Archive for the ‘Alternative Visions Series’ Category

Alternative Visions — Part IIA (Amer Haleem)

May 20, 2008

Part I of this Series is here.

The issues I am discussing in this series are ones in which I have long been interested. However, I was driven at this time to actually write up some thoughts on these issues and to try to communicate and promote discussion around two powerful recent contributions. In this article I will discuss an amazing 14 page cri de coeur in Al-Jumuah Magazine from one of the most challenging thinkers and speakers on the Muslim scene here in the U.S. Amer Haleem. (The other is from Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki and will be discussed in Part III.)
Ustadh Amer Haleem titles his essay “Children of a Mixed Message: How the Generational Dynamics Have Weakened the Muslim Community in America and Made it Harder to Raise Our Families.” AlJumuah Magazine is in the midst of a “year long meditation on the Muslim Family.” Haleem’s article contains a lot of food for thought and so I will just try and touch on some of the major issues in this post. Haleem includes a brief historical analysis of the Muslim community here in the United States, discusses what he sees as a rather bleak present, but closes with an optimistic note of faith in the possibility of “miraculous” change within our community and within a single generation. Haleem describes all of this through the lens of generational dynamics and the American framework of the Baby Boomer — Gen X — Millenial Generations labels.

Amer Haleem certainly is highly qualified to write on this topic due to his many years of experience with Islamic activism in America at many different levels from the grassroots to the highest echelons. Most of his time in more recent years has been spent assisting in the mammoth Qur’an study and translation project carried out by his teacher Shaykh Ahmad Zaki Hammad. The major product of this work released to the public is “The Gracious Qur’an: A Modern Phrased Interpretation in English” (2 Volumes).

The fact that Amer Haleem is unhappy with the direction of the community and its leadership and is unafraid to express his concern in the best Islamic tradition of nasiha is clear to anyone who has heard him speak in recent years. One can check out this article describing a speech he gave at Northwestern University almost a year ago to see the type of prophetic speech which he embraces. In this essay, Haleem contends that “the major spiritual dynamics and forces of social change within our Muslim American community….have rather systematically escorted our community down American society’s secular escalator rather up through the traditional spheres of Islam’s insistent social justice and the stations of spiritual elevation well-marked by our polymath Muslim predecessors…” Haleem continues, “Take a good look at who we Muslims in America are becoming and what’s become of us. The most significant aspects of our life and identity–like our personal and communal worship of God, virtually all the signs of meaningful relationship with Him, and our intramural coummunity cohesion and family conditions–have deteriorated not improved, and dramatically so, over the last decade. The vast majority of us do not practice Islam.” As one continues through the thought process of Haleem’s essay, it is clear that this is not a matter of blaming the masses of Muslims who have taken this course, although of course each one of us in the end is responsible for our own soul, but of calling into question the leadership dynamics and choices which, Haleem argues, have contributed greatly to this reality. (more…)

Alternative Visions — Part I (Introduction)

May 18, 2008

Anyone who is even marginally active in the Muslim community here in the United States and who has been so for even just 15 years (as I have) would probably notice the following. The Muslim community in the United States is an incredibly diverse one, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of involving both immigrants and indigenous, in terms of socio-economic class and income levels. Especially before the events of September 11 and what has followed, it was not at all unusual to see “radical” religio-political understandings of our current situation and what Islam has to say about it in ‘mainstream’ Muslim fora, even where such views would not normally be seen in mainstream fora outside the Muslim community (with the possible exception of the Black American community — about this more later in the series if not in this post).

Although a diversity of views can still be found amongst the Muslims for the one who desires to search, it would seem that as a certain segment of Muslim leadership has moved to try to join the mainstream political discussion and processes of the country, that Muslim leadership has coalesced (or is at the least beginning to coalesce) around a certain vision of the role of the Muslim community here in the United States. I will try to identify certain statements that I find representative of this consensus in the process of this series but for the purpose of this introductory post let me state that the Vision promoted by this leadership seems to focus around the following major themes: