Well, Muslim family, we've aired our dirty laundry to the neighbors again. And this time it got really ugly and really personal.
The Mipsterz video responsible for the recent controversy within the Muslim community brought laser-sharp focus to how diverse our perspectives are on everything from modesty and women's agency to socioeconomic disparities and the n-word. Above all, however, it exposed the degree of our ineptitude with regards to internal dialogue. Even though the level-headed are now beginning to emerge with thoughtful analysis, the initial commentary to "Somewhere in America" was condescending and hurtful to those involved. Most of you saw what was written, some of you may have been the ones who wrote it.
Sometimes our deep-seated internal issues surface publicly in embarrassing (best case) and sometimes tragic (worst case) ways. A tragic example is that of how the bombings at the Boston Marathon exposed our community's inefficiencies in subverting radicalization by, among other things, providing assistance to community members dealing with mental health issues. When the bombings happened, our community presented a united front in condemning extremism. However, the much needed internal discussion about how our community fell short in providing essential social services to its members never really happened.
In the case of "Somewhere in America," a BuzzFeed article was released about how Muslims are arguing about whether they can be hiptsers, and one week later we are left in serious need of self-examination. Again, the discussion that needed to take place hasn't happened. It seems we left behind our common cause to uplift and advance our community and chose to condemn and criticize one another. This has to stop.
After some reflection, four immediate calls to action come to mind that haven't seemed to have been addressed as of yet. This list is not exhaustive, but perhaps it can pave the way to begin talking with one another instead of at one another:
1. Accept that Islam is not a monolith. We're not all the same, and that's ok. We have to re-think the single-faceted understanding of Islam that was imported from the Middle East and South Asia.
2. Stop the bullying. Opt for speech that is Quranic in nature in place of condemnation and condescension. Our text is unambiguous on how to do this.
3. Support the arts. If your values don't align with the Mipsterz video, support projects that do. How about a play called Haram that uses the poetry of Dr. Maher Hathout to convey a story of a man and woman in love? A second option is a short film called The Drone and the Kid that uses Pakistani drone strikes as its backdrop. My pal Justin Mashouf is working on a documentary called Re-Made Men about the lives of Muslim converts transitioning out of incarceration and can certainly use your support.
4. Learn conflict resolution. In 2012 I joined New Ground, a fellowship for Muslims and Jews to gain the skills, relationships and networks necessary to transform how we relate to each other. This nine-month intensive program has completely transformed the way I communicate in both personal and professional settings. For a community rife with Sunni-Shia tensions and a divorce rate on par with the national average, a program like this needs to be replicated in other inter-faith and intra-faith settings.
We have a lot to work out as a community. If we can't discuss a two-minute video set to a Jay Z song, how can we expect to resolve the more serious issues plaguing our community, sometimes to tragic consequences?
In the spirit of BuzzFeed, I have provided an executive summary of my article above in GIFs: