By Susan Schwartz, TMO
The ILM Foundation will be familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer. ILM is the Arabic word for â€œknowledgeâ€ and also stands for the virtues of intellect, love, and mercy. Many sub groups have been seeded by ILM including the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity (CPHD), Go for the Game, Islam: A World Movement, Humanitarian Day, and a prison outreach support services.
ILM was founded in 1998 through the efforts of Imam Saadiq Saafir who sought to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society. He had a vision inspired by his Muslim faith to work for community cohesion and social justice. ILM is the fruit of his vision. Imam Saadiq now is the Chairman of ILM Foundationâ€™s Board of Directors and senior Masjidulus member of Masjid Ibaadillah, Los Angeles. Imam Saadiqâ€™s son, Imam Jihad Saafir, is currently doing a wonderful job as resident Imam.
ILMâ€™s Director, Naim Shah, Jr. has spoken to The Muslim Observer to tell readers of the latest actions and goals of ILM.
Mr. Shah last year spent six months as a trainee with the Community Organizing Residency (COR) project. COR is a product of Jewish Funds for Justice. His placement was with LA Voice Pico. LA Voice Pico is a local federation of the PICO national network. LA Voice represents over 20 multi-faith congregations throughout Los Angeles representing nearly 20,000 families. It works in the arenas of education, responsible banking, immigration, health care reform, and violence prevention.
During that period Mr. Shah was able to introduce LA Voicesâ€™s responsibility banking initiative to the Muslim community.This initiative seeks to support legislation that seeks leniency from banks regarding foreclosures and encourages community reinvestment and increases in small business loans. Mr. Shahâ€™s work was highlighted when he organized nearly 80 Muslims to attend a townhall meeting packed with nearly 800 people hosted at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood.
Now LA Voice has Muslim representation through the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity which ILM uses to coordinate Humanitarian Day. He and ILMâ€™s Associate Director, Umar Hakim, joined LA Voice in a rally coordinated by Pico California in Sacramento to encourage our elected officials to stop delaying the passage of the stateâ€™s budget. It is with great pleasure to announce the excellent community organizing work coordinated by Umar Hakim at LA Voice, as the new COR resident for 2011-2012.
Humanitarian Day, founded by the ILM Foundation but coordinated through CPHD , is now in its 11th year. What began in a few cities as a one day outreach to the poor and homeless community has now become an institution. Food, toiletries, and other personal items are distributed free of charge, and representatives of medical clinics are usually available to answer questions. It is observed in 13 cities throughout California and nationally. The Humanitarian Day monthly effort is coordinated by ILM Director, Taswiyah Muttaz, which includes the distribution of fresh, warm meals, hygiene kits, occasional health screening services, and student community service learning engagement. ILM Foundation is extremely grateful for the support of and sponsorship from the Hassan Hathout Foundation, Masjid Ibaadillah, Orange County Islamic Foundation, Omar Ibn Khattab Foundation, Islamic Center of Irvine, UMMA Community Clinic, Los Angeles Police Department, the USC Ansar Partnership for Service and many other institutions.
ILM has expanded its interfaith work and has partnered with the LDS Church (Mormon), LA Voci the South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC), and the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, and NewGround Muslim Jewish Dialogue.
Mr. Naim Shah Sr., Director of ILM Foundation Prison Outreach Services, corresponds with federal and state chaplains about the conditions of Muslim inmates and how the foundation can assist. Currently, on a monthly basis, ILM distributes inmates care packages which include books, oil, prayer rug, etc.. We have volunteers who correspond via mail to assist with referrals and letters during the inmate re-entry process back into society. ILMâ€™s goal is recruit additional Muslim men to mentor inmates while in rehabilitation to prepare as much as possible to prevent recidivism after their release.
Mr Shah and Mr. Hakim also graduated from the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, a product of Nadia Romani and institutional partner of the Center of Religious Civic Culture Department at the University of Southern California.
Shaykh Ayub, ILM Director of Islamic Studies and Arabic, will visit Ghana to work on many of ILMâ€™s humanitarian projects. Ghana is now approaching it 4th Annual Humanitarian Day. ILMâ€™s focus in Ghana is education, breast cancer, youth recreation and infrastructure building. ILM Foundation currently supports several students with school tuition, technological support and other vocational training. In Ghana the top pastime for youth is soccer. Currently through the gracious support of Zeeni Sports, ILM sponsors an entire youth soccer team with uniforms, socks, bags and educational support. ILM has recently been offered land to build a center to house all of our services in an area near Accra called Caswa. The annual ILM Ghana Tour is an attempt to increase the awareness and penitential of re-seeding our roots in West Africa. Ghana has a Muslim population of 30%,and rising. With a good political climate, strong economy , Islamic scholarship and good interfaith relations, ILM future in Ghana looks very bright. The partner organization in Ghana is the Bureau for Social Services located in Accra, Ghana.
Mr. Shah and Mr. Hakim have answered questions regarding their work posed by The Muslim Observer.
TMO: Could each of you tell our readers how you came to hear of the Community Organizing Residency (COR)?
NAIM: I learned about COR as result of participating in the American Muslim Civic Engagement Institute. Nadia Romani co-founder of AMCLI works as one of the program consultants with COR. So was really blessed to be included within this civic engagement network, which constantly share opportunities for graduates to further expand upon their experience and education.
UMAR: The opportunity for Community Organizing Residency (COR) came through our social network, American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. We are always building essential leadership skills, and seen this was a great opportunity to learn hands on community organizing with agencies in California and/or throughout the U.S such as LA VOICE.
TMO: Will you describe your days at COR? Was it all study, was it hands on organizing?
NAIM: COR is nice blend of on-site hand on community organizing with leadership and peer support training. I love it. The founders of COR were passionate and extremely professional. The residents were the spot light and we were provided all the tools to use our natural talents for extracting as a much from the 6 month residency as possible. I was also very fortunate to serve my residency at LA Voice Pico under the leadership of Zach Hoover and Rochelle
UMAR: The COR training at Mt. Eden in the New Jersey countryside, was a genuine break from urban Compton. I spent 4-5 days within a faith-based cohort of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, and Latino Indigenous; together we focused on several key learning areas a preparation for sustaining this organizing experience. My objective is phase II of ILMâ€™s community organizing vision, identify and build the organizing component of the CPHD.
TMO: What about the COR program impressed you the most?
NAIM: My most impressive moment was witnessing the excellent talent pool residents selected for the program. I felt so honored to represent Islam in such a setting. There was once central focus of exploiting our faith for the betterment of humanity not just ourselves and not just members of our faith. I was drawn into the coordinatorâ€™s of COR collective intention to make this program address the critical drought America was facing due to lack of replenishing our community with organizers. The experience increased my faith in Islam and in what can be accomplished working for a common cause!
UMAR: One of the impressive moments was during Shabat, led by a Jewish cohort. Itâ€™s where I learning the meaning of Shabat and how Judaism is closely aligned to Islam, through Ibrahim and his worship of Tauhid. Dispelling a lot myths I had and now Iâ€™m able to apply my conduct of Islamic Fiqh more appropriately.
TMO: What was the most valuable thing you learned at COR? What was the most valuable thing you think you introduced to that group?
NAIM: The most valuable thing I learned is that Allah is the one who choose your teachers. I have been working in the Muslim community for nearly 18 years. Community organizing was not taught or practiced formally by any Masjid to my knowledge. The skill sets, however, are re-surfacing back into the community though participants such as myself and Umar in wonderful programs like the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute and COR sponsored by the Jewish Funds for Justice. Both programs transformed me into a more effective leader and I am extremely grateful.
UMAR: A valuable walkaway is knowing I now have the ability to reach out into different communities for religious and social intellectual insight, share my ideas and simply have another effective social network an email away; something that is very needed in our world of changing dynamics. Good question, what was the most valuable thing I introduced; I would say the second Pillar of Islam, Salat. Each member was asked to share an aspect of their religion or way of life and I was asked to explain Salat. I explained it through an interactive presentation for a customized delivery about our obligation prayers.
The Muslim Observer wishes to thank Mr. Shah and Mr. Hakim for their cooperation in conducting this interview.