By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
The topic of slavery and the African experience in America has been examined from many aspects. The circle it represented and the fullness of Islam lost and Islam regained was the topic of an exciting event this past Saturday.
The ILM Foundation held an informative and well attended day long seminar at the Omar Ibn Al Khattab mosque in Los Angeles. Sponsored by the foundation of the same name, the event was titled: â€œIslam A World Movement: Islamâ€™s Journey from West Africa to America and Back.â€
Imam Saadiq Saafir, the founder of ILM, originated the name â€œIslam as a World Movementâ€ intending to describe the situation which resulted when slaves were taken from Africa with the subsequent loss of their Islamic birthright. Added to this loss was the loss of the essential qualities which an Islamic background produced: identity, honor and culture, to name but a few.
Many descendants of these slaves have found Islam again. The movement of ILM seeks to complete the circle by committing African and African American Muslims to join forces and to use their collective strengths and experiences to benefit the world.
U. S. Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, was the keynote speaker. He is also the first African American to be elected from Minnesota.
Congressman Ellison was introduced by Sharaf Mowjood of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The Congressman showed a disturbing film which he took on a recent trip to Gaza after the Israeli attack. Representative Ellison was shown interviewing a man whose home was destroyed and who lost members of his family. He called the man â€œbrotherâ€ and elicited applause from the audience.
â€œI am so glad we have him on our side.â€ said one woman in the audience.
He continued by saying that we are moving to a more decentralized world. He noted that President Obama is making friends for us throughout the world.
â€œWasnâ€™t Obama great in Turkey?â€ Congressman Ellison asked. The audience responded enthusiastically.
He then asked the audience to embrace their common Muslim history and to teach Americans about the centrality of Islam to their history.
The morning session, which dealt with the largest group conversion into Islam in America, was titled: â€œThe Wisdom Behind the Transition from the Nation of Islam to Al Islamâ€. The speakers told of their friendships with early movement members and the experiences they shared. Members of the audience often spoke out about similar experiences. The event soon took on the aspect of an informal group discussion with all the attendees fully involved.
The afternoon session was titled: â€œTaking Advantage of Sharing Islam, Africa and America Togetherâ€ and included a lively film presentation of a trip through West Africa.
â€œI remember so much, and I learned so much today.â€ said one young man in the audience.
The panel sessions were mcâ€™d by Naim Shah, Sr. and Naim Shah, Jr. The father and son team have been a bright light and a moving force behind ILM. Naim Shah, Sr. is ILM Director of Prison outreach and Naim Shah, Jr. is national ILM director.
The ILM Foundation is named after the Arabic word for wisdom and also stands for Intellect, Love, and Mercy. It is public, faith based, and non profit. It advocates for human dignity and positive social change without regard to skin color, religion, gender or social class. ILM believes that character and righteousness are their goals and trump all other considerations when dealing with those in need.
Imam Saafir in his odyssey to build ILM used the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as his model. The Prophet began by working with the poorest among his people.
ILM has sponsored Humanitarian Day throughout the country and most recently in the African nation of Ghana. An event to provide food, clothing, medical advice and toiletries to the very poor began in Los Angelesâ€™ Skid Row and has grown to include many other cities.
For more information, please access ILM at: www.humanitarianday.com or write to them at: P. O. Box 93789, Pasadena, Ca. 91109.