Monday, November 2, 2009

The death of Imam Abdullah: Symptom of a greater ill?

The funeral for Imam Luqman Abdullah on Saturday, October 31 in Detroit drew hundreds. His death in the course of a Federal Bureau of Investigation action is both regrettable and open to speculation. There seem to be many versions of the truth flying about (especially whether or not he was shot during a firefight, or after he shot a police dog that was attacking him); but, what is certain is that Imam Abdullah is dead, and the only one who knows the truth of the unfortunate matter is Allah Almighty.

No terrorism charges were filed against Abdullah, formerly known as Christopher Thomas, or the 10 others accused in the complaint. According to the FBI, Abdullah was a leader of a national radical Sunni group seeking to create an Islamic state within the US, where—again according to federal authoritiesmost of its members are black. Both of these assertions are blasted as “preposterous” by Imam Abdullah’s followers.

While not taking a contrary stance toward the federal government, it must be said that on more than one occasion federal agencies have reacted with violence toward controversial religious figures/political activists, and then skewed the evidence and/or public opinion to thwart blame. Cases in point: 1969 raid on Black Panthers in Chicago, 1992 raid on Ruby Ridge in Idaho, 1993 Branch Davidian compound in Texas, and the list goes on.

Another point that must be put forth is that Islam has reached into the hearts of many serving sentences in prison, and been a life changing guidance for most. The likelihood of re-offense and recidivism among the incarcerated who emerge as Muslims is very low. In 2003, author J. Michael Waller wrote that fully 80% of all inmates who find faith while in prison embrace Islam, comprising between 17-20% of the prison population. He also claims that the majority of these are African American, and although there is a dangerous undercurrent inherent in incarceration, other experts suggest that when radicalization does occur, it has little to no connection with their conversion inside prison, and more to do with the overall culture of disenfranchisement and social abuse suffered by minorities in the US. This is borne out by the October 12, 2003 US Senate testimony by Paul Rogers, President of the American Correctional Chaplains Association. On top of this, a 2007 Pew Research Center poll states that 72% of all African American Muslims believe that federal anti-terrorism policies unfairly target Muslims and Islam, subjecting them to additional scrutiny and harassment.

This past weekend, about 25 Muslim leaders met with federal agents in Warren, Michigan regarding the shooting death of Imam Abdullah. A handful of these leaders stressed that the raid had nothing to do with enhanced federal scrutiny of Muslims. Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, the founder of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights said, “If it happened the way the FBI said, it had nothing to do with Islam and the Muslim community.” After the meeting, they released a statement that read: "We the religious leaders of the Muslim community of southeastern Michigan would like clarification of the sad events surrounding the unfortunate incident. We emphasize that no criminal act be confused with what Islam and Muslims stand for. Our religion stands for justice and we hope that justice will be served. We support the law of the land. We are sorrowed by the loss of life. We pray for the family and for peace."

Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said agents told him Abdullah was killed after firing on an FBI dog that died. "(We're) not accusing the FBI of using excessive force, but there needs to be some answers," he said. "I was under the assumption that the imam was killed in a shootout. That was not the case. They didn't shoot him until he shot the (FBI) dog."

The following is a press release from Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA) regarding the shooting of Imam Luqman Abdullah by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on October 28, 2009 in Dearborn, Michigan,
and a Fatwa on terrorism from the Fiqh Council of North America.
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Lexington, KY (10/29/09) - It is with deep sadness and concern that we announce the shooting death of Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, of Masjid Al-Haqq (Detroit, MI). Imam Luqman was a representative of the Detroit Muslim community to the "National Ummah" and the general assembly (Shura) of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that their agents shot and killed the Imam during a raid related to a criminal complaint alleging that members of the mosque were engaged in criminal, but "not terrorist activity." This tragic shooting raises deep concerns regarding the use of lethal force by law enforcement agents.

Since the investigation was "solely criminal" based upon "smuggling and fraud," we urge law enforcement and the media not to take undo advantage of this tragedy in order to demonize American Muslims generally, and those who are African American Muslims in particular.

The National Community or "Ummah" was established by Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown).  It is an association of mosques in several cities in the U.S. that coordinates religious and social services primarily in the Black American community. Reference to the "Ummah" as a "nation-wide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting primarily of African-Americans" is an offensive mis-characterization.

To those who have worked with Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, allegations of illegal activity, resisting arrest, and "offensive jihad against the American government" are shocking and inconsistent.  In his ministry he consistently advocated for the downtrodden and always spoke about the importance of connecting with the needs of the poor.

It is our hope and prayer that a thorough investigation will be carried out with the greatest integrity. We urge the Muslim community and all Americans committed to justice to actively monitor both the investigation and trial of the accused. Also, we urge law enforcement authorities to release Imam Luqman's remains expeditiously so that they may be buried according to Islamic practice.
MANA is committed to the establishment of viable, healthy and dynamic Muslim communities, neighborhoods and institutions that meet the religious, social, economic and political needs of the Muslims in this land. For more information about MANA's programs including SHARE centers, Healthy Marriage Initiative, Community Re-entry Program; as well as the National Campaign for Healing & Reconciliation, visit our website at www.mana-net. org.

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U.S. Muslim Religious Council Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”

The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur’an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil." (Al-Tirmidhi)

God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur’an: “We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143)

In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil.” (Qur’an, 3:104)

Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God's creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to the worlds” said: “All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family."

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:
1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.
- The Fiqh Council of North America

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