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Open Letter to the American Muslim Leadership

Meeting in New York, on September 19-20, 2010

By Shaikh M. Ubaid

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 20, 2010

Presented on the occasion of the national UNITY summit to fight religious bigotry held in New York city on September 19-20, 2010

Respected leaders of the Muslim community,
As Salamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah  (Peace and Allah's mercy on you)
You have gathered in a historic city at a historic moment in time.  You have come with full awareness of the monumental challenge that our community and our country faces today.  We live in critical times. Such times require critical thinking. The polls over the last few years have consistently shown that hatred against Muslims is growing in the US. The eyes of all in our community are on you and they expect you to deliver.  Thanks to the media coverage of the last two days, the eyes of the world are on you. We, the Muslim communities that you represent, have full confidence that you have what it takes and you will rise to the occasion and make history. Your resolve must therefore be firm, your vision clear, intentions pure, your hearts at peace and your minds focused.
 WHY the demonization and WHO is behind it?
There are multiple factors behind the growth of fear and hatred.  There are multiple forces behind this trend as well.
At least three groups can be identified as the main forces behind the growth of Islamophobia:
The neocons who consider the empowerment of Muslims in the US to be an existential threat to Israel. To them all Muslims are a potential threat. 

The evangelical fundamentalists who consider Islam to be a false and evil religion and Muslims to be a danger to Israel and thus an impediment to the second coming of Christ.

The selfish politicians who are mostly opportunistic and either to appease their base (Republicans) or to join a growing trend (both parties) will join the bandwagon of Islamophobia.

It is evident that the fear-mongering and Islamophobia are not going to go away any time soon because they are not spreading out of just ignorance but mostly because of a conscious decision and according to a planned strategy.
 Analyzing the psychology of fear
Fear is an instinctual emotion not a cognitive one but its reaction is both instinctual and cognitive. When fear becomes pervasive -  logic, common sense and civic sense take a back seat.  Fear leads to hatred and both these emotions can be manipulated to incite persecution and even murder at a large scale.
The genocides and pogroms of Nazi Germany. Bosnia, Rwanda and Gujarat (India) can be cited as examples.  There are other examples which are closer to home. The native Americans were portrayed as "savages" before being exterminated.  The Africans were first dehumanized as "sub-humans" and then demonized as a threat to the safety and "honor" and thus their enslavement and perpetuation of slavery  were justified.  It was fear-mongering that led to the acceptance of internment of Japanese-Americans.
We must therefore take demonization and hate-mongering very seriously. 
These are not normal times.
The Islamophobes are trying to, and have to a large extent succeeded in making Muslims the modern day Barbarians at the Roman gates. Islam and Muslims are being projected as "foreign" and "alien" who use the "Trojan horse" of "taqiya".  You cannot win by logic and common sense in this setting.  You can say all you want that Islam being a missionary religion cannot allow "taqiya" (subterfuge) and cite 1400 years of history but the brain-washed public will not believe you.
This is not a simple civil rights struggle anymore. By insisting on fighting for our rights ourselves, the immigrant Muslims play into the hands of the extremists and islamophobes who have successfully convinced many Americans that  we "foreigners" use American democracy to get empowerment and then will gradually impose the "shariah".  It is not just the "sleeper cells" that the Americans are being warned of but are also being brainwashed to be wary of Muslim soccer moms.
How Do We Proceed?
We need a multi-pronged approach to gain acceptance, familiarity, respect and love on one hand and on the other we must stop contributing to the spread of fear. We achieve this by being better Muslims - by becoming better neighbors and better citizens - to achieve the first goal. The second goal can be achieved by becoming less confrontational and by reducing our "foreign signatures " on the radar of public appearances. 
While we focus on building grassroots-good will and grassroots-alliances with moderate leaders of other religions (who are in the majority), civic groups and civil rights organizations; we must interact with the politicians and the media adopting a low "immigrant Muslim" profile. We must not give the opinion makers in the media or the politicians a free pass but we must do so behind the scenes.
The public debates in the media must be mostly conducted by our non-Muslim allies. They will be able to expose the extremists as divisive anti-Americans out to destroy our nation and the rule of law and they can do so without evoking the emotions of fear of the "alien" in the minds of the audience.  This can also be achieved by our "indigenous" and by second generation Muslims (who will take away the "foreignness" from the audiences' mental images of Muslims, and again will not cause the "fear centers" in their brains to start firing.)
It is not cowardice but wisdom, not surrender but strategic retreat. We should never fight the battle, especially the battle of survival, at the time and on the ground chosen by the enemy. This strategy will require utmost patience (sabr) and wisdom.
The way to succeed is by being united and having a unified strategy.  If some organizations adopt a "low profile" and others do not then it will not work. We should decide either way and then be united in its application.
It is natural for organizations to have organizational egos, self-interests, aspirations and insecurities. We will have to rise above all this because of the demand of times. We must be honest and admit that we have not been completely sincere in our efforts of unity nor were we very enthusiastic in the recent past. We did not give the others the benefits of the doubt during our deliberations for unity. We rush to claim credits on the media for all good things and we at times have distanced ourselves from those who were "targeted'.
As the Lower Manhattan masjid controversy has shown that even the "sufi" and "liberal" leanings will not be able to "save" us from attacks.  The only good Muslim  for our extremist foes is a dead/former Muslim.  In such a scenario the only way to increase our security is by communicating, coordinating and uniting amongst ourselves first and by forming alliances with decent non-Muslim fellow Americans.
All is not bleak.  Religious leaders, elected officials and media persons have come to our defense.  They have realized that the Park51 Islamic Center controversy and the national campaign against mosques will damage America irreparably.  They have been speaking out and have taken on the extremists and the demagogues.
United, we all will inshaAllah survive and prosper and divided we can all fall.  We may not fall together but fall we can.  Such a tragedy will be bad for America too. Without a robust Muslim and Islamic presence America will be a much poorer place at home and a much more isolated nation in the world.
You have gathered here at such a critical time. You cannot afford to fail. If you try with utmost sincerity and sabr and with great wisdom you will be doing a great service to our coming generations, to our country and to the world. I pray to Allah SWT that may He guide you.  Aameen
Respectfully and humbly,
Shaikh M. Ubaid

New York

Please analyze these efforts and find out why they fell short. We must learn from our mistakes.   I do not have first hand knowledge of the efforts that took place after the mid 90s so pardon the sketchy description of these more recent efforts.
1989: Late Anver Beg invited Muslim leaders and intellectuals in New York to  unite and address the anti-Muslim feelings that the controversy on Salman Rushdie's book Satanic Verses was creating.
1990: Late Anver Beg invited Muslim leaders and intellectuals in New York to form a united stand against the upcoming war against Iraq
1991: Shaikh Ubaid who had attended the 1990 meeting proposed that all the four main national Muslim organizations of that time- Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Ministry of Imam W.D. Muhammad and Imam Jamil Al-Amin's Community form a loose alliance on the model of Muslim Majlise Mashawarat of India.
 1992: Bosnia Task Force was formed  by Abdul Malik Mujahid comprising of 10 Muslim organizations. It was able to bring 75,000 Muslims to Washington, DC to rally for Bosnia.  This practical realization of the "unity dream" was a seminal event and was a huge leap forward.
1993:  National Islamic Shura Council was launched as a loose alliance of the four main national Muslim organizations from the Bosnia Task Force- Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Ministry of Imam W.D.Muhammad and Imam Jamil Al-Amin's Community.  Abdul Malik Mujahid, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Dr. Ehsan Baghby, Esa Smith and Imam Abdul Malik played a critical role in the difficult discussions that led to the council's launch.  Among other things it agreed for the criteria to start and end Ramadan jointly. For the first time a "permanent" platform and not an 'issue-based" alliance was launched. the plan was to expand it to include other national organizations and regional alliances. Unfortunately it fizzled out  after a few years.
2000: American Muslim Political Coordinating Council was launched comprising of American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations and Muslim Public Affairs Council. Its endorsement of Texas governor George Bush led to discontent by the African-American and some other groups. The effort was broadened and  was made more inclusive under a new name.  
2004: American Muslim Task Force was formed comprising of Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Alliance of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim American Society, Council on American Islamic Relations, American Muslim Alliance, Muslim Public affairs Council, Muslim Ummah of North America, Muslim Students Association- National and American Muslims for Palestine. I was informed that Dr. Agha Saeed, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Br. Nihad Awad and other national leaders from the concerned organizations played a very enthusiastic role.


Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York
Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York
88-29 161 Street, Jamaica, NY 11432
September 16, 2010
Contact person: Dr. Shaik Ubaid
Tel: (516)-567-0783  e-mail:
National American Muslim Summit and Press Conference
Combating Ethnic and Religious Intolerance
The Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York which is an umbrella organization of greater New York area Muslims comprising of more than 55 masajid(mosques) and Muslim organizations will hold a summit of all national Muslim organizations and regional Muslim alliances. The summit will also be attended by Muslim intellectuals.  The national Muslim organizations will be represented by their national leadership.
According to Imam Abdul Latif Al-Amin, the Ameer (President) of the council, the summit will discuss the rise of ethnic and religious intolerance in the US and consider ways to combat this trend that is weakening the fabric of the nation.  They will address the well-funded movement by the extremists in the country against masajid (mosques, singular- masjid) including the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.
The leadership will meet the media for a photo op on Sunday, September the 19th, and address a press conference on Sunday September the 20th.
Photo op:  September 19, 2010 12:30 PM at Double Tree Hotel at JFK airport
Press Conference:        Park51 Islamic Center site, lower Manhattan
                                                Monday September 20, 2010
                                                11:00 AM
Participants list (partial)

Summit organizations(partial): Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Alliance of North America, Council on American Islamic Relations, North American Imams Federation, American Muslims Task Force, Muslim Public Affairs council, Muslim Peace Coalition-USA
 Regional Muslim Alliances (partial): Chicago, Philadelphia, Southern California
Majlis Ash-Shura constituents of New York Metropolitan constituent list (partial):

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA-NY), Muslim American Society (MAS-NY), Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), North American Imams Federation (NAIF), Young Muslims (YM),Center for American Muslim Research & Information (CAMRI), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), African Shura, Muslim Foundation of America, Masjid At-Taqwa, Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Islamic Center of Long Island, Muslim Center of NY, Tawhid Center, Hillside Islamic Center, Masjid Arqam, Masjid Sabur, Masjid Khalil Rauf Abdullah, Masjid Iqamat Ad-Deen, Masjid Al-Hamdulillah, Masjid Al-Abidin, Baitul Ma'mur Masjid,  Islamic Mission, Muslim Consultative Network, Brooklyn Eid Council, Masjid Allahu Akbar, Masjid Omar bin Abdul Aziz, Masjid Al-Farooq, Masjid Al-Hira, Masjid Darul Qur'an.





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