Written By: Agha Shabbir Abbas
I am sharing my views as to why I decided not to attend the UMAA convention. I contemplated very much on the issue and was going to release a statement pre-UMAA, but my respect for the organizers and the attendees prevented me from doing so. I did not want to create a controversy and ruin the memorial break for so many families and especially that Dearborn is home to many brethren from Southern Lebanon who would most surely get incensed by my comments, therefore I refrained.
Now that the UMAA convention has concluded I will try to explain myself. I have worked with UMAA in the past and have attended a majority of the conferences, which I enjoyed and benefited from on the most part so there is no enmity from my side.
The sole reason I did not go to this past UMAA was the irresponsibility shown by them in regards to the Syrian conflict.
In the year 2013 UMAA released a “Joint Statement Regarding Syria” in which two points serve as the crux of the matter:
- “We, the undersigned, acting under the collective conscience of Shia Muslims in the United States of America and guided by the principles of justice promulgated by the Holy Prophet (sawa) and his immaculate household (Ahlul Bayt) (as), solemnly believe and declare as follows…”
- “We call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties involved under the auspices of the United Nations, and the preparation for a transitional government that represents the will of the Syrian people.”
UMAA nor the signatories of the said statement represent the “collective conscience of Shia Muslims in the United States of America”. Islamically there are two forms of consensus, one is ijma’ al-ummah the consensus of the people, and the other is ijma’ al-aimmah consensus of the scholars. To establish consensus for anything there is a need for democracy, the rule of the people. UMAA clearly is not a democratic organization, if it were we the Shi’a Muslims would be surveyed for all major decisions, especially in terms of administration. Therefore UMAA does not have ijma’ al-ummah. In regards to ijma’ al-aimmah it is clear that very many of our scholars such as Sayyid ‘Ali Khamenei and Sayyid Hassan NasrAllah are much in favor of the current rule in Syria hence the notion of a “transitional government” is quite astounding, so it would be very unfair of UMAA to claim ijma’ al-aimmah as well. And we all know that the two scholars, of which one is a marja’, are followed by substantial portions of the Shi’a community, if not the outright majority.
I have attended the UMAA convention previously and will probably do so in the future, but right now I withhold my support for it. I respect those who attended the conference and would like to assume that they were unaware of the given policies. I also do not want anyone to stop attending the conference because there is a need for it and it has potential. But the UMAA board must be held accountable for their actions.
I approached an UMAA board member in regards to the statement, I was harshly brushed off stating that “we do not support Wilayat al-Faqih!” It honestly is amazing that UMAA claims to represent the “collective conscience of Shia Muslims in the United States of America” but discounts an immense segment of the Shi’a populace! I also disagree with the system of Wilayat al-Faqih and I too am against the current rule in Syria but I can never claim to represent anyone other than myself. I am hoping that the board member reads this blogpost and amends their position.
When UMAA approved the Bush administration’s decision in 2003 to invade Iraq by inviting Paul Wolfowitz as the keynote speaker many in the community started attacking UMAA as a “zionist entity”, that it had ulterior motives. UMAA to this very day is still haunted by said attacks. I on the other hand believe that UMAA deserves the benefit of the doubt for it at that time was a new organization who probably erred due to naivety, not due to some malicious intent. UMAA 2014 is not the same as UMAA 2003, such blunders should not occur again. UMAA from now on must consciously understand that their Shi’a identity will at times cause them to oppose Washington DC.
In my rather young life I have been blessed to have served as a President of a Muslim organization at my university, where the decisions I and my board made effected over 4000 Muslim students. The 4000 + Muslim students were Shi’a, Sunni, Sufi, Agnostic, and even Takfiri! I disagreed with large segments of this population but I did not disregard them for they were the constituency, I had to represent them devoid of bias. The Shi’a Muslim population in the USA is far greater than of the Muslims on one university’s campus so why does UMAA forgo its responsibilities?
wa ma tawfiqi illa billah!