Friday, April 25, 2008

Same Old Crap

I guess some things just never change. Cops are good and can never be wrong. We are the one who are wrong for not being right - for not being white. As the Bells ring the bullets spread one more is dead - what can be said. As the Bells ring the cops sing and laugh and jump for joy in their arrogance and complete and utter disregard for one of our own. We are Shawn and he is us. Despite our many differences we are the same. That could have easily been me. Injustice is the norm. Why should I expect anything else? "Keep Hope Alive" is more than a campaign slogan but must be the only keeping us going, for if we do not have hope we will certainly dispare. Allah is the Disposer of Affair. We fight one destiny with another destiny. Let us not dispare. Stand up and fight, or die. Or die light our young one Shawn. Let us fight for what is right. Cops are not right. They are pigs. Cops are not right. No matter how much self-righteousness they may profess they are not right.
By, Umar Lee
04 19 2008

Over the last several weeks I have had to go to Philly a number of times. As I have written a number of times before, Philly is a city that I love and have a lot of personal history with.

Last week while in Philly I had a chance to visit the MAS Youth Center. This is an excellent addition to the already vibrant Muslim community of the area. The center will go a long way to address some of the problems our youth are facing. It deserves the support from those of us who are interested in preserving Islam for the future generations in this country.

Muslims have a strong presence in Philly. As I’ve mentioned before, the “Muslim look” is both common and well-known here. No one mistakes the brother with a big beard and his pants above his ankles for a vagrant or a brother with ill-fitting clothing. People know what they are looking at. This is refreshing given the fact that we have many Muslims who themselves shy away from a “Muslim look” (albeit there is no agreement on what this look is). The clothing and beard are symbolic of the fact that Muslims are comfortable in their skin in Philly whether they be on the bus, working on the assembly line, or grabbing a bite at Halal Bilals.

With the advancements of Muslims in Philly there have been setbacks. Philly is a tough city with a tough culture. It is not a city of metrosexuals and girlish men (outside of a few pockets of yuppies mostly not from Philly); but rather it is a city of hard-working men who are often in your face. It is the city of Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, and many other prizefighters in history, and home to sports fans who regularly boo their own teams. The city is diverse, vibrant, and home to some of the best architecture, parks and cultural institutions in America. But at the same time, it is home to some of the most depressed ghettos and mean streets in the world.

The enormous African-American Muslim population of the city is now in it’s third-generation. Its roots are in the mean streets of Philly, even while a large percentage of that community is no longer in poverty or in the ghettos. As the community has its roots in those areas mostly of North and West Philly. The problems that affect those communities affect the Muslim community. There is high crime in these areas thus we have a lot of Muslim criminals. The family has been destroyed and out of wedlock birth the norm thus we have Muslims marrying 20 and 30 times. Violence is a common language on the streets, thus disagreements between Muslims often are resolved in a language that all parties in Philly understand. This is the community as it as, as it exists. It is not the upper-class Muslim community that some writers have recently created out of their imagination while looking down their noses at the masses of Muslims. They lack any real cultural connection to the community, which cannot be purchased in credits from say, Howard University.

Walking the streets of Philly, even Germantown, where I am supposed to be hated, I get nothing but love from the Muslims. Muslims in Philly are quick with the greeting and don’t look around and see who is listening before they return yours. The good by far outweighs the bad. Yet, having said that, the bad is out there and it should not be ignored.

Philly is a city of Muslim men working hard at jobs they may not like to support their families. It is also a city of Muslim corner boys working packages for other Muslims (just last night a very nice Muslim brother on Old York Road very politely offered me crack). It is a city that produces serious students of knowledge and one that breeds con-men using the deen to make “hijrah” and be lazy overseas then come back with some kind of Muslim street cred and pick up a 2nd, 3rd or 4th wife.

Last night as I drove every corner of this great city all of these thoughts flashed through my mind. Being that I am Umar and odd things have a way of happening to me I could not escape the City of Brotherly Love without an incident.

As I was leaving Masjid Muhammad in Germantown last night to drop of some flyers for the Muslim Town Hall event with Democratic Party officials and free Preacher Moss show at Masjid al-Jamia (4228 Walnut Street at $:30 on Saturday) I got a little confused as to the best way to head back south. As I was on Germantown Ave I decided to stop at the Germantown Masjid after seeing the lights on. For those of you who do not know the Germantown Masjid is a famous Salafi masjid that has played a crucial role in that movement. I have been there a number of times in the past.

I parked the car and walked in the brother’s entrance. The door was unlocked, so I opened the door to the museslla and yelled out “assalaum alaikum” twice but no one answered. Figuring someone must be there since the lights were on and the door open I headed upstairs to see if I could find someone. A few steps up the alarm went off and I was like “oh s***”" what do I do now?”

Quickly I decided to leave before there was an incident of someone coming in who didn’t know me. They may have thought they were doing a good deed by sending me to the grave. Not only was this an issue for my personal safety, or Allah’Alim the safety of any such brother because only Allah knows how things end, but I did it for the blogosphere, conspiracy-minded Muslims and media. God-forbid if something did happen, “Umar Lee at the masjid for directions” would have never satisfied people. The theories would have emerged such as:

- Umar Lee was set up and assassinated by Salafis for revenge for the Rise and Fall Series. The anti-Salafis would have ran with that.
- Umar Lee killed by a heroic brother before he could do damage to the masjid. Some Salafis would have ran with that.
- Umar Lee caught trying to bug the masjid. Conspiracy minded Muslims would have ran with that.
- Or, if things didn’t turn out so well for the other brother, the blood thirsty sword-wielding Umar Lee attacks Salafis with a vengeance.

- And, regardless to how it turned out, it would have been another story for the Muslim- haters to run with and try and make us all look bad.

Alhamdudilah I left without incident just feeling stupid and wondering how people drive in the snow on Germantown Ave and manage the old street car tracks. As I drove towards Center City getting ready to leave town, a Muslim couple walked in front of my car. The brother had a long beard that was lined-up neatly and a white thobe well above his ankles. Far from looking like he hated the world, like a lot of brothers I know, he had a smile on his face. And next to him he was holding the hand of a sister wearing all black in niqaab. I could not see her but could tell she was smiling and she had a slight swagger to go along with the brothers limp. The weather was nice, people were out and about, and that young Muslim couple gave me hope for the future of Muslims in this city as I left.

Insha’Allah I invite everyone to come out to the event on Saturday at Masjid al-Jamia at 4:30 and, if for nothing else, to get a chance to hear a free show by Preacher Moss, and then come with me afterwards to watch Philly’s own Bernard Hopkins as he makes that 0 of Joe Calzaghe go live from Las Vegas on HBO. For those who cannot attend the Threshold Media Group will be airing the event live on WURD 900 on the AM dial.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

From One Muslim to Another (To Khalil Pr): Addressing Deficiencies in The Islamic Da'wah to Latinos
Here is an interesting discussion by Shaukani, a brother studying at Al-Azhar. It discusses Islam amongst Latinos. I jsut found this today on the internet. Apparantly, he was addressing me in that post on his blog.
Abu Isma'il Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

Aslaamu Alaikum,

KhalilPr.Blogspot made some interesting points about the failures of Allianza that I wanted to address.
First my heart goes out to all the Muslim Latinos and I am concerned about the struggles you face so this is a message to the grassroots.

Like the Black Mosque, Muslim Latinos that entered Islam over 30 years back all these inherited the struggle of being minorities and poor and the ramifications of such a state (that is no crime). I can recall off hand Latinos who entered Islam quite some time ago whether they came in through the Nation of Islam the likes of sister Luz who had settled in Ohio migrated from New Jerusalem (New Jersey) or sister MashAllah who was known to young sisters as a mother figure and was part of Jamatu Tabligh (both were Latinas –Puerto Ricans) all were impacted by the early da’wah. The da’wah our elders engaged in, may Allah (swt) reward them. In the case of Allianza Islamica they inherited the program of the Young Lords which was the Latino counterpart to the Black Panthers that is history. More specific they form a part of Islamic History in America, a chapter of history that many have “no” idea of and others want to bury.

Muslims early on did not have books, during the time of El-Hajj Malik Ash Shabazz (r) it is said that there was a Sunni Shaikh teaching in New York but many had no access to real knowledge. What we saw during that time was literature from the Ahmadiyyah, Nation of Islam, and Noble Drew Ali and a few other discourses. Later on the early da’wah efforts were laced with Sufism from Turkey and a few other places and from what the Imams in the inner say they caused a lot of damage. The Albanians were in America for a long time but they integrated until they lost their identity and the Muslim community had to buy back one of the oldest masjids in America established by Muslims from overseas back from, non-Muslims because the Albanians let it go into demise. One of the oldest Masjids in Detroit is now an abandoned neglected building with a big sign on it “Oldest Mosque In America.” So the da’wah effort early on was not organized and not funded well or headed by Ulema with the exception of Tablighi Jamaat but even there the Ulema led it from a distance and it was not addressed to the reality of life but wow the things they did. My father in law came was with Jamaat Tabligh in Detroit and he tells me in his time they used to have lines of people to take Shahada. What happened is the scholars in India saw an influx f converts but few went to study and even less became scholars.

Our elders in the Latino and Black Masjid did what they could according to the resources available to them. We should read their efforts as a phase in da’wah no more and no less except that we should respect them for their efforts and contribution and continue to work hopefully with them and this is the biggest challenge. One of the biggest problems that I see in the African American community of which I have had much experience with is this that young brothers learn a little bit of knowledge and then they challenge the Imams but they do not understand that being an Imam requires a lot of leadership and counseling skills and not just book knowledge.

Some years back, for example, Sir Wahaj appeared on the same stage with Hamza Yusuf and we heard the name of Bilal Phillips mentioned with Nuh Ha Mim Keller there was a connection between new and old despite differences. The community split up after the knowledge came and shortly there after the masjid became a battleground for ideas. I understand that people have mistakes but the issue that I feel needs to be addressed is that we must focus on learning and building a foundation rather than focusing on argumentation. At a basic level everyone is saying the same and that means memorizing Qur’an and learning fiqh and the basics of Aqeeda lik hadith Jibril when the basics are set them we can address other matters until we get to a level where we can deal with differences of opinion. Introducing new Muslims to controversial matters or teaching a new Muslim to judge other Muslims when that person has no knowledge is a disaster and from what I hear from reliable sources this is happening to some of the new Muslims from the Latino community. Latinos must be taught to grow naturally into the larger community.

The Latinos never really built speakers so they were under represented and this was a blessing given that it gave the community chance to grow without really being engrossed in the fitna. Except that now the fitna is spilling over. As far as past da’wah efforts in the Latino community like the older Muslim Latinos from Allianza I think we should see them as part of the process and growth of da’wah then focus on outreach.

Outreach in the Latino community must address a variety of areas.

1.] It must address the problem of education in the Latino community. So da’wah should address education for social mobility and for understanding Islam.
2.] Da’wah efforts should focus on empowerment (economic) more than cultural identity and this is inter-related to what was just said.
3.] Da’wah must be a call to what is agreed upon in Islam before what is disagreed upon
4.] There should be a strong focus in teaching how to read the Qur’an and Qur’anic memorization and the importance of ibadah
5.] Da’wah should address family life and how to build a family and deal with nom-Muslim relatives
6.] Da’wah should address the problems of identity so we need counselors to be there for new Muslims
7.] Da’wah should address the need to build leadership in the Latino community
8.] Muslim Latinos must be taught to be a part of the larger Muslim community and how to deal with what that entails.
9.] Da’wah should encourage people to be self motivated and to have a relationship with scholars
(this is a matter which needs study and discussion and adjustment to social needs I hope you can talk to Abdullah Danny from East Bergen, New Jersey he is doing work with the Muslim Latino Community and brother Musa al-Columbee another brother doing social work. If you want to contact them let me know Akh)

Allahu Alam
De Tu Hermano

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

US Muslim Group Declines to Meet Pope
April 15, 2008
AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Unease with Pope Benedict XVI's approach to Islam has led a U.S. Muslim group to decline joining in an interfaith event with him later this week.

Several other U.S. Muslim leaders expressed similar concerns about the pope, but pledged to participate in the Washington gathering, saying the two faiths should do everything possible to improve relations.

"Our going there is more out of respect for the Catholic Church itself," said Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, which interprets Islamic law. "Popes come and go, but the church is there."

Siddiqi, co-chairman of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue, is among the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu leaders scheduled to meet Benedict on Thursday at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. Muslims and Roman Catholics each have more than 1 billion followers worldwide. U.S. Catholic and Muslim leaders started holding interfaith talks in the early 1990s, and many of the Muslim leaders invited to the event Thursday are veterans of those discussions.

But Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, said the event seemed "more ceremonial than substantive" and his organization would not participate. He said he was disappointed that no time was made in the pope's six-day trip for even a brief private meeting with U.S. Muslim leaders.

This is the first trip to the U.S. that Benedict has made since he was elected in 2005 to succeed John Paul. He turns 81 on Wednesday.

"It would have been a good opportunity for him to have a dialogue," al-Marayati said.

The pope has been praised by supporters for his frankness in approaching Islam and interfaith dialogue in general, but critics have called him insensitive.

Muslims in many nations reacted angrily when the pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor connecting Islam with violence in a 2006 speech at Germany's Regensburg University. Tensions eased after Benedict traveled to Turkey that same year, visiting Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque.

The pope was applauded for organizing a Nov. 4-6 meeting in Rome with Muslim religious leaders and scholars, as part of a push for more dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

But many Muslims said the pontiff insulted them on Easter Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica, when he baptized Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born commentator who has criticized what he called the "inherent" violence in Islam. Islamic leaders said the prominence of the ceremony, not the conversion itself, was troubling.

"It's true that some of the gestures, some of the statements make us uncomfortable and we feel badly about it," said Sayyid Syeed, national interfaith director of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest communal group for American Muslims. "But our challenge is to not let those challenges hamper progress." Syeed will attend the meeting Thursday.

Imam Yahya Hendi, a leading advocate of interfaith dialogue and chaplain at the Jesuit-founded Georgetown University, had met John Paul and said he would participate in the interfaith gathering, because "I believe in the power of love and the power of dialogue." Hendi will also be among the thousands of people at a ceremony for the pope Wednesday at the White House.

But Hendi said that he and other Muslims were concerned that the pope wasn't visiting a mosque or meeting with leaders who represent the millions of Muslims living in the U.S.

"Since he came to office, things have happened that have been used on both sides to build up walls," Hendi said. "I think this could be a good opportunity for Pope Benedict to help people to build bridges."

American Muslims are unlike any Islamic migrant community Benedict has encountered in Europe. Many Muslims in the U.S. came for higher education and are now professionals - academics, business people, physicians and engineers - who are settled in the wealthier suburbs.

They've battled discrimination and intensive government scrutiny following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Yet they have also benefited from American constitutional protection for religious freedom. The U.S. Justice Department, along with civil rights groups that usually represent Jews and Christians, often help Muslims secure their religious rights in the workplace, public schools and elsewhere.

Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core based in Chicago, said that he was inspired as a boy by the interreligious outreach of the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Patel, a Muslim born in India, said he had no concerns at all about participating in the Washington gathering, even though he wished the Easter conversion hadn't been so public.

"I think that we have to find ways to cooperate on important matters concerning the earth, including climate change, reducing disease, reducing poverty, increasing respect," he said. "That's where our focus should be."

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Dawah to the Word 'Salafiyyah' and Not the Concept

Alhumdulillah, I came across these questions and answers from one of the `ulama I was able to benefit from in Saudi, Ash-Shaykh Abdur Rahman Al-`Ajlan. I found it it over add my dear brother Abu `Uthman's site at

However, it was orginally posted at Ash-Shaykh Zahid Rashid's site at . I do not know where the exact link is at Albaseerah.Org.

This post refute what maybe of the ghulat (extremists) have been purporting for years. It is true that many still do not know this blessed dawah, as if evident from those go became Salafi as part of some "movement" or some "gang-affiliation," and are not trashing Salafiyyah when they were in actuality only extremist using the Salafi name for their own self-promotion.

Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

Question & Answer Session with Shaykh Abdur Rahman al-Ajlaan
By Shaykh ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Al-‘Ajlaan حفظه الله
on Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Question: A very good, committed and Inshaa Allaah sincere brother calls people to Salafiyyah but sometimes aggressively questions Muslims regarding if they are Salafi or not. This has resulted in many Muslims feeling offended and turning away from the word ‘Salafi’. This brother believes that the word Salafi must be used right away in Da’wah otherwise it is a sign that the person is ashamed of being Salafi. How should this person be advised?

Answer: It is not incumbent for one calling to the religion of Allaah تعالى to use a specific phrase such as ‘Salafiyyah’. Rather a caller to Allaah تعالى should call to the Book of Allaah تعالى and the Sunnah of His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم, or to the haqq (truth), or to the Qur'aan. So it is not incumbent for a caller to Allaah تعالى to use a specific phrase such as ‘Salafiyyah’. Why? Because using the phrase ‘Salafiyyah’ could be used in issues far from the truth and in turn the phrase may be hated and people may be chased away from it. So it is not incumbent to use that specific phrase in calling to Allaah تعالى.