Today, we received news that Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi was removed from his position at the NGO that funds IslamOnline (IOL). For those of you who have not heard, IslamOnline is a website that is world-renowned for tackling issues in a moderate, balanced way, and is a forum for diverse views. In the past couple of weeks, there has been an increasing furor between the staff at the website and the organization in Qatar that funds the site, which has been pushing for a more conservative viewpoint to be reflected on the website. This culminated with the website being shut down, and today, news that Shaykh Qaradawi was fired. You can read more information about why the IOL staff is is protesting here.
This reminds me of the Michael Jordon/Abe Pollin incident – Jordan thought he finally had placed himself in a position to actually own an NBA team. (He does now by the way!) In order to do so, he came out of retirement, agreed to play for the Wizards with a promise that after playing for some time he would move to the front office and become part owner. After playing two years, contributing greatly to what was once an abandoned arena and sagging jersey sales, he retired and headed straight to Pollin’s office, hoping to finally take his seat at the table. Once inside, Pollin showed him the door and left him in the street for dead, telling him “I don’t want to work with you, Michael!” Commenting on this, former Georgetown coach John Thompson said: “They threw him back to the plantation.”
It seems that, in many ways, Qaradawi and his students were treated in the same way – when it actually came time to express their opinions and in the case of the shaykh, exercise power, they were thrown back to the plantation and – as many of us would say – “put back in their place” by “the man.”
It is unfortunate to see the true value of our community, its scholars, and its leaders, in the eyes of some people who will place ideology over etiquette and power over “the right thing to do.” Firing Shaykh Qaradawi is one of the tragedies here, but perhaps even worse is the fact that these people are deaf to the roar of the Muslim community: parents, teens, women, children, other websites, organizations and converts. All of this leads to one conclusion – in a climate of utilitarian da`wah, some of our leaders are nothing short of plantation owners and they simply do not care about the Muslim community.
The solution is for students of knowledge and workers to seriously consider, as I’ve said before, a Wuu Tang type organization that functions independent of any group, community or Godfather. The first goal should be to generate enough capital through various means to insure the economic independence of scholars and students of knowledge. Real estate investments, the stock market and other securities should be utilized to create a scholarly “green zone” in order to preserve the integrity of the scholarship and its carrier’s stability. Secondly, it should work to serve the needs of the real community – the one not on the front of any newspaper: single mothers, converts who are struggling to pay the bills, new immigrants to the community, students of knowledge, etc.
Allah knows best.
[The creators of IslamOnline have now created OnIslam.net].