Monday, May 21, 2007

Dawah and Brother Malcolm

If you happen to be flipping through the channels in the Twin Cities, you'd probably pass by channel 14, the local religious programming channel. One frequent group is a set of three african american gentleman dressed in a rather garish, shiney version of what I can only guess is a version of ancient Israelite priestly robes.

The middle one flips through the bible, asks one of his companions to read, and then proceeds to tell the audience about how the bible is all about black people.

This same trio, plus several others decked out in the same robes, camp out on the corner by my office at least once a week during the summer. They try to engage the african americans waiting at the nearby bus stop, but are usually ignored.

I've had an inkling in the back of my mind for some time now that this scene is somehow familiar. Then, last week, it hit me. As I was walking past the group, I noticed that on one of the signs, they had pasted a picture of Brother Malcolm. Ah, so that was what this reminded me of - scenes from the movie Malcolm X, where he would stand on the street corners outside of the church and try to steer the black churchgoers towards the temple.

I smiled to the gentleman, pointed at the picture and said, "he was muslim." The man scowled at me and turned away. I can only suppose that this group finds Malcolm before Mecca useful, but that after Mecca, his words don't fit their race centric view of religion.

As a euro-american muslim, I definately feel more kinship with post Mecca Malcolm than I do with pre Mecca Malcolm. I can see the fruits of Malcolm's post Mecca attitude in the masjid I started attending before Ramadan this last year (which is unfortunately closed now for renovations). It's an ex NOI temple that is associated with WD Muhammad's association.

The majority of the congregants are african american, but there are plenty of muslims from other backgrounds that are welcomed with open arms. I feel more at home there than I have at any of the other masjids I've attended that are dominated by various immigrant groups. The masjid runs a soup kitchen and a food pantry and is quite involved in the community around it.

So, back to the group of people on the corner - I'm debating whether or not I should print off Malcolm's letter from Mecca and shove it at them. There are always police nearby, so I doubt any trouble would start. I'm not nearly as brash and bold as Brother Malcolm, so I don't think I would do any good trying to engage them in a debate. Nope, just on the run dawah, I think.

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