Jan 29, 2011
The following report was prepared by several observers of the thirteenth Annual Conference of the Muslim Student Association (West) held at UCLA from January 14 to 16. It is being disseminated not to embarrass the Muslim Student Association, but rather to inform the parents of those young Muslim students exactly what they were being told by the Imams. No responsible American Muslim parent would knowingly allow his or her children to listen to the advice of Imams -- several of whom have radical backgrounds -- and who counseled the youth to engage in jihad, reject American culture, and thwart efforts to ensure our homeland security. When there are so many positive outlets for student activism and community service, why would any parent want their children to join the MSA and wallow in the hatred and lies promoted by these backwater religious role models?
Overview: There were around 700 young Muslims at the annual MSA (West) conference. The ratio of women to men was about 2:1. The observers were amazed at the proficiency in the English language spoken without an accent, meaning that most of the attendees were American citizens of Muslim parents. Whenever the speakers used Arabic, they would usually translate it into English, meaning that most of the audience did not understand Arabic. The choice of speakers by the MSA is as revealing as what they said. These are the “role models” for the MSA, so additional information about them was added to the biographies which were provided at the conference. All meetings and social activities including the snack tables were strictly segregated by sex. About 95 percent of the women were wearing head coverings and modest, full-length clothes, and most of the men wore beards. There was also evidence of heavy financial support. Women conferees stayed in nearby hotels, but their portion of their room fees was only $25 for the conference. The sessions were intermixed with public prayers in the courtyards of the UCLA campus. (Note: bracketed and italics comments are clarifications and reactions added by the observers.)
Main Session II – Wild Flame (Arabic expression for Youth)
Speaker: Imam Mustafa Umar (former UC Irvine MSA leader. See video link at the end of the article.)
· Wild flames work better at night
· Direct the “wild flame” fire to be of some benefit to the community
· You are held accountable for what you do
· Resist outside influences – media, friends, etc.
· Seeking a career is inconsistent with what Islam teaches
· Young Muslims are raw material – when they believe
something they will give their lives for it
· You have to match your beliefs with actions
· How to control that “flame”? Be careful about --
o Who you take to be friends
o What you do with your free time
o Avoiding the trap of individualism
o Avoiding pop culture which leads to ignorance
o Dressing modestly, don’t wear brand names --
Don’t advertise on your rear ends
Speaker: Imam Ali Ataie -- Current PhD candidate at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, (an interreligious school) majoring in New Testament.
· If a youth reaches 20 and has nothing to be proud of, he will never have anything to be proud of.
· Time squeezes the life out of us doing unproductive things.
· Stay away from Facebook and other social sites
· It takes only 20 minutes to complete all of the required Muslim prayers each day.
· The first commandment of the Quran is to “read.”
· 20,000 people become Muslim in the U.S. each year
· Things are being taught in Christian churches which aren’t true about Islam
· When people are offended by your refusal to shake hands, etc., say you are offended [by their
lack of respect for the dictates of Islam]
· The ban on churches in Saudi Arabia reflects a double standard. Another “country,” the Vatican [area 48 square kilometers], doesn’t allow mosques but condemns Saudi Arabia [area 2,150,000 square kilometers] for not allowing churches on their “sacred ground.”
· The Christian condemnation of Muhammad for consummating his marriage with Aisha at age 9 is hypocritical when Mary the mother of Jesus was 12 when she was “married” to Joseph who was also an old man. [Oops, Mary was a virgin and the conception was via the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.]
· Don’t wait too long to get married as too many Muslim men are stuck on pornography
· Men get carried away by their passions and lust, and the cause is women.
Main Session III - Manhood and Womanhood in Islam
Speaker: Yasmin Mogahed --Writing instructor at Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee), columnist for Islam section of InFocus News, and regular contributor to Islamonline.
She talked about character as opposed to beauty. Women often try to mimic men. Men need to feel respected, women need to feel cared for and loved. Men can show anger, but lack of control of anger is weakness. Women need to respect and obey their husbands, men need to accept women as they are and not try to change the nature of women. Treat them with kindness and love.
Speaker: Sheikh Yassir Fazaga – Eritrea-born Religious Leader of Orange County Islamic Foundation (OCIF) in Mission Viejo, and currently working on a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Cal State, Long Beach. (“Sheikh” implies he is a descendent of Muhammad.)
Defining on what it means to be a man. Muslim youth are distracted by T.V., movies, and problems with porn. 4.2 million Web sites devoted to porn. Many men are being raised to be more “feminine”. Boys need a male figure. If self-worth comes from any other place than Allah, you’re in trouble. Think of Allah, and he thinks of you. Success is not being powerful and rich. Judgment is by character, which is all encompassing. A man becomes a man by growing a beard. With whom you connect is important, as there are three types of connections: 1. in the flesh, 2. without commitment, and 3. by creating a zawj (pair). In other words, the best connection is marriage. I found this session to be benign and rather whitewashed. There were actually some valid points made.
Main Session VI -- What Will Your Impact Be?
Speaker: Imam Siraj Wahhaj – Born Jeffrey Kearse, former member of the Nation of Islam, Imam of the Masjid Taqwa in New York, Vice President of ISNA, and an unindicted co-conspirator in 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
What will you leave as a legacy? What happens after the conference? You must have a game plan to succeed. Know your opponents (infidels). Remember you are servants of Allah and must put him first. He praised Malcolm X and encouraged reading of his book. He also praised Martin Luther King, Jr. You must connect with as many people as possible (to convert them).
Speaker: Amir Abdel Malik – An African-American activist and former member of the Nation of Islam, Malik is involved with MSA West and is Imam of the Masjid Al Islam, Oakland. He has insisted that the Jews were behind the 9/11/01 attack on the World Trade Center.
Islam will prevail over all other religions. What will your impact be? American society needs “us” and we have a role to play. The American Empire is falling because of corrupt rich corporations that are robbing the government blind and because of the money needed for the war effort. Muslims are used as scapegoats, just as the Times Square bomber, which was fake. The government is denying people of their civil liberties, and the economy is in the hand of the corporations which are filled with corruption. Radicalization of Muslim youth is a non- issue, and it is a set-up by the government. The MSA has to take over the campuses and take the pressure off the Musajal (the enrolling, or the missionary work of the Imams). Islamic knowledge fuels activism. Master the basics and use it as energy. The message here was so militant, that I became very disturbed. There was a lot of “Allahu Akbar” being shouted throughout Amir’s presentation. At the very end, he said, “Let’s all pledge allegiance.” I looked around for a flag, and was about to stand when he said, “repeat after me”: “We’re all for Islam, Allah is the way, Jihad is the means”, etc. I was so distraught, that I couldn’t write everything down. This session was by far the most militant and extreme that I encountered during the entire weekend. It also had the largest attendance. It was reminiscent of “Deutchland uber alles”. It was very disturbing indeed and made me feel quite helpless. I might add that the presenters were both black converts.
Main Session V: The Heart and The Local Community: Microcosms of the Ummah
Speaker: Siraj Wahhaj -- – Born Jeffrey Kearse, former member of the Nation of Islam, Imam of the Masjid Taqwa in New York, Vice President of ISNA, and an unindicted co-conspirator in 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center
- It is important to take care of yourself, get plenty of physical exercise
- Marry, don’t wait until your 30’s
- It is time to take back the narrative from the media
- Only worry about your relationship with Allah
- Stay away from alcohol and drugs
- Stay away from those who smoke reefers.
- Why are Muslims leaving Islam? Because they are becoming Westernized
- Wearing a hijab does not make you a Muslim
- Your heart is what makes you a Muslim
Speaker: Imam Zaid Shakir – Educated in Cairo and Syria, with a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rutgers University, co-founder of Masjid al-Huda (Minneapolis), he is called one of the top Islamic scholars and community activists in the U.S. He is a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna (Islamic) Institute, Berkely. Zaid Shakir has expressed a hope that the people of the United States convert to Islam, "Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country.”
- Talked about Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he struggled with militarism, racism and poverty
- Spoke about how unjust the Iraq war was and the number of Muslims killed
- Told students to read the autobiography of Malcolm X
Workshop B -- Paradise of the Heart
Speaker: Kamran Islam -- Member of UC Davis Muslim Student Association
Knowledge is power, and power is also dangerous but beneficial and creative. The Muslim community in the U.S. is the richest per capita. Three areas are crucial parts to the deen (religion): 1. Islam (Shahada, Salat, Fasting, Zakat, Haj) 5 pillars. 2. Ihsan (worship to Allah as if he sees you, perfecting your worship) 3. Iman (brain/heart structure of human and spiritual equivalents) one must perform the voluntary as well as the obligatory. Always remember that Islam is a way of life.
Workshop G: Know Your Rights from the School Ground to the Airport
Speakers: Reem Salahi and Ahilan Arulanrarantham -- Attorneys at Law and representatives of the ACLU
This workshop dealt with airport security and talking to the FBI. Basically, it was “know your rights” and you do not need to answer questions to the FBI as you have a right to an attorney. You can file complaints re TSA as long as you: 1. Notice (time, place, manner of inappropriateness), 2. Document, and 3. Complain. All U.S. citizens have a right to enter the U.S. (When asked, only one person in the room had a green card, all others were citizens).
· Medicine and religious materials are OK to send to terrorist designated countries.
Anything else is considered material support to terrorists.
· If you think you are being treated unfairly at the airport, ask for the person’s business card and complain.
· Don’t talk to the FBI if they come knocking on your door. Have your attorney present.
· If you happen to tell the FBI something wrong you can be prosecuted for lying to a federal agent.
Workshop J – Between Burnout and Lethargy
Speaker: Imam Amir Abdel Malik -- African-American activist and former member of the Nation of Islam, Malik is involved with MSA West and Imam of the Masjid Al Islam, Oakland. He has insisted that the Jews were behind the 9/11/01 attack on the World Trade Center.
· The struggle for the revival of Islam is riding on the backs of young Muslims.
· 70% of the people in Tunisia are under 25 years old.
· There is so much injustice in the world. Evil-doers are working night and day to get more for themselves.
· Authorities try to destroy movements by preventing them from recruiting the youth
· They destroy movement by trying to corrupt the members [with drugs, sex, and immoral acts]
· We have to engage in hijrah (migration) to move away from corruption during the next political/social upheaval in America.
· The consequences of corruption for Muslim youth include:
o No longer a badge of honor to be in the movement
o People are content to be Muslim but not engage in the struggle (jihad)
o People understand Islam academically but don’t convert that to action
o People have revised their thinking to believe that it is more honorable to stay at home than engage in Jihad
· The more Islamic “fire” we create, the faster the train will move
· Knowledge is the “fuel” to make the fire.
· The struggle that we are engaged in is going to take quite some time
· We have to develop a lifestyle of activism
· Retreat (from the world) and renew yourself. Islam is the renewal
· If you condition yourself, Allah will grant you victory
o Renew yourself with prayer (as Martin Luther King, Jr., did)
o Don’t wait until you are 30 or 40 to marry
o Marry someone who is proud to be a Muslim
o Stay married and raise kids to be activists
o If you listen to music, listen to freedom songs
o Don’t associate with people who don’t have the faith, or you will burn out
o Activism isn’t just in the political realm; it is also helping others who are down
o Show that Islam works in our lives
o Exercise, avoid fast foods, keep in shape
· Just follow the program
Workshop L: Divestment: Justice in the Holy Land
Speaker: Taher Herzallah (One of the eleven MSA members arrested for disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s address at UC Irvine on February 8, 2010. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgz_MySm0Ew . MSA was banned from the campus for six months.)
- UC Berkeley passed resolution to divest from Israel products, Board turned it down
- UC San Diego tried also to pass resolution
- Need to continue pressing to get funds, etc., to stop investing in Israel owned businesses, etc.
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