Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Plight of the Middle Class Muslims

The other day I was contemplating this issue I have seen in the American Muslim community. If you go to Los Angeles county, you go to the Masjids/Islamic Centers, there is a huge contrast between the communities there and how they function from the one's in Orange County, Inland Empire, or out in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

I notice that when families start moving up the ladder of affluence, they also start moving away and out of the communities they once were part of. They take the spirit of professionalism, desire of education, family values, ability/desire of volunteer-ism, and most importantly capital. All of this effects the social capital that holds many of those old communities together.

Look, if we do a survey of Los Angeles, very few centers stand out. There are issues at all. However, what the crises we are faced with as a community is, is that as more and more affluent and able families move out and sever ties to those communities the further into obscurity we as a community become when it comes to dealing with the larger community. We are also faced with the moral dilemmas that many other minority communities are faced with because the social fabric creates this sense of "getting out" rather then "dealing with" and "improving" because its so much easier to just "get out".

I will be the first to admit, I could not live Korea Town, or in Boyle Heights, down by South Central or for that matter even in Culver City. But the issue is, how can we as "Middle Class Muslims" give back and strengthen those communities, make them better and give them the chance that would give them a boost above other communities. How do we make these centers shining lights, beacons on a hill?

That is the dilemma we face. We seem to find it easier to turn our backs and start something new- new centers, new communities, with new money.

With all this new- we also take on the Middle Class mentality- selfish individualism, driven consumerism, the "white inferiority complex", the competitive nature to out do the other.

I am not going to say its all bad. Muslims by far are generous. I believe, according to Islamic Relief, Muslim raised Millions with a week of Hurricane Katrina (please give me a reference to this). Same with Tsunami's and the Kashmir earthquake. Muslims give generously to non-profits, to Masjids, to Islamic Schools, to buy land for burying Muslims, even to Congressional Campaigns (Keith Ellison, some 50k in half an hour on his most recent visit).

What I am trying to point out, is that, we are American Muslims, we face American problems and we need American solutions. We are only as strong as our community can be, when the weakest amongst us is able to be well informed, plugged in, educated and motivated.

That is the point I hope comes across. We need to start looking at ways to help these inner city communities, to build them up, to give them the tools to make their community's better, stronger and larger. To become revitalizer.

The plight of the middle class Muslim, is to figure out how to address this, to figure out a way to re-connect (or even connect for the first time) with these communities. Its our plight because we are told to hold fast to Allah's command and to help our fellow Muslims, to help the oppressed and those unjustly kept down. Its out plight to figure things out, because we will be held accountable, ignorance is not an excuse.

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