Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Park51 comes to Dubai

Last night the Dubai School of Government, DSG, in partnership with the United States Consulate held a forum and Iftar where Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke about “the very definition of the American existential viewpoint [being] consistent with the very thinking of Muslim scholars.” I know all of us have heard and read about the debacle/debate surrounding the Park 51 proposal in Manhattan. When I was told we were going to meet him at the Iftar, I was very interested to hear from the man at the center of it all.

Hend and I arrived early to help the staff handle the crowds and swarms of media. CNN, Gulf News, ABC news, The Associated Press, and Huffington Post, as well as many local journalist, stormed the lobby of DSG in an attempt to get pictures, videos, and statements from the Imam. All this was to no avail because the strict policy that no video was allowed of the Imam and only 5 minutes of photography before he began his remarks. Of course they call them media dogs for a reason.  They got their pictures during Iftar and during the beginning of his talk. Media is not a pretty business, they do what they want  to get the story and shot they need. It was all a bit overwhelming. The snaps and shutters of camera lenses seemed endless. It really made me feel, if only a bit, for celebrities. How tiresome to constantly be followed by a pack of determined photographers. The plus side is, if you stood close enough to the Imam you may be pictured too!
Compliments of The National
On to the discussion and words of Imam Feisal. In summary, I can only say I wish you guys had been there. In a calm and most eloquent matter he spoke about the compatibility and parallels between the fundamental American viewpoint and Islam. I had geared up to hear a series of bullet points and sound bites created by the State Department, but his words were genuine and logical. There were three particular things he said that really resonated with me:

1. America helped us "find" our deen. By this he meant that when growing up in a Muslim society when it came to religion “you practise your faith because it is a social norm,”  But in America the choice to practice is yours. Society doesn't force you to practice. You make the decision and take the steps needed to strengthen your faith. “The more something is a choice, the more it is yours. The less something is a choice, the less it is yours. There is no responsibility without choice”

 This struck me because it made me think of all the people I know, my parents included, who became better Muslims once leaving a Muslim country.

2. Muslims today have become consumed with protecting and promoting Islam as a noun. In reality Islam is a verb, it is something you do. We have forgotten to practice and fulfill our obligations within Islam. We are worried with what people say about Islam and give less mind to what is required of us as Muslims.

3.We bring people understanding of our faith through actions. Lead by example. If everyone was suppose to be Muslim, Allah (swt) could have made it that way. Compelling or forcing people to Islam is not the way. Even in the Quran it says:  لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ  Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.

Masha'Allah I think Imam Feisal to be very wise and educated.  He is very level headed and moderate. No one in the media can accuse this guy of being extreme or radical; his wife, Daisy,  (interestingly enough doesn't wear Hijab) is very active in the community promoting Islam and gender equality . His voice is a moderate and logical one. We need more Imam Feisals in America.


  1. Salaam missy!

    LOVED this post. I really loved that quote about choice too.. it's so true

    He gave some good points to think about for sure... it is more important to think about what we are required to do as Muslims rather than worry about the image as much. And that brings the last point home, because if we do worry more about ourselves, that will inevitably allow us to lead by example.

    thanks assia!

  2. Subhanallah the point about being more worried with practicing your faith as opposed to people's vision of Islam is exactly what we were talkin about that night in Dearborn, remember? Okayyou'recomingaroundmashallah....

  3. This was a great post Assia!!

  4. love love love! wallahi sadag-- living in the west, i know i am more conscious of the deen and actively working towards bettering myself-- i don't want to generalize, but i feel like in libya it's not on the forefront- you have the extreme muslims there, but often even then they follow it so strictly because of their parents, because it is what they are used to. everyone practices to the level that they practice because it is the norm... but here, often we feel lost in this world, and actively pursuing our deen makes us stronger in it, alhamdillah. Of course, it works to the opposite-- growing up in the West can make it easier to turn away from even the smallest forms of practice, because it isn't a social norm... but for those who hold onto it, it's stronger because of the effort it takes to find it in the West.