Today I will be giving a talk about Islam at the local YWCA. I will be speaking with about 30-40 people.
In April, I will be speaking about Islam to a communications class at IPFW then to an Introduction to Social Work class at Manchester University.
This comes on the heels of a lecture about Islam that I gave to counseling/psychology students from the University of St. Francis which was within a short time span of my regularly scheduled, once a semester, lecture about Islam and caring for the Muslim patient that I give to healthcare students within the area. Not to mention my recent conversations about Islam with the Allen County Democrats and some soldiers deploying to Muslim majority countries.
These are lecture that I have given, and will give, within few short months. If we go beyond that short period of time then I am not sure I can count all the talks about Islam that I have given to various groups such as local, state and federal law enforcement and police chaplains or the interfaith panels in which I have been involved.
Each and every one of these talks were upon invite. Meaning, I was approached and asked if I can discuss Islam and give additional insight about the faith from particular angle (healthcare, counseling...etc) from which the audience can understand the basic principles of the Islamic faith.
I approach each and every one of these talks with the simple underlying premise of "I am here to talk with you about what Islam is, not what it's not" and then follow my talk with Q&A that spans the stereotyping spectrum. We have honest, open, non-apologetic conversations about the faith and its dynamic impact in the lives of those who call themselves Muslim.
Why do I mention all this? This certainly is no marketing ploy as I do all these talks pro bono.
I mention this because no matter how high the waves of Islamophobia may become (think Trump, Cruz, Pamela Geller and their likes) they will eventually come crashing upon the rocks of understanding, coexistence and humanity.
I mention this because we hear about the (blank)ophobes but we don't hear about the hometown heroes. The ones who reach out and inquire. The ones who reject the wide net of fear mongering and hate being cast on a people, a faith, a color.
I mention this because I refuse to surrender to a few hijacking my faith, whether from the inside or out.
I mention this because I refuse to surrender to a bleak, ugly future that we are being conditioned to accept as inevitable.
I mention this because in these dark times, I choose to light a candle.
“Execution-style” and “Muslim” together in one sentence have been forever ingrained in the minds of American Muslims. They trigger painful images of three young beautiful souls from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who were lost simply for being Muslim.
A little over a year later, a heinous crime takes place in our own backyard here in the city of Fort Wayne. Three beautiful young black souls were plucked from among our midst “execution style” at an East Lewis Street home on Feb. 24. And the collective Muslim community yet again reads the words “execution style” and “Muslim” together in one sentence (although we later learned that not all three were Muslim).
A shock wave was felt in the national Muslim community. Reactions of anger, fear and frustration have predominated on social media. Questions arose about what seemed to be the Fort Wayne Police Department’s summarily dismissing the act as religiously or politically motivated. Others were offended by use of the word “gang” and attributed its use to the fact that the victims were black and hence this is yet another disregard of the value of black lives by police and the media.
All are legitimate thoughts, feelings and concerns with which I, as a Muslim and a racial minority, am far too familiar. After all, we live in a time when some of the main topics of presidential debates span from an outright ban on Muslims to a mere tolerance of Muslims, a segment of our collective American community that has been part and parcel of this country for centuries.
We live in a time when such vile discourse has gone beyond rhetoric and is mani-fested in the targeting of Muslims across our nation by people who have been conditioned to view us as a threat and our beliefs as an affront to American values. Also magnifying the effect of such news is that the victims were black and that we continue to see examples of systemic racism and a seeming indifference toward the worth of a black American life.
Such reactions, although legitimate, lack an important factor: an understanding of Fort Wayne and the dynamics of our city.
Fort Wayne has been a welcoming city to many people from all corners of the nation and the world, including an estimated 3,000-plus Muslims. From Myanmar to Sudan, Bosnia to Pakistan, from East Coast to West Coast, north and south, the Muslim community comes in all shades of cultural and racial variety. They are factory workers, physicians, laborers, nurses, business owners and academics.
They play a major role in making our city of Fort Wayne the city of faiths. A city where faiths exist together beyond mere tolerance. We pray together for safety and prosperity of all of our city’s residents in the mayor’s annual “Prayer for the City.” From annual Mayor’s Iftars to interfaith Thanksgiving dinners, we all work together to combat the xenophobia that has a chokehold on our national conversations. We, as a city, learn from our past and current mistakes to make sure they are not repeated as we strive to build a better future for ourselves and our children who call this place home.
The murder of the three young beautiful souls was felt by the entire community. As stated by the family’s spokesperson, “this is a city issue.” Yet another homicide took loved ones out of the arms of many. There is a criminal (or criminals) out there who have committed this crime and need to be brought to justice. We grieve together. We mourn together. But more importantly, we work together to bring justice and peace of mind to the friends and families of the victims.
If you want to help the families, then please be forthcoming with any information you may have and share it with the police department. This person (or persons) is loose in our community. If they have killed three, what stops them from killing more?
Original article published in the Journal gazette
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark