And the “Survey” Says…

By Ann O’Brien Ahmad

ASAK. On August 17, the results from the one-question “survey” were announced. It is important to remember that the community was only asked to indicate whether they wanted the prayer area on two floors or one floor. The community was not asked to give input on any other aspect of the project, including overall cost, use of the current prayer hall as a social hall, whether the proposed prayer hall was too large, whether a basement was needed, whether the lobby was too large, when the classrooms will be finished, etc. Despite the community’s concern about so many aspects of the expansion project, they were only asked to give input on this one issue.

A couple members of the Board of Directors opened and counted the surveys. Br. Fasahat Hamzavi was supposed to be part of the committee opening the surveys, but he was removed from this duty after announcing the alternate expansion plans.

Per the tabulation announced by the Board, 275 member surveys were returned, with 187 (68%) voting for the sisters’ area on the second floor, 29 (10.5%) voting for the sisters’ area on the first floor, and 59 (21.4%) voting for other.

At first glance, this looks like a strong endorsement by the membership for a two-story prayer hall. However, approximately 800 surveys were mailed out, meaning that only 34% of the members took the time to respond to the survey. Why did such a small percentage of the members respond?

The citizens of the United States are often criticized for their apathy when it comes to voting. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.6% of eligible citizens voted in the 2008 presidential election, almost twice the number that voted in this survey. And it’s much more difficult to vote in the presidential election than to return this survey. For a presidential election, you have to drive or walk to your precinct, stand in line to verify your identity, figure out how to vote, and then fill out the ballot. It can easily take an hour or more of your time. For the survey, all that you needed to do was check off your preference, fold the survey, and mail it in the postage paid envelope. It was a blind survey, so you didn’t even have to include your name on it.

So why the apathy toward the survey? This is a decision that will impact the organization for decades. Yet, an underwhelming number of people actually filled out the survey. If you take the number of people who voted for a two-story prayer hall (187) divided by the number of surveys mailed (800), then only 23% of the members actually voted for a two-story prayer hall. It is my understanding that significantly more members than that have signed the survey requesting that IAGD Administration approve an expansion plan that costs no more than $5.0 million and takes no more than 2 years to complete.

Did the members who signed the petition not send in their survey? Did people not respond because they were not able to voice their concerns about other issues related to the project? Were people confused about what they should do? Do people not care about the expansion? Do people feel their voice is not being heard so there is no point in filling out the survey? What do you think?

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Akhtar Osman on August 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    It is my understanding lots of members didn’t received the survey to response
    I have indicated Mr. Hussain Akbar that I have not
    received the survey, how could I respond to his survey on time.
    Still he had to response to my request, why I have not receive the survey, although I am a long standing member of IAGD.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tabassum Halim on August 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

    All: ASAK.

    I think its time to move on.

    We have been talking about expansion for years. There is no way all of us will ever agree on any plan 100 percent. I think the board and leaders of the community has done a decent job of informing the members with in the process to best of their ability. Since a majority of members either agree or have not voice there openion one way or we need to come to some decision and move forward. We cannot be going forward two steps and one step back all the time?

    So lets agree to disagree on some things we still not agree upon and move forward and support in what ever way one can.

    If we do this we will have a Center/Mosque we all can be proud off. Insthallah.

    Its time for action now. Lets get going with construction?

    I know some of you will not agree with what I have just said, which is OK.

    Sincerely.

    Tabassum Halim

    Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on August 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    We can not just leave the subject .As you have seen that most of the community members ,for one reason or the other, didn’t get the chance to let their opinion heard.Either they didn’t get the survey at all or there wasn’t enough time left for them to mail it in time.

    The other thing is that the religious dimension of the issue has not been addressed properly . The admin(BOD &BOT) haven’t produced a solid religious authorization to convert a prayer hall into a social hall.Whenever someone has asked them ,they have said our IMAAMS have no objection .Why can’t they bring a FATWA from any religious body which is free from there influence (Eventhough the phrase “FATWA SHOPPING” is common now adays ).The authenticity of that FATWA might be challenged by some but atleast the admin will have a solid ground to change the prayer area ..Right now these doctors and lawyers, just directly challenging the religious decree and making people think that whether they should come to the new structure or not because there might be AZAAB of ALLAH. And for sure they have planned to donate to other MUSALLAS in the area instead of donating their precious $s to IAGD.

    People should understand that according to Fiqah they cannot change the prayer area into anything other then changing it into classes for religious purpose(like HIFZ SCHOOL , SUNDAY SCHOOL etc).The social hall is a big NO . Because so many AHKAAMS of ALLAH will be destroyed over there (mixing of males and females , females without covering themselves properly ,putting a lot of makeup and chatting with NAMAHRAMS.)

    People ,who don’t know the religious dimension can go on Internet and can check themselves that what is the religious decree. If we can spend so much time in chatting and browsing through junk why not for some religious knowledge??

    Reply

  4. Posted by Anonymous on August 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    my brother and me paid our membership fees at the end of July and didn’t receive the survey in the mail. either did my aunt or uncle. seems like a lot of people did not received the survey.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Muhammed G. on August 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I did not receive the survey in the mail and the response after inquiry was that because of late membership renewals, it would be in a second mailed batch. Regardless, I would not have filled in the survey specifically due to the following reasons:
    – no priorities on an Islamic School
    – it consisted of the initial extravagant plan submitted by the board of trustees
    – the manner in which this argument has resulted in personal attacks, deceptive & scrupulous actions that are so unbecoming (haraam) of the umma of our beloved Nabie (SAW)
    – there is a deep, long-brewing animosity between members of the two parties involved that boils down to much more than just this proposed expansion.
    Having said this, I also believe there is no ‘democratic’ manner of dealing with things in our society that puts cultural influences ahead of Islamic principles. The members of this blog and others have diligently opposed this mass expansion with the valid argument of spending our money wisely and on more beneficial components which would have a greater influence on the growth of the community than elaborate decor.
    At the end of the day I had openly voiced my support for placing focus on the Islamic School and also voiced concern of wasteful spending while at the same time agreeing that there was a need for increased prayer area space. Ironically I got chastised on both ends for one, not donating a cent to even deserve a say (which by the way was my intention and not due to frugality but because I would rather donate to the poor, islamic education) two: for not taking a more hard-handed stand against the expansion for fear of being a social outcast.
    So with these two reactions, I decided that this community has allowed cultural and personal views to cloud this entire discussion and at the end of the day, if the money is being injected into the masjid by the members of this community (which they have a choice to not do), then the people who have been voted in (whether through honest tallies or not) have the means to continue with their proposed agendas. Unfortunately we cannot do anything about it after speaking out against it but can pursue the next step which is to try and vote new directors in. I heard of community members being told that if they don’t like the way things are run, then go to a new mosque. Well, I am not going anywhere but will not contribute a cent to this project.

    Reply

  6. Posted by BC on August 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    A family member of mine paid her membership dues on the last day possible (I think July 31st) and received the survey in the mail. I paid our’s earlier in the year, and received the survey as well.

    Regardless – there were surveys available in the lobby if you didn’t get one in the mail, which were also counted.

    The people who voted are the people who actually care and will donate regardless of what the board decides – just as only informed citizens vote in US elections.

    Low voter turnout has been a problem for years at IAGD, and I don’t remember anyone questioning the legitimacy of the process because of that.

    I agree with Sr Tabassum, it’s time to move on. Our community has spoken, even if some of us, myself included, don’t agree with the outcome.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Anonymous on August 21, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    This is another example of feudal mindset ,which the pro plan E expansion people have.I can not understand how these elders have influenced these young minds that they are not ready to accept even the most logical arguments . Like if you have raised 2 millions in 10 years how are you going to raise 4-6 millions in 3 ,4 years(no answer).Why don’t you think about the needs of younger generation?(we didn’t get it when we asked for something In the masjid when we were young how can you get it when you ask for it). Ask about religious dimension and for them it is a non issue.
    Well if you have the wisdom of a leader ,you would have been trying to,keep the community together instead of giving them a down look and passing remarks that ,” This masjid doesn’t depend on your few dollars “or ,” if you don’t like it go to some other mosque “.
    If you don’ t need those few hundred dollars why are you asking for them (even in tahajjud prayer of the 27th RAMADAN). What makes so you desperate that you spoiled the most precious moments of the blessed month.Goahead and start digging and prove it what you are saying is not a lie or a rumor that you have the donations and people have pledged that as soon as you start working we’ll give you the money.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Anonymous on August 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    An importan thing Tabassum Halim is not a sister he is a brother 🙂

    Reply

  9. Posted by Tabassum Halim on August 22, 2012 at 7:54 am

    One comment regarding the converting the Prayer area to social hall

    There are lot of places which are converted depending upon the time and circumstances of the location of the structure. Our community buys and converts of Churches to Mosques and in some countries ( Turkey, India come to mind) convert mosques to other places of worship//museums.

    If our regious leaders/Imams do not see a major problem in this conversion, I would go by their recommendation.

    Like I said before, we are not going to agree on everything. Lets agree to disagree to the great benefit of the community. Thanks.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Rodney King's Ghost on August 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t feel passionate enough about this issue to have a strong opinion either way, which probably makes me like the majority of the community. It is my understanding that this was not the first survey sent to the membership. There was one sent much earlier in the process to gauge the community’s wants/needs and there were only a handful of responses. The BOD/BOT–as they have in the past–took this apathy as a mandate that the community would rather they make the decision. Once the decision was made, a general body meeting was held last Spring for the purpose of informing the community of that decision–not to start taking new suggestions. The BOD’s arrival at the final plan was not as transparent as it should have been, but transparency is a tricky thing. Had the community been invited and consulted on every aspect of the expansion project, there would probably still be arguments about what color pen should be used to take the meeting minutes. There is probably a balance that could have been achieved, but the community’s initial apathy combined with the BOD/BOT’s being accustomed to doing things their way made it unlikely. Granted, I may not have the correct facts and sequence of events, but that’s not the point of this post. My concern is the aftermath.

    With the U.S. election season upon us, the community seems to be borrowing from the absolutist campaign rhetoric where, on the one hand, the BOD’s decision will lead to bankruptcy and the ultimate demise of the IAGD. On the other had, the BOD/BOT and their supporters question the religiosity and loyalty of the dissenting voices adopting the “you’re either with us or against us” Bushism. These opinions are both ridiculous and extreme and hopefully represent the polar fringes of the community.

    To the first fringe, the masjid will survive and thrive inshallah regardless of which plan is selected. If the funds come up short the plan will be modified or will be covered by a loan as has been done in the past. Structurally and timeline-wise, It may not be the masjid/school you wanted, but it will be yours to mold and nurture going forward. Before blaming the BOD/BOT for their poor decision-making, recall that you and the collective membership made a decision before they did. As de Toqueville said, “people get the government they deserve.”

    To the other fringe, questioning the religious commitment of those with whom you disagree suggests that your emotions have clouded your reason and it might be time to step down and/or remove yourself from the conversation. The default position where all conversation should start is that EVERYONE has the best interests of the community in mind.

    The best thing that has come from this is that many more IAGD members will henceforth take a more active interest in community affairs. Equally important is that the BOD/BOT realize that unilateral decision-making without community involvement is folly. Hopefully, going forward there will be improved communication through open dialogue leading one of the few non-dysfunctional Muslim communities in the U.S.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Tabassum Halim on August 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Also.

    Its not the first time nor will it be the last time, people have concluded that I am a sister from my name. No worries.

    LOL. 🙂

    Reply

  12. Posted by Muhammed G on August 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah is pleased with you about three things and He is angry with you about three things. He is pleased that you worship Him, not associating anything with Him, that you all take hold of the rope of Allah and that you give good counsel to those that Allah has put in authority over you. He dislikes you engaging in chitchat, asking a lot of questions and squandering wealth.”

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on August 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Brother this is not chit chat! It is incombant on us in the democratic process to raised questions on wrong decisions…. Allah ( SWT) allow you speak truth.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Anonymous on August 28, 2012 at 10:21 am

    What is wrong with us? Have we forgotten that “Shura” – consultation – and consensus are the tools for a moderate (vs. dig-my-heels & draw-a-line) and accommodating community.Why can’t we talk with (not to) each other in a respectful manner? Why is so much anger resulting in unreasonable arguments? Where did we go wrong? What does Ramadan, Prayers, Quran, Hadith, religious education teach us? Why don’t we see any influence of our Islamic guidance on our behaviours? Why do we leave all stories of patience, brotherhood, tolerence, forbearance, politeness, comfort behind us and take poition of US vs. THEM? Where did that come from? Why have be become socially, intellectually, religiously, politically, emotionaly a bankcrupt community? WHY? WHY? WHY? Look in the mirror and tell yourself the truth – why are you angry? Can you come to a consensus (disagree but can live with a solution)? Make sure that you imagine yourself present in Allah’s Court and answering the question – WHY DID YOU NOT FOLLOW WHAT QURAN and MY PROPHET TAUGHT YOU ABOUT HOW TO BEHAVE? Be advised that we all (me first) are answerable for our behaviour to our Creator – Allah Subhana-hoo-Ta’Ala. Eventually, He is going to judge us and our intentions. Let us not work for destruction of ourselves and our children following us. Let us not walk on the path of ruin. A victory-in-Anger is a demise of a person, brother/sister-hood, family, and community. Are you ready to take that responsibilty?

    Get in a room (open to all), with a moderator, without anger, with politness to discuss and not blame, and continue until there is a consensus. You can do it but not when you dig your heels, not when it is we vs. them, not when arrogance takes over logic, not when listening (not hearing) is subservient to pre-disposed positions, not when we split into parties, not when we pretend to what others are iintending (as if we see their hearts – that is only Allah’s ability).

    Agree on principles before discussion, show respect to others and their arguments, do not undermine and idea/thought, and have the mindset of getting to an agreed solution. Nothing is impossible. You can do it – Keep the community together.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Tabassum Halim on August 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Personally I dont think anything is wrong with us. We all have to agree to disagree on some issues and move on.

    Just wondering why so many of our posts are by “Anonymous”. If we personally practice many of advice we have for others, we would do just, great.

    Just a thought.

    Reply

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