Former Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones On Being Muslim in Politics

Yasir Qadhi

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So it is our distinct pleasure and honor to welcome a guest to our community coming to us from Cleveland, and that is our brother, but she is Jones. And I did not know this until here might be with the phone, we have actually spoken together at various conventions and conferences. Our brother but she is Jones, he's going to tell us a little bit about himself. But just in a nutshell, not only is these the first Muslim city councilman for the city of Cleveland, and inshallah he has higher political aspirations, which we're going to hear Inshallah, but one thing that makes our brother Bashir different from many other Muslim politicians is that he's also studied Islamic sciences to a

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good degree, and he does give all the buzz. And he does, he's active on the speaking circuit. And as we're aware, almost all Muslims will enter politics. By and large, they haven't studied Islam, and they're disconnected from our tradition, the academic side of things. But brother Bashir and Hamdulillah, he has studied informally and he's also has a master's degree from Bian seminary as well in Islamic studies. So at Hamdulillah, and he does give advice and he's active on the Islamic circuit. I actually gave talks with him, he reminded me at a number of conventions, and I didn't know that he was running for politics back then. And then he ran for politics and he was a city

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councilman, so inshallah Bismillah first and foremost, welcome to our community, but they could also this is so beautiful, I just, this is like mind blowing for me and Cleveland, maybe 510 people 20 The max just to see this many people come on for salons upon a lot this is this is on a weeknight you haven't seen weekend and this is just your standard run of the mill weeknight

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around the law. So I know time is limited and I know brothers and sisters is a weeknight, so I'm going to try to inshallah finish up in half an hour. So three or four questions is rather than open up the floor for maybe two or three questions from all of you. First question. I've read that you're a third generation, African American Muslim Hamdulillah. That's amazing. So first question to tell us a little bit about your family biography and your biography. Tell us who is beshear Jones and how I mean third generation African American Muslim, Mashallah. I mean, we got to hear about that. Mashallah, man. Well, I'm originally from Brooklyn, New York as where I was born. My grandparents,

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they became Muslim back in the 70s, to the Nation of Islam, and through the movement called the dog movement. If you familiar with Imam Suraj, will high jump out of Brooklyn, New York, Marcia talk? Well, that's the master that I was raised in. And one thing about my family, they absolutely loved love Islam. I lost my mother 13 years ago through breast cancer, someone who was very, very dear to me, and she was my example of what it meant to be a Muslim. We were homeless check. You know, we live in a Salvation Army. But even while we were homeless, her name was Imani. She would take us to go feed other homeless people. At a very young age, she was teaching us that no matter how bad you

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think you have it, somebody has it worse than you. As we sit here in This comfortable, beautiful place. We know that our brothers and sisters who recently this earthquake that took place, our brothers and sisters are suffering all across this globe. So the medicine for our anger is gratefulness. And for me and my family Islam was check it was the inspiration behind the work that I do in the community. Subhanallah so you were raised in Imam Suraj Rajahs Masjid sir Mashallah. So his soldiers here last year, so we've interviewed him as well 100 Of that, mashallah Hamdulillah. So now we understand where this is coming from and Hamdulillah. So, okay, so you you're your third

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generation, African American Muslim, you're raised in a very practicing household. Politics. How did that begin? How did you get the idea of becoming involved and walk us through your steps, especially for those that might be interested? Tell us how do you begin? I mean, what was your first step? And how did you end up running for mayor of one of the largest cities in North America? Mashallah, yeah, you know, Imam Malcolm X, he said, you either at the table you on the menu, you eat at the table or you on the menu. And when it comes to our community check, we have to be more involved in politics. If we are not, we're going to continue to find ourselves not receiving the resources. Inshallah, one

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day, I hope to see a Muslim Mayor from out of this beautiful Masjid of Plano, that'd be amazing. That'd be amazing. So politics is the language that we have to understand in this country. And when I was recognizing that within the community that I was growing up in, my community was not receiving the resources that they needed in order to take the community to the next level, the resources for schools and roads and communities and so forth and so on. We can

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continue to get skipped over. And the reason why is because we didn't have anyone at the table. So I got involved. I started with working with President Obama. I started working with his regional Field Director out of Cleveland, Ohio, and then I decided, You know what, why not run for office. So I ran for city council. I lost by 600 votes. The first time I came back, I ran again four years later, and won by 13 votes. So I no stress rather Smash, you won by 1313. Every vote counts every Wallahi every vote counts. So you know, Sheikh, I, as I was working in a community doing this work, I realized that even as a Muslim getting involved in politics, I was finding that there were some things that I

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was having issues within my own heart. And I remember Imam Suhaib Webb, he gave me a call. And he said, Bashir, wow, the work that you're doing in the community, you are living the prophetic legacy. And that did something to me because I'm thinking like, you know, I'm just feeding my community. But it was beautiful because my my wife, she's, she wears the hijab, my daughter wears hijab, but we're in the community with feeding the people. And when you're feeding people, they don't care that you muslim, they just care that you feed in them. When people are sick, they don't care that you're Muslim, they just care that you're given a medicine. And I found that the greatest form of Dawa was

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not passing out pamphlets, with all due respect. But the greatest form of Dawa in my community was servicing the community serving the first time that we had, maybe some of you seen the video when I became a councilman. The first time they heard Allahu Akbar was in city hall when I became the councilman. And I said, Talk to beer. And they looked up with 300 Muslims in there, Allahu Akbar. It was the Allahu Akbar heard all around the world, you know? And, you know, somebody says that a war call? I said, No, no, no, it's just we're just saying that God is the greatest, and how many left from there, the work that we're doing in the community as a service. And that's what I want for my

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brothers and sisters, to understand about your brothers and sisters of the African American community, that we stand on those shoulders. And it's imperative for us to understand that we have to work together as a community. And I'm a big fan of Shaykh Yasir qadhi. He's somebody that inspires me inspires my children. When I told them I was coming here to be here with you. They were very jealous. But, you know, I'm so thankful. And that's the reason why I wrote this book right here. Check is because many of us, whether you're Muslim, no matter where you are in your life, we all have struggles. If you say you don't have struggles in line is your struggle. Alright, so we all

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have issues that we're dealing with. But we have to be able to turn our pain into inspiration. And as I was in this, in council check, I decided to attend Bay on Claremont. Because I wanted to learn more about my faith. I wanted to learn more about Islam. I wanted to learn more about the Prophet so I saw him and how did he be involved in helping his community that weren't all Muslim? He helped all people. And that was the best form of Dawa SubhanAllah. You know, 100 I think, here in America, we are just beginning to understand the need for American Muslims to be representative in office. I just came back from England three days ago, two days ago, and I gave the whole band the largest

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messenger then in the Europe actually the East London masjid. And I didn't know but the mayor of that district attends Juma there. So after the hood, you know, the mayor of Tower Hamlets. I think it's called, you know, came and we spoke to him. And then he told me Well, not only is he of course Muslim, of course, the Mayor of London, you know, Sadiq Khan, my friend gives a whole lot and another Masjid he attends that masjid, you know, for the mayor of masjid. And then the, the MP of Parliament. There's like six I think Muslims there one of them came Monday morning to meet me. So I met then MP, which is a congressman or senator equivalent, right? So Subhanallah England is like a

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few steps ahead of us in this regard. We are just beginning this journey. And I was very happy to hear that you ran actually for mayor and the fact that you didn't succeed at first, this is normal. And it's not something that you know, a lot of us was saying, Oh, you didn't win. Okay. But walk us through this. The notion of running for mayor, that's a big deal. And I hope and show that to hear that you're running again soon. Tell us the good news and sha Allah, you know, when I ran for mayor, you know, in my community, as always, as always tell Muslims, you are safer in the hoods of America than you will ever be in rural America. Because even if they don't know how to say it, so last

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alaykum but they know that there's a there's a there's a swift punishment for disrespecting Muslims in our community. So in my community

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I didn't ever have any issues with being Muslim. But when I ran for mayor I was running against in the whole city. So the will of the people. And the media really, they really did. They really did a number on me. For those who are familiar with politics, myself, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was from Cleveland, him, and I would number one and two in the race, and check, the media started pounding me, they started calling me all type of Islamic phobic names. And as a result of it, that really hurt my so they brought up your Islamic identity without a doubt, without a gun. And that is what really, I would go to the other side of the community. And it was like, oh, no, no, we know who

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you are already. And unfortunately, they weren't looking at my resume. They saw me as a Muslim, but that's fine. Because we inspired a lot of people. The first time that we had a Ramadan banquet within city hall is when I was a city councilman, in the city of Cleveland. So I realized that even if you think that you're taking a loss, you never know who you're inspiring, and who you're motivated. And I just want you to know, that I'm really interested in coming back and spending time with your young people. And spending time because we as a community have to get involved in politics. I became a student at beyond Claremont. My degree, my master's degree was as Islamic

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Studies, Islamic theology. And I realized that politics is a tool that we can use to bring freedom to our communities. I mean, right here, you can decide who becomes the governor of Texas right here, the Muslims can decide, I haven't seen Muslims like Texas, Muslims, subhanAllah, nowhere in the country, you have so much power here. But if you're not utilizing that power, then it's just fluff. It doesn't mean anything. You have to have political power, you have to make these people come sit in front of you, and listen to your needs. If you don't, your children will continue to be disrespected in the schools, our women will continue to be disrespected in the workplace, we have to

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have political power. This is the key. And as I travel across the country, this is the message. So I want to say thank you so much to Beyonce, because what they taught me was that what I was doing was not opposite of Islam. You know, Sheikh, one of the big issues is that we've been taught growing up that politics is haram. This is something that we have been always taught, don't get involved in politics. Don't be don't do this, don't do that. So it scared a lot of us. But if you don't get involved, it's even worse than not being involved. Because either way it go, you are involved, because you're paying taxes, I hope you're paying taxes.

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So you're involved either way ago. And I want to say this to you in closing,

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not only should we stand for our brothers and sisters in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, all across the all across the world, and Somalia, and Pakistan, and in China. But we also have to stand up for all people in Chicago, and Cleveland, and Brooklyn. If you don't see your neighbors as your neighbors, as the Prophet SAW esalaam did, then when it is time for us to need help. No one will be there for us. So we have to stand up for justice, no matter who it's against, and no matter who is for Inshallah, so I want to ask you two questions before we open up for q&a. First one,

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a lot of us, especially those that haven't really studied American politics, we always concentrate on the presidential figure on the on the race in the White House. And for us, that is the end all and be all of politics. And we don't even know we don't even care about local politics or city congressman, a congressman or Congresswoman, you know, our district, you know, our people around us. So can you speak to us about why is it so important for us at this macro and micro level, at the level of the city and the state, not just at the level of DC and the nation? Why is it important for us to concentrate at that level? And what are some of the practical implications of having a Muslim

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at that level like to speak to us? How are we going to benefit if we have a Muslim as a Dallas city councilman on the school board on the school district, somebody we vote in by 13 votes? 13 votes he won. That's literally one vote counts. Right? So speak to us. What are some of the tangible realities of having a Muslim at that level? Okay, so in my neighborhood, we brought half a billion dollars of investment in a neighborhood that people would not invest in a half $1,000,000,000.05 100 million dollars to brand new hotels or groups a grocery store, workforce development, and Ad Tech.

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Councilman of that community, I had the influence of helping people get those jobs become developers, real estate developers, so forth and so on. I had the ability to help people get jobs. So for those people who are in politics, man, they, through politics, you create wealth, you create wealth, you can't get land without politics, you cannot get your roads fixed without you can't even get a streetlight fix without politics. It's the politics that does that. But if you're not involved in if they don't hear your voice, then they will never consider you. Okay, so Seneca, the judge, a judge will affect your life quicker than the President of the United States, if you get in front of

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the wrong judge, right. So most of the judges are political positions that you vote them in. So we have to make sure that they are mindful of us. And we have to make sure that power is not something that is given. Power is something that is taken, it's only taken. And that's why it's important for our brothers and sisters, to work with the African American community for us to work together. Because maybe some of you may feel well, I don't want to cause any problems, you know, I got other things going on. So some things that you want to be said, I can say on your behalf. And there's certain things that you can do, you may have more resources, you may have more of this more of that.

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If we work together, we can be the voice for the community, politics is extremely important. And if you don't know who the local council person here is in Plano, or in Dallas, or who the governor is, then you're already behind. And inshallah we have to get involved. You have to write checks. And I'm not just saying, you know, you know, $5 and A salaam aleikum? No, no, you have to write checks. People pay attention to two things. Well, politics, they pay attention to who's writing checks, and they pay attention to who's voting. If you're not voting, and you're not writing checks, then people are not coming to spend any time with you. Because because you have these handsome faces, they don't

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care about that. You have to do those two things. Very important. If you do not, we will be on the menu every single time.

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Zach, Allah had one final question that will open up the floor for a few questions from the audience, and then call the night Inshallah, I really appreciate you coming down and spending so much time with us. But I have to ask you a very sensitive question. So I'm ready for it. And it's not meant to put you on the hot seat Wallah. It's not, it's meant because we're still grappling with this question. We don't have an answer to it. I don't have an answer to it. And unless we talk about it, we're never going to achieve that answer. Yes. The way that I see this is that politics is all about compromise. It's all about choosing the lesser of two evils. Yes. And there are plenty of

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situations where, okay, maybe there's not pure evil to deal with, maybe it's about trying to bring money to your district handed out, that's fine, no problem. But there's also other situations where you cannot remain pure.

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You must for the sake of your office, for the sake of who you are, you must compromise on your personal moral values. Now, let's mention the elephant in the room, sexual morality, LGBT these these are these are the one of the main things right, you cannot and that's one another is, you know, political alliances with people who have agendas in the Middle East agendas and other nation states that were strongly disagreeing with, right. But for the sake of the quote unquote, greater good, we justify to ourselves that yeah, I'm gonna have to overlook this because I want to do something good here. Now, theoretically, I actually understand and I shrug my shoulder and said,

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Okay, that's a decision you've made. I have said this multiple times, those in politics have to make that choice. But see that, that reality of having to muddy your hands that reality of the forced necessity of compromise, it turns a lot of people off, number one, and number two, even those that themselves aren't interested in politics, they get turned off from Muslim politicians. And they're gonna say, I'm not going to vote for you, brother, because I saw you say something at that place or endorsed that person. And that person endorses policy acts or follows methodology why and that's against Islam. So, you know, guilt by association, you get what I'm saying here. You know exactly

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what I'm saying here. Speak to us about this reality, and how do we move forward and what is to be done about the necessity of compromising on one's personal positions? Mashallah, this is a this is a very tough thing. It's a very tough thing. And

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you know, we brought up for

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example the LGBTQ community, you know, for me, everyone has a right to exist. And I'm not. Personally I don't. Personally, I'm not fighting for certain things. But at the same time, I don't believe that people deserve to be harassed and murdered and killed because of what they believe or because of their, their way of life. And at the same time, as a Muslim, I expect them not to stand in my way, when I want to do certain things or be a certain way. You know, it's a tough thing. But in the words of old school, somebody's got to do it. And you have to make a decision within yourself of what is the battle that you're going to fight? Do we just not have anyone in that seat out of

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fear of being dirty? I mean, I feel like every time I turn on Instagram, I get dirty. I mean, every time I know you don't, I don't know if you know about Instagram here. But every time social media Come on, I feel like there's something that's happening. So we're living in a country and living in a time where it's hard to be pure. And I'm not even sure if that is the ultimate goal for us to be pure, I know that we are striving to be the best that we can be. And hope that Allah forgives us and in hopes that Allah sees and forgives us and blesses us for our intentions. But it is tough. It is a battle that I face. And and that's the reason why I went to Beyonce. I went to Beyonce, because I

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wanted to understand my faith on a deeper level, understanding the leaders of the past, how did they have to compromise in order to move the community forward? How did they How did they move forward? Where you had majority of people who were against what they believed? How did the Prophet SAW isononyl deal with people within the community that weren't Muslim? wasn't going to be Muslim? How did he deal with him? You know, we talk about what the Prophet said about certain things. Right? So what did the prophesy Islam say about drunkenness? So what did the Prophet SAW Islam? And I'm embarrassed to talk theology in front of you shake, but if I can just a little, what did the Prophet

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say about sinning? Okay, but then the question I want you to ask is, how did he treat the sinner? This may be a little different. What did he say about drinking? But how did he treat the drunkard? Did he treat them with mercy? Did he treat them with love? Or as Muslims? Are we in a position where we are pushing more people out of Islam than bringing them? Maybe if we are merciful with people that bring more people to the deen? So that's the, that's my path. I don't

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I have to fight this fight. This is the path that I have chosen, and inshallah along the way I pray that any mistakes I make, that Allah will forgive me. So can I, I'm sorry to be so explicit. This is the question. Can I then say that overall, you feel that in order to fight the bigger battle for the community, you have to overlook some other battles? Is that a correct assessment? I would say that you have to keep your eye on the bigger goal. And there will be times if you are a politician, there will be time where you will have to compromise and you have to make the decision of how deep that compromise will be. And for myself, I have never compromised my soul. My soul has never been for

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compromise have I had to allow others to do one thing in order for me to get what I need to get from our community? Without a doubt you're gonna have to do that. But I never walked away from something said that I felt less Muslim I never felt that way. It politicians are not the origins, the origins of politicians it is what is two different worlds and all politicians all of them have to compromise on certain principles to get things done and I've spoken about this multiple times and me personally I thank Allah that you are doing that type of work and I give you ask Allah to give you a trophy and whatnot it's a very difficult job somebody's got to do it we really make to offer you along with

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Stan but inshallah with that I will open up the floor for a few questions inshallah try to keep it each other pertinent and short Bismillah go for it

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I don't know when Cleveland gonna win the Super Bowl. I'm hoping Philly takes it to be honest with you, but no, we got some in Kansas City fans but but this book right here is really a message to to all people to say, to use your pain to be your inspiration. And I'm really focused on uplifting our young people. Our

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adults put our children if we don't uplift the community, the community is going to take over our children. So this book talks about my journey to say Listen, no matter what you've been through and what you're going through, let that be your inspiration. Don't let it be the reason why you give up and inshallah the book on behalf of band we are going to be given the book out as a gift for, for a small donation to I received the Muhammad Ali's scholarship from Beyonce, so inshallah Allah, if you would like to book, we're just asking for a small donation minimum $100. To go towards beyond and to help produce the next generation of young leaders and young scholars in our community. But I'm

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hoping that this book be an inspiration, especially for our young uns who are growing up in America do not allow America to prophesy Islam was the coolest, and he was the example. Not little Yachty. And you don't know little Yachty Do you? Okay, good, good, good. Don't worry about it. Okay. The prophet is the example. And I think that it's important that us who are Muslims who are in politics, who are in entertainment, who are doing this type of work, to be proud i Brother Amir Suliman, I don't know if you've ever heard of them, or a Grammy nominated poet, like you have amazing Muslims who are doing great work. And what we have to do is be able to come back to our young people and

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say, You don't have to be like them. The coolest man ever was the prophet. So I said, that was the that was the that was the rhondella. Yes, for the good. Yeah.

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You say, the doctor, you want to stand up?

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For America? Yes, yes.

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What? What would you advise your

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advice about what kind of man

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you know, handlebar mustache. And this is the past two years have been, if I can be transparent with you, has been the toughest time in my life after the death of my mother.

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To see a community that I fought so hard for, and to see the media and others just attacking me the way that they attacked me, it was really tough. And I think what's important for us as a community, is that we have to put our money where our mouth is, then when we have a candidate that we support, we have to put our money behind them. And I was appreciative that I had a lot of support from across the country of Muslims who sent in donations. And so I've raised a lot of money, but it was just not enough to overcome the media impact the media hit that I took. So the first thing is I think it's important is that we have to make sure that we are helping the community outside of the masjid

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walls, because the attack if it has not come is coming. Okay, you can just study American history. The attack is coming. So how do we prepare for that? We prepare for it by making sure that we don't ask for our the community support only when we need it. But we are servicing them at all times so that when things happen, they show up for us without us having to ask. And that's why in my community and Cleveland, when they say who's by shear they like, oh, that's the guy who built that park. That's the guy who paid for my grandmother's funeral. That's the guy who spoke at my children's graduation. That's the guy who showed up to the candlelight vigil. Oh, he's Muslim, oh,

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Yahweh, and he happens to be Muslim. That is where we have to be. And and that that is what that's what helped me on the left. So can ask you about let me take over one question. How far do you want to go? Inshallah, where do you see yourself in 2030 years, still very young and Hamdulillah? Hamdulillah? Masha, we're 22 Just, you look, you look very young.

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But where do you see yourself? 3040 years? What's the what's the prize? You know, right now check. You know, I used to believe I used to I was focused on if I changed the community, that that will impact my family. But now my focus is if I change my family, that that will impact the community. I'm really focused on bringing the knowledge and experience into the Muslim community, around politics around development, you know, we need to own all of the land. I know there's doctors in here and attorneys and developers, we need to own all of the land we need to be building I just created a company called Life, which stands for longevity and faith everywhere. There's many Muslims

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around this country that owns land, but they may not have the capital to develop on it. We need to be owning the land, putting banks on the land, putting hotels and putting developments on the land, so that we don't have to worry about just fundraising in order to keep our community going. So that's one thing. The second thing is, I really want to assist Muslim communities around the world because I'm looking in places in Gambia

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You're in Senegal, and Somalia, places like Pakistan and India, and Yemen and Saudi Arabia, how can I be more of assistance to these communities with the knowledge and experience that I have, I really want to help build the Muslim community. If we build our community, it changes the entire world, but the way to do it, and you know this better than me, if Muslims and America work together, it changes the entire world, the entire world focuses on Muslims in America. But we have to build a bridge between what we call indigenous Muslims and the Muslims who have come here, whether it's 100 200 years ago, so forth and so on. If we're not working together, then we can ever move forward. And we

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can't move the world forward. What I love about our shack and very humble, but the impact that he has globally, is very powerful. I want to work with you. But in order for us to work, we can't look at the situation that happened in Baltimore, or the situation that happened with the brother Tyree nickels just recently, or other stories like this. We can't talk about black history only in February, you have to understand that African American Muslims and had a profound impact. And communities like this have had a profound impact. And we are all necessary. And we must all work together. We all have something to bring to the table, because Wallahi will law here, then we're

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going to lead this planet very soon. But the question you have to ask yourself is do you want to live long after you physically die? And the way that we do that is not just by helping Muslims, but it's about helping humanity and loving one another. And not being so hard with saying, Oh, brother, you're not following Islam. It's like brother, just rather you don't even know my name. You don't know my struggle. You don't know what I'm going through. We're pushing people out of Islam with this characteristics of making people feeling unwanted. And when I walked in here today, Sheikh Wallahi I'm like, I can't believe this. This is unbelievable to me. But when I walked in, I just seen the

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Sunnah of Muhammad. So I said, you know, the Sunnah of Muhammad I saw so I sent him the beautiful smiles, man, no one made me feel uncomfortable. I walked in looking like a jazz player. You know, I'm saying

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no one looked at me like, man, what are you doing here? Everyone just like was smiling at me, man, the kids I was rubbing their heads and stuff. Nobody looked at me like loosens tall black guy, man just touching the kid's hands. You know, I mean, you know, it's just so much love. And it says a lot about the leadership. And it says a lot about who you are. That's the Sunnah of Muhammad. So I said on love and mercy and making people feel wanted

00:32:42--> 00:32:55

you know, we can go on and on but it's a 50 now and that was a beautiful point to conclude on. So on behalf of all of us, those who have questions can come and ask privately but on behalf of all of us really Zakka look out for coming here to to our community to Memphis sorry.

00:32:58--> 00:32:59

Whoa, that is

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in Tennessee, oh, no, no. The reason I said that is because I was on a conference call with regards to the person who passed away

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the one that was beaten up and bruised.

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There was some issues going on in the community. That's why also I'm jet lag, so for maintenance, but my goal in sha Allah to Allah is to see you in sha Allah to Allah continue on this path, and then inshallah The day will come when we call you Congressman Bashir Jones maybe even Senator maybe Ambassador inshallah and then and then maybe even more than this inshallah data vice president and maybe even beyond, but inshallah until then we're with you, we're supporting you when we make the offer, you know, bless your shoulder, we're always gonna be a part of the

00:33:46--> 00:33:47

journey, either.

00:33:51--> 00:33:58

Me, or Mr. Healy, Darcy seni. One tells

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me what to feed

00:34:05--> 00:34:06

at what

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feels cool to me.

00:34:12--> 00:34:15

Janita Daza down.

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Down