The leadership of the newly formed US Council of Muslim Organizations. Photo courtesy of USCMO.
A national umbrella organization has been a vital need for the Muslim community for decades; one that is inclusive, functioning and professional. Several have arrived on the scene and then faded away due to either lack of leadership or retirement of leadership.
A new coalition formed in the spring of 2014 says they will be that and a lot more for American Muslims.
On March 12, 2014, Oussama Jammal, the Secretary General of the newly formed US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), announced the formation at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., as “an umbrella group that will serve as a representative voice for Muslims as [the] faith community seeks to enhance its positive impact on society.”
The founding members of the US Council of Muslim Organizations are: Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Circle of North American (ICNA), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), and Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).
Initially eight organizations formed the group and two were added after the announcement: the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and The Mosque Foundation (Chicago).
The coalition has a census project in the works to evaluate the Muslim community. The census will create a database for use in the 2016 election, defining and understanding the community from within.
There is a controversy over the amount of Muslims in the country. “Our logic tells us that census is a critical and practical step,” emphasized Imam Talib Abdul-Rashid of MANA. He said the American Muslims are a diverse, not a divided, community. MANA founded by Imam Siraj Wahhaj is also part of USCMO.
“The Muslim community is one of the most diverse communities, if not the most diverse religious community in America,” said Khalil Meek, executive director of the Muslim Legal Fund of America. “We have a vast amount of resources and education and principles and values that we want to share with this great country. We want to contribute and we hope this platform is the beginning of that opportunity to better serve and unite our voice for the benefit of all.”
Transparency is another need for Muslim leadership to win over and unite Muslims spread around the nation.
American Muslim Alliance’s National Director, Imam Mahdi Bray gave his blessings to build bridges of understanding and civic gravitas with social justice.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is not a part of this council. “As a matter of policy, MPAC works in coalition based on issues rather than merely organizational alliances. We wish the new entity well and look forward to the opportunity to collaborate on issues of mutual concern,” related Edina Lekovic, the Director of Policy & Programming of MPAC to the Muslim Link.
ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, is also not a part of this coalition. So far no women’s organizations have joined the coalition. Jammal says that the list of member organization will grow as the organizational boards complete the process of approving memberships.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said the civil rights giant is proud to join this historic organization in an effort to unify the dreams of every American Muslim on a large platform. “Islam is not an organized religion but Muslims are organized,” he jested.
Why is this new organization forming as Muslims have formed a Political Action Committees as well as umbrella groups in the past is a question on many minds. Awad said “in the past, many people have tried to unite on a limited agenda, but this is a broad agenda for the American Muslim community.”
Naeem Baig of ICNA said his organization looks forward to strengthening the Muslim community and America.
An inaugural banquet is scheduled for June 14, 2014 in Washington D.C. and the 2014 MAS/ICNA convention in Baltimore will highlight the organization.
Accused by a xenophobic media of being a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and forming their own political party, the USCMO will have to face the oft-repeated charges from right wing Republicans linking CAIR to Hamas. Despite these challenges, USCMO leaders point to issues like anti-Muslim bigotry, the Muslim swing vote, civil rights and civil liberties, involvement in political process, and participation in public discourse as reasons why the American Muslim community needs a strong organization that represents all American Muslims. The USCMO is online at http://uscmo.org/ .