Through the Looking Glass: ISNA Thugs? (2005 ISNA Convention)
by Sheila Musaji
In the week after the 42nd annual ISNA convention an article appeared on the Muslimwakeup and Naseebvibes websites entitled ISNA Thugs by Umbreen Shah. At first, I dismissed the article, because it was poorly written, and made undocumented and inaccurate claims, Then I read it again and became angry not at the writer, but at those who had published the article as if it was a legitimate piece of journalism. As I thought about it a bit more I began to think that maybe there was a possibility of a positive outcome if the questions raised in the article were addressed and considered.
Muslim Wakeup, Naseeb Vibes, and the Progressive Muslim Union are groups that work together cooperatively. See articles by Sheila Musaji, Svend White, and Muqtedar Khan for in-depth discussions of this movement and controversies surrounding their tactics for change. This article is an example of undermining efforts towards positive change by using such tactics. As Muqtedar Khan expressed it: The conclusion that I can draw from all these debates and discussions is that while majority of Muslims sympathize and may even endorse the agenda of Progressive Muslims (1) seeking gender justice, (2) struggling for social justice, (3) advancing a moral inclusivist theology, and (4) opening the doors of Ijtihad for reinterpretation of Islam in the contemporary context, they strongly oppose the method and style of MWU. This raises the question, will MWU in the long run undermine the very movement, the Progressive Muslim movement that it seeks to promote.
Over the past 30 years I have been openly critical of some of the policies of ISNA and other national and local Muslim organizations, so I cannot be accused of being blind to the very real problems that need to be addressed.
That being said, I have seen over the years a very steady progress towards addressing and solving many problems. At this convention I saw major changes from 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. I personally know many of the brothers and sisters who have been involved with ISNA (some from the beginning) and based on my personal experience, they have been open to suggestions, gave genuine consideration to constructive criticism, and are well-intentioned. ISNA grew out of the earlier MSA (as did many other national Muslim organizations) and was one of the first organizations attempting to create an association that would give Muslims in America a voice. The ISNA convention is the largest gathering of Muslims in the U.S.
Although ISNA certainly has room for improvement, just from a practical standpoint, the Muslim community in the U.S. is an embattled community that needs a strong voice to speak for it in the public arena. As a community we have poured resources into ISNA over many years, and ISNA is generally accepted even by non-Muslim agencies and organizations as the primary voice of Islam in America. I believe that what is needed is to strengthen and widen ISNA’s scope. This can be done by many more individuals and organizations joining ISNA - as all members are able to vote. This can be done by encouraging ISNA to initiate dialogues with Sufi organizations, Shiah organizations, progressive Muslim organizations, African-American organizations, and finding ways that they can all work together. This can be done by encouraging ISNA to be more transparent, and to include representatives of other communities on its board. There is a lot to be done, but such positive developments can only come about by working with and not against the existing organization. Over the years our solution to disagreements has consistently been to start a new organization, and this has not been an effective strategy. Of all the existing organizations ISNA has the best chance of being a true umbrella group representing the wide range of Muslims in the U.S.
1. The article claims that ISNA asserts that it is the “only representative of Muslim Americans from all walks of life”
I searched ISNA print publications and information on the their website for any claim that they were “THE” representative and could not find any. Their Mission Statement states: ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.
2. African Americans are the most underrepresented of all groups at ISNA. ... Given that African-Americans make up the single largest segment of American Muslims, the fact that they don’t have a sizable stake raises a lot of questions about the validity of ISNA as an American Muslim organization.
African Americans may not be represented in large numbers at the ISNA convention because W.D. Muhammad traditionally holds his convention on the same week-end as the ISNA convention. W.D. Muhammad’s organization is currently called The Mosque Cares (formerly the Muslim American Society). I wish that both conventions could be combined, and know that over the years there have been many discussions by the leadership of both organizations about how this could be brought about. I also know that Abdul Malik Mujahid has worked for many years with the leadership of both of these organizations to try to make such a joint convention happen. At least part of the reason that this hasn’t yet happened has to do with cultural differences particularly between immigrant and native-born Muslims (whether African American or Caucasian, or second or third generation Muslims).
However, although we still have not reached the “ideal” situation of having joint conventions, there was definitely interaction. W.D. Muhammad (who is an alumnus of ISNA’s Board of Trustees) was part of the Press Conference that met before the first session of the conventions. Imam WD Muhammad formally unveiled the special issue of ISNA’s Islamic Horizons magazine dedicated to the contribution of African-Americans to Islam in America.9-12 The information above was from a pre-convention news release. I spoke with Shaikh M. Nur Abdullah, President of ISNA today and he informed me that although Imam Muhammad was invited to the press conference and had given a positive response, at the last minute he was unable to attend.”
While these conventions are held in separate venues they are unified in spirit and in their desire to foster a feeling of community among all American Muslims. As a result, attendees from one conference can attend the other without having to pay additional fees. A shuttle service was planned to be sponsored by The Council of Islamic Organizations and called “The Unity Bus”. The Council wanted to sponsor the Unity Bus as part of an effort to help bring together the different Muslim communities that converge in Chicago for the two separate conventions every September. However, this was cancelled at the last minute because approval was not received from W.D. Muhammad’s organization.
At one point I was walking through the ISNA bazaar and heard a Native Deen’s rap cd being played in the bazaar area which attracted my attention. I was able to purchase a CD for one of my son’s and even get it signed by one of the musicians. This booth featuring American rap music would not have been possible at an ISNA convention a few years ago. It is a small sign of movement in the direction of overcoming cultural prejudices.
My husband and I attended both conventions and were made to feel welcome at both. It would be wonderful if some day these conventions could come together, but there was much more awareness this year than in the past. The only suggestion I have is that this information should have been available in the printed program for the ISNA convention.
There is a problem in the American Muslim community of sectarianism in many forms including racism. On TAM, we have discussed this problem (type racism into TAM search engine), and this was one of the main issues discussed at the 1993 First North American Muslim Pow Wow in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Changing the mind set of the community will need to be done by American Muslim community activists from the bottom up, as the attitudes of the national organizations are reflective of the attitudes of their membership.
3. Even while the recent Katrina Hurricane blew across the predominantly African-American regions of the US, ISNA’s relief efforts were ad hoc at best
Hurricane Katrina hit the south a few days before the convention. ISNA moved faster than government agencies and before President Bush returned from his vacation ISNA had already promised to raise $10 million through the new organization formed on the spot -The Muslim Hurricane Relief Task Force.
The more than 30,000 Muslims attending this year’s ISNA convention also said a special Islamic prayer, Salat el Gha’eb, or prayer for the absent, for Katrina’s victims following the weekly Friday prayer. Islamic Relief and many other groups also had Katrina awareness and fundraising efforts at their booths in the ISNA bazaar.
4. discussions on hijab (head covering for women), polygamy and countering Islamophobia were the focus
Looking through the program with the listings of all the presentations, I am hard pressed to even find anything on these topics among the wide range of topics discussed. I can find interfaith dialogue, media and journalism issues, political representation, community development, public policy, community development, spirituality, professional meetings, civil rights, counseling, abuse, etc. I carefully went through the program and could find no session on hijab, only one on Islamophobia, and none on polygamy. They certainly were not the focus by any stretch of the imagination. Also, ISNA puts out a request for themes or topics to all members prior to the conventions.9-15 According to Louay Safi: “The ISNA convention is always held on the Labor Day week-end in September. Prior to the convention ISNA announces on their website and sends out notices to affiliates requesting proposals for presentations. Most of the panels are proposed by people who send in proposal after the announcement is made by ISNA. Even in cases where the individual may be somewhat controversial that does not mean that they would not be included (for example, Asra Nomani was a speaker at the 2004 convention even after she had written a critical piece about ISNA in the New York Times). Whether or not a person is Shia or Sunni or Sufi does not matter and ISNA welcomes and would be pleased to see more participation from all Muslim groups in the future.”
5. There is a tendency in ISNA to enforce a particular religiously conservative philosophy without adapting to the people it serves.
This has been a problem over the years, but is a function of those who are actively participating in ISNA. Over the years as more diverse elements began to participate and to make requests, there have been changes. Some small, some large, and this process is ongoing. For example: There were many booths that were playing music, and on 2 occasions there was a live performance. Some years ago this would not have been considered proper. The entertainment sessions offered in the evenings included: nasheeds, poetry, comedy, a film festival, and a live play. There was also an Islamic Art exhibit.
There was an annual general assembly at the convention where ISNA leaders discussed the working of the organization, presented their ideas and received feedback from members.
6. Women presenters at ISNA have been routinely asked to wear hijab during presentation even though they don’t normally wear the headscarf. This has promoted either hypocrisy or contention when presenters have refused to wear it.
I am still trying to research whether or not this is a policy and since as with many other points, no documentation or reference is given will have to start from scratch. I do know that no restrictions are made or pressure put on women attendees generally.9-15 According to Louay Safi (Executive Director, ISNA Leadership Development Center (ILDC): ?ISNA has no official policy about presenters wearing hijab - in fact, at this year’s convention we had a panel with 3 women who didn’t wear hijab. We receive complaints on both sides of this issue - ISNA received complaints from some attendees because these women were not wearing hijab. However, as I said, no one would be excluded for not wearing hijab, and many women who do not normally wear hijab do so when presenting out of respect for the sensibilities of many community members.
7. Women on ISNA’s board of directors are limited to a sample space of one
Of 21 Board members listed on the ISNA website - 4 are women which is 19% and one of those, Ingrid Mattson is the Vice President of ISNA. Ingrid Mattson is the first woman elected to such a position in any national Muslim organization. This is not as many women as would be ideal, but it is a respectable showing (compared to the past), and it is better than the U.S. House of Representatives. I am hopeful that the percentage of women will improve over time.
Update 2006: Ingrid Mattson was elected as President of ISNA.
8. Why is ISNA opposed to a wholesome family feel in mosques and adamant on making it a patriarchal space where women are only “lent” space?
ISNA was one of the organizations who reviewed and supported the Women-Friendly Mosques brochure which was distributed to mosques across the country this year. As Shahed Amanullah has pointed out, this document leaves unanswered questions. He points out that This document is worded in such a careful way as to allow current ultraconservative mosques to operate as-is, with only minor changes. Unless our institutions are willing to come clean, with clear, unambigious language that leaves no room for opponents of change to wiggle free, documents such as this will only serve to clear the conscience of those troubled by accusations of inequity, without changing anything on the ground.
At the ISNA Convention itself there was a token separation of women’s and men’s entrances to the main hall, but after that people could sit wherever they wanted. In the bazaar, cafeteria eating areas, in the presentation rooms there was no separation. There was even a session entitled “Towards Sister Friendly Masjids and Islami Centers”. While individual mosques may be affiliated with ISNA, ISNA is not able to enforce policies on those individual mosques.
This is an issue that will need to be dealt with at the local and national level. It is not a problem exclusive to only one organization.
9. Its exclusionary religious perspective successfully alienates the entire Shia Muslim sect.
“I want to know what sessions you went to Umbreen Shah - because we walked away with extremely different impressions of the event. You mention that Shia’s are not welcome to the event - I’ve never seen or heard anything that points to this event as being Sunni only. In fact, time and time again, the voices I heard were the ones encouraging unity amongst Muslims - in fact, one speaker even saying that the differences between Sunnis and Shias really didn’t matter anymore in this day and age ... We have our differences fine, but its time to come together with our various different viewpoints and work for the greater good - for which she/he (I can’t remember which) received loud applause…” Comment by Nuralaain on naseebvibes
I personally met Shia friends who were attending the convention. I am still investigating whether or not representatives of Shia communities and organizations have been invited to participate. I do know that membership is open to all Muslims - Sunni and Shia.
I would hope that individuals who have contacts with the various Shiah communities such as the UMAA who hosted their 3rd annual convention in Washington D.C. in May to consider also holding their conventions in Chicago over the Labor day week-end, so that many different Muslim groups could be in the same location at the same time, and perhaps have at least some shared programs. If ISNA has 40,000 in attendance, W.D. Muhammad has 8,000, the Shiah community another 5,000, some of the Sufi conferences 1,000 each separately - I believe that if they were all in one place at the same time all of them would show more attendance and the total number of attendees might reach as high as 75,000.9-14 According to Ali Naqi Syed of the Universal Muslim Association of America, UMAA: I had a chance to represent UMAA at the ISNA meeting in Chicago last weekend. This was the first time, as far as know, that a Shia organization was invited, perhaps to finally acknowledge that we are all brothers in faith. I think it was a positive development and much needed. However, this was a very limited participation in the form of a dinner with Karen Hughes and then a Breakfast meeting with Pakistani Minister for Human Development. Nevertheless, a first step that may open a dialogue between Sunnis (a majority in Muslims) and Shias (an important minority - around 20 to 25 % of Muslim population). In my opinion a major intra-faith dialogue is crucial for the future preservation of Islam. I believe, it is crucial that Sunnis and Shias learn to live peacefully in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Even in America the intra-faith relations are almost nonexistent. The wide spread belief between Sunnis (Wahabis) that Shias are not Muslims- they are Kafirs- and other stereo types about us can only be eliminated by mutual dialogue. Some of you are scholars of History and know that Catholics and Protestants had serious fights as well but they finally learnt to get along. In a famous statement of Rodney King - a police brutality victim in Los Angeles - Can we all get along - is needed in Muslims all over the world and in particular in USA. Can someone in Sunni Community, nudge the leadership to move in this direction?”
Update Nov. 2012 In the article Sunni Shia Violence Must Stop , I noted that:
A movement towards making a clear public declaration that division between Sunnis and Shias will not be accepted or tolerated by American Muslims has been ongoing in the American Muslim community for some time. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid called for a dialogue in April of 2005, and sponsored a gathering which issued a resolution in December of 2006. In April of 2007 at a meeting in Los Angeles a number of scholars signed on to a Muslim Code of Honor initiated by MPAC, and in May many more signed on in Detroit, and in September many more at the ISNA convention.
10. Run mostly by first generation Immigrant Muslims with cultural baggage from their homelands, ISNA management has been unable to relate to their American-born Muslim constituency which is the future of Islam in America.
There were more young people (between about 16 and 25) than I have ever seen in the past, and the MYNA and MSA programs were as numerous as the ISNA programs. This issue of cultural baggage is another that exists currently in almost all local and national organizations.
Update Aug. 2011. A Gallup Poll has been released that provides documentation of the fact that the American Muslim community in general has little faith in the existing national organizations. One study finding should be a major concern to American Muslims and to the leadership of existing national organizations. The interviewers asked - which American Muslim organization most represents your interests? These were the responses. The best approval rating any organization received was 12%. I believe that local, regional, and national leadership of the American Muslim community need to sit down and consider the meaning of this clear vote of “no confidence”. They need to poll the American Muslim community to find out what expectations of the community they are not meeting, and what they would need to do to fix the problem.
11. More shocking, a mere 10% of all Muslims in America attend the ISNA-affiliated Mosques and institutions. Apparently, ISNA’s biggest success has been in alienating 90% of American Muslims.
Imam Zaid Shakir wrote an excellent article about the many reasons individuals are not connected with their local mosques - Flight From the Masjid ... This is not a problem unique to ISNA, but ISNA is working to address many of these issues.
“Yep, ISNA has loads of problems. They definitely need to be more inclusive of other ethnicities/races/women, they need to be accountable to their domestic constituency not foreign influences, etc. And there is movement toward that—particularly at the very dynamic MSA & MYNA meetings which were far more interesting than the ISNA lectures. However, they’ve also done lots of good. It was my 1st ISNA & I was surprised at how non-judgemental, open, & welcoming everyone was to a non-hijabi South Asian & her white partner. I also thought it was overwhelmingly South Asian, not Arab as described here. In some ways our experiences are controlled by what we expect or want to see, & Ms Shah & I are no exceptions. It’s a continuing contention of MWU’s founders that the 90% “unmosqued” are not represented by ISNA or other Islamic organizations. Agreed. But to think ISNA had any hand in “alienating 90% of American Muslims” as Ms Shah contends is ridiculous. The vast majority of people who accept the label of any religion or ism are usually not particularly devout or devoted to the cause. Most Muslims in this country are not interested in their religious or cultural identity, and they are just as surely not represented by MWU or the PMUNA. Since the intrepid reporter Ms Shah failed to notice the *massive* banners everywhere stating it was the 42nd (not 45th as she states in her very first sentence) annual conference, it makes one wonder at her attention to detail & MWU’s fact-checking abilities.” Commented by Ayesha on MWU website.
12. MuslimWakeup.coms reporter, Michael Muhanad Knight, was invited by ISNA to attend a press briefing by Karen Hughes. But during the press briefing, ISNA authorities asked security to get him out. They were suspicious about an image at the back of his jacket; then, they once again told him to go back and attend the briefing.
“Mr. Knight ... admitted to the individuals who ultimately gave him media clearance to attend the conference (I was there and heard the whole thing), that he felt ISNA would not grant him press credentials to attend so intentionally did not pre-register (as ALL the CREDIBLE MEDIA had). He was vouched for by MuslimWakeUp reporter Mr. S. Khan and was represented as a photographer for MWU. ISNA, being the all inclusive organization that it is, allowed that ... clearance nonetheless. He was removed from the press conference because Karen Hughes and her entourage were uncomfortable with his appearance, mannerisms, attitude, and general presence. ISNA allowed him in, the government kicked him out.” Comment by manifestation on naseebvibes
According to an article on MWU’s website “During the Q&A, a policeman approached Michael and his 2 companions and asked them to come outside. Once outside, a special agent with a State Department i.d. asked them why they were at the press conference and searched them and their bags. After ISNA staffers vouched for them, they were allowed back into the press conference. “
All of this appears to have been over an Alternative Tentacles jacket Mr. Knight was wearing with an unusual logo that raised alarm on someone’s part. So far, we have been unable to find out whether an ISNA representative, a conference goer, or the police were the first to notice this jacket and decide to question Mr. Knight.
9-13 Just published on the MWU website an article by Michael Knight himself clears up the issue of whether or not he had a press pass. “ I had a pile of counterfeit badges with names like Ben Ishmael and Al Rukn but wasn?t sure if they?d do the job later, so Shahjehan went behind the media booth and added our names to a Post-It list of registered journalists. Then we went upstairs, napped for a few hours on the couches and went back down as things were getting alive. We approached the media booth and told them that we needed badges. The guy running things looked at his little yellow Post-It, saw our names and wrote them up. Now we had all-access media passes.” and further on in the article answers the question of whether or not he had been invited to the press conference: “Omar tipped us off to the press conference featuring Karen Hughes, Department of State Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Bush’s representative to the ISNA convention, ostensibly centered around the earth-shattering announcement of a brochure condemning terrorism. ... It was obvious that we didn’t belong in there, and not least of all to those charged with protecting the event. So now we know that Mr. Knight did not have a legitimate press pass and was not invited to the press conference.
9-26 I was just informed that Michael Knight had published a resignation from PMU on August 10th on his web blog. This was three weeks before the ISNA convention.
13. Malaysian authorities also faced ISNA’s flip flopping in the past, when then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was invited in 2000 to attend the convention, after which ISNA retracted its invitation based on a court case that Mahathir was party to. In response to ISNA’s impropriety and unbecoming behavior, Dr. Mahatir Mohammad responded: “It is their right to invite and then to withdraw the invitation. It clearly showed that ISNA just listens to one side of the story and refuses to get the truth from the other side.”
Mahathir Mohammad’s invitation was withdrawn (after tremendous outside pressure) because he jailed his deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim on what everyone (including Amnesty Internatiional) felt were trumped-up sodomy charges. The entire global community opposed Mahathir on this. ISNA withdrew the invitation to Mahathir after consideration of the implications of this scandal.
14. Similarly, the publishers of a Sufi magazine, New Track, were allegedly thrown out of the convention area and a message announced to attendants discouraging alternative voices of Islam.
I can find no reference online to any such magazine. Perhaps it is new. Which tariqa does it represent? Who made the allegations? Who made the announcement, where, and what was the actual wording? This comment appears to be simply hearsay with absolutely no documentation.
15. Particularly questionable was the officials’ behavior with a Muslim website’s volunteers. Flyers promoting an event with Muslim artists, comedian Azhar Usman, Nasheed singers 786 and Malaysian singer, Ani Zonneveld were snatched from volunteers and other attendants who had paid tickets to attend ISNA, and tossed out by ISNA representatives who called it “trash” and “unislamic filth.”
There was a comment posted on MWU under this article: The event in question was sponsored by Naseeb, and considering it was not an ISNA sponsored event, ISNA reserves the right to choose what events may or may not be publicized through them. Naseeb should have also obtained permission prior to the convention. calling the event “unislamic” and “trash” is over the top but how can one be sure that these were ISNA representatives? there were a number of self appointed moral police there who took it upon themselves to call anyone and anything “unislamic” and “trash”. unless there is proof that these were ISNA reps one can’t blame ISNA.
I can find no mention on the Naseebvibes site of this incident or even of the event, so don’t know yet what actually happened or if this incident involved individuals from Naseebvibes. I do have a number of questions: What was the website and who were the “representatives”? Who reported that they heard this exchange?
“I attended ISNA and didn’t hear anything about that whole last bit. As far as I know, 786 was even invited to the MSA entertainment event. I know for a fact that other nasheed groups performed there as well. ISNA is fully aware of all MSA events… in fact, it’s all published in the same agenda magazine…“Comment by Paro113083 on naseebvibes
9-13 I was forwarded information from a flier announcing that the First Annual Naseeb Meetup - a night of music and comedy - was being held at the Crowne Plaza on September 4th at 7:30 p.m. This seems to be the event that Umbreen Shah was referring to in her article. SEM
9-15 According to Louay Safi: “Naseeb reserved three booths and then their representative called and cancelled. They were not denied a booth. I personally went to the Naseeb event at the Crowne Plaza and met with several of the representatives of Naseeb. No one mentioned anything to me about any problems or any incident at the ISNA convention. Nothing was reported to ISNA security, and I checked with Besharaf Saleem who was the convention chair and he said that nothing about any such incident was reported to him.”
16. It is worth inferring that ISNA wants to promote only non-ideology based businesses like boutiques and halal meat stores. ISNA is in a position to facilitate the formation of an American Muslim identity. However, without more enlightened leadership it may never live up to its potential.
There were many “ideology based” organizations represented - magazines, publishing houses, etc. one only had to walk through the bazaar or read the list of organizations and groups who had booths to see this.
17. Security was alerted on the volunteers who were treated like criminals and forced off the convention premises. One of the women was so humiliated as a result of ISNA’s security methods that she began weeping as she waited outside for her family. “I have never been stalked like this in my life.” She said. Later ISNA organized its thugs to parade a procession with banners and chants against the website and the event held. They yelled, “Haram! Haram! Haram!”
Since the “victim” of this alledged incident is not named, and I was unaware of such an incident, I am still waiting to hear from other convention goers to find out if anyone knows anything about this incident.
18. When faced with the challenge of integrating wider representation of Muslims, it takes only token steps.
On the question of diversity some of the comments that have been left on the Naseebvibes and MWU websites clearly speak to this issue:
“as someone coming from a minority muslim community, I look to organizations such as ISNA to finally break down the exclusive barriers that keep so many muslim communities in isolation. Having attended it twice, I feel that ISNA at least does a good job creating such a space (which I don’t see many other orgs/groups doing).” Comment by Khazana on Naseebvibes
”...to criticize ISNA for not being completely representative. The points are valid: African-Americans are drastically under-represented, women in leadership are few and far between - but for all your ISNA bashing you don’t (or perhaps can’t) name a single Muslim organization in America that IS more inclusive and representative. As far as Muslim organizations go, ISNA is still fairly inclusive: you meet many different types of people at the convention; is it all-inclusive? no. is it more inclusive than many other organizations? Yes. The fact remains that no Muslim group is ever going to be completely inclusive, unless you happen to be talking about the Muslim group known simply as “Islam.” Comment by Hassanmahmad on naseebvibes
There were so many choices of presentations in the program that there really was something for everyone, and of those that I chose to attend there were many female presenters as well as presenters from the younger generation, and even non-Muslim presenters.
This convention seemed to be much more diverse than years ago. I personally met Arab, Indian, Pakistani, Bosnian, Malaysian, African, Chinese, Hispanic, African-American, immigrant, convert, sufi, sunni, shia, and second and third generation Muslims at this convention.
19. All of this calls for a questioning of agendas and motives.
I would have to say that is true. I would question the agenda and motives of those who would publish this emotional diatribe as if it was a serious article without even checking the basic facts.
ISNA seems to me to be the premier Muslim umbrella organization in the U.S. and deserves to be supported by the Muslim community. It can be improved, but that is the job of the community. Those who have ideas for how to make ISNA more inclusive and effective need to get involved, offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement, and offer their services. There are real problems that need to be addressed, and the national Muslim organizations need to be made aware of the real concerns of the Muslim community, and encouraged and pressured to change. See American Muslim Organizations’ Mistakes Can Be Opportunities for Growth for some examples of issued that need to be addressed. Articles like this one that include so many unsubstantiated and frivolous claims alongside legitimate issues are not likely to move that process forward, and only close off genuine dialogue.
Sheila Musaji is the Editor of The American Muslim at http://www.theamericanmuslim.org. This article was originally published in September 2005 and will be updated as more information is received.