#MiddleGroundPodcast: Islam, Blackamerica: Between Morality and White Supremacy

In this episode, I  foster an important conversation about the future of Islam in America, particularly as it relates to Blackamerica, with Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, assistant professor of Islamic law and Prophetic Tradition at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, and Malik Shaw, author of The Green School: A Natural Approach To Educating Children and the co-Founder and executive director of Midtown Mosque, in Memphis.

From Malik Shaw’s book, The Green School:

“As Jill Rigby states in her book Raising Disrespectful Children in a Disrespectful World, ‘As a result of this emphasis on self-esteem, twenty-somethings are returning home rather than facing the world on their own. College kids are flunking out because they don’t know how to manage their schedules. Kids are growing up without problem-solving skills because their parents think love means solving all their problems for them. Many adolescents have no respect for authority because their parents didn‘t command their respect. Instead, their parents gave too much and exposed them to too little. In our attempt to build self-esteem in children, we have reared a generation of young people who are failing at life, haven’t a clue who they are, and are struggling to find a reason for living. Their kids fall for the latest craze, healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are in the middle of it. They would rather die than give up their cell phones. And they feel that others have an obligation to serve them’.”

Colonialism, Decolonization, and the Need For Muslims to Move Beyond Crass Symbolism

Yesterday I made a post on Twitter which sparked some difficult but worthwhile conversation about the topics of colonialism and decolonization. The following are some additional thoughts I had on the topic:One reason why the Muslim world was so ripe for conquering is because they were overly invested in symbols and not The Truth. In other words identity politics and I sort of crass conservatism mixed with a simple minded symbolism is what contributed to the ease of them being conquered. This is why large tracts of the Muslim world will flip when one white dude draws a cartoon but will either turn a blind eye to, or participate in, corruption. ‎Instead of the Qur’anic

(رب إني ظلمت نفسي)

“O God I have wronged myself”Qur’an, 28: 16

it’s “the West is bad”. And the ulama’ have in large part enabled this line of thinking particularly from the vanquished lands of the Muslims.

If identity is not subservient to The Truth then you’ll have a people who espouse The Truth while contradicting it in their every day lives. Additionally, symbols and identity are easily hijacked, whereas The Truth remains aloof, an independent arbiter.

The Dull Knife

The most dangerous knife in the kitchen is the dull knife. It’s unreliable and when you least expect it, it cuts you. When you most need it, it slips.I have noticed a growing tendency amongst our communtiy that we are no longer people of extended thought — knowledge you might say — but instead have become people of narrative. I do not say this as a snide remark but I say this with also indicting myself. Narrative is important but without foundational knowledge, we’ll have nothing other than shifting sand to plant the flag of our narrative in.

Everyone’s busy. That’s what I hear. That’s the excuse I’m given. But I also hear, “Shaykh, I want to learn Arabic!” (without showing up to the Arabic class) ; “Imam, how did you learn your Arabic?” (I spent many many long hours sacrificing play time to do thousands upon thousands of drills, etc.). The list goes on and on. And instead of providing opportunities for learning, I believe the last generation of institutions and their scholars/imams/etc., have largely indulged the phenomenon I call Islamotainment. Our gatherings, if we have them at all, tend to range from “chop-it-up” sessions to superficial demonstrations of knowledge that are more about their “wow” factor versus anything transformative. So what can we do?

Continue reading “The Dull Knife”

America’s Enduring Problem of Racism and the Promise of Acceptance

America has an enduring problem: racism. Sadly, many Muslims are not sure quite where they should place their hands and feet regarding this dance with Ms. America: many of us desire acceptance above respect. But what acceptance can one ever have if you leave it wholly to another? What acceptance can there be if it is based not on who you are but on how much of yourself you are not? Like a pretty girl who has no intentions of sleeping with you, Ms. America is quiet happy for you to make a fool of yourself fawning over her. Ms. America loves flattery. But as they say: flattery will get you nowhere.

Until we deal with ourselves, all of our politics, activism, and “jihads” will be all for naught.