Thursday, July 27, 2017

American neo-Wahhabism: The Outbreak of "Madinah University" Preachers in Our Mosques

Over the past several months, I have noticed a dangerous pattern:

Mostly gone are the immigrant generation of JI-influenced South Asians and MB-influenced Arabs (so far, so good), but the almost exclusive category of new preachers are their American-born children (together with American-born Hispanic, African-American, or White converts) who were sent to study at "Madinah University," only to return and preach a thinly-sugar-coated neo-Wahhabism (the sugar coating is a superficial veneer of Sufism; see my later post here elaborating on what I mean by neo-Wahhabism and neo-Sufism).

I thought that this was only a Houston phenomenon, with which I had been familiar for a while. However, the mosque at which I have been praying most Fridays has had a number of preachers from Illinois, Michigan, and elsewhere who fit the exact same profile. This is too systematic to be a coincidence: It was clearly a methodical recruitment campaign, and it has succeeded in infecting our American-Muslim communities with neo-Wahhabism.

I must point out that those preachers (mostly in their 20s and 30s) clearly don't understand this. Indeed, except for the few forced Arabic terms that they have clearly memorized (with improper grammar and translation that betrays the superficiality of their education), they mostly pepper their sermons with American slang and profess their American patriotism. The sugar coating of superficial Sufism seals the deal for their parents' generation and other uncritical listeners.

Let me give one example to illustrate: Almost all of those neo-American-Wahhabi preachers are obsessed with male and female youth interacting electronically. During Ramadan, the advice was to delete all contacts of their Muslim friends of the opposite sex... "Don't even text her to remind her to pray," the preachers warned: "This is just Satan fooling you to make you commit a sin even as you think that you are pursuing virtue."

For those who are not aware, this is not even an American adaptation of Saudi Wahhabi teaching. For the past decade or more, Saudis have been greatly distraught that their sexual segregation was circumvented by electronic means (many years ago, they tried banning Blackberry Messenger, but they couldn't stop bluetooth scanning for nearby friends, ...). So, even this seemingly very contemporary and American preaching is imported lock stock and barrel through their "Madinah University" pseudo-education.

I have yet to hear a single hint of humanities and social sciences inspired insights from this generation of neo-Wahhabis. To belabor the specific example of sex segregation, I have to say that this cannot be more worrisome. I am not saying that a contemporary and authentic teaching to American Muslims that will meet them on their own terms will advocate sexual promiscuity, but surely these teachings have been proven sources of social disease.

Pew recently shared data that American Muslims are getting more liberal, but our mosques seem to be dangerously trying to stem this healthy tide. Instead of riding and redirecting the natural tide of Muslim integration in American life, with soul-searching similar to that experienced, say, by the Conservative Jewish community a century ago, they are importing the very plague that has caused the backwardness and failure of their countries of origin.

What a shame.


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