United We Stand, Divided We Fall
"United we stand, divided we fall," has become a cliche, but very few realize what is required to achieve unity--common purpose, goals, objectives, and fewer still are willing to surrender their personal ambitions, or perhaps their hidden agenda, for the good of the community.
Organizations are formed to overcome the limits of individual action. Informal organizations become formal organizations to overcome the limits of informal organization. Formal organizations cooperate informally with other organizations to overcome the limits of individual organizations. Ultimately, informal cooperation is insufficient, and organizations enter into formal relationships.
As a minority community in the U.S., with less resources than our competition, the only way to beat the competition is not merely by working harder. We must work smarter.
Washington is home to a few thousand such organizations representing the common interests of their member organizations, but Muslim organizations remain the exception. During the last decade, Muslim organizations have had modest victories through informal cooperation among ad hoc groupings of Muslim organizations, but have yet to move toward more effective formal cooperation among member organizations.
Prior to the 2000 elections, several Muslim organizations announced their support for candidate George Bush who was elected by a very narrow margin in which the Muslim vote in Florida played a significant part.
Following his election as president, George Bush, launched a massive attack on Iraq, announced his intention to move the U.S. in Israel to Jerusalem, and gave the green light to Ariel Sharon to attack civilians with tanks, and U.S. made fighter planes.
Now Muslims are asking: How was this decision made, and what did we get in return for our support? What are the goals and objectives of those Muslim organizations claiming to represent us? What are the sources and uses of funds received by these organizations? How can we work together to determine common objectives, and leverage our resources to achieve those objectives?
The answers are not forthcoming.
And while our organizations flounder, our competition is getting ahead. As a minority community in the U.S., with less resources than our competition, the only way to beat the competition is not merely by working harder. We must work smarter.
In his classic text, "The Functions of the Executive," Chester I. Barnard defines three essentials for successful organizations: common purpose, communication, and willingness to cooperate.
Common purpose requires the participation of as many representatives of the Muslim community as wish to do so, and effective participation requires a formal organization. Let us, for ease of identification only, call it the American Muslim Congress (AMC), a brief description of which follows:
The mission of the AMC would be to achieve consensus on goals and objectives for the American Muslim community, and to facilitate cooperation toward those objectives among AMC member organizations.
Membership in the AMC would be open to all Muslim organizations registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Initially, AMC would meet annually to determine these goals and objectives, and to keep them current based upon anticipated threats and opportunities. Later, two meetings per year may be required.
The initial Board of Directors would be the nominees of the first 20 organizations to join AMC, and they would be selected annually from among the top 20 organizations based upon the voting triad described below. The chair would be rotated annually within the Board of Directors. Funding for AMC (essentially a virtual organization with a part-time person for the first year, and one or two persons in later years) would be provided by a fee on all member organizations. The fee would be a percentage of the member organization's gross income--the AMC Board of Directors would determine the percentage based on the budget they approve for AMC.
Votes, based upon two-thirds of all member organizations, the number of contributing members in each organization, and the organization's gross income (a triad, weighted equally) would form the basis for all decisions by the AMC. As a condition of joining AMC, and retaining membership, each organization would be required to submit its IRS tax status determination letter, its employee identification number, its income statement for the preceding year, and a letter certifying the number of its contributing members.
To remain effective, AMC should exist solely to facilitate cooperation among other Muslim organizations. Its substantive work would be done by committees, task forces, etc. It's own, very limited staff would merely faciltate this cooperation, thereby, leveraging the resources of the entire American Muslim community.
The choice is ours. We can either muddle along while our competition gets ever farther ahead, or we can stand united to achieve our common goals--but first we need to determine what those are, before we can unite to achieve them.
Enver Masud is director of The Wisdom Fund. You can visit their website at www.twf.org. Copyright 2001 The Wisdom Fund.