Connect with us

#Society

The Viral Story of The Syrian Orphans in New York and Getting Dirty

Published

Over the last few weeks, a message has been floating around the Muslim community about assisting unaccompanied minors from Syria. It has become viral in a way that no social services cause has ever been in the past. Sadly, I must report that there are no Syrian orphans in New York as of yet, but there is one major underlying problem. Why such an outcry now? There are several other orphans and refugees that have been coming to this country for years many from other Muslim populated countries. This is by no means to undermine the plight of our Syrian family, but the question does arise, “Why do we somehow feel more connected to a group of people we have never met, when so many others suffer as well? Some even closer to home.”

The truth is that there are thousands from other countries that are in equal need of assistance. There are thousands more orphans that have been born and raised in this country that may not have had physical bombs dropped on them but have been put through dire issues and circumstances that have destroyed their lives and future and have caused no outrage. No mass adoption process has begun for them. Before we pull out the “but are they Muslim?” card; yes, we do have Muslim orphans in America. The issue for us is that they may not be from immigrant Muslim families, in which case we seem to lose our concern for them. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating?

Getting Dirty

I sat in a local round table discussion as we discussed the topic of assisting with orphanages in our local community. The question was asked if any orphanages existed in our area. Of course, I began to rattle off the names of a few. I was interrupted and told that these youth are not orphans. “These are kids who were taken away from their families. The Department of Children and Families came and took their parents, or they are juveniles or even kids that ran away from home, but not orphans.”

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

In the mind of this individual and many others, there are no real orphans in America, and as such they are not our responsibility. Sometimes it feels as though orphans—as are mentioned in the Holy Quran—only come from the countries many in our community hail from. Which leads me to a larger problem I’d like to expound upon in our community: we don’t like getting our hands dirty.

697BB004-A587-4D1D-B16E-0CE5EA2D586A2F53B550-AF30-4038-A436-AF294AAD0817-2

 

Lately with the rise in hate crimes against the Muslim community, which are due to the irresponsible media coverage of domestic and global events and by the rhetoric of the current GOP candidates, we have been facing an uphill battle of proclamation. We have proclaimed plenty that we condemn this incident and that group, yet no one is hearing us. We have proclaimed that we are not to be aligned with these extremists, yet we are still lumped together. We have lived among our fellow Americans for such a long period of time that we thought we were seen as Americans, forgetting that our fellow Americans only saw us as mirrors. We were seen as American only so far as we mimicked their way of life. When we stray from what they see as the straight and narrow, then that hijab becomes the garment of an extremist, that beard becomes akin to being radicalized. After a lifetime of attempting to please and show people that our kids are just like theirs, it only took a moment for them to see us different, as the “other.”

Therefore, that takes me back to us getting our hands dirty. The immigrant Muslim community is heavily reactive when it should be proactive. We wait until the next large terror attack occurs to send us into a flurry of action to change the world and proclaim what our Holy Text truly states. When the heat cools, we pull our blankets back up and hibernate until the next big incident occurs again. Rinse and repeat. In that reactionary mode we tend to follow the same steps:

  1. Condemn
  2. Press Release, Conference, Television interviews.
  3. Campaign to assist the victims

Usually these are the main steps that can be found in just about every major community. But when it comes to establishing endowments in lower income communities, starting tutoring centers, or working together to start after school programs to truly give back to the greater American community, except for a few most shy away. Why? It’s too much work and too much money.

When it comes to becoming foster parents to children in need, we ask the question, “Am I able to say no if they give me a non Muslim child?” At the moment I’ll dismiss the question of what a “Muslim” child is, as it seems the questioner understands “Muslim” as a cultural identity that begets a certain race or ethnic background, but this is not the time for that discussion. What is imperative is that we realize that while we argue about how we ought to be giving back to the greater American fabric, we are simultaneously complaining about how many Muslims are receiving help from other groups, including the Christian community. I’ve yet to hear a Christian family utter the words “May I decline to take the child if he doesn’t come from a Christian home?” In fact, they welcome the opportunity to teach yet another lost soul about the Kingdom of God and the Glory of Christ. They love to get dirty and as such they make significant progress in their communities. I am not speaking theologically so please do not misconstrue my words; what I’m talking about is action. Our community is willing to do the bare minimum in hopes that the bare minimum still gets a 4.0 GPA. It doesn’t; what we need to do as a Muslim community is to get up, tie that belt around our waists and get messy.

We should be working within the juvenile system with at-risk youth; we should be adopting (not having a theological discussion on its permissibility); we should be in the jails helping the forgotten because if there ever were slaves in America, those in jail would be the equivalent. And if right now you’re reading this and having anxiety because this seems daunting and not your cup of tea, then understand that real work involves getting dirty.

We have yet to truly identify with the broken and the destitute in our communities. The immigrant Muslim community has seen itself as upperclass, chasing the American dream (which has only been allotted to a few), and now that we have been stereotyped and dropped into a well with the broken of America, we are confused. We are angry that our friends at the top left us to dry, but it is our own fault. It’s our fault that we came to and remain in a country where the rights of many have been lost and deprived and we never batted an eyelash. Now when the spotlight is turned on us, when we are the ones trying to escape the jail of hatred and malice, we wonder why. In times like this we need to think prophetic, we need to help the weak, the broken, the disenfranchised and watch as Allah helps us clean our mess as we get dirty.

Arthur Richards is a student of literature specializing in postcolonial theory, Islamic literature, and Muslim Africa. He has studied Islam through traditional methods among various scholars, du’at and students of knowledge here in the US and Mishkah University.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Arthur Richards is a student of literature specializing in postcolonial theory, Islamic literature, and Muslim Africa. He has studied Islam through traditional methods among various scholars, du’at and students of knowledge here in the US and Mishkah University.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Tadar

    December 23, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    Ameen. The 13th Amendment still allows for slavery, and it’s practiced with private companies making contracts with various states/and or their prisons for inmate labor. They get paid considerably more than the average prison wage, with no benefits, and they can be fired on a whim with no appeals. In Missouri the state gives each offender $8.00 a month, called a State Tip, some work other jobs that pay up to $30.00 a month, and all of them must work. The ones who get the “outside” free society jobs earn up to around $7.00 an hr. And all incarcerated offenders in are now charged room and board, which they are charged when they leave for the streets. Freeing a slave is part of the obligatory uses of the money that Allah has allowed us to have under our control. It’s His money, not ours. Some scholars say that freeing one from debt is freeing a slave. That financial slave should be taught how to budget, and encouraged to live within one’s means and budget.

    • Arthur Richards

      December 23, 2015 at 3:02 PM

      Thank you for your comment and I truly hope that we as a community can begin to pool not only our economic resources but our intellectual resources to see not an Islamic Reformation but a reformation for humanity.

      Allah bless you for sharing that information.

  2. Ahmed OKeeffe

    December 23, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    Mashallah. I see you over there Arthur, you keep on telling them.
    I suggest that focusing on getting a few people to actually do something will be more powerful than all the articles and meetings in the world. God give me strength.

    • Arthur Richards

      December 23, 2015 at 6:04 PM

      JazakAllahu Khair. Currently working on local initiatives that insh’Allah will spread nationwide.

      By His will.

      • Ahmed OKeeffe

        December 23, 2015 at 6:37 PM

        Let me know how I can amplify, iA.

  3. Abu Hamza

    December 24, 2015 at 10:06 PM

    Brother Arthur Richards should be commended for holding a mirror to the community. His portrayal of how we tend to react to our collective challenges is pretty much how things are. Unless we learn to appreciate the truth, we will continue to be in a state of denial, mistaking our often thoughtless frenzy of activities for genuine activism.

    Islamophobia is not something that happened overnight. Today only 37% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam, the lowest rating since 2001 (see http://www.soundvision.com/article/islamophobia-statistics-usa-2011). This reality will not change until there is a substantial number of us who take it upon ourselves to engage in our communities, connect with our neighbors and be full participants in our society, instead of relegating ourselves and our children to the silos we have so meticulously constructed. It involves rolling up our sleeves, and asking ourselves and our leaders tough questions, about a whole range of issues (foster parenting, Masjid management, sister participation being just some of them). And it involves accepting responsibility beyond 50 hour work-weeks many of us offer to corporate America, leaving crumbs for our families and our communities.

    The time is upon us to take a long hard look at ourselves, and do something to change our reality. With the level of education and expertise many of us have, we should be up to the task, as long as we are willing to “get dirty.”

  4. Quran Classes

    December 29, 2015 at 12:00 PM

    AMEEN . JAZAKALLAH UL KHYRAN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

..
..
..

Ramadan Video Series

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending