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  • NNC 3:03 PM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    gayi umr dar band-e-fikr-e-ghazal 

    It helps to have a traveling companion. As a child, I vividly remember our family vacations, all six of us and our luggage crammed into a white Ford Windstar, driving for hundreds of miles at a time. I would often stay up with my father into the dead of the night as the rest of my family was passed out in their seats, heads drooped to the side and saliva dripping from the corners of their mouths. I would poke my tiny curly head in between the driver’s and passenger’s seats and listen curiously as he taught me about how the world worked. Sometimes it was politics, like how the freemasons may or may not control the global political economy. These sessions were also when I learned most of my Islamic history and mythology. I learned about Harun al-Rashid, Juha (Nasrudddin Hodja), Haza’ Tamburi (Tamburi’s shoes), and the lives of the prophets. It would become clear that it was time to pull over and take a break when the stories stopped making sense, like when Prophet Joseph decided to take exit 34 because he wanted a happy meal.

    ibtida-e-ishq hai rota hai kya

    agey agey dekhiye hota hai kya

    It’s the beginning of love, why do you cry?

    See what lies ahead, what happens next (More …)

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    • Nazanin 10:34 PM on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Awwww, I wish I could have been there!!!!! We should have a poetry night at MSA! 😀

  • NNC 5:09 AM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Outcast 

    In every place I find myself, I have been blessed to have an accepting Muslim community around me ( Thrice Displaced). The problem is I don’t have much to be judged for. I am male, Arab, and well-achieving academically. I thank God for those things, but I sometimes desire to empathize with those born or made less fortunate. Their struggles are a large part of what defines them and makes them stronger. These struggles may, however, also alienate them.
     
    • NNC 1:31 PM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Ahmed,

      This is a great post; I think it really speaks to the issue many Muslim communities encounter today. When a fellow believer wants to convert, the Muslim community welcomes the convert as one of their own. But what happens after a brother embraces Islam? Unfortunately, what I have observed throughout my life is that many Mosques forget to follow up with the brother. The Muslim community gets caught up with their personal lives that they do not dedicate time to loving, helping, and teaching the new Muslim brother.

      -Rasheed Alhadi

  • NNC 5:03 AM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    “Education is the Great Equalizer” 

    Soon after we were all sitting in the living room and chatting in Inayat’s house, a knock came from the door and two African American males entered. Inayat introduced Anthony and Ian to us – they were half-brothers who were originally from Florida. Anthony was wearing a red ECKO sweatshirt and I thought he may have played football since he had a big upper body. Ian was a little shorter than his brother and was wearing a black Fox Racing sweatshirt and seemed a little softer spoken than Anthony. Both had converted to Islam, with Ian following his older brother’s footsteps.

    During the time in Inayat’s house I did not interact much with the two brothers, but when we went to the restaurant I ended up sitting next to them which provided the perfect opportunity to get to know them more. I asked Anthony if he was a fan of the Orlando Magic or the Miami Heat. “Neither,” he said, explaining he wasn’t a big sports fan. I told him that surprised me since he was black. We both shared a laughed, and I knew this was acceptable to say since Anthony was poking fun at this earlier in Inayat’s house. I then asked Anthony what activities he was into – with his reply being gymnastics, since exercises such as hanging on the rings works out all parts of his upper body.

    (More …)

     
  • NNC 4:22 AM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Hold up, wait a minute, put a little LOVE in it 

    We started off our day with a three-hour drive from Brevard to Charlotte.  Once parked, we exited our car and approached Masjid Ash-Shaheed. Immediately, someone at the door welcomed us; with a smile on his face, he introduced himself as Nasif Majid and ecstatically told us to come join the community members for Dhuhr prayer. I just want to point out how loosely people use the term community today. The word has much significance, but this Masjid is truly a community. The vibrant community emitted this (More …)

     
  • NNC 3:40 AM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    “I used to wonder why God put me in this position – black in the hood, poor, all these strikes against me socially. Then I read in the verse in the Qur’an and realized I have a story to tell. If your cup is already full, how are you supposed to fill it?”
    -Anthony

     
  • NNC 12:56 PM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    The Soldier 

    One of the most lauded ideals in United States is the support for the men and women who serve in its Armed Forces. Regardless of the nature of the conflict or the rationale of the acting generals/politicians, the praise of the soldiers on the ground remains inextricable from the most basic tenets of American patriotism.

    Since 9/11, the general perception of Muslim Americans by non-Muslim Americans has gotten more negative (according to the Gallup polls). Muslims, however, have a generally positive outlook on the lives and opportunities afforded to them in the United States. In spite of all odds, Muslims have permeated through every level of American society, from street vendors in New York City to State Representatives in Congress.

    So what happens when the two come together? The topic of Muslim-American soldiers is certainly not a stone that has never been overturned, but it’s become apparent that many people, including myself, still hold preconceived notions about why a Muslim might be serving in the military and fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I discussed the topic with Ian, a Muslim African American in his early twenties who is currently a soldier in the US Army and has seen action in Afghanistan. He kindly agreed to share the story of his experience.

    (More …)

     
    • Nabeel 10:33 PM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Definitely a nice perspective to hear from, especially in such great depth. It is disappointing that the Army and Muslims here in the US have treated Ian with such hostility. Reading about Ian’s reasoning for and experience of serving in the Army provides a great, concrete example that does so much more than any amount of assuming I could do from the outside.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Safa Al-Saeedi 1:06 AM on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You brought up a very important ethical issue that is seen in many ways by different people. Understanding the circumstances is very important to reach a just judgment, and that is actually what most of us lack these days. Reading this post gave me a different perspective of looking at this issue. Thanks for sharing, Wahab.

  • NNC 11:55 AM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Leaving Empty, Coming Back Enlightened 

    Our first stop as soon as we entered Charlotte, North Carolina was Masjid Ash-Shaheed. Although a primarily African-American Masjid, the followers there were welcoming to anybody and greeted our group with arms wide open. After leading the prayer, Imam Khalil Akbar spoke words of wisdom to the Islamic Community and also discussed upcoming events for the Ash-Shaheed Mosque. During this time Imam Khalil made us stand up and introduce ourselves to the Charlotte community; I could feel this group of people was very affable and embracing. Imam Khalil encouraged the members of the community to approach us after his talk and discuss their stories with us, and they sure did.

    After Imam Khalil’s talk, separate conversations ensued. A man named Ali Akbar introduced himself to me and we talked at great length. Ali was a 62 year old African American who was originally from Harlem, New York. He was raised only by his foster mother in a Baptist family, with five of his extended family members being ministers themselves. He finished high school by the age of 17 and he said he wanted to know he was a “free spirit.” He was tired of the chains that had bounded him to New York and he wanted to get away – which is why he enrolled in the military. His training took him south of the Mason-Dixon Line into parts of Georgia and South Carolina, where his eyes began to open. Before leaving New York, Ali says he “didn’t know what was happening in the world. I thought the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was big just because he was a human being. I never knew it was because he was a leader for the blacks.” According to Ali, he knew no such as thing as ‘racism’ where he grew up in New York. It was only when he went to the South for his military training did he become fully aware of the Civil Rights Movement.

    (More …)

     
    • Nusaibah 12:39 PM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This was a really good piece! I’m glad you learned a lot but still acknowledged that there is much more to him that he didn’t share. The part about him not knowing of the Civil Rights Movement until he went down South stuck out with me most. I wonder how much is going on in the world that we don’t choose to read about that will, in the future, be significant events of history.

  • NNC 6:02 AM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Ugly Muslim Youth 

    Several events of today had me thinking about the role of youth—especially Muslim youth in America—in making social changes and what they can do based on what they have inherited from earlier generations.

    In my visit to Masjid ash-Shaheed in Charlotte, NC, their imam, Brother Khalil Akbar, shared his hopes that it was the current generation of Muslim youth who would begin to really define Islam in America. Part of those hopes included bridging the racial divides between Muslims. The Greater Charlotte Area has at least 7 mosques, segregated mostly according to race or national origin. (More …)

     
    • Nabila 2:51 PM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Very thought provoking post. I certainly understand what you mean by marketable Islam and slick Muslims – my husband and I agonize over this quite a bit. If you get a chance, I would be very interested in a follow up post elaborating on this:

      “I have met plenty of inspiring individuals, but they’ve been regular folk not big-name figures. For something more significant to arise, we need more creative frameworks than what we have.”

      What inspired you? What kind of creative frameworks are you thinking of?

      While the Muslim community at large may try to hide the Ugly, it has become very fashionable for all the slick institutions you mention to show acceptance of the Ugly (i.e. Ugly might be the ‘x’ or ‘y’ that makes us like everyone else) and promote tolerance and diversity (e.g. Hamza Yusuf reminding everyone that gay Muslims are allowed to lead prayer and do everything else and that we must not dehumanize people). What are your thoughts?

  • NNC 5:02 AM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Day 3 in Quotes 

    “9/11 presents an opportunity to explain Islam. Sometimes Allah can make a bad situation real good.”
    -Imam Khalil Akbar

    “Nothing hurts me more than when I see kids disobeying their parents.”

    • Sumaya

    “When I went [to Hajj], we could stick our faces in the Black Stone and take our time. Now it’s become like Muslim Vegas or something.”
    -Inayet

    “I became Muslim in the hood.”
    -Munirah

    “You could count the number of African Americans [at UF] on your fingers, and there would still be fingers left over, even if you didn’t count your thumbs as fingers.”
    -Anthony

    “I already believed everything he was explaining to me about Islam. It was like being Muslim and not even knowing you’re Muslim.”
    -Munirah

    “The biggest picture in my house growing up was Malcolm X. It was bigger than black Jesus, Rastafarian Jesus, and white Mary.”
    -Anthony

    “I got stopped by a cop for driving while black. With two white children in the backseat.”
    -Nick

    “I wish that Muslims could understand that when we join the service, we’re not trying to kill other people. Why would I want to do that? We did good things too. We protected towns; we helped build schools and wells for locals. The main mission was to try to help Afghan civilians against the Taliban.”
    -Ian

    “Worship has to be seen and shared in our community life….worship is expressing our religion in community life.”
    -Imam Khalil Akbar

    “Becoming Muslim was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Not because of fasting or prayer or any rituals. It’s because of dealing with other Muslims.”
    -Anthony

     
  • NNC 4:41 AM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    On Niqabs and Candy 

    We met Sister Sumaya in a small masjid located in a small, secluded shopping plaza. She wore a beautifully decorated purple abaya. The tail of her pink hijab was pinned to the other side of her head, covering her face. She warmly welcomed us inside as we sat in a circle before beginning to recount how she got to where she is today.

    Having formally studied Arabic in Saudi Arabia, Islamic Studies in Pakistan for 5 years, and memorizing the Qur’an in its entirety, she certainly has a wealth of knowledge to share.

    She spoke fondly of her childhood, emphasizing how her father, a former ambassador for Saudi Arabia to Kenya, was very open minded and never pressured them into certain beliefs. She arrived in the U.S. in 2005 after her husband relocated to Charlotte for work. She is involved in the Islamic communities in Charlotte, Gastonia and Hickory, teaching Islamic classes to children.

    Of course, many people who meet Sumaya for the first time do not see her educated background or service at the masjid. Instead, they focus on the piece of cloth, just a few inches long, that covers her face.

    (More …)

     
    • Nabila 3:26 PM on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for this post Maha! The candy analogy makes me highly uncomfortable too, and I am glad you were able to admire her strength while pointing out what made you uneasy.

      I would love to hear more thoughts from you and others on this trip about gender, hijab, beards, the value of clothing, etc. Did being female affect your access to leadership? Were there certain communities more female-friendly than others? How did masjid architecture affect female participation? What determined how involved women were/could be?

    • Fatema Ahmad 12:26 PM on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thought you guys might appreciate this young hijabi’s rant about the candy/pearl analogy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7gAcn4Idow

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