Unity, an Unfortunate Deficit of Minnesota Muslims
By Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota
Great efforts have been made and initiatives launched, but how successful have such undertakings been in marshaling a greater Muslim identity across the Twin Cities?
We all have day jobs. It is a fact of life. In order to survive, one must work to sustain a living. We sacrifice a great deal for our day jobs. A great proportion of our true identity is misplaced only to be frozen on the sidelines. As a professional that specializes in caring for the elderly and developmentally challenged, there is one crucial fact of life I take home each day: the best things in life are free. Sundays are special to people that grew up under the Judeo-Christian tradition. They share a great reverence for their communities. In their company, I have noticed a unique willingness to share the burden of the communal blunt when faced with hardships.
This specifically concerns church communities and synagogue assemblies. To a vast extent, members of church congregations walk into first class facilities complete with state of the art amenities and services for their communities. The degree of solidarity they have is a fitting example of unity in the face of adversity. There is a profound sense of order which is implemented by meticulous organization. It is all too typical; church and synagogue goers do not usually fight over parking spots. They do not find it normal to box each other into parking spaces preventing others from leaving when religious services are over. Church food shelves are readily stocked with soup kitchens to boot that are ready and willing to feed the needy. Furthermore, medical services are provided consistently and indiscriminately to all that seek such resources.
When I compare the communal effectiveness of churches and synagogues to the greater Islamic Community of the Twin Cities, I cannot help but to feel that we as Muslims are chronically inadequate. It seems that each community is driven to form its own mosque without perfecting one that is already struggling with survival. As Muslims, what do we offer to other needy Muslims in return? Do we provide services, resources, and facilities that can adequately provide for our own communities? Do we have Islamic hospices, care centers for the young and elderly, medical services, and counseling for youngsters tempted by fanaticism? Historically, it has been purported there have been Muslims in America since before the Declaration of Independence, but our presence is lackluster at best.
We are divided which is indicative of a culture of self-marginalization. Such divisions ensure that communities will never laud a significant voice in their surroundings. Communal success is measured on what its members contribute which is conducive to its performance. As Muslims the world over, we are overall deprived of organizational effectiveness. The consolidation of a robust community is no easy task, but is such a feat truly out of question for us? It seems that each community wants to run its own show without outside collaboration. During the Friday Prayer, it is not uncommon to hear about a mosque that took advantage of a thirty minute window of opportunity before the actual lecture to raise funds for an otherwise struggling community. Why can’t Muslims in the Twin Cities have the same level of unity and cooperation as their Christian and Jewish peers?
This is not to imply that each church and synagogue is maintained as a first class facility. Furthermore, it is not inherently bad to raise funds for mosques during Friday prayers, but it is our obligation as Muslims to implement a paradigm that can foster unity through systemic organized cooperation. The combination of both will yield great resources making it easier to live an Islamic way of life in predominately Non-Muslim surroundings. Exceptions can be made and each community provides based on its means which is true of a shared communal responsibility. Nonetheless, a great deal has been accomplished over the last twenty years. Great efforts have been made and initiatives launched, but how successful have such undertakings been in marshaling a greater Muslim identity across the Twin Cities? We lack leadership which is largely devoid of a strategic outlook; both reflect on our developmental capacity as a larger metropolitan community. Thus, it cannot be stressed enough, there is no single person or group that should be blamed and as Muslims we must strive to assume a shared responsibility in due proportion with our means to make such a community possible.
It all comes down to a simple equation of addressing what needs to be done in a way that transcends cultural differences. Would it be possible to establish a mosque with first class facilities that could provide and facilitate the functioning of a community in a central Twin Cities location? A place where Muslims from every background and economic bracket could come together to produce one grand mosque for all? Do we have the leadership and resources for such a task? Is such an aspiration feasible or a far cry from reality? I believe that as Minnesota Muslims, we are beyond capable and for each dynamic problem, there is a creative solution. Yet, where do we go from here?
Omar Alansari-Kreger, of Minneapolis, is a Muslim-American, a writer and a social activist.
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