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Organizing Muslims in the US: Working for Spiritual, Economic and Social Justice

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  • 1. Organizing Muslims in the US: Working for Spiritual, Economic and Social Justice
  • 2. What is Islam? • The Arabic word Islam is literally translated as ‘Submission’ • Islam is a spiritual path based on a set of ethical principles, a set of daily ritual practices, and a model of character exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad and the Prophets who preceded him (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.). The primary purpose of this path is for Muslims to be in service to God while growing spiritually throughout ones life with the central goal of knowing God directly, living a righteous life and committing good acts throughout ones life.
  • 3. Muslim Community Organizing Rooted in Faith
  • 4. Islam 101 & Best Practices in the Muslim Community
  • 5. A Global Snapshot of Muslims
  • 6. Why This Moment? • 11 Years after 9/11 Muslims are experiencing a generational shift in terms of identity, ideology and leadership • 11 years of continuous Islamophobia and misinformation about Islam and Muslims throughout the world and in the United States - the community is ready to organize • The largest COINTELPRO program has been conducted within the Muslim community in the last 11 years and Muslims are ready to say enough • Major momentum in many Muslim countries from the Arab Spring which produced organic organizing networks within Muslim immigrant communities where Youth have taken major leadership roles in the US • Major voting opportunities and a community which shifted from voting Republican in 2000 (47.6%) to overwhelmingly supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election (89%)
  • 7. Adbusters, March 2011
  • 8. Islam in America 101 • Scholars believe that African Muslims were in the Americas before Columbus • It is estimated that at least 1/3rd of all enslaved Africans brought to the Americas were Muslim • Prominent examples are: Yarrow Mamout, Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, Job the Son of Soloman • For further references see: Servants of Allah by Silvian Diouf, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said, and the PBS film Prince Among Slaves
  • 9. Islam in America 101 The earliest voluntary immigrants came between 1875 and 1912—mainly from the area then known as Greater Syria. 2nd wave of Immigration after WWII • Major immigration beginning with the Immigration Act of 1965 • African American Revival of Islam: the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X Warith Deen Muhammad and • Growth of Globally recognized American Muslim Scholars and influence of Western Muslims on the rest of the Muslim World • Post 9/11 Rise of the Islamophobia Network - $42.6 Million dollars spent to support hate speech by 7 foundations since 2001 • Network of writers/ bloggers, foundations, and hate speech radio/ tv with deadly consequences: Norway – Andres Brevick, Sikh Temple Killings
  • 10. Major Community Issues • Same issues as many: Jobs, Immigration issues, DREAMers, Education • Large Refugee populations from: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia • Deep distrust and trauma from 11 years of continuous warfare and spying on the community in the United States • Major differences and divisions amongst Muslims internally: Ideological, Gender, Race and Tribe, Class, Immigrant versus non-immigrant, generational • Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and drone wars in Pakistan and Somalia • Revolutions in: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain • No major emphasis on voter turnout by any national organization - ISNA, CAIR, and MPAC make a push but have limited capacity
  • 11. Demographic Data • Numbers vary greatly on total Muslims in the US - Conservative estimates are between 2.6 Million and 10 Million • Islam is the 2nd fastest growing religion in the United States • Almost 2/3rds of American Muslims are 1st generation immigrants (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia) • 37% of Muslims were born in the United States (Majority African American) • 1 out of 5 American Muslims is a Convert • Median age of Muslims throughout the world is 28 Years old
  • 12. Figure 1: Concentration of adult Muslims (aged 18+) in major US states (Pew Research Center 2011) 0 50000 100000 150000 200000 250000 300000 Not Registered Registered MI FL OH MD IL VA PA NJ TX CA NY
  • 13. Mosques in the US • Mosques in the US grew by 74% over the last ten years from 1,209 institutions in 2000 to 2,106 in 2010 • Over 3/4th of all mosques (76%) in the US were established since 1980 • The vast majority of these mosques are located in Urban centers - 72% • With the largest concentrations of mosques being in: New York City, Southern California, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta, New Jersey, Houston, and Dallas. • The majority of these mosques identify as Sunni (93%), while Shia mosques have grown over 44% in the last ten years, they make up 7% of the total mosques in the US.
  • 14. Racial Breakdown of Mosque Participants • South Asian - 33% • Arab - 27% • African American - 24% • African - 3% • Eastern European (Bosnian, etc.) - 2% • Iranian - 2% • Other Groups - 1%
  • 15. Major Muslim Racial and Ethnic Populations in the United States • African American • South Asian - Indian, Pakistani, Bengali • Arab - Syrian, Egyptian, Tunisian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Saudi Arabian, Moroccan, Algerian • Afghan • West African • Somali • Bosnian • Persian • Turkish • Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, and Chinese • Latino and White Converts • White Converts
  • 16. Ideological Differences Amongst Muslims Religious Identity Views Dominant Racial Group Traditional Sunni Moderate, can be cultural Majority of Groups except Iranians African American Moderate, traditional African American Politics AA - Warith Deen Muhammad Community and the Nation of Islam Salafi/ Wahabi Most Conservative Community Arab and South Asian, some African Amer. Shi’a Moderate and often culturally Persian Persian/ Iranian Sufi Moderate and Spiritual Mixed, West African, Moroccan, Converts Secular/ Liberal Most socially liberal of all, often only Muslim by name All Groups
  • 17. African( American(and( Converts( • Poli4cal(outlook(is(centered(in(the(US( Immigrant( Popula4on( • Poli4cal(Outlook(focused(back( home( 2nd(Genera4on( Immigrant( Youth( • Somewhere( Inbetween( View of the World
  • 18. Religious Leaders in the Muslim Community • Levels of Leadership - Ulema, Imams, Professors and Community Leaders • Ulema - Full Scholars - Very few religious leaders in the US fit into this category - both men and women can be and have historically been ulema though few woman exist in this role in the US today. • Imam - Prayer leaders and mosque leaders - In Islamic Orthodoxy only men can lead the physical Friday prayer and give the Friday sermon. • 81% of Mosques have an Imam, and only 44% of these Imam’s are full time and paid • Only 6% of Imam’s are trained in the US and many do not have formal Islamic religious educations
  • 19. What does this mean? • It is necessary to engage with more Muslim institutions than just the mosques since many of these houses of worship do not have strong leadership and are often very divided spaces within the community • It makes sense to look for alternative allies within the community ranging from: • Muslim groups who organize around race and identity • Muslim Scholars with large national followings • Student Groups • National and Local Muslim Institutions • Alternative Spaces in the community which are growing throughout the country
  • 20. National Muslim Leadership • Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Bay Area) • Imam Zaid Shakir (Bay Area) • Imam Siraj Wahhaj (Brooklyn) • Imam Suhaib Webb (Boston) • Usama Canon (Bay Area) • Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (Kentucky) • Sherman Jackson (USC) • Umar Faruq Abdullah (Chicago) • Ingrid Mattson (Hartford Seminary) • Khalid Latif (NYU) • Shaykh Muhammad Mendes (Atlanta) • Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (Bay Area) • Khalid Latif (NYU) • Shaykh Muhammad Mendes (Atlanta) • Yasmin Mogahed
  • 21. Community Organizing Groups Educational Organizations African American Majority Organizations Warith Deen Muhammed Community Political/ Advocacy Organizations RIS National/ Conference based organizations 3rd Space - Think Tank International Aid Interfaith National Muslim Organizations
  • 22. Muslim Organizing around Race and Identity - Example SF Bay Area • African American/ Converts - Warith Deen Muhammad Community, the Nation of Islam, Zaytuna College, Ta’leef Collective, • Arab - Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Arab Cultural and Community Center (San Francisco) • South Asian - DRUM - Desi’s Rising Up and Moving, Bay Area Solidarity Summer • Afghan - Afghans for Peace, Afghan American Muslim Outreach • Yemini - California Yemeni Youth for Change • Major Organizing also in: Egyptian, Tunisian, Libyan, Iranian, Tunisian, and Somali
  • 23. Case Studies of Community Organizing in the Muslim Community • SFOP (Interfaith Entry) - Traditional approach/ experimentation with cultural translation of the PICO Model in the African American Muslim Community • Brooklyn Muslims (Civic Engagement Entry) - Coalition Approach • San Jose PACT (Hyper Local/ Specific Issue Entry) - Courtship Approach • Other Examples?
  • 24. How Can we Build Power in the Muslim Community? • Strengthening Congregations • Train PICO Organizers on how to engage the Muslim Community • Train Muslims in Community Organizing - The Muslims Community has to begin to talk to each other and deal with the trauma’s of the last 11 years • Dealing with the differences and traumas must be a priority before the Muslim community can build UNITY internally, let alone amongst people of different faiths • Engaging the community on how to build alliances with other communities and build towards power
  • 25. PICO National Network Community Organizing Model
  • 26. Next Steps and Questions?

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