Friday, February 9, 2007

From the Author of American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion

I used to be a fan of Muslim Wake Up, and an excited progressive. Then I joined the PMU (progressive muslim union) mailing list, and found that their big tent wasn't quite big enough to accomidate someone who identified strongly with more traditional interpretations of the faith.

I haven't visited MWU in ages, but on a whim today I decided to, thankfully. Paul Barrett, the author of the new book "American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion" that I had previously blogged about has a selection of his chapter on Imam Siraj Wahhaj up. Take a gander:

There may be no better place to take the measure of African-American Islam today than at Masjid At-Taqwa in Brooklyn, N.Y. Formerly a clothing store, then a junkies’ shooting gallery, Taqwa sits at the busy intersection of Fulton Street and Bedford Avenue. In the mid-nineteenth century, free blacks had helped settle the area, now known as Bedford-Stuyvesant. In the 1930s, a new subway line from Manhattan encouraged African-Americans to move to the neighborhood from a crowded and deteriorating Harlem. As the number of blacks in Bedford-Stuyvesant tripled over the next three decades, most whites fled for the suburbs. Housing projects and crime went up; businesses disappeared. Today some blocks are starting to gentrify, but much of the area remains bleak.

At one o’clock one summer Friday afternoon, the jostling to get into the mosque and find a space to sit was getting intense. The imam was in town and would be delivering the khutbah. Some 500 men crowded into the windowless main hall. Among them were cab drivers and security guards, ex-convicts in do-rag stocking caps and merchants wearing embroidered West African robes of crimson and gold. There were school teachers, municipal clerks, and mobile-phone salesmen. Most were American-born blacks, the rest immigrants from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Their shoes were stored in green plastic bags set on long shelves near the door. They sat on dingy gray-striped carpeting laid to indicate the qibla, or direction of prayer toward Mecca. The walls, painted mustard yellow and green, were bare except for a torn poster of the holy city. Invisible from the main hall, a small group of women in headscarves and ankle-length dresses entered through a side door. They sat in a separate room connected via closed-circuit TV.

1 comment:

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