Trump’s Forgotten Muslims & Terror–Fighting Back

While many across the US were celebrating the legacy of Malcolm X, President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia ironically—or conveniently—omitted the historic and dynamic role of Muslims in America. The effects of this omission were exacerbated by the recent horrific attacks in Manchester, London, and other cities carried out by violent extremists determined to perpetuate the false perception that Muslims are agents of terror and barbarity.

I continue to believe that neither a mere condemnation of these acts, nor publicly aligning ourselves with President Trump’s message to Muslim-majority countries, would do much in the way of fighting back against those who pervert our faith and seek to manipulate fear and hate against Muslim communities. Instead, I believe with great conviction that the type of work we are blessed to do at IMAN matters more now than it ever has.

This work commits itself to making a real difference on the ground in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago and now Atlanta. This work seeks to operate in alignment and alliance with diverse communities to creatively re-imagine our communities, city and world as they could be. This work is, in every way possible, antithetical to the acts of terror that deranged individuals associate with our faith.

As IMAN celebrates its 20th year, I couldn’t be more inspired by the work that our dynamic team of leaders and staff are driving everyday. This Ramadan, IMAN publicly launched an exciting $1,000,000 Ramadan Drive. We thank our supporters of all backgrounds across the country and the globe. We ask you to keep this work in your prayers, and help us to meet and exceed our aspirations via your generous zakat-eligible and tax-deductible donations.

At a time when divisive conversations about Muslims, Islam and terror continue to circulate worldwide, I hope you believe as deeply as I do that supporting this type of work is one of the most powerful ways to push back against the pervasive forces of hate, terror and despair.

Striving for Light

I have always taken great inspiration from the prophetic prayer beseeching the Creator to make us a source of Divine Light. I know these last few weeks have felt a little darker for many of us. Yet, at IMAN, we often talk about aspiring to be a light rather than just curse the darkness.

My prayer is that you and your family can take solace in the fact that people like you have built IMAN over the last two decades to be a source of light and hope in the face of challenging times. For thousands of families from all walks of life that are direct recipients of our services, leaders in our organizing campaigns or attendees at our inspiring arts events, that’s exactly what IMAN has come to mean to them.

There have been several renewed calls for coalition, alliance and community building with our brothers and sisters from black, brown and other communities over the past few weeks. I am encouraged by those calls. Yet, I also know that such work needs more than just impassioned calls at times of great anxiety; it also needs sustained commitments to support and grow that work at the deepest levels.

In light of our current moment, I hope that you do all you can to ensure IMAN remains an illuminating source of inspiration by securing your table at this year’s Annual Dinner on Saturday, December 10th at the South Shore Cultural Center. As the legacy of Dr. King reminded us so poignantly this year, our journey to justice continues regardless of who is in office and how many decades have passed. We hope that you will be with us that night as we reflect and renew our commitment to that journey for the years to come.

Tired? Go Home!

“Tired? Go Home!” was one of the signs held up that hot August day in 1966. Over 5,000 people—grandmothers, young children and teenagers—were enraged by the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly 700 other Chicago Freedom Movement marchers walking through “their” neighborhood.

go home picYes, the marchers were tired. In the words of storied activist Fannie Lou Hamer, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They were tired of the fear, the racism and the hatred that unscrupulous realtors were exploiting to provoke bigotry and violence against blacks who dared to come anywhere near what Marquette Park residents claimed as “their homes.”

Yet, they fearlessly marched through the heart of the crowd, dodging rocks, bottles and nasty epithets from furious residents. King called the march and his Chicago campaign that summer a “first step in a 1000-mile journey.”

Fifty years later, the task of radically reimagining “home” remains urgent. The political rhetoric of our time constantly reminds us that the message of “Go Home” is still alive and well in America. Reimagining “home” as a safe, healthy, spiritually nourishing, culturally thriving space for all people has been at the heart of IMAN’s work for years. That mission is why Takin’ It to the Streets, hosted in the same park where Dr. King marched and bled, has always been so important.

In exactly one month, we will, inshAllah, retrace the historic steps of those courageous souls during the symbolic 1000 Mile March—a nine-block walk into Marquette Park that will lead into this year’s ‘Streets festival. The 1000 Mile March will evoke and celebrate the courage of the marchers 50 years ago, and remind us all that the journey to justice continues.

Marchers and festival attendees that day will be invited to visit Chicago’s first permanent memorial to Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement, an effort that IMAN has led alongside the Chicago Public Art Group for over two years. The memorial will stand as a challenge to never forget the ongoing struggles to fully realize King’s “beloved community” in Marquette Park and across America.

In Arabic, the root word for “home” carries meanings of peace and tranquility. At IMAN, our work to radically reimagine “home” in marginalized inner-city neighborhoods continues because you and others like you across this country invest in us, believing in our collective, sacred responsibility to make our home in America as equitable, just and peaceful as possible.

IMAN-Ramadan2015-ButtonI want to express my deepest appreciation for your support, prayers, hope and confidence in IMAN’s direct impact and its model. If there are others in your network who still haven’t contributed to our 2016 Ramadan Drive, please urge them to do so in the last few hours before this blessed month comes to a close.

Salaam,
Rami Nashashibi

Brother Ali: Truth-Teller & CommUNITY Café Headliner

He has performed hajj; written a song celebrating the election of the first black president; been arrested protesting with Occupy Homes; is a proud student of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed; and performed one of the most politically incendiary critiques of America’s complicated race legacy on a late night talk show in recent television memory. His lyrics are filled with deeply personal and autobiographical meditations of a White-American Muslim albino navigating the travails of race and marriage, and the struggles of everyday people. To some he is a contradiction, but to many of us he exemplifies what we love most about a particular truth-telling spirit and aesthetic in hip-hop, even as that spirit often gets tragically eclipsed or comprised by the overwhelming commercializing forces in the music industry.

As part of the recognition and attention he is getting for his latest album, Brother Ali was interviewed by Dr. Cornel West for the Smiley and West show. Listen here.

Yet, Brother Ali’s connection to this tradition speaks to one of the most remarkable and still under-reported aspects of the American Muslim legacy over the last 40 years: the emergence of a truth-telling spirit, aesthetic and expression within hip-hop, championed over the years by artists who either broadly self-identify as Muslim, or whose sensibilities have been deeply informed and widely influenced by an organic encounter with Islam. From Rakim in the pioneering 80s, to Mos Def in the globalizing 90s, to Lupe Fiasco in the new millennium, some of hip-hop’s most celebrated and accomplished artists come out of this experience.

Brother Ali speaks of and celebrates this legacy often. I first met with him in a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis with hopes of securing him for our 2005 Takin’ It to the Streets. We had a passionate conversation–the only kind you can have with this man–and he graciously agreed. Brother Ali would go on to appear at a number of IMAN events over the years and most recently performed at IMAN’s 15th Anniversary Takin’ it to the Streets, in 2013. The tension of honestly exploring the spectrum of raw emotions and experiences that makes well-crafted art truly transcendent, while remaining rooted in spiritual values that don’t degrade the substance of its expression, are among the conversations we continue to have.

That’s a large issue and the type of topic that can be debated for hours and if you were to have peeked in at IMAN’s 2011 Artist Retreat around dawn, you would have found Brother Ali energetically leading a seriously sleep-deprived congregation of fellow artists and activists for an animated post-Fajr reflection on such themes.

One thing that is less debatable is the fact that Brother Ali remains one of the realest and rawest talents in the industry, and attending a Brother Ali show is about as close as many in his audience will ever get to engaging and embracing an unapologetically universal expression of Islam’s emphasis on love, justice, mercy and empathy for our fellow human beings.