Pastor Pat Robertson

By Ibrahim A Aziz (Imam/Chaplain)) Retired

I am writing the following few lines in a spirit of reconciliation, religious understanding and good will.  The other evening I happened upon your CBN show and you once again presented your extremist views on Islam and attempted to malign my faith and falsely accuse Muslims in general, rather than the terrorists whom are despicable by all standards especially Islamic ones.  Oddly enough you praised Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Sisi and stated that President Elect Trump will take a much clearer stance than President Obama in helping Muslim Nations against extremists.  You failed to mention that President Sisi is a believing Muslim and is in the forefront of the battle against the criminal terrorists.  I am certain that President Sisi believes that his battle against the extremists is to defend both the honor of his Islamic faith as well as his country.  That he as former President Mubarak embraces the Christians of Egypt and envisioned a nation shared by all faiths based upon of the tolerance of Islam.   President Mubarak reached out to the world years before 9/11 warning of the coming storm of fury—sadly his clarion call fell on deaf ears. He had witnessed the assignation of Anwar Sadat and stressed that the same nefarious thugs would spread their terrorism around the world.  It was as he predicted the same gang whom masterminded the attack on the world trade towers and US pentagon.

You offered your mistaken position that Islam is not a religion of peace; rather you maliciously declared it a religion of war, stating that the Quran is the force behind the malignancy of the terrorists.   Strangely enough you espouse a version of terrorist Islam; you seem to also harbor with the terrorists the idea of a Christian crusade to crush Muslims.   With no knowledge of Arabic you inaccurately mistranslate Islam as submission which is only accurate if one intends submission to God and his Omnipotent will.  I am hard pressed to think that you can define Christianity as other than loving submission rather than demonic rebellion against the Lord of all Being and His most basic commandments of decency.

Arabic shares the Semitic structure of Hebrew and as is universally known the greeting of Salamu Alikum means Peace be upon you and could hardly translate as submission be upon you.  Hebrew shares a similar greeting of Peace be upon you.

I am an American Muslim of now a half century; I proudly accept my faith and defend it against the current hostile and often hateful speech which is being irresponsibly spread around by people such as yourself who should know better.

Islam shares with all religions especially the Monotheisms a glorious history and yet being practiced by fallible humans has some incidents which may not always be blameless.

Let me remind you in I hope a friendly manner that the last 3 centuries have been dominated by Europe and its culture inspired by its Christian heritage.  I will not dishonor the Churches and their teachings which Islam has always defended although of course having a different position on many of the fundamentals of current Biblical faith.

The late Father Massigon pointed out that Islam in his view, which played a large part in Vatican 2, was much closer to  Christianity than Judaism which rejected Jesus Christ and his Mother and maligned them both whereas the Quran and Muslims believe and revere  both of them.  Indeed as you must know the Virgin Mary is the only female to have an entire chapter of the Quran dedicated to her story.   To believe in Jesus Christ is as mandatory for Muslim faith as is belief in the Prophet Muhammad.  Indeed Islam shares with you the belief in the Basic Bible tales of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Abraham, Joseph, John the Baptist, Solomon and King David.  Of course the Quran stresses life after death and final judgement.  The basic commandments are shared by all of us and that is why the great medieval thinkers Thomas Aquinas and Rabbi Maimonides philosophically lived in a world of Islamic Arabic thoughts and ideas.  Most historians hold that the benefits of modern science are indebted to Arabic scholarship that was passed on to Europe.  The world of Islam is so closely woven to the Bible that even until today pictures of life in the time of Jesus are taken of current Palestinian Bedouins.

I feel in good faith I should not continue to allow reckless, false denigration of the noble religion of Islam or the Glorious character of the Prophet Muhammad and his monumental accomplishments for Islam and the entire world.

I embarrassingly remind you that many of the atrocities of the past few centuries have come out of Christian lands –although I know that the religion of Jesus Christ has no accountability for these crimes.  Perhaps you have forgotten:

The inquisition against both Muslims and Jews, torture, execution and finally expulsion from all of Spain.

The transatlantic slave trade and the horror of centuries of bondage and its lingering impact.  The assault upon Africa was especially brutal due to perception of blacks as the least human of all races furthest removed from whites.  This would be shared both by Christians based upon their interpretation of the Bible, and scientific racists using pseudo-science…

The colonization and destruction of indigenous cultures worldwide, China, India, Middle East, Africa and South America.  Include in this the brutal assault upon the American Natives.

Many scholars hold that the hopeless situation of worldwide inequity between the first and developing worlds was put in place by these forces and have left a perpetual heritage of poverty and underdevelopment.

The two world wars both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin were baptized Christians.

The Holocaust and the rise and spread of philosophical racism.

The acceptance of doctrines of “scientific” racism leading to US segregation and South African Apartheid.

The unleashing of philosophical atheism inspired by European thinkers from Christian background, Darwinism, Communism, Nazism and Atheistic Secular Humanism.

Development of modes of production that severely create permanent underclasses and widened the gap between rich and poor.  These same machines of development have unleashed ecological forces that threaten the environment.  Much of this came about by the exploitation of colonialism.

The widespread adoption of immorality as valid life styles, sexual cohabitation free of matrimony or marriage redefined in ways unimaginable to traditional cultures worldwide.

The whole sale validation of alcoholism and drug addiction.  The exploitative practice of usury which has enslaved many of the world’s poorest.

The spread of pornographic culture and its normalization and adoption of immoral codes of dress and behavior as a part of normal life.

Finally the spread of doctrines and lifestyles that seek to destroy the very the fiber of mankind as we know him/her throughout all of human history.

I am aware of many of the blessings to all of us that have also came  in these centuries—I think that they are based upon our shared Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage.  All three of us benefited from the cultural genius of the Greeks and Romans.

So Pastor, I humbly request that you cease your propaganda war against Islam and Muslims, join in with President Sisi and the majority of Muslim nations and simple Muslims against the terrorists and see them as an aberration rather than a normal aspect of Islam.   Please cease the virulent attacks upon Islam that seek to flame the fires of mass hate and may lead some to violence.

Alianza Islamica and Andalusia, part 3

By Yahya Abdul-Latif Figueroa

Director, Alianza Islamica

In these next few lines I want to boldly assert that Alianza was truly unique as a voice of Spanish Islam and that its vision and mission must be reclaimed and built again.  I want to stress that other groups today that are attempting to monopolize a Spanish Islamic message are simply copying the failed message of some Middle Eastern patterns and that these groups are cut off from the brilliance of an Islamic message that may make a true difference in the world of today.  Finally I want to recall members of our small community whom have left this world and have returned to their Lord.

To the best of our knowledge, Alianza was the first group of Spanish speakers to have built a small, distinct Muslim group in Harlem NY with the clear vision that they wanted to build upon the understanding of Islam over the long centuries of Muslims in Spain.  We learned as we lived together as a group and strove to bring the spiritual message of our heritage to shine light upon the often very troubled conditions of life here in the US.  That meant the many issues of poverty, disease family dysfunction and attempts to raise children in the difficult situation that we had inherited from our families whom as along with the many Afro-American members and neighbors, friends and brothers and sisters was our reality.  This was an Islam of survival and growth.

Today many of our “Muslim” groups are an elitist bunch whom lives among ideas, often not very good ones, yet compassion and service of others is not high on their deluded agendas.  Often they have brought from the failed Middle Eastern version a caste approach where the pampered university crowd is placed in authority for no great reason other than the privilege they have claimed and we have too often afforded them.   Alianza was then and will revive a message of social relevance alongside our proud Islamic spiritual understanding.   We will not adopt the various failures that can only bring more of the same and even worse.

Two examples of our experiment are worth noting. Each deserves a full biography. This is simply an introduction to their lives.  Both were active supports and leaders in the activities of our small beautiful community.

Amin Madera-He was a worshiper, simple, humble and a source of inner strength for those fortunate enough to have known him.  Amin was not sophisticated or learned yet he loved Islam and was convinced that Alianza was the very place that Allah Almighty had opened the doors to Islam for him.   There were many more sophisticated and better off places throughout the city of NY, yet nowhere was as appropriate to bring  brother-sisterhood to him and to offer a loving environment that met his spiritual and communal needs.   Amin battled with disease that he had contracted in his earlier life. Alianza provided him the brotherhood and friendship needed to carry his burden.  He passed away among these same friends whom laid him to rest in Islamic fashion which was among his last great desires.   Cheerful, hopeful, trusting in the plan of our Glorious Lord he returned peacefully to his final home.

The second person from our circle I must mention was Sharif Abdul Karim, scholar and intellectual master of the old Arabic sciences and yet at home in the world of current intellectual pursuit.   Sharif was university trained and had done graduate studies at a prominent NY institution.  He was one of many African-American member supporters of our community and for years shared his great learning with us in many of the standard fields, Tafser, hadith, fiqh and his favorite Spiritual culture.  A giant in the world of ideas his brilliance was matched by his humility and lack of desire for fame and publicity-this is one of the most glaring shortcomings of many of the current leaders whom sell religion and lust  after notoriety.  Sharif had stayed at the Azhar university for a number of years and had also spent years in Mecca studying and collecting classical Arabic books.  It is no exaggeration to state that at his death he had one of the largest Arabic libraries in the country.  Sharif had mastered bringing difficult ideas and treasures of the old books to a level that the simplest soul could benefit from.

Sharif and Amin are no longer here but their legacy of profound brotherhood and spiritual greatness remain guides for us in our commitment to revive the message of Alianza Islamica of Harlem NY.

Reclaiming our Heritage, part 2

By Yahya Abdul-Latif Figueroa

Director, Alianza Islamica

Reclaiming heritage lends itself to the false impression of dwelling on the past. The next few lines are about the future flowing from the past. Hopefully a reopening to a humble beginning that accomplished a number of great starts yet confronted many challenges and now must map a way forward that can build on that past and hopefully sidestep the errors and continue to shed new light and hope for our future. Part one of this article recalled a number of accomplishments and sought to, briefly establish the development of Alianza, and mentioned some challenges that ultimately led to hurdles that could not be overcome at that time.

We recalled the tensions that confronted Muslims worldwide leading ultimately to the horror of 9/11, a philosophy of despair overwhelmed with hopelessness and a vision of mass suicide. Muslims in modern times have sought ways to modernize while remaining faithful to their culture. Alianza faced the same dilemma with the added complexity of being new Muslims in the very center of the most complex modern city in the world.

From the very beginning Alianza faced the concern of some Muslims that they had segregated themselves from the larger Muslim community. We responded in two ways:

That the essential message of the Quran stresses the universal brotherhood of all people. Racism which holds that one race is superior to others is a uniquely modern European invention which has spread havoc worldwide.

Racist ideology is as opposed to Islam as is paganism or polytheism. Indeed we believe that racism is related to these false concepts of the deity. On the other hand, there is a healthy recognition of the unique culture of Andalusia and we believe it can navigate Muslims not only in the US but indeed worldwide as it did for centuries.

Recall that from our long lost homeland came the leadership of Ibn Hazm, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Arabi. Ours was a land of grand jurists, Quran masters, philosophers and perhaps the greatest Sufi masters of all time. Leave for the time the flight of Ibn Arabi and turn to the very sober orthodox message of Ibn Abbad of Ronda and you glimpse the greatness of our past which must not be silenced by the ignorance and fanatics of our post-colonial setting. Andalusia is a heritage we must grasp with courage and leave the crippled version of Islam that has reduced the Muslim world to shambles in so many places. We learn that much of the destruction of Andalusia came about through racial and ethnic conflict. The beauty of old Spain did not pay full attention to peasants and the poor and in time financial instability eroded the fabric of life. These are dangers that we face as well today. We face the destruction of the basics of faith that the entire Andalusian world shared – firm faith in monotheism, prophethood, life after death and basic morality. These are no longer held as certainties.

A few forward looking suggestions. An all-out effort to explore the rich treasures of Andalusian spirituality and thought. This will require experts in all of the traditional braches of Andalusian learning—not least the Arabic treasures which number among the vastest in Arabic writings. A commitment to forge a political-cultural vision for our people based on past wisdom yet fully able to engage and challenge the many false trends and philosophies among Muslims and others. Finally the ability to tackle the terrible social and economic instability which most of our people share with much of the third world.

An Andalusia of Heart and Soul, part 1

By Yahya Figueroa Abdul-Latif

Director, Alianza Islamica

What was Andalusia?  Islam has come full circle in the west today.  Daily we hear of various horrible events atrocities unfairly attributed to the noble Quran and Blessed Prophet (PBUH).  The insane terrorists and Islamophobic media and politicians share the same distorted propaganda against our faith.  A full range of bad –shocking and horrible images are paraded daily.  Yet against this background Islam still grows and its brilliance of faith continues to amazingly win people.  Just as in the origin of Islam a tiny obscure circle of people has grown into a formidable community throughout the west.  This faith nation is made of many ethnic and racial groups all of them haunted by the ugly specter of the radical madmen whom are destroying much of the Muslim homeland.

We Spanish speaking-cultural, Latino Muslims have also been thrown into this world wind and are with Allah’s grace expanding rapidly.

This is why we are confronted with a most burning issue, the reality of our direction and choice of our future.  Will we simply jump on the bandwagon of the current troubled Islamic model and poorly translate from one language and culture onto another? Or will we insist that our path is Andalusian, which is neither East nor West, but a spiritual reality?

In the first image a few of our brightest will simply go to the Muslim lands and  master the formal structure of prayers and religious formalities and  bring back with them the current ideals and aspirations of Arabia, Pakistan or wherever they may happen to go.

But what Alianza Islamica of Spanish Harlem has always sought to do was to truly identify and revive the spirit of Old Andalusia, a land that brought forth many of the leading religious as well as secular giants of Islam and indeed of the entire world.  Will we simply poorly translate (which is already nearly impossible) the same worn out failed models throughout the troubled Muslim world uncritically, mechanically and then expect that it can achieve something for our people other than the misery that surrounds so much of the Muslim world today.  I am arguing, pleading that we exert ourselves to be true descendants of Andalusia and discover the marvels of that time and place that was a beacon of faith, learning, true science, tolerance and enlightenment.  We believe that it was Andalusia that opened to the modern world the classics of ancient times by way of Arabic translations from Greek and eventually inspired the founding of the new world itself.  If Spanish Islam in the West has any authentic future it can only be by recovering its Andalusian heritage and building upon that.  The other sad alternative is to march blindly to the tunes of the fanatics and spiritually deaf and dumb whose final message seems to be homicidal suicides and ancient blood cults.

I boldly hope that we may even provide for the coming generations in the Muslim homelands and minorities in Europe a message of hope and a path to a liberating future.  Yet this road to New Andalusia is not simple nor can it be the project of a few self-obsessed fame seekers.

We must not forget the inherent contradiction of that land which was a major factor in its decline—the failure to achieve harmony among the competing ethnic and racial groups that made up our homeland.  The same dynamic we witness here today: some racial ethnic groups dominate all the others with no concern for the well-being of society.  In time those conflicts lead to the total collapse of Muslim culture and the retaking of Andalusia by non-Muslims who did not maintain the tolerant vision which Andalusia was famous for.

Will our Spanish Islam be a vision, a dream of the highest form of spirituality and social order or merely a faulty translation from one failed society to another which we as a  minority here are already  most vulnerable?   A choice is ahead of us, a living vibrant future or a sad repeating of a failed vision.

A few spiritual gems from Andalusian Spirituality:

Beware of fame seekers whom use religion for power and wealth—sellers of religion.  Their true desire is to be on stage in front of the crowd exploiting them for money, women and praise of people.

Again from the Andalusian Classics:

This one quoting the Holy Prophet (PBUH):  Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.

You don’t always have to be talking to be heard.

You don’t always have to be center stage to be seen.

A Recap of the Latino Muslim Convention

By Rahim Ocasio

Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah

This is a recap of the two day event and my assessment of this historic event.

Muhammad Isa Garcia, el argentino who recently translated the Qur’an into Spanish, gave a video introduction from Colombia where he currently resides. Abdullah Danny Hernandez gave the English intro, primarily inspirational, centering on faith and its proper contemplation and regard for the ramifications of tauhid.

It was followed by a scholarly historical presentation on Al Andalus by a fluently Spanish-speaking Egyptian researcher named Maryam Saadeh. It covered 903 years of Islamic presence on the Iberian peninsula with special attention paid to the Morisco period.

Next, Mujahid Fletcher and Wilfredo Amr Ruiz elaborated on the theme of convivencia, the importance of staying true to its spirit and avoiding those things which rupture relationships and prevent beneficial cooperation. In short, egos need to be checked at the door for true cooperation, co-existence, and convivencia to take place: no gang mentality, no super-organization. Convivencía for the service of humanity is integral.

Maryam Saadah added that convivencia is a gift, integral in contemporary society.

The Juma khutbah was given by Reymundo Nur, un afro-panameño, on the theme of convivencía that was well received by the primarily Desi/Arab congregation that was in attendance for the main TDC convention.

A surprise came in the next session honoring the pioneers. This is the panel I declined to be on and it turned out to be nothing like the one I was apprehensive about. Panelists were brought up singly and given a crystal award for their years of Islamic service and given time to speak about their history. When the panelists were all seated, Abu Sumayya, who was moderating this session began to present awards to individuals and organizations in a display of gratitude and recognition. Two elderly Mexicanas from Chicago were presented awards along with organizational awards to LADO, LALMA, and Alianza Islamica. I accepted the award for Alianza Islamica, dedicating it to those of us who have returned to Allah, Azza wa Jall. I also took that opportunity to mention that the theme of convivencía so bandied about that day was the fruit of a suggestion Yahya had made last November and that it was, in essence, a continuation of an Alianza Islamica tradition.

Of note, Maryam Saadah accepted the award on behalf of LALMA and Yusuf Maisonet made a note of my presence in the audience and the inappropriateness of my absence on the stage.

The next session was interesting for it included FBI public relations official Cristina Garza. That session dealt with the importance of maintaining good relations with law enforcement. Garza explained the scope of the agency. It was maintained that the focus should be on civil rights for all (ie, immigration). But Muslims must provide a check against abuses. Law enforcement must be held accountable. She ended by mentioning that it was the last day for applying to work with FBI, a recruitment ploy. It was later mentioned that if they had known she would do that, she would never have been invited.

The first day ended with a women’s session where women came up to the mike with Arab/Desi abuse cases and other issues which mainly centered on mixed-culture marriages

Day Two
The topic of extremism was dealt with in some depth. Fletcher reiterated that the job of the FBI is to catch criminals and that they must be prevented from causing catastrophic loss of life. He equated the current FBI practice of entrapment with way undercover drug busts are conducted. I was uncomfortable with that.

In the panel discussion that followed, however, there was a consensus that Muslims should be vigilant when their fellow brother or sister seems to be going off the rails and that the proper tactic is to counsel and guide him away from deviance. FBI has a different approach based on their agenda and Muslims should be on guard.

Next session dealt with the problem of obtaining the correct knowledge of Islam. The pros and cons of using the Internet were discussed (Shaykh Google) along with the pros and cons of studying overseas versus studying stateside in institutions like Mishkat University. The value of having a shaykh or mentor rather than relying on books or audio and video tapes was highlighted.

It was also announced that IslamInSpanish has partnered with Muhammad Isa Garcia to develop a Colombian chapter of IslamInSpanish with the express purpose of establishing a Spanish language Islamic academy.

Abdullah Danny Hernandez and Reymundo Nur heavily emphasized the importance of the Arabic language for the proper study of Islam.

There was a general session for all attendees on the “Trump Effect” with Tenessee lawyer Paul Galloway and Mujahid Fletcher. Galloway believes our strategy should be based on our constitutional religious rights as current anti-Muslim attacks are based on legally classifying Islam as a political philosophy and not as a religion that would make us subject to all manner of devastating legislation if not an outright ban.

Fletcher told the pack crowd of hundreds if not thousands that Muslims will remain vulnerable if they do not engage civically, render service to the community, and demonstrate that Muslims are an integral and beneficial part of society. The converse to that would be weakness and vulnerability with no societal support when inevitable attacks occur.

In another session Fletcher talked about one of the great strengths of IslamInSpanish was its strong emphasis on leadership. He himself said that he was certified with the John Maxwell Group, a leadership training organization that works major corporations. IslamInSpanish conducts weekly leadership training.

It ended with a general Q&A and a raffle for umrah which went, alhamdulillah, to one of the elderly Muslimahs previously honored.

There was a lot of energy there. I talked to few people on the side and heard testimonials of how IslamInSpanish has brought Islam into their lives. My assessment is that, though they are undermanned, they are firing on all cylinders and aggressively expanding. Their close cultivation of ties to Spanish media (Telemundo and Univision) and their association with key supportive members of the Arab/Desi community has given them credibility and considerable leverage.

All in all, even with the inevitable first-time flaws, it was a resounding success that Latino Muslims can build on for the future.