Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Art Of Black-Owned Business, Part 4: Give Customers What They Actually Want, NOT What They Need

During Part 1 of this series, I had the following exchange with a reader (my comments are in blue):

"Imam Isa Mateen said...

Wow! I run an Islamic Elementary/high School. Many Black Muslims send their kids to the local Arab school where their kids are suspended for the least infraction and the curriculum is inferior. When their kids get kicked out of the Arab school, the parents run to us and want to complain about our tuition - even though it's lower than the inferior Arab school.! We teach African History. Parents will complain about that saying we're "racist." But hey have no problem with their child learning Arab History, American History and World History(as long as Africa is not included in the world!) It is mind boggling! Is their hope for our people?

Imam Isa,

You said, [quoting his comment]. Well, here are my thoughts about that:

(1) The first part of what you're describing relates to the rule of "Do not believe everything the customer tells you." You see, AAs like YOU and I want "Islamic schools." But what the masses of Sunni Muslim AAs actually want is Arabian schools. In terms of the NOI, I'm not quite sure whether what their members actually want are "Islamic schools" or "Master Fard Muhammad Ideology schools."

In order to thrive as Black business owners, we have to respond based upon what the consumers ACTUALLY want, and NOT based upon what they say they want. We have to meet the consumers' wants and not necessarily their needs. I'm going to talk about this during Part 2 of this series.

AA consumers lie and claim that they want more Black-owned businesses. But that's NOT what they actually want. MOST consumers DON'T want to be involved with a visibly Black-owned business. Especially AA consumers. We have to work around that aversion.

(2) The second part of what you're describing relates to the fact that there's no "us" anymore. Not in the sense that you're using that term. There are AAs like you, me, and the other handful of survivors and thrivers. And then there are the masses of AAs who are "THEY" and "THEM." "They" and "them" are NOT part of "US." There's an ever-widening distinction between the 2 categories of AAs."

Author George Subira perfectly summed it up in his book Black Folks' Guide to Making Big Money in America when he said:

"People want what they want. You may come along as a good guy and try to give people what you think they need, maybe even what they think they need, but they will still want what they want. Eventually it will hit you that people really don't deal with their needs. They don't buy what they need or do what they need to do. People deal with their wants, period. They buy what they want and do what they want. They may eventually deal with their needs but only if there is any money, time or energy leftover. [Khadija speaking: Ridiculous, but true.]

. . . If you play social worker trying to supply a need instead of a businessman supplying want, you will go broke."

Black Folks' Guide to Making Big Money in America, pg. 161 (emphasis added). The easy to remember rule for African-Americans is that they buy what they want, and beg for what they need.

Keep in mind that most people continue to focus on wants even when they are looking to have a need met! For example, most people need some form of personal transportation. However, people buy the form of transportation that they want (SUVs, "luxury" autos, etc.) and not simply the transportation that they need (fuel efficient cars that are reasonably reliable). This leads to the next point:

Successful Businesses Also Provide An Element of Escapism With Their Products

Mr. Subira said:

"The product that you sell must have some escape element connected to it. By escape I mean an item or situation or service that allows the buyer to forget or lose consciousness of their poverty, powerlessness, ignorance, pain, family problems, job problems, or other of life's hassles. [Khadija speaking: Multiply this angle by a factor of 1,000 when dealing with African-American consumers.]

People need to deal with their problems and try to solve them. But people generally want to escape them altogether.

One of the reasons, for example, why people are so concerned with the extensive lighting, sound system, and non-stop music of discos is because the more 'atmosphere' and fantasy associated with the place, the closer it comes to being in 'another world.' What better 'escape value' can you have than being in 'another world?'

Discos, skating rinks, bars, movies, churches, amusement parks, music concerts, stage shows, sporting events, etc. are places of escape. Once the paying customer enters the place, there is a loss of attention to almost any problem short of sharp, physical pain. [Khadija speaking: Excuse me for laughing at seeing this point laid bare. It is amusing.]

Beauty parlors, massage parlors, health spas, tennis courts, bowling alleys, and pinball games [Khadija: this book was written in 1980. Let's add computer use and video games to this list] are activities or services furnishing a degree of mental and physical escape from the daily routine and pressures. Records, books, liquor, televisions, tape players and fancy decorated vans are items that are purchased to seek a form of escape by shutting out the events of the real world and focusing on the atmosphere that the item creates or generates."

Black Folks' Guide to Making Big Money in America, pg. 163 (emphasis added).

Let's Use The Islamic School Mentioned Earlier As A Case Study

Now that we've reviewed these reality check aspects of successful businesses, let's reconsider the situation that Imam Isa Mateen described in his comment.

Since we now know that we can't take customers' statements at face value, we need to consider what it is that the customer is actually looking to get from the products they choose. These things are usually left unspoken.

If you were unwise enough openly quiz customers about what they actually want, they would tell lies about what they really want. Furthermore, it's usually unwise to directly offer customers their true wants. If you did try to directly offer them what they really want, most of them would be offended and humiliated. You have to be subtle when supplying customers' true wants. Typically, this means chattering about their stated wants while you're really meeting their true wants.

Let's get back to the Islamic school example. The African-American Sunni ["Orthodox"] Muslim parents that were mentioned earlier want to believe that they're seeking to meet their children's needs. What are some of the needs that, on the surface, these African-American, slave-mentality, Muslim parents want to meet? If anyone asked them, they would probably list the following things:

1-Excellent education
2-That incorporates Muslim religious instruction
3-In a safe environment
4-In a wholesome environment free of the corrupting influences found in the public schools.

Okay. . . so far, so good with the Imam's Islamic school---let's assume that his school is providing all of the above.

However, there's already an open split between what he's providing and the parents' (unspoken) wants: He's giving African-American children what he (and I) believe they actually NEED by including African history in his curriculum. The problem is that not only do most African-American parents feel that their children don't "need" to know anything about African/Black anything, but they don't WANT their children to be taught about African/Black anything!

Most African-American/Black parents aren't going to come out and say that they don't want their children taught anything about African or African-American history. It would be embarassing for them to admit that. Instead, they will accuse anyone who teaches African/African-American history of "teaching racism." This is the "open" split between what the Imam's school is offering Black parents and their TRUE wants.

What's the "hidden" split between what's being provided and these slave-parents' true wants?

The "hidden" split is that the Imam's school is not providing these African-American Sunni ("Orthodox") Muslim parents or their children with any sort of "escape" from Blackness. Many African-American Sunni Muslims want to feel like they and their children are "transcending" or "passing out of" their previous state of Blackness.

This unspoken need to feel that they and their children are "escaping" and "transcending" Blackness is actually the MOST important aspect of any "Islamic" school for these colored, slave-mentality Sunni Muslim parents! This is why these parents will pay more to get less (an inferior education under inferior circumstances for their children)---as long as their children can be up under Arabs or Pakistanis.

For an example of this mentality, read the the following post, where (among other things) the blog author says,

"What I am talking about is individuals intentionally choosing to move themselves and their offspring away from being black in order to protect themselves (and their offspring) from racism and at the same time afford themselves more opportunities. Especially in the Muslim world where this is often magnified." http://tariqnelson.com/2006/11/07/the-new-passing/

I would imagine that any Islamic school offering African history would face difficulties in the context of an African-American Sunni ("Orthodox") Muslim collective where people are "intentionally choosing to move themselves and their offspring away from being black . . ."

In order to be successful, a Black-owned business must be careful to supply what the customers actually want (with at least a little escapism included), not what they say they want. A virtuous Black business owner will seek creative ways to also slip in some of what the customer actually needs. But not at the expense of making the sale.

10 comments:

ActsofFaithBlog said...

Black people typically want to "escape" without actually going anywhere i.e. making long term sacrificial decisions to get them where they need to be. I admit I've had to battle that as I think many do who either have slightly more than what they need and have been preconditioned to it or those who were severely lacking. It's like dreaming about desserts when you're on a diet.

This may be off topic but I was on Twitter and caught the tail end of a long stream between multiple people regarding that writer who wrote the Vineyard piece that trashed black women and several people that pushed back. One of them was Kola Boof.

I just read some of her messages and she laid it out - brutally but truthfully - about the hatred blacks have for themselves and specifically the men who lift up everyone else but black women and their attempts at breeding out. So it of course brings me back to our conversations here and elsewhere but this is just another manifestation of that desire for escapism. Sometimes it's for a cushier life. Other times it's about escaping blackness period.

Khadija said...

Faith,

You said, "Black people typically want to "escape" without actually going anywhere i.e. making long term sacrificial decisions to get them where they need to be."

Yep. In many cases, what we really want is the equivalent of drugs---to simply "zone out" of reality.

Oh yes, Kola Boof always breaks it down! I read a book of her essays, and she was quite thorough in describing our madness. And this isn't really off-topic because all of this madness is what's swirling around in the heads of most AA consumers. As business owners, we need to be aware of that reality and work around it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Imam Isa Mateen said...

Tank you for your attention to my particular situation and using it as an example to help others. I actually read the book by Mr. Subira years ago but I evidently forgot much. Thanks again for reminding me. I will do some re-evaluating of how I'm going to incorporate your lessons into my business plans. I hope others benefitted as well!

Khadija said...

Imam Isa,

You're welcome; and THANK YOU for providing a specific case study. It's always good to be able to talk in specifics.

Oh, I wouldn't necessarily say that you've forgotten Mr. Subira's points. I suspect that it's more about the fact that the nature of AA Muslims has drastically changed over the past 20 years. Who knew that these people would go crazy like that?

As I've mentioned in earlier posts about the AA ummah, I think a lot of this is age-related. Until I got internet access a couple of years ago, I had NO IDEA how Arab-influenced and slave-minded so many Sunni Black Muslims had become during the past 20 years.

I don't know what age range you fall into, but what I've noticed is that there's a real mental divide between Blackamerican Muslims over and under 40 years old.

Most BAMs I know who are 40 or older were heavily influenced by the Black pride and Black self-respect taught by the NOI. Even those of us who were never members of the NOI, like myself.

What I see is that most BAMs who are under 40 have been heavily influenced by Arabs and Pakistanis; and are as slave-minded as our people were BEFORE the 1960s. This is because the type of AA men who became imams has changed.

Most of the prior generations of AA imams had come through the NOI at some point in their lives. They were "trained up" by other Black men who had Black pride and Black self-respect. By contrast, these younger AA imams have been trained up by Arabs and Pakistanis---many of whom are racists. And these racists are the people these new-school AA imams imitate. And these racists are the people whose interests they serve.

After our ancestors were martyred to get out from the back of the bus, these modern slaves have CHOSEN a spot at the back of the Arab/Pakistani camel.

It's a disgrace. Who could have predicted that BAMs would come to this? I certainly didn't.

It's amazing, shocking, and it took me completely by surprise. I had no idea because I never came into contact with these slave Muslims. I didn't even know that this had happened until after my imam retired. [Slave-minded individuals were NOT attracted to his masjid.]

Like so many of the previous generations of AA imams, my imam had come through the old NOI. Then he made the transition with Imam Warithudeen Muhammad. Then he went his own way. He was NEVER unduly impressed, intimidated by, or ruled over, by Arabs or Pakistanis.

Anyway, I respect and admire what you're doing for our young scholars. May Allah (SWT) bless you for your efforts.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

IftikharA said...

The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won't feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.
Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities.

There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslims
have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their culture. This notion of "integration", actually means "assimilation", by which people generally really mean "be more like me". That is not
multiculturalism. In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school, because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was
given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build
their own religious schools.

British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades. Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different. It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The
father of a Pakistani office cadet who was called a "***" by Prince Harry has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son's passing out parade at Sandhurst
in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince's comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His protrait is still in one of the royal places.

There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
Iftikhar Ahmad
London School of Islamics Trust
www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

Khadija said...

IftikharA,

What you've described is mildly interesting, but has no relevance to the conditions faced by African-American Muslims in the US. These conditions include dealing with the RAMPANT racism of many immigrant Muslims---particularly Arab and South Asian Muslims.

One such immigrant Muslim wrote an essay about this particular topic:


http://www.azhar.com/an-apology/

Heartfelt reflections on the passing of a legendary
Blackamerican Muslim leader

On September 11th, 2008, while countless American flags whipped in the wind and the television and radio waves were dominated by remembrances, recordings, and stories about the terror attacks of seven years ago, I attended the funeral of Imam W.D. Mohammed (may God be pleased with him). For me, it was a somber day, but I found myself mostly lost in thought: about African-American Muslim communities, about the challenges ahead in American Muslim institution- building, and about the future of Islam in America.

If you don’’t know who Imam WDM was, you should look him up. The Sufis say: ““The true sage belongs to his era.”” And of the many gifts given to Imam WDM by God, perhaps the most obvious and beneficial one was the Imam’’s profound understanding of the principles of religion, and his adeptness at intelligently applying those Islamic principles in a socially and culturally appropriate manner befitting the everyday lives of his North American followers.

While carefully respecting sound, traditional jurisprudential methodologies of the Islamic religion, and the collective religious history and time-honored scholarship of classical Islam, he promulgated creative ideas and dynamic teachings across many domains of human endeavor, including theology, law, spirituality and even ethics and aesthetics, that together articulated a vision for a quintessentially ““American Muslim”” cultural identity. And he did all of this before anyone else, with quiet strength and unending humility——a true sage indeed.

So I stood before his final resting place, brokenhearted. And I suddenly began to feel the weight of the moment, realizing that when God takes back one of his dearly beloved friends, those who are left behind should cry not for the deceased, but rather for themselves. For the fact that they are now without one of God’’s friends in their midst, and, in a sense, they are orphaned.

And the tears began to well up, for I became acutely aware that I was standing in front of the grave of my spiritual grandfather, who was himself a spiritual descendant of Bilal al-Habashi (may God be pleased with him), the mighty and beloved companion of the Prophet himself. Bilal was the first Black African to convert to al-Islam at the hands of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and keep him) in the sands of Arabia nearly a thousand and a half years ago.

Undoubtedly, some measure of that love, mercy, compassion, and spiritual stature that inhabited the heart of Bilal has found its way down through the ages, and I found myself begging God to transfer to my own heart some glimpse of these realities now laying before me.

Almost five years ago, my business partner, Preacher Moss (who is a member of the WDM community) founded the standup comedy tour ““Allah Made Me Funny,”” and he invited me to be his co-founder. Needless to say, it has been nothing less than an honor to work with him on the project. But to many, it was an unusual pairing: a Black comic and an Indian comic? Both Muslims? Working together? And before we ever even announced our partnership publicly, we met privately and swore an allegiance to one another——a blood oath of sorts——which was this: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers no one expects us to be.

Khadija said...

Part 2

And built on this promise (and premise), we brought on our first collaborator, Brother Azeem (who is a member of Minister Farrakhan’’s NOI), with whom we toured for over two years (2004-2006) before parting ways amicably. Then we brought Mohammed Amer onto the team in the fall of 2006 (a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian refugee who grew up in a Sunni Muslim family in Houston, Texas). Mo, Preach, and I are still going strong together, and we are grateful for the unqualified support, love, and blessings that Imam WDM and the entire community have always given us.

But today, as I observed the funeral proceedings, I felt sad and heavy-hearted. Something wasn’’t sitting right. Something was physically paining my heart, and it felt like remorse, shame perhaps, maybe even guilt. I began to realize that the tears flowing from my eyes were as much a function of these feelings as they were any lofty spiritual aspirations of mine.

You see, I attended an interfaith event a couple of years ago on 9/11. A group had assembled to commemorate the tragic event, to honor those who perished that day, and to pledge ongoing inter-community support and bridge-building to fight ignorance, hate, and intolerance. At that event, there was this short, middle-aged, sweet, extremely kindhearted, White Christian woman.

When she took the microphone to speak, she was already teary-eyed, and I assumed that she was going to make some comments about the victims of 9/11, as so many others already had that night.

But she didn’’t do that. Instead, she explained that she had become utterly grief-stricken by the constant barrage of news stories she witnessed about Muslims and Arabs being harassed, profiled, and mistreated after 9/11. She explained that she felt powerless to do anything about it, and that it made her sick to her stomach to hear of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs, and especially to hear of Christian preachers denigrating Islam and its Prophet. She started to cry, and so did many others in the room, humbled by the magnanimity of this simple woman.

And then she did what I thought was a strange thing: she apologized. She prefaced her apology with all the logical disclaimers, such as ““I know this may mean nothing to you,”” and ““I know that I am not the one who did these horrible things,”” and ““I know that you may dismiss this as empty rhetoric until you see some follow-up action on my part, but anyway,”” she continued, ““I want to apologize on behalf of all the Christians and all non-Muslims and non-Arabs who have been attacking your communities, harassing your people, and accusing your religion of all these horrible things. I’’m sorry. I’’m very, very sorry.””

I was stunned. Speechless, in fact. Though all of her disclaimers were true, and my skeptical mind knew it, her apology melted our hearts. Here was this powerless servant of God sharing some of her most deeply felt emotional vulnerabilities, and she was apologizing to Muslims for something she didn’’t even do? Jesus (may God bless him and keep him) once famously remarked: ““Make the world your teacher,”” and so I immediately took this woman as a lesson in humility. Admitting her powerlessness made her incredibly powerful.

And this brings me to the point (and title) of this essay. I would like to unburden myself of something that has been sitting like a ton of bricks on my heart for my entire life. I want to apologize to my Blackamerican brothers and sisters in Islam.

Khadija said...

Part 3

I know that this apology may not mean very much; and I know that our American Muslim communities have a LONG way to go before we can have truly healthy political conciliation and de-racialized religious cooperation; and I know that I am not the one who is responsible for so much of the historical wrongdoing of so-called ““immigrant Muslims””——wrongdoings that have been so hurtful, and insulting, and degrading, and disrespectful, and dismissive, and marginalizing, and often downright dehumanizing.

But anyway, for every ““Tablighi”” brother who may have had ““good intentions”” in his own subjective mind, but behaved in an utterly insensitive and outrageous manner toward you when he suggested that you need to learn how to urinate correctly, I’’m sorry.

And for every Pakistani doctor who can find money in his budget to drive a Lexus and live in a million-dollar house in suburbia, and who has the audacity to give Friday sermons about the virtues of ““Brotherhood in Islam,”” while the ““Black mosque”” can’’t pay the heating bills or provide enough money to feed starving Muslim families just twenty miles away, I’’m sorry.

And for every Arab speaker in America who makes it his business to raise millions and millions of dollars to provide ““relief”” for Muslim refugees around the world, but turns a blind eye to the plight of our very own Muslim sisters and brothers right here in our American inner cities just because, in his mind, the color black might as well be considered invisible, I’’m sorry.

And for every liquor store in the ““hood”” with a plaque that says Maashaa’’ Allah hanging on the wall behind the counter, I’’m
sorry.

And for every news media item or Hollywood portrayal that constantly reinforces the notion that ““Muslim=foreigner”” so that the consciousness of Blackamerican Muslims begins even to doubt itself (asking ““Can I ever be Muslim enough?””), I’’m sorry.

And for every Salafi Muslim brother (even the ones who used to be Black themselves before converting to Arab) who has rattled off a hadith or a verse from Koran in Arabic as his ““daleel”” to Kafirize you and make you feel defensive about even claiming this deen as your own, I’’m sorry.

And for every time you’’ve been asked ““So when did you convert to Islam?”” even though that question should more properly have been put to your grandparents, since they became Muslims by the grace of God Almighty back in the 1950s, and raised your parents as believers, and Islam is now as much your own inheritance as it is the one’’s posing that presumptuous, condescending question, I’’m sorry.

And for every time some Muslim has self-righteously told you that your hijab is not quite ““Shariah”” enough, or your beard is not quite ““Sunnah”” enough, or your outfit is not quite ““Islamic”” enough, or your Koranic recitation is not quite ““Arabic”” enough, or your family customs are not quite ““traditional”” enough, or your worldview is not quite ““classical”” enough, or your ideas are not ““authentic”” enough, or your manner of making wudu is not quite ““Hanafi,”” ““Shafi,”” ““Maliki,”” or ““Hanbali”” enough, or your religious services are not quite ““Masjid”” enough, or your chicken is not quite ““Halal”” enough, I’’m sorry.

Khadija said...

Part 4

And for every Labor Day weekend when you’’ve felt divided in your heart, wondering ““When will we ever do this thing right and figure out how we can pool our collective resources to have ONE, big convention?, ”” I’’m sorry.

And for every time a Muslim has tried to bait you with a question about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, trying to force you to condemn him——turning it into some sort of binary litmus test of true iman——with reckless and irresponsible disregard for the historical fact that he was among the first Black men in America to ever do anything meaningful for the upliftment and betterment of Black people, I’’m sorry.

And for every time you’’ve heard of an African-American brother who tried to bring home a South Asian or Arab sister to meet his parents, only to learn that her parents would rather commit suicide than let their daughter marry a ““Black Muslim”” (a/k/a ““Bilalian brother””), even as they cheer hypocritically at stadium style speeches by Imams Siraj Wahhaj, Zaid Shakir, Johari Abdul Malik, or others——or get in line to bring one of them to speak at their multi-million dollar fundraiser for yet another superfluous suburban mosque, I’’m sorry.

I’’m sorry. I’’m very, very sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I want every African-American Muslim brother and sister to know that I am ashamed of this treatment that you have received and, in many cases, continue to receive, over the decades.

I want you to know that I am aware of it. I am conscious of the problem. (Indeed, I am even conscious that I myself am part of the problem since curing hypocrisy begins by looking in the mirror.) I am not alone in this apology. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of young American Muslims just like me, born to immigrant parents who originate from all over the Muslim world.

We get it, and we too are sick of the putrid stench of racism within our own Muslim communities. Let us pledge to work on this problem together, honestly validating our own and one another’’s insecurities, emotions, and feelings regarding these realities.

Forgiveness is needed to right past wrongs, yet forgiveness is predicated on acknowledging wrongdoing and sincerely apologizing. Let us make a blood oath of sorts.

Khadija said...

Part 5

When the bulldozer came to place the final mounds of dirt over the tomb of Imam WDM, I was standing under a nearby tree, under the light drizzle that had just begun (perhaps as a sign of mercy dropping from the heavens as the final moments of the burial were drawing to a close), and I was talking to a dear friend and sister in faith, whose family has been closely aligned with Imam WDM for decades. She shared with me a story that her father had just related to her about the passing of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1975 (the same year I was born, incidentally) .

She told me that her father described the scene in the immediate aftermath of Elijah’’s demise: utter confusion and chaos within the NOI and the communities surrounding it. There was much debate and discord about what direction the NOI would take, and many were still in shock and denial that the founder had actually died.

Out of the midst of that confusion arose Imam WDM, and along with his strong leadership came an even more, perhaps surprisingly courageous direction: the path away from the Black nationalism, pan-Africanism, and proto-religious beliefs of his father, and instead the unequivocal charge toward mainstream Islam, the same universal and cosmopolitan faith held and practiced by over a billion adherents worldwide.

In this manner, her father explained, the death of Elijah Muhammad became a definitive end to a chapter in our collective history, and the resulting re-direction by Imam WDM marked the beginning of the next, far better, chapter in that unfolding history.

Maybe I am just an idealistic fool, or maybe Pharaoh Sanders was right about the Creator’’s Master Plan, but I sincerely believe that all we have to do——all of us together: Black folks, South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis) , Arabs from every part of the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asians (Indonesians and Malaysians), Persians, Turks, Latinos, assorted Muslims of all stripes, colors, and backgrounds, and yes, even our White Muslim brothers and sisters——is live up to a simple promise to one another: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers and sisters no one expects us to be.

It is hoped that the passing of Imam WDM will also mark the end of a chapter in our collective American Muslim history, and perhaps now, in earnest, we can all look together toward The Third Resurrection.

May God mend our broken hearts, lift our spirits, purify our souls, heal the rifts between our communities, unify our aims, remove our obstacles, defeat our enemies, and bless and accept our humble offerings and service.
———————— —————— —————— —————— ——-
©© 2008 Azhar Usman | 10 Ramadan 1429 | 11 September 2008
About the Author
Azhar Usman is a Chicago-based, full-time standup comedian. He is co-founder of ““Allah Made Me Funny——The Official Muslim Comedy Tour,”” which has toured extensively all over the world. He is frequently interviewed, profiled, and quoted in the press, and he is an advisor to the Inner-city Muslim Action Network’’s Arts and Culture programs. Mr. Usman is also a co-founding board member of The Nawawi Foundation, a non-profit American Muslim research institution.

He considers himself a citizen of the world and holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Minnesota Law School. Born and raised in Chicago, his parents originally hail from Bihar, India."
_____________________

Peace, blessings and solidarity.