Failure of Muslim-American Leadership

The writer Dr. Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr. wries a long piece on his ten years as a Muslim convert. It is a must-read, although there are many places one would disagree with him, but he does deserve a read and a discussion.

From his page 1:


About ten years ago, a year after my conversion to Islam, I wrote an open letter to the Muslim community regarding my first year as a Muslim. It was not a positive letter– addressing issues of sexism, gross expressions of hatred towards “the People of the Book”, and the general absence of responsibility and accountability in our community. The letter was published in the community newsletter I was attempting to establish, and it was ignored. A few years later, yet again attempting to establish a community newsletter, I wrote that we had a legacy of producing hurt, alienated people who leave the community and do not return to the mosques. This too was ignored.Ten years ago was also the beginning of the internet. I opened the Islamic discussion forum on America Online (twice—there were so few people on AOL at that time the forum closed at first due to lack of traffic), and established my own web site where I placed “My First Year as a Muslim” for all to read. It never elicited very much response. But then, a couple of years ago, I began regularly receiving e-mails from Muslim-Americans, and others, who validated and affirmed my comments and observations as true to their experience. The letter made the rounds of web sites and mailing lists, even attracting the attention of some journalists. I could tell when the letter was on a new mailing list because at times my own mailbox would be flooded with responses affirming the presence of major problems within the Muslim-American community and leadership. Those who have responded don’t realize it was written so long ago. Many are no longer involved with their local communities—a legacy of hurt, frustration, alienation and resentment that is not uncommon, nor unusual, and has been going on for at least a decade, if not two.

From his page 3:


Think of your own local community. In spite of how we love to trumpet that Islam is growing and growing try and remember how many American converts you have seen come in, stay for a while, and then disappear. Try and remember how many people you have seen walk in, curious about Islam, never to return. In my locale I have seen this regularly for years. Indeed, I’m the odd bird to have stuck around so long, most are gone within a year or two.Why is this? Why do they leave? And if they have experience of functioning worship communities why are they unable to exert a positive influence on the development of their new dysfunctional worship communities?

It is entirely too facile to say “they weren’t really Muslims to begin with.” These are people who are often relatively well-read in religions and religious thought. They are often people who have been searching, researching, questioning, and looking for The Truth. They’ve often read more, and more widely about Islam than have many who were born into the religion. It is a cliché (but clichés are based in realities) that “there is no one so convinced as a convert.” How could any organization lose such people and alienate them to such a degree and with such regularity? One would almost have to make an effort to do that.

This problem is not particular to converts, but holds true for many of those born into the religion as well. One only needs to take a look at the disparity in numbers between any daily salat (masjid empty) and an ‘Eid dinner (masjid jammed) to know that many—many? most!—of those born into the Qur’anic religious traditions are, for all intents and purposes, just as absent, lost, and “disappeared” as so many of the converts and people interested in Islam.

So, what’s the problem?

Our leadership is the problem. The people in positions of authority are the problem.

As I have said above, his piece deserves a reading, and a discussion.

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One Response to “Failure of Muslim-American Leadership”

  1. Manas Says:

    Before the Hour comes, men will choose the ignorant as their leaders, there being nobody to lead them.

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