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Barack Obama in 2004, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, reading through a copy of his keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention below a photo of Muhammad Ali at his campaign office in Chicago, Ill.
Barack Obama in 2004, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, reading through a copy of his keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention below a photo of Muhammad Ali at his campaign office in Chicago, Ill. M. Spencer Green/AP

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.  Period.  If you just asked him, he’d tell you.  He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

 

But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

 

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing.  But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

 

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him – the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston.  I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was – still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

 

“I am America,” he once declared.  “I am the part you won’t recognize.  But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own.  Get used to me.”

 

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age – not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right.  A man who fought for us.  He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t.  His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing.  It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail.  But Ali stood his ground.  And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

 

He wasn’t perfect, of course.  For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved.  But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes – maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves.  Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world.  We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest.  We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

 

Muhammad Ali shook up the world.  And the world is better for it.  We are all better for it.  Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.

 

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Muhammad Ali arrives at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in of Barack Obama as president on Jan. 20, 2009.
Muhammad Ali arrives at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in of Barack Obama as president on Jan. 20, 2009. Donna Cassata/AP

From NPR

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Imam Talib Shareef of The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, and the oldest Muslim community located in the capital of America, dating back to the mid 1930s and representative of the community where Muhammad Ali’s Spiritual journey as a Muslim began, released the following statement in response to his passing.

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We join our President and those in our nation and around the world who are offering condolences and prayers for the family on the passing of such an iconic world champion and great humanitarian, Muhammad Ali.

As the champ once said, “You have but one life; it soon will be past, what you do for G-d is all that will last”.

The incredible impact that his life and legacy are having on the world stage serve as a testament to the fact that “one person can change the world.” Muhammad Ali was a living example of that statement and he was Muslim and American, yet a citizen of the world and a true human being.  Through his standing for something meaningful, his strong sense of identity and commitment to faith, he revealed the CHAMPION that we all have in common, and that is the dynamic soul of a people oppressed and struggling to see their humanity free.  He demonstrated that one person’s conviction and conscious actions can effectively change the lives of many, and ultimately transform the world.  Muhammad Ali once said, “I’ve always wanted to be more than just a boxer. More than just the three-time heavyweight champion. I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well, to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

Contributing selflessly to humanity, he devoted himself to helping promote world peace, civil rights, religious freedom, hunger relief and humanitarianism, which is legendary in itself. It is in this spirit that we celebrate the life and legacy of such a wonderful and dynamic human soul, a servant of the Almighty and a servant of the people, the People’s Champ.  He was the proponent of his six core principles of Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality.

He went the distance in the fight for justice and in advancing his vision to enhance the critical circumstances affecting the future of the African American community and America at large.  As one of our resourceful leaders, he left a strong legacy of having helped to lift up the people, reflect the best of American and human life, and became not only a healthy powerful resource to his people and humanity, but also to the nation where he claimed citizenship.

We hope that he, through his legacy, his center in Louisville, continue to inspire old and young people to be great, do great things, and look past themselves and add value to the lives of others. We salute him.  May the Almighty forgive his shortcomings, give him comfort, expand his place of rest, honor his arrival and let not his passing cause a burden or hardship on those he leaves behind.  Ameen.

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This year’s annoumabdurrahimncement by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper highlighting that homegrown extremists will likely pose the most significant Sunni threat to the U.S. homeland in 2016 along with an uptick of arrests and indictment in Philadelphia and Baltimore by African American Muslim converts are of major concern. Earlier this year, a Philadelphia man, Edward Archer attacked a police officer invoking ISIS and a Maryland man, Malik Alim Jones was arrested for his involvement with al-Qa’ida affiliate al-Shabaab.  

These latest attacks and events further builds on the recent 51 minute al-Shabaab recruitment video targeting and recruiting African American youth to jihad which is part of a decades’ long effort by violent extremists to specifically recruit from troubled, dissociated and vulnerable segments of the community. Since 2008, Al-Qaida’s then second in command Ayman al Zawahiri sought to interlace domestic African American racial grievances with the global jihad movement. In a video message after President Barack Obama election. Zawahiri’s message presented video motifs of Malcolm X, attempting to exploit historical African American Muslim activism as a potential means for future radicalization. However at the time, the message largely fell upon the deaf ears of mainstream and African American media.

Historically, segments of the African American community have been exposed to multiple types of violent extremism because mainly urban marginalized communities have been impacted by perceived historic injustices making them vulnerable and easy fodder- appealing to a collective sense of injustice, feelings of deprivation and social alienation – the formula that violent extremists groups exploit to win over converts the way a gang recruits.

Since 2001, at least half of the most recent prominent attacks and plotting in the United States were carried out by U.S. born men.  Of them, at least 35 African American(non-African immigrant) converts were involved in these events and constituted one of the largest single ethnic group involved in these actions. These individuals’ stories and paths to radicalization reveal a variety of reasons for why this demographic group is joining ISIS – from social alienation to political grievances.”

The events in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, along with the growing popularity of America’s Black Lives Matters movement, has brought to the forefront issues between urban communities and the police into sharp focus especially among the broader African American community. Furthermore, these current challenges in urban communities throughout America have also convened ISIL facilitators and sympathizers seeking to capitalize on recent events. A number of online ISIL supporters over the past several months have used hashtags and twitter account feeds to express their solidarity and support for African American youth negatively affected by the U.S. criminal justice system and perceived inequities as a way to appeal to them.

Recruitment efforts by extremists who identify with a fundamentalist interpretive are nothing new. Missionary activities started in the early 1990s when the reawakening of African American social identity coincided with the aggressive recruitment mission undertaken by wealthy Gulf based funders. In America, the epicenters of East Orange, New Jersey, and Philadelphia became recruiting grounds where lucrative educational scholarships, satellite exchanges with Saudi-based clerics and immediate infusions of cash into urban communities desperate for resources were provided.  Social media and the Internet have just made it more visible.  

The abovementioned incidents indicate that a small segment of African American converts have been exposed to and are readily susceptible to dangerous extremist rhetoric.  However, violent extremist messages can be mitigated. Social scientists indicate that the vast majority of African American Muslims represent an example of synergy between American and Islamic shared values. The examples of African American Muslims like hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco, Mara Brock Akil, film producer in Hollywood with shows like Girlfriends and the Jamie Foxx Show to name a few along with Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, two internationally notable African American Muslims, who despite being highly critical of past injustices within American society channeled their frustrations through the public and legal parameters. My own personal story as a third generation African American Muslim, whose professional and personal life represents the rich tradition of a multi religious and ethnic family is testimony of American pluralism. These examples and achievements should be targeted to the same African American youth that al-Shabaab’s recent video and other extremists prey upon in an effort to show a third way to channel frustration and violence.

About the Author:
Mr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim is a specialist on countering violent extremism and counter-radicalization issues. Mr. Fraser-Rahim is a Ph.D. candidate at Howard University and worked for the United States Government for more than a decade providing strategic analytical advice on CVE at the National Counterterrorism Center supporting directly the White House and the National Security Council.

 

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Imam Maajid Faheem ‘Ali, a pillar of the Muslim community in Savannah and the Lowcountry, was born July 18, 1953 in Savannah, Georgia. He was raised with his siblings, Carl and Patricia, by his mother Mrs. Luellen C. Walker. Maajid graduated as the Senior Class President, with honors, from Alfred Ely Beach High School in 1971. He is a 1976, cum laude graduate of Savannah State College, earning his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Criminal Justice. During his matriculation, he was on the dean’s list, freshman class president, and, he was a member of the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society.

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In February of 1974, he became a member of the Nation of Islam movement, under The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and in 1975, he transitioned to Al-Islam, under the global leadership of Imam W.D. Mohammed. In November of 1976, he was elected Imam (religious leader) of the mosque in Savannah, Masjid Jihad, Inc., where he continued to serve until his passing. In his early years as Imam, Maajid provided exceptional and progressive religious leadership to the local Muslim community and the inmate populations at regional correctional facilities. He was also at the forefront of several Islamic-based, community engagement and awareness initiatives, including C.R.A.I.D. (Committee to Remove All Images of the Divine), and Islamic Neighborhood Watch. For almost 40 years, he gave weekly Jumu’ah khutbahs (lecture and prayer service), led Arabic and Islamic studies classes at the Masjid, officiated countless weddings, and presided the Janaazah (Islamic funeral and burial) services for community members.

In the early 80’s and 90’s Imam ‘Ali continued to increase his Islamic knowledge and develop his Islamic leadership skills through training and travel. In 1978, he was selected as a participant of the Muslim World League’s (Rabitat Al-‘Alam Al-Islami) sponsored Imam’s Training Program. In 1984, he served as the regional leader for the Southern Region’s Council of Imams (Majlis Ash-Shura). In 1992, he was again selected to study Qur’anic recitation, Arabic, Fiqh and Islamic Studies at Sayyid Maududi International Islamic Institute in Lahore, Pakistan. In 1996, Imam ‘Ali hosted Imam W.D. Mohammed, world renowned leader of the then Muslim American Society, for an historic address at Savannah State University. Additionally, he performed the Hajj pilgrimage, a once in a lifetime journey, to Makkah, Saudia Arabia in 2003. He made this pilgrimage for a second time in 2007 with his wife, Sakinah and daughter, Sadaqah, where he delivered the khutbah in ‘Arafah for his delegation.

As the Imam of Savannah’s first and oldest masjid, Maajid was an advocate for religious integrity, ensuring those who he encountered were left with an understanding of true Al-Islam. Over the years he has lectured to thousands of individuals, including congregations at other Masaajid throughout the southeastern United States, as well as school aged students, college students, and the general public. In 2006, he was an invited lecturer at the Coastal Georgia-Caroline Phi Beta Kappa Association, speaking on religious tolerance. Imam ‘Ali was also an invited speaker at the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild, and the Kiwanis Club of Savannah. In 2014, he was a guest lecturer at an Islamic Studies class at The University of South Carolina, Beaufort Campus.

Imam ‘Ali hosted a weekly broadcast “Rebirth of America”, which provided a forum for discussing socio-religious concerns and clarifying misconceptions about the religion of Al-Islam. The broadcast began on the local radio station WSOK in 1982, and later transitioned to cable access television from 1988 to 2001. In 2006, he reprised his role as television host, this time for “Renaissance and Reformation: Issues and Answers” which served as a platform for providing Qur’anic-based information concerning the religion of Al-Islam. He has been interviewed by staff of local newspapers and magazines, including The Savannah Morning News, The Georgia Gazette, The South Magazine, and The Georgia Guardian. Imam ‘Ali published several articles in The Herald, The Savannah Tribune, and the national weekly Muslim newspaper - The Muslim Journal.

Engaging the community as the representative for Muslims in Savannah, Imam ‘Ali was involved in several regional civic events. He gave the Interfaith Benediction for the inauguration of Mayor Floyd Adams (1996 and 2000), Mayor Otis Johnson (2004 and 2008), Mayor Edna Jackson (2012), and current Mayor Eddie DeLoach (2016). Imam ‘Ali also gave the benediction for City Council meetings, and he was the first Imam to deliver the Invocation for the Chatham County Commissioner’s Meeting in 2013. Additionally, Imam Maajid was a 1998 graduate of the Chamber of Commerce sponsored Leadership Savannah program. He was appointed to numerous civic organizations, including the Mayor’s Human Relations Commission in 1996, and the Beaufort County Community Relations Council in 2015.

A firm believer in the common core of the Abrahamic faiths, Imam ‘Ali had prominent roles in spearheading several Interfaith and religious education programs. He participated with Religious Trilogies and Symposia sponsored by Savannah State, Armstrong Atlantic State, and Georgia Southern Universities. He was a friend of several local religious and faith leaders, and an invited speaker at several churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions in Savannah and the Lowcountry, including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Bluffton Unitarian Church, and the Union for Reform Judaism. Since 2010, Imam ‘Ali has participated in the Interfaith dialogue, the Weekend of Twinning, with Temple Mickve Israel Synagogue. Since 2012, He has also participated in the weekend of Tripletting, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim coordination of the Shabbat Service at temple Mickve Israel Synagogue. With Masjid Jihad, Inc. Imam Maajid participated in Congregations in Service, a weekend of collaboration among interfaith congregations to complete community service projects throughout Savannah. He also gave the Invocation and Benediction for the Commencement Exercises at Savannah State University (2004), and the Martin Luther King Businessman’s Breakfast on several occasions.

A celebrated leader, Imam Maajid ‘Ali received countless awards and honors from various community, service based, civic, and religious organizations. More recently, he was highlighted in The South Magazine “Faces of Faith” feature. In 2007, this same feature was subsequently highlighted as 27 out of 50 of The South Magazine’s fifty greatest moments. In 2013, he was an honored guest at The Atlanta Society of Muslim Men 10th Anniversary Weekend. Since his passing, The City of Savannah, recognized the life and contributions of Imam ‘Ali with a resolution from Mayor Eddie DeLoach.

In addition to his religious duties as Imam, for approximately sixteen years, he was employed as a counselor with Tidelands Community Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Center. His work involved assisting the chronically mentally handicapped clients in a day treatment program. He helped them to acquire basic social and life skills, develop sustainable money management practices, and secure viable work experience at Tidelands’ Thrift Shop. He provided clients with GED preparation in the subjects of reading and math. He assisted with providing individual, group, and family counseling.

Maajid has three sons from two previous relationships. His oldest is Shawn Castle, whose mother is Tina Herb of Savannah, GA. He was married to Jacqueline Burch. Out of their union came two additional sons, Rashid Castle ‘Ali, and Raphael Castle.

Maajid is married to Sakinah Ziyadah ‘Ali, they would celebrate their 38th anniversary on March 3, 2016. Sakinah worked tirelessly alongside her husband in several of his Masjid, leadership, and community activities. Sakinah was the primary educator of their four children, having homeschooled them in their elementary school years. She continued to serve an active role in their education throughout their high school and collegiate years.

The pursuit of higher education was heavily emphasized with Maajid’s children. Furthermore; the significance of a supportive environment and cultural diversity is exhibited through the majority of his children’s attendance and graduation from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Rashid, earned his Bachelor’s of Science in History from Georgia Southwestern University. Zarinah earned her B.S. in Biology from Tuskegee University, and Master’s of Public Health (MPH) from Morehouse School of Medicine. Muslimah earned her undergraduate degree in Biology from Talladega College, and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Anatomy and Neuroscience from Howard University. Ikhlaas studied Business Marketing at Albany State and Savannah State University. Sadaqah also followed in her father’s footsteps and attended Savannah State University, graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor’s in Sociology.

Maajid passed February 27, 2016 after suffering from a heart attack while walking around Lake Mayer. He is preceded in death by his brother Sam Carl Castle, III (1992); mother, Luellen C. Walker (2004); son, Raphael Castle (2005); and father, Nelson David (2006). He is survived by his dedicated wife, Sakinah Ziyadah ‘Ali; sister Pat Chi (Sungwon); children: Shawn Castle, Rashid Castle ‘Ali (Julia), Zarinah ‘Ali Johnson (Kevin), Muslimah ‘Ali Najee-ullah (Tariq), Ikhlaas ‘Ali (Ebony), and Sadaqah Ihsaan ‘Ali; and four grandchildren: Amirah Aris ‘Ali (9); Tanzeelah Bilqis Najee-ullah (5), Yusriyyah Duhaa Najee-ullah (2); and Quddus Abdullah ‘Ali Johnson (2 months); a host of nieces and nephews and extended family members. He also leaves behind his beloved congregation at Masjid Jihad, members of the broader Muslim community, and the community at large.

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By Lyndon A. Bilal, MAVA National Commander

On Saturday, February 27, 2016, The Muslim American Veterans Association was invited to participate and speak at a national rally organized by Veterans for Peace (VFP). On this sunny, chilly, day over 200 military veterans and supporters gathered together in solidarity outside of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC)  to let our voices be heard around the world that we will not be silent and relent to the rhetoric, and actions by others that threaten the life of innocent Muslim’s wherever they may be.

Pat Scanlan of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace, organized this event and sent out communication to his national network stating “We as veterans who have served this country, will gather together to declare that Muslims are not the enemy. Violence directed toward Muslims in this country is unacceptable and un-American. We call for this verbal and physical harassment to end immediately”.

Imam Taalib Mahdee of Boston’s historic Masjid Al Qur’an helped to organize the event and was the first speaker. In his opening comments he remarked that the type of support being demonstrated at this event gives hope not only for the United States, but for all humanity, and that scripture reminds us “O’ believers, stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to G-d, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives, and whether rich or poor: for G-d can protect both”.  Imam Mahdee’s opening comments were followed by Methodist Minister James Todd who spoke of the overwhelming message in his faith was that all people are created equal, and ought to be received with love, care, and support, every day of our lives.

Other speakers on this awesome program included:  Hoda El-Tomi – Mercy to All Mankind, Eric Wasileski – Midnight Voices, Bob Funke- VFP, Yusufi Vali – ISBCC, Nicole Waybright – VFP, Alfred Davis – Roxbury Veterans Group, Kourtney Mitchell – VFP,  Dr John Robbins – Council on American Islamic Relations, Calib Nelson – Warrior Writers, Erin Leach-Ogden – William Joiner Institute, Barry Ladendorf – VFP National President, Lyndon Bilal – MAVA National Commander, Joy Cumming – Adjutant Department of Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Bill Evans – Commissioner Boston Police Department.

Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans stated “We are all Muslims deep down, we all stand for peace, and peace is our main goal, and we will not stand for bigotry. The Boston police and the city of Boston love Muslims”.  In his closing remarks Pat Scanlon reiterated the theme that was echoed throughout the morning, and admonished the attendees to take the messages they heard home with them and live by them, and don’t allow prejudice, bigotry, and Islamophobia to fester. If you see someone talking or acting in this manner, take a stand, because we are Veterans that must stand for what is right and American. It’s up to all of us to stand up and bring this un-American behavior to an end.

After the rally concluded all attendees were invited inside the Masjid to observe the congregational Noon Prayer being performed by the Muslims. Additionally, refreshments were served by the host Masjid, and a question / answer session was conducted for the guests, as well.

Please respect, support, and assist, your military service members, and consider joining a MAVA Post near you. To find out more about MAVA, and to start a post where you live visit: http://mavanational.com/ and on Facebook.   

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By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
Watching CNN’s coverage of President Barack Obama’s speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, what stood out was Chris Cuomo’s and his co-anchor’s presentation of two Muslim responses to the president’s visit – both of them negative tweets. And they as journalists only questioned “why now?” We of the Muslim American community in association with Imam W. Deen Mohammed and with many other Muslim community broadly commended the President. We listened to his words and were moved in the spirit that he used to address all issues; no white elephants in the room were left unnoticed. “Why now?” Why not now? When would have been a good time. Muslims say, “We plan and God plans, and God is the Best of Planners.” The timely was planned well; it would have been unfortunate if the president had left office without making such a visit. Those who have found a loud voice to support their disdain for Al Islam would like to deny its recognition among the faiths protected in our U.S. Constitution.

Those against Islam having its “rightful place” in American society and history were ready to pounce on the least hit of “cajoling with the enemy” they may find in the president’s speech. President Obama acknowledge the Muslim architect who designed the Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the U.S. and to some degree still holds the distinction of the tallest building of “useable floors” – not simply tall towers. Some have even forgotten that they “count” with ARABIC numbers! We take this opportunity to preserve President Obama’s talk in full in the archives of the Muslim Journal. They are enjoyable words, insightful words, marching orders per say to owning up to our responsibility to our country and to the world. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, Feb. 3, 2016, Islamic Society of Baltimore: Sabah, thank you for the wonderful introduction and for your example - your devotion to your faith and your education, and your service to others. You’re an inspiration. You’re going to be a fantastic doctor. And I suspect, Sabah, your parents are here because they wanted to see you so - where are Sabah’s parents? There you go. Good job, Mom. She did great, didn’t she? She was terrific. To everyone here at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, thank you for welcoming me here today. I want to thank Muslim American leaders from across this city and this state, and some who traveled even from out of state to be here. I want to recognize Congressman John Sarbanes, who is here. As well as two other great leaders in Congress - and proud Muslim Americans - Congressman Keith Ellison from the great state of Minnesota and Congressman Andre Carson from the great state of Indiana.

This mosque, like so many in our country, is an all American story. You’ve been part of this city for nearly half a century. You serve thousands of families - some who’ve lived here for decades as well as immigrants from many countries; who’ve worked to become proud American citizens. Now, a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque. To the folks watching this today who haven’t - think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar. This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other. There’s a school where teachers open young minds. Kids play baseball and football and basketball - boys and girls - I hear they’re pretty good. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts meet, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance here. With interfaith dialogue, you build bridges of understanding with other faith communities - Christians and Jews. There’s a health clinic that serves the needy, regardless of their faith. And members of this community are out in the broader community, working for social justice and urban development. As voters, you come here to meet candidates. As one of your members said, “Just look at the way we live...; we are true Americans.” So the first thing I want to say is two words that Muslim Americans don’t hear often enough - and that is thank you. Thank you for serving your community. Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors, and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family. We are grateful for that. Now, this brings me to the other reason I wanted to come here today.

I know that in Muslim communities across our country, this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear. Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism. But on top of that, as Muslim Americans, you also have another concern - and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few. The Muslim American community remains relatively small - several million people in this country. And as a result, most Americans don’t necessarily know - or at least don't know that they know - a Muslim personally. And as a result, many only hear about Muslims and Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals in TV or film, all of which gives this hugely distorted impression. And since 9/11, but more recently, since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, you’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith. And of course, recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country. No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged. Here at this mosque, twice last year, threats were made against your children. Around the country, women wearing the hijab - just like Sabah - have been targeted. We’ve seen children bullied. We’ve seen mosques vandalized. Sikh Americans and others who are perceived to be Muslims have been targeted, as well. I just had a chance to meet with some extraordinary Muslim Americans from across the country who are doing all sorts of work. Some of them are doctors; some of them are community leaders; religious leaders. All of them were doing extraordinary work not just in the Muslim community but in the American community. And they’re proud of their work in business and education, and on behalf of social justice and the environment and education.

I should point out they were all much younger than me - which is happening more frequently these days. And you couldn’t help but be inspired, hearing about the extraordinary work that they’re doing. But you also could not help but be heartbroken to hear their worries and their anxieties. Some of them are parents, and they talked about how their children were asking, “are we going to be forced out of the country,” or “are we “going to be rounded up?”; “Why do people treat us like that?” Conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children - not in this country. Not at this moment. And that’s an anxiety echoed in letters I get from Muslim Americans around the country. I’ve had people write to me and say, “I feel like I’m a second-class citizen.” I’ve had mothers write and say, “my heart cries every night,” thinking about how her daughter might be treated at school. A girl from Ohio, 13 years old, told me, “I’m scared.” A girl from Texas signed her letter “a confused 14-year-old trying to find her place in the world.” These are children just like mine. And the notion that they would be filled with doubt and questioning their places in this great country of ours at a time when they’ve got enough to worry about - it’s hard being a teenager already - that’s not who we are. We’re one American family.

And when any part of our family starts to feel separate or second-class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation. It’s a challenge to our values - and that means we have much work to do. We’ve got to tackle this head on. We have to be honest and clear about it. And we have to speak out. This is a moment when, as Americans, we have to truly listen to each other and learn from each other. And I believe it has to begin with a common understanding of some basic facts. And I express these facts, although they’d be obvious to many of the people in this place, because, unfortunately, it’s not facts that are communicated on a regular basis through our media. So let’s start with this fact: For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam - peace. The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum - peace be upon you. And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity. Whoever wants to enter p a r a d i s e , t h e P r o p h e t Muhammad taught, “let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.” For Christians, like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are as diverse as humanity itself. They are Arabs and Africans. They're from Latin America to Southeast Asia; Brazilians, Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians. They are white and brown and black. There’s a large African American Muslim community. That diversity is represented here today. A 14-year-old boy in Texas who’s Muslim spoke for many when he wrote to me and said, “We just want to live in peace.” Here’s another fact: Islam has always been part of America. Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim. And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive. A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans. And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions. Back then, Muslims were often called Mahometans. And Thomas Jefferson explained that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom he wrote was designed to protect all faiths. And I’m quoting Thomas Jefferson now: “The Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan” (as Muslims were once called. Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Qur’an. Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.” So this is not a new thing. Generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation. They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants.

They built America’s first mosque, surprisingly enough, in North Dakota. America’s oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa. The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s. Muslim Americans worked on Henry Ford’s assembly line, cranking out cars. A Muslim American designed the skyscrapers of Chicago. In 1957, when dedicating the Islamic center in Washington, D.C., President Eisenhower said, “I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution … and in American hearts … this place of worship is just as welcome … as any other religion.” And perhaps the most pertinent fact, Muslim Americans enrich our lives today in every way. They’re our neighbors, the teachers who inspire our children, the doctors who trust us with our health - future doctors like Sabah. They’re scientists who win Nobel Prizes, young entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies that we use all the time. They’re the sports heroes we cheer for — like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon. And by the way, when Team USA marches into the next Olympics, one of the Americans waving the red, white and blue - will be a fencing champion, wearing her hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is here today. Stand up. I told her to bring home the gold. Not to put any pressure on you.

Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They're in homeland security, in our intelligence community. They serve honorably in our armed forces - meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom. Some rest in Arlington National Cemetery. So Muslim Americans are some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you’ll ever meet. We’re honored to have some of our proud Muslim American service members here today. Please stand if you're here, so we can thank you for your service. So part of the reason I want to lay out these facts is because, in the discussions that I was having with these incredibly accomplished young people, they were pointing that so often they felt invisible. And part of what we have to do is to lift up the contributions of the Muslim American community not when there’s a problem, but all the time. Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security - because it’s not that hard to do. There was a time when there were no black people on television. And you can tell good stories while still representing the reality of our communities. Now, we do have another fact that we have to acknowledge. Even as the overwhelming majority - and I repeat, the overwhelming majority - of the world’s Muslims embrace Islam as a source of peace, it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.

This is the truth. Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, they’re not the first extremists in history to misuse God’s name. We’ve seen it before, across faiths. But right now, there is an organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror. They combine it with false claims that America and the West are at war with Islam. And this warped thinking that has found adherents around the world - including, as we saw, tragically, in Boston and Chattanooga and San Bernardino - is real.

It’s there. And it creates tensions and pressure that disproportionately burden the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Muslim citizens. And the question then is, how do we move forward together? How do we keep our country strong and united? How do we defend ourselves against organizations that are bent on killing innocents? And it can’t be the work of any one faith alone. It can’t be just a burden on the Muslim community - although the Muslim community has to play a role. We all have responsibilities. So with the time I have left, I just want to suggest a few principles that I believe can guide us. First, at a time when others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect, we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: We are all God’s children. We’re all born equal, with inherent dignity. And so often, we focus on our outward differences and we forget how much we share. Christians, Jews, Muslims - we’re all, under our faiths, descendants of Abraham. So mere tolerance of different religions is not enough. Our faiths summon us to embrace our common humanity. “O mankind,” the Koran teaches, we have “made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” So all of us have the task of expressing our religious faith in a way that seeks to build bridges rather than to divide. Second, as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. I already mentioned our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation - if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state.

Continue Reading in the next issue of Muslim Journal.

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Photo from Hidden Colors DVD series.

By Imam John S. Bilal II

Dr_Welsing2 O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.  And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (13)

Early Saturday morning on January 2nd, 2016 Dr. Francis Cress Welsing returned to Allah (SWT) in the company of family, a few close friends and students at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC. Dr. Welsing was a psychiatrist, clinical practitioner, teacher, lecturer, down-to-earth friend, and staunch advocate for the mental health of African American people. Her many constructive works remain as a legacy of her phenomenal intellectual force in America psychiatry as nobly produced from the descendants of slaves.

Frances Luella Cress was born in 1935, at Chicago, Illinois to highly educated parents.  In 1957, she earned her B.S. Degree from Antioch College and in 1962, earned a degree in Psychiatry from Howard University College of Medicine.

She earned her doctorate at the very start of the so-called "Black Power Movement" and two years prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Dr. Welsing immediately challenged herself to respond to the mental health crises of non-white people, specifically, those people who had just begun to self-identify as "Black" people.  Dr. Welsing would work for many years as Clinical Director and Staff Physician with the Washington D.C. Department of Human Services, where she helped emotionally disturbed children. The sixties were tumultuous years in the United States.  Jim Crow laws had been struck down in the courts and African Americans were feeling freer than ever to move out into fields of opportunity which had been formerly unattainable, however, hundreds of years of racism and oppression had left a mark on the victims of that system and the perpetrators.  Dr. Welsing was one of many who heard the call to heal the wounds in a decade of great change.

Welsing tells the story of how she came to her theories about racism. She’d been invited many times to attend one of the Black Power meetings in Washington, DC, and one day a voice came to her quietly and convinced her to go. While at that meeting, she overheard a gentleman talking about racism as a local, national, global system; a concept she’d never heard before.  His name was Neely Fuller Jr. and the name of his concept was called the United Independent Compensatory Code System Concept, called "The Code" for short.  Fuller claims his work and any work to decipher the deceptive system of racism must be derived from progressively purified logic.  The Code presents information to decode White Supremacy and reveals to its victims, what it is, and how it works and what specific things should done to lessen the damage and further, how to eradicate it. Dr. Welsing says when she asked Fuller about why the racists practice racism he said it doesn’t matter why, it’s already here and needs to be dealt with. As a trained psychiatrist Welsing needed an answer to that question and spent several years thinking about it. "I was standing at the sink doing dishes with my hands in the water and it struck me”.   This was the beginning of the Cress Theory of Color Confrontation which postulates the reason white people commit racist aggression towards non-white people is because they are responding to the threat of white genetic annihilation by the non-white people on planet earth.

Dr_Welsing1As a young student in the University of Islam, I listened attentively to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his ministers teach something quite similar to that idea - the idea of Yacub’s grafted devil.  While that idea never really appealed to my young mind, the concept of genetic material being used to graft a human being, I got that part, I could understand it and it was fascinating. Fast forward to a time when Imam W. Deen Mohammed was giving birth to our logical minds against the winds of emotion as he made classic lectures like “Circumcision of the Mind”, “Artificial Brains” and the “Appetites Unchecked By Knowledge” and other probing topics, like most of the Muslims who had been followers in the Nation of Islam and later followed Imam W. Deen Mohammed into a true practice of Al Islam, I found myself attracted to any information which helped me separate the truth from the lie in the old race based language of the Nation of Islam.  The intellectual work of Dr. Welsing helped me make that transition. What appealed most to me was the use of logical thinking to understand racism, when decoding racism, if your logic isn’t pure your conclusion will be incorrect and less than effective.  

In 1973 Dr. Welsing debated Dr. William Shockley, an American Physicist who had in 1956, won a joint Nobel Prize in Physics for his part in the invention of the transistor.  Shockley was a proponent of eugenics and was speaking around the country on college campuses advocating a program of forced birth control which would largely fall upon non-white people, “the negro”.  Welsing won that debate, shutting Shockley down with her logical arguments.  After the interview, Dr. Shockley quickly vanished into obscurity.

In her 1991, seminal treatise - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors, Dr. Welsing offers her readers a compelling reason for why the injustice of racism. She opens her book with a dedication: This work is dedicated to the victims of the global system of white supremacy (racism), all non-white people worldwide, past and present, who have resolved to end this great travesty and bring justice, then peace to planet Earth". Then Dr. Welsing says, no one should speak about racism until they have informed themselves properly about racism, and recommends reading materials, and films.

The tremendous pressure of chattel slavery on its victims caused the finest hearts to bathe in the soothing waters of righteousness and the minds to immerse themselves in the cooling fire of pure logic. We know the history of the struggle for dignity and those foremost fighters who were at the cutting edge; the names are etched now in the face of time - Fredrick Douglas, Denmark Vessey, Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Mary McCleod Bethune, Noble Drew Ali, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm Shabazz, Imam W. Deen Mohammed and many others. They are the workers that opened the path for the thinkers today; their works are at the root of Dr. Welsing’s work and her words and ideas are helping to bring understanding to future generations of young people to make sense of and how to guard against the evils of racism.  

Dr. Welsing's importance in history should not be minimized because she made us feel uncomfortable. The truth is, her work was designed to take us out of our comfort zones, to make us all think more deeply and commit to act against what is arguably one of the world's most persistent and intractable problems - Racism/White Supremacy.  The good doctor wanted more than anything to see all people think, speak and act to eradicate the entire system of White Supremacy worldwide.  Dr. Welsing knew we would be uncomfortable and tells story after story in her lectures to bring home the detailed ugliness of “color sickness”.  Too many of us still suffer from subtle forms of racist aggression, and too many are still in denial that white supremacy exists in our world, and too many of us don't want to think and behave in ways to end the practice.   Welsing was a true intellectual who routinely dispensed penetrating scientific and cultural evidence designed to move the people to finally become determined to replace the system of Racism with a system of Justice.   

Dr. Welsing gave monthly lectures for many years at Howard University which she carried on until her very last lecture two weeks before she passed away.  A tribute will be held in her memory at the Howard University Crampton Auditorium on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016, from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm. The public is invited to attend.

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WeBuyBlack.com owner Shareef Abdul-Malik

By: Shahid Abdul-Karim

www.shahidabdulkarim.com

Nationwide - Shareef Abdul-Malik believes in doing for self.

That’s why he created WeBuyBlack.com, an online marketplace for black-owned businesses and sellers.

“It allows small black-owned businesses to grow by being exposed to an international market; it’s the largest online marketplace for black-owned businesses and sellers.” said web owner and entrepreneur Abdul-Malik, 23, of Washington D.C. These black-owned businesses may hire and create employment opportunities for those in our local communities."

final_logo

The website launched June 19, celebrating the 150 year anniversary of Juneteenth.

Since its launch, the site has over 2,000 registered businesses and sellers; more than 4,500 products uploaded and have reached 500,000 page views.

In December, the site garnered over 105,000 page views, according to Abdul-Malik.

WeBuyBlack.com owner Shareef Abdul-Malik
WeBuyBlack.com owner Shareef Abdul-Malik

There is no fee to upload a product to the site.

Abdul-Malik said he’d been inspired by institutions such as the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma that served the needs of the black community.

“This is a long term result after inspirational institutions such as the Black Wall Street which was burned down, ridding hope of family and community survival, financial independence, and the collective motivation to build for our next generation's well-being,” said Abdul-Malik, a Howard University graduate.

“I didn't come up with the idea of We Buy Black, I manifested the idea. I researched the needs in our community and the solution came to me by the words of "Do-for-self," A concept I have been raised upon.”

Starting Feb. 1, the company will launch its largest campaign to circulate $100,000,000 on the website through Feb. 1, 2017. African-Americans have a current buying power of $1 trillion which is forecasted to reach $1.3 trillion by year 2017, according to a report published by www.nielsen.com

“The vendors asked for a more comprehensive platform that would allow for them to fully commit and launch their shops on the site,” said Abdul-Malik.

The company then hired a black owned engineering firm to reconfigure the website, adding features that will allow the black community to fully circulate its dollar within its own community, according to Abdul-Malik.

For an example, the site will allow non-profit organizations to apply for a referral code. “This code may be distributed to their congregations and supporters. When their supporters purchase from the site, they’ll enter that referral code and the organization will receive up to one percent of every purchase,” said Abdul-Malik.

Abdul-Malik said individuals may also apply for a referral code. “They are then able to sign up businesses and receive up to one percent of the businesses' sales,” he said. “The beauty is vendors will always receive their full commission and will lose absolutely nothing by allowing someone to sign them up.

In addition to the referral system code, the site will allow customers to subscribe and receive their product on schedule, without having to reorder. Businesses who already sell subscription plans will now be able to incorporate their business on the site, according to website staff.

“When I first learned of WeBuyBlack.com, I was thrilled to see that something like this was being done. I signed on as a vendor thinking it would be another way to showcase products; to my surprise and delight things have gone very well quickly,” said Angela Williams, 37, of Kentucky, who started Forever Regal, a website offering a wide range of products imported or inspired by Africa.

“The customer responses have been amazing,” she said, “The team at WeBuyBlack.com have been supportive beyond my expectation.”

The site has attracted black-owned businesses from many parts of the world such as the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Australia, Kenya, and Canada.

Phoebe Mwanza, owner of The Prodigal Daughter, an Australian clothing and accessories label said her company is proud to be part of WeBuyBlack.com.

“WeBuyBlack.com is an important platform for those that want to support black-owned businesses like ours and for young businesses that would otherwise not have similar opportunities,” said Mwanza.

For more information about the site connect through social media at: www.instagram.com/webuyblack/ www.facebook.com/webuyblackcom twitter.com/webuyblackcom

Press Contact:

For freelance writing and public relation inquires reach Shahid Abdul-Karim at shahidabdulkarim@gmail.com or at 203 605-3844.

 

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Philadelphia - December 4-6th, Muslim Journal hosts "A Time to be Grateful", a wonderful event in the "City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection" as Philadelphia, PA was coined over the weekend of events. Please check the print edition of the Muslim Journal for follow up article on the weekend festivities. Thank you to Masjidullah for being the hosting partner.

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Washington, D.C. - At the recent Celebration of the Rehabilitation of the Jewish Cemeteries of Morocco: The Houses of Life, held at the U.S. Senate, the Kingdom of Morocco bestowed their highest Royal Medal and honor on Imam Talib Shareef along with the Hon. Rabbi Bruce Lustig, and H.E. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, for their interfaith leadership and works.

Those in attendance, numbering around 150, were the representatives of his  majesty the King of Morocco, H.E. Serge Berdugo, H.E. Ahmed Toufiq, joined by Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Andre Carson, Mr. Jason Isaacson, other members of Congress, State Department officials, Senior members of the diplomatic corps, members of the faith communities, and all other distinguished persons.

Politics

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By Nusayba Hammad, Communications Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (nusayba@uscpr.org) WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an act unprecedented in recent history, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand...
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