generation Islam: a New Organization for the North American Muslim
Did you ever wonder where all the North American born or raised Muslims are in the Islamic community? To tap into this silent majority, generation Islam, a new not-for-profit organization has been formed.
The mission of generation Islam is to support the needs of Muslims born or raised in North America. generation Islam will fulfill this mission by providing a network of open dialogue, communication and support in order to ascertain and address North American born or raised Muslims specific needs at the local, regional and national levels.
The mystery of where are the homegrown Muslims was the topic of Jeffrey Lang’s (co-founder of generation Islam) book, Losing My Religion. A convert to Islam, and mother of two from New Jersey, Rabia Saeed, read this book and was struck by the “mystery of the missing Muslims”, a question she had also pondered.
“I started to go through the book page by page, and it seemed to me that the goals and objectives for a movement were clearly pointed out and just needed a jumpstart,” Saeed explained. Shortly after her dissection of the book, Mr. Lang came to New Jersey for a scheduled lecture. Rabia approached him about the idea and a movement was born.
generation Islam began as a yahoo online group in October 2006 with 2 members. Within a couple of months, the membership jumped to 100 genIs (as they like to call themselves). Rabia was happy but shocked to see the numbers rise so fast. “I was surprised to see the quick response. It was then I realized this group was very much needed in our community.”
This past November, generation Islam held its first Net Meeting, open to all genIs, and outlined their goals for 2007. High on the list of goals, was generation Islam’s organizational development. The goals to register as a non profit organization, to create a forum, ( http://www.generationislam.com/forums ), and an official website, ( http://www.generationislam.com ) were the first order of business. All three of these goals were accomplished within the first eight weeks of the New Year.
generation Islam is advised by cofounder Dr. Jeffrey Lang, author of “Losing My Religion”, and the highly respected Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl. Dr. Abou El Fadl writes extensively on universal themes of humanity, morality, human rights, justice, and mercy. Board member, Amy Hachem enthusiastically says that, “generation Islam is very blessed to have two great Advisors on board right from the start. While our Advisors are there for general guidance, ultimately, it is the generation Islam membership who shape and runs the organization.” She adds, “We are always looking for dynamic, energetic, and committed individuals to join in to the generation Islam movement and to jumpstart conversations on our forums, and work on various projects and events.”
The organization is rooted in it clear vision and values. The vision of generation Islam is to foster supportive and inclusive communities where all generations of Muslims interact in positive and mutually beneficial ways. The culture of generation Islam is to support and exemplify its values, not only as an organization, but for all its members. Some of these values are cooperation, perseverance, honesty, compassion, moderation and the value for this month, diversity.
Other goals for 2007 are: to connect with others who align with its mission, to hold a genI youth breakout session in the tri-state area, to hold Ramadan/Iftar gatherings sponsored at local levels, to send out an open letter to North American Masjids, a letter that will help to identify which Masjids will be receptive to the generation Islam movement, and the dollar for our scholar initiative.
The dollar for our scholar initiative is to support genI’s 2007 goal of encouraging Islamic study by North American born or raised Muslims and converts. The initiative is two-fold: the first part is to raise $1000 through fundraisers and donations to pay the (reduced) tuition costs. The second part of the initiative involves selecting ten generation Islam members to attend online classes in the Fall of 2007.
Board member Ray Lacina explains further, “This is just the first step in what genI hopes will be an ongoing program to provide sound education in Islam to North American born Muslims. In addition to offering foundational courses to new Muslims and second generation Muslims who are rediscovering their faith, the initiative will eventually help serious seekers of knowledge to pursue advanced degrees in Islamic studies. These homegrown scholars will play an essential role in helping us find ways to practice our faith in a way that is both authentic and appropriate to the North American environment.”
As generation Islam develops and grows, they hope to tackle many of the issues that second generation North Americans and converts face. Such as, women’s place in the masjid, youth programs, exploring American Muslim identity, convert support systems and community involvement. The thing that sets generation Islam apart from some of the other organizations out there already is that it is run for and by Second Generation North American Muslims and Converts to Islam living in North America. “First gens” (non North American born Muslims) are encouraged to participate in building generational bridges and in helping to ensure strong, vital Islamic communities for themselves, the future of their children and for future generations to come.