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Dissertation Defense for Mujiburohman A. Abas
May 2, 2017 @ 9:00 am - 11:00 am
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Serving American Muslims: The Development of Religious Authority in the Islamic Centers of Greater Lansing Area of Michigan
Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Time: 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Location: Baker Hall Room 454
Student: Mujiburohman A. Abas
Abstract: This research is an exploration of the natural factors and cultural processes behind the establishment of the Islamic Center of East Lansing and its roles in the development of an Islamic authority in the area of Greater Lansing, Michigan. The researcher has collected the data through the method of participant observation as an active member of the center’s organization since 2012, as well as semi-structured interviews with select members. Following the works of the scholars who have done research projects on Islam in Detroit area, this study will complement and expand the exploration toward the communities of “ordinary” mosques like those of Lansing locality, and hopefully be a part of the wider study of Muslims in the Midwest. Whereas the previous researches paid more attention on the early mosques built by the Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants who came to work in America since the turns of the twentieth century, this study focuses more on the period after the Immigration Act of 1965, which was followed by the influxes of more diverse and more educated young men and women who came to the country mostly for studying and pursuing professional jobs. The Muslim activists’ social backgrounds and global politics of the time resulted in the characteristic of the mosque they built in the end 1970s as a venue of rituals first rather than a mix of religious and cultural activities as happened in the early mosques of Detroit. At the same time, the more accommodative features of the Islamic center of East Lansing has made it the face of the Islamic representation of the area while the city’s community of African American Muslims also was undergoing a transformation from the path of the Nation of Islam (NOI) toward the mainstream Sunni Islam thanks to the NOI’s succession of 1975. Such pattern of social convergence transcended the ethnical boundaries and suppressed the sectarian
differences among the congregants of the East Lansing mosque. Consequently, the Islamic practices within the community becomes the object of Muslims’ public reasoning, meaning free exchanges among equal community members. The public reasoning will result in overlapping consensus, which will depend on the surrounding factors framing the processes. Consulting with the theory of habitus as proposed by Bourdieu and his elaborators, this study analyzes the factors that determine the production processes of the public Islamic rituals. First, this study looks at the establishment of the Islamic center as an achievement of the Muslim activists in the reterritorialization of Islamic authority within the boundaries of the property being in their control. Secondly, the kind of Islamic practices promoted by ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), to whom the Lansing Muslim activists are mostly affiliated, will be a determinant factor since the public services are hardly run without the activists’ initiatives and labors. From the point of view of the Islamic law science, those volunteer activists are the servants of fard kifayah, the collective obligation. It is with their active roles that the Islamic practices in American mosques will be shaped.