Manitoba Islamic Association as a Community Organization: From Membership to Ownership

By: Dr. Idris Elbakri*

The Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA) was established over 40 years ago to serve the interests and represent Muslims of Manitoba. The pioneers who established the association had the foresight to structure it as a membership-based organization. Membership is a right to every Muslim in Manitoba who adheres to the values and constitution of the organization and chooses to join and pay the membership fee. The membership of MIA holds the ultimate authority over the affairs of the organization and it delegates, through elections, management of the affairs to an executive council consisting of seven people.

In the recent past, most of us have come to think of membership as merely a means to vote in the MIA elections. Holding elected office in MIA, especially the position of president, became a much sought after goal. We have seen aggressive membership drives, often spearheaded by potential candidates who sometimes even subsidize the fees. There is nothing illegal in that, but whether it is ethical and inline with the spirit that the community upholds is a different story. Is that what membership is all about?

I call on all Muslims in our community to become members of MIA, but don’t think about membership in the very narrow scope of elections and power, but rather, as a way for all of us to assert the values of community service, participation, and brotherhood. Let your membership be a practical way in which you implement the Prophet’s Hadith where he said, “who is not concerned about the affairs of the Muslims is not one of them”. In short, we need to move from membership to ownership. You will achieve a sense of ownership when you feel that you have a personal (but not selfish) stake in this organization and in the affairs of the community. When you feel the communal pain, and celebrate the communal achievement. When you look around in your masjid and you think to yourself, I am working to make this a better place. When you help foster a feeling of safety and ease for all members of the community in their places of worship and gathering.

Over 90% of the affairs of MIA are managed through volunteers. While there is a tremendous need to professionalize the management of the organization, promoting a strong volunteerism ethic must remain a core value for our community. Have you ever asked yourself: who pays the bills, who checks the mail, who updates the website, who puts tape on the floor for Eid prayer, who sets up the audio system, who cuts the grass, who manages the weekend school and who distributes charity? All of these activities are carried out by volunteers. Are you one of them? If you are, you do not need to be thanked because you do it for a higher purpose. If you’re not, maybe you should consider giving a bit of yourself for your community.

The MIA executive council is establishing a number of committees including office administration, green space, properties management, event organization, community programs, fundraising and takaful. The functions of these committees are the bare-minimum that is needed to operate the organization and meet a minimum of the community’s needs and expectations. Details about these committees and their executive liaisons are posted on the MIA website. Volunteering to staff these committees is a great way to contribute to the well being of our community and to have a direct say in the affairs of the MIA.

Let’s go from passive observers to committed members, and from committed members to active owners.

* Idris Elbakri is the president of the Manitoba Islamic Association executive council. He can be reached at president@miaonline.org

Poem: Reality Check

By: Shaheena Awan

We believe in Allah
But have no fear
We love RasoolAllah
But we don’t care
We did read Quran
But don’t remember
We like our Masajids
But don’t respect
We do have knowledge
But no wisdom
We know what taqwa is
But don’t connect
We have a large community
But have no unity
We have leadership
But no sincerity
We have a thick agenda
But full of propaganda
We love to shine our name
And love to have some fame
I am sorry to say what a shame
We forgot our duties
And we lost our beauty
We are breaking our rules
And we are losing our youths
We want to build community
But we are using wrong tools
Patience, sacrifice, salaam
Ikhlaas, Ikhlaq, respect
Brotherhood, sisterhood
We have all the ingredients
But we don’t have a recipe

You Are What You Eat!

By: Harun Cicek

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, All Praise is due to Allah!

As Muslims, we take pride in the “purity” of our religion in both physical and spiritual sense. For instance, there is great emphasis in Quran and in the example of our Prophet (saw) on personal hygiene and eating wholesome, halal food. Many great scholars have equated the purification of heart with the purification of our body, soul and food. Therefore, aside from the ‘halal or haram’ discussion, it is important to reflect on what is ‘pure and good food’. The following beautiful and comprehensive Hadith illustrates the significance of this issue:

Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “Verily Allah the Exalted is pure. He does not accept but that which is pure. Allah commands the believers with what He commanded the Messengers. Allah the Almighty has said: “O you Messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously” [23:51-53]. And Allah the Almighty also said: “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with” [2:167-172].Then he (the Prophet) mentioned (the case of) the man who, having journeyed far, is dishevelled and dusty and who stretches out his hands to the sky (saying): “O Lord! O Lord!” (while) his food was unlawful, his drink was unlawful, his clothing was unlawful, and he is nourished with unlawful things, so how can he be answered?” [Muslim]

There are many other Quranic verses and Hadiths, specifically dealing with pure, good and wholesome foods and their importance. These references are not necessarily talking about halal or haram foods, rather, they are explicitly referring to the purity and goodness of food. All good and pure food -within the Islamic boundaries- can be halal but not all apparently what is often called halal food is good and pure. Alhamdullilah, when it comes to technical details of slaughtering, we can differentiate between halal and haram meats but how about what happens to that animal before it is slaughtered? Here, our intention is not to define, discuss or declare what is halal or haram, but rather, the intention is that through what is presented in this commentary, Muslims resume to the vigilance of our righteous ancestors regarding what is filling their stomach. “That flesh which has grown out of Haraam food will not enter Jannah. Hell has more right to it” (Ahmad: Tirmidhi).

Before the industrial revolution food was produced in simple manner; in harmony with Allah’s creation, good and pure. Especially after the Second World War, however, agriculture has undergone a rapid transformation in the direction of mechanisation, extensive chemical dependency and biotechnology. Environmental degradation caused by such modern agriculture practices have been well documented over the years. Less researched, however, is the health implications of mass production agriculture and its offshoot, the processed food industry.

This subject may cause some confusion because most people, not involved in agriculture, are unaware of the methods employed in modern agriculture to produce food. Some may even ask; what could be impure about agriculture and food? In our minds, we still have the image of those idyllic farms with green pastures and happy animals, but the reality draws a different picture. The picture of abused animals, eroded soil, lost biodiversity, chemical residues and genetic modification. This reality, in my opinion, is far from being good and pure.

Lets briefly investigate how crops are grown in conventional agriculture. From seed to harvest, crops are constantly under the “protection” of chemicals. Some seeds are coated with fungicides, and then crops are sprayed during the season with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, and on top of all these, some are sprayed again before the harvest in order to desiccate and easily harvest the crop. One should consider how much chemical residue would be left on these crops and whether they are “good and pure”.

Beside the excessive application of chemicals, many crops are also genetically modified in order to increase yields or create resistance to pests and herbicide applications. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created by taking a gene from one organism (animals or plants) and inserting it to the other species. If we don’t “create” them, they will not appear in Allah’s nature randomly. In Europe, food containing GMOs must be labelled accordingly, but in North America such food is not labelled. The chances are that if you eat any kind of processed food, you consume the GMOs in the form of by-products or directly, especially, from corn, soy beans and canola. SubhanAllah, Satan is keeping his word and working hard to make us disobey our Rabb; “I will mislead them and I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) natural creation of Allah.” (4: 119).

In the above discussion we briefly investigated how Satan ordered us to “deface the (fair) natural creation of Allah”. Now, let’s look at the meat we eat and how we are, again, following the Satan’s orders. Let’s question where the meat that we eat comes from and how were the animals for slaughter are raised. Surely, we all remember the “mad cow” disease but how many of us actually thought about it? Just because Muslims eat halal meat, it doesn’t mean that we are immune to such diseases. Unfortunately, most of the time, the source of halal and non-halal supermarket meat are the same. Today most animals are raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), under unhealthy, and unnatural conditions. They have barcodes on labels inserted in their ears (slitting the ear? Allah hu Alim), containing all the information regarding the animal. Thousands of animals confined in these buildings are fed with feed that contains mostly soy or corn, animal by-products (fat, crushed bones, feather, intestines etc…) from all kinds of animals, antibiotics, synthetic minerals and vitamins. Allah has created these animals vegetarian and made their metabolism to handle only grasses and forages. But the modern agriculture forces them to eat things that are against their nature. That is one of the reasons that they have to be given antibiotics, because their metabolism cannot handle this diet. Remember the “mad cow” disease; a result of feeding animals with animal by-products.

Agriculture is the largest consumer of antibiotics worldwide. Recently, Silbergeld et al. (2008) reviewed the antimicrobial resistance, which they defined as the “major health crisis” because this resistance is “eroding the discovery of antimicrobials and their application to clinical medicine”. In the same article they commented that “CAFOs are comparable to poorly run hospitals, where everyone gets antibiotics, patients lie in unchanged beds, hygiene is nonexistent, infections and re-infections are rife, waste is thrown out the window, and visitors enter and leave at will. Finally, because these large numbers of animals produce large amounts of waste, which are largely untreated prior to land disposal, there are substantial environmental pathways of release and exposure.”

Chickens are also raised in such, maybe even worse, circumstances. Chickens in these surroundings get stressed and attack other chickens, hence, for this reason, beaks of these chickens, often times, have to be cut. With the diet containing animal by-products, chickens grow so fast that in 45 days they cannot carry themselves and their weight can break their legs until they are ready for slaughter. Sheep are, so far, in better condition especially because, it is not, as yet, profitable to put them in CAFOs.

Then, there is the issue of animal welfare. We all know that our Prophet (PBUH) treated animals with care and compassion and ordered us to follow his example. Animals in CAFOs are treated against their nature. They are essentially tortured. They will ask for their rights on the day of judgement!

What should we be eating then? Before answering this question consider that it is a duty of a Muslim to investigate carefully what is going into his/her stomach. What we eat is what makes us who we are. Impure food and behaviour will make our ummah impure. We are not only responsible for our own health but also responsible for the health of this planet and all creatures therein.

Now if we choose to put effort into obtaining food that is pure then there are options for the seekers. Organic products are widely available in most grocery stores. Organic production is in line with Allah’s nature and produces wholesome pure food without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides and genetic modification. There are also local farms around Winnipeg, which are respectful of Allah’s creatures and grow pure food. You can visit these farms and buy meat and produce directly from them (see references for one of the local organizations).

Lastly, it should be recognized that, Muslims should always lead the way to righteousness. Allah says in Quran; “You are the best community raised up FOR mankind, you enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil…”(3:110) As Muslims let’s strive to choose what is pure and be exemplary in our lifestyle for the rest of mankind.

In conclusion, the simple logic of “halal =good and pure” may not hold true in today’s food systems in especially industrialized countries. If we want to be pure and clean, we must be vigilant and selective about our actions.

“Truly, what is halal is evident, and what is haram is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honor blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in haram things. Sahih Bukhari (Hadith # 50) & Muslim (Hadith # 2996)

** Br. Harun Cicek is a masters’ student at the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba researching on organic farming. He is also the education coordinator for the Muslim Student Association at the University of Manitoba.


References:

Sapkota A. R., Lefferts L. Y., McKenzie S., and Walker P. 2007. What Do We Feed to Food-Production Animals? A Review of Animal Feed Ingredients and Their Potential Impacts on Human Health Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 115, Number 5.

Silbergeld E. K., Graham J., and Price L. B., 2008. Industrial Food Animal Production, Antimicrobial Resistance, and Human Health. Annual Review of Public Health Vol. 29: 151-169

Eco Green Tips Website available at http://ecogreentips.com/the-truth-behind-your-meat-part-i/ (Accessed on December 05, 2009)

The Greenpeace Canada Shoppers GMO Guide. Available at http://gmoguide.greenpeace.ca/ (Accessed on December 05, 2009)

Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative, available at http://www.harvestmoonfood.ca/ (Accessed on December 06, 2009)

Islam and The West… The Way Forward

Sr. Asma Mneina*

The words “Islam” and “Media” may as well be synonyms because as much as Islam is a way of life, the media seems to have taken over the prophecy and taught the masses a different Islam than the prophet Muhammad had preached in the seventh century AD. Today, it is without a doubt the 21st century is one different than many others. When once human kind looked up at the sky in awe of the Milky Way, and in wonderment of the stars today the media seems to be the most powerful force in the universe. As the world has become suffocatingly superficial, people (whether consciously or not) look to the media for ideas to take on board into their own lives. The media has the ability to shave the minds of the masses. It is no surprise that Muslims are amongst the most marginalized groups. However, instead of focusing on the influence it has on Islam, why not focus on the influence Islam can have on the media.

The Quran gives mankind a clear mission; to create a fair society where all members are treated with respect. We need to create this society and the media is standing in our way. What do we do? Well, we can’t harm the media- it’s too big! Just kidding. There are more.. Muslim ways to deal with this problem. In a nutshell, we must eliminate Islamophobia. We have a history of Islamophobia in western culture that dates back to the crusades. In the 12th century, Christian monks in Europe insisted that Islam was a religion of the sword. The west receives the distorted image of Muhammad and seem to be keen to accept it. As Muslims living in Manitoba, Canada, we are stuck in the middle- part of our identity is here in the west, and the other is with the Muslims in the East. We must use our knowledge of Islam to our advantage as we are the first to be influenced by the media. After September 11th, 2001 many Christian sects, states and westerners have continued to view Muhammad negatively. Before we can get anywhere, the west has to realize that this hostility and Islamophobia gives extremists on the other end of the stereotypes a reason to hate. They can easily claim that the west is on some kind of crusade against the Islamic world. The western culture, as we know is one of tolerance and liberty. However, if western media continues to distort the image of Islam, consequently, the image of the west is indirectly distorted.

In the novel, “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins states that “the unhappiest spectacle to be seen in our streets today is the image of a woman swathed in shapeless black from head to toe, peering out at the world through a tiny slit.” Dawkins views the burka as an Islamic instrument of oppression. What Dawkins doesn’t know is the view of devoted Muslim women. Ones that don’t find it to be a “repression of their liberty and their beauty”. What Dawkins doesn’t know is that Muhammad was more loving to his wives than any other man, and that true Muslim men do not take part in “cruelty” and that Muslim women are not “cowed into female submission”. Muslim men and women need to speak out about their rights in Islam- give the world their perspective on Islam, rather than solely stand by and allow their neighbours and peers to receive a false Islamic education from people who’s goal is to terrorize the religion.

Youth should always be critical of everything. Islam included. Religion has always been something that many followed blindly. What’s different about Islam is that it appeals to our reasoning. We have the ability to question anything in our religion because our religion has the logic to provide necessary answers to support itself. This critical thinking must also be applied to our daily lives. It’s no secret that media is everywhere. Thus, we must be able to escape it, in order to think for ourselves and find our bearing in this fast paced world. We need to protect our minds from it and sensor the information for ourselves. The Muslim masses need to be tied in closer to the intellects and scholars. There is no way Islam can be unified unless the intellects are available. Islam is not as strong as it once was. Like a Rope was once sturdy, it’s now worn out and divided into strands that are running thin. So before we try to start bettering the image of Islam from the outside, let’s strengthen ourselves from the inside, and then take on the task together.

Sr. Asma Mneina*is a high school student and the winner of the Manitoba Muslim 10th anniversary best article competition.

“Is their any reward for good other than good” – Ten Years of Devoted Service

By: Br. Abdo Eltassi*

Islamic Social Services Association was established in 1999 at a meeting of 60 Muslim social workers, mental health professionals and counselors; both professionals and paraprofessionals in Washington. Visionary founders of ISSA are: the late Dr. Maryam Funchess, Dr. Aneesah Nadir, Dr Bilqis Eltarab and Shahina Siddiqui. The following highlights some of the achievements of ISSA-Canada. We thank Allaah SWT for these blessings. In 2003, ISSA split into 2 sister but independent organizations, one in USA and one in Canada. Both organizations work in collaboration and are registered charities.

Recognizing the need, ISSA-Canada founded the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI) and launched it in 2006. It took 4 years of planning and organizing to bring this to fruition. CMWI is now an independent organization with its own governing board. It rents space from ISSA and is located in the same building as the ISSA office. The two organizations continue to collaborate and cooperate in serving the Muslim community and the larger society.

Assessing the need for succession and leadership development, ISSA initiated the establishment of Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute (CMLI). ISSA helped organize and hosted a community-wide forum with representation from all Muslim organizations in Manitoba to consult, recommend and form the advisory council to direct and govern the formation and management of CMLI. ISSA will be the fiscal agent (what does this mean…will ISSa be fundin the CMLI operations until it has access to its own funds?) for the Institute until it can stand on its own. ISSA plans to make this a national initiative

Identifying the critical gap in culturally and spiritually compatible counseling services particular to Muslims, ISSA has started the process of establishing Muslim Counseling Services ( MCS). ISSA has initiated capacity building in this area through training of counselors and research in the logistics involved in actualizing such services.

Concluding that a serious lack of capacity exists for trained Muslim foster homes, and family services ISSA, has partnered with Child and Family Services, Manitoba to inform train and recruit a pool of Muslim Foster Parents in the province and then plans to take it national.

Feedback from the community especially from newcomers has focused ISSA’s attention on the serious lack of understanding and trust that exist between the newcomer community and the justice system, law enforcement and Child and Family Services. To this end, ISSA has secured funding from the Manitoba Law Foundation to research and produce informational brochures to educate the Muslim community on Canadian family law and the role of law enforcement, as well as those of hospitals and schools when dealing with cases of domestic violence and of child abuse. This research will also focus on drawing parallels from Islamic law and Canadian Family (what is Canadian Family? Do u mean “and the Canadian Family”? ) to demonstrate compatibility and similarities.

Building Organizational Capacity and to ensure Succession planning within ISSA is a priority for the organization; to this end ISSA secured funding from Winnipeg Foundation to educate, train and provide internship and mentorship to young members of the community that currently serve as ISSA staff.

To help address racism against Muslims and to raise awareness about Canadian Muslims, ISSA launched and successfully completed a Multi-Media Campaign funded through the Welcoming Communities Initiative with assistance from the Government of Manitoba – Labour and Immigration. This campaign is first of its kind in Canada and is now in the third phase of poster distribution to schools throughout Manitoba and also supports the availability of a Speaker’s Bureau (is this what is meant by this?).

ISSA has assisted in establishing localized Islamic Social Services in various communities across Canada and the USA and provides ongoing training, consultations and sharing of expertise.

Dissemination of Information and Professional “know how” through publications. ISSA’s booklets and brochures are in great demand. ISSA is continuously producing informational booklets as need arises and on request. ISSA’s publications have been reproduced in the United States of America, United Kingdom and Australia. This project was initially funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage; multiculturalism program in 2002.

ISSA’s proactive outreach to other communities and working in collaboration with service providers, agencies (both governmental and private) and interfaith and intercultural cooperation is an outstanding achievement.

Media engagement to help improve communication and understanding of Muslim issues and Islamic perspective is a major strategy of fulfilling ISSA’s mission. ISSA has produced programs on community channels and is regularly sought after by media for comments and interviews. ISSA regularly contributes op-ed and articles in local, national and international publications, journals and newspapers on issues of concern to Muslims and on Islamic faith (is there a website where all of this documentation is lodged so that interested parties can look them up?)

Educational Activities across Manitoba, Canada and the United States 1999 – 2009

65 Conferences organized and/or presented at

800 Trainings and seminars organized and/ presented at

550 Interfaith “hostings”

500 School, university and church presentations

5000+ Providers trained in cultural competency

13 informational booklets published

In addition to the above, ISSA-Canada has been responsible for scores of articles, letters and columns published and numerous (too many to count) media engagements.

“Is their any reward for good other than good”- Ten Years of devoted service

Critical Thinking, Social Justice & Strategic Action

Br. Usman Mohammed*

As Muslims, we learn from our beloved Prophet (pbuh) to strive to achieve three desired goals through our actions. These goals are geared towards ensuring that our actions contain the greatest possible good, have the longest lasting benefits and also ensure they have the widest possible scope. Without doubt, these lofty goals appear hopelessly idealistic, especially in light of various practical constraints imposed by our nature as humans and our surrounding environment. However, we can also argue quite forcefully, that within the limits of human existence and societal constraints, these three objectives can be seen as a form of practical idealism. In this sense, their importance does not necessarily revolve around their attainment, but their role as guiding lights towards ensuring that our actions are well thought-out, carefully executed and sustainable.

In coming to terms with this realization, we inevitably put ourselves in a strong position to appreciate the beauty of our faith and our history, while simultaneously developing a framework for understanding our contemporary challenges and our responses to them. Any Muslim blessed with the opportunity to have modest intellectual encounters with Islamic teachings and the history within which they are embedded learns through the struggle of our beloved Prophet and his companions that the idea of justice is irrevocably wedded into the fabric of Islam. Justice within the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition is holistic in the sense that the linkages between its component parts are causal and empirical as opposed to being random and mutually exclusive.

Islam’s preoccupation with justice in the holistic or multidimensional sense is again consistent with two of the core principles that undergird our spiritual, intellectual and philosophical endeavors. The twin principles of balance (Wassatiyyah) and Comprehensiveness (Shumuliyyah) are again clearly resonant of the deep, rich, vibrant and energetic spirit of our faith, its history, its people and its Prophet. These principles are manifested in the actions of our pious predecessors through their unwavering commitment to the truth, their tireless campaign against injustice and the strength they mustered as they stood firm in the face of persecution and remained fearless in the face of tyranny and oppression. Their level of faith and understanding was sublime in every sense of the word. Sometimes too good to be true, yet so true!

But how did this come to be? Or perhaps more importantly, why does our history and our past stand in radical contrast to our contemporary reality? These questions are not new and have been asked at various crisis points in Islamic history. Perhaps what is more troubling for some, is the fact that the sense of crises in our communities has deepened and continues to spiral out of control even as we speak. Some say that the greatest threat at a time of crisis is not the crisis itself, but how we respond to it. If this logic is held to be true, then it is particularly worrying as many of us will be first to admit that our community is an emotional and reactive one.

Emotions are not necessarily bad things. Emotions are normal and consistent with human nature and can sometimes be good. However emotions without discipline, critical mindedness, shared understanding, organization, direction, vision and planning for the future can be extremely harmful. Sometimes the harm done can have serious and enduring repercussions that carry on for many generations. The good thing about our common recognition that we are largely an emotional and reactive community is that it reminds us that we have lost the contemplative element in our response to crisis. We have lost our balance and comprehensiveness in taking both the short and long term consequences of our actions and responses into account.

This realization is crucial in connecting our problems with the practical idealism embedded in the strategic objectives of our actions mentioned earlier. Without a strong contemplative element, it is hard to work towards ensuring that our actions, to the best of our abilities contain the greatest possible good. Clearly, without this element, we cannot extend their benefits to the widest possible scope and thus guarantee an enduring legacy.

More importantly, the absence or lack of the contemplative element, often means that our poorly thought-out responses to crisis and the justifications we use in advancing them, (based on authentic sources of Islamic Jurisprudence as we are often apt to claim) are actually a reprehensible perversion of the original intentions of these sources. We need to move away from being an emotional and reactive community to a more thoughtful and proactive one. We need to restore the contemplative element in our actions and think critically about how we understand our faith and apply that understanding to our responses to the challenges facing us as a community. To think critically is not the same as criticizing people or downgrading their contributions.

We forget easily that even when we find a place to assign blame,, as is often the case when problems arise, this does not make the problem or the crisis go away. Critical thinking entails stepping back, asking tough questions, and demanding solid answers from our leaders and scholars and everyone in a position of authority, in a manner that is humble, respectful, inclusive, responsible and consistent with the spirit of Islam.

As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of our community newsletter, The Manitoba Muslim, let us pause and reflect on the journey so far. We must acknowledge and celebrate some of our successes and recognize that our community is blessed in so many ways. We are a diverse, relatively close knit, prosperous and growing community. We have an established religious presence in different parts of the city. Clearly, we have people within our midst who when pushed to their full potential are capable of providing inspiring leadership to guide us through our challenges as a growing community.

However, we have been unable to effectively mobilize and deploy the various human and material resources at out disposal. In my view, I believe this is due to the fact that many of our services are still largely done by volunteers. Volunteers are an important vehicle for getting things done but beyond a certain point they cannot be as effective and sometimes can be an obstacle to strategic growth. We need to move towards professionalizing many of our activities. This can be done by investing in training and manpower development. In this sense our strategic goal should be to cultivate talent. To look into long term investment in our youth and to help build their confidence, cement their loyalty to the community and prepare them for an enlightened and inspiring leadership that takes our community to the next level.

Clearly, this kind of shift will take time and will not be easy to undertake. However, we are all familiar with the old saying that the journey of a thousand mile begins with the first step. We cannot postpone a long and difficult journey simply because it is long and difficult. We must first convince ourselves that it is a journey that is necessary and must be embarked on. In doing so, we can prepare to undertake it as best as we can, and like our pious predecessors complete the human component of our responsibilities while relying on the Most High for final determination of the outcome. It is important to not overlook our efforts, big or small for we never know which actions can generate the butterfly effect and lead to greater things. As I have learnt through my intellectual engagements with a close friend disillusioned with the crisis in our community that “all work is seed sown, it grows and spreads and sows itself anew”. May Allah open our hearts and minds and expand our horizons, expand our provisions and plant our feet firm on the right path.

* Br. Usman Mohammed is a university student and community volunteer.

Muslim participation in 2008 Presidential Election

Dr. Asad U Khan *

During the 2008 American presidential elections a day did not go by without the words ‘Muslims’ and ‘Obama’ being mentioned in the same sentence. A few weeks before the election, the Clarion Fund, a non-profit group, distributed throughout the United States, an anti-Muslim DVD titled ‘Obsession’ in the Sunday edition of papers. The copies were also mailed to various individuals in swing states. According to Paul M. Barrett, former editor of Wall Street Journal, it was a rough election season for Muslims and Arab Americans.

According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watch-dog group, the mainstream press did not do enough to challenge the election-related smears of Islam. American Muslims, just like other minority groups, are striving to enter the mainstream political system, and are finding that America’s political environment has very high entry barriers. But more than external barriers, there are certain characteristics of the American Muslim community itself which have erected internal barriers to political cohesiveness, and effective mobilization. The single most important barrier to political cohesion is the inability of the community to prioritize its political agenda and create a widely accepted shortlist of political goals.

American Muslims emigrated from many parts of the Muslim world, and with the growth of the community many subgroups have emerged. The two largest of them are the Arabs and South Asians. Both of these groups are unable to break away from the politics of their old countries. There is an attempt by both Arab and South Asians to organize themselves to pursue a parochial agenda rather than to work towards achieving the overall goals of the community, and the same is true in Canada.

According to Zafar Bukhari, Director of the Pew Foundation, the Muslim community in North America wants to be seen as a leader in several areas. One is to function as a minority group seeking to protect it’s rights, another is to represent larger Muslim communities in the world.

At the 2008 Democratic national convention; of the party’s 4,000 delegates present, 47 were Muslims who formally endorsed Barak Obama’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. This was the first time that Muslim activists and office holders established a network of Muslim Democrats in order to form a visible presence at the convention and increase their influence within the party.

According to Newsweek magazine, a poll conducted by the ‘American Muslim Taskforce’ found that of the 600 Muslims surveyed from 10 states including Pennsylvania and Florida, 98 percent of Muslims cast their votes in this presidential election for Obama and 2 percent for McCain. Another poll taken by the Gallop organization reported that more Muslim Americans supported Obama than Hispanic Americans.

Did Muslims have any of their own apprehensions about Obama? A concern shared by American Muslims was that Obama never defended them when the word Muslim was used as a slur, instead it took others like CNN’s Campbell Brown and former Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask the question: “So what if he was a Muslim?”

Additionally, in another incident, two Muslim women wearing headscarves were barred from Obama’s rally by his staff, but this incident was quickly resolved when following the criticism of Congressman Keith Ellison and other Muslim organizations, Barack Obama called the two young women to apologize and assure them that the decision to bar them did not in any way reflect his policy.

According to the ‘Arab American Institute’s, Dr. James J. Zogby, who is a well known pollster, the initial post-election response in the Arab-American community was heart warming with many sharing moving anecdotes of their campaign experience, their reaction to victory and their hopes for change. But soon after the appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as the White House Chief of Staff, euphoria of some Arab-Americans turned into despair, and slanderous stories about Emmanuel began circulating.

Zogby cautions that “the Arabs and Arab-Americans need to ground their expectations in political realities and be wary of slanderous attacks smacking of anti- Semitism.” According to Zogby, “The campaign is now over and the President elect is playing on the world stage with more than one audience at stake”.

These incidents illustrate that Muslims and Arabs are not fully integrated into American society. Full integration appears a distant goal, and so does their full acceptance as members of the American citizenry.

* Dr. Asad U. Khan is a community elder who served as the first founding Trustee of MIA and currently he is the President, Islamic Education Foundation Of Manitoba Inc.

Youth Career Choices

By: Dr. Don Trim*

With rapidly advancing technology, the number of career fields open to young people today is staggering, and many students are being asked to make career choices at younger and younger ages. Considering that a person may spend anywhere from thirty to fifty years in his or her chosen profession, it is imperative that career decisions be made with as much information as possible.

A number of university students were interviewed in attempt to determine when they made career choices and what factors were most important in the decision making process. Their experiences should serve as advice to young people about to make career choices, and also as a warning to those who have already made choices with insufficient information.

There is no particular age by which students must make a choice for their eventual career. Many students know exactly what they want to be when they enter college or university; some know the basic field in which they wish to work, but have not yet narrowed the field to a particular area; still others do not make a career choice until well into their university education. All of these are acceptable as long as the student has not prevented a particular choice of profession by taking an ill-advised high school program. Most students are well aware that certain programs of study in high school automatically eliminate them from particular fields of study in college or university, and eventually therefore, from certain professions. For example, students intending to become engineers must take certain courses, in mathematics for example, that will allow them to enter a university engineering program.

Many factors influence students in making career choices. We present some of them here in the order that we feel is most important, the most important being first.

  • The most important factor is to talk to people already in the profession; determine what they do on a day-to-day basis. Ask them what they like about their job; what don’t they like about it; knowing what they now know about the profession, would they still pursue it if they could start over; are there new and related professions that are more appealing.
  • Secondly, search the web for information about the profession. The web is an inexhaustible source for anything and everything.
  • Talk to your teachers and/or guidance counselor. Ask them if they have, or can find, any information on the field of study that you wish to pursue.
  • Gauge whether a certain profession is appropriate to you based on your academic strengths and leanings. For example, if you have a definite weakness in, and dislike for, mathematics, it may be unwise to consider a career in engineering, physics, or astronomy. On the other hand, with a flare for drawing, perhaps a career in fine arts, architecture, or interior design might be appropriate.
  • Although none of the students interviewed had done so, there are professional companies that perform tests to determine professions that are most likely to fit your personality.

Noticeably absent from this list is perhaps advice from parents, siblings, and friends. We realize this group, especially parents, can sometimes exert considerable pressure on you to enter certain professions. While we can understand their concern for your future, and you should appreciate the fact that they do want the best for you, we must emphasize that unless they are in, or have first-hand knowledge of a profession, they are not in the best position to judge whether a particular profession is suitable for you.

In summary, we suggest that you take all the information that you can find regarding a profession, especially from the sources suggested above, digest it, discuss it with your family and friends, and then come to a decision whether it is something that you want to do for most of your life. Good luck in your CHOICE.

* Dr. Don Trim is a Professor at the Mathematic Department, University of Manitoba and a member of the editorial board of Manitoba Muslim Magazine.

Youth Alienation

By: Ismael Mukhtar

Recently I gave a short talk during the Taraweeh prayers in the month of Ramadan. The topic of my talk was “Muslim youth”. My talk was nothing out of the ordinary, according to my judgment; however, the response I received from the youth who were present was overwhelming. Not only did they welcome the talk, but they expressed a sense of relief that an exclusive talk was dedicated to their issues and concerns. One of the youth commented: “we are always told to respect elders, but rarely do we hear similar talk of the need to respect the youth”. A parent commented: “our youth face mounting pressure to divert; they need constant reinforcements and words of appreciation and encouragement from within their community”. Among the themes of the talk that resonated well with the youth were “respect”, “understanding”, “opportunity” and “appreciation”. I was certainly happy to hear such a positive response from the youth, but at the same time I was very much concerned. I felt the response I received wasn’t a reflection of the talk I gave, but possibly a reflection of the reality that we, as elders and adults, are not doing enough to show our youth how much we value them, how much we appreciate their presence and how proud we are of them.

The youth is an important segment of any given society. They represent not only the future, but also the community’s potentials, its vitality and strength. The greater the energies and resources a community directs towards the youth, the brighter its future will be. Respecting the youth, showing compassion to them, understanding the challenges they face, appreciating their contributions, giving them encouragement and stretching a hand of help to them are key elements towards creating a thriving body of youth within any community. These elements have deep roots in the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and it is part of our rich Islamic history. The challenges our youth face –given the existing social and ethical context- are not only huge, but unique, compounded and complex. With the widespread use of internet and the unprecedented rapid change in the surroundings, the world of our youth today is way different from the world of their parents. New, innovative, well informed and sophisticated approaches are critical in addressing contemporary youth issues. The following paragraphs, present a discussion of three key elements in the social development of the youth. These three play a pivotal role in protecting the youth, transitioning them to their adult life and carrying them to the future.

a) Respect: Respect is pivotal for healthy growth as well as fostering a sense of belonging and connectedness among the youth. Respect is not mere talk, but more importantly, a sentiment, an attitude, a relationship that is expressed in subtle and overt ways as well as by way of omission and commission. Communities that are conscious of the needs of the youth show their respect of their youth, by being youth friendly, youth sensitive and youth inclusive. A center that has sports facilities for the youth would send a more youth friendly message than a center with no such facility. A center where announcements and sermons are conducted in a language clearly understood by the youth would be friendlier than a center where the language is foreign or poorly spoken. Even in community events the type of food served, the nature of the program, the set up, the moderators, the volunteers, all of that collectively send a message of the level of friendliness of a community towards the youth. Further, the attitudes of the Imams and official leaders, their ability to interact, to play, to amuse and communicate with the youth is another important reflection of how friendly a community or a center is towards the youth. Our Prophet had a deep sense of respect and regard for the young. He treated them with reverence and great consideration. In one incident the Prophet, peace be upon him, was offered something to drink. He drank of it while on his right hand was a boy and on his left were some elderly people. He said to the boy, “May I give these elderly people first?” The boy said, “By Allah, O Prophet of Allah! I will not give up my share from you to somebody else”. Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, placed the cup in the hand of the boy (reported by Bukhari). There are many aspects to this hadith, as elaborated by Al-Imam Ibn Hajjar; but it is evidently clear in the hadith the respectful and considerate manners the Prophet displayed in dealing with this young person. Further, Imam Bukhari under the chapter of “Greeting minors” reports that Anas –the companion of the Prophet – (May Allah be pleased with him) passed by some children and greeted them. Then he said: “Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to do the same”. Greeting is a display of respect; offering it to the young is certainly a form of high regard and consideration. Moreover, Anas –as reported in the book of Imam Muslim- says: “The Prophet was the best amongst people in conduct and manners”. He goes on to give an example of how attentive and friendly the Prophet was towards the young. He says that he had a young brother known as Abu Umair who had a bird known as “Nughair”. When the Prophet met him he used to talk and joke with him. He would ask him to tell him about his bird, saying “O Abu Umair what did the Nughair do?”.

b) Mentorship: Mentorship of the youth is critical for their healthy growth and development. Youth need to be given opportunities to lead, to participate, to take greater roles; however, this must be accompanied with adequate mentorship and training. Mentorship isn’t censorship nor is it killing the creative and innovative intuition in the youth. Mentorship is a process of training young people to take greater roles by way of equipping them with the essential skills, the proper ethical framework and the tools necessary for unleashing their potentials. As noted by Dr. Qaradawi, lack of mentorship not only deprives the youth from the rich experiences and wisdoms of the elders, but makes them, potentially, easy prey for extremists of all kinds. The Prophet had keen interest in the youth. He took time to mentor them, to guide and teach them. Among many of the young he mentored was Abdullah Ibn Abbass who was a recipient of the Prophet’s advice, companionship, blessings and dua. The following selected narrations highlight some aspect of that mentorship.

  • Abdullah related the following incident about himself: “Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, was on the point of performing wudu. I hurried to get water ready for him. He was pleased with what I was doing. As he was about to begin Salat, he indicated that I should stand at his side. However, I stood behind him. When the Salat was finished, he turned to me and said: ‘What prevented you from being at my side, O Abdullah?’ ‘You are too illustrious and too great in my eyes for me to stand side by side with you,’ I replied. Raising his hands to the heavens, the Prophet then prayed: “O Lord, grant him wisdom”.
  • Abdullah bin Abbas also narrates: one day I was behind the Prophet and he said to me: “Young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the Nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (reported by Imam Termizi)
  • Abdullah Ibn Abbass is also a beneficiary and narrator of the famous hadith, where the Prophet says: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth, before you become old; and your health, before you fall sick; and your richness, before you become poor; and your free time before you become busy; and your life, before your death.” (reported in Musnad of Imam Ahmad)

The tradition of mentoring the young continued throughout Islamic history. Some of the most prominent figures in Islamic history were beneficiaries of great mentors. To mention a few: Imam Al-Shafi (d. 820) was mentored by Imam Malik (d. 795); Imam Abu Yusuf (d.798) was mentored by Imam Abu Hanifa (d.767); Imam Ibn Alqaym (d. 1350) was mentored by Imam Ibn Taymia (d. 1328).

c) Understanding: The youth experience various transitions in their lives and alter between various identities and go through phases in their lives. Issues pertaining to their sexual life are becoming more pressing to them than their parents generation. Further, issues pertaining to their Islamic identity and their faith are becoming intellectually and emotionally draining. To overcome these transitional challenges, the youth need a sympathetic ear, an understanding counselor and a patient mentor. The last thing the youth need is to be scolded or to be told how ungrateful or bad they are. A young man once came to the Prophet one day and said: “O Prophet! Give me permission to commit adultery.” Some of the Companions who were present, seeing this request as being against Islamic morals, told him to be quiet and scolded the young man. Prophet Muhammad was very calm and told the young man “Come over here and sit down.” Then he turned to him and started to talk with him. “Tell me, would you like for another to commit adultery with your mother?” The young man said, “O Prophet of Allah, I would never desire such a thing.” The Prophet said: “No one would want such a thing for their mother.” He continued, and said: “Would you want someone to commit adultery with your daughter?” The young man said, “O Prophet of Allah, I would not.” The Prophet said: “No one would want for their daughter to commit adultery.” Then he went on to ask if the young man would approve of his sister, paternal aunt or maternal aunt committing adultery. Each time, the young man answered: “No, I would not want that.” When he saw that the youth had understood his error the Prophet put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and said, “My Lord, forgive him his sin, clean his heart and protect him from committing sins.” The young man, according to his own words, did not allow the emotion of lust to enter his heart again (reported in Musnad of Imam Ahmad). In this hadith we notice that the Prophet was not only understanding, but he was equally convincing in his logic, gentle and compassionate in his response. The kind words of the Prophet and the touch from his blessed hand was a remedy for this troubled young man. This sort of understanding, empathy, sensitivity and consideration is something that our youth are in need today, especially when they divert and fall behind.

Conclusion:

Youth alienation from their Muslim community is a reality that can’t be overlooked. Jeffrey Langs, goes as far as referring to it as an ‘exodus” of the young from their communities and mosques in North America. The Muslim Community in North America can’t sustain itself through immigration, it needs to urgently foster a sense of belonging among its youth and keep them connected, engaged and fulfilled. Investment in the youth is an investment in the future. What the youth need isn’t necessarily limited to a place of worship or Quran classes, or weekend schools; the needs of the youth are all encompassing: intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual. A comprehensive and holistic approach where the youth are an integral part is of an urgent and paramount importance.

References:

Lang, Jeffrey, Losing My Religion, Amana Publication

Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf, Islamic Awakening Between Rejection & Extremism

Ibn Hajr Asqalani, Fath ul-Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic)

Manitoba Islamic Association, a Historic Critical Overview

By: Ismael Mukhtar.

On the 27th of November 1969, the small Muslim community in Manitoba took a bold step of formally incorporating the first Muslim organization in the history of Manitoba. The new organization was named Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA). As early as the mid- sixties, the newly emerging Muslim community had been taking baby steps towards organizing itself and creating a formal structure. A constitution was ratified and the first President for the MIA, Br. Khalil Baksh, was elected in 1967 for a one-year term. The formal incorporation of MIA came as a necessary step towards the establishment of an officially recognized Muslim presence in Manitoba. The Muslim community at that time was made up of a small number of families; it had no mosque, no place of gathering or any institution of any sort. The founders of MIA set in motion an ambitious vision articulated in the MIA constitution preamble. Stated in the preamble is: “WE, THE MUSLIMS OF MANITOBA, HEREBY JOIN TOGETHER TO FORM AN ASSOCIATION HEADQUARTERED IN THE CITY OF WINNIPEG TO BE CALLED THE “MANITOBA ISLAMIC ASSOCIATION” WHOSE PRIMARY OBJECTIVE IS TO CREATE, NOURISH, AND MAINTAIN A TRULY ISLAMIC COMMUNITY IN MANITOBA FOR THE MUSLIMS”.

Guided by this vision, the small Muslim community under its newly established organization, started pulling its meager resources and diligently working towards the fulfillment of its long cherished dream: the establishment of the first ever mosque in Manitoba. Years of hard work and a generous partial contribution from the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia bore fruit and the mosque was completed and officially opened in August 1975 on 247 Hazelwood Avenue. The establishment of the mosque was a historical moment that gave Manitoban Muslims a place they can call their own and a great sense of accomplishment.

When MIA was established it had virtually no tangible assets, today it has grown to be a large organization that directly owns two mosques, provides a multitude of services and generates thousands in revenue. MIA has been at the core of the history of Muslims in Manitoba. No Muslim history in this province can be written without referencing MIA and its long lasting legacy. For decades MIA has served as a platform for Muslims from a cross section coming to work together under one umbrella for the common good and the greater benefit. It provided a training ground for many volunteers and prepared them for taking greater roles locally or nationally. Many other local institutions emerged and flourished from within the MIA’s platform. Further, MIA remained open to all Muslims; not only to be members but to also to be elected to positions of leadership.

Despite many challenges, MIA has come a long way. Even in today’s multi-Muslim organization era, MIA still remains among the few bodies that have a broader mandate, open structure and an elected official leadership. MIA, like any other organization has seen its share of challenges and difficulties. Even though many of these challenges are common across organizations, MIA’s challenges haven’t yet been systematically identified and objectively analyzed. For the purpose of this article, the following four challenges will be discussed and analyzed in the following paragraphs. These four by no means are the only challenges, but they are certainly among the major ones.

Challenges:

1- Managing conflict: Like any organization MIA had its share of internal conflicts and frictions. Many of these conflicts have a common underlying theme; they appear to be cyclical in nature and keep on recurring. One of these recurring sources of conflict in the history of MIA has been the election process. The bi-annual election process has been in many cases antagonistic, adversarial and polarizing in nature. During elections, competing groups emerge and engage in campaigns that lead to unhealthy rifts. This results in disenfranchisement, apathy and constant loss of active members. Further, as noted by the late Br. M. Inayatullah (MIA President 1968- 1969), this adversarial process has discouraged many talented and competent individuals from taking active leadership roles in MIA. Surely, MIA should remain an open organization and its leadership should be elected; however, the current electoral process has to be revamped to ensure minimal group politics, smooth transition of power and the election of people with proven competence and proficiency.

The worst and most dreadful conflict ever to happen in the history of MIA was the conflict that took place in the early 90s between the former official Imam of MIA and the MIA executives. This conflict caused a kind of polarization never seen before; it led to the first major split in the community, created unprecedented havoc and seriously hampered the progress of the community. That conflict, fortunately, is now history; however, the systemic causes that led to that conflict are still existent and a similar conflict could erupt at any time in the future. No serious attempt has been done, so far, to objectively analyze and understand what led to that conflict and take measures to avoid the recurrence of such a conflict. MIA had three full time paid Imams in its history. The first Imam left voluntarily after mounting tension between him and the executives; the second was abruptly dismissed. Imams and executives represent the core of the highest body of decision making in MIA. Accordingly, it is essential that they function as a team in a comfortable, cordial environment where the roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, the reporting structures are clear-cut and their accountability process is less arbitrary.

2- Staying relevant: When MIA was created the community was small, its needs were limited and was relatively homogeneous. Accordingly, a simple structure with a simple governing model was suitable and sufficient at that time. Over the years, however, the community has increased not only in number, but diversity, needs, issues and problems. MIA itself has expanded in terms of the assets it owns and manages. However, the same governing structure and the same working framework created 40 years ago is the order of the day. The MIA constitution, for example, has not been updated to reflect the current complex and diversified structure of the community. The constitution, as it exists today, lacks many organizational safeguards, essential checks and balances and clear definitions. Further, the elected officials of MIA still function within the same old management framework suitable for a small emerging organization. Most MIA executives have been pre-occupied with minute administrative and maintenance issues of the mosque such as: cleaning, record keeping, logistics, organizing recurring events (Eid, Ramadan), making announcements etc. Elected officials of an organization as big as MIA should not be bogged down by these administrative issues. In large organizations, these tasks are handled by paid staff or volunteer subcommittees. Hence, the MIA constitution needs to be reviewed by a competent body of experts and its elected leaders need to have a change of focus. The primary focus of MIA leadership should be on strategic initiatives, futuristic planning, fostering a common renewed vision and a pro-active tackling of the critical social, economic, educational and settlement challenges facing the community at large. It is a travesty that MIA despite its long history has only one part time administrative staff and a primitive management structure.

Another area where a significant change has taken place in the local Mulsim community is the emergence of multi Muslim organizations. The days were MIA was the sole Muslim organization in Manitoba is gone. True, MIA still remains the largest, the broadest in mandate and the most open to all. However, the existence of many other organizations providing vital services to the community is a reality that can’t be overlooked. Accordingly, MIA needs to formulate a new strategy of working within this multi-organizational environment. MIA should embrace the change rather than resist it. MIA should actively work towards fostering a cooperative relations with these organizations; lending hands of support, exchanging expertise, building alliances and readily sharing workload. The emergence of these organizations is a natural phenomenon that occurs in any growing community. Their appearance will not undercut MIA, it would rather strengthen MIA by freeing its resources to take a lead on more critical areas and venture into new realms. This would certainly help MIA in maintaining and strengthening it leadership role in the province. Resisting the inevitable change rather than riding it, thinking small and failing to seize the opportunity is a recipe for stagnation and ultimate demise.

3- Being inclusive: The participation of 1st generation Muslims at the leadership level of MIA is undoubtedly very weak. This was understandable in the 70s and 80s. But now after forty years, MIA should have had a significant portion of its leadership coming from the ranks of the 1st generation who have grown up in Manitoba and developed within the community’s framework. Similarly, women’s participation at the highest level of decision making in MIA seems to be non-existent. Over the last forty years only one woman was elected to a position in the MIA executive. Manitoban Muslim women are well educated, many of them play leading roles within their own professions or other organizations. They have been active as volunteers at the grass root level of every MIA event; however, their presence at a higher level is still weak.

Further, given the reality that we are a predominantly immigrant community, MIA needs to find a happy medium of preserving its collective memory and legacy established over the last 40 years while seamlessly incorporating newcomers into its body. There is a clear disconnect within MIA between those who founded MIA and acted as volunteers during the early years and most of the current leadership. It is essential that this link is re-established. Many of the ex-MIA officials and volunteers are on the margin and rarely part of any process of consultation on MIA affairs. The new ones not having that historical perspective keep on venturing into areas already ventured before and run the risk of re-inventing the wheel and starting from square one. A mechanism of preserving the old history, tapping into past experiences of MIA veterans and bringing newcomers into the system in a seamless progression is very critical for future viability of MIA.

4- Being true to its name: MIA is “Islamic” and “Manitoban”. Being Islamic, MIA needs to fully uphold the authentic teaching of Islam based on Quran, sunnah and authentic scholarly tradition. Further, the core Islamic concepts and values should permeate through the whole body of MIA functions and relationships. Moreover, MIA has a duty to carry the universal message of Islam to the surrounding larger community. The challenge here is to differentiate between culture based understanding and genuine Islamic injunctions. Further challenge is to take a middle course and not fall into narrow conservative interpretations or one school partisan positions or dilutive liberal understanding.

To be Manitoban, MIA needs to act as a genuine Manitoban organization not an alien body residing in Manitoba. MIA needs to be actively engaged with the larger society, showing concern to all local issues and being an integral body of the civic society. Certainly, MIA has made some inroads; however, it is a long way from being a truly Islamic Manitoban organization. Given the high turnover in the Manitoba Muslim community, the risk MIA faces, despite its long history, is its propensity to be colored by the customs of any dominant ethnic group at any particular time. Other Muslim ethnic groups can have their own sub-stream on the margin, but MIA should remain at its core, Manitoban and Canadian in its culture, outlook and norms.

Conclusion

MIA certainly is a proud accomplishment for all of us; old, young; new, veteran; men and women. MIA’s legacy is a great legacy that no particular group or individual can claim; it is a legacy that transcends all. Surely, MIA had its own challenges, difficulties and growing pains. The challenge for us is to build upon past successes, learn from past mistakes and take MIA to the second stage with a greater vision, bold ambitions and a confident outlook. MIA is not a “ritual” defined by its logo, a website, a street address, a ten member elected body and hired staff. MIA is a vision, a legacy, a tradition and a set of core values.

MIA will remain vital, progressive, strong and forward moving as long as it remains focused on its greater objectives and not side-tracked by petty organizational tangles. The day MIA becomes reduced to a narrow tunnel vision, happy with an outdated status quo, paranoid with control and averse to constructive criticism, the predicament of history on all organizations that lose sight of their greater objectives will fall upon it. If that would ever was to happen, it would be a sad end to a great legacy.