The late Dr. Agha Saeed was the founder of the American Muslim Alliance and he dedicated the majority of his life in working for the American Muslim community in the avenues of politics, community activism and speaking out against injustices of oppressed people around the world. In honor of his work for the community, I wanted to share some knowledge that he shared with our Media Committee at SBIA (South Bay Islamic Association) back in May of 2006. We invited Dr. Agha Saeed to give a presentation for Strategies for Muslim Community Leaders. Here is a brief summary of some points which he made and we discussed at that meeting, many of which are still relevant today, 15 years later:
- “Executive Intelligence”: which means to be able to effectively use the skills and talents of those around you to get your message across ( i.e. Combine our resources). So if you are not good at public speaking, you can have someone on your team, who is, and have that person get the job done more effectively than you can.
- Muslims should get involved with/volunteer with Civic groups (Museums, etc.) and organizations and also learn how to speak effectively (i.e. toastmasters, etc.). When we interact with everyday people, we can use these opportunities to dispel stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.
- The Media also collaborates and work together. Majority of newspapers and radio/tv outlets have same exact set stories everyday. Even though Media Outlets are focused on ratings, they still are being told which stories to cover and talk about for public information. We need to address these concerns as well.
- We need to influence Muslim youth to get more active and also to do the “fighting” that the older generation can no longer do (i.e. protesting for rights in the streets, etc.).
- It is good to make alliances and we should continue to do so, but only we (Muslims) will be able to fight for our own rights. The Latinos/Hispanics have made great strides recently with being able to influence the President (Bush) to go against the majority of his own party in terms of immigrant rights, and even though other groups may have helped them, only the Latinos/Hispanics fought the battle. We also have to fight our own battles (but we should continue to work with other groups and work in coalitions).
- Muslims should not isolate ourselves and learn to face mainstream issues (not just “Muslim” issues).
- Muslims should not focus on our cultural or “color” differences between us. We should consider ourselves one, and be united. Okay to have our cultural differences, but we should act as one and focus on our commonality of being Muslims. Otherwise our enemies will continue to try to divide us (divide and conquer) and defeat us.
- Change occurs at grassroots level, and this is where we should all start from and focus our efforts on, in order to make changes progressively to the top. It is a slow process, but the right way to do it.
These of course are only a few small tidbits of what was discussed that day. May Allah (God) reward Dr. Agha Saeed with Sadiqa Jariya for all the beneficial knowledge he shared with his students and everyone else who benefitted from his expertise and knowledge. May Allah grant his Jannat-ul-Firdos (The Highest Level of Paradise) and give Sabr (Patience) to his family and friends. Ameen.