Salina Khan argues that American mosques are promoting a government-based agenda and need to refocus on their God-given mission.
My three sisters and I spent most of our weekends at our Islamic centre, attending youth meetings, fundraising dinners and, of course, Sunday school, but I haven’t fallen in love with a mosque yet where I can continue that tradition with my kids.
And I’m not the only one.
An upcoming documentary called “UnMosqued the Movie” discusses widespread Muslim disenchantment with mosques in the United States. According to a recent survey of American mosques, 90% of Muslims in America do not attend any of the 2,000-plus mosques across the country.
“Everyday, Muslims that have grown up with or near a masjid are rethinking their committment to the Muslim community and dropping out. They are unMosqued (adjective coined from the term “unchurched” which means not connected with a mosque),” as explained on www.unmosquedthemovie.com.
Indeed, the promotional teasers of the documentary, slated to be released later this year, indicate the film aims to highlight a multitude of reasons why Muslims (especially youth, reverts and second and third generation Muslims) are turning away from mosques, including cultural bigotry, intolerance, women’s issues and language barriers. Muslim leaders interviewed in the trailer include Suhaib Webb, Nouman Ali Khan and Waleed Basyouni.
But what the documentary does not promise to do is delve into the root problem of mosques across the world today. Like the hypocrite-run and (Byzantine) Empire-backed Masjid al Diraar at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), most mosques today are controlled by the powerful elite establishment and support their hegemonic agenda. They are no longer centres of awareness, critical thinking and problem-solving focused on achieving their God-given mission of ending oppression and establishing social justice in society like they were supposed to be.
“There are those who built a masjid to harm, and to promote disbelief, and to divide the Muslims and as an outpost, from where they will wage war against God and God’s Messenger. And they will say, under oath, that they only want to do good. But God bears witness that they are liars.” (Quran 9: 107-108)
Our mosques don’t need to be reformed, as the filmmakers suggest. They need to be revolutionized. We can learn from Prophet Isa (AS) who taught us that all struggles for socio-economic justice in society begin with a cleansing of the “temple,” the God-centered power base from which truth, mercy, justice and peace should emanate in society. He embarked on his bid to purify society by first overturning the tables of the greedy and oppressive money-changers in the House of God in Jerusalem and throwing them out for good.
“Consider your houses as way stations, and the mosques as your residences,” Jesus is quoted as saying in the Bible. “Upon my life! You have directed yourself to what is other than God. What has corrupted you? Are you afraid of becoming lost if you direct yourself toward God.”
Indeed, the mosque needs to be transformed from the House of Empire back to the House of God by focusing on its ultimate mission of establishing social justice in society for the pleasure of God. In the process, it will also be able to solve its many infrastructural problems as well as attract not only greater numbers of Muslims but also peace and justice-loving non-Muslims.
“The Quran is not a history book, it is not an entertainment scripture,” says scholar Muhammad Al-Asi, imam of the Islamic Center in Washington. “The Quran presents us with the hard facts of life, and what happened at that first Masjid al Diraar right now is happening at a much larger scale because that clique of hypocrites in Al Madinah at that time have become now the rulers in the Islamic world. And if in the time of Allah’s Prophet they could not get away with building one masjid today they have gotten away with controlling ninety-nine percent of the masajid in the world.”
In direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus, most Christian churches in America have for centuries supported the imperialist agenda by, if not actively encouraging genocide, slavery and war, then, remaining silent regarding them.
Unfortunately, mosques have followed suit, and documentaries like UnMosqued are not doing anything to change that. In fact, one imam interviewed for the film declared: “The masajid should keep clear from politics abroad. The mosque must be a place of worship but it is not supposed to be a place to discuss politics.”
On the bright side, throughout American history there have been God-fearing people and religious organizations that remained committed to struggling for social justice in the harshest of times, such as the Quakers when they opposed slavery, the black churches when they mobilized against racism and the Methodist church when it recently decided to boycott goods coming from illegal Israeli settlements.
It is these groups that Muslims should study if they take the filmmakers’ advice to learn from other religious institutions “to see how their houses of worship are running and how they are catering to their respective constituencies.”
The late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr said: “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions … If the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace.”
Ditto for mosques.