Imam Khalid Latif and Alif Laam Meem
I went on a camping retreat with my bros at ALM this weekend. We joined the Risala Foundation from Houston and one of the speakers they invited was Imam Khalid Latif. He is from New York and his method of teaching is very poetic, almost like spoken word, but much more direct, accessible and discernible than most poets. After getting home last night i did some research and learned that he is actually the chaplain at NYU, a past chaplain at Princeton University and also the youngest chaplain to ever serve on the NYPD. He has done a lot of interfaith work and seems to be the kind of religious leader that sees beyond one faith to who we are collectively. Man that moves me and i think we need more of that.
He gave a few lectures and the one that hit me the most was about an email he had received from a young woman who was due to a marry a man, and yet as the day grew nearer he began to treat her poorly, being verbally abusive and even doing so in public. He broke the men into groups and asked them what responsibility they had to a woman in her situation, who was reaching out for help. He then asked if the abuse moved to a physical form what responsibility the men had to help her. In some other countries and more traditional sects, this kind of oppression has been a reality and from what i see, creating a new identity that can overcome problems like this and creating new perceptions is a hot issue in Muslim American culture.
The answers were varied as far as what to do. Some considered interceding. Some considered approaching both the man and woman and ushering them into counseling. Some weren’t sure if it was appropriate to intervene outside of one’s own family. After all of it, Kalid said each of those potential solutions aloud and asked if that was really the best we could do. As a community, who has a responsibility to help and serve others, especially those in danger, “is that the best we can do?” From there he outlined that our real duty is to of course help remove someone who is in danger from that situation, regardless of tradition. But that the greater thing is to be that person, or that group of people, that create a larger solution. Like beyond helping one person, thinking big and opening a domestic abuse shelter. Being vulnerable enough to use our voice to share our personal dealings with these problems so we can educate the younger generation. And having the humility to admit that even in our communities, some overhauling needs to take place. We could all benefit from such admissions and subsequent forward thinking and action.
To me, that’s what these young men i spend so much time with lately are charged with… creating this new identity. A new way of dealing with cultural flaws and ways from the past or old country that no longer work. Every generation and culture finds themselves in that place and if they are thoughtful and free thinking, they take action. I see these guys doing that. I see them learning from balanced Imams like Khalid. I see them marching with their signs in the link below. And i see a moderate American Islam becoming more visible.
So grateful to be working on this film and to be witnessing small moments in a country’s, culture’s and religion’s history. These are my simple views thus far and anything above that can’t be reckoned with the beliefs of ALM or the Muslim faith, just chalk it up to me being an outsider.