Posts Tagged ‘Islamic Salon’

Last night (Saturday 1/05/08) we met for yet another ground breaking “Islamic Salon” gathering which we call THE MAJLIS, wherein we discussed the movie The Great Debaters. What words can I muster to describe the conclave? Engaging? Thought provoking? Inspirational? It was all of the above and so much more. I came away from the evening convinced that we’ve hit upon the right formula to satisfy our social and intellectual needs as Muslims living in America. Without fear of exaggeration or hyperbole, this was big, really big!

I simply can’t remember attending anything like this assemblage since my entering Islam, where in the course of discussing a Hollywood film, Muslims were allowed to freely express their views on any number of topics in the most respectful, sophisticated, and even spirited manner. Al humdulillah it was a great night! Admittedly the discussion did at times stray from the movie’s themes, but that’s OK too because it only highlighted the passion and excitement fueling some of the participants. Even I was moved to get a little “preachy” (which of course is not hard for me to do). But what made the dialogue so beautiful was the diversity of the people assembled, who, though mostly African-American, were a nice mix of Pakistani, Somali, Sierra Leone, and Egyptian Americans, all engaged in a no-holds-barred give and take. There was also a perfectly balanced blend of scholarly erudition and everyday, anecdotal commentary, which had the effect of keeping the conversation on the ground as it were.

And here is the best part of it all. By Allah’s grace the entire session was professionally recorded and highlights will be posted hopefully within a week (inshallah).

Finally, I would like to issue an apology to all the people who wanted to attend but due to space and privacy concerns, had to be turned away. Apparently many of my readers have fallen in love with this Islamic Salon concept, and are already demanding to know when the next one will be. The answer is very soon. However, because of the high number of requests I’ve received from people wanting to participate, we must secure a larger, more public facility. If anyone would like to attend the next session of THE MAJLIS, please email me promptly because the next session is going to be hot, a pre-Black History Month special!

An Islamic Salon?

Posted: December 16, 2007 in Uncategorized

Imagine for a moment that you’re a highly educated African-American living in the segregated Washington, DC of 1895. Modern distractions like radio and television haven’t been invented yet, and most other avenues for culturally rich and intellectually stimulating entertainment have been racially proscribed. What do you do? This was the predicament facing the elite members of the race at the close of the 19th, and beginning of 20th centuries. In those days, education meant a heavy dosage of Latin, Greek, or French, great familiarity with the classics of western civilization – like Shakespeare and Plato – and usually the ability to perform a difficult piece of music on either piano or violin.

In learning to cope with the injustices of segregation, these educated Blacks turned inward and developed their own avenues for cultural and intellectual expression. They formed debate clubs and literary societies, attended plays (held usually in churches), and wrote books and papers. However, one of the more important outlets they turned to – one which we are attempting to rediscover in the Washington D.C. of 2007 – consisted in holding lively and engaging programs in each others homes.

So often we hear that our masjids maintain an atmosphere inhibiting free discussion and thoughtful debate, a lamentable state of affairs. Most masjids, whether African American or immigrant, usually follow some type of “line” (some ideological “Kool-Aid” they want you to drink), and all topics not sanctioned by the administration are strictly prohibited. But the home “salon” can be the perfect remedy to combat the intellectual and cultural stagnation that so many Muslims are experiencing today.

Here in the nation’s capital, Muslims are beginning to meet not only in homes, but in little coffee shops as well. Some attend to hear the short lectures, enjoy the good (American) food and the discussions that follow, while others go simply to find a mate, and that’s o.k. too.

Recently, the home of a young sister, Bathsheba Philpott, has become the epicenter of this new salon movement. Last night she hosted the Family Halaqah Group, comprised of brothers and sisters eager to be involved in wholesome discussion and activism. We were treated to a very erudite commentary by Dr. Fatimah Jackson, anthropologist at the University of Md., on the wonderful new film Prince of Slaves. Also part of the discussion was another anthropologist, Dr. S.O.Y. Keita, along with writer Tariq Nelson. Of the close to twenty or so people in attendance, at least half were sisters, and everyone had an opportunity to share their insights and analysis. Leading the discussion was D.C. based attorney Talib Karim.

Perhaps this salon idea is something that will catch on in other cities. (more later)