My Response to Imam Talib Abdur-Rasheed

Posted: January 17, 2008 in Uncategorized
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In responding to Imam Talib Abdur-Rasheed’s comments, leader of Harlem’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (MIB) and Deputy Amir of MANA, regarding my series Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t stand for Justice, I should like to first of all extend my fullest appreciation for his positive feedback and encouragement. Not long after posting the series, the Imam got in touch with me to express a few of his concerns regarding statements I made about the 1974 shootout at the Ya Sin masjid in Brooklyn, and the role that his MIB predecessor, Imam Tawfiq, played in that gruesome incident.

In fairness to Imam Talib, I said that I would post whatever statement he wanted to make in order to honestly record his position on that blood-stained history. Additionally, the Imam felt that I had failed to recognize a number of national jamaats that in his view, enjoyed a track record of “standing for justice”. Now I would like to share my thoughts on his comments.

With all due respect to the Imam, it seems to me that perhaps he has not read the entire series, or if so, has completely missed the point. His views, proffered no doubt to correct some perceived oversight on my part, not only fall far short of accomplishing that objective, but actually confirm and indeed validate the underlying thesis of the series. And completely separate from this initial observation, I found some of the Imam’s views extremely troubling, especially for someone who represents religion and fashions himself a staunch worker for justice. I will address what I found most disturbing in his comments last.

In the first place, the point of the series was not to assert something that could never be true, namely, that there are NO Blackamerican Muslims, anywhere or at any time, who stand for justice. I clearly said in part five:

So in conclusion, its important to say that the title of the series was in no way to imply (God forbid) that there are no Blackamerican Muslims fighting for justice, or trying to make a difference in their communities. To say such a thing would be an injustice in itself. The scores of sincere Muslims involved in Imam Jamil Al Amin’s case would immediately disprove that thesis. One such brother that comes to mind is long time human rights advocate El-Hajj Mauri Salakhan, who heads up the Peace and Justice Foundation in Maryland. But what we’ve attempted to do was examine the larger question of why Blackamerican Muslims failed to develop a national presense in matters related to social justice and community involvement in America.

The idea was to come up with a title that would intrigue the potential reader and draw him in for a closer look at what we had to say. The title was only meant as a provocation, not a literal statement. I thought that would be obvious, but apparently not for everyone.

The series was in fact an attempt to answer the much broader question of how Blackamerican Muslims (in general) failed to establish a concerted, well organized national agenda for social justice, and why do many of us feel this is somehow against our religion. Why have we never, for example, produced a national headquarters or spokesman to answer the desperate social ills of the Black community? The objective of the series was never to assert that African American Muslims, whether as individuals or small jamaats, don’t at sporadic times and places work for justice, but only that the effects of those initiatives are very ineffective for the reasons that I pointed out (immigrant group dominance and inferiority complexes). So for the Imam to point out that the MIB has existed since 1967 and works for justice is really besides the point, because it is so small compared to the immigrant program that its impact is almost non-existent.

Secondly, by listing all of the various jamaats, he actually makes my point as he says:

Not only the M.I.B.(under first Shaykh Tawfiq’s leadership, and then mine), but other Muslim communities like the National Jamaat (under first Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, and now under Imam Aasim Abdur-Rashid of Philadelphia), the Jamaat of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio (as organized under the leadership of Amir Muhammad Shareef), the As-Sabiqun Movement (under the leadership of Imam Musa Abdul-Alim), and others , do in fact stand for justice.

We are outnumbered or have been marginalized by the larger Muslim community, because of exactly the factors you wrote about. There are also organizations and activists like the group Women in Islam based in NYC, and individual activists like (Washington, D.C. based) Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation, as well as perhaps the MAS Freedom Foundation under brother Mahdi Bray. Collectively we up-hold the torch of justice in the Muslim community. I hope that you will make reference to these efforts and realities in your excellent commentary.

Does he really make his point or my point? In part two of the series I said that one of the main reasons the previous movements were unable to establish a national agenda was a function of their refusal to work together, with each jamaat viewing itself as a self contained unit. I ask the Imam, has anything really changed? The three jamaats he cited in his response even today cannot manage to work in concert. I ask the Imam, don’t all three of those groups view themselves as completely independent and of no need of the other? Of course they do, and that is one of the problems I tried to address in the series.

Also, can anyone say with a straight face that MAS Freedom stands for Blackamerican Muslim Justice just because its spokesman, Brother Mahdi Bray, happens to be an African Amereican. When was the last time they ever did so, and how does it stack up to the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars they’ve spent defending Palestinian defendants on terrorist related charges, or visa violations?

Now, turning to the issue of the Ya Sin Masjid shooting, I did some research and found the following article written by John T. McQuiston February 5, 1974 in the New York Times which I have partially reproduced below:

4 Die In Brooklyn Mosque In Shootout by 2 Factions

Four men, including a Muslim minister, were killed and a fifth was critically wounded last night in what police described as an “apparent shootout between two rival Muslim factions” in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

The slain minister was identified by police as Bilal Abdullah Rahman, leader of the mosque, situated on the upper two floors of a three story brick building at 52 Herkimer Place, near the Norstrand Avenue business area.

Minister Abdullah and two mosque members were on the second floor. According to the police, the two intruders burst through the entrance shortly before 11:00PM. A group of mosque members were said to be praying on the third floor at the time.

There was a brief exchange of gunfire, the police said, in which Minister Abdullah and two of the three assailants died. One mosque member later died at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, where a second was in critical condition.

The police said, they had found a shotgun, rifle and several shells on the floor of the wood-paneled room and a .25 caliber automatic handgun in a trash can near the door. They arrived at the mosque after an anonymous caller dialed 911, the police emergency number, and said there had been a shooting at Ya Sin, and gave the address.

The Police identified the two intruders slain in the gun battle as Peter Jeffries, of 274 East 171st Street, and Ed Mason, of 1241 Fulton Avenue, both of the Bronx. Muhammad Ahmen (Ahmed), one of the mosque members, the police said, died at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital where Jamil Haqq, the second mosque member, underwent surgery.

For the last for years, the Ya Sin Mosque has been the gathering place of worship for a growing number of Brooklynites who have converted to orthodox Islam and become Sunni muslims.

The Ya Sin, along with the larger Dar-ul-Islam Movement of which it is a part, is one of the many, mostly black groups of converts to Islam exhibiting sharp differences that are partly mirrored among the Brooklyn groups.

Attention was focused on the mosque a year ago after its ministers were invited to the scene of a 47 hour seige of a sporting goods store on the border of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant sections. They were asked to translate the Arabic spoken by one of the four gunmen who professed to be a Sunni Muslim.

The ministers said the four men may have prayed at their mosque.

A policeman was killed and nine persons were held hostage in the shootout..

The shooting at the Ya Sin Mosque follows recent slayings that law enforcement officials have attributed to warfare between dissidents within the Black Muslim movement in the United States.

The article then continued for another paragraph talking about the murder of an NOI minister in Newark, New Jersey the previous year. I want to address a matter that is not entirely clear to me that was reported in all the various newspaper accounts of this incident. All of them list Bilal Abdullah Rahman (affectionately known as “Big Bilal”) as the “Minister” or “Leader”, when it is a well known fact that Imam Yahya Abdul-Kareem was the Imam. Perhaps Big Bilal was a deputy Amir or served in some similar capacity, but I plan to get to the bottom of that insha Allah.

What I find so troubling about Imam Talib’s comment:

Regarding the tragic conflict between members of the M.I.B. and Darul-Islam movement three decades ago, as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz once stated, “Those who know don’t say. Those who say don’t know.”

…is that on the one hand he insists upon his commitment to justice, yet on the other he advocates silence regarding the cold-blooded murder of two Muslim brothers in the very house of Allah!

The statement, which the Imam attributes to Malcolm X, “those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know” was a clever response NOI officials always gave to deflect reporter’s questions on the size of the organization’s membership. But how does that statement apply here? The case of the Ya Sin shootout was not some trite matter related to census figures, but rather, a horrific crime for which no statute of limitations exists. Nevertheless, certain facts surrounding the killing remain indisputable:

1 – Imam Tawfiq and a small squad of his followers, entered the Ya Sin masjid armed to the teeth

2 – As a result of some dispute with Imam Yahya Abdul Kareem (Imam of the masjid) the MIB brothers drew weapons killing two Dar brothers.

I have spoken to brothers with vivid memories of this tragedy and none of them have ever offered a counter narrative to the facts presented above or the account that I presented in part 2 of the series. Also, they rarely if ever mention the two assailants who were killed, and always framed their accounts in terms of “the two good brothers that got killed that night”. In other words, there is a clear implication in their accounts that the two assailant brothers basically got what they deserved.

If the Imam challenges this account – one which has now become the standard history of the incident – he should take the opportunity to set the record straight or offer some counter narrative, rather than the criptic implication that he “knows (something about this case that would clear Imam Tawfiq) but won’t say”. I only mention this point because Imam Talib seems to suggest that there is some doubt surrounding the actual facts of this case, without offering any new information that may perhaps exonerate his leader and teacher.

Again I appreciate Imam Talib responding to the piece even though he didn’t have to do it. I want to emphasize that I love Imam Talib, that he is my brother in Islam and I recognize and appreciate the good work that he has done with the MIB over the years.

Finally, it is important for my readers to know that if they have any concerns with this, or any topic that I have discussed, I am more than willing to entertain them in light of the merit of existing sources.

 

Comments
  1. abuusama says:

    Assalaamu Alaykum, Br. Abdur-Rahman,

    After initially reading your first series of posts I thought I understood your reasoning. My take on it was that you were being provocative so as to bring the various jamaats together to work more unified, by challenging them that they were not doing enough and that each jamaat was merely satisified with what they were doing separately. Basically, to get the brothers to step up their game so to speak, at least that is what I thought.

    In fact your blog and others have made me re-think a paper I was writing on MANA to include a history that dates back to 1920’s of Negroes/Asiatics/Dark Americans/Hametic Arabs/Black/Blackamerican/Afro-Sudanic/”just Muslim” or whatever other terms you to use have been attempting to establish Islamically centered justice locally, interstate and nationally from then until now.

    However, just as there have been those national efforts, equally there has been oppositional efforts from the various “alphabet boys” to stymi and thwart and suppress from within and without to otherwise derail.

    Now given that MANA seems to be moving in a positive direction I question your timing, just as in a previous post I question your attack on Akbar Muhammad. No doubt you have an engaging writing style or why else would I even be reading and posting. You may even mean well but at a time when brothers are finally coming together, why bring this up now?! You are obviously intelligent so I’m sure you’ve read the hadith of the Prophet (saws) about “waking fitna”.

    I mean few weeks ago a brother posted letter which I received questioning statments made by an Imam 26 years ago, and now you bring an continous issue that happened 34 years ago. As well meaning as you may think you are please consider the timing and ramifications.

    Lets not derail efforts that have been years in the making just to get us to this point. I’m curious do you have a group of brothers with whom you seek their advice before posting? Did they advise this would be a good thing?

    Many of your posts add a needed voice in our collective growth but this isn’t one of them. In my humble oppinion.

    Ma’a Salaam
    Abu Usamah

  2. Aisha says:

    Assalam alaikum, brother

    A brother forwarded me a link to your 5-part series the other day and I must say that I found them extremely refreshing. I sat and earnestly read each and every post. There was so much that I felt I could relate to, mashaAllah. I forwarded the link to several of my colleagues.

    Upon reading your most recent post, my impression of the personality behind these posts has changed, I must say. I am familiar with two of the groups you have mentioned–the Jamaah of Shehu ‘Uthman dan Fodio and the As-Sabiqun movement, and I must say that I have a lot of respect for these two groups. On one occassion, I was able to meet the leader of the latter, Imam Abdul Alim Musa. With little access to mass funds, they use what they have and whatever they get to serve and help our people spiritually, materially, and in many other ways. They have also worked to help our people overcome the despicable malady which you so eloquently (and humorously) elaborated on in the last part of your series–a deep inferiority complex.

    I find this recent post of yours distasteful. If you are sincere brother, I don’t feel that you would have spoken in the manner that you have about these groups which stand with our people and against the system. As a matter of fact, upon originally reading your series, I felt that several of your ideas profoundly mirrored theirs. Unlike the ICNAs, ISNAs, NOIs, Salafis, (possibly MANAs), etc. that we have, they work independently and in our communities to produce results and make things happen. Rather than “bashing” them, I felt it would have been much more proper to say in respectful terms that they should strive to work in unison.

    I honestly feel that your sincerity comes into question.

    I personally don’t care if you respond to this “in light of the merit of existing sources”. Salafis often can do the same thing to prove their evidently-weak or evidently-stupid ideas. By the way, I’m not saying that your ideas are not weak or stupid, I’m just saying that I ain’t feelin ’em right now.

    Brother, I must ask: are you a bitter nerd? Calm down, before you intellectualize yourself into a corner where you’re the only one who’s right.

    Your sister in Islam and nationhood,
    Aisha

  3. Aisha says:

    By the way, I understand that the aforementioned groups have faults. I just felt that you should focus on commonalities and positive points, and enjoin more cohesiveness, because they have done concrete work for us, as opposed to just raising fanfare or just “talking”.

    You just hatin’!

  4. Aisha says:

    Or perhaps you are not just hatin’. Perhaps you are “just talking” too!

  5. As Salaamu Alaikum Brother Abuusama,

    Thank you for taking the time to offer your criticisms. Those who dish it out should be able to take it, but in truth, I greatly appreciate your thoughts and hope that we can reach an understanding in brotherhood. Now to the substance of your concerns.

    In the first place, there is no real way to move, as you say, “in a positive direction” unless you first of all ascertain where you stand in the present moment. What I mean to say here is that in the absence of real history, that is to say a scientific documentation of what actually took place, mythology comes to the fore. I, like many of us, have dedicated most of my adult life to the cause of Islam, and quite frankly, I am tried of repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again. These mistakes could have been avoided if we had a proper respect for history, and not the ideological “Kool-Aid” that our Imams and organizations serve up and expect us to drink. I am also at a point where I really don’t care what the Imams think or what the immigrants think. My hope is to capture the history of our people as accurately as I can, and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t do denial. However, I am still a Muslim, and if something is wrong, or I know that a falsehood is being peddled under a guise of serving Islam, I have a responsibilty to refute it to the best of my ability.

    I find it very interesting that non-muslims can “study” and write about us all day and all night without any of these Imams, jamaats, groups, tablighs, or whatever the hell you want to call them, saying a damn thing about it. But whenever one of us, an African American, attempts to do serious work in this field, he is attacked and called divisive.

    Again, since you mention Larry 4X (Akbar Muhammad), it is very interesting to me that you reserve all your criticism for the important work that I am trying to do and are completely silent regarding the sheer madness and Kufr that people like Larry represent. How in God’s name does it do more damage to “Islamic work” to accurately tell our story, than to openly embrace someone who preaches that Allah (may He be glorified) is a human being or that there is a messenger after our beloved prophet Muhammad (God forbid). When my critics show the same distress at the vile, truly horrendous doctrines of these criminals, maybe then I will take them more seriously. If condemning these evil people, people that my critics love so much, is divisive, than so be it.

    Finally, when historical “black holes” exist in our history, like the one surrounding the Ya Sin shooting, if leaves us open to repeat that awful history. It shouldn’t be hard to remember the murderous sentiments that were circulating between fractious elements of the Salify movement in the pre-911 years. It is terrible to say it, but had 911 not happened, it is perfectly conceivable that an all out bloodshed would have resulted from the ridiculous but dangerous war of words those brothers were caught up in. Those young Muslims were unable to “benefit” from the history of the 70’s because some stupid Imam somewhere told them that studying their history was of “no benefit”. Well I’m here to say today that in this age of the internet, “Kool-Aid” drinking is not only intolerable, it is abhorant, and is increasingly coming to be seen as suspect.

    When an Imam attempts to flippantly mis-represent what has clearly gone down in history as a murder, and sanctions the conceilment of knowledge concerning that crime, he must realize that he will be called to account for that. And it is just that simple.

    Concerning what you call the “timing”, any time we attempt to study our history is the right time. What kind of Islam do we really have that views history as its enemy? And Allah is the one whose help is sought.

  6. Abdul-Haqq says:

    Salaams,

    I wanted to add to what the sister said about the two groups, Jamaat of Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio and the As-Sabiqun movement. I also have have some interaction with both movements and they are not the same as the old ones. They don’t carry that same divisive or “exclusive” mentality where “I’m right, and everybody else is wrong.” That’s what is needed today. My experience is that they’re actually pretty level-headed and they do good work, and I agree that it would also be good to encourage unity and cooperation between them.

  7. Sameer says:

    Abdul-Haqq and Aisha, salaam aleikum

    While you both make good points, I see some credit in Abdur-Rahmnan’s writings insofar as they have caused you to think about encouraging unity between the groups you both mentioned. Whether today or tomorrow, one day that kind of unity will be much-needed.

  8. Kwame Madden says:

    My question is what would precipitate a group of muslims to enter a
    masjid and draw weapons on another group of brothers? We must
    insure that in our communties tragic incidents like this never happen again.

    Reading this post reminded me of the tragic events that happened at
    UCLA between the the Us organzation and the Black Panther Party.
    As far as your comments concerning pre-911 we were definitely on the verge of repeating the same tragic mistakes.

    I remember it like it was yesterday, when Abdur-Rahman was trying to advise two of the
    students of knowledge.This was in 1998 in Philadelphia, PA at the height of Salafi movement. One of those students of knowledge had the audacity to say that all the other Muslim groups – ISNA , ICNA ,
    Quba institute, and W.D.Muhammad – were all fitna and they were going to roll them over with this dawa.This is the type of nonsense many young sincere muslims were being fed. Divisiveness aganist others.

    We must all come together and make collective tauba if were going to receive any mercy from Allah.

  9. Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Abdur-Rahman, I don’t know much about the Brooklyn event. I was born yet and it is not significant enough as a historical event for me to trace in my opinion. But I do know Imam Talib, not well, but I know him. And have listened to him address the community more than once. And I will say this because I think it benefits myself as well as others.

    In Islam there are protocols concerning speech especially when speaking or writing about an elder or leader of a particular jama’at. I was completely unaware of these protocols and had no idea that there were even sunnats that related to authority and manners until I met Shaykh Abdul-Kerim al-Kibrisi.

    For example, I have criticized Sherman Jackson openly. But in the end, although my criticisms were valid points, it bore no fruit that could sustain anything of value and I learned from that. Those of us with popular blogs and websites that attract any and every kind of visitor should be careful of what we open and how we open it. May Allah Almighty bless us and keep us from heedlessness, amin.

    Allah hafiz

    -Saifuddin

  10. As Salaamu Alaikum My Dear Sister Aisha,

    First of all, I must sincerely apologize for not answering your concerns earlier. I had to get my “Bitter Nerd” highwaters out of the cleaners. Ok, now that you’re hopefully smiling again, let me respond to your comments.

    I know why you feel the way you do about the last post. You’re a little hurt and feel a bit betrayed because you thought I was on your side. You appreciated the series which “mirrored” some of your own views and those of the jamaats you respect. And to my extreme pleasure, you also derived a good laugh from them as well. At the time you read them, I was the best thing since sliced bread. Now you’re mad at me and question my sincerity….and that after only one post! As long as my keyboard took aim at the foibles of other personalities and movements, it was all good. We were partners traveling the same path. But now you feel I’ve turned on you, because in responding to Imam Talib’s mis-understandings, I maybe said some unflattering things about people you revere. May I suggest sister that perhaps you really don’t understand where I am coming from.

    It is not my intention to “bash” anyone, nor do I believe that is what I did. In point of fact, and for the record, I have great respect for Imam Abdul-Alim Musa and have known him for many years. I also have no problem saying that he is a brilliant man. But does that mean I will have to agree with each and every aspect of his approach to solving our problems? Can’t I respect and appreciate the the good work that he’s done while at the same time reserve room for constructive crticism?

    This attitude of yours is perhaps my biggest problem with the whole “Imam/jamaat” leadership paradigm, one where the Imam becomes so revered, and the environment so insular, that any criticism whatever is immediately viewed as traitorous. This type of set-up has no way to accomodate serious disagreement and debate, and ideas that stray from the party line – what I call “Kool-Aid” – are stigmatized as government inspired. Don’t tell me this doesn’t happen because I know from experience that it does. And I don’t think I’m out on a limb when I say that MOST of the African American jamaats have some element of this debilitating thinking.

    Sister Aisha, not to pick on you, but you exhibit signs of this paranoid thinking when you talk about certain leaders “standing up against the system”. By framing your criticism in this manner, you have already set me up to be an FBI agent. Don’t you see the dangerous logic in this? If Imam “A” is against the system, and Abdur-Rahman criticizes Imam “A”, then Abdur-Rahman is an agent of the system.

    You had to acquire this type of orientation somewhere, and this is exactly why you have turned on me now. It is because you never understood what I was trying to say in the series in the first place. I am calling for fresh thinking and an independent approach to our problems. We will agree sometimes and other times we won’t. And that is perfectly fine, as long as we can meet Allah with a clean conscious and the best of intentions.

    Sister Aisha, take from what I have written whatever you can benefit from, and where you take issue with me, know that I’m only trying to do the best that I can.

    And now I have to go because the scotch tape on my glasses just came loose (smile).

    Sincerely

    Abdur-Rahman

  11. Aisha says:

    Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah, Abdur-Rahman

    Dear brother, thank you for all of the kindness you’ve showed me in your response, as well as the smiles that it has managed to bring (I was bracing myself for something much worse). However, I feel I must make something clear: Your assumptions about my thought pattern are completely wrong. I have never thought–and Allah (swt) knows this–that you were a “government agent”. That thought has never entered my mind!

    Yes, I do respect such individuals as Imam Musa and the groups I’ve mentioned because of the work that they do. I hope this does not make me a “Kool-Aid drinker”. I have never had much of a tongue for Kool-Aid. My primary concern at the time of writing my response was that, while you talked an excellent talk in your 5-part series, you seemed to–with this post–simultaneously, and unfairly, criticize those groups which are carrying out the very work you claimed we needed, and which, due to very unfortunate circumstances, we had tragically abandoned–the engagement, involvement, and empowerment (spiritually, psychologically, etc.) of our people, our Blackamerican communities, with Islam as the foundation.

    With all of that said, I must say I feel differently now. I have been eagerly awaiting your response and aside from the glaring misinterpretation of my thought pattern, I am quite satisfied. You have made some good points, whether I like them or not. I think I can appreciate the work you do, and I’ll admit that I was hurt mostly because you didn’t seem to agree with certain individuals and groups that I hold in high esteem.

    Thank you for your charm and wit. You’ve won back a place in my heart.

    I apologize if I let my tongue run loose a little too much.

    May Allah (swt) reward you for your time, effort, consideration, sincerity, and work.

    Take care, brother. Your sister in Islam and nationality,
    Aisha

  12. Abu says:

    AsSalaamu Alaikum Muslims:

    Someone once said, “The problem with the ego is that it comes to your defence whether you are right or wrong” It’s not a problem when we are right, but when we are wrong it’s ugly. And we all know that Allah doen’t like ugly. I personally have vowed never to allow myself to be oppressed by anyones ego. If Rasulullah didn’t have an ego problem then what right does any Muslim have to allow their ego to determine their affairs or the affairs of others. None!
    Right and wrong, now how do we distinquish between the two? Well, since we all claim to be Muslim the answer to that question should be easy. “This is the book wherein there is no doubt, a guidance for those who are God conscious, (fearing). (Qur’an 2:2)
    In my 32 years of being a Muslim I find that one of our main problems is that we have done a great job at memorizing certain parts of The Qur’an and the sunna of Rasulullah but when it comes to implementing it, it is then that we are able to see the faults of our brothers and sisters who fall short of the mark while at the same time we are oblivious to our own shortcomings. Only if we had the same patience with our brothers short comings as we have with our own. I’ll not talk about anyone else but I’ll talk about myself who I know better than anyone besides Allah, (SWA). I am a second generation New Yorker who was the first born son of a man who migrated from Savannah Georgia sometime in the 1930’s as a child. He had the misfortune of being born during a period in American history when African American males were severely oppressed and preyed upon. For many the only solace was found he a bottle of liquor. He was the eldest child with two younger female siblings and his single mom. He had very little formal education because he had to aid his mother in providing sustenance for the family. He didn’t have the luxury to be a nerd, or allow sensitivity to hinder him in his struggle to survive in this strange hostile “Promised Land” of Brownsville, Brooklyn. By the time I came along he had long lost contact with his affectionate, compassionate side. He was there for me and my siblings and he provided the best he could but I was unable to benefit from those parts of himself that he lost contact with.. It took me at least 25 years of marriage before I learned to suppress my ego and be kind and sweet to my wife. I learned that this was not a threat to my manhood because Islam gave me a new paradigm in the person of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, (SAW). But it didn’t happen all of a sudden. I had to go through a process. I was 23 years in the dunya when I took Shahada and I like most of us back then thought that the shahadah made me righteous. I just knew that the community that I belonged to was the place to be while those other communities were about something different. It was about what my Imam was saying and I loved him and the brothers who attended our masjid dearly. In my mind we just had something special that the other masajid didn’t have. Of course that was all in my mind. We all tend to claim Allah,(SWA), for ourselves. We are all so small minded. And now we watch the same exact phenomenon reoccurring with our youth, many of whom are new converts to this deen. It is that same small mindedness that has hindered the progress of the indigeneous African American community. I was at least 45 years old before I realized that I suffered from a malady called an “inferiority complex”. It was after talking to another Muslim brother who grew up in the Caribbean that I realized I was impaired and didn’t even realize it. Even after being Muslim for 22 years I was unable to see my own flaws. The damage was done long before I took shahadah and I never took steps to treat my affliction. When my brother talked about how he grew up in an environment where everyone in authority was Black and he was nurtured and educated in institutions where he was encouraged to excell I immediately realized what I had been deprived of. Having been born in NYC in the 1950’s and being rared in a society where things were quite the opposite how else could I not have been impaired. That explained why I felt so uncomfortable talking to white folk and why I avoided them. That explained why I didn’t feel as confident around them as I did around my own people. So many of us have these issues yet we deny their existence. How can I be man enough for more than one woman when I can’t be a man before another man. Yeah I said it. Polygyny has always been an enticing option for us brothers. It’s like a sugar addict in a sweet shop. We do have some of most attractive women on the planet here in America. Even though Allah, (SWA), tells us one would be better we find it hard to resist the yearning of our nafs. Polygyny is an option but we first have to learn to be real men and not some costumed caricature of men going through the motions like so many of us do while praying. One prerequisite of achieving true manhood is we at least have to learn that the word care is a verb. It is a word of action. It is never enough to say you care because if you care then you will display your caring through action.
    This comes full circle to what our Br. Abdur Rahmans’ 5 pt. article,”Why Black American Muslims don’t stand for justice.” I can tell you this is how our people entepret our inactivity. They believe we don’t care about their plight. And guess what, our inaction proves we don’t. Why is this? Where in Islam does it say when you take shahadah you should no longer care for your people.
    All throughout the Qur’an the Prophets went to their people saying, “Ya Qaumi”, “Oh my people”. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, (SAW), loved his people so much that Allah, (SWA), had to remind him in more that one ayat of Qur’an not to worry himself to death over their rejection of his message. “Yet it may be, if they believe not in this statement, that you, (Muhammad), will torment thy soul with grief over their footsteps” (Qur’an 18:6)
    Again it is a case of our pathologies determining our application of this awesome truth thereby hindering its ability to alter our lives for the better. We know that Islam means surrender, submit yet we rebel and resist and we’ll go to our graves fooling ourselves into thinking that we have perfected our light that we will need on the other side. We can no longer afford to take our own nafs as our taghut for it will block us from the light that Islam came to lead us to.
    “There is no compulsion in deen. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer Knower.
    Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He brings them out of darkness into the light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of the light into darkness. Such are fightful owners of the fire. They will abide therein. (Qur’an 2:256-257)

    Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

    Br. Abu

  13. Abu says:

    AsSalaamu Alaikum
    I said all of that to say this. Br. Abdur Rahman don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a tit for tat argument with any one who comments on your work. It will only serve as a distraction. If your intentions are in the right place you will receive your reward from your Lord. You will never please everyone regardless of how hard you try.There will always be critics and haters but that should not deter you from the good work that you set out to do. I personally enjoyed your piece and I hope you continue to share with us your analysis and insight. May Allah reward you and may He keep you safe. Ameen

    AsSalaamu Alaikum

    Br. Abu

  14. gess says:

    As’salamu Aleikum # 12 Abu,

    Jazak Allah Khair for sharing your story.

  15. Kwame Madden says:

    As Salaamu Alaikum
    There is no statue of limitations on truth.Dont worry about your detractors they will come from all the kool-laid camps.May Allah
    bless you,keep up the good work.

  16. Aisha says:

    Going back to my earlier post, I see why you made that assumption, brother:

    “If you are sincere brother, I don’t feel that you would have spoken in the manner that you have about these groups which stand with our people and against the system.”

    Bad choice of words.

  17. gess says:

    Abdur-Rahman M,

    I hope not you will take any criticism of your writing as an accusation of being part of “the system”.

  18. Kwame Madden says:

    We all have expressed our thoughts and opinions,but the bottom line is that we have shariah we must abide by.The way you have narrated
    these events from the sources you obtain them from shows that our
    scared law wasn’t thought about.Bottom line is this how does our shariah weigh these things.Final analysis it is about the Book of Allah
    and Sunnah of beloved Messenger[peace be upon him].And nobdy
    can refute that.

  19. Sister Aisha,

    Thank you for your kind words. It really does mean a lot to me. I hope to meet you and all my readers on my book tour (inshallah). Its coming soon.

  20. Brother Abdur-Rahman

    As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.
    Again, thanks for your thoughts. Of course some of your points are well-made. I have only sought to supplement them or call for you to do so. It seems I did miss some of your earlier comments and that’s kool, as what you pointed out you did and where-ever we agree,that’s fine too. This isn’t a debate. And to answer your question, yes there is coordination and cooperation between the various groups I mentioned, in degrees. To say that there isn’t simply is wrong. We have and do find some things to work on commonly,which in and of itself is a tremendous progression from the past. They are not all or always advertised collaborations but they do exist. I will say that one thing we have and do all work on is freeing Imam Jamil, and the very organizations mentioned in your writing and my post are the ones who have labored hard over the years,raising money for his legal defense, and other things. No, we don’t have a national coordinating headquarters for our work, but we do have an operational network and that’s something we have learned from years of work. No, MAS Freedom doesn’t stand for Black American Justice, but it is an example of how the Civil Rights Movement has impacted upon segments of the immigrant Muslim community, and I believe that is important to note. Again regarding the Yasin incident, excuse me brother but your own inexperience or perhaps naivete is showing here. There is no statute of limitations on homicide, and it’s just plain foolish to call for detailed public discussion on such matters. I know brothers from both jamaats who were present for the tragedy, and yes there are things known and that have not and should not be discussed in public. In some areas Muslims don’t talk enough. In other areas we talk too damned much,ignoring the maxim, “The safety and security of mankind is in the GUARDING of the tongue”. Leaders who have responsibility for the lives of men, women and children know this. Others should respect it. Suffice it to say that the tragedy taught many of us many things, and we have all grown as the result of it. We are all brothers in Islam, and some of us from the two jamaats who go back that far are really quite tight now, and love each other now for the sake of Allah. For one thing we have realized that we were and are very much alike,because we are the same people. We have acted in concert based upon the tragic Yasin experience,to intervene and stop repeats of this sort of thing amongst the younger generation of Muslims, and there have been some close calls,believe me.But the efforts have been successful. To err is human. What matters is when people can learn from their mistakes and mis-steps, and grow. And I say again, those who really know are not the ones who talk – not because they’re seeking to hide truths, but because they are keenly aware of ramifications on various levels, of loose, public talk. This is something that those un-reared in the discipline of movements, and products of the internet and blogger age, are not aware of. We should never forget that we have third party enemies always lurking in the wings, who seek to eliminate us all. There is nothing flippant about discretion and disciplined speech, and those of us who have survived in the fire of the dragon’s breath since the active days of COINTELPRO know this. We are not ignorant elders. That is where the other naseehaa offered by brothers Abu Usaama, Saifuddin and others, comes in. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The deen is naseehaa”, and this in an of itself is sage advice. We all have opinions but because they are sincere and even passionate doesn’t make them the truth. If we remember this Allah will bless us to keep open minds, and to grow. Again, may Allah reward you.

  21. […] Imam Talib Abdur-Rasheed of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood has a second response. (See my previous response here) I want to reiterate my love and respect for this brother and the work that he has done. No […]

  22. abuusama says:

    Assalaamu Alaykum, Br. Abdur-Rahman,

    I was fasting this weekend so I decided to skip the blogs. So I’ll respond now,

    You said:
    “When my critics show the same distress at the vile, truly horrendous doctrines of these criminals, maybe then I will take them more seriously. If condemning these evil people, people that my critics love so much, is divisive, than so be it.”

    I feel it’s a bit of a stretch to lump me in as a critic simply because I have encouraged you to call a man by the name which he wishes to be called. This proper Islamic adab period this is not my oppinion.

    Secondly, all Muslims are appalled by and reject the shirk contained the NOI teachings, so you can denounce NOI theology all you want, if that is task you’ve placed on yourself, alhamdulillah. As for me, the position I hold is the same with Christians, Hindus, Ahmadiyyah and etc. in that I can reject a persons religous beliefs without condeming them or disrespecting them as person.

    Following the example of the Prophet (saws) who did not condem his people either, yet disputed with them in the best of manners. ..And I’m called a critic for encouraging that? mashaAllah.

    You further said:
    “How in God’s name does it do more damage to “Islamic work” to accurately tell our story, than to openly embrace someone who preaches that Allah (may He be glorified) is a human being or that there is a messenger after our beloved prophet Muhammad (God forbid).”

    Was this rhetorical or an actual question?

    I will say this, since you apparently pride yourself on being a student of history and by your own admission

    You said
    ” I am tried of repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again. These mistakes could have been avoided if we had a proper respect for history”

    Also, as you have some familiarity with logic as your writings are replete with syllogisms.

    My brother whom I support and respect, can you please cogently and logically (since adab is not a factor) explain to me how your ad hominem, disrepectful and belligerent condemnations are any different from the historically proven counter productive polemical letters of Imam Hamas Abdul-Khalis? Additionally, how can you employ the same appoarch and expect a different result?

    My Br. Abdur-Rahman I am with you in that shirk must be opposed but I respectfully yet fundamentally disagree with your methodology.

    You will never convince the masses of our people on the bases of theology that neither the trinity nor belief in W. Fard Muhammad are in keeping with Allah’s status simply because most of them do not understand their own theology, execept for a few who have rote memorized some lessons.

    While they can’t give an explanation of their theology, they (both Christian and NOI) can give personal testimony about what their leader has done for them or what their leaders (and organizations) are doing in the community.

    I submit to you and our Imama that we are going to have to convince the people by presenting them a better alternative. More than mere denoucing people, that in addition to their minds we will need to appeal to them on the bases of their hearts, stomachs and pocketbooks.

    Yes without a doubt dawah must start with tawhid first, but without appealing to the people on a visceral emotional level that addresses the problematic indentity and self-esteem issues (as well as other pathologies) in a guinuwine and caring manner, you will never reach the minds of the people. Further it also without a doubt that Allah makes Muslims, but shouldn’t we at least present Islam in the best way possible?

    You are a student of history right, do you honestly think that the BPP won people over simply with “ideology” from Mao Zedong’s little red book or was it because they were serving the people?

    There is a maxim that I personally find to be very true, and that is if a person does not love you how can you expect that person to really you help you. Conversly, Br. Abdur-Rahman and this goes directly to your topic “Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t stand for Justice”, if you truly believe someone is evil how can you love, help and stand for justice for them?

    Inclosing I’m trying to save my people from the fire, and if that means showing them civility in the face of their shirk so be it, but I will neither condone their shirk nor suborn them being disrepected.

    Ma’a Salaam
    Abu Usamah (Detroit Eastside)

  23. abuusama says:

    Assalaamu Alaykum,

    Although my tastes have now shifted towards green tea with lemon and honey. Back in the day I loved kool-aid especially grape (The “original grape” past down from generations is not to be confused with heretic innovation called “purplesaurus rex”) with freshly squeezed lemon juice and slices all slightly frozen and slushy. Man thaat was the BOMB. LOL

    Please don’t be alarmed at this fundamentalist using the word bomb I mean it in a good way. LOL LOL…

    ok… ok… I have to come clean we were kind of poor so we didn’t always have fresh lemons all the time but realemon juice in the green bottle did do the trick as well LOL

    Mannn THANKS Kool-Aid Man…… OH YEAAHH!!!!!!!!!

    Philly you all can have your water-ices , NY you can have your italian-ices but in the The D slushy kool-aid in the plastic cup was the bomb.. Man I’m getting a brain freeze just thinking about it LOL LOL…

    **imagines One Nation under a Groove playing in the background**

    no no make that **”Funkin’ For Jamaica** no no “Flash light”

    everybody’s got a light right!?

    Man I hope I didn’t just blow couple of days fasting reminiscing about music.

  24. Mahdi Bray says:

    In response to your question concerning the commitment of MAS Freedom to the social justice issues in the African-American community we have constantly since day one been involved in upholding and defending justice in the African-American community. To mention a few examples we defended and successfully forced Homeland Security to restore a commercial driver’s license to Bilal Mahmoud an African-American former Vietnam Veteran in Atlanta, GA. We held demonstrations and rallies in front of the Supreme Court in response to the assault on affirmative action. We have a tactical alliance with the traditional civil rights organizations including the NAACP and serve on their religious affairs committee. We were the only national Muslim organization to address the Jena 6 issue as well as sending a delegation to Jena, LA. We also have worked tirelessly for federal legislation involving racial profiling better know as “driving while black” and defended two African-Americans unjustly detained and profiled on I-95 in Maryland. We were a national co-sponsor of the Martin Luther King National Anniversary March and Rally. We continue to lobby for the passing of John Conyers Law-enforcement and Integrity Act that addresses police brutality in our major urban cities.

    We have done extensive work with Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Rev. Herb Daultry. Our election division continues to lobby across the nation for the restoration of convicted felons right to vote since this disproportionately disenfranchises African-American males. We have both legally and administratively challenged any efforts to suppress the voting capability of African-Americans and since 2004 have constantly provided monitors in our “Count Every Vote and Make Every Vote Count” campaign.

    We received recognition by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) for our 2000 volunteers (MAS Freedom Boots on the Ground Campaign) which helped victims of Hurricane Katrina and opened our centers and masjids as shelters for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally we collected and donated one-million dollars to Sheila Jackson-Lee on Capitol Hill to be used for the victims of Katrina and gave it in grants to predominantly African-American religious leaders in the Greater Houston Area.

    We have raised thousands of dollars and provided legal services to numerous African-American Muslims who have been caught up in law-enforcement terrorism entrapment scenarios. We have also been commended for our work in the African-American community in such publications as the Final Call, the Afro-American, the Journal and Guide, and other African-American sources.

    Our human-rights department has led numerous delegations to Africa and more recently to the Sudan in order to correct the racist propaganda that has been hurled against Muslims in Africa.

    I was the recipient on behalf of MAS Freedom of the Congressional Black Caucus Service Award and campaigned along with Rev. Jesse Jackson and comedian and Senate Candidate Al Franken for Congressman Keith Ellison.

    Finally, I think our greatest contribution at MAS Freedom, is our constant advocacy to non African-American Muslims of the importance of the long historical struggle of African-American people in this country and the need to unite and address the issue of racism and injustice that still haunts our nation and sadly our Ummah.

  25. Alhamdulillah Brother Mahdi
    Thanks for setting the record straight. As you well know, most of the work of this nature is done out of the public (meaning media) eye, and we don’t have yet enough media to spread the news about the good work being done by Muslims, and those who are involved in it are too busy doing it to talk about it. We all need better communications though,because segments of the ummah need to know what other segments are doing.

    Jazakallah Khair,
    -Imam Talib

  26. Yosef Davis Peekskill, NY says:

    Brother Mahdi was any African American muslim leadership entrusted with any of this grant money inside the city of Houston.
    From what I am told by a good freind of mine there only handful of masjids that have African Americans In leadership poistions.

  27. sayyidah says:

    As-Salaamu Alaikum: I am the daughter of Bilal Abdullah Rahman
    I would like to thank you for bring this topic up again. Growing up this tragic incident was HUSH HUSH . I have little info. as to what happen as I was only 2 yrs. old when it occurred any additional info., articals, photos , etc would be greatly appreciated
    shukran

  28. Abu Usamah al-Aswad says:

    @ Sayyidah, Wa Laykum Salaam

    I don’t know much about your father (5 at the time), however the Dar-ul Islam magazine Al-Jihadul Akbar ran some stories with photos of your father and some information on the work he was initiating for the community before he was marytred.

    I got photocopies from an older brother in NY. I don’t think he would want me to post his phone number here, but you can get my email address from Abdur Rahman and I can email it to you. (iA)

  29. Salafi Burnout says:

    Seems that this criminal attitude has gone on for longer than we first thought

  30. @Salafi Burnout
    Oh its been going on since day one man.

  31. Sayidah A. Rahman says:

    As-Salaamu-Alaikum my sisters and brothers in Islam
    Let me start pff by saying I barewitness that there is no God but ALLAH and Muhammadis his servant and messanger.
    “I seek refuge in ALLAh from misleading and being mislead from betraying and being betrayed into ignorance by other.”
    “I ask ALLAh to guide my heart and my tounge.” I am posting this comment reguarding my father Bilal Abdullah Rahman (Big Bilal) (from ALLAH we come and to ALLAH shall we return). Let me say that there is no judge or jury that can bring justice to this tragic event in islamic history, but ALLAH .
    ALLAH is the all knowing as to what happened on the dark day in the islamic community of Brooklyn New York Feb 4, 1974.
    Speaking for myself and siblings, we put this tragic event in ALLAH’s hands as we all should know that ALLAH is most just and most merciful.
    If my Abi (Big Bilal) did not get justice in this world surely he will get it in the Hereafter. Surely we all shall be held accountable for our actions, ways and deeds.
    We as the family (childern) brothers and friends of Big Bilal are very content with knowing that he was a good Muslim/Man and WE PRAY THAT ALLAH GRANTS HIM PARADISE.
    If you would like to do something GOOD for Big Bilal you can visit his grave site and make DUA AND DO AS HE DID, AND GIVE DAWAH TO THE DISBELIVERS.
    SINCERLY
    SAYYIDAH A. RAHMAN

  32. […] This eventually evoked a response from Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Tawfiq’s successor at M.I.B and deputy Amir of MANA, where he seemed to suggest that culpability for what happened 35 years ago in Brooklyn was somehow unclear. In essence, he tried to challenge the judgment of history which squarely lays the blame for what happened on his mentor Ahmed Tawfiq, who along with his crew of Muslim goons, went to the Ya Sin masjid that night intending to kill its Imam, Yahyah Abdul-Kareem. What jarred me most about the Imam’s response that ”those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t”. I thought that was a morally indefensible and trite statement in reference to murder, and said so at the time. […]

  33. as salaamu alaykum wa rahma
    jakaa Allah for the post and all the responses. I am a member of the Jama`at of Shehu Uthman ibn Fuduye`, a member of MANA, we are confederated with the Ummah, the MIB, IRM and our confederation has been formally recognised by the United Nations. I say all that to say progress is being made by the indiginous African American and Latino Muslim national minorities in the US, on a national level with a national and international agenda.

    Other organizations I personally went to and ask that we confederate, but for some odd reason they rejected it. But I tried.

    Establishing a national consensus and agenda is a slow process because we are a people who are still under domestic colonization. This means that we have a great deal of our own people woking against us, and we are still subject to the dynamics of the slave culture, part of which you described in your 5 post.

    In our rich history in the African continent there were similar if not worse conflicts and intercecine warfare between rival Muslims groups, but in the end once a regional polity emerged, apart of the healing was to revisit and correct acts of injustice.

    Anyway I appreciate all the post, and only advise you all of that ancient but telling statement: “KAMA TADAANU TUDAANU” The way you judge people you will also be judged.

    wa salaam

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