Monday, August 6, 2012

WHAT PRICE DIGNITY?


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NYC MUSLIM LEADERS AND THE POLITICS OF COMPROMISE DURING THE LAST YEAR OF THE BLOOMBERG-KELLY ADMINISTRATION 

Somber Reflections on the 16th Day of Ramadan 
(Monday, August 6, 2012 C.E. )

By Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid

  As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu, wa Ramadan Karim !  Tonight as the sun sets over the skies of New York City, and Muslims break their fast ending yet another day and beginning another night of Ramadan worship, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will host yet another annual iftaar, just as his Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, hosted another annual Pre-Ramadan briefing a few weeks ago. These events have occurred over the past  years, but in 2012 they have taken on an ominous significance.

As the world now knows, over the past year the Associated Press revealed in a Pulitzer Prize winning set of articles, that the NYPD, under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, engaged in widespread, warrantless surveillance of the Muslim community and its leaders, along with other progressive community leaders and activists, in New York City and beyond. This occurred for years, and appears to still be the case. The AP articles began appearing following Ramadan of last year.

The 2012  NYPD Pre-Ramadan  briefing,  and mayoral interfaith breakfast at the end of December, 2011 and now the Ramadan iftaar , have been the major public events where the Bloomberg administration has publicly courted Muslim leaders. They have done so in front of a backdrop of outcry, public rallies and demonstrations, editorials, and massive media coverage in opposition to the religious profiling of Muslims, surpassed only by public focus on the now infamous racial profiling Stop and Frisk  policies, of the Mayor and his commissioner.

As a wave of resistance against these unjust policies has mounted, Muslim leaders – most especially Imams and community service-based (i.e. not for profit) leaders, and social justice activists, have publicly weighed in on one side or the other of the controversy. What has been most disturbing is the cast of Muslim characters who have willingly allowed themselves to be used as apologists and buffers for Bloomberg and Kelly, in a display of capitulation, compromise, and blatant self-interest, unprecedented in the history of our city.

 The breakfasts served as an occasion for Muslim leaders to pose for photo-ops, grin for cameras, promote themselves as authentic leaders of NYC Muslims, and cast aspersions on those who have dared to oppose Bloomberg and Kelly’s unjust policies. Perhaps the iftaar  will be the same. If that is the case, it will be shameful, because in the entire history of New York City, Muslims leaders have never stood on the opposite side of justice and progress.

Over the decades, Muslims have contributed to the growth and development of New York - one of the world’s great cities. They have participated in the urban homesteading movement and fostered community development, created economic corridors based upon business and homes, established drug-free zones and made the streets safe for people in under-developed areas of the city, spread goodwill through interfaith dialogue and worship, and responded to crises in a variety of ways, when violent extremists attacked the city on 9-11. Since then, it was a Muslim who sounded the alarm that resulted in the capture of the so-called "Times Square Bomber", who is himself a Muslim.

When innocent Muslims began to succumb to the same brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities that has affected other New Yorkers (as exemplified by the killings of Amadou Diallo and  Ousmane Zongo) , Muslims have stood side by side and shoulder to shoulder with people of various faiths, in the cause of justice. We still do.  Many union members are Muslims, and we are in the ranks of those struggling for economic justice for all peoples of the city. Further, Muslims have worked in many local political campaigns over the decades, conducted voters registration drives,  and are still doing so. Each day we are being elected to public office. We have earned respect the hard way, and are “unapologetically Muslim”.

Yet the tragedy and trauma of  September 11, 2001, and the rise of bigoted forces focused upon Islam and Muslims in the real world politics of the 21st century, has created a mutant brand of Muslim leader in New York City – the town where 40 years ago El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) stood firmly and mightily for justice in a way that we still benefit from today, and that inspires people all over the world.

This new 21st Century mutant brand of Muslim leader,  is one who seeks to use the Qur’an as a tool of pacification rather than resistance. He or she prefers capitulation and compromise to firmness and resistance, and promotes self-interest – either individually or organizationally, over the interests of the Muslim masses. Hiding behind a veil of feigned diplomacy, giving the impression of negotiation -  which is impossible from a weak socio-economic and political position , these leaders have been on display over the past year hugging the Mayor, grinning for the cameras with Commissioner Kelly,  and denigrating those of us who refuse to engage in such undignified, unprincipled behavior.

These same leaders have reached out to the Police Commissioner, but not to their Muslim brothers and sisters whom Bloomberg and Kelly avoid. They defend the character of the Mayor and Police Commissioner over that of senior NYC Muslim leaders, but smile in the faces of those leaders when they encounter them.These self-serving individuals rush to an iftaar invitation from the Mayor, but not from their Muslim brethren. They accept the invitation of the NYPD to a briefing on the issues, but not from their own Muslim brethren.

The mutant Muslim leaders sit in private meetings with Commissioner Kelly,  representing no one but themselves, claiming an authenticity of leadership with no track record, or a limited one. They consider themselves more qualified to represent Muslims in NYC, than authentic leaders who have done so for decades, up from the grassroots and on the front line. The prophetic tradition that they claim to represent shames them. They appear to have sold the dignity of the Islamic stance on justice for a cheap price.

Muslims ask, “How can that be?” “Why does that happen?” But the fact of the matter is that in every struggle there are sincere committed, and opportunists. Ash-Shaykhul- ‘Allama Al-Hajj K. Ahmad Tawfiq (May Allah forgive his sins and reward him with jannat, amin) was my teacher and the founding imam of the M.I.B.  He taught his students that in every struggle there are :

1-    People who are slaves,  because they totally capitulate to their wretched condition of oppression. They submit to man rather than Allah.
2-    People who are compromisers. They exploit their oppressed people for the sake of personal gain and self-interest , by positioning themselves as buffers and spokespersons
3-    People who are resistors. They sincerely commit themselves to change and are willing to sacrifice to achieve it, even their very lives.

People in this day and time love to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and El-Hajj Malik (Malcolm X). But  during their time they both had detractors from within and without  the movements that they led; people who considered themselves better qualified to lead , and criticized the bold strategies of those brave men, and those who followed and supported them, men and women.

The above are universal  social types, and Muslims are no exception. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there were people who while standing in the Muslim ranks, worked against the Muslim interest. They were called Munaafiquun  (hypocrites).  A chief example was ‘Abdullah bin ‘Ubai who carried bitterness in his heart because he coveted leadership. He sought opportunities to sow dissension amongst the Muslims, and undermine the Cause. Others were just weak, as was the case with those known as “The People who Lagged Behind” during the battle of Tabuk ( see The Qur’an 3:179, 9:118, and commentary)

People have asked, and continue to ask until this very moment, why the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York has taken the stances that we have, why we encourage sincere Muslims to resist rather than capitulate and compromise. Why did we and our partners in pursuit of justice refuse to have coffee and donuts with the Emperor Bloomberg? Why do we refuse to go to King Kelly's court and listen to his propaganda spiels? Why do we insist that the issue is one of a lack of police accountability? Why are we a signature to City Council legislation  calling for the same? Why do we make it clear that we do wish to sit and discuss the issues with the Police Commissioner in a forthright way that allows for mutual exchange, in a neutral atmosphere?  Why have we called upon the Police Commissioner to meet in a town hall fashion with our community as he has with others?

The answers are not complicated. Ours is a principled stance. We believe  as Muslim leaders that we must take a dignified position for freedom, justice, and equality, that rivals if not surpasses that of other faith leaders in our city.

There are Muslims who no matter what the rest of us say, will attend tonight’s iftaar, and other events like it, because they can’t conceive of themselves as turning down an opportunity to have a cup of coffee with those in power. But Ramadan is a period of somber reflection, repentance, seeking of forgiveness, and a quest for nearness to Allah.

 As we are now one third into the sacred month, we must, in the spirit of truth , justice and brotherhood and sisterhood, ask certain serious, firm, respectful questions of some of our Muslim religious and civic  leaders, pertaining to our people's struggle for civil and human rights, and civil liberties, as a profiled faith group in NYC. This is a matter of faith, as the Prophet  (peace be upon him) said “Whoever does not give up speaking and acting falsely, Allah has no need of him (or her) giving up his (or her) food and drink. ”

REGARDING MAYOR BLOOMBERG:

The Mayor remains publicly unbending and unapologetic for the unjust policies that have religiously profiled NYC Muslims, even as he has for those that have resulted in the racial profiling of other New Yorkers (and of course there are Muslms who are both racially and religiously profiled) . He offers rote justifications for those policies,  and unapologetically defends the actions of the Police Commissioner, based upon simplistic reasoning and a false narrative of the necessity for public safety (see below).

QUESTIONS FOR SOME MUSLIM LEADERS -  Why do you, claiming  to act in the interest of the Muslim masses, allow yourselves to appear as apologists or supporters for the Mayor?

Do you agree with him on this, that warrantless surveillance of all Muslims is necessary and justifiable?

Or do you agree with those of us,  Muslims and non-Muslim s,who consider the policies unjust?

If you support the Mayor’s policies, then declare yourself openly.

If you do not , then do you not realize that you give an impression of support for those policies  when you are present  at the Mayor's public events – applauding and smiling for him ?

REGARDING POLICE COMMISSIONER KELLY:

Last year at the 2011 Pre-Ramadan NYPD briefing for some 100 imams, The Commissioner denied in response to direct and public questioning from me, that his department had used the film “The Third Jihad” as a training tool. Months later it was exposed that the film was continuously screened "in a loop" in an NYPD training facility,  to some 1500 police officers,  over a year’s time. Indeed, Kelly himself appears in the film ! 


In a carefully worded statement  he declared "I offer my apologies to members of the Muslim community, in particular, who would find the film inflammatory and its airing on department property, though unauthorized, to be inappropriate". However, the Police Commissioner never specifically apologized to the imams present at his 2011 briefing for misleading them. Was he lying,  was he misinformed, or did he purposely refrain from responding to my question in a transparent way, even though he was asked to clarify the reports existing at that time on the film's showing?  Commissioner Kelly has never clarified this and those who are aware of the contradiction and have met with him, have not , to our knowledge,  brought up the subject. He did not bring it up and apologize at this year's briefing.

QUESTIONS FOR SOME MUSLIM LEADERS – Why would you return to this year’s pre-Ramadan briefing at the site where our collective integrity was insulted, eat and drink, smile and pose, and never call Commissioner Kelly to account for lying to us as religious leaders?

Or are you unaware of what transpired Last Year? Or have you forgotten even though you were present when I publicly posed the question?

If the Commissioner did the same to priests or pastors or rabbis, would they return to a subsequent event with him without his apology?

Do we have as much dignity and self-respect as they, or not?

Should we?

The Police Commissioner Meets With Hand Picked Muslim Leaders And Avoids Those Who Oppose Him

QUESTIONS FOR SOME MUSLIM LEADERS – Do you support that?

 Do you consider the fact that the Police Commissioner met with you and others , but not the leadership represented by the Majlis Ash-Shura, to be acceptable?

The Police Commissioner’s Narrative About What His Policies Has Accomplished To Secure The City Have Been Exposed As Mis-Leading At Best, False As Worse (  See http://www.propublica.org/article/fact-check-how-the-nypd-overstated-its-counterterrorism-record)

Why do you value opportunities to shake Kelly's hand, and grin in his face,  above the need for NY Muslims, for justice?

Apparently, federal authorities have a view on the surveillance of us Muslims that is in accord with that of Muslim resistors in the city – that is, that the policy has wasted valuable and needed financial resources and raises serious constitutional issues ( SEE   http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-fbi-slap-nypd-spying-article-1.1126312)


QUESTION FOR SOME MUSLIM LEADERS: Do you agree with that?

The Police Commissioner, like the Mayor, Remains Defensive And Unapologetic For His Policies

QUESTIONS – Do you believe that the policies should be changed?

If so, then how does refusing to take a united, public stance along with your Muslim brothers and sisters, or others, that communicates our outrage and moral indignation,  effect a change of the Mayor and Commissioner’s policies?

These and other questions should be answered and Muslims must insist that our imams and community leaders do so.

Remember the compromisers when you see the photos from tonight’s iftaar.

 Remember those who have stood, and continue to stand for justice, and those who have not, and do not. Then pray for us ALL during this month , when du’as  are offered and answered.

TAKE A STAND FOR JUSTICE, EVEN IF IT IS AGAINST OURSELVES. SUPPORT AUTHENTIC MUSLIM LEADERS WHO SUPPORT YOU. ADVOCATE FOR JUSTICE FOR ALL PEOPLE INCLUDING OURSELVES. BOYCOTT POLITE PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS SPONSORED BY THE MAYOR AND POLICE COMMISSIONER, THAT PROVIDE NO OPPORTUNITY FOR REAL DIALOGUE AND CHANGE !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znQe9nUKzvQ

2 comments:

  1. ASA...Shukrallah for your insight in this matter and may Allah reward you !! For we see the true " Us " with shaitan and the shaiteen locked up during the month of Ramadhan. May Allah protect our hearts during this blessed month and afterwards..Ameen

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