UnMosqued: One of the strangest new words in the Muslim vernacular. How do you “unmosque” somebody? How many times do you have to go to the mosque before you are “remosqued”? Is it something you feel? When you're being unmosqued do you know that it's happening? Does it tingle? I am just curious!

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of hype over the social networks about a presentation entitled “UnMosqued,” which resulted in a trailer for a documentary of the same name. If you haven't watched the trailer, let me summarize it for you: Mosques, and in particular the people who built and run them, are the reason why people have left them.

The unmosqued are Muslims who never really became attached to the mosque, or Muslims who stopped participating in the mosque but still affiliate with Islam. They grew disappointed with the mosque for one reason or another. The trailer for “UnMosqued” seems to have focused on the notion that it is the mosque's fault that people left or are leaving. This assumption is both incorrect and unfair.

A Misleading Trailer

Let me first say that I have not watched the documentary (as yet unreleased) and this article is not about the documentary. It is about the trailer. A trailer that has become a catalyst unleashing a plethora of comments and statuses on social media and, therefore, warrants some critique.

Interestingly, the trailer only shows interviews from one geographical location (East Coast), which is statistically misleading and not representative of Muslims or mosques throughout the US. Although scientifically one cannot extrapolate conclusions from testimonies such as those who went as far as to say that mosques [in general] lack warmth (which is utterly untrue!),the trailer did create a frenzy of responses throughout social media outlets.

The questionable ethics of this trailer are evident when it shows the blurred face of a New Jersey imam, taking a portion of his khutbah, out of context, as evidence of how irrelevant mosques have become. The portion quoted in the trailer states, “We do not give legitimacy to their calendar. We need to teach our children this, to structure our days and months on only the Hijri calendar. This is the Muslim's responsibility.”

The complete khutbah can be seen here. The imam is talking about an event the center is having on New Year's Eve and says, “We are having this event on New Year's Eve  not to the new year, but because it is a holiday. We don't celebrate the New Year's eve as Muslims and, as a matter of fact, we need to teach our children the Hijri calendar as the default calendar, and not the Gregorian one.”

This is tactic of “news-like” media such as FOX and is neither sound journalism nor ethical, in my opinion. I am told by the Center officials that the mosque is taking legal action against the documentary makers.

If the intent of this trailer is to start a constructive conversation about the state of our mosques, I would give it an F.

It makes a one-sided argument, placing all the blame of disconnected Muslims on the leadership of the mosques (i.e. boards and Imams) and no blame on the individuals themselves, which is flawed. Correlation does not necessitate causation. Namely, there is no data presented to show that the rise of the so-called “unmosqued” is exclusively the mosque's fault. There could be personal, social, financial, emotional, and intellectual reasons that may cause any mosque-goer to stop attending. I wonder if the documentary is going to highlight any such factors – from the looks of it, I doubt it. And if it does, then this trailer is a misrepresentation of the documentary and only serves to cast Muslims and Muslim places of worship in a negative light. Sure there are some unpleasant incidents that we all face during our visits to the mosque, but is that enough to shift the blame solely onto the mosque?

Are Muslims really unwelcome at the mosque?

Across the board, recent surveys indicate more people are leaving organized religion altogether. A recent Pew Research Center poll concluded that the percentage of those unaffiliated with any religion has risen from 15.3% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2012. The Daily Beast said, “The diminishing number of Christians [in Britain] is mirrored by a rapid growth in those who profess no religious affiliation. A quarter of the population, 14.1 million, now [in 2012] say they have no religion, nearly double the 7.7 million who said the same thing in the 2001 census.”

Clearly this trend is not unique to Muslims, should we now start blaming the churches, temples, and synagogues that are also losing their congregations worldwide?

I believe this three-minute trailer threw our mosques under the bus. It opened the door for its audience to blame all of their problems on the mosque, and take no responsibility for their own actions. A twitter search of #unmosqued reveals some ridiculous tweets.

 “I would rather make wudu at a truck stop than at our mosque.” #unmosqued

“Khutbah for 30 min in Arabic, translation given = “Do ze goot, don't do ze baid, be ze goot moslems, sanks you.” #unmosqued

Is this how we start a conversation about improving our mosques?

Let me be clear, I am not arguing that our mosques are perfect. I actually think that this is an essential conversation to have within our communities. I am simply advocating a less contemptuous and more realistic and respectful way of addressing this issue.

Vilification of Immigrant Imams

The denigration of an entire generation of Muslims, and especially the vilification of our imams is unacceptable. Islamically they are the carriers of the Qur'an; ethically they have invested everything in their communities and most organizations were built around their existence. These imams have sacrificed their lives and left their homes, their families and their friends to fly to an unfamiliar land to teach you and your parents your religion. Yes, they are not perfect but they have earned our respect, love and honor.

This trailer has made it a point to highlight immigrant imams as the main problem. It is easy to blame the imam for speaking with an accent, forgetting the fact that, indeed, he may speak two or three languages, while most of us who are the children of immigrants don't speak much more than English!

Let us be more humble and recognize what they have done with the opportunities and challenges they faced, and look inwardly at what we have done with the opportunities and challenges that we face. Any objective observer would find that they have done much more.

How many of 'us' who have been born and brought up in this country, have the capability to go to a completely foreign country where we don't speak the language, don't know anyone, don't know the system, and don't have access to anything affiliated with our own religion, and turn that into a country where every major, and most minor, cities have a mosque where regular prayers are held, where Sunday schools take place every week, where full-time schools are blossoming….and the list goes on. Let us give credit where credit is due. Instead I see this trailer demeaning that generation of Muslims as we step on them to make ourselves seem higher.

A Generation of Entitlement

We are a generation of immediate gratification and entitlement. Our elders came to a foreign land, learned the language, studied the rules and policies of their states and rebuilt their lives here. Meanwhile, we have been waiting for years on end for the elder generation to “give up the reigns.” It's as if we are children waiting on our inheritance.

We can hypothesize as much as we want, but in comparison to our parents, we haven't done much to prove ourselves as capable of running communities and mosques. Besides, if we can “do it better,” as so many young people claim, then nothing is stopping us other than our own lack of resolve. It is very easy to start an organization in this country; go ahead and start your own and show the world what you can do!

In fact some very successful organizations have done so – the Islamic Center at NYU was an initiative of young people that fulfilled their vision for what an Islamic Center should be; Al-Maghrib Institute was an initiative of Muhammad Al Shareef, at the time in his twenties, that fulfilled his vision of what Islamic education could become; and Al Amaanah Refugee Services in Houston fulfills their vision of what social service can be.

Yes, many times our generation gets things right, but most of the time we don't get anything at all. Although we have grown up in a country of entrepreneurship, we have also grown up in a generation of entitlement. Hence, we demand and expect, again and again, before we take any action ourselves.

Structure vs Culture

When you dine at a 5-star restaurant, regardless of the beauty of the decor or the quality of the food, if your server is rude, it completely ruins your experience.  In the same way, regardless of the architecture, the size, or even the services of any given mosque, it is the people found within the mosque that define our experience and attachment.

It's the culture that is created within the mosque that makes us love the mosque. The problem, however, is that some of us go to the mosque with a set of expectations, often unrealistic, and when we are disappointed we blame the mosque members' immigration status, ethnic background and sometimes even social class. This is wrong, and in and of itself judgmental.

Sure we have problems in our mosques, but the problems aren't just the leadership – the problems are the people, including you. How many of the complainers or youth or “unmosqued” actually make the effort to change the system? How many run for seats on the board when elections roll around? How many volunteer to clean up the mosque, to organize activities, and to be leaders in the mosque? Why let one or two or ten(!) unfortunate experiences drive the way you practice your religion? We tell non-Muslims this all the time…don't judge Islam by its followers, judge it by its teachings… yet we are judging our mosques by the people that are running them rather than what the mosque itself stands for in Islam. Change that culture and you will have Muslims flocking back to the mosque.

To the documentary makers and their supporters

Although I might agree in principle on the need for a closer look at how our mosques are managed, we clearly disagree on the method by which this goal should be reached. If you want to start a conversation about the state of our mosques, focus your message and don't use hype and propaganda to provide additional fuel to the mosque-haters and Islamophobes.

I don't deny you the right to express your views, but condemn the route you have chosen. I decry all those who have negatively portrayed our mosques, their leadership, and their imams as this only serves to weaken the community further and offers no solutions.

I hope the documentary articulates the issues and solutions in a more balanced approach.  An approach that will include the wisdom of our elders, the support of our parents, and the energy and creativity of our youth.  If they do, I will be the first to promote it and write a positive review, insha'Allah.

96 Responses

  1. ibnmasood

    You clearly haven’t been to some of the mosques that prevent congregants from speaking out or even attempting to change things within it.

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    • Wakar K.

      Get involved in the process! Figure out how you can get into a position on your board and map how you’re to get there. That way you can elevate those around you who are also raising concerns for change.

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      • Hidayah

        It is almost impossible to get involved, for so many reasons. Not only are masjid politics a mess, but if you aren’t from the right ethnic background, which I’m not, you are not so terribly welcome. My experience is not unique, unfortunately.

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    • Haytham

      Ibn Masjood, I am sad to hear that such things take place in our masajid. I am also certain that some masajid have major issues. However, I dont blanket statements thrown in a trailer is the way to address them. Again, like I said in the article, I agree in principle that we need to take a closer look into our masajid but I disagree with the approach of the trailer. I hope this distinction is clear.

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  2. Wakar K.

    I 100% agree with the author. What I keep seeing over and over is young people complaining about things they want to see changed in the community but don’t want to put the necessary time and dedication it takes to make anything happen. For those who do, they hit a few obstacles and quit. You have to have a strong backbone working in any masjid. Let’s work with our elders in a respectful and practical way that will actually help yield some positive changes.

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  3. ZAI

    Salaam Haytham,
    Thanks for the article and agree with many of your points.
    I think mosques do have many problems, especially in terms of accomodating women, recent converts, eschewing ethnic/social/ideological or interpretive divisions as well as a host of other issues. But I do agree with you that all mosques can’t be painted with the same brush and any large institution in general will encounter such issues. Progress is being made though and it’s ultimately a journey. If the documentary really is this one sided, I agree with you that it doesn’t do the subject a fair objective justice.

    You gotta admit tho man:

    “Khutbah for 30 min in Arabic, translation given = “Do ze goot, don’t do ze baid, be ze goot moslems, sanks you.” #unmosqued”

    That was funny bro..lol, and it’s TRUE at so MANY mosques that it is an issue. If we want the documentaries such as this to be balanced, we also have to admit some of these tweets, comments, etc. are right on target and that one is bro. Infact this is not just a problem here, it’s a problem overseas as well where 80% of the worlds Muslims are non-Arab yet they are required to listen to a khutbah in Arabic. I know three of the Madhabs, excluding the Hanafis, makes an Arabic Khutbah fardh…but it’s just NOT gonna work here man.

    Personally, I think the Imams of the four madhabs wrote this opinion at a time when it looked like Arabic would become the dominant language of the ENTIRE ummah, thus making the continuation of that sunnah reasonable and applicable everywhere…but that was effectively blocked by the rise of the Shu’ubiyyah movement against the Ummayyads and the re-emergence of Persian to the East. From that point on to the current day the Iranian languages(Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, Baluchi), various Turkic dialects, Indic languages, Malay, etc. were firmly entrenched and Arabic had no chance of spreading to the East again…nor is it going to happen today brother…not the least here in the West. So coulda, shoulda, woulda is all irrelevant. The point on the GROUND in the majority of Muslims do not speak Arabic nor will they in the near future…So the dude who wrote that tweet had a totally valid point…

    Again bro…I agree with the gist of your article and many of your points.
    But I’m pointing out that perhaps including THAT particular tweet as an example of why people are sarcastically criticizing the mosques this way, because that IS a valid criticism. What Im saying essentially is that we must ALSO be careful of not dismissing legitimate concerns these films bring up, because thats why these films are being made: because there is a general feeling amongst Muslims…especially women and the youth…that the mosque doesn’t take their criticisms seriously even when they have legitimate ones. We also have to have extreme discretion in our criticisms OF the criticisms.

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    • Siraaj

      I think a lot of the criticisms of masjids are dead-on, but I also believe Haytham makes a good point that we’re not doing enough to bring change, we’re just whining about it.

      I liked bro Atif’s Rad Talks presentation, very balanced and also inquiring for creative solutions.

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    • Haytham

      Zai, thanks for your reasonable tone and approach to my article. Let me begin my response by agreeing with you that have mega issues when it comes to the culture of the masjid towards women and converts. This is a mega issue and we must address it head on.

      Sure, “Khutbah for 30 min in Arabic, translation given = “Do ze goot, don’t do ze baid, be ze goot moslems, sanks you.” #unmosqued” is funny, but masks the bigger issue at hand, which is to approach the situation through a solution focus lens. If you can give a khutbah better than the Imam/brother, then by all means do so. If you are not on the Khateeb list, then request to be added. If you were removed of the Khateeb list because the board is hostile towards you, then nominate a more open minded board to the masjid. There are a million ways for you to approach the issue, making fun of the persons accent is not one of them!

      As for the Fiqhi issue that you brought up, I am not a scholar to give you an edict here, but logically I do agree that the khutbah should be in the language of the people.

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  4. Shahin

    Assalamu alaikum, I agree with most of the things you have mentioned, especially the vilification of our immigrant imams-it almost seems like a trend these days to degrade imams because of the language they speak. Written with emotion this was, but I think it was an honest review.

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  5. Abu Yusuf

    One point to add to all of this. No matter how much you make the masjid accessible, friendly, etc…if the home is broken islamically it won’t make a dent in the fabric of our community. Its something to work on, but as I said we have a bigger problem at hand and that is the home, where Islam is not practiced, or at the most culturally practiced. Once we can make strides there, the Masjid will change. Until then I highly doubt making the Masjid “better” will do much to the community at large.

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  6. Ali Fiaz

    Haytham, you’re a pretty super cool dude, bro :)

    That is all.

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  7. ahsun

    as i mentioned in a previous venue to you, while your article contains great points, your article is actually a proof that the unmosqued trailer is an effective impetus to provoke discussion and, inshallah, positive change. after identifying symptoms, there might be debate on the proper diagnosis of the real root issues, but inshallah, that’s the first step in the arduous yet worthwhile path towards developing a treatment moving forward.

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    • Haytham

      Ahsun, thats an interesting take and logic.

      I don’t think that being one-sided, accusatory, and defaming of our parents and Imams is an effective impetus to provoke discussion. It doesnt make sense for me to slap somebody in the face and then sit him down to have a discussion. I think there are many other ways to discuss this issue that are more solution based and less confrontational and thats what I hope to see in the documentary when it’s released.

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  8. Abdul-Razzaq

    Salaam Alaikum

    Interesting piece here, obviously – I haven’t seen the film yet either, but I think we really need to reflect on the struggles of 1/2 of our population. Outside of ADAMS center – probably the best mosque in America….How many masajid have you been to with adequate space for women to hear and see what is happening in their community? I would assume (I hope I am wrong) that it is something many of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. While my experiences are anecdotal, I know many sisters that have tried to bring about change in several masajid, only to be marginalized and leaving the whole situation out of frustration. By the way, the whole purpose of a trailer is to get people to watch the movie.

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    • Haytham

      Abdul-Razzaq, I dont want to dig into each individual masjid, because we all have issues. I can certainly highlight a few issues about ADAMS, but this isnt the point of the article. I am not discrediting the whole movement, I am simply asking for a less contemptuous way of addressing their concerns.

      I am familiar with some of the sisters that you are referring to in your comment. And just for the record, I supported the principles of the “penalty box” group but disagreed with their methods as well. You can refer to the article titled “The Penalty Box” on MuslimMatters.org

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  9. Latch

    I see a lot of positive and encouraging comments for the author but people are trying too hard to take a middle ground or agree.

    I accept that some of the info displayed in the trailer may have been displayed and presented in a bad way and I understand that it may get under the skin on those who see this as displaying our mosques in a negative light. The only problem there is that you seem all together too defensive. If we have the guts to be our own worst critic then who cares about everyone else?

    Now, you say that those who criticize and complain are just whining but honestly you sound like you are whinging about the whining the whole way through your article. I followed this link through Facebook but seriously hope this page is filed under the opinion section.

    Our mosques DO have problems. Many immigrant Imams DONT try to change. And more often than not you have un-breachable boards that control everything from who delivers a khutbah to what is IN that khutbah. Now, before you dismiss me understand that my whole life has been centered around the mosque. Ive lived in 6 states and have been active in each community along the way. Ive SEEN the BS, Ive SEEN all the stupidity and know that theres more politics than anything worth fighting against at the masjid. Women get the short end of the stick and mosques are shut down completely between prayers.

    We do have community centers in our richest communities but what you see otherwise are nationalist born masjids that center around catering to a culture driven version of our religion. This either alienates young people or subjugates them because they’re too young to resist – tagging along because they have to.

    Dont think you speak for everyone – far from it. We need to tear the whole system apart – even if it means waiting til all the last generation has passed. And who are you to ask if those people have ever built a masjid? How many people can say they have? Ive PAID to HELP a masjid get built but just as that means nothing to you…that question means nothing to your argument.

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  10. Joe

    If the trailer was biased and promoted a univocal narrative, then your article did the same. I was expecting more from @Muslimmatters. Myself and others heard for months about a forthcoming article analyzing all sides of the issue. We’ve come to know of MuslimMatters as a place for objective reporting and discussion on pertinent topics to the community, not trite opinion pieces with grandious titles like “unmasked.”
    Your article clearly seeks to use projection, character accusation, and insinuations of non-participation/ lack of true fraternity to escape the grim reality of the modern mosque.
    We expected an article that would add substance to the debate and discussion, not interject more subjectivity into the fray of opinion. Your article did neither. I do.hope that one does come out, after make its rounds in the Shura.

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    • Haytham

      Joe, no where in my article did I claim that I am analyzing all sides of the issue. I specifically said that I am talking about the way the trailer is presented, thats all. The article was written by me, it was not a collaborative effort from MM. In fact, other MM authors are working on unmosqued articles as well giving other perspectives.

      Moreover, if you read my conclusion above, I specifically said that we need less contemptuous way of addressing the issue and I agreed that we have to take a closer look at the way our masajid are managed. In fact, as an organizer of TDC I actually invited Atif to do a main session at prime time to close to 2,000 people about unmosqued.

      Joe, where did I use character accusation and insinuation of non participation in my article? You belittling my opinion by calling it a trite opinion is uncalled for and unhealthy for this dialogue.

      At any rate, I dont think I’ve earned such hostility from you- given that you know me personally.

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      • Joe

        Haytham,

        Regardless of your inviting Atif or not, that doesn’t change the thrust of your article. Regardless of whether we know each other or not, that doesn’t change the thrust of your article. Let’s not make this subjective.
        * In this article, you clearly use projection when faced with the facts of the Pew study.
        * When analyzing the worthiness of the interviewees, you make ad hominem attacks.
        * Your characterization of the teaser trailers purpose is straw man that you then knock down through out the rest of the article, while most of this is what you understood not what was stated in the trailer.
        * You make an argument from fallacy, presuming that the trailer presents something incorrect, and as such the conclusion that there is problem is incorrect.
        * You fight criticism with criticism, another fallacious argument.
        * and lastly, you exhibit personal incredulity to the issue at hand. Just because you have not faced it or do not like the tone, does not mean that it is not true or that the makers of the film are flawed in proposing the question the way they did, or that anyone else who has commented and voiced support for the cause is somehow not involved.

        There are fallacies abound in this article, and it comes off bad. A friend said to me once “I think that some people want the unmosqued, so that they can point the finger at them and say ‘Well as least we are not like them. We are the ones doing something good.’”

        I feel your article plays to that tune.

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      • Haytham

        Regardless of your inviting Atif or not, that doesn’t change the thrust of your article.

        I mentioned this to show that my intentions aren’t like you said to “use character accusation and insinuation of non participation”. On the contrary, it goes to show that I support the principle of what Atif stands for and disagree with the method the trailer took to defame the Imam and the whole institution of the masjid.

        * In this article, you clearly use projection when faced with the facts of the Pew study.

        The Pew study shows that this trend isnt a Muslim trend ; its a social trend. All the other major religions are suffering from people leaving their places of worship. So perhaps we need to look else were, in addition to, the obvious and the in-your-face issues in our mosques. No projection what so-ever.

        * When analyzing the worthiness of the interviewees, you make ad hominem attacks.

        Is pointing out the fact that they are all from the NE is considered an attack? Is examining their credentials considered an attack? I mean if they are used as the primary reference/witnesses, then examining their credentials is a fair game.

        * Your characterization of the teaser trailers purpose is straw man that you then knock down through out the rest of the article, while most of this is what you understood not what was stated in the trailer.

        Really? Does it have to be stated in the trailer for it to be there? It is clear from the clips chosen by the trailer make that our Mosques are evil and they are bound to fail, and its all because of the masjid leadership and the immigrant Imams. No personal responsibility is mentioned in the trailer, not even a hint of it.

        * You make an argument from fallacy, presuming that the trailer presents something incorrect, and as such the conclusion that there is problem is incorrect.

        Not true again! My only argument of the article, Joe, is that although I agree in principle of what unmosqued stands for, I disagree with the way the trailer came about. Its a clear marketing stunt, which isnt a way to start a constructive discussion about this issue. Please re-read my article.

        * You fight criticism with criticism, another fallacious argument.

        All I am trying to do is to partake in this conversation by advising the documentary makers to say focused on their main message and not diverge into this Fox-News-Like tactics of cut and paste quotes from Imams to vilify them. That’s just uncool.

        * and lastly, you exhibit personal incredulity to the issue at hand. Just because you have not faced it or do not like the tone, does not mean that it is not true or that the makers of the film are flawed in proposing the question the way they did, or that anyone else who has commented and voiced support for the cause is somehow not involved.

        Joe, I am not disagreeing with the principle, just the method. It was said couple of times in the article and a few times here in the comments section. I cannot say that I suffered the same way our sisters or converts have suffered, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have empathy for their cause.

        Again, I gave them the platform to propose the question and solicit support by giving Atif this main session at TDC. How can you come back and say that I am doing exactly the opposite by writing an article critiquing their methods of addressing the issue?

        There are fallacies abound in this article, and it comes off bad. A friend said to me once “I think that some people want the unmosqued, so that they can point the finger at them and say ‘Well as least we are not like them. We are the ones doing something good.’”

        I feel your article plays to that tune.

        That’s clearly untrue, given my track record and given that I contacted Atif as a friend and took his permission to write this article (which I didnt have to do). I had hoped that you would understand that given that know each other on a personal level and spoke a few times.

        My article wasn’t written to belittle the cause (read my conclusion please), but yet, I received nothing but hostility from those who are avid supporters of the trailer that way it is now.

        Finally and just to make a point: for the last few hours since this article was published I have received enough emails, tweets, FB msgs and even comments here to prove to me that I am not alone. Lots of people agree with the principle of unmosqued, but disagree with the level of hostility towards our parents and immigrant imams.

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      • Uthman34

        wow Joe was so angered by your article he couldn’t think straight to be able to understand what you wrote.

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      • Tariq Nisar Ahmed

        Joe’s comments were blunt and did nothing to massage your ego, Haytham, but a better reply for you would have been the scholar’s. Imam Shafi’ once made dua for a harsh critic, “O Allah, if he is telling the truth, then make him succeed and purify me from that sin. If he is lying, then forgive him for what he said.”

        Joe’s comments were hidden because of low ratings. I clicked on them, and found merit in most of his criticisms. I encourage everyone to “unmask” his comments by clicking on them.

        I love Haytham for the sake of Allah, and he knows it (unless he’s too busy thinking of his next reply). But Haytham loves to write contentious in-your-face articles that get (and give) lots of hits. And if he has to bust in like a bull in a china shop, or leave all the egg shells in his Egyptian omelet, then tafaddul. Want to see a balanced article about Unmosqued issues? Go read Siraaj’s article.

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      • Tariq Nisar Ahmed

        How can anyone not love Haytham when he’s smiling? Alhamdolillah.

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      • Hena Zuberi

        Assalam alaykum wa rahmatulah,

        It has been a long road; this conversation has been taking place for a long time. It took a talk by a brother and this documentary to get people riled up.

        Here are my observations which I hope readers will share with their masajid and boards as way to get some of the grievances across to the people who need to read them and are in the position to make changes. Alhamdulillah, it has already been shared with two forums of ulema and imams, many of whom are not on social media and may never watch this trailer or documentary.
        http://muslimmatters.org/2013/04/08/unmosqued-remosqued-western-masajid-and-the-search-for-community/1/

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  11. Billa B

    This article unfortunately sounds a lot like a defensive reply by people who are themselves very comfortable with the dynamics of mosque politics or demographics because they belong to or have been accepted by the mainstream i.e. non-converts,people from backgrounds where Islam is prevalent, men in particular and people for whom things like Quran study circles, knowledgeable scholarly events and the ability to mingle with people of like-minded persuasion religiously or otherwise…I too,belong to this comfortable group being a brown male but I will not defer to people who forcibly want to implement what they believe is accepted Islamic thinking,behavior and discussions and my gratitude for building mosques does not extend to giving over control of whatever fair-mindedness I possess and following the herd because it so much harder to go against the grain…neither will I ‘unmosque’ myself because people’s dislike of my views does not affect my relationship with my creator and unmosquing so to speak is waving a white flag at the horrid conditions of our masajid…The irony is that people who voice opinions like the author will in the future lament the emptiness and utter disregard of our masajids and sadly the disconnect their children will feel from the mosque,because they spent much of their life siding with the status quo and being too timid to challenge power and be pro-active..To answer the question the author poses: Yes, it’s the responsibility of the masajids to cater to each diverse interest and group within their community much like it is the responsibility of Muslims to make mosques the centre of our civic,communal and religious multiverse in turn…I will never fully agree with the ‘Unmosqued’ movement because I love masjids and the moments of tranquility I’ve experienced in them but I,unlike the author, recognize that it is because of the privilge I have of being a Muslim male from an ‘ethnically Muslim’ background and it is part of my privilege that such an experience extends to others outside my group i.e. teens,women,liberal/conservative minded Muslims, LGBT Muslims, converts and even non-Muslims insha Allah…for all our sakes,let us not keep our heads in the sand while our Masajids continue increasingly to be seen as despotic,unwelcoming,wastefully expensive and architecturally beautiful instititutions with little to offer to everyone at once.

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    • Haytham

      Billa, I am not sure where exactly do I sound “defensive” in the article? And I dont know how can you say that I am comfortable with the dynamics of the masjid when I criticized the way our masajid are run in my article?

      I have to admit though, I loved this part of your comment:

      neither will I ‘unmosque’ myself because people’s dislike of my views does not affect my relationship with my creator and unmosquing so to speak is waving a white flag at the horrid conditions of our masajid

      Rock on bro! I am right there with you! Just please be respectful of others as you wish for them to respect you! Thats all I am asking for.

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      • Billa B

        fair enough,I apologize if I came on aggressive and overtly assuming…I do see the merits of your argument for more respect and actually doing something about the situation BUT I feel often severe and radical-sounding ideas such as ones this movie presents are important to even get us thinking and debating like in this comments thread..another point I wanted to speak to was that immigrant Imam bashing is not okay,BUT there are deeper issues with immigrant imams and they are often not to blame but board execs who import them in..Having not grown up in North American societies and understanding the power dynamics of our hybrid immigrant mosaic Muslim structure they are often out of tune with younger audiences as well as with what North American Muslim communities need,it may well be that board execs appoint them because they feel they are less likely to question their despotism..In the end,it is not the accents that get to me but the fact that Jummah after Jummah is packed with anecdotes relating to stuff that Muslim majority countries are attuned to and sadly trivial stuff like naming kids with ‘Islamic’(read Arab) names..It is heartening to see places like Al Maghrib,Zaytuna and Al kauthar to name a few starting this tradition of unique North American Muslim scholarship but until such time as most masjid boards remain staunchly patriarchal,despotic and tunnel visioned we have no choice but to speak out whether through more conservative approaches as you seem to advocate or more aggressively skeptical ones like the movie does

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  12. Haytham

    Ghulam, Wakar K., Siraaj, Shahin, Abu Yusuf, Ali, and Ibrahim jazakum Allahu Khayran for your support and I am glad that I was able to articulate your points of view in my article. I hope this article, along with all the others speaking about it, start a constructive conversation as to how to reform our masajid and make them flourish with Muslims. Ameen.

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  13. Mobeen

    Interesting article ya Haytham, it certainly has engendered quite a bit of discussion in the comments section so soon. I dont intend to respond comprehensively in defense of the article, but did want to offer a few points that may (or may not) contribute to the current discussion taking place.

    - I find some of the criticisms leveled against the article to be slightly melodramatic. This article was not intended to be an academic rebuttal of a scholarly publication, but rather a critique of what can perhaps be regarded as the predominant narratives, emotions, and sentiments expressed in the immediate aftermath of the trailers release. It obviously is not representative of every last person who viewed the trailer and agreed with it to some degree or another, and my own impression from reading the article was that the author didnt find its message wholly objectionable either.

    - In critiquing the ‘immigrant’ nature of our communities – something that is likely present in the majority of the masajid in America (or at least the majority of masajid in my area lol) – the impulse to position ‘indigenization’ as a panacea to what ails us is simply too simplistic, and overlooks the critical role that ethnic solidarity plays in forming religious commitment. Though we may bemoan the desi masjid with urdu khutbahs (or any alternative ethnicity you prefer lol), would replacing the mowlana with a hip 20-something da’ee and relatable english khutbahs result in an increase in attendance? I’m not so sure it would…

    - A common criticism of masajid that I tend to agree with is the alienation convert Muslims can feel in our communities, but I would add that we really cant have a meaningful discussion on this topic while completely avoiding the topic of race and the way it functions in our communities. Simply put, our perceptions of white male converts is quite different than that of black converts, and our expectations of white female converts (and their experiences) differ heavily from that of black female converts. As much as we need to bring the topic of converts to the fore for communal discourse, we would be remiss to dismiss critical components of that discussion out of our ongoing agnosia as it pertains to race.

    As for my own thoughts about ‘unmosqued’: there was something I found deeply unsettling about the celebratory mood following the trailers release and what I (perhaps wrongly) perceived as a relishing in the demonization of imams and communities. This is not to say that some, if not most, of those criticisms were on the mark – I certainly dont enjoy attending khutbahs in urdu, or going to a masjid where my wife has to pray in an unkempt, poorly maintained prayer space. But it is to say that my own feeling – and maybe this is what the author was getting at – following the trailers release was one of various people co-opting its message for the purpose of self-vindication rather than urging those people to get involved in a local community/org and working to improve the shortcomings those communities/orgs possess. And Allah Knows Best.

    Just my 2 cents :)

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    • Haytham

      But it is to say that my own feeling – and maybe this is what the author was getting at – following the trailers release was one of various people co-opting its message for the purpose of self-vindication rather than urging those people to get involved in a local community/org and working to improve the shortcomings those communities/orgs possess. And Allah Knows Best.

      Amazingly put Mobeen, thanks!

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  14. Bilal Hito

    the gentleman (Haytham) makes sweeping statements, assumptions, and accusations – that all could have been avoided had he simply reached out to the director of the film before publishing his critique. InshAllah the film will be out by the end of this year. After he finishes watching it, each of the’great quotes/paragraphs’ will become null and void – one by one (because the points he makes are all addressed in the full length film – that are neither insulting nor demeaning). Whilst he accuses the film of not giving the benefit of doubt to the Mosque leaders, the author fails to give the benefit of doubt to the director. After all, it is a trailer – a work in progress. Perhaps the start of conversation the author alludes to, could be better served by contacting the developers/directors – and ascertaining the validity of certain qualms before passing judgment. Much of the ‘concerns’ published in this edition of Unmasked, were copied and compounded from another blogger (Sana Saeed) that also put up a critique entitled Unmasked (available on Patheos). We’re getting to a point where the critique needs a critique, and nothing has been released other than the trailer. We need not to wait for the release of the film to quell our questions/concerns – a simple email to the developers would suffice.

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    • Siraaj

      I believe he’s in contact with them already. The article is pretty clear its not a critique of the film, but the trailer itself and the reactions it caused (admittedly if someone is getting the wrong message from your work, that may or may not be your fault).

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      • Bilal Hito

        It’s rather boggling someone would make a critique of a trailer, but thats another story. When I first saw the trailer, I can’t describe what I felt – but I felt like there was hope. I IMMEDIATELY contacted the team/director(s). I just wanted to thank them. I was extremely excited to hear more about the project – and I was told more about the film, its scope, its details. I am extremely hopeful – and I can’t see why others aren’t. The author here is suggesting that change be effected differently – namely, ways that HAVE been tried – and have failed. Id like to see the author present ONE single case, where his method worked – anywhere. Really, im not trying to be coy. Ive been in and out of board meetings, private meetings, and involved participation with numerous mosques. The stories my friends and family tell me from other parts of the country, are the same. Be involved, or don’t be – nothing changes. It’s just too idealistic, and not realistic. What concerns me is not that someone doesn’t like the tone of a trailer – what concerns me, is that people belittle reality. I remember speaking with a khateeb that told me he wished he could speak his heart at the mimbar without fearing his life! I’m glad that I’m a nobody, I’m glad Im not part of some organization, or some institution – because Im free and I could speak truth without fear of losing my job, or my position. There have been growing efforts to curb the negativity that we all acknowledge within the community – we have books, lectures, and now film. Khalid Latif (whom the author acknowledges to be a success story) – effected change in the ICNYU that is now seen as a model, to other centers. Why do you think that someone who has actually effected change – would agree to be part of something that is so ‘horrible’. I really hope the author re-evaluates his harshness on what many of us see as our only hope.

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      • Siraaj

        Don’t you think it’s ironic that you want the author to revise his tone of harshness in critiquing the trailer when that’s what he’s calling for in critiquing the entire Muslim community at large?

        I’ve lived around the country myself and i’ve seen my fair share of politics and corruption as well as efficiency and togetherness. I don’t see a denial of the problems you’ve laid out within the article, but a call for a more balanced tone in criticism.

        Siraaj

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      • Hyde

        As much as I have respect for Imam Khalid, I would not exactly say that the ICNYU is an ideal center. I have been going there for some time now, and yes it is beneficial, but hardly a model for the Muslim community. I mean, NYU is the most liberal institution in the country, and thus it should not be a surprise that some of that putrid liberalism rubs the Muslims at NYU.
        For one, the chit-chat among brothers and sisters is really obvious and casual.
        Again Imam Khalid has a lot of respect (which he deserves), BUT… I digress… (Although can someone please tell the Imam and other fellow Muslims stop writing for the pornographic Huffington Post!)
        As far the trailer goes, I have already written the comment for brother Siraj’s entry, but brother Haytham article is well poised. Albeit the language barrier with the Imams can be problem but then even American-born imams should have backgrounds in social communication or public psychology; engineering and accounting does not really help.
        Let’s see what happens when this great of cinematic feature-film comes out (heck, maybe Orson Well can narrate it)
        The beloved said that the prayer would be the last to leave the Ummah…so let’s see what happens

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    • Haytham

      Let me first say that I have not watched the documentary (as yet unreleased) and this article is not about the documentary. It is about the trailer. A trailer that has become a catalyst unleashing a plethora of comments and statuses on social media and, therefore, warrants some critique.

      Bilal, you are missing the whole point. I wrote this article about the trailer and not the documentary.

      You seem to have intimate knowledge about the documentary makers, if so, please ask them if I contacted them or not before you accuse me of not doing my part. Additionally, your accusation of plagiarism is unfounded and moot. Please highlight the “cut and paste” sections from my article.

      Lets step away from marketing stunts and focus our message on the core issues so we can produce sound and wise solutions. This article was written with the intension to be a guide to the documentary makers to consider an alternative to address such a sensitive issue. Thats all.

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      • Bilal Hito

        Cut and paste: the questions raised about the geographics of the documentary being ‘northeastern’. That was the same assumption Sana Saeed made (among others). Did you expect a three minute trailer to cover every state in the continental united states? I understand what your saying – but c’mon, what were your expectations from a teaser.

        “This article was written with the intension to be a guide to the documentary makers” I don’t think the international community of blog readers are the documentary makers. Furthermore, it’s not only the documentary makers your targeting in your post – its ‘their supporters’ as well. It’s the ‘unmosqued’ people your hitting. Thats why this is personal for me – you are insulting every person that doesn’t agree with your approach, by either belittling their feelings, experiences, apprehensions.etc – and by offering solutions that are merely speculative. Anyone Muslim(s) who speak on behalf of the ‘unmosqued’ – i’m a supporter of, because over the years – I have become unmosqued. Much of my generation is unmosqued. Go ahead and re-read the pew research statistics – our participation is minimal, and the challenges faced by other faith groups are not relevant at all. Speak to ‘them’ and then speak to our own – I grew up going to catholic school, the issues are different. I’ve written in to every person I can think of that is spearheading some kind of revitalization effort – whether they be authors, speakers/lecturers, Imams, or film makers. Anyone who gives the voiceless a voice – is doing us all a favor. I’d really like to see examples of places you know that have undergone these amazing changes with the suggestions you made. I haven’t seen any. I pray we do, but until then – our voices need to be heard!

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  15. Asiah

    For sure young people today grew up in a generation of entitlement. However many mosques do not have any system in place for the youth to “take action” in lieu of complaining. This is one of the basic problems in masajid in America, and not coincidentally in Muslim countries around the world. The few who have power try to hold on to it as long as possible, and there are no political systems in place for new blood to come in. It is hard for those who are interested in participating to do so. They face strong opposition and are often punished socially for trying to get involved, voice opinions, or change things. So they give up. I can definitely understand the danger of being complainers and not offering solutions. However I feel that this trailer and forthcoming movie has already done a lot to promote conversation. While Mr. Haytham may disagree with the filmakers’ methods, they are the reason he is writing this article in the first place, thus contributing to the discussion. Even though I consider this article to be little more than the continuation of the mantra of the Muslims “don’t discuss our problems publicly, have respect for elders…” Respect for sure. But I have no respect for the system, it’s broken. Move out of the way respected elders. Sit down, put your feet up, let me get you some chai. Let the new guys have a turn.

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    • Haytham

      Asiah, thanks for your comment.

      You know, I am glad that you concede that we have become a generation of entitlement. This is a key component of my argument that shouldn’t be overlooked. We also shouldn’t expect to be handed down the leadership as a matter of right, it’s something that we earn based on our commitment to the masjid and its values. If you agree with me on this point, I can simply say that you and I are on the same page for pretty much every other point to come.

      You said about those who actively try to change the status quo from within, “It is hard for those who are interested in participating to do so. They face strong opposition and are often punished socially for trying to get involved, voice opinions, or change things. So they give up.” I know its hard and I know its difficult for all the reasons that you mentioned above and ever more. However, by quitting and becoming unmosqued you are simply throwing in the towel and losing on both ends: you didnt change the wrong that you saw and you stopped coming to the masjid! How is that logical?

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  16. Bilal Hito

    I think the author need to touch base with the majority of converts, who no longer wish to participate in the Masajid. I think the author needs to touch base with women, who in many masajid ARE NOT ALLOWED. I think the author needs to wake up and smell the coffee. All of this talk of volunteering and cleaning up the Mosque and running for elections. Please – how many Mosques have elections. How many Mosques have *real elections. I live in Long Island, I have tried with virtually every mosque in my area to start convert programs, youth programs, etc. They are allergic to any hint of a woman. There is one Mosque out of over 20 on my little Island, that has women on the board. Ive seen horror stories, and continue to see them. Im sick of it – unmosqued is the best thing thats happened in a long time, because it actually stands up for the voiceless! We aren’t all women, but we should all stand for the rights Allah has given women, we arent all orphans – but Islam has us stand for their rights. We aren’t all widows, or elderly, or children – but Allah asks us to uphold their rights. We have to speak justly, even if it be concerning a near one. And here we are – blaming the catalysts that come to effect POSITIVE change. I’ve worked with converts for about 5 years now – the Masjid sees them when they take their shahadah – i have to see them when they apostate. Its not pretty. And it’s not because they necessarily stop believing in the theology – rather, their experiences throw them to the curb – and they say things like “im done with Muslims”. So yes, go ahead and blame the victims. A beautiful picture of Mosque life is being painted in this article – and its not a reality for man people. Its only a reality for very religious Muslims who have accepted whatever is given to them (or not given to them) by the Mosque. The Mosque was a great place at the time of the Prophet saws – it welcomed and received and was the lifeline for Muslims. Please, please speak to the ‘unmosqued’ people, be they young or old, men or women, immigrant or otherwise, the converts, etc. The oversimplified solution of working with the leadership is a cop out – we all know how things work at our mosques, it has to be a coup d’etat for any change to happen. A huge fight that breaks out post Jumuah (yes, we’ve had a few of those at the largest mosque here in long island) – it was one of the last times I saw a convert friend of mine who used to accompany me to Jumuah. The police had to come in with bulletproof vests and confront the congregants. Beautiful. And we all know the board fights that never end in compromise. You speak as though we are all lazy idiots who love complaining and never tried anything. Well we did, and it doesnt work! I showed the unmosqued trailer to the president of our mosque here – he loved it! He believes in the movement and wants to effect change. You dont see the positive in it, you only see what you perceive as negative. Defend that shaykh all you want – defend all of them, it makes no difference. Plenty of ridiculous rhetoric is spewed daily at mosques across america – if you’d like me to share it here, id be happy to. At the end of the day, let the film be made – let the shaykhs, the imams, the presidents, and everyone else – hear the TRUTH about how people feel. DONT ENCOURAGE CENSORSHIP – let people speak, and be heard! The Mujadalah mentioned in the Quran, was a woman who complained and whose prayer was heard – she was not seen as a troublemaker. She launched a complaint about what she felt was wrong – and change was effected. We have rights as congregants. We have rights as Muslims. We have a right to be heard. If you can publish this post and criticize someone/something – then surely, others do as well. I pray that not one, but 50 films are produced that hit home and heart, and effect change – because we need it. Forget the other religions and their decline in participation – we are not them. We have our own problems, they need to be solved! We can’t justify our decline through others. Let the word be spoken, let the hearts speak. You spoke what you felt, don’t undermine what others feel!

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    • Haytham

      Here is my reply to your comment, Bilal.

      Although I might agree in principle on the need for a closer look at how our mosques are managed, we clearly disagree on the method by which this goal should be reached. If you want to start a conversation about the state of our mosques, focus your message and don’t use hype and propaganda to provide additional fuel to the mosque-haters and Islamophobes.

      I don’t deny you the right to express your views, but condemn the route you have chosen. I decry all those who have negatively portrayed our mosques, their leadership, and their imams as this only serves to weaken the community further and offers no solutions.

      To sum it up, I agree with you on principle but disagree on the way to approach the issue. Just now, in your comment above, you are becoming more and more hostile towards me although I didn’t do anything to you personally. I presented a point of view for discussion, is that a crime?

      And yes, I agree that our brothers and sisters who are converts have been mistreated and have to be respected and cherished. And yes, I also agree that our sisters should be more welcomed and less judged in our masasjid. Now that this is out of the way, lets talk about how to discuss and approach these issues. Thanks!

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      • Bilal Hito

        Well thats just it – the discussion and approach to these issues is taking place. If you don’t like the methodology, why don’t you just go about your methodology and not criticize others. I have nothing against you Haytham, your my brother and I love you – I don’t hate anyone. I just see this as two ways of doing the same thing – and why can they not be done simultaneously without you bashing one method?

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      • Haytham

        …and I love you too Bilal :) That was sweet of you to say, jazakum Allahu khayran.

        My intend is not to bash the documentary makers. As a matter of fact, I gave them the platform of a major convention that I organized in Houston in December of 2012 (before the release of the trailer) in support of their original message. However, I have to speak out when I see that they are going about addressing the issue the wrong way. It’s freedom of expression and I am entitled to it too, right?

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      • Bilal Hito

        Wayakum :)

        By all means – freedom of expression is a right afforded by both Deen & Country. I am not challenging your right (or that of anyone else) to say anything. I am talking about the sentiment behind it the underlying message. When we look at anything – we have to evaluate the purpose behind it. If we acknowledge fault in our centers, we all agree on trying to fix what’s broken. If one side sees a bottom top approach, and other side sees top bottom – why not simultaneously work to fix the problem, instead of belittle the effort on either side. I am not ‘convinced’ that your suggestions will bear the kind of fruit we would all hope for. You might say the same about the other approach. Personally, I would not write a blog post ‘guiding’ you on what I see is producing results. The discussion you speak of is already starting, and in a positive way – and as a result of efforts like this. I sent the trailer of ummosqued to the president of one of the largest mosques in NY – this was his reply: “Thought provoking video! I understand your concern. How do we convince others? What pragmatic steps must we take without creating cracks in the society? These are time tested challenges. I’m sure with young leaders like you we will find ways to live together in harmony even with disagreements. Lets have a conversation, this Sunday.”

        InshAllah, to a better tomorrow….

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  17. Arif

    Much-needed post, jazakAllahu khayran for writing, Haytham.

    It has been troubling me over the past couple of years to see how much of the ‘intellectual, practicing, moderate Muslims’ have been bashing Masajid, Islamic schools, and seekers of knowledge. When the Wall Street 99% commotion started, immediately many Muslims said the same thing about the Muslim community – that we are just the 1% and should instead concentrate all of our resources on those that aren’t active at all Islamically. In my opinion, this is a completely skewed perspective and shows the lack of understanding of infrastructure and community organizing.

    Alhamdulillah I’m happy to say that in all of the 10+ major masajid in the Maryland and Virginia Area, we have youth leaders and community activists that are working to reach out to all age groups and have faced the obstacles that came their way with patience. There is of course much more to do, but I’m optimistic that the tide is changing for the better. All we need to do, as Haytham mentioned, is to not give up and work sincerely for Allah’s Sake.

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  18. ibnabeeomar

    Haven’t read through all the comments but in general my feelings on the topic are this:

    1) I agree with the points regarding entitlement and unnecessary vilification – esp in regards to immigrant imams. i’m a huge proponent of having imams that are born/raised here and the whole bit, but let’s be realistic, we owe existing imams a debt of gratitude and the disrespect shown to many of them is unjust. i’m one of those typical born in the US, went to sunday school etc – and i reflect back on questions like, who were the primary people in teaching me how to read quran? make salah? etc.

    2) There’s a balance between “just complaining” and also “trying and getting shut out” – i think a lot of people have sincerely tried their best to contribute to a masjid and had the door slammed in their face for 100% unjust reasons. There’s no easy solution to this, and I hope the documentary makes inroads on that and somehow is able to reach folks in administrative positions in such a way that they’ll realize what they’re doing wrong and change it.

    Regardless, even if one is shut out, when there’s a will there’s a way. you dont have to have a title to make a contribution. it doesnt have to be a big contribution, but even small incremental contributions will add up over time. see – pocket of excellence (http://www.muslimsi.com/masjids/insight-from-a-board-member-pocket-of-excellence/)

    3) At the end of the day (and haytham more or less said this) – its still a MASJID. it is a place to go pray. regardless of how you feel about a place, you still need to go make salah. one of my fears of this ‘unmosqued’ discussion in general is that people will become content with not going to the masjid just because of bad people/experiences.

    4) I hope the unmosqued documentary can make inroads to making positive changes with the audiences that the average person cannot reach – to present a 3rd party message that will hopefully affect those who are in a decision making authority and contributing to some of these problems.

    5) abu yusuf’s original talk was 100% on target – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgoQtzXwGdY

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    • Bilal Hito

      “one of my fears of this ‘unmosqued’ discussion in general is that people will become content with not going to the masjid just because of bad people/experiences.”

      It’s not the discussion that is making people content with not going to the Masjid. People already aren’t going to the Masjid, and the discussion is a result of that – and not the other way around.

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      • ibnabeeomar

        there’s a difference between not going to the masjid (as is already happening) and not going to the masjid PLUS being content with it through the justification of “being unmosqued” – granted, its a subtle difference, but an important one.

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      • Bilal Hito

        It is an important difference. Thats precisely why we need to understand where people are at.I am convinced that the author (Haytham) has very good intentions, and genuinely wants to help. The suggestions he makes don’t reflect his eagerness to help. He cites the ICNYU as a model of sorts, and a practical example of positive change. Yet, he marginalizes the statements (and by default, the involvement) of it’s leader – in the making of this film. He goes on to say that we should start the discussion and talk about ways to change things – starting with identifying the things needed to change. That is precisely the purpose of the film. The trailer was made to highlight the reality of our situation – and the perspective of the movie itself. Ignoring (or playing down) the blood boiling sentiment among large numbers of Muslims – will hinder real change. In reality, the purpose of the film is to unite Muslims and bring them together. The alternative model (which is what we are trying to do locally) is to ‘build your own and do your own’. This essentially solves the problem? Not quite – it encourages sectarianism to some degree. We would much rather work at our local Masjid, side by side – with the existing leadership and congregation. And yes I have tried, we have tried – and for years. We volunteered, we sat in long and arduous board meetings, we engaged in their politics, their programs, their ideals – we tried, over and over and over. It was no quick dip in the pool “hey were here now, do things our way”. We looked at things exactly the way Haytham does – and put his suggestions into practice (well, the men did anyway – the women were never allowed to begin with – so most of his suggestions are not applicable to over 50% of our community). Nonetheless, he is entitled to his views – and he is entitled to his criticism. It is not however, an accurate assessment of the situation. The film interviews real people, with real scenarios. The critique on the other hand, is a worldview seen from the perspective from one man (a very active, religious man) – which is not representative of our population. Although he recognizes the same problems (which everyone should, because they are as clear as day) – he bashes an alternative method of dealing with them, namely the film itself (which is really just a heightened sense of awareness). I personally feel that he should continue with his efforts, and the Unmosqued crew should continue theirs – without anyone bashing, or hindering the other side. “…so race to [all that is] good…” (Quran 5:48)

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      • Bilal Hito

        Also, no one – not a single person is content. The aim of the narrative is not to express contentment with the situation. The whole point, is that we aren’t content. I WANT for myself and others to feel welcome at Masajid. That is the goal. No one *wants* to be estranged from their brethren.

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  19. Mohamed

    I hadn’t realized who the Sheikh quoted in the trailer was until now, but now that I know who it is, honestly my stomach hurts a little bit. I know 1 member of the “Unmosqued” film team, and what was done with that snippet of footage is uncharacteristic of him. I hope they edit the trailer and the documentary. I actually agree with the spirit of the trailer in that many masajid in the US behave in an almost foreign manner, but we need to work with them. Yea, we all know that many of the elder generation don’t give up their positions very easily, but we’ve got to work through that obstacle. They built that foundation that we take for granted.

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    • Joe

      They actually did edit the trailer and remove the footage of that individual. I don’t think most people would have known who he is with the face blurred, but they heeded the request of that individual to have his footage removed. It would be good of MuslimMatters (Haytham if you have editing rights) to remove it as well.

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      • Ammar

        Actually they took it down for about 24 hours. Then they put it back up again. It’s still up.

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      • Joe

        I guess it cleared with their lawyers.
        Still doesn’t excuse putting his name on this site, draws unneeded attention.

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      • Haytham

        The fact that they took it down for few hours and then back up is irrelevant Joe.

        Rather it is the fact that the documentary makers added such out-of-context clip and blurred the Shaykh’s face in the first place that is quite disheartening. I mean, imagine of that was you Joe taken out of context… and its clear that it was you… I am sure you wouldn’t have taken it that lightly.

        You know, I would have hoped for the documentary makers to send out an apology letter (public or private) to the masjid and to the shaykh personally. That would have laid this story to rest long time ago!

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      • Joe

        I see what you did there ;)
        You said:
        “That would have laid this story to rest long time ago!”
        So is that what this is all about?

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  20. Kawthar

    Man,it’s gotta take a lot of time and effort to answer all these comments!!

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  21. Abu Umar

    Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salatu wa salam ‘ala rasoolillah,
    Great article Haytham and good way to counter wrong with what is right. May Allah SWT reward your efforts.
    On the other side I would like to say to those who support the trailer; they need to be careful not to let their blood pressure overtake their composure. It’s obvious that we’re going to disagree on many issues because we all claim to be qualified to speak on them. I wonder how many of us would start giving diagnose if we were talking about medicine. I say this to myself first andto all my brothers and sisters fear Allah SWT.

    Speaking ill of our brothers and sisters is not from a muslims manners, keep that in mind. I am not saying there is not a big problem in the masajeed, rather there is a HUGE problem in the ummah. However; that doesn’t give us the right to do whatever it takes to bring awareness.

    Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr: Allah’s Apostle neither talked in an insulting manner nor did he ever speak evil intentionally. He used to say, “The most beloved to me amongst you is the one who has the best character and manners.” He added, ” Learn the Qur’an from (any of these) four persons. ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Salim the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Ubai bin Ka’b, and Mu’adh bin Jabal.” (Bukhari, Book #57, Hadith #104)

    The Prophet of Allah, saaws, said, “He who does not show mercy to our young or show esteem for our elders is not one of us.” (Hadith – Bukhari’s Book of Manners #360, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and Hakim)

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    • umahmed

      as-salamu ‘alaikum,

      “that doesn’t give us the right to do whatever it takes to bring awareness” here’s the crux of the valid unease about the trailer (the slandering of the speaker, taking his words out of context).

      some in their replies to this post have tried using the argument: we don’t have to agree on methods, you do it your way and i’ll do it may way. The problem with that generic answer is that in ISLAM the METHODS DO MATTER, it not about just the ends we achieve, but the means used to get there. Do you think the person who made it to the first row in salah running over someone while speeding to earn that status used the correct thought process? Absolutely not. The ends do not justify the means. The means must also be halal, and not using tactics of smear campaigns, backbiting, and slandering.

      We can’t stoop down to that level. We have the guidance and example of the Prophet, saws, who had the best manners. Let’s act on it.

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  22. Omar Ibrahim

    bismillah

    “The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
    The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.”
    –Oscar Wilde

    He continues: “Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

    There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all….”

    As the man did not live in the age of technology, I will add amend to the notion of “books” any and all of the new mediums of expression and communication. For truth is ever-evident; there is no sense in criticizing immorality, but poor form can always make use of rich and good advice.

    To be honest, I didn’t read all of this, and not that it was too long, but, rather, that all criticisms are superficial in nature and reveal their aim as immediately one’s manner of speech reveals his character. This is what Mr. Wilde referred to as a “mode of autobiography”.

    I can very well relate to the sentiments of “unmosqued”, and I do not think it “Mosques, and in particular the people who built and run them, are the reason why people have left them” in anyway accurately relates the problem presented with “Unmosqued”. Though I will not vouch for the film’s efficacy to relay the message, it is clearly a cry for help. Lack of leadership, stagnancy of thought and blind adherence to tired traditions without honest regard and consideration to the advances of modernity is the blight of any form of government or institution. Throughout the nations it is the imposition of socialism and throughout the people it is the blindness of shirk.

    “Only, indeed, are those who build the masajid of Allah those who believed in Allah and the last day and established the salah and have given the zakat and do not fear (any) save Allah, so perhaps may such be of those who are guided.” 9:18

    What is feared is adhered to and complied with, and what is loved is obeyed and honored whether it be consciously or unconsciously. So, when our institutions fail and our people are lost, who is to blame?

    “…indeed, Allah is free and blameless from the mushrikeen, as is his messenger..” 9:3

    We are still an ummah if we disagree, as brothers, but we are not an ummah when we do not know where the other stands.

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  23. umahmed

    as-salamu ‘alaykum,

    Perhaps one reason the newer generation feels “entitlement” is well… because that is just how their parents have spoiled them in all other aspects of their lives. The majority of teenagers choose what they want to buy or are bought everything they want. They get to eat, drink, wear, whatever they want because parents don’t know how to properly raise them. Also, they don’t learn how to negotiate with other adults/elders in a respectful manner because they always hang out with people their own age, from age 7-21. So they only know how to talk to people who are litererally “like minded”/same age. You cannot learn wisdom this way. Then all of a sudden, we think we have these great ideas (and maybe we do), but wait, how to talk to those….SCARY “elders” that I have never talked to before. They just don’t understand me. They are backward (sarcasm intended).

    So kiddos, grow up, and if you want to change the mosque, be patient and look at the elders with a different perspective. Like any human, if they feel that you are “with them” not “against them” and see your genuineness, your sincere desire to do the good, for your fellow brethren, inshaAllah they will listen to your suggestions. But you have to build the trust first…which can months or years of selfless volunteerism. So let’s quit being childish and talking down to the elders as if we are greatest generation out there to “enlighten” them. Take lessons from how Ibrahim alayhis salam spoke to truth to his father, yet with a title of respect : yaa abatee, when his father was coercing him to the worst of sins, shirk and kufr.

    I say this as a young person myself (mid thirties) who has extensive experience as MSA chapter leadership at a high ranking university. I actually agree a lot of change must be made to make the masajid in tune to the needs of the current times. But that will happen through proper transitioning and dialogue involving respect and appreciation of the service of those well intentioned. To summarize, I applaud br. Haytham to write this article. It’s a wake up call for us, the youth, on our attitudes…It’s all about the ATTITUDE. Change must happen, indeed, but with a spirit of loving cooperation. Jazakum Allah khairan. Let those with the best character win….ameen. :) (as they will in the aakhira)

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  24. Sami

    AA Haytham – nice to hear from you.

    I agree with the spirit of the article. Specifically, the problem of entitlement raised is a huge one. This has been raised to the documentary maker, Ahmed Eid, who is actually very balanced in his approach overall to the topic (even if it wasn’t perceived so in the trailer). I hope that the documentary will reflect the balanced of its makers iA.

    Having said this, I also do believe you may have been too aggressive in your tone (and factually incorrect about none of the interviewees having built mosque – we know this to be untrue with at least two people interviewed in the trailer who have both helped build multiple mosques).

    May Allah reward your for your efforts!

    Sami

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    • Haytham

      Wasalam Sami, thanks for your comment.

      I am glad that more and more people are becoming aware of the issue of entitlement.

      As for my tone, I tried as much as possible to sound reasonable and I think I succeeded for the most part. There might be couple of sentences that showed my frustration, but nothing ill intended wallahi!

      As for the factually untrue sentence that you pointed out, I edited the article and took it out. I thought that line was deleted before the article was published. Thanks for bringing it up to my attention.

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  25. Gibran

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Talk to me people, I have some questions and I’d like you to address/answer them.

    1) Masjid boards seem to be a pretty big problem. It seems that when someone ones to change something they get they door slammed in their face. Also, masjids boards seem to be a problem due to the infighting.

    Question: Don’t we have it from none other than Rasullullah sallahyalayhiwasalam that the best in respect to leadership are those who like it the least? So the whole idea of people running for masjid board and getting elected……is a bit Shaytan like.

    2) A big issue seems to be converts. SubhanAllah, these are people imitating the Sahaba, shouldn’t we open our arms to them and make them feel as welcome as possible? Get to know them, worry about them, etc?

    3) Haythams point about “declining congregations even among Jews and Christians”

    Yes, this is confirmed by Rasulullah salalahualayhiwasalam.
    The following hadith is a warning – not an allowance:

    Aboo Sa’eed al-Khudree (radiAllaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: You will certainly follow the sanan (way) of those who came before you, like the feather (of the arrow) exactly resembles the feather – such that if they were to enter the hole of a lizard, you would certainly enter it. They said: O Messenger of Allaah! The Jews and the Christians? He said: Who else? [Bukhari, Muslim]

    So, skip that, we need to be focusing on how to NOT be like the Yahud and Nasarah (almaghdooby alayhim waladaaaleen.) So pray Fatiha and know what you are saying. And don’t use “they are failing” as an excuse for “we are failing.”

    4) Speaking loudly about being wronged is not a crime.

    http://quran.com/4/148

    Isn’t being forced to listen to horrible, long khutbas and not being able to change it a dhulm?

    5) Khutbas-SubhanAllah, where on earth does anyone get it that they can make a khutba longer than 10-15 minutes? Have any of you guys actually read one of An-Nabi sallahualayhiwasalams khutbas? The excuse that “we need to pump more information to the congregation because they don’t attend halaqahs” is batil. There is no excuse for turning away from the sunnah of Rasulullah salallahualayhiwasalam.

    Besides, long khutbas turn people away from Islam and the effectiveness of all the Quran and Hadith. A short khutbas talking about Jannah, Jahannam, tawheed and taqwa is good for everybody. Whoever wants to listen to more has Nouman Ali Khan on YouTube.
    But no one should need to understand why long khutbas are not only less effective, but harmful. The fact that Rasulullah sallahyalayhiwasalam kept them short should be enough.

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  26. Waleed

    A sorely needed piece, thank you. Summed up many of the thoughts I had on the issue,

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  27. Tariq Nisar Ahmed

    I never saw Moozlum (or whatever the spelling of that film was). I probably will not see Unmosqued, and I did not see the trailer.

    I have been in different masajid at least since I was in kindergarten, and maybe before that. I have slept in masajid, been bored in masajid, met friends in masajid, been disappointed in masajid, been inspired in masajid (admittedly, I think it was a few decades before that happened on a regular basis), got married in a masjid, and on and on. Alhamdolillah, subhanAllah, wastagfirullah, walaa ilaha illAllah, wAllahu Akbar.

    I have been in wonderful communities where I would love to raise a family, and masajid where no children (as measured in years) may have ever been, and everything in between.

    But I can tell you for a fact that there is one masjid that was two masajid for me — the masjid I used to go to only for Jumaa and taraweeh. And the same masjid after I woke up in Muzdalifah and realized I hoped to wake up like that on the Day of Resurrection, surrounded by Muslims. When I was done traveling I began spending time in that same masjid I had before essentially visited as a stranger. I had felt the masjid was cold and unwelcoming before my Hajj. After Hajj I met all kinds of wonderful people.

    It was the same masjid. They were the same people. They had been there all along. I was different.

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  28. Bin Jamil Nasser

    When you produce a trailer, for a non-fictional documentary, is it not rational or desired for the audience to believe, that the completed work will adopt a completely different than tone than what was presented in the preview.
    Preview: anything that gives an advance idea or impression of something to come.
    Once your trailer or preview goes public, you have no right to control the feedback. You publicized it and you got to take the praise and the negative criticism. I don’t need to contact the filmmaker 1st. Did they contact me before they released their trailer to the public?
    I don’t like the tone of this trailer and I believe it’s a preview of the film which will follow.
    Muslims have to love the Masjid even though it is not perfect. Muslims should not stay away from the Masjid because it’s not perfect.
    Staying away from the Masjid does not affect the Masjid in the least, but the person who chooses to stay away from the Masjid is surely adversely affecting his/her Islamic wellbeing.
    Is it Islamically intelligent to think or say I’ll stay away from the Masjid until it changes the aspects of the administration I don’t like?
    But the administration won’t listen to us, so what.
    Go the Masjid benefit as a Muslim from the Baraka of the Masjid and the brotherhood of the Muslims.
    Then, away from the Masjid and the Jurisdiction of the Masjid Administration:
    1. Have a lecture or Friday evening talk with the speaker, language and topic of your choice.
    2. Establish some youth activities that you want to see.
    3. Invite new converts to functions which you feel will benefit them.
    Stop all the talk and harnesses all the energies of all of the disenfranchised and ambitious Muslim complainants, and do something to improve the deficiencies you have identified in your community, on your own.
    The truth of the matter is that Al Humdulliah, the Imams and Administrations of the Masjids in question did something. They came to areas with no Masjids and built one. They came to areas with no Muslim schools and built one. May Allah reward them all for their good intentions.
    The founders of these communities saw the Islamic community had a need and did something.
    If you see that there are currently needs existing in your communities that are not being adequately addressed, then do something.
    There is nothing Virtuous, Hip or Defiant to becoming “UnMosqued”. It’s nothing to be proud of. It should actually make your heart Quiver, if you really think about what that term means.
    If you are indeed among the “UnMosqued” then at least you need to make internal Hijra in your City, Town, State and find a Masjid and Muslim Community that fulfills your requirements and “ReMosque”.

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  29. O H

    “And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” [Surah Ibrahim]

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  30. Zabih

    Honestly, I dont like the trailer or the concept at all. You want to change your masjid then you put effort in the masjid, not into a documentary. Stuff like this only makes the enemies of Islam even happier at our weaknesses (the Prophet used to make dua for protection from this). If you think that all the Imam’s and Masjid Board are already uneducated, there’s a high chance that they wont even watch this. You show this to the youth, and it will just rile them up, most likely leading to even more unqualified people in leadership of our masaajid.

    Its a selfish cry for the masjid to fulfill each individuals purpose, when in reality they just aren’t willing to change for the masjid. If you want masjids to be like they were in the time of the Sahaabah and the Prophet then you better start acting like them.

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  31. Dania

    With all due respect Haytham, this article is completely biased, unnecessarily harsh, and represents only your point of view on the trailer. I took the trailer in a COMPLETELY different, opposite way and that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with me or my point of view. Just because you don’t agree with the method in which the campaign was approached doesn’t mean that you’re right or that the method that was used is wrong – it’s a difference of opinion and that’s just fine except the fact that you completely attacked the film makers and their supporters (the same accusation you are saying about them). Honestly Haytham, I read this article and thought to myself “wow, he must’ve gotten really upset about the campaign, started writing a rant, and then decided to publish it.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’d want anyone to remember my work as being something that was written on emotion, raging about a certain topic while also completely bashing the work of others. Maybe if you had written the article, put it to the side, given it some more thought, gave it to someone for feedback, you would have been able to publish an article that is not only more prestigious in the articulation of it’s message but one that is also clear about it’s purpose, respectful, and constructive in it’s discussion.

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    • idesireranks

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O Aisha, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness, and He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness; and He does not reward anything else like it.”

      Source: Sahih Muslim 2593

      Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Imam Muslim

      عَنْ عَائِشَةَ زَوْجِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ يَا عَائِشَةُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَفِيقٌ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ وَيُعْطِي عَلَى الرِّفْقِ مَا لَا يُعْطِي عَلَى الْعُنْفِ وَمَا لَا يُعْطِي عَلَى مَا سِوَاهُ

      2593 صحيح مسلم كِتَاب الْبِرِّ وَالصِّلَةِ وَالْآدَابِ من يحرم الرفق يحرم الخير

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      • Dania

        Being constructively critical is different than being “not gentle.” “Gentle” doesn’t mean that you accept opinions and ideas warmly if you don’t agree with them. If that’s the kind of feedback you want to give me about my comment, I think you may need to take a look at your views on the definitions of those two things and then re-visit this comment with that different mindset.

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      • Ammar

        So far I didn’t see any feedback. You accused him of attacking and then attacked him, calling it emotional and biased. Where was the constructive criticism in that? Maybe if you explained why you viewed the trailer as you did it would highlight aspects that he was not aware of.

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      • idesireranks

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        Originally I actually meant my comment to complement Dania’s comment…but hey, everyone can benefit.

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      • Dania

        Agreed! Jazak Allah Khair for the complement idesireranks – apologize for the misunderstanding! :)

        Ammar, honestly, it may just be a difference in perspective but calling something ‘emotional’ and ‘biased’ is not an attack on anyone. That is the constructive criticism. If I’d wanted to write an article about how I saw the trailer, I would have but I don’t have time for such a long online conversation.

        I’m not disagreeing with Haytham’s right to his opinion – he can have it even after he understands the full story. I’m disagreeing with the way in which he expressed it. This is not reality TV, we’re all adults, and should know the etiquette of how we criticize others’ work without devaluing their intentions, actions, and intended message. Because from my point of view, this article talks all about how the makers of this documentary are horrible people, want bad for the Muslim community, and just want to throw our parent’s generation of hard work in the garbage. All of which are very unfair and inaccurate judgments. And then comparing their methods to Fox propaganda – that what was just over the top. Not cool at all.

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      • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        WaAlaikum Assalam Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu:

        Please use your name as opposed to “idesireranks”. This is part of the MM Comment POlicy and while it is hard to implement for irregular commenters, since you are a regular commenter we can ask you. :)

        -Aly

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      • Gibran

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        It happened automatically for some reason. I use this to get on other blogs. I think I can change it.

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  32. websurface

    I think this view point is right on. I have been saying the same thing when this trailer was release about 2 months ago:
    http://websurface.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/unmosqued-a-rebel-without-a-cause/
    Also I take exception the speaker calling an appeal for donations, an act that was engaged by the prophet of Islam (pbuh), his companions and others as “begging”. Donations have always been part of running a religions institution in human history. He not only calls it “begging” but also mocks the people who appeal it, emulating a foreign accent. This attitude is not helpful to any cause.

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    • idesireranks

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Perhaps the Messenger of Allah sallahualayhiwasalam fund-raised in a different manner then they do at masjids these days? Perhaps it was not right after or during the khutba? I don’t know this so I am genuinely asking.

      I’m not siding with anybody at all(you are all on my side..or I’m on all your side….eh).

      Perhaps that explains the criticism of the fundraising we do today.

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  33. Zohair

    I find it interesting that everyone here basically agrees with the article…That there is a problem with the way the masajid are run (a point that was emphasized throughout the piece)

    And no one has really disagreed with the point about the problem of taking things out of context, and villainizing our fathers who literally laid the foundation for us.

    But yet…we still bicker. Surah Hud: 118 in action

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    • idesireranks

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Nice comment bro. JazzakAllahu khair. I like how you explained it with the Quran.

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  34. Sana

    I don’t think it’s any sense to entitlement to walk into a masjid, want a place to pray, want a place to socialize and learn with fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. That’s not entitlement, that is an expectation sourced in the sunnah of the Prophet (saw), his wives, the Sahaba and the Taba’een.

    I did find the teaser trailer and the contents of the website problematic in terms of representation (i..e only religious leaders, all men on the website with one woman referenced in the teaser, northeastern masajid etc). I think the filmmakers need to be aware that when you put out something about your product, you cannot thwart any and all criticism by just saying “it’s just a teaser/trailer” — you put out the trailer/teaser in order to presumably gauge audiences and get them interested. In order to do this, what you put out is how you initially frame the conversation and elicit first impressions. I find is so incredibly odd that to even offer any critique of the trailers and website contents is seen as some sort of a ‘silencing’ or ‘ignorant’ tactic, as opposed to a way to join in on the conversation and offer thoughts. Bizarre.

    That being said, I really do disagree with this article — there are plethora problems in our community masaajid. You cannot simply brush these aside as non-existent or non-consequential. Instead of characterizing these concerns as mere outcomes of entitlement, I think it’s important to actually consider that maybe, hey, not everyone has the same mosque experience. That maybe there mosque leaderships that are purposely marginalizing members of our community. That maybe it’s okay to accept that we have these problems in our community and that maybe our communities still have a lot of growing to do. We need to forbid the wrong and promote the good.

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    • idesireranks

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I think you did really well with this comment, especially the last paragraph.

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  35. Muslimah

    Sorry, but I find the arguments in this article severely lacking.

    You said: The problem, however, is that some of us go to the mosque with a set of expectations, often unrealistic, and when we are disappointed we blame the mosque members’ immigration status, ethnic background and sometimes even social class. This is wrong, and in and of itself judgmental.

    I am a convert to Islam – and before I was Muslim I interacted with lots of different church groups and attendees from different denominations. NEVER in my LIFE have I been CONSISTENTLY mistreated, looked down upon, or disrespected the way I have been at masjids – and that is a consistent experience from at least three different states, various masaajid, not to mention visiting a Muslim country. (but we’ll ignore the “foreign” experience)

    I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect be treated with dignity, fairness, respect, and politeness at a masjid, and I think leadership should be those LEADING us in those qualities. My experience, again consistently, has been the opposite.

    And I have rolled up my sleeves and tried to be as involved as I could in every community I’ve lived in – I’ve run a weekend school, taught youth group, taught a converts program, did da’wah talks, wrote literature, volunteered, and endured on and on and on. And in all that time – nothing ever changed.

    When a board member walked in a room I was using during my hired working hours, while interviewing someone as a candidate for a teaching position – I was gruffly told to get up and move because he wanted to sit at the desk and sign paychecks only there. Jut barged in, and asked me to leave.

    Or the angry faced brother who acts as if I’ve walked in naked because I entered an area where men are, went through the wrong door, or needed to visit with the Imam or a bookstore.

    Or a female employee who sees it’s her job to give “naseehah” to every female who walks through the door, and correct her on her clothing before even having a clue who she is. Many never returned there again and I’ve had to give “pep” talks to women in tears, offended, and disgusted.

    Or the masjid where children are smacked on the hands and spanked by leadership because of touching a curtain – and we’re talking a 17 month old.

    Then there was the Qur’an teacher who raised her voice telling me to fear Allah because I was adjusting her time schedule for her classes as the director of the weekend school. She kept going on and on until I was in tears. Then quit accusing me of doing something wrong and letting the whole community know about it.

    Or having to go from a professional or academic environment, and then to a masjid, where we had to talk to the Imam through a curtain, and if a man needed to enter the hall where women were, I remember having to go and cram into this small room, and shut the door because “a brother had to pass through.” Dear God – how does he live outside his cave I wondered..and we were all covered just fine!

    Unrealistic expectations? I hardly think so!

    And my examples aren’t rare – and many share my sentiments, experiences, and worse.

    I don’t come to a masjid for this – I come for spiritual uplift, to learn my Deen, and stay with my community.

    After seeing that years have gone by and everything is the same …I too left. I started to search for a masjid where at least the leadership was civil and imams weren’t sell outs to the board either.

    I watched these trailers and felt immediate relief of not being alone, and totally validated.

    And again, this is coming from a person who has tried to find her place, and at the end of the day learned that it’s about politics, culture, and favoritism, and your basic sucking up.

    Even in some of our “accomplished” higher Islamic institutions – the same culture of groveling, sucking up, and not challenging authority continues to exist.

    It’s not all about the foreign Imams for me…it’s not about the separate door…. it’s the attitudes that have come, and the attitudes that are still there that need to go.

    My own children, who have been raised thus far to respect others, have been brought to the masjid since birth, already prefer once masjid over another because of the “grumpy and mean” people at one of them, over another which is mush friendlier. But imagine if there wasn’t another close by option – is it likely they would want to attend in years to come? Not likely at all…

    And because I have experience OUTSIDE of the Muslim community – I can at least say I’ve something to compare to.

    What does immigrants who worked hard to build masjids have anything to do with people who refuse to train new mentors, smile once and awhile, and drop ridiculous politics with each other? Nothing…

    I don’t think people are ungrateful – I think Muslims, those born into Islam, and those who converted – are simple asking for our Islamic centers to evolve with the broader community – and that is what leadership is SUPPOSED to do.

    I absolutely believe that an Imam and those running a masjid are a huge reason people are leaving. Becoming “unmosqued” as I understand the term represents people who once came, wanted to come, but ended up leaving because of the burnout and spiritual drain it caused.

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    • Gibran

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Nouman Ali9 Khan lectures/tafsir are enough khutba for you sister! Seeing as you’ve basically been shooed away from the mosque……

      SubhanAllah how they treated you.

      The Beloved Messenger of Allaah said: “The best amongst you are the best in character and manners.” (Al-Bukhaari)
      http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?id=138094&page=articles

      As for leadership-and nobody seems to be addressing this-the worst for the position are those who seek it the most. Don’t we get this from the Sunnah? See what happens when the people turn away from the Sunnah.

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  36. Joe Johnson

    I just want to let you all know that effectively i am an apostate, and a large part of it has to do with the community. The community (or rather lack thereof) is why I left, not because of theology. I know what righteousness is (2:177). I know what is expected of me as a man (31:12-19). I know how to reach the highest level of Paradise (25:63-76).

    But I’d rather do it on my own. Mosques and muslims aren’t welcoming to women, converts, and Americanized Muslims.

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    • websurface

      Whatever the situation of the world, its your choice to be a Muslim or to leave Islam. Just be prepared to explain on the day of judgement why you chose to be an apostate. Not sure blaming the Mosques or other Muslims will fly.

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  37. Amy the Muslim

    Regardless of past and lingering cultural issues within masjids the fact remains that our Islamic centers are becoming more diversified than ever before. There is now more than ever a growing demand and even the most “foot in the mud” mindset can only deny it for so long before they too answer the call of the community. Years ago it was enough for a brother with some Islamic ilm to serve as the imam of a masjid and score a green card in the process. But, that’s all changed as masjids have to serve as community centers and imams need to be able to counsel the ummah on many different issues. My suggestion to those who don’t have access to a healthy community is to seek out Muslim organizations, groups, meetups and education outside of the masjid. There are ways to build a community.

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  38. Concerned mother

    Salaam alaikum,

    I do side with the documentary on this topic. As a woman I’ve been in too many inhospitable prayer spaces and had many unpleasant experiences and I know I’m not unique. There are beautiful communities and welcoming spaces but many Masajid are very inhospitable to those not from the establishment.

    As the mother of three I do want the Masajid to be accessible to my children, including my girls. This might be from a sense of entitlement as proposed in this article but I think it’s from a desire to give my children an anchor in this deen. A place they can go where others share their faith and they don’t feel like outsiders. I worry that absent these kinds of spaces they will feel more comfortable integrating into mainstream culture, which will almost certainly compromise their faith as they strive to fit in.

    The demographics of the Muslim community are changing and we do have different expectations of the Masajid. I would say that part of our desire for change is by observing what is happening to the generation of children coming into adulthood today who are alienated from the Masajid.

    I’m very grateful for this discussion. The documentary makers are giving voice to many of us who haven’t had a voice at the Masjid. I’m sure this is one of many opposition pieces to the documentary, but I for one welcome the debate because at least we are finally openly talking about it.

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  39. Shahin Munshi

    This article talks about the trailer.

    I only ask that you hold all this chatter and watch the movie.

    I found the movie to be for the most part, balanced and respectful to our elders.

    Trailer is a trailer for a reason, to grab the attention of the audience — which it did.

    WATCH THE MOVIE!!!

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