Muslim American Society – May 2, 2018

Reflections on the first World Muslim Minorities Summit

By MAS delegate to Istanbul summit

I got a very beautiful opportunity to represent MAS and American Muslims in general at the first World Muslim Minorities Summit in the world’s most amazing city, Istanbul. The summit was from April 16th- April 19th. It was a very beautiful experience because as we know, the hospitality of the Turkish people remains to be envied for all time, may Allah bless them.

Please enjoy with me as I recap the experience in some sort of a thematic manner.

On Creating Value

One of our leaders had reached out to me to see if I could attend this summit. It was extremely kind of him to do so. He made me feel very valued and it gave me a stronger resolve to do more and be more to contribute to MAS and the narratives of American Muslims. For those of us in leadership positions, I would like to share that it is extremely important to create value for our subordinates. We must make them feel like they are valued members of our team/organization. It goes a long way in boosting their morale and strengthening their resolve to engage and be good team players.

Alhamdulillah, I have been to Istanbul quite a few times but this was one of the most rewarding trips. I met Muslims from Serbia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Barbados, Guam and all the little corners of God’s vast earth. It was beautiful to share with them and learn of their struggles; some of which put the struggles of American Muslims in perspective.

It was a most phenomenal experience at the highest level. It was a gathering of your everyday average Muslim, a few Imams and a few scholars. It was a natural environment where we met to deliberate and share stories of our day-to-day lives.

 Narrative of Muslim Minorities

I learnt that in Lesotho, the Muslim community wants to build a Mosque in the capital that would accommodate both men and women. Their women also needed to be empowered as many of them did not fully engage society.

In Ghana, they needed the help of a Mufti who could help give a fatwa on a religious minority community, within their religious minority community, who was causing some chaos.

I sat with the Mufti of Sri Lanka as he helped us understand how we could reconcile our views on women’s rights in Islam.

Someone shared a story of a brother from a poor background who left Al-Azhar University as a final year student to go begin as a first year at the Islamic University in Medina, because Medina paid a stipend (or a higher stipend) and he could use all the help to support his family back home.

I learnt that Greece is the only country in the European Union without a mosque in its capital city.

The chief Imam of Papua New Guinea is a Nigerian. That’s how far they had to go to get help.

In Barbados, the kids are so well educated in both secular and Islamic knowledge that the average 15-16-year-old is a very well-grounded Muslim. The eloquence of the young brother who represented them was admirable.

I met the first Al-Azhari or perhaps University of Medina graduate from Mexico.

In Montenegro, they are still trying to assert their rights to male circumcision.

While in the US, UK and Canada we have Muslim members of congress and parliament respectively, in Australia, they still don’t have any Muslim MPs.

I saw Muftis clad in robes, turbans and with long beards in tow. And I saw grand Muftis clean shaven with suits, ties and sharp shoes. I am reminded that we as Muslims, are not a monolith.

We are reminded that many of the Muslim refugees who settle in the West, are being helped by missionaries and many times, there is some religious coercion attached with the help that they receive.

I was one of maybe 10 women who attended the summit. I was one of 4 from North America and Europe combined. I was one of 2 that spoke in our circle and some people in the audience could not fathom a Muslim woman’s presence and voice in such a gathering. These realities did not exist in their parts of the world. It was all positive though and we all agreed that stereotypes needed to change.

I learnt that Latin America is such a beautiful place where the vast majority of Muslims enjoy religious freedom. An amazing fact that supports this reality is that South America is the only continent that currently has NO active wars at this time. Islam in Spanish is long overdue.

I was enamored by a Serbian Muslim who shared how until recently, no one remembered that Serbia indeed has Muslims. Please brush up on your history of the the Bosnian war and the Balkans to understand what this means.

I met a young Muslim from Spain who displayed such eloquence of mind and speech. With him, my hope in our Muslim youth was again revived. There are talks about organizing a summit of World Muslim Minority youth in the near future. Please be at ease, with youth like this brother, we are in good hands.

There is a still a global shortage of Muslim Role Models. What are you doing about this?

I met a very young Muslim girl from Chile. She was beautiful and she was kind. Her father whom she accompanied, had seemingly groomed her well. She had a beautiful Islamic character, if such a thing exists. May Allah bless them both.

In a post 9/11 world, Muslims the world over still face issues of identity. It’s not only a problem for Western Muslims.

We need endowments(Awqaf) to support Muslim minorities and our institutions.

One brother from Peru asked for an Ottoman style mosque in his country. The architecture of those mosques hold timeless beauty and splendor.

In Croatia, the government pays the salaries of the Imams. Muslims are about 1.5% of the population.

In sha’a Allah, someday, I will visit a Mosque in Slovenia.

Romania is getting ready for its second annual Religious Olympic games.

I met 3 of the 600 Muslims in Grenada and 1 of the 150 Muslims in Guam.

In 1492, somewhere in the Americas, a group of people following a monotheistic faith, discovered Columbus. We must always ponder our story vs His-story.

The richest man that ever lived was Mansa Musa, the King of Mali 1324AD

It was echoed throughout the summit that we lack a centralized authority, as Muslims living in minority countries so we need to properly develop the field of Fiqh Al-Aqaaliyat (Fiqh of Minorities) so that we can better address the unique issues facing Muslim minorities.

I took a lot of notes that I hope to share in more details. I have a million and one ideas on how we need to support each other. Many times, as Muslims of majority number or affluence, we narrow our outreach to Muslim majority countries especially those in war and conflict. This is good but we must not forget our brothers and sisters in countries where they are minority.

It was such a beautiful experience full of love and brotherhood and sisterhood. I did not want to leave.

The Caveat

The first Muslim Minorities Summit will be taking place in Abu Dhabi from May 7th-8th 2018. Yes, you read that right, there is another First ‘World Muslim Minorities Conference/Congress” taking place in the United Arab Emirates just 3 weeks after the First World Muslim Minorities Summit took place in Istanbul. If you understand global politics, you understand what this means. Our Ummah still remains divided. May Allah have mercy upon us.

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