6 things mosques and Islamic centers can do in 2007

Does your mosque or Islamic center have a 10-year plan? What about a one-year plan? If planning is important for individuals, it's many more times important for mosques, centers and Islamic organizations, which aim to serve hundreds of people. If your organization does not have a long-term plan, it is important to develop a planning committee which can take input from the community and present a plan for feedback and adoption. While they are working on a long-term one, it will be good to adopt a one-year plan through your board.

Here are our suggestions for a one-year plan of your Masjid.

1. Organize An Open House

It is important for our neighbors to know who we are. After 9/11 many Masjids organized an open house with lots of benefits. You may want to have a question- and answer session about anything they want to ask about Islam and Muslims. Skip the speeches and lectures this time. If you already organize an open house or don't want to repeat the same format, maybe you can organize an international food festival, considering that Muslim food tends to be quite international. Develop and distribute fliers or invitation cards to at least 1,000 neighbors and invite them.

2. Get Involved In the Immigration Issue

2006 saw a major movement in the country for just and humane immigration reform legislation. It is a year that is marked by the historic mobilization of immigrants and their supporters throughout the nation followed by the unprecedented increase in the civic participation of immigrant voters. Although the movement was lead by Latinos, the issues this movement addressed deeply concern Muslims. Since 9/11, most charges of terrorism laid against Muslims in America fizzled out and became cases where immigration was used to deport, abuse and humiliate these individuals instead. Let's stand up against this injustice individually and collectively.
This year we look to the 110th Congress presenting new opportunities to pass immigration reform legislation. It is important for Masjids to invite Latino immigrant leaders in their mosques to learn about their struggle and see in what way Muslims can extend help to the immigration movement in your city.

3. Teach Muslims What Islamophobia Is

It used to be called racism, having your Hijab snatched off, being pulled over because of your beard and brown skin, being called "terrorist"at work or being taunted in the schoolyard as you were called "loser Muslim." Let's define it more specifically for what it is: Islamophobia. Muslims need to start describing anti-Muslim racism with this concise term. Our mosques and organizations also need to develop partnerships with interfaith groups that can and will help us fight this new scourge in America. In Europe there are government commissions to deal with this phenomena, but in the US the recognition of Islamophobia is not yet there. Think about what your Masjid can do for your neighbors, your interfaith partners, and civic leaders to know about this phenomena. Use the term when talking to media about what Muslims face today. Local media and community papers are very important. We cannot just leave it to the national organizations to respond to Islamophobia like the type demonstrated by Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia when he gave an open call against Muslims.

4. Let Sisters and Youth Lead

I know a number of Muslim sisters who are very conscientious Muslims and practice Islam thoroughly. However, they no longer go to the Masjid. Islam needs Muslim women and Muslims need sisters willing to devote their time and skills to our faith. There are two major questions asked by non-Muslims about Islam. The first relates to violence and terrorism. The second is about women in Islam. Whenever a sister talks about these topics, her mere standing up and answering these questions wins half the battle. Muslim women in North America are as professional and as highly educated as men. Same is true of young Muslims. Both bring strength to Muslim community. There are hundreds of Masjids in America where Muslim women serve on the boards of Masjids. How is your Masjid in this regard? Don't deny your community this unique contribution at a time when we need all the help we can get to deal with the challenges our Ummah faces. Muslim women, youth and the new Muslims must hold good positions on the board of your organization. Their fresh perspective will enrich and enhance the community as well as build the necessary cohesiveness to face the challenges we are experiencing locally and nationally.

5. Establish A Citywide Coalition Of Mosques And Islamic Centers

If your city or your state has several masjids, bring them together by forming an alliance or a council. This model is helping Muslims organize throughout the USA. Check out www.ciogc.org for one example, where you can also email to get a sample copy of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago's by-laws. Unity is an obligation in Islam not an option.

6. Reach out to the youth

At the next Juma prayer, take a good look at your audience. Is it made up primarily of men ages 35 and up? When Muslims pray, our youth are in schools. We are, day by day, losing the Muslim youth in this country. If it's the "uncles"who are running and attending our mosques and Islamic centers today, what will happen tomorrow, when the youth born and raised in this country decide they want to have nothing to do with these institutions. Many Muslim youth feel alienated from the mosques and Islamic centers. Call a meeting or organize a forum today to reach out to them before it's too late.

Less than one percent of Muslim children in North America receive a proper Islamic education. They are leaving Islam in droves, most of the time by just cutting themselves off from the Muslim community. You may also want to listen to NPR's production, This American Life which was broadcast on December 15th 2006, Episode 322 to understand how individual lives are affected because of this racism. How much does your Masjid spend on youth activities? What programs do you offer? Do you have a youth-friendly Imam? Are youth in charge of their activities?

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