Reflection – RIOTcon2016 – 04.15.16
Channel: Sherman Jackson
File Size: 66.02MB
Good evening, everyone.
I hope everybody's enjoyed the day. It's been quite a number of discussions. Tomorrow morning, I wanted to remind everybody that we start promptly at 730 with Shabbat service downstairs and o'clock chapel.
And then we'll go right into
morning plenary with Dr. Rami nashashibi, introducing our panelists of speakers. It should be a very exciting day tomorrow. There'll be a lot of people here. And I think that is it. If you have not already downloaded your app, please do so. I will be sending messages throughout the evening and we've been posting on our social media while remember hashtag riot con 2016. Please post your pictures. Please tell us what you thought about today's conversations and Share Share Share. Last year we trended in the top 10 for four hours on Saturday, because we had such a convergence of conversation about what we're doing. So we hope to continue that trend this year. I'd like to
introduce the Reverend Dr. Lee Butler to introduce our closing speaker for today.
I greet you all with a word and a sign of peace.
And the classic work significations the preeminent historian of religions. Dr. Charles H Long defines religion as orientation.
And I quote him
orientation in the ultimate sense that is how one comes to terms with the ultimate significance of one's place in the world.
The Christian faith provides a language for the meaning of religion.
But not all the religious meanings of black communities were encompassed by the Christian forms of religion and quote
from this point of view,
if one is to understand black religion, and by extension, the history of blacks or Africans in America,
one can not be limited to the Christian narrative interpretation of black American life.
Our speaker this evening, Dr. Sherman
Abdel Hakim Jackson,
leans into Dr. Long's concerns with and of course, especially given the fact says Dr. Jackson, Muslims make up the largest block of non Christians in black America.
Dr. Jackson is an educator, and scholar.
He earned his PhD in Oriental Studies focusing on the Islamic Near East, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Currently, he is the King Faisal chair, an Islamic thought and culture and professor of religion and American Studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
He is a co founder,
and member of the Board of Trustees of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, which is an academic institution where scholars, professionals, activists, artists, writers, and community leaders come together to develop strategies for the future of Islam in the modern world.
He has been identified as being among 500 of the most influential Muslims in the world.
Scanning one of Dr. Jackson's publications.
I noticed an acknowledgment and a word of thanks to Dr. Charles long.
Seeing that I called Dr. Long this morning and
I asked him to tell me about Dr. Jackson.
After he laughed with delight,
he went all the way back to Dr. Jackson's growing up in Philadelphia.
He sent me supplemental materials that included comments from to book proposals and a letter of reference. He wrote on behalf of Dr. Jackson.
He shared with me
that Dr. Jackson's book, Islam, and the black American developed out of a class they co taught.
I was given all the goods on Dr. Jackson.
To know dr. long is to know that he has a specific vocabulary that he uses to describe people.
And the complementary term he used to describe Dr. Jackson is serious.
Please know from dr. long, that is high praise.
He said, and this is Dr. Lawless, he said
when Charmin became Muslim.
He took it seriously
and did not just turn to it as an ideology.
He said he's a serious scholar who takes being black seriously, and takes being Muslim. Seriously.
I find Dr. Jackson's work, exciting and profound.
He's a, or excuse me. His is the first body of work I've seen that has taken the intellectual seriousness or with intellectual seriousness, the existence of Muslims in America.
It moves beyond the language of religious tolerance, and poses the intellectual issues of comparative law as a practical matter.
the basic structure of his argument
is the most trenchant and serious alternative to both the positions of Robert Bella's civil religion on one hand, and Samuel Huntington's returned to a Protestant America on the other.
Dr. Jackson is a prolific writer.
His publications include
initiative to stop the violence sat at assassinate or assassins, and the renunciation of political violence.
And this was a translation from the Arabic done by Dr. Jackson.
Sufism for non Sufis
Ibn ATOL, Allah,
Allah countries, Tosh Allah rousse
Islam and the problem of black suffering
Islam and the black American looking toward the third resurrection
on the boundaries of theological tolerance in Islam,
Al Ghazali. Faisal al Todrick.
Islamic law and the state the constitutional jurisprudence of shall reap Ardene are Kalief.
it is my pleasure
to introduce to you
this serious scholar
who will address us on the theme mapping a movement.
Please hear, Dr. Sherman,
first of all, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank
Chicago Theological University and
the people at Riot con, for affording me this opportunity to come here
and share with you and to benefit from the intellectual capital in the room. And from the practical experience of people who are engaged in the whole enterprise of trying to advance the cause of a more humane,
a more serious, and a more, I don't want to say just because justice to me,
is more of a legal term,
I want I want a more harmonious society, I want a society that can go beyond justice. Just because you don't have a right to my money doesn't mean that I shouldn't give it to you sometimes, if you have a need that need my outweigh your right. And so what we want to do is we want to look towards the kind of society that can be a repository of the expression of our best selves, as opposed to our most insecure selves.
I don't have a whole lot of time to speak. And my mind is full of things that I sort of want to say. So I want to try and
contextualize my remarks by saying the following. In some ways, I feel very uncomfortable up here.
And in some ways, I don't know why I was invited to speak here.
I'm not a community organizer. And I'm not I'm not an activist, certainly not in any kind of formal sense.
So I was a little taken aback when I got the invitation. But I do know why I accepted the invitation. I accepted the invitation because it came from someone whose person I deeply respect and cherish. And that is Rami nashashibi. And not only do I respect and cherish his person that extends to the work that he does, out there in the trenches, and even more especially to the constituency that he seeks to serve. And that is people who have been marginalized in society, who come from backgrounds larger than my like my own. And I've always seen Ramiz work as being valuable. And I've always envied the fact that my professional track has not taken me into that, that line of line of
work. But when, when Romney calls, I see it both as a duty on the one hand, and also on the other hand, as as a chance at redemption of sorts, for not having had the opportunity to engage in the very, very valuable work that he does. But of course,
nobody can do
everything. I'm I'm an academic.
And I spend most of my time in a number of
overlapping liminal spaces.
And these overlapping liminal spaces presents some some very serious and unique challenges for trying to develop a vision through which to negotiate and hopefully transform reality.
And along the way to do so through a voice to develop a voice that can represent this vision that can communicate this vision and that can, can give it a multiplier effect.
I am a black,
American, Sunni Muslim male,
from the streets of Philadelphia,
trained in the classical Islamic tradition,
and in the western Academy,
seeking to bring a slam into meaningful, transformative, serious and responsible conversation with the realities of the 20th century. And now, the 21st century.
In a post 911 America,
that's sort of my charge. And all of this carries a number of liabilities and complexities
and to try to give a shorthand contextualization of
what I have in mind by these complications, and liabilities. I want to quote something
from a man by the name of Edward Bernays Edward Bernays. Many of you might know
Oh, it's considered the father of propaganda, he was actually a nephew of Sigmund Freud. And he came to this country and wrote the seminal work on propaganda called propaganda.
And the opening, salvo of this book reads as follows. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses, is an important element and democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes are formed our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
Now, many of us can imagine how all of this might apply. To the way American attitudes and sensibilities about Muslims have been shaped, and shaped sort of shook Tisha Slee. And by that, I mean, sometimes when people present us with arguments that make no sense, we can dismiss them. But when people have control over those pre rational mechanisms, that can get beyond our rational defenses, into our souls, and our beings agitate our fears and our prejudices in ways that we might not be able to recognize, then it becomes really difficult to defend ourselves against these manipulations. And so we can imagine how this may affect American attitudes towards Muslims. And the
kinds of burdens that this will bear for trying to speak with integrity as a Muslim, in 21st century America, I'm sure most of you can imagine this. But But beyond that, and even more importantly, what I'd really like you to think about is not the impact that all this has on me,
but rather the potential impact that it has on many of you.
In other words,
imagining the extent to which those manipulations of which Bernays spoke may complicate your ability to hear me
in terms of what I'm actually saying,
because part of what we're dealing with today is, in a sense, what the French scholar Guy Debord talks about in terms of the degradation of the faculty of human encounter,
our faculty to encounter each other as human beings is being degraded as we speak. I'm standing here in front of you, I'm speaking to you, you can see me now I mean, with your two eyes in your head, but with the other eye on your heart.
Right, you can sense me. And yet, you may not be able to hear me, because all these images that have been created about me, come between you and me. And so what I want to sort of offer
is that we take a moment to try and
bracket some of those prejudices with which we are sort of subliminally inundated with on an on a daily basis. All right, now,
I was very,
not only moved, but Charles Long's remarks put me in a, in a funny place. Because I've always looked up to him as as a teacher.
And it almost made me feel like I had to get up here and, and perform, I'm going to try and resist that. Because I don't want to go super academic. Because those are the kinds of expectations that he generates in my mind.
So what I wanted to do was to try and say something that will hopefully
have the effect of potentially producing some transformative energy that might enable us to recognize more plainly what our capacities are, as a community in terms of moving this thing forward. And I didn't want to be too academic. I wanted to try and come down, come down to earth a bit. So I have no title for my remarks. And the title was
Back to trick baby.
Mapping A movement through the power of the American self, this trick baby reference will become clearer in just a moment. What I want to start off by saying is that,
you know, we've been at this for some time,
this whole business of how we
contribute to a society that lives up to its claims and its promises. And one of the things that we find so frustrating today is that, you know, after all this time, and all this effort, and all this movement, somehow, we shouldn't be where we are today.
Somehow, things should have progressed a bit more than they have today. And
one of the things that comes to my mind, which is what I want to try and talk about is why this continues to happen.
How is it that, you know,
I mean, just think about it.
I was born in the 1950s.
And so, I,
I saw the civil rights movement, unfolding. And I'm raised by parents who grew up in the Jim Crow South, so I can see the meaning of what is occurring. And then I come through the 70s. And you know, that, you know, that's the era of a black mayors and black political empowerment, and all these kinds of things. And then you come into 2016. And it's Ferguson. And it's Freddie Gray. And his black incarceration, it's like, how does this stuff continue to happen?
All right, how is it that we're able to be taken back? Sort of to square one? And of course, Square One is never square one? Because you've already been there? Right? And that's part of what makes it. So, so frustrating. And so the question becomes, in a sense,
how do we embark upon an opponent approach
to manage our affairs collectively,
in a way that somehow does not seem to doom us to frustration?
Now, I'm going to speak to these issues, again, from my perspective, as a Muslim, and one of the things that I hope to articulate here is that that perspective, in and of itself, should not be heard to be one that excludes those who are not Muslims.
Because there is there is, there is much that we share in common, certainly, in terms of the way we would like to see the world. All right.
Every Muslim is familiar with a set of verses in the Quran, that are repeated in several different contexts, that declare that God will not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of themselves.
And this is repeated several times in the Quran.
And by sounds, the Quran is speaking not just to the mind, because we can have a perfect mind. But if the soul is is corrupted, it will only dictate to the mind
that what's the soul holds to be dear, which is itself corrupt.
Now, I want to make it very clear that this is not some call to some sort of rugged individualism, you know, people have to change themselves. Right? As we hear this among a lot of
people on the right, let us say
I want to make it very clear that
I am not a liberal, and I am not a conservative. This is one of the things that I struggle with. In America, we have these two choices and these choices only seemingly,
I don't fit either of them. So my critique is not for or against either of these, but we hear the sort of rugged individualism from some on the right. And then we also hear this sort of autonomous individualism, right, from someone the love black or white.
The Quran is emphatic that individuals are not
are self sufficient.
And as such, we can only pretend to be largely at somebody else's expense.
I owe a debt I am partly defined in form by what people like Dr. Lafayette, like Dr. Martin Luther King, did.
I have that debt, I cannot pretend that I'm standing here and the capacity in which I'm standing solely on the basis of my own efforts.
That's nonsense. Right. And so the Quran is not talking about
this, either rugged individualism or autonomous individualism.
But what it is trying to call this to is a higher, more profound sense of personal responsibility. Even if we are dependent upon others, and especially upon God, we remain responsible.
And we cannot use our circumstances as an excuse before God. And here I want to be very clear.
My understanding at least, I'm right.
the ethic of the Quran is sort of it is not the triumphalist, who must always win.
And it's not the perpetual victim, whose entire life has nothing but a complaint.
It is more sort of the tragic hero
who is willing to put it all on the line for what he or she believes, to be worthy of putting it on the line for and at the same time, they are ready to accept God's decree, either to bring this to success or not.
However, it turns out, I have done my best. I have done what I am supposed to do. And that that will sustain me in my relationship with God. So
what I've been alluding to here is that if we want to avoid
this business of always being taken back to square one, there may be something in ourselves that we have to change.
And here is where the
whole theme of trick baby comes in.
Back in 1967,
a man by the name of Robert Beck,
born Robert Molson, by the way who was actually born here in Chicago.
He's better known as Iceberg Slim.
And he wrote a book entitled, trig baby, I read this book when I was about 15 years old. And I have a little confession to make. And if you repeat this outside of this room, I'll send some people after you.
I read this book, because he was also the author of another book. Entitled pimp 15 year old.
Right. But in this book,
there is a scene
that has left
its imprint on my thinking from the time I read it.
Trick by me was about this couple was an older guy, black guy, and it was a younger guy who was mulatto, but he looked white, he could pass for white back, they call them white folks.
And they were con artists.
And I don't mean pickpockets. I mean, setting up fake companies, and bilking people out of 1000s of dollars. Right, and white folks was the younger of the two. So one morning they meet at this coffee shop, and they're supposed to meet a mark. A mark is somebody they're gonna Swindle. And so while they're there waiting to meet the mark, white folk says to
the other gentleman, he says, Let me ask you something.
Don't you ever feel like a little bit guilty? When we got these people out of all this money?
And this is what his mentor said to him. And this is what's left an impact on me.
He said, listen to me.
You give me a man.
I don't care how smart he is. I don't care how rich he is. I don't care how powerful he is.
If he's willing to take a shortcut,
I can turn him.
But you give me a man.
I don't care how uneducated he is. I don't care how poor he is. I don't care how powerless he is.
If he's not willing to take a shortcut, there's nothing I can do with them.
No, I don't feel guilty, because all I'm doing is making what people are looking for a shortcut in
My point in all of this
is that it is shortcuts
that are the most seductive promise to inflame self.
are the most seductive promise to an inflamed self. If we want money, we want the quickest way to get that money. If we want fame, the quickest way to get that, in fact, even if we want revenge, we don't want to wait.
We want the quickest way that we can get there.
And so perhaps, one of the reasons that it may be possible to take us back to square one so often is that we ourselves have not been conditioned in such a manner that we can resist the manipulations that seek to take us back there. We end up compromised, brought off,
brought into the mindset of that was just a week before we were condemning.
And so part of what we need to pay perhaps some attention to is how we put ourselves in a position where we have some insulation against these tendencies. And these attempts to manipulate us back into a state of mind and a state of being it's not simply our inaction, or even our wrong action on occasion. It is the fact that our selves acquiesce to what's going on.
That we actually internalize the normal illness of what is going on.
Now, I want to argue that this is not accidental.
and this morning sessions, there were there were quite a few.
There's quite a bit of mention of, of capitalism, and the impact that capitalism has on us.
And I agree. But I think there's another dimension to, to the overall socio political context in which we exist, context that grows out of the history of Europe.
We live in a liberal democracy.
And by the way, I'm not naive. So we're not taking any of this super literally. Right.
But we live in a liberal democracy.
This is a phrase that is both familiar
and cherished by most of us.
Indeed, being a liberal democracy is seen by many to see that what sets America and the West apart from the rest. It's a point of pride, that we are a liberal democracy.
Now, what may not come so readily to us in terms of recognition is a basic assumption upon once the liberal side of this democracy is founded. And again, I'm not a conservative, and maybe in a question and answer period, I can explain why.
But the liberal side of that liberal democracy is predicated upon the principle of possessive individualism.
And that is essentially the notion that I am the sole possessor of me.
It is just me alone, who is to determine the validity of my choices.
Because there is no external authority or principle that could sit in judgment of my actions.
I must be free to choose. And the morality of my choice is located primarily in the fact that it is my choice.
Not necessarily having to do anything with the substance of
My choice with only two
exceptions, one, my choice cannot encroach upon your ability to choose.
And two, and by the way, this is the one I think is rarely really acknowledged as such, we're not going to second guess the state.
Right? We will kowtow to the state. Okay? But
choice becomes, in and of itself sacred. And I think many of us, I mean, if you're old enough, we look at, you know, how American society has evolved. And we wonder what's what's going on? All right, from generation to generation, we don't know how to be fathers, we don't know how to be mothers, we don't know how to be signs, we don't know how to be daughters, things are always always in the state of flux, always, always changing. All right.
The the the ideology of choice, autonomous individuals choice, all right, will have that impact. Now, what I want to suggest is the following is that if this is a fairly accurate depiction of the basic assumption, undermine underlying the liberal dimension of our democracy,
then I think that we we might want to come face to face or come to terms with the following reality.
On the one hand, there is something very valuable to us all myself included.
the ultimate right to choose to be the persons we sing, we being fit to be
to not have society dictate to us who we should be, all of us hold this to be a deep and a highly treasured value.
At the same time, however,
we must recognize that, or I must recognize my choices are not necessarily guaranteed to be right.
Nor good, nor necessarily to take me to places that are best for me in terms of my basic fundamental humanity. Some of the worst decisions that we make in life, are freely chosen.
The fact that I chose them freely, is no guarantee that they will be substantively what I would want them to be.
If the culture in which we live now, is one that sanctifies desires and choice, because they are desires and choices with no sustained institutional, publicly shared mechanisms or traditions for refining, or educating or taming our choices, then both individually and collectively, we may end up hopelessly susceptible to the manipulations of those who can hold out to us the greatest promises to fulfill our choices, and we bite.
And we bite.
And this brings us back to the whole question of what we may need to do going forward in terms of sustaining movements that are not almost hopelessly returned to step one, every other generation or so.
In our society, where political power,
economic power, even cultural, and intellectual power, that is the power to produce ideas and images, to disseminate them to popularize trends and tastes.
All these things are virtually monopolized by minority.
We don't have the ability to represent ourselves.
We don't have the ability, even to tell the world who we are. CNN does that for us. Fox does that for us. And anybody who's who's traveled outside the country can see some of the effects of that. What things what people think about America, it's just crazy.
Just outlandish, right? We don't even have the ability to represent ourselves.
And because of the power of manipulation that is out there. We are susceptible to being both manipulated in terms of these choices and passions that we have within us. And we all have them
lust, and greed, and pettiness, and anger, and jealousy, all of these things, we all have these, right? So we're susceptible to being manipulated on the one hand, and even more importantly,
to be divided into 1000 different fragments. Why? Because of the differential distribution of the kinds of validation, all right, that the powers that be can distribute,
we ended up not being able to come together, right? Because we're provided with disincentives for doing that. Instead, we all want to pursue our own individual autonomous goals. And that breaks us apart and 1000 different fragments. And what this ultimately has, the effect of doing is producing
scholarship prints Princeton used to call it voluntary, totalitarianism.
Voluntary totalitarianism, whereby even if the state and the dominant culture, because to me, we have a problem, not only with the state, both of the dominant culture as well.
Even if they don't seek to monopolize power, that's ultimately what happens, because all of the possible repositories of serious sustained resistance, right have been fragmented into weakness.
There is no credible opposition,
there is no credible threat,
there is no credible entity to fear in terms of how they go about their business. Because we can either be scared
or promised into conformity.
Scared or promised into conformity. And, and this is what, to me, to my mind, ultimately ends up
placing us in a very sophisticated
position of being dominated
both as individuals and as communities.
Because by domination, I understand the following.
is not for you to come and coerce me
into what you want me to do.
And that might be a form of domination. But that's not what I have in mind when I when I speak of domination, because when you come to coerce me, that naturally breeds resistance,
attempts to directly coerce will breed resistance.
is basically to get me to do what you want me to do, as if it's what I want to do.
It's sort of the difference between white supremacy and the K K K.
To me, k k k, Child's Play.
Why? Because when the kk k shows up, you're going to do what
you got to find them
you're going to find the K K K.
When white supremacy shows up on the scene, you know who you're going to fight
and in this way, and this is what domination is in this way.
You can deny me my story, my whole history, my whole narrative and assigned me to a supporting role in yours.
At which time either my successes work for you and ultimately against me.
Right. And and
we have to understand the extent to which perhaps, we play a voluntary role in this
and without some insulation, all right against that voluntary assent right towards being offered.
These cycles will continue in my estimation, and here is for me, for me.
Here is where I want to argue
and religion generally
and must make its presence felt.
We have to get back
And I'm not arguing against any kind of, of activism. I was listening to some statements by Dr. King earlier today. And he was reiterating the fact that there's no one solution. It's a combination of solutions. All right.
So activism is important. We need power, we need money, etc. But at the end of the day, if all of that has to be sustained in terms of the gains that it makes, we will have to be insulated against these manipulations. How can we be at Freddie Gray and practicing?
For 3040 years after the Civil Rights Movement?
How can we be there?
to me, it's important that we find access to the technologies of the self.
The spiritual education, and the practices then enable us to refine ourselves, to strengthen ourselves, and to insulate ourselves against these vile
why false was told, if he's not willing to take a shortcut, there's nothing I can do with them.
There's nothing I can do with them.
If we could rid ourselves of our addiction to shortcuts, what would they be able to do with us?
And we cannot. And again, I don't want to be misunderstood here. I'm not trying to let them off the hook and put it all on us. Right. But if we were waiting for them
to just one day, okay.
I think we'll be waiting a very, very long time. So we have to, we have to get serious about us, even as we're serious about them, as well. Okay, now.
This is not gonna be easy.
This whole business, of tapping into
the technologies of self,
and religion, and I think that
let me speak for Islam and let other people speak for themselves.
This is gonna be very difficult.
And one of the reasons for that is the following.
We hear a lot about the necessity, and the difficulty of speaking truth, to power.
And that we must do.
But part of what also
is an issue we have to confront
is the difficulty of speaking truth, to power, less ness and pain.
It's difficult to speak truth to power.
But it's also difficult to speak truth to powerlessness, and to pain.
And to tell someone who's in pain, or someone who's marginalized,
right, that what you're doing plays into the manipulations of the powers that be,
there's not gonna be easy.
All right. But this, in my estimation, is among the things that we have to call upon our religious traditions to help us do now, I don't want to be misunderstood here, either. There's a whole lot of bad religion out there.
Okay, including Muslims.
So a whole lot of bad religion out there. And I have no delusions about that.
But we have to resist the temptation to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I do believe that religion has an important role to play.
And part of that role is educating not simply our minds, but our pre rational selves.
You ever meet somebody let me as a Muslim, I know people, Muslims, who are like, not all that educated in Islam.
Who know the basics, you know, but they know the basic morality and stuff like that. If you got them into any sort of sophisticated theological discussion, or legal discussion, they could never keep up with you.
Right? I'm sure Christians and others must know something. But when it comes to what to do,
the right path to take they are beyond compromise.
they are there,
right? No, I'm not doing that. Yes, I will absolutely do that, because that's the right thing to be to do.
All right? How do we come up with ways, all right, of getting to the pre rational selves, that make up our communities, and insulating them against all these manipulations.
That is what I think religion must be called upon to do, because without being able to discipline our passions and
desires, many of which
Right, by the powers that be. I remember when I was in college,
one of my professors is, of course, Mideast politics and oil, and talked about how the western countries have gone to a place like Iran and convinced the Shah that you need nuclear power.
At a time when they're the second largest oil exporter in the world, you need nuclear power, why?
To be like us?
To be modern, to be advanced? Right? We can cut these desires, and then manipulate people through them.
All right, how do we get to the point where we can deal with some of this.
But even more important in terms of movement, and I'm coming to an end here.
Not only is it important that we not be manipulated by the wicked and vile manipulations.
It's important that we manage to be able to unite our efforts and to sustain that unity over the long run.
One of the things that
I think about
is the fact that it may be necessary for us to begin to think, a bit more transgenerational
not simply our lifetime. Right? But for the times that come after us, many things might not even be achievable in a single lifetime. And what we want to do is lay down the foundations, where those unified efforts can be sustained trans generationally, and the powers that be will always seek to do what to break that up.
Right. And this is why it's important for us to find ways to unify.
Because I think
the great Christian theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr
This is one of the one of the critiques I have of the academy.
And I'm going to kind of mission.
men, and women who are steeped
in powerful vested interests, will not simply change their ways, because we rationally convinced them that they are wrong.
It will not happen.
They will change when they see it in their interest to change. And that means presenting them with power.
Power requires numbers and unity.
And if our souls are so inflamed,
that you can always buy me off, or promise me off, how are we going to maintain that cohesion?
This is one of the reasons why this is so important.
We have to get unified and to sustain that unity, tries generationally,
in order to be spared the indignity of always going back
to square one. Now, I want to be clear that I am not just talking about Muslim unity.
I'm not just talking about Muslim power,
although I am talking about that too.
And I want to say here, pass maybe even just for the record.
One of my part of what's going on right now, one of the effects of the Islamophobic atmosphere in which we live is that it is getting into the souls of Muslims in America and convincing them that they must flee from the one thing that will actually change their reality. They must flee from power
because of their approach power in any way. They are then suspect
Muslims have allies, people who better have any power in America.
And so what we end up doing is No, I don't want any of that. And I don't want any of that.
How then How then, are we going to get people to change their ways, when what they're doing has a deleterious effect on us? Well, we can offer no disincentives to that.
When has that ever happened?
So although I'm not talking only about Muslim power, I am talking about that. And I don't believe that Muslims should shy away from that.
We need power. And by the way, I'm not talking about necessarily physical power. It may be economic power, social power, intellectual, we need power, and political power.
Right. But I'm talking about Muslims, and non Muslims uniting together, I'm talking essentially,
about what I like to call and this goes back into Muslim history
and alliances of virtue.
Let me try to explain to you what, what what that is.
I'm going to speak frankly, here.
He is liberating in that way. You don't have time.
One of the things that many people in America don't understand about the Muslim community.
It's something that in all the years that I've been in the academy, the single most difficult idea, to communicate to get across to my students without fail, has always been the amount of power
the West enjoyed and exercised in the 18th and 19th century.
It would unhinge the mind.
I mean, when I go to England,
and I don't intend to do this, it always happens sort of something hits me, I'm walking down the street. And I just stop in my tracks. And I look around, and I say
this little tiny, dreary island
that conquered half the world,
to where you can almost anywhere in the world and speak English.
Right? It's difficult for people to imagine the kind of power that was wielded by the West.
And if that power was wielded, there were objects of that power.
And Muslims were among the major objects of the use of that Western Power.
And because of that, there has been diffidence among Muslims. How do we align ourselves with people?
Right, who we see as being responsible for the horrors that we have suffered for the dislocations that we have suffered. And Muslims in America, all right, have struggled with this. I'm speaking frankly, all right. Some of the Muslims in the room might light like me speaking this way. Because they think that it just empowers those who want to point the Muslims as a problem people. All right, to validate their claims. Okay. But I will say this,
Americans want to see Muslims struggling, honestly, to all the issues that confront them.
And they don't believe all right, these fairy tale solutions that some of us put up from time to time.
It is a fact that this remains far, far less. So today. We've had to think our way through how we come to terms with uniting with non Muslims.
that's a reality.
It differs from segment of the Muslim community to segment. I mean, I'm from a segment of the Muslim community, the black American community. Well, that's not a problem at all.
All right, but there are other segments of the Muslim community. All right, particularly those who come from parts of the Muslim world where this has been something that has to be worked through. And, you know, you can blame them. Okay, but I don't think you can do so and be honest at the same time.
Because what happened is real.
Having said that much
does not provide us with our ideals,
history can give us lessons. And we should learn the lessons of history. But history is not the author of our ideals.
Okay? What is, is okay? But that's not necessarily what should be.
What should be is taught to us by the Quran, and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.
And let me share with you one of those practices that bears directly on this business of unity between Muslims and non Muslims for the common good, not just the Muslim good.
And Arabia, I don't know how many of you know anything about the history of, of the Prophet
30 seconds in Arabia, where he was born in Mecca.
His people persecuted him. For 13 years, he was forced to leave, people die. Right? Before he became prophet. However, there have been these conflicts in and around Mecca.
And to make a very long story short, the tribes got together and said, certain powerful clans are abusing others, we're going to unite our efforts to stand as an alliance of virtue against all of these acts of aggression, no matter who is affected by it, we are all going to be united against it.
Now, this happened before the problem was even a Muslim. Before he was even a prophet.
Later on, he migrated to Medina, there, he came into power. Okay, he was still in conflict with the Mexicans where he was born. But he had power. And you know what he said?
I mean, despite what was going on, despite these conflicts, if they were to invite me to an alliance of the virtuous as existed in pre Islam, I would join them right now.
Although we had conflicts, all right, there is a common good, right, that we can be united, and we should be united, and preserving and promoting.
Okay. And I think that one of the things that we have to be very careful about when we talk about this business of unity, and let me speak to the Muslims first.
Sometimes we think about the good,
we can distinguish between the Muslim good, and the common good.
The Christian good, and the common good.
There may be things that don't necessarily serve me as a Muslim.
I mean, in any kind of exclusive way.
But they serve the general good of society at large,
including me, right? Many Muslims, when they first came to this country, they couldn't see racism as a problem.
Because it didn't largely
Right? What I'm talking about is, if we saw how this affected other people in their humanity, and we recognize it as an evil, then we should stand against it.
Regardless of the fact that it may not appear to affect us directly.
Right. And that's what I'm talking about, in terms of the common good. There are things is racism.
Does it serve us? Is that who we want to be?
In the most
wealthy society on the planet? Are these levels of poverty is this Is this acceptable? Does it make a difference whether you're Jewish or Christian, or have no religion at all? That's a part of the common good. And we have to be careful that we remain focused on the common good and not confused, the common good with the Christian good or the Muslim good.
You understand what I mean by that? Because if if, if I mistake the Muslims
Look for the common good. All right, then I won't want to align myself with anybody who doesn't serve what? The Muslim good, even though they'll serve the common good. All right. And that ends up what?
Breaking us apart again.
All right. And so we have to be very clear. All right, and we have to recognize there are going to be things that we differ on.
Right, you might have to tell me, Well, you know, what, on that issue, sorry, I can't, I can't go along with you. I don't see that as some of the common good. All right. But just because we can't agree on everything should not blind us to the fact. All right, right, or make us feel that we can agree on anything.
We do have shared common interests. And we should come together and cooperate and the promotion and the preservation of those common interests, those common goods,
right, that affect the kind of society that we are living in.
Right. And Islam will not be a barrier to that kind of cooperation. I hope Christianity won't, I hope, even people who have no religious affiliation will, right, look, bad food safety standards, or bad food safety standards, to allow corporations to compromise them, affects us all.
Has nothing to do with what my religion is,
has nothing to do with it. Bad food safety standards affect us all. We unite and promote them and defend them and remain united. I'm gonna stop here because Romney is getting nervous, and he's making me nervous. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna stop. And I just want to say, again, you know,
Dr. King did say something once that I think is really important.
You know, we do have to recognize that there is such a thing as too late.
And sometimes we just sit around and think about this stuff and think about it and think about it, without acting on it.
And to do that sometimes can lead us in a position where it's too late. The time has passed. And the effort that will now be required is quadruple, what would have been had we acted when we first got the message. Thank you very much some Alikum.
I want to again, give it up for the doctors. I mean, I'm going overtime. No, you are time Hamdulillah. Please give it up again for Dr. Sherman, Kim Jackson.
I've been requested to come to the microphone to both thank all of you. And there are other kind of programmatic aspects that are happening. And so things are moving to that for some of you who are involved in some of the evening events. But meanwhile, I wanted to again, personally thank Dr. Sherman Jackson in the capacity of some of you may know my name is Ron, Minister, CV professor of sociology, religion here, in the capacity of that and Muslim studies. We've had the privilege of having Dr. Sherman Jackson here before in a very dynamic conversation with Dr. Omar, in my capacity, the executive director of the men we've abused Dr. Jackson, many, many times. But I could say that
in our community, he has been an extraordinary voice, who has helped us in profound ways connect the type of organizing work, issues that we're struggling with in a very granular level, to a framework, a spiritual framework that is both deeply embedded and entrenched in a tradition, but also broadly informed and magnanimous in the way in which it reaches out and connects to others. And so with his both his academic, intellectual, spiritual and personal contribution to our community, continues to be one of the highest caliber and he's a very rare and treasured individual. And again, we're just very honored that he's here with us for today and tomorrow. And speaking of tomorrow, I am to
encourage all of you to be here with us in the morning.
Both if you care to join us first for the Shabbat morning services at 730 for the
early birds in the room.
And then afterwards for a session we will have a welcomes and introductions at 848 45. And we will begin promptly with a panel discussion that Dr. Jackson will facilitate, and then be able to take questions and comments that some of you may have from today called facing Islam. We're privileged to have people like Linda Sarsour,
Dr. Syed Abdul Kabir, who's here with us, Dr. Azim Ibrahimi and also Dr. Reza, another board member, as on who will be joining us for that conversation tomorrow. Also we are privileged to have Michael Eric Dyson, who I know many of you are familiar with. Be here with us who will be giving a talk in the afternoon and a set of very dynamic workshops, organizing workshops, workshops on non violent methodologies and pedagogy and workshops really connecting very practically some of the issues. So please do plan to be with us tomorrow. And thank you for all your time and attention here today. Thank you so very much. So that wanted to come to some lessons.