Morality and Liberalism – A Challenge To Moral Orthodoxy

This post may indelibly put me on the other side of some folks’ proverbial tracks but I feel that we are approaching a cross roads in America of which, if it goes unchallenged, we Muslims may find ourselves sailing down some very murky waters. To be blunt, this is about a post that Imam Suhaib Webb regarding Nicki Minaj. A critique which involved the morality (or lack thereof) of her image, in particular in reference to her new video Anaconda. Apparently, we have a double-standard in our community (by “our community” I am doubly referring to the black community and to the Muslim community) that wishes to marginalize whites to the role of sympathizer, not of critic. So long as whites sympathize with the social plights of blacks, Muslims, or other socially disparaged groups, their voices are welcome. However, should they begin to bring up issues that confront our (i.e., black folks, etc.) morality, or lack thereof, their voices are often ridiculed and silenced. I have an issue with this both as a black person and as a Muslim.

Without a doubt, white supremacy is a major issue and its presence (not legacy!) is still very much here with us today. But what is often missing from the overall narrative regarding white supremacy is the acknowledgement that some of the the most devastating critiques leveled at white supremacy have come from the pens of white authors and academics. Names such as Richard Dyer (White), Tim Wise (White Like Me) and Allan G. Johnson (Privilege, Power, and Difference) are just a few such examples. We need not, in an attempt to protect our dignity as non-whites, debar whites in participating in the overall critique of white supremacy. To do so would be, least of all, a double standard.

The second tract that I have major concerns on is the issue of morality. As a Muslim, no less an imam, I have an obligation to speak to the realities of the world I live in. And while Nikki Minaj is not the singular focus of any cultural critique I might have, undoubtedly she, and her ilk, would be a part of it. As a black father of a black daughter, I am deeply disturbed by the hyper sexualization of society. Undoubtedly black women have been the targets of such sexualization, undeniably at the hands of black perpetrators. Our collective silence on this is disturbing; our outrage at a white critic, juvenile. And while some would argue that a woman has a right to express herself however she likes, the right does not insulate her from public critique. To be frank, I appreciate those arguments on the one hand from non-Muslims. I am, however, deeply disturbed by Muslims who would object to another Muslim critiquing such behavior which is so obviously unacceptable (by Muslim and non-Muslim standards alike). Indeed, it has been my thought that the next wave of “extremism” to confront Muslims in America will not be in the form of violent outbursts or rhetoric, but will actually be the co-opting, adaption and condoning of post-modern liberalism, which can have little congruence with any modern faith tradition with still appreciates its pre-modern sensibilities.

To return to the issue of the original post, I find it very troublesome that we cannot confront the truth of a critique leveled against us simply because it comes from a white (male) voice. In all honestly, I am in complete agreement with Imam Suhaib’s assessment of Minaj’s video; I would stretch the critique further to her as an artist and ultimately, to her industry as a whole. If what Dr. Sherman Jackson recently said has any merit, regarding the current apathetic stance religion has towards “cool” and “sexy”, then we will need all hands on deck; all voices must be heard. For it is not the objective of this author, nor of the enterprise of Islam itself, to condemn sexual expression. Rather, Islam simply states such expressions are best relegated to the bedroom, where one may indulge one’s “inner freak” to one’s heart’s content, so long as it falls within the boundaries God Almighty has laid out. But that is another story for another day!

(Below are screenshots from Imam Suhaib’s original post)

Suhaib Webb on Nicki Minaj

Suhaib Webb on Nicki Minaj

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Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Inland Empire

Marc Manley It is with great honor and privilege that I announce my acceptance of the position as Religious Director at the Islamic Center of Inland Empire, in southern California. The warmth and hospitality shown to myself and my family by the Rancho community has been truly inspiring and I eagerly look forward to serving the community in this capacity and all of the great things we can do together, God willing.

For the past fifteen years, I have worked as a professional in the information technology sector. In addition, I have been involved in the creation and implementation of two Muslim chaplaincies, at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University respectively. Through nearly a decade that Philadelphia has been my home, I have been blessed to make the acquaintance of so many wonderful individuals. It also gave me a chance to serve my community with dignity, at a time when Muslims in America face daunting challenges. It is my intention to bring the breadth of these experiences to the new task at hand at ICIE. My departure from Philadelphia will be bittersweet, a city whose inhabitants, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have had such a lasting impression upon me. For all of you I am truly grateful.

I wish to thank a few individuals and organizations who’ve made this journey (a) tenable and (b) possible:

  • The Quba Masjid community: Imams Anwar and Anas Muhaimin: simply put, you both put me on a path and inspired me through quiet leadership and resolve. I am in your debt.
  • The Reverend Charles L. Howard, Ph.D.: as UPenn’s chaplain, you were willing to take a chance and believe in an unknown. I am grateful for that opportunity. I will miss our very candid and “keepin’ it real!” conversations. God bless.
  • Adnan Zulfiqar: I could not have asked for a better confidant and supporter. My only regret is how little time we had with each other. Come and visit sunny SoCal, ock!
  • Mohsin Ali: your quiet support and character have and continue to be a confidence booster for me. Jazak’Allahu khayran.
  • Wasim Rahman: who knew where this would go when you invited me to your wedding! May Allah bless you and your family always.
  • Abdul-Kareem al-Amry: I am grateful to God for having met you (in a Starbucks of all places!). Your religious knowledge and willingness to help and engage me to make me a better Muslim and a better leader is a debt I cannot repay! Thank you.
  • The collective of the Drexel and UPenn Muslim Student Organizations, for whom I will truly miss! I cut my teeth as a khatib on these two campuses. You are a wonderful group of young Muslims – may Allah bless your paths always.
  • Imam Suhaib Webb: if there was a brother from another mother, you’d be it. In addition for being a coach in my corner, you are also a real inspiration for me and I will continue to draw upon your support and example.
  • Dr. Sherman Jackson: it is no secret that you have been one of the most influential forces in my adult life. Now is not the time or forum, but only I say thank you and may Allah reward you for your selfless support.
  • Dr. Ali Suleiman Ali: in the words of my mentor, Dr. Jackson, “Shaykh Ali is shaykh.” My first Qur’an teacher, I hope I can be half the teacher you’ve been.
  • Dr. Mukhtar Curtis: your encouragment has been a source of strength. Jazaka’Allah, shaykh.
  • Khidr Naeem: simply put, you are family. You have been a rock in my life and I pray that Allah will continue to bless you and your family. Amin.
  • Dr. Muhammad Khalifa: I thank you for your genuine brotherhood. Come visit!
  • Rashid Abdur-Raheem: you and your father were the first to teach me how to pray (and I taught you how to drive a stick!). I am eternally grateful.
  • Shakeer Bakari: you and I have proven that you can take a brother out of Detroit, but you can’t take the “D” out of a brother! God bless.
  • Malik Shaw: another kindred Detroit spirit. I am in your debt for your selfless brotherhood and constant encouragement.
  • Dr. Jerry Hionis: sadly, we’ve had little time together but you’ve been a good brother and an even better friend. “Darmok, and Jalad … on the ocean.”
  • Moutasem Atiya: you continue to show me what brotherhood, based on the Sunnah of Our Beloved, is all about. Jazak’Allah.

And of course last, but not least, my family: my wife, Margari, who simply put, is the one who has allowed me to do this. She’s the one who has put up with a grumpy, tired, travel worn husband. My Allah reward you for making me a better man. My daughter, Ziyan, who despite not quite being three, is a major inspiration for why I am doing this: the future of Islam in America. To my parents, who’ve given me unconditional love for over forty years. I will always be a momma’s boy! To my brothers, who I know from time to time look at their little brother with a healthy dose of suspicion!, I thank you both for your love and support. And of course all praise belongs to God – Allah in the Arabic language, the Fashioner of the Heavens and the Earth. There is no god but You!, and Muhammad is your slave and Messenger.

I look forward to seeing you all in sunny southern California.