Imam Yusuf Rios
[Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro-theory of human motivation concerned with the development and functioning of personality within social contexts. The theory focuses on the degree to which human behaviors are volitional or self-determined – that is, the degree to which people endorse their actions at the highest level of reflection and engage in the actions with a full sense of choice.]
Deliberation over the notions of “continuity” and “forward movement” as corner stones of Islamic American thought demands on our part a high level of literacy in a number of fields of these are: Islamic sciences and the tradition and history of Islam in America. Indigenous Muslims in the “post-Malcolm X” phase of Islam in America have more often than not depended upon the immigrant community to provide intellectual and scholastic leadership and models of orthodoxy. This has been to the detriment of the community. Unfortunately, integration into the immigrant community has come at an inflated price. In effect, the needs of the Muslim indigenous community are in a state of dereliction. There is no need here to cast blame upon anyone but what is necessitated is to carry responsibility for the way the future of Islam will be managed and to ensure that indigenous Muslims play a significant role in the leadership of the community of Muslims in the West.
In re-reading the history of Islam in America we must re-visit the institution of the Black Mosque (TBM). TBM no perfect model of Islam nor did it represent a means to greater social integration except in the case of the Warith Deen Muhammad community. What the TBM did was carry over traditions inherited from the Nation of Islam and of those traditions was the practice of discipline, self determination and self reliance.
These values are less manifest as communal values taught to all in the immigrant community in the sense that they are not virtues taught in a universal common curriculum as they were in the Black Mosque. Rather, in the new Mosque these are individual values and he who does not embody them in the community is left behind. An example of the problem of addressing the needs of the indigenous community is best illustrated in an event that I witnessed and will narrate here for embellishment of the main thesis of this post. A seminar was carried out in a Mosque which I attended it included Arabic speakers and English speakers. Two separate seminars were carried out for each of the two language groups. The Arabic language seminar was geared towards economic empowerment of the Arabic speaking community by facilitatinglegal responsa (fatawa). In the case of the English speaking seminar the students were being schooled on the world of the haram.
This problem that the indigenous face started early and is best represented in the rise of Shaikh Hamza Yusuf (h) and his disassociation with the African American Imams who were born out of the Nationalist movement and or the Nation of Islam. It was here that the struggle for defining Orthodoxy begun to some extent. Hence, we fail to see Siraj Wa Hajj function in a leadership platform with Hamza Yusuf. To be fair Dr. Jackson chronicles it to be at an earlier date within the African American community itself and that is to be seen in his struggles with defining Orthodoxy (see: The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance). But to be more exact we can situate the struggle to define orthodoxy with with El-Hajj Malik ash-Shabazz (r) when he declared himself free of the Nation of Islam.
I would have to agree with the popular contention that Blacks have been sidelined by immigrant progress much which has been part and parcel of being an immgrant and entering American society at the middle class based on the privilege of an education sponsored by foreign governments or rich families. This is no real matter in itself except that sociologically it is a factor to be considered for its explanatory potential. Many of the indigenous Muslims outside the Warith Deen community are not economically mobile. So we have two problems in the indigenous community and that is deficiency in islamic education and lower income status. Hence, the need for the value of self determination.
“Continuity” for the indigenous means learning to look back to the positive aspects of what the African American community contributed to the establishment of Islam in America and to Islamic tradition. The idea of “looking forward” signifies building community on the basis of learning and upon the premise of self-determination and an interdependence permeated by the values of brotherhood, equality and justice. The indigenous community is charged by the immigrant community with not having established Islam in America. In other words, the indigenous are not working for the growth and presence of Islam institutionally and this charge is partially false as well as true addressing this matter it is best done in a separate post.
Moving beyond the crisis of indigenous and immigrant relations demands orientation and vision on part of the indigenous, coupled with knowledge, character, and cooperation. Reliance upon the notion of “the brother-hood” of Islam” at this stage is an unsustainable position given the politics of decision making and allocation of funds in the Muslim community overall (95% of funds which are invested in overseas charity projects). What we knew as indigenous Muslims was discipline and self-determination two virtues we forgot when we became concerned with defining orthodoxy. Continuity and looking forward demands that we cultivate these virtues and continue to build on our knowledge base of Qur’an, Sunnah and Islamic sciences working towards a practical viable model for community in America as conscious Muslim-Americans. Plus, as indigenous Muslims we are faced with working with diversity as the notion of indigenous has grown out of the sense of African American to include European Americans and Latin Americans and second generation immigrant children. On the other hand, we the people, must work to empower ourselves through proper management of our affaird and wealth and investing in education. We must tend to our homes lest they implode due to neglect we are being taxed without representation in the immigrant community and this matter needs redress and balance so that we can pursue happiness (Islam in America) in the spirit of the brotherhood of Islam. We do not need a blame game but a game plan-strategy.