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Washington Post reports on " Division Of U.S. Muslims": Race and Class separate immigrants from African Americans

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  • Tarek Fatah
    ... Being Pakistani is not a crime! Join the Labour Day Parade in Toronto Monday morning 09:00 AM at Dundas and University ... Friends, The Washington Post
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2003
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      Being Pakistani is not a crime!
      Join the Labour Day Parade in Toronto Monday morning
      09:00 AM at Dundas and University


      The Washington Post today reports on the divide between America's Arab and
      Pakistani Muslims on one side, and Black African Muslims on the other. The
      Post report covers the two parallel conventions being held in Chicago; one
      by ISNA (largely South Asian and Arab) and the other by the American Society
      of Muslims (almost exclusively Black).

      What the leaders of these two groups say about each other provides a rare
      insight into their ability or the lack of it to conduct honest discourse.
      While the African American Muslim leaders speak frankly about the race and
      class divide among the two groups, the ISNA leader simply indulges in
      rhetoric denies that the division exists.

      The ISNA spokesman says there is "total comfort and cooperation" between
      immigrant and Africans, while the leader of the African Muslims says "it's a
      matter of concern." Referring to the racism that Arabs and Pakistani
      immigrants have towards African Muslims, he says: "Our people are still
      remembering and feeling the pain of social disrespect, and they have
      experienced that with immigrant Muslims."

      The Post reports that "African American Muslims, who tend to vote
      Democratic, said they felt alienated in 2000 when leaders of the immigrant
      community made their first unified endorsement of a presidential candidate,
      Republican George W. Bush."

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      Saturday, August 30, 2003

      Separate Meetings Reflect Division Of U.S. Muslims

      By Rachel Zoll
      The Washington Post

      This weekend, more than 50,000 American Muslims are expected in Chicago for
      an annual gathering. But they won't all be attending the same meeting.

      African American and immigrant Muslims are holding separate conventions just
      three miles apart, underscoring the divide between the two groups that
      Muslim leaders have been struggling to bridge for years. The split is a
      significant and highly sensitive Muslim issue. Islam teaches unity among all
      believers, and American blacks account for about 30 percent of observant
      Muslims in the United States.

      Leaders on both sides say they can ill afford rifts within their community
      as the war on terrorism enters its third year. U.S. Muslims have been
      striving to present a positive image of their religion and protect their
      civil rights under intense scrutiny by law enforcement.

      "We're different culturally, and we're different ethnically, and that
      creates some difficulties in terms of communication and understanding," said
      Imam E. Abdulmalik Mohammed, a national representative of leader Imam W.
      Deen Mohammed of the American Society of Muslims, a predominantly African
      American organization.

      Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America,
      which was founded by immigrants, said the two groups enjoy "total comfort
      and cooperation," regardless of the separate conventions.

      Participants in the American Society of Muslims convention will
      automatically be registered at the Islamic Society meeting, Syeed said.
      Leaders also will visit each others' assemblies, which both started
      yesterday. Abdulmalik Mohammed said, however, that "it's a matter of
      concern" that no joint events have been scheduled.

      Many efforts have been made to improve relations between immigrant and
      African American Muslims, but deep differences remain, rooted partly in how
      Islam spread among American blacks.

      Most came to the religion through black nationalist movements and the Nation
      of Islam, which had taught that its founder, Wallace D. Fard, had divine
      status and that his successor, Elijah Muhammad, was a prophet. Mainstream
      Islam teaches that there is only one God and that no prophets came after
      Muhammad. For that and other reasons, many immigrant Muslims consider the
      Nation of Islam a cult.

      Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad, transformed the African
      American movement after taking it over in the 1970s. He gradually moved his
      thousands of followers toward mainstream Islam, while Louis Farrakhan
      revived the old Nation of Islam under his leadership.

      "Through the '60s and into the '70s, there was practically no relationship"
      between immigrants and blacks, said Ishan Bagby, a University of Kentucky
      professor who is black and a convert to Islam. "Really, the '80s was the
      beginning of a relationship."

      Bagby was among a few African Americans asked to serve in leadership
      positions in national immigrant Muslim organizations to help build
      connections between the two groups. The closer ties, however, served to
      highlight their communities' dramatically different needs.

      Immigrant Muslims tend to be wealthier professionals who live and worship in
      the suburbs, while mosques affiliated with W. Deen Mohammed are mainly
      urban, serving middle-class or lower-income blacks.

      African American Muslims, who tend to vote Democratic, said they felt
      alienated in 2000 when leaders of the immigrant community made their first
      unified endorsement of a presidential candidate, Republican George W. Bush.

      Racism has been another obstacle.

      Some immigrants arrived in the United States with a warped view of American
      blacks as unsophisticated and even dangerous and failed to understand the
      discrimination they faced, leaders for both groups said.

      "People in the immigrant community just discovered racial profiling," said
      Mahdi Bray, a black civil rights activist who is Muslim and works for the
      Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which was created by immigrants.
      "For African Americans, we've known it for quite a while."

      A unity council of black American and immigrant leaders that was formed in
      the mid-1990s to explore joint meetings and other projects is largely
      inactive, said Naeem Baig, secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North
      America, a relief and advocacy group founded by immigrants.

      Bagby, Imam Siraj Wahaj and other leading African American Muslims are
      planning to form their own umbrella organization, like the Islamic Society,
      called the Muslim Alliance in North America, to promote job training and
      other development projects in their communities.

      Leaders from both communities emphasized that Muslims are still establishing
      themselves in the United States, and they predict that the American-born
      children of immigrants and the children of African American Muslims will
      mingle more easily.

      Abdulmalik Mohammed said his organization remains interested in pursuing a
      joint convention with the Islamic Society. But he concedes that the
      rank-and-file members of both organizations may need to wait.

      "Most of them, the leadership of the immigrant community, they want to see
      that happen, but I don't think they feel their people are ready for that,"
      Abdulmalik Mohammed said. "Most of our people aren't ready for that either.
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