Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Suburban-Capitalist Islam

My beloved sister Aminah has a post on her blog that links to another blog by a Muslim named Yursil. Yursil wrote a post about what he calls "Suburban-Capitalist Islam". I won't pretend to speak for him, but I saw it as a sort of list of the ways that classism manifests itself in Muslims who live in the USA (and perhaps other Western societies, too). I have a few things to say about his post, but first I wanted to write about a remark written by one of his commenters. Something RCHOUDH said stood out to me.
"If only suburban capitalist Muslims and their masajids could offer some help and guidance (and I don’t just mean financial but also social/spiritual guidance) to those less well off and who are also trying to raise their children by Deen but don’t know how to really go about doing it, especially if they are immigrants to the West and are unaware of the ways to deal with the specific issues and concerns they face living there."
I have noticed this and often thought the same thing. I know a brother who is not as well-off financially as he used to be when he was a Christian. When he converted to Islam, he had to quit his job because he refused to work in any place that would not allow him to stop and say his five daily prayers. He found other work, but nothing that allowed him to provide for himself (and his small children and wife) as well as his former job did.

Recently, it came time for his oldest daughter to start school. He wanted to send her to an Islamic school, so that she could receive an education that featured the religious values that he felt all Muslim children need. Unfortunately, the closest Islamic school is in the suburbs and it's quite expensive. This means that almost all of the urban, less affluent Muslims in the city are forced to go to public schools that are among the worst in the nation. In other words, they simply do not have access to the same sources of 'ilm (religious knowledge) that Suburban-Capitalist Muslims have. It's a shame, really, because school is the place where most children spend the majority of their time away from home and I would think it is the best place for teaching Islamic values before the worst parts of Western culture can take hold.

1 comment:

Aaminah Hernandez-alNaksibendi said...

salaams Bint! What you describe is everywhere. One of the finer nuances to Yursil's post that you wouldn't know unless you are active (either live or online) with Muslim communities is the way that 'ilm, meaning sacred knowledge, is now a billion dollar industry marketed towards adults. There are a lot of potential issues with this that Yursil is getting at - classism in who can access the industry, excessive emphasis on legalistic issues, the arrogant way that ppl who can attend classes/seminars/etc. then look down on those who can't as ignorant, the arrogant way those who have attended classes/seminars etc. then feel they have authority to teach/correct others, etc.

One thing that i appreciate you talking about is how it is a convert who is effected. Because that original comment was confusing to me being written about immigrants. There are two types of immigrants in the Muslim community, those who come here by choice and generally "looking for a better life" - who tend to be relatively affluent and often the leaders in these overpriced 'ilm industries, and the refugees who are settled here, come from poor backgrounds, and remain poor here. The refugees are given little regard either by the more affluent immigrants or by converts (who tend to lump all immigrants together into a distasteful pile) and they are often the worst treated in the masjid as well.

The issue of an American Islam is about immigrants who come here and buy into the "getting ahead" lifestyle (many of whom, as far as the ones i know, were not exactly poor back home either) and converts who believe the same way. There is heavy emphasis on two extremes for converts: either going the "fundamentalist" way (i can't work for a kafir but i can make my wife apply for foodstamps) or the "i'm a good American!" way. The 'ilm issue is misused by both those camps.