Reframing U.S. Muslim Organizations

Category: Nature & Science Views: 671

Imagine the political clout a U.S. Muslim organization will have once it can orchestrate the writing of 100,000 letters to the Congress at moment's notice, and once the writers of these letters are willing to spend $10 each for the political cause the letters identify. This may sound like wishful thinking, but it's a potential reality.

U.S. Muslims have already come a long way in terms of mustering resources and shaping a realistic political outlook. Over the past decade or so, Muslim organizations have taken steps to involve the community and now have begun to take common stances on issues that affect Muslims everywhere. Successes range from ensuring civil rights for individual Muslims in the workplace, to exposing media biases against Muslims, to having dialogs with government officials.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), for example, has successfully dealt with myriad cases of discrimination across the country. Other organizations such as the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) have also met with similar success.

Despite these successes however, American Muslim political activism remains in the realm of the potential with so much unrealized progress waiting to be made.

To date, American Muslim organizations have failed in affecting U.S. policies in favor of justice both at home and abroad. This is due largely to lack of representation in government bodies, commissions and committees that recommend and draft policies affecting Muslims. Additionally, American Muslim organizations have yet to convince the Muslim masses of the need for political involvement. Compared to the approximately 10 million-strong Muslim population base in the United States, the number of politically active Muslims remains small. The American Muslim Alliance (AMA), for example, has only 5,000 members and politically active organizations such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) do not have a strong grassroots base.

Other organizations, such as CAIR, which does well at the grassroots level, are politically sensitive but not politically active per se. And the Coalition for Good Government, which has a large popular base within the sizeable African American Muslim community, is unfortunately more financially constrained than other organizations.

So how can the Muslim community tap its potential?

Reframing organizations may provide a way out of this political predicament. As L.G. Boalman and T.E. Deal illustrate in their recent book, Reframing Organizations, reframing is essentially a creative approach to problem solving in which multiple perspectives and political realities are taken into account.

Reframing creates metaphors for organizations to help people generate innovative ideas. Some typical examples of this approach would be to look at an organization as an organism, a brain, a family, a drama, a psychic prison, or a political system. As a result, a particular organizational issue is given a specific meaning, environment and behavioral dynamic. Drawing a complex matrix of such images could allow Muslim organizations to awaken the consciousness of the Muslim masses, shaking them from their slumber of political inaction.

Such a reframing can begin at multiple levels with multiple nuances. Ideally, Muslim leaders must first liberate themselves from the traps of narrow thinking. They must develop a communicative community environment in which openness and dialog thrive, intra- and inter-organizational networks grow and good ideas generated at any level find appreciation and sustenance. At all levels, they must abandon the autocratic mentality that characterizes the barren leadership of most Muslim countries. And once the Muslim masses are involved and politically sensitized, influencing the American political system will come more easily.

Mohammad A. Auwal is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and is a regular columnist for

  Category: Nature & Science
Views: 671
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