Bismillah, Was Salaatu Was Salaam ala Rasool Allah:
What follows is a commentary by a national human rights activist, El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, concerning last nights Muslim Link Fundraiser held at George Mason University. Although I wasnt able to stay for the duration of the event, it truly was a disappointment to see such a low turnout. Allah Knows best the specific reasons as to why the turnout was so low (and I have my own suspicions as to why…perhaps at a later time I’ll share them), but Br. Saalakhan has a thought provoking commentary on what seems to be one of the principle motivating factors for this community’s indifference in the cause of human rights. Enjoy.
Assalaamu Alaikum: What follows will probably make some readers a little upset. If it does, let me state up front that these are the views of the writer himself; I did not consult with anyone before writing this commentary. No one else, and no other entity, should be the focus of any reader’s discontent.
If a prominent, non-Muslim politician had invited Muslim community leaders, and their respective constituencies in the Northern Virginia Muslim community, to a special town hall meeting at George Mason University , the space for the gathering would have been packed. This was not the case, however, when possibly a hundred Muslims gathered for a very important fundraising program for The Muslim Link newspaper earlier tonight. (It is my understanding that food had been prepared for about 500.)
This was the third or fourth Muslim Link fundraiser that I’ve been able to attend; never before had I witnessed such an embarrassing (for the Muslim community) turnout. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that The Muslim Link held its annual fundraising program in northern Virginia (all others have been in Maryland ). The decision was made to hold it in Virginia this year to make it more accessible to the large population of Muslims in Northern Virginia – with hindsight being 20/20, perhaps a mistake.
Apathy, Ignorance and Fear are the three motivating (or de-motivating) factors plaguing Muslims and their “leaders” today in Post 9/11 America . And thus, when something like what happened earlier this evening occurs, my mind immediately goes into analysis mode. (Why did this happen?)
I don’t think APATHY was the major [de-motivating] factor; there is too much trauma taking place in the Muslim world today for any conscientious Muslim to be apathetic or indifferent. Nor do I believe IGNORANCE to be the major [de-motivating] culprit. It may be a factor in the degree to which the average Muslim fails to understand the importance of the media’s role in our everyday lives…but there is (without question) some degree of implicit awareness.
The primary factor, in my humble opinion, is FEAR. The Muslim community (generally speaking) is afraid! Muslim leaders (generally speaking) are afraid! And Muslim organizations – the Major, Muscular and Well-Funded Organizations – are afraid! The fear of created things has diminished our collective faith (and paramount fear) in The Creator, and opened the door to a vile and spirit-corrupting self-interest.
Had The Muslim Link featured an apolitical program, devoid of substance but strong on entertainment, the numbers would have undoubtedly been better. But because the organizers featured a thought-provoking program involving speakers who possess the courage to be a voice for the voiceless – Sami Al-Hajj (the Al-Jazeera journalist that was held for SIX YEARS at Guantanamo) and the award winning freelance journalist Dahr Jamail – many, it appears, found the program too hot to handle.
It is my understanding from speaking to one of the young organizers for the event, that the promotional focus for this year’s program were three large mosques/centers in Northern Virginia (either of which could have filled up the space at George Mason). Instead, it appears that most of the participants came around the beltway from Maryland . The only imam that I recognized was Imam Safi Khan from Dar Us-Salaam ( College Park , MD ).
Both Al-Hajj and Jamail in their closing remarks emphasized the importance of independent media, and strongly urged support for The Muslim Link – a newspaper that Dahr Jamail, in particular, is very familiar with. I echo this sentiment, and say to the Muslims of northern Virginia , you can do better…and you should!
In closing, I have long been a strong advocate for independent media (both print and broadcast) – especially MUSLIM MEDIA. I travel the U.S., and I am familiar with many of the major Muslim publications in America today. When it comes to informing the community on the issues that need to be addressed in a courageously forthright, yet balanced manner (“speaking truth to power”), The Muslim Link is one of the best out there. It is a fitting representative for Washington (DC) area Muslims – and it deserves our support.
I humbly (but firmly) recommend that northern Virginia Muslim leaders – esp. from the three principle centers that received the lion’s share of promotional attention – make an effort to make up for what wasn’t accomplished financially. You can do this by holding a special fundraising effort for The Muslim Link at one of your upcoming jumahs. If we truly understand the value of independent Muslim media, we need to show it with actions (not with empty words)!
Yours in the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan