Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Walls Will Come Down at El Museo del Barrio

This is a good article that was written in New York's "Daily News." It touches upon the neoliberalization of New York City and the decline of the Puerto Rican in this Gotham City of the 21st Century. Culture. of course, is now something waterdown and shared by all and not something individual, special, and personal. It must give in to the "demands of the market" (i.e., capitalism)such as everything else in our society. Dignity and respect are never high up on he skeme of planners. Its all about sustability, and that means making sure the dollars are pouring in. --Khalil Al-Puerto Riquenyo

The Walls Will Come Down at El Museo del Barrio

By María Vega
NY Daily News

Wednesday, May 28th 2008, 4:00 AM

The galleries of the venerable Museo del Barrio have officially closed to make way for the last stage of a $28 million renovation that will give a needed face-lift to the city’s only Latin-focused museum.

After a year delay, El Museo, on Fifth Ave. and 104th St., is scheduled to reopen in the fall of next year with a new glass facade, a redesigned courtyard, an expanded shop and a new cafe.

“What this renovation will bring is, first, the recognition that El Museo is now an open institution for all who enjoy our culture,” says Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director.

The glass facade “will allow for more engagement with the community, of course, but also with people who are not Latinos.” But, he says, it will continue to be, a museum “with a Latino heart and an universal spirit.”

Only El Museo’s theater will remain open for presentations and performances as well as to host its annual summer concerts series, which normally takes place in the courtyard.

To mark the temporary shutdown, the museum will tonight host a private “demolition party,” with an appearance by its founding director, Raphael Montañez Ortiz.

Montañez Ortiz, an artist known for his ceremonial destructivism performances in which, for example, he smashes pianos to pieces, plans to do “a symbolic break through the wall” at El Museo.

The museum’s last exhibit before closing, “Arte Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000,” was a well-received retrospective on Latino performance art.

“Shows like Arte Vida could not take place at the Met,” says Montañez Ortiz, 74, whose focus now is computer art.

Zugazagoitia, who has presided over exhibitions such as “MoMA at El Museo,” showcasing MoMA’s collection of Latin American art, and “Retratos,” which focused on portraits, has had a tumultuous run as director.

He got an icy reception 5½ years ago, when he moved uptown from the Guggenheim.

“I was not aware there was going to be such a shock about my appointment because I was not born in Puerto Rico,” says the Mexico City-born Zugazagoitia.
His national origin was just one part of the conflict. Zugazagoitia’s background includes a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris and work at well-heeled international institutions that are galaxies away from working-class Latino East Harlem.

To many neighborhood leaders, his appointment confirmed that El Museo, founded in 1969, was on the path of abandoning its community roots in favor of a more profitable, and less Boricua, future.

Some of the critics consider it an achievement that, as a result of their pressure, El Museo’s board now includes two community representatives.

As much pain and anger as there was, the crisis “pointed out in a very dramatic way and a very explicit way how many people do care about El Museo,” says Zugazagoitia, whose future with the museum is unclear.

The Guggenheim is looking for a new director and, according to published reports, Zugazagoitia may be readying for a move back downtown.

“I work here at the will of my board,” he says.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Millati Islami - The Islamic 12-Step Self-help Program
What is Millati Islami?

Millati Islami is a 12-step self-help program based on the Al-Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Millati Islami is a fellowship of people joined together on “The Path of Peace.” We look to Allah (God) to guide us on Millati Islami, which means the Path of Peace. Millati Islami is designed to help combat the disease of addictions, such as to drugs/alcohol, violence, anger, or food. These addictions are only a few that have taken a firm place in society and have caused a great increase in the prison population.

As recovering addicts, we strive to become rightly guided Muslims, submitting our will to the will and service of Allah. We begin the submitting process through the practice of Islam in our daily lives. Millati Islami strives to equip the individual with the necessary tools of awareness and understanding to break the cycle of addictions. Millati Islami is also based on the sin model. As taught from the Qur’an, addictions are a sin, which have a negative impact on an individual’s life. Here people (Muslims, Christians and Jews) can learn to recognize their self-destructive lifestyle patterns by sharing life experiences, strengths, and aspirations in a group setting.

In America, today’s society is plagued with many social ills, which cause much moral decay, and social values are a main concern of many people. There are thousands of men, women, and youth under some type of Judicial Supervision. The incarceration rate among these groups has reached epidemic proportions. The Millati Islami program was founded to help recover from what we identify as the “fallen human condition.”

Islam tells us clearly that the status of man in this world is that of an “Abd” (slave or servant). We must learn to be slaves and servants only to Allah and not slaves to mind or mood altering chemicals. We must also learn not to be slaves to people, places, things and emotions. Allah tells us that man is “Khalifatullah” or “The deputy and vicegerent of Allah”. This means that Allah has entrusted us as human beings with custodianship of his creation. Our own bodies, minds and souls truly belong to Allah. They are only entrusted to us for a time. We are charged with their care while we have them in our possession.

Back in 1989, the late Imam Zaid Imani began this program called Millati Islami (Path of Peace) in Baltimore, MD with a group of believers who sought to stay rooted in the Islamic way of life while remaining focused on recovering from their addictive behaviors. When Islamic principles are included with the traditional 12-step program, they have proven to further enhance the recovery process. For the first few years, the Millati Islami program functioned primary in local communities. Now Millati Islami can be found taught in Islamic centers, schools, churches, recreation centers, prisons, state jails, recovery programs, and homes in many states.

In 1995, the Millati Islami program found its way into the Texas Penal System by way of the Islamic community at the Wynne Unit campus in Huntsville. At that time, just like today, the prison population was booming with individuals who were compulsively and psychologically dependent on habit-forming substances and behaviors that are morally destructive. By 1996, forty-two Millati Islami groups had been established in sixteen states across the nation. This growth has often been attributed to the 1993 publication of the manual outlining the Millati Islami Twelve Step program. Today, the Millati Islami program is even more effective.

On October 27, 2005, the year’s graduation theme was “Anger Management” at all Huntsville Unit campuses. The message was provided by Certified Chaplain Br. Abdullah Muhammad-Bey, LCDC/CCJP and Islamic Coordinator Br. Joseph Burnet and Millati Islami Coordinator Br. Grady Sims from the Goree Unit. Each week in this program people become successful in learning to fight back their addiction and become winners, and are successful in learning about the impact of addiction on themselves, family, and society.

Hopefully, the message that was received by the graduates and those in attendance was to live without being a slave to their addictive behaviors. Your past does not have to get in the way of your future. In fact, it is the very essence of your future in terms of learning from your past mistakes. We’ve all heard about being condemned for forgetting the past. Well, Millati Islami teaches that we must begin rebuilding our lives in such a way as to create fond memories, one that no longer needs to be deleted from our majestic minds.

This process can start here and now. There is no need to wait. We’ve all made mistakes and we need to forgive ourselves. We need to show real care and concern by building each other up not tearing each other down. We all need to find a common ground sharing our wisdom and insights. Life is short, much too short to waste. Regardless of how you look at it, we must see that we have been given an opportunity to do something worthwhile with our lives. Take full advantage that we are friends to one another who are guided by the belief in the submission to the will of One Creator. Only this belief in one God can give you the power to change your addictive behaviors, attitudes, core beliefs, and criminal thinking.

In our desire to follow the steps of recovery as detailed by Millati Islami, we seek self-acceptance and change from Salat to Salat (prayer to prayer). We have to be able to let go and trust in Allah (oneness of God) and have faith in him alone. As a result, he will fill our hearts with thankfulness and gratitude. We will also begin to experience a sense of PEACE after given the opportunity for this graduation, and we like to thank the wardens and other officials who allowed the Millati Islami program to continue to be successful every year since 1995. By participating in a 24-week intensive group counseling session, many of these men have established a precedent that has changed the way they once viewed addictions.

Breaking the cycle of addiction will allow these men to redefine their futures and elevate their relationships with families and associates. These graduates made a pledge to help clean up drug use and crime in their communities, starting with themselves. The process of this program depends upon people working together. Individuals, who are recovering from their past weakness, need a support system. Millati Islami can help these men rededicate their lives as men, women, fathers and mothers, on the path of peace.

The Whole-Way House, Inc is a support system being offered to those same brothers and sisters being released from prison who have successfully completed the Millati Islami program. The goal of the Whole-Way House Inc is to provide comprehensive, multi-faith and multi-cultural reintegration housing facilities, anywhere in the nation. The Whole-Way House Inc will provide recovery and treatment programs, such as Millati Islami, as well as Life Skills, job search, and a support groups, all within a structured faith based environment. The Whole-Way House Inc also intends to provide assistance for the homeless and indigent.
Due to the lack of funding, we are limited on how many people can be released to this aftercare program. Br. Abdullah Muhammad-Bey is the founder of the Whole-Way House. He is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) who is presently employed with the Gateway Foundation as a Substance Abuse Counselor. He has been a Millati Islami and TPDP Volunteer for many years within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This is a great project offered by the Muslim community and is an excellent way to help sisters and brothers coming back to society and those who may need services from the community at large. Inshallah.

Our goal is to emerge successfully from this test called life as prescribed by Allah. To win His pleasure and reward is our ultimate human objective. May we accomplish sobriety success and peace of mind on Millati Islami.

Masjid Al-Ummah
C/O The Whole-Way House, Inc800 10th Street Bldg D
Huntsville, Texas 77320
(936) 891-1198
(936) 714-4135

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Salafi Movement in America
by Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani
There are those out there in the masajid and on the 'net who have nothing better to do but bash Salafis. There have been some desparaging things said about Salafis. My opinion is that there are many two reasons as why there is dislike and definite hatred for Salafis and Salafiyya. I think that these two main reasons are: (1) The Salafis in America have acted in a negative manners towards others (2) People simply do not understand what Salafiyya is.
I will not try to get in the first issue right now, but I would like to address one misconception about Salafiyya. First of all Salafiyya is not, will not, nor will it ever be a "movement." I remember Abu Muslimah (despite my differences with him) made a true statement at the Eid back in the late 90s. What he said was "Salafiyya equals Islam." How powerful is that statment! That is why I cannot say that Salafiyya is a movement. Salafiyya is the din, and the din is Salafiyya. It cannot be confined to a movement. It is true Islam. It is tradition Islam. It is orthodox Islam. It is Islam according to the Quran and Sunnah, upon the understanding of the Salaf-us-Salih.
Having said that I will not deny that there have been movements based upon Salafi principles. That is why I may used the term "salafiyya" with a small 's' at times. That is because Salafiyya is more of an attribute or a way, orientation, or method, if you will, of understanding and practicing the din. Some example of salafi movements have been Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahamullahi 'alaihi) movement to return to the true principle of Islam at his time. Another example is the movement of Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (rahimahullah). Some more recent salafi movements have been Shaykh Muhammad Nasir-ud-Din Al-Albani and Shaykh Muqbil bin Hadi (rahimahumullah). There have been other an many other salafi movement throughout history. Like other movements there are ups and downs. Movements are sometimes more successful than others.
So was there a salafi movement in the United States? There is no doubt that there was a Salafi movement in the U.S. There are many reasons as to certain rises and falls of the movement of the greater Salafiyya. Perhaps a recent ebbing of Salafiyya in America is due the various reasons. This in no way tarnishes Salafiyya. It is the pracitioners (or claimed thereof) of Salafiyya and their lack of visions and their imperfections that can be analyzed and take into consideration. One area which the "movement" here in the U.S. has been unsuccessful or irrelovant is the lack of understanding of the context of the U.S. and shere denial of ones culture. I feel that the only way that any movement and the American salafiyya movenet can be relevant and vibrant is through being culturally relevant. Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab (rahmatullahi alaihi) could not have been so sucessfull if he did not understand his society and culture. Another example is the early days of Salafiyya, known as Ahl-ul-Hadith in the Indian subcontinent.
Once Salafiyya is confined to wearing Arab thawbs and spuratically using Arabic words in ones speech like "na'am," it cannot no longer be relevant to American Islam. Why would one want to convert to Islam if he/she is feel that he/she must put someone else's culture on a pedastool?
It is true that there is much kufr and jahilliyah within American society, but one should not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many things (as in many cultures) that are not haram but are considered mubah or makruh tanzihi.
That is all I would like to say about this subject at this time. Hope to hear your thoughts on topic.