by Mowahid H. Shah
During a 20-minute video report--shown during a massive New Jersey event ably organized by Tri-state community leader, Shahid Mahmood--on the upcoming documentary production on the Holy Prophet (pbuh), a question was raised why the Muslim community in America is not having an impact. Positive stories like "Islam is booming in U.S." (vide Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2001) are prone to be belied when juxtaposed with observations that American Muslims are not blooming proportionate to the upsurge in their faith.
Despite the imposing turnout of Muslim luminaries, there was no mention of the leading story of that weekend on Israel using its F-16 jets--condemned even by 4 Israeli newspapers--to bombard defenseless Palestinians in the populated areas of the West Bank. Perhaps the outrage went unnoticed because it would have been 'controversial.' But then, perhaps, there is a reason why Muslims remain on the back foot. As the Bard at Avon would say: "A frail heart never won a fair lady."
Islam is a great faith; but poorly served by Muslim elites. A little bit of introspection would be in order. To outside observers, there is a lack of an innovative fighting spirit and strategy in a community that is still to develop a coherent response to the challenge of being Muslims in the U.S. and, as a consequence, there is more of an emphasis on the cultural and not enough on the political.
It is a community diffidently groping to strike a balance in upholding its values while concurrently staying competitive and effective in the mainstream. Then, there is leadership or the question of being leaderless. Leadership may mean many things including leading from the front, building a team ethic, or inspiring others to rise to the occasion. Fragmented efforts, however, are unlikely to work, especially so, for a community in the corridor of uncertainty.
On a Saturday evening at the Meadowlands Sheraton, in East Rutherford, NJ, the dynamic potential of the Muslim community was on full display. To convert that into viable performance is the challenge.
Why are we not making an impact? A counter question can be asked: Is there
a need to attack the situation in a different way? Arguably, in following the
conventional script, we may, given the ground realities, be barking up the wrong
trees and ignoring the overarching structure of the forest. Perhaps, we need to
revisit the existing approach and, even better, invite second opinions, to make an action plan in
raising the dignity of the Muslim community. The present course may be making
us vulnerable by being taken for granted and setting us up for the occasional
public snub--like the returned campaign donations fiasco of Elections 2000. The
issue seems more about disinformation than mere lack of information.
In the final analysis, what is there to lose? Certainly, not any
Congressional seats, gubernatorial slots, or control of major media networks.
The problem is us, not the U.S.
Copyright © 2001 Mowahid H. Shah