Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Dr. Sherman Jackson and Two Illnesses that Plague Our Organizations and Institutions
ISNA and RIS mirror two problems that plague Muslim organizations and institutions: partisanship and ineptitude.
I agree with Dr. Tariq that RIS, as with many organisations, exhibits an unhealthy partisanship. Sadly, that partisanship forces me to reconsider attending in the future. My suggestion is that there should be a heart to heart between the concerned parties; grievances expressed, and honest policy follows.
This moment is an excellent time for folks to sit down and do what is right for the greater good of the community. While RIS claims to represent all Muslims, I have noticed a clear agenda that makes me uncomfortable. I could not hold the stage with those who are silent in the face of, or encourage, the evil that is happening overseas, even if they are my teachers.
As a former member of MSA and someone who benefited from ISNA in the past, I feel a tremendous responsibility to the American Muslim community to attend as a speaker or convention goer for the reasons noted by Dr. Sherman Jackson. I’ve noticed that ISNA does adapt to the needs of American Muslims (there is room for improvement) and exhibits a willingness to invite Muslims of all walks of life. It may not be perfect (there are important players left out). But, because of ISNA’s efforts, we can and continue to discuss how to improve. Over the last 20 years, ISNA had black leadership, female leadership and convert leadership. While it was not perfect. Because it occurred, we have important conversations that will hopefully lead to a change in policy and practice. In a perfect world, it would be best not to learn by trial and error. But, perfection very rarely occurs at the first at bat.
Just like Sh. Abu ‘Esa, Sh. Yasir Qadih, Sh. Omar, Dr. Tariq and Dr. Jackson, I find our institution’s inability to call political leaders to task frustrating and ineffective. When I was replaced last year in Boston during the President’s visit, I discovered how ineffective those organizations are.
It is important that these organizations understand we want more than to bask in the glow of political leaders – to rub shoulders and eat prawns with big wigs. We want a say that addresses the policies that affect our country and our community.
I applaud Dr. Tariq for his courage, and I feel comfortable with him – I have no questions about his sincerity. Once again, as a profound leader and intellect, his position causes Muslims to reexamine themselves and discuss important issues. My only hope is that this will lead to substantive changes at the institutional and activism level. While it is easy to direct these concerns to far off places and institutions, the fact is that most of our local institutions are plagued with them as well. While this national conversation needs to happen, we must demand that our local institutions and organizations are free of toxic partisanship and debilitating ineptitude.
Finally, I’ve noticed a trend blaming Imams, Sheikh and other leaders. While to some degree that is warranted, leaders are limited and are only as good as their followers. A broader conversation, strategy and platform for activism must honor the responsibility each of us have towards change. We can all sit around and scream fire. But until one of us grabs a bucket, the house will continue to burn.