saw as a slave religion, as the religion that legitimized their slavery.”
Margari Hill was a California teenager seeking an antidote for nihilism and widespread disrespect of black women when she found Islam in 1993. A few years ago she began covering her hair with a hijab, or head scarf.
“I wanted to be thinking about humility and modesty,” said Hill, a 34-year-old teacher in Philadelphia. “I decided it would help me be a better Muslim and a better person.”
She also is attracted to Islam’s family values and the egalitarian message embodied by the prophet Muhammad’s “last sermon,” which according to Muslim scriptures says that no Arab, white or black person is superior or inferior to members of another race.
Hill’s husband, Marc Manley, said that many blacks who have struggled with crime, drugs or alcohol are drawn to Islam’s regimented lifestyle, which includes prayers five times a day.
“Especially in the urban context, it provides a vehicle for African-Americans to deal with those ills,” he said. “It provides a buffer or a barrier.”
Muhaimin was born into a Muslim family after his parents embraced Islam in the 1950s. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, “but was very clear from a young age that I was and am an American citizen.”
“America is my country, I love the United States,” he said. “I don’t agree with everything our politicians do in our name, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a citizen of this country.”
On the Net:
Margari Hill blog: http://www.azizaizmargari.wordpress.com
Marc Manley blog: http://www.manrilla.net
(This version CORRECTS that FBI raid was on warehouse, not mosque.)