Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Interview by Umm Z.

Found this on Umm Zaid's page as I was browsing, and enjoyed it. She asks five questions; everyone gets to see the answers. Want in? See below!

1. Puerto Rico: What do you love about it?

Ayyyyy, what a question. This is what I love about Puerto Rico: I love the people. I revel in the humid, tropical, ever-changing, beautiful, warm weather (and lack of deciduous trees with their hyperallergenic pollen). I enjoy "long" drives just drinking in the changes from blue sea to dry desert to lush green cool mountains. It's truly a beautiful place, even in the slums of the city you find beauty and green
things growing everywhere. I love the song of the coqui, something I'll never forget that will always conjure up velvet nights spent talking with some of the brightest, kindest, industrious, most generous people I've ever met. I love the typical boricua accent and the mixture of Caribbean, Africa, USA, and Spain that you can dissect... and yet not... in everything you find there. I can't get over the way the island appears in my dreams. I love Puerto Rico for her revolutionary history and her ripe potential.

I noticed you didn't ask what I don't like, so I will keep this positive. There are so many things that can change, but many many that are wonderful.

2. You're on a desert island. You have 10 books. What are they?

Not counting the Qur'an?

Whoo! This is hard! I've loved so many books. In no particular order:

The collected works of Nikki Giovanni

A Tafsir (one bigole volume)

Blessings by Anna Quindlen

Hija de La Fortuna by Isabel Allende

the Logan Family saga by Mildred D. Taylor (hmmm is that a cheat?)

any of the books by any one of these three ladies- Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Esmeralda Santiago, or Julia Alvarez- preferably in Spanish. I just can't pick and am so happy with them all.

Companions of the Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid- this has been an amazingly involving read, yo

any of Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy series (cooking sleuth, gotta love it)

La Sombra del Viento/The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos R. Zafon

Believing as Ourselves- J. Lynn Jones

booo only ten?!

3. What do you think you'll do this summer?
InshaAllah apply to nursing schools and high(er) paying, character-suitable day jobs. Have a birthday. Oh, and work at da Grocery Store nights. Find a way to get to ADAMS or other classes consistently. And pray on my roof under the stars while I have it ( lease is up in October). And maybe even learn Arabic? Hmm. So many possibilities...

4. Do you play games on the computer or regular video games? If so, what are your faves?

I actually don't play games on the computer- blogs are my games, since the only computer I have (okay, had) regular access to is at my day job. But back in the day I loved Zelda on SNES and Castles on the computer. I still play bejeweled and Collapse and Tetris on my cell, very rarely.

5. The state of Muslim youth: What do you see as positives for the future and what do you see as negative (for the community as a whole) in our future? What do you think we should be doing right now?

Beginning with the end, we need to be constantly, steadily getting people invested and involved in working on our educational systems, both what's thought of as 'true' pedagogy- the schools- and the outreach and educational capacities inherent in the gathering spaces that are our masajid.

Islamic schools need to be options that won't break people and are open to the general public, even those who aren't Muslim. They need to grow in enrollment and strength of curriculum every year. They need to be American, not "backhomelandish", since that's where we are and that's who these children are, and prepare them to live as Muslims within an American society, not to ghettoize or isolate ourselves. It's a balancing thing. This is an ideal, remember. And schools need to have people involved from the community as a whole just as GP, not just parents/grandparents, in order to have a further source of investment and push for the future.

As I was raised in the awesome community institution that was a strong black church (though it had its flaws I also know ideals because of it), I have in mind just a hint of what our ummah in the US can become if we utilize these outreach and communication tools properly. This begins with outreach that accepts and encounters people in the places where they are- be they into drugs, teen parents, all about the outer flash, superficial Christianity, etc.- in order to use the rational questioning that is such a basis for Islam to bring them closer to the light, without entering personal judgments into the picture. Become that great, good place with all sorts of people and knowledge of the deen and also area services, where everyone just naturally wants to be all the time because there's something that nourishes them there.

I am NOT saying give up Islamic ideals in order to approach young people; I wouldn't want to see brothers in silk and gold bling around young folks in order to 'do as they do' and make them feel comfortable. Rather, provide charity and examples to them in various ways (food, community fairs? 'Muslims in the Recording Studio/on the Radio events for youth? some sort of latin/northeast asian oriented activities? more things like Project Downtown, which is awesome, MashaAllah? Stoop Group youth meetings that aren't necessarily inside at the masjid, but in a park around where people actually live? Job fairs open to all but heavily recruiting to Muslim business or providing Muslim mentors to young people? I'm sure y'all have more ideas...), and live Islam, while going to find people where they are in order to have them accept where we are and in seeing prosperity and peace, have them want to know about it of their own accord. That's dawah that can change communities, and what I'm talking about is hard work.

I hope that made sense. It's hard to articulate what I see in my head.

Now, as for negatives in the community, from domestic to international- a substantial reason the american youth of the ummah don't have a whole lot of cohesiveness is the divisions and stereotypes fostered by our parents. Y'all know what I'm talking about. Many of us are handed the misconception that Islam cannot be US, cannot be American, cannot speak something besides English and Urdu/Arabic, can be American only if of backhomelandish descent. Not cool. Also? For the lack of the strong Islamic school alternative and parental ability to be everywhere at once, a lot of us are treading very fine lines on societal norms instead of creating them ourselves. And we don't know more about Islam than what's heard in the Khutbah on Fridays, because those of us who do are pushed to be more 'backhomelandish.

I'm not articulating this well, but the speaker at EZ on making our mark on Islam hit it when he said that we need to be useful to our community, to feel as if we're contributing with the uniquenesses that we're allowed to explore in the freedom that growing up in the USA creates, in order to attach ourselves to Islam here, make it our own, and see it grow. The short message was, don't all be doctors and lawyers and marry your own color/race/class/country of origin, because we need to branch out to be truly expanding here. Because right now we're stagnating and from denouncing Islam to being nominal Muslims to raising children as Muslims with haraam norms, it's not okay.

I will say this, though; Islam still has a draw for young people, and the few conferences that I've attended and the people I know bear that out very strongly. We're youthful and find strength in that, and we're of the generation that takes freedoms and uses them, and uses power in a very organic, natural diversity of Islam. I think I said some time ago that I was talking to a 19 year old Muslim at a university, just randomly, and was blown away- he was one of a group of kids in that particular place that not only had ideas but was acting on them. Entrepreneurship is our heritage, as is the willingness to get ahead and pull others up, and when young people aren't actively discouraged we come up with some wonderful ideas AND actions..

Thanks so much for my interview, I enjoyed it and inshaAllah someone will benefit from it. JazakhAllah khair.

Want to play?
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions (so you have to leave a valid email address). I get to pick the questions. And yes: email. Leave your address. I don't use haloscan, so use (at) h@tma!l, or other creative way to say it. I'll delete comments with emails.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.