By Susan Schwartz, TMO
With Islamophobia rampant in the United States, programs and people to combat it are essential. While there are very many with the knowledge, faith, and desire to be warriors in this mission, one essential ingredient is often missing. That is the practical knowledge of how to form teams to fight Islamophobia. This past Saturday that problem was remedied in a practical, â€œhow-toâ€, nitty gritty session which gave these willing warriors their tools.
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) California and the Muslim American Society held a leadership training program this past Saturday at the Islamic Center of Reseda in Reseda, Ca. Titled: Leadership Summit Summer 2011, the event was well attended and enthusiastically received. The speakers were highly motivational and well versed in the field of leadership training and its application to Islamic activity.
Mohammad Abbasi, the first presenter, is a Regional Director for Keller Williams Realty Group Greater New York area. His experience in the field of leadership training is vast, and he devotes his time to serving his community. In addition to his experience, he is able to teach in a way that captivates his audience. The message is well structured and comprehensive, educating the listener while making him enjoy the lesson.
Leaders make themselves leaders and consciously develop the necessary qualities for leadership, he began. They are not born, and no one can force leadership onto a person. To the surprise of the audience, he continued, in any group one can tell the leader because he or she is the one who talks the least. If the leader has formed efficient teams, the leader will be the least missed in the event of his absence. Leadership is about team building.
Brother Abbasi told of his visit to one of his companies after an absence The receptionist said upon seeing him: â€œMay I help you?â€. That is when he knew he was a success. He was a good leader because the company was able to function without him.
He spoke of former General Motors CEO Lee Iacocca whom the public perceived as being a great executive. On the contrary, Brother Abbasi insisted, he was a failure. The company could not sustain itself without him. As a leader he was a failure.
Speaking of the Arab world he described Arab leaders as being insecure. The do not reward success on the part of others for fear of the competition these successful people would present.
He also referenced President FDR and called him insecure. He chose a weak Vice President, Harry S. Truman, because he could not stand competition. English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, was secure and cultivated others to replace him throughout his entire political life.
A Board of Trustees, a position he favors, determines the course of funding and defines the groupâ€™s mission. In the United States we have the government sector, the private business sector, and the non-profits (known often as NGOâ€™s – non government organizations). In the Middle East the NGO is absent and is very much needed. He made the point that a member of a non profit is not motivated by the chance to be elected to public office or by the paycheck he will receive. He is motivated by idealism. Because of this his dedication should be greater. He gave as an example the late Mother Theresa and her organization, Sisters of Charity. The audience seemed surprised to discover that there is a six month probationary period for her volunteers. People work for non profits because they have high ideals, and they will only work for organizations that have high standards.
After a lunch break CAIR representative Adel Syed spoke to the group. Brother Adel is the Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR – LA. His function is to strengthen working relationships between Muslims in the Los Angeles area and government officials and organizations.
Brother Adel referenced literature that had been given attendees upon registration. The discussion began with the problem of Islamophobia. He showed a map of the United States with many marked areas where opposition to the building of mosques took place.
â€œI never realized it was that badâ€ said one young woman looking at the well marked map.
â€œI knew about Park 51 and Temeculaâ€ said another â€œBut I never knew there were this many.â€
Also discussed were anti Islamic hate web sites: Brigitte Gabriel, Robert Spencer, and Pamela Geller, to name but a few. On the positive side in the news, again to name but a few, were Jon Stewart, the web site loonwatch (which tracks hate sites), and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (for his strong support of the proposed Park 51 Islamic Center).
Islamophobia was defined as was the term â€œclose mindedâ€ and the term â€œopen minded. To take a soft stance on Islamophobia is to accept a form of second class citizenship for Muslims. Civic engagement is primary. It is best not to begin with grandiose plans, as that will inevitably lead to disappointment. At the local level one might begin by becoming a county commissioner. Invite community members to mosques, Eid events, Ramadan Iftar, and to your homes. Engage in coalition building. Organizations such as CAIR and MAS are indispensable to this. After each success – or failure – analyze to decide what the next step should be.
â€œReinforce positive norms for working together and continue to cultivate new leaders.â€
We will know we have achieved success when being Muslim is considered an asset for a public official, and when those who associate with anti-Muslim hate groups will be de facto discredited.
Mitch Krayton, a noted author, coach and motivational speaker gave the dayâ€™s final presentation. He specialty is training people to be effective and confident public speakers.
Following is a statement from Brother Fiaz Zubair Syed of MAS who was one of the organizers of the dayâ€™s event.
â€œIn the Quran, chapter 33 line 22, God says â€œFor you the life of the Prophet (s) is a good model of behavior.â€
One of the major roles of Prophet Muhammad (s) was to lead mankind toward a just society who strives toward God Consciousness. The purpose of this program is to understand what leadership is, itâ€™s qualities, and every persons role of being a leader. This Leadership Summit is one in a series of many that will be introduced to the community where different skill sets will be shared, workshops will be conducted as well as opportunities to be active in our society and cause positive change. We believe in development of individuals through education and practice and that is why we (Muslim American Society) have partnered with CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) to begin training a group of young Muslim Americans to fulfill the mission of MAS and ultimately of Islam which is to: â€œTo move people to strive for God consciousness, liberty, and justice, and to convey Islam with utmost clarity.â€â€