By Adil James, MMNS
Detroit–March 15–A burgeoning organization has burst onto the scene with a large fundraiser this past weekend at the Muslim Center in Detroit.
MANA (The Muslim Alliance of North America) is, according to its website, â€œan organization committed to Muslim issues and concerns that especially impact indigenous Muslims.â€
It was begun about 5 years ago at a meeting of imams including Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Professor Bagby, and Imam Johari and two dozen other imams–but was jump-started last year with a serious fundraising effort headed by Imam Qasim. The purpose, explains Imam Qasim, is to cater to the needs of â€œpoor indigenous Muslims that are inadvertently overlookedâ€ by the large Muslim organizations like ICNA, ISNA, and CAIR.
The organization has an all-star cast of top members, including its Amir Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Talib Abdur-Rashid, Prof. Ihsan Bagby, Imam Umar al-Khattab, Imam Johari Abdul Malik of Dar al-Hijrah in Virginia, Imam Asim Abdur Rashid, Professor Amir al-Islam, and Altaf Husain, former president of MSA.
The goals of the organization are, in summary, to build the Muslim community, to make daâ€™wah, and to support people (including, but not only Muslims) in America who have suffered different kinds of injustice.
The organization has started several projects including a â€œcommunity re-entry programâ€ for Muslims from prison and a marriage counseling program called the â€œHealthy Marriage Initiative.â€ There is also a program with the acronym SHARE which is in essence a community service program which works both directly and by making referrals to other community service programs.
MANA, despite its relative youth as an organization, has developed a professional website (www.mana-net.org), perhaps already the envy of most American Muslim websites, and simply by virtue of the long list of imams associated with it and the celebrity of Siraj Wahhaj, its amir, has a promising future.
About 350 people packed the auditorium of the Muslim Center for the fundraiser this past weekend–those present seemed to represent the majority of the Muslim communities of the United States although the event primarily was attended by African American Muslims.
Imam Qasim ibn Ali Khan served as the emcee of the fundraiser at the Muslim Center of Detroit, emphasizing the theme â€œIf you care you shareâ€; Prof. Bagby gave an introduction to MANAâ€™s work and operations.
Prof. Abdul Hakim Jackson also gave an introduction to MANA, focusing more on general issues of indigenous American Muslim involvement with the nation. Perhaps his speech could be summed up in his own words, â€œTwo things–1) we are not a special interest group–Islam has brought nothing but service to this country; 2) This is not their society, this is our society.â€
Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn gave a rousing speech touting MANA, which was followed up by Imam Qasimâ€™s direct fundraising efforts, which raised about $38,000 cash and about $15,000 in pledges for the organization.
Imam Qasim explained to The Muslim Observer that the biggest issue he faces in fundraising for MANA is the name recognition people have for the group. The disappointment in his voice is audible when he explains that sometimes Imam Siraj Wahhaj will raise half a million dollars for CAIR or other nationally-known Muslim organizations, and the following week in the same place will raise only $10,000 for MANA from the same audience.
The staff of MANA consists of about 4 or 5 people, according to Imam Qasim, who is working out of his own home to prepare fundraising events around the country–â€œ16 events in 4 time zones,â€ he explains, that he is planning simultaneously.
Two calls by The Muslim Observer to the MANA headquarters in Kentucky were unreturned as of this writing.
For MANAâ€™s future, Imam Qasim says, â€œInsha`Allah (swt) straight to the top,â€ but some bitterness from the skepticism of his audiences seems to creep in at times.
â€œWe are used to doing more with less money,â€ he says. â€œCAIR might collect $400,000 and consider it an average night, while we collect $20,000 and say Alhamdulillah.â€