Within the past month, there have been two situations that have captured the attention of American Muslims regarding issues relating to imams. As we put a lot of trust in religious leaders, we should also understand that imams are fallible persons, and that we should not blindly follow or put all of our hopes in them. We, however, must hold them accountable when they actively misuse their positions and/or articulate positions, including on social media, which are clear violations of Islam.
A Bosnian imam in Iowa named Nermin Saphic was recently acquitted of sexually abusing a teenager during a healing ceremony. Though he was cleared of criminal behavior according to the laws of Iowa, Nermin did state that he rubbed oil on her body including her chest while she was naked in her bedroom. There is simply no need for a “jinn exorcism” using oils to rub a sister down on her chest.
I’ve seen zero proof for such a practice in the Qur’an and authentic sunnah, and I suggest to sisters, especially in the Bosnian community, to not let this or any other imam attempt to take away your issues or problems through naked jinn rubdowns. In fact, I’ve never heard of such in my life.
The other issue is the controversy surrounding British preacher Abu Easa, who teaches for Al-Maghrib Institute. Brother Omid Safi basically summed up my thoughts on the issue, so there’s no need for me to filibuster about the misogynist and racially insensitive statements and “jokes” of Abu Easa on Facebook. Read Abu Easa’s “apology.”
The larger issue at hand is that we have a structural problem in the American Muslim community where women are being demeaned and marginalized. I continue to say that the three biggest internal challenges facing Muslims in the U.S.A. are misogyny, racism and sectarianism. These all must be confronted in systematic forms among us if we’re going to prosper and not push more people out of our community.
The good news is that through alternative media, these issues are being given platforms, for such has been swept underneath the rug for decades by Muslim organizations and Islamic centers.
As we need reform in our community which requires discussion, planning and long term organizing, I hope that we are able to have candor while remembering the prophetic principles of tenderness (rifq) and pardoning (‘awf) in the process. Our mission is to eradicate unhealthy behaviors and dismantle structures of oppression, not seeing fellow Muslims as enemies and irredeemable people.