Eid Gifts for Gambia

I just wanted to pass along an email I received from the former President of Muslims Student Action Network at Stanford. I know of one student who collects donated books to send to libraries in Africa. It is a worthy cause and hopefully more of us can do more to increase literacy in Africa.

I am starting up a collection of *Arabic literature/books/magazines /newspapers* to send to a brand new library in The *Gambia*, Africa. I have a friend in the Peace Corps who built this *library* and he has requested for these materials specifically. If you could just pass this message on to people you know, that would be great! They can personally contact me at *nyakuby@gmail.com* to get more involved. If you have any materials you would like to donate, please let me know and I will try and find a way to get them from you or to fund its shipment directly to The Gambia. Thanks so much, and I really hope you forward this message on to your friends and communities. Thanks!

Islamic Salon: Are DC Muslims building the BlackAmerica’s Muslim intelligentsia?

One of my friends pointed out that living in Cali I was pretty much living in an intellectual wasteland for African American Muslim intellectuals. Even with two other Black Muslim women from other parts of the Diaspora in graduate school, our schedules too hectic to come together. I didn’t have many peers to share my ideas, build on my research, or to find support. Even though my personal background and experiences had influenced my research direction, I had no one to share the insights I found in my research or make my research relevant to broader issues in the Muslim world. My friends and adviser said that I would likely find a support network outside of academia, through continual exchange online and academic conferences. Slowly I’ve been working on building a peer group, where the respect is mutual. I’ve been looking for people who are intellectuals and activists, people committed to asking deep questions in order to think about creating a better future.

That’s when I began to reach out through blogging. While there have been some amazing sites that have shown promise, I have been disappointed by the distracting posters who follow up discussion with uninformed and counterproductive commentary. Ultimately, I know the limitations to open discourse on blogosphere. I have found promising and civil discourse in academically based discussion groups. What is clear is that we need high standards for our discourse. Moreover, we need real human exchanges with discussion groups, work groups, and writing workshops.
So, today, when someone forwarded me a link to AbdurRahman’s latest post. I was happily surprised. Here’s a brief account of what’s going on in DC:

Imagine for a moment that you’re a highly educated African-American living in the segregated Washington, DC of 1895. Modern distractions like radio and television haven’t been invented yet, and most other avenues for culturally rich and intellectually stimulating entertaiment have been racially proscribed. What do you do? This was the predicament facing the elite members of the race at the close of the 19th, and beginning of 20th centuries. In those days, education meant a heavy dosage of Latin, Greek, or French, great familiarity with the classics of western civilization – like Shakespeare and Plato – and usually the ability to perform a difficult piece of music on either piano or violin.

In learning to cope with the injustices of segregation, these educated Blacks turned inward and developed their own avenues for cultural and intellectual expression. They formed debate clubs and literary societies, attended plays ( held usually in churches), and wrote books and papers. However, one of the more important outlets they turned to – one which we are attempting to rediscover in the Washington D.C. of 2007 – consisted in holding lively and engaging programs in each others homes.

So often we hear that our masjids maintain an atmosphere inhibiting free discussion and thoughtful debate, a lamentable state of affairs. Most masjids, whether African American or immigrant, usually follow some type of “line” ( some ideological Kool-Aid they want you to drink), and all topics not sanctioned by the administration are strictly prohibited. But the home “salon”can be the perfect remedy to combat the intellectual and cultural stagnation that so many Muslims are experiencing today.

Here in the nation’s capital, Muslims are beginning to meet not only in homes, but in little coffee shops as well. Some attend to hear the short lectures and the discussions that follow, while others go simply to find a mate, and that’s o.k. too.

I really hope this idea catches on. After reading Sherman Jackson’s work on BlackAmerica and talking with several up and coming leaders, I am convinced that we need to go back to the drawing board. While we may look at faulty ideologies and failed movements, I think this is an exciting time for Muslims in the West. I believe we may be on the brink of some cutting edge thought. Our thoughts in exchange with the thinkers coming from Muslim majority countries may really help provide some real world solutions to the problems that we face all over the world.

Beat them (Lightly)?

Dead Teen Refused Hijab

Aqsa Parvez would leave home each morning wearing track pants and a Muslim head scarf. Once the 16-year-old got to school, she would remove the scarf and change into close-fitting jeans.

But, her friends said, her parents got wind of what she was doing. Parvez soon began showing up at school with bruises on her arms.

It was a struggle that may have led to Parvez’ death this week at the hands of her father, who was denied bail Wednesday after being charged with strangling her.

This story tops that chart of popular stories on CNN. The father violated a tenet of Islam, his sacred trust, and destroyed a life. It is as if he killed all of humanity. By killing his daughter, he lost his humanity, his dignity, and hurt us all. May Allah have mercy on her soul. Aqsa was one of the many victims of domestic violence and violence against women throughout the world. Many of us assume domestic violence is limited to a husband beating his wife. But like Aqsa’s case, a father abusing his daughter or siblings abusing their siblings. Our Muslim leaders need to be strong in their messages against the abuse of women. In Muslim majority countries where the laws are either “inspired” by Shariah or lawmakers claim they are in fact the shariah. Men often receive a slap on the wrist for beating their wives. Even in America, famous people who abuse their animals serve more time than famous people who abuse their wives. But I’m not an apologist, trying to sweep the problem of domestic abuse in the Muslim communities under the rug. The point is that our leaders need to make a point that it is unacceptable.

I found the following list of Shelters from ISNA’s Domestic Violence Forum

Apna Ghar
4753 N. Broadway Suite 502
Chicago, IL 60640
773-334-0173 phone
773-994-0963 fax
info@apnaghar.org
http://www.apnaghar.org

Apna Ghar is a domestic violence shelter serving primarily Asian women and children, and was the first Asian shelter of its kind in the Mid-Western United States. Apna Ghar takes its name from a Hindi-Urdu phrase meaning “Our Home”, and since January 1990 has served over 3800 domestic violence clients.

Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project
DVRP
P.O. Box 14268
Washington, DC 20044
(202) 364-4630 phone
info@dvrp.org
http://www.dvrp.org

We are a diverse group of volunteers and staff who are committed to ending domestic violence and its effects. We have expertise in a range of areas including education, law, and public health and we draw on the experiences and cultural backgrounds of our members of Asian/Pacific Islander descent.

Baitul Salaam – Atlanta
P.O. Box 11041
Atlanta, GA 30310
800-285-9489 pin# 00
haleem1@aol.com
http://baitulsalaam.freehomepage.com/

We are a non-profit organization consisting of a variety of individuals and businesses in the fight together to end spousal abuse worldwide. Our services include: Counseling and support services, Battered women’s shelter, Temporary financial assistance, Fundraising services, and
Employment assistance

Hamdrad Center
355 Wood Dale Rd
Wood Dale, IL 60191
630-860-9122 24-hour Emergency Crisis Line
630-860-2290 phone
630-860-1918 fax

Hamdrad Center provides culturally tailored, multilingual services to domestic violence victims and abusers since 1993. A team of dedicated volunteers has made it possible to establish a fully licensed shelter and a 24 hour Crisis Hotline, and to provide individual and family counseling to families in need.

HOMS – Housing Outreach for Muslim Sisters
P.O. Box 152611
Arlington, TX 76015
1-877-335-4667
homsoutreach@hotmail.com
http://www.geocities.com/homs99/

H.O.M.S. is a facility designed for Muslim women and their children who are in need of temporary housing/shelter due to family or financial problems.

ISSA – Islamic Social Services Association of USA & Canada
4202 Roblin Blvd
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3R 0E7
Canada
(204) 889-7451 phone
(204) 896-1694 fax
shahinasiddiqui@hotmail.com
sophiaali23@hotmail.com
http://www.issaservices.com

ISSA is a unique organization since it is not a social service provider, but rather is an organization that serves as a network for addressing the social service concerns Muslims have. ISSA aims to provide support to social service providers through education, training, services and advocacy.

Muslim Community Center For Human Services
M. Basheer Ahmed, M.D.
Chairman MCC for Human Services
P.O. Box 152658
Arlington, TX 76015
mcc1999@hotmail.com
817-589-9165 phone
817-483-4699 fax

Muslim Community Center For Human Services offers the following services to the victims of domestic violence. 24-hour helpline 817-589-9165 ;Counseling service for couples ;and/or individuals ;Computer training program for victims of domestic violence ;Arrangements with local shelters if needed ;Educational programs for prevention of domestic violence ;Educational material is also provided

Muslim Women’s Help Network
87-91 144th Street
Jamaica, NY 11435
Tel.: (718) 523-5100
Fax: (718) 658-3434
mwhn@muslimsonline.com

The mission of the Muslim Women’s Help Network is to promote family life in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saw), emphasizing the protection and maintenance of women and children as the foundation for a productive community life.

Muslim Women’s Network
PO Box 14023
Columbus, OH 43214
614-470-2848
mwn839@hotmail.com

The Muslim Women’s Network exists to, insha Allah, provide Islamically-trained workers to build stronger families by: Providing counseling and/or mediation services to the community; Introducing and re-connecting women to their community; Helping women to help themselves; Being a catalyst for social change. In the Muslim Women’s Network & Community Services we hope, insha Allah, to support sisters in many ways but to focus our services toward the following core groups: widows, the displaced, the disenfranchised and the abused of our community.

Narika
P.O. Box 14014
Berkeley, CA 94712
510-540-0754 Office
1-800-215-7308 Helpline
Info@narika.org
http://www.narika.org

Narika was founded in 1992 to address the problem of domestic violence in the South Asian community. Embracing the notion of women’s empowerment, Narika set out to address the unmet needs of abused South Asian women by providing advocacy, support, information, and referrals within a culturally sensitive model. We serve women who trace their origins to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and diasporic communities such as Fiji and the Caribbean.

Niswa
P.O. Box 1403
Alomita, CA 93717
310-782-2482

History and Memory: Black Muslims in America

Abdur Rahman Muhammad has written a five part series under the controversial title, “Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t stand for justice?”  I find this series significant for its historical value,  especially since there are very few works outside of Aminah Beverly McCloud’s book African American Islam that have taken a critical look at the intellectual trends of African American Muslims and their relationship to the immigrant community.  

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four 

Part Five

 What I like about the series is that it is a solid attempt at explaining the causes for the lack of civic engagement of many African American Muslims since the 90s. Abdur Rahman has a good understanding of the complicated trends. I find his nuanced understanding expecially important in light of some disturbing simplistic generalizaitons, ahistorical explanations, and false assumptions recent bloggers have made. Recently, some Muslims have written me asking if their views are representative of the Black American Muslim community. I do not think so. But with that in mind, I think it is extremely important that scholars begin to study sociological, cultural, and historical processes in the American Muslim community. Many of us discuss trends based off of anecdotal evidence. We don’t know marriage statistics and with so many informal marriages we don’t know. I know as a student organizer, many of us failed to keep a record of our activities. We should have libraries preserving our impressions, thoughts, ideas, and plans. We should have qualified scholars that can analyze speeches and texts. Now more than ever we need a historical approaches to understanding Islamic movements, especially in America.I became Muslim in the early 90s, with little understanding of what had been established and the major shifts in leadership that were underway. If you don’t know where you’ve been, how do you know how you got where to where you’re at? I think there are many lessons that we can learn from history. It is just as important to understand the history of Islam in America as a whole, and that will require many studies and various approaches. I personally think   we can discover important insights to understand Muslim communities  in  multi-cultural societies and global Muslim networks by looking at the history of Islam in America. 

Back, well sort of

 I’m back, well sort of. I’m back in Kuwait from my two week trip to Egypt. Fourteen years ago, I used to only dream of visiting places like al Azhar and the pyramids.  I definitely could not have imagined living in the Gulf.  I became Muslim shortly after the Gulf war ended Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq. I definitely could not have imagined that I would thrive here of all places. Like every dream I’ve had and been able to live, my dream of seeing the Middle East turned out so much different than what I expected. Even with this trip to Egypt. It was really a lifetime dream. It was so much different but so much better than I expected. Slowly, over time, I am getting to know Egypt. I am learning how to get around, to find places I love. I’m learning how things work. How things don’t work. And I’ve learned a lot in a short time. I’ve learned that I’m prone to erupt in tears when hungry and frustrated. I’ve learned how much luggage I could lift just to avoid feeling jipped by someone demanding bakteesh. I’ve learned that I can meet people on common ground. I’ve learned to cross the street while cars are racing by, as if I have some force field to repel cars. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned more the obstacles I face in life (the biggest one being myself) and a bit about what it will take to overcome them. I’ve learned that I am here because of the goodness of my brothers and sisters (regardless of race, religion, or creed). All that goodness comes from one source, and for that I am truly blessed.

Taking real trips, avoiding tourist traps, going alone and seeing the down and dirty you get to experience real life. A few years ago, I was able to  see how poor and Middle class Moroccans live. I have mingled with the upper middle class Egyptians, spent way several evenings in city stars, visited a family in the City of the Dead, experienced life in the suburbs of Cairo. I have met religious and western trained scholars, teachers and educators, everyday workers and craftsmen. I have spent 8 hours with a taxi driver conversing  in broken English and Arabic.  I have seen seen beach side resorts, watched a lively Alexandrian woman bargain to have a duffle bag handmade on the spot.  I have ridden on a felucca blasting belly dancing music, watching muhajabats bellydance. I have strolled old palace gardens, ate ice cream outside a pre-modern fort put my feet in the Mediterranean.  I have been on the receiving end of lewd comments and unsolicited flirting. I have had met men who were protective and made sure that I was okay.  I have been hustled and received kind gifts of generosity.

For me, traveling and living abroad is a chance to learn a different way of life. I believe we are made of different so that we can get to know each other, and as we get to know each other, we can learn from each other. I believe travel is a way of learning about yourself, about others. It is an ideal opportunity to transform yourself (and I don’t mean just going native). Some of the things I have experienced really make me want to be a better person. Arab hospitality is something that I have really come to admire.  Years ago, I first experienced it when visiting my Libyan American friends. They fed us hearty North African food, couscous served with savory tomato based stew, lamb soup with cilantro, tomatoes, and pasta, sweets,  Ahmad tea with milk served in beautiful cups. My Muslim friends made us as comfortable as possible frequently asking me to stay the night in order to avoid a long drive in the dark. I never felt unwelcome or that my presence was burdensome. My experiences with Muslims from various cultures raised my bar for hospitality. For fourteen years, I have had high standards to meet. Sometimes I come short. But often, when I grocery shopping I buy something just in case I have a random guest drop by. At minimum, I have an elegant tea set to serve my guests. I love cooking,  I love having people over to share food with. But the pace of life in grad school often sucks up all my spare time. But the value of hospitality is something that I feel is still ingrained in my from my grandmother’s southern roots. The past two weeks in Egypt reminded me how hospitable Arabs can be. The kindness I was shown really warmed my heart. I know that if ever I have a guest, I will try my best to do what was done for me in the past two weeks.

Being away has been nice. It makes you appreciate little things. It makes you appreciate being able to let go of less important things. Walking the streets of Cairo or the malls of Kuwait, so much that seems heavy back in the states lifts away. It is break from the provincial thinking that many Americans have. For the past 7 years I have thought about where I want to live, knowing that I would spend a considerable amount of time in the Middle East and Africa, and maybe even Europe. While abroad reading blogs reminds me about what people are struggling with in the States. I think about those issues, and what type of life I want to lead. Sometimes the prospects and opportunities of teaching in some American University overseas some really great, especially considering the flurry of negative, unconstructive comments.   Although for the most part, my comments have been encouraging  I get frustrated sometimes. It reminds me that going back home means going back to a place full of baggage.

The first time I went to Morocco I felt a sense of relief. Honestly, I felt like it was a break from being Black. By that, I do not mean that I was escaping my Blackness. People did notice my skin color and I was treated differently than my white classmates abroad. I didn’t mind being nothing special on the street. I just kind of blended in.  People noticed my color, made reference to it, but my skin was in a completely different context. I wasn’t just another angry Black woman, nor did people assume that I was. Noone assume that I was from the hood, but they were surprised that I spoke “perfect” English and that my family didn’t immigrate to America. Many people assume I’m African, and a number who have said I look like a black Arab. Maybe because they haven’t been to America or they haven’t been exposed to all the stereotypes and the people who perform them perfectly to a “T.” But no one assumed I had a chip on my shoulder. If I had a grievance and got loud, that’s no problem because that’s what everyone does here. Arab women can be very dramatic bargaining or expressing complaints about services rendered. I never had to get too dramatic often ticket agents examining the size of my head luggage or forgiving the extra luggage would  say  things like, “I like to be kind to my American Muslim sister.” Many Egyptians and Kuwaitis don’t seem to assume that I’m un-marriageable. I meet women of various ages and they say things like, “Maybe  you will find somewhere here and stay” or “Marry an Egyptian and move here.”

I am not saying that this is solution to all my worries. But that not everybody is looking through a racialized lens every living breathing, waking moment. Nor do I claim that everything is perfect or that I’m living in a utopia. There are struggles, there are challenges, but I have been embraced by an amazing group of people. I miss my family like nothing else. But I’m not ready to go back to the States. Not yet.