Imam Talib, in an interview with Illume Magazine correctly points out:
“The way that this whole issue (Park 51) is playing out is the result of what I call a failed strategy on the part of Arab and southern Asian Muslims to be accepted into American society or assimilated into American society and a successful strategy on the part of the status quo [and] ruling class on the other hand.” Abdur-Rashid believes that the failed strategy of Arab and southern Asian Muslims was in not promoting a dialogue with African-American Muslims once they arrived in America, especially after the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Immigration Act of 1965.
“An important part of their assimilation strategy has been to put an immigrant face on Islam in America,” said Abdur-Rashid. “Many of the immigrants who have come here have been financially well off. This has enabled them to found influential national organizations as they pursue a strategy of empowerment. All immigrants want to be empowered; all immigrants want to be part of American society. They’ve worked to put an immigrant face on Islam in America.
“As these immigrants have come here, two things have happened. One is that their goal has been to assimilate into White America, since we all know there are two Americas. And the America that these southern Asian and Arab immigrants have strived to assimilate to is not the America you and I are sitting in right now,” said Abdur-Rashid. “In doing this, the fact is that they came to this country and, for the most part, ignored the presence of African-American Muslims. [They] made no attempt to link with us, work with us, dialogue with us.
“Up until the past couple of decades, when you said Islam and Muslims in America, people have always thought about African-Americans. All of the famous Muslims in America up until this decade have been African-Americans who have had a tremendous impact on American society. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. The list goes on.
“It’s failed not because these same Muslims had ill intent towards African-Americans; it was because they didn’t know the territory,” Abdur-Rashid continued. “They underestimated the underbelly of American society and the role that racism toward people of color has always played in American society. After Sept. 11, their artificial white privilege was revoked and they just became another kind of nigger in America. And the status quo started treating them like that.”
Imam Talib has made an important point, that just one or two other African - American Muslim leaders have also raised in recent months, most notably Imam Musa who has called for a move away from cathedral Islam in the US and towards a Re-Africanization of Islam in the US.
However, I would add that this business of assimilating into the worst aspects of the US is not just an immigrant Muslim phenomena, post 9-11, and even pre-9-11 African-American Muslims also embarked on this project. I need not go into those details in this blog entry, but I'm sure Imam Talib is not unfamiliar with this trend.
The question is whereto from here? The alphabet soup Muslim groups, given their dismal track record, have obviously failed in providing a clear response to the hate filled Islamophobia we have witnessed recently, and contrary to the blabber from Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Muslim community center is *not* about to solve our concerns. But the controversy has succeeded in exposing the failure of this liberal/pro-regressive strategy of hooking up with the US State Department and becoming representatives of the Bush/Obama regimes.
What we need is a serious re-think not only on part of the immigrant Muslims, but also non-immigrant esp. African - American Muslims. This re-think is not all that complicated, and does not really require millions of $$$ spent on conferences (aka "halal" dating venues) - what is needed is a refocus of Muslims, in the US, on Islam, on social justice, on oppressed communities, focusing our energies on the horrendous situation in poor neighborhoods throughout the US - African-American, Latinos, Asians, and even poor Whites., a situation made dramatically worse because of the economic depression. And Muslims must put our fears aside, and also focus our energies on stopping the US empire's continued war crimes against our sisters and brother Muslims all over the world.
If Muslims had our act together, and were not into becoming the next great thing on Wall Street, or the US State Department, or spending energy on thanking people who don't care a hoot about Muslims perhaps we would have been on the forefront of organizing communities to withstand the robber baron thefts. Unfortunately, we are far behind, and there are not even a bare handful of Muslim groups that are involved in such serious, and Islamically required work. Instead, we have to contend with the likes of State Department designed "dream Muslims" who are nothing more than a distraction.
Inshallah, the events of these past few months, and the sincere prayers of our sisters and brothers will bring about a much needed change.