What a Difference a Year Makes

by Ann O’Brien Ahmad

ASAK. On February 11, 2012, the IAGD Board of Directors held an informational meeting for the sisters to discuss the expansion plan. That meeting was the catalyst that sparked a year-long debate over the expansion. On February 10, 2013, almost a year to the day later, the IAGD Board of Directions passed two motions (by a vote of 5 to 4) related to the expansion: 1) to halt all activity related to expansion plan E and 2) to host a community meeting to discuss an alternate expansion plan.

There are many things I find fascinating about our journey over the past year. But one of the most impressive is how much change our three new Board members have managed to accomplish from within the system, following established processes and procedures.

When these individuals became frustrated with the expansion plan, they talked to a huge portion of the community to find out how others felt about the expansion. Instead of grumbling in the background, these individuals found an innovative solution — $5 million in 2 years — and spent their time and energy to develop alternate expansion plans. When the IAGD Administration refused to discuss changes to the expansion, these individuals collected signatures from 400 community members supporting their vision. When the Board of Directors ignored the community’s petition, these individuals ran for the Board of Directors election with a specific platform covering three main issues. When they were elected to the Board of Directors, these individuals took leadership positions, so that they could accomplish their mandate from the community. Six months ago, they couldn’t get the Administration to listen to them; now, by the grace of Allah (SWT), they are the Administration.

And less than a month after taking on those leadership positions, two motions have been passed that will bring the expansion plan back to the community for the community’s input and direction.

There is still a segment of the community that believes that expansion plan E is so far along that we should just press forward with it. But why should we throw good money after bad? If expansion plan E does not meet the community’s needs, why press forward? The basement is not dug. The walls are not up. All we have is a preliminary plan on paper that has basically not changed in over four years. It is a plan that was developed without the community’s input. If we want to stop and reassess the expansion, now is the time to do so.

While we wait for the upcoming community meeting, as a community we should think about what we want and need from the expansion. To me, the key issues, ranked in order of importance, are:

  • The prayer hall should not be converted to a social hall. This is a religious organization. Above all else, we must make sure that we are following religious edicts. After reading 34 fatwas, two of which were written specifically about IAGD’s situation from two incredibly prestigious institutions, there is no doubt in my mind that it is religiously wrong to convert the prayer hall into a social hall. It makes no sense in the face of such strong opposition to go forward with this plan, based solely on a weakly worded e-mail from a member of the Fiqh Council of North America that didn’t even bother to provide religious support for its position. We do not need to convert the prayer hall to a social hall. There are alternative plans where the prayer area remains the prayer area. This issue alone should force us to abandon plan E in favor of a plan that does not convert the prayer hall to a social hall.
  • Our children and grandchildren should be the main focus of the expansion. Any expansion plan we consider will include a new and enlarged prayer area. But what much of the community is looking for is a place where our children and grandchildren can pray, grow, belong, learn, and play. All we get with plan E are an empty basement and huge prayer halls and lobbies. We need classrooms and activities and lectures and sports to engage our children. Why are we treating our school as an afterthought? Why are we shoving our children in the basement or in windowless classrooms? Why do our young men have to go to Unity Center to play basketball and soccer, when we have a better gym? Why does IONA’s youth program have activities several nights a week, while IAGD has few ongoing activities for the youth?
  • The cost of the expansion plan matters. We do not have unlimited resources. While there is a cap on expansion plan E of $6.9 million, I still stand behind my estimate that the ultimate cost would be between $9 or $10 million. It has taken us 11 years to collect $3.2 million. My sons (ages 28 and 22) cannot remember a Ramadan where people weren’t begging for money for an expansion. Do we really want to be paying for this plan for the next 10 to 15 years? Why wouldn’t we want to consider a plan that will meet the community’s needs and only cost $5 million? Isn’t it time that we finished with the expansion and moved on to other projects?

As a community, our new leaders are giving us an opportunity to make our voices heard, to have a say in the future of the organization, to help direct the path of the expansion. We are being given an opportunity to sit down as a community and discuss our dreams for IAGD. And isn’t that one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children about Islam — that together we can discuss our views, even if we disagree, and reach a solution that is reasonable for the entire community?

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Choudhry on February 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    ASAK,
    Congratulations to those who worked hard for the CHANGE. I think now is the high time that new board should make the proper religious consent a constitutional requirement for every programme( future construction , programmes and activities) . It is a religious organization and not a club that just the opinion of some should be imposed on the religious opinions.
    Make the General Body meeting a free event for members only so that the work done by the BOT and BOD shoud be endorsed or rejected by the membership . Try to do it on Sunday mornings to have more attendance.
    Set a precedence of this meeting in your tenure and make the community feel the strength of a member.Provide a venue where they can raise questions and get answers. Ask the imams to be a part of this meeting so that their free consent shoud be heard.
    An important constitutional amendment that is required, is reducing the term of trustees from 10 years to 5 years . All the chairs of different committees should be elected and not nominated.
    These are to mention few .Lets see where the stream of thought of newly elected directors takes them.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

      If the Hagia Sophia can be converted from a cathedral to a mosque and then to a museum by pious Muslims, surely our puny little prayer hall can be converted into a social hall. The fatwa arguments on either side are totally bogus, retrogressive and indicative of the ummah’s primitive mindset. I am glad I am not a member of IAGD any more. It is only a matter of time before this thing is dragged into the courts and the bailiff puts a lock on the front door.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 10:59 am

        This is called ignorance. I am glad that you are not a member of IAGD. People like you could be very harmful. We should not be that negative. No body should be talking about going to the courts. BOT are not bad people. Only couple of them are very stubborn but they will come around. Just be pacient and let the events take its course. We are all educated people and living in a very civilized country. IAGD has a nicely written constitution and a system in place, if we follow them we will not end up in the courts.

      • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm

        I partially agree with you that if we have gone to city office to settle down our issues, one day we may end-up reaching courts. After all we (having roots from sub-continent) are well-known for blaming others for our own mistakes. We should accept the fact that we were brought up in society/communities where it is always encouraged to compete rather than cooperate. we have less followers in our communities than leaders. To save our ego we can go up to extent to disrupt big causes. I lived in three many places where Muslims were in minority. I have also observed that whenever masjids were administered like IONA masjid, where people follow Ameer strictly, they don’t face situation like IAGD.
        Having said that, I will say that before giving up and letting our next generation hateful to our own community, we have to accept the challenges and at least should try to educate our neighbors and close friends that we better leave the drawing room politics, saying bad things in Masjid hall from Asr to Isha about fellow brothers. Leaving Masjid is not solution, particularly if we are not going to join other masjids. I will also say that we can learn lot from our Indonesian and Malaysian brothers and sisters who mostly i saw working in team for common causes. Though they spend one tenth of the time we sub-continent people spend on masjid, but they are more effective mainly because of team work and consistency.

  2. Posted by Anonymous on February 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    ASAK. I agree with all the points Choudhry Sahib made accept one, I do not know about the chairs of the committees but the Trustees should be elected by the membership, not the BOD one each year for five years term.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      ASAK. We are living in a democratic country and we should not be talking about strictly following a Ameer like IONA because it sounds like dictatorship. Even though some times it looks like that we have dictatorship kind of situation at IAGD, it is not set up like that. We are fortunate to have a very well written Constitution, Bylaws and establish system at IAGD. As long as we follow these we don’t have any problem. The problem is some times some of us try to interpret the way we like it or totally ignore them. It becomes even worst when some of our senior members and leaders start doing that for whatever reason. If the situation is in there favor they are ok with it and when the situation is not in there favor they start making the new rules as the go. Democracy is not the problem, following it properly is the issue here. It is just like having a concept of Shura in Islam.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2013 at 10:30 am

    There should be a restriction on father and son holding BOD and BOT position at the same time. Right now we have father as chairman of the trustees and son is member of the BOD and he was trying to become the President this year. Last year son was President and father was member of the BOT. Father was the chairman of the BOT and son was member of the BOD. Uncle was member of the BOT and the nephew was V.P. of the BOD. This year we still have two father and son teams and one uncle is a trustee and nephew is on the BOD supporting each other and keeping all in the family.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Aasalammu Aalaikkum, I’m saddened to see that well run organization was spoiled by few. May Allah show us the right path. Instead of making articles, statements and spreading rumors, please make specials duas for the well being of the organization.

    Reply

    • Instead of just sitting idle and making DUAS shouldn’t one be doing something practically ( try reconciliation between the two groups). It is written in Quran that you get what you strive for. Our Allah (SWT) ask us to stop the wrong and preach the right. If a larger group of people think that a religious organization should be run under religious commands …What’s wrong with it? Everything was done while staying in the parameters of constitution .
      Now the FATHER AND SON COMPANY is accusing another person ( first was br Mansoor ). This time it is the constitutionally elected president of the organization. Whenever you raise a question this company starts character assassination of the person instead of answering the question .
      WHERE WERE THESE BOTs FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS? They didn’t bother to communicate anything to the community .It seemed that all was well but nobody knows how much trash is hidden under the rug.its better not to wash the dirty laundry in public.
      It seems that so far the REKINDLING team has not done any personal attack on anybody but the FATHER &SON COMPANY is not doing anything but personal attacks.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Should not it be better if you guys put effort to do something constructive? Rather than saying bad words about others, why don’t you harness your energy to collect the money for some good cause ( not necessarily for IAGD).

    Reply

  6. Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Many of you were against sports hall and use to say “useless” and now you are talking about gym, sports center. Please raise yourself from personal issue and help to unite the community.
    Just wondering how community will agree on any new plan? Do you guys have some magic? Please share.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 1:40 am

      Yes, the magic is THE COMMUNITY, who has elected these new members with an overwhelming mandate, almost by 400 votes that was the number of members who signed the petition.
      Why are you forgetting that this was the team who was representing the community’s petition of abandoning plan E. IAGD members & community DO NOT want an extravagant, pricy and empty mosque where Salah area is proposed to change into a social area.
      If the BOT are so sincere in their intentions then WHY they can’t call a general body meeting or any members only meeting for input about their dream project. Community was never asked whether they APPROVE plan E or not? the survey was only about you want a single floor or two floor plan?
      Our respected BOT! Stop sending one way information to community, have open meetings and LISTEN to what PEOPLE want to say. Stop thinking about IAGD as your property, you are nominated members not elected by the PEOPLE.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Choudhry on February 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    It started with suggestions and hypothetical argument not with calling bad to someone .Why somebody is so sensitive about the mentioning of FATHER &SON company. Isn’t this a fact that these teams resist to the rationale .

    Reply

  8. Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Choudhry Sahib, you are right, it is a fact that these teams resist to the rationale. If you look at the recent 5 to 4 vote for the motions three of them are sons and nephew of these BOT. The forth one is scared of these three, and can not go against them.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      May ASWT have mercy on the forth one. He should do the right thing.

      Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      I think the forth one you mentioning got the highest vote. He always supports the issues rather than people. The problem with you guys is that whoever is not agreed with you , is not part of community.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

        No body said that forth one is not part of the community. They are the one who put him on this position to represent them but he is not doing justice with it. He hardly says a word and sits in Board meetings like he is not even there. How can you support the issue by not having your opinion and giving an explanation. In one of the Board meeting he barely spoke and gave his opinion, the next minute one of the other three shot him down and he voted against his own motion. I don’t think that he can take the heat.

      • Posted by Anonymous on February 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

        ASAk. We are all part of this community. Having a difference of opinion, nothing wrong with that. We all have different personalities and different capabilities. Every body is not capable of handling the situation we are in right now. This Brother is a very nice young man but I don’t think this is his cup of tea. I heard this year he did not want to continue as the treasurer, there must be a ligitimit reason for that. May be some body should talk to him and find out. I agree, he does look scared when he is around other three, especially sitting in the Board meetings.

  9. Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

    ASAK. The problem with BOT is that they are there for too long and they feel the ownership of it. They are having hard time realizing that it is a community organization and community has final saying. They are there from the inception and having hard time to let it go. Because of that the organization is held back and is not flourishing . Instead of trying to impose there opinion, they should use there wisdome, sit back and advise, which is there job to begin with. They should not think that they are the final authority. Some of them are the one who wrote the contitution of IAGD.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Anonymous on February 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I think that most of the community will agree that we need new and young blood in BOT. There should be a term limit so the new people can come in with new ideas and are able to work with BOD, which is elected by the community.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mansoor on February 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Assalamu Alaikum.
      BOT should stop thinking that community dose not know anything.Community is aware and educated.
      BOT should stop insulting and undermining the community.
      BOT should stop making personal attacks and start dealing with the issues.
      BOD should ignore the unconstitutional letter of BOT to the community and keep on working to carry out the policies and the decisions of the General Body.
      BOD should do there best to accomplish thier mandate from the community.
      Just let the events take it’s coarse, after all is said and done the common sense has to prevail.
      General Body is the ultimate authority.
      Mansoor !

      Reply

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