I had a previous appointment to meet Imam Shamsi Ali in the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Our appointment was set for four in the afternoon. The driver of my taxi let me out at the corner of 3rd Ave and 96th street, where the Islamic Cultural center of New York is located. As soon as I disembarked from the taxi I recognized Imam Shamsi Ali. He was walking toward the mosque with a medium size Starbuck’s coffee in his hand. I walked faster and I taped on his shoulder. He immediately turned around and gave me a pleasant smile. We shook hands and he acknowledged that he was expecting me. We walked together toward the Islamic Cultural Center entrance and into a large courtyard. On the right was the Masjid “sanctuary” and on the left was a long corridor leading to the offices of the facility. He led me to his personal office. There we sat down and engaged in a very sincere discussion.
As soon as he sat behind his desk he said smiling,” You published our first discussion, I saw it”
Yes I did. I said “I hope you liked it”
With a soft smile on his face, he said, “Yes, it was good”. I thanked him for his time and our second meeting. He continued, “You are always welcome and please call me Shamsi. He immediately started the conversation with a verse from the Quran. “In the Quran, chapter 19, it explains that there will be a time when people from different places will come to Mecca by foot and lean camel. The interpretation of “Lean Camel” is not camel; it means other technological advancements incorporated into the life of Muslims.” He took a deep breath and continued “We are now living in that different time; we are living in the technological era. The social issues, criminal laws and the penal codes must be different. Mainstream Muslims need reformation.”
When I asked him to clarify the mainstream Muslims, I noticed that he used the expression of Mainstream for Muslims the same way I have used Moderate Muslims. Mainstream or Moderate Muslims are the great majority of Muslims that are not fully practicing Islam and have some reservations. They are the ones that media refers to as the silent majority.
I was happy to hear that we shared the same viewpoints. He was talking my language. Imam Shamsi Ali strongly believed that Mainstreams Muslims in America must play a great role in the Muslim world, because, America’s social economy, prosperity and in particular the values for human dignity and equal opportunity are the fundamental bases in Islam.
We discussed and agreed that the seventh century barbaric laws “Shariah”, have no place anywhere in the world in any society. Imam Shamsi Ali rightfully believes that the Iranian government’s action to forcefully impose that their women must wear the Hejab is not Islamic. He then commented on women in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. “They are free to choose their own way of dress”. His remarks reminded me of Iran during the Shah when there was no official dress code for women.
I asked him if he was going to write an article for me to publish on the Concerned American Citizens website. He said “I have written an article in the Indonesian language for a news paper. I will translate it into English and will give it to you in a few weeks”.
“Imam, I could not contain my excitement, must I wait that long?” He replied “You can draft it, send it to me and I will make changes if necessary.” He continued “I believe that it is the responsibility of the American Muslims to do something in order to change the Muslim world. Our article must open the eyes of the American Muslims”.
I followed my line of questioning with one of my biggest concerns. “What is your opinion, it appears that other Imams believe that Shariah Law is the word of Allah and has superiority to any man made laws, such as the United States Constitution.” He immediately said “There is no word of Shariah law in the Quran. Shariah law has been written by others during the centuries. The American constitution has been written based on American values. It is the law of the land in America, and must have the superiority to any other law.”
I told him about my friend Tawfik Hamid and his article about the scholars in Al Azhar University. The scholars have started to discuss 10 points in regard to Islam reformation, including separation between the Mosque and the State. He found the subject very interesting and I promised him to email him the full report.
We concluded our very constructive and friendly meeting by promising each other to be in contact and communicating with each other. My first task is to draft Islam’s reformation in America for his editing in order to publish it on our Concerned American Citizens website.
Imam Shamsi Ali and I were convinced that after publishing “Islam’s reformation in America” we will be able to conduct a seminar with many other Islamic authorizes in America.
This meeting with Imam Shamsi Ali, as an Islamic authority began the movement to separate Barbaric Shariah laws from spiritual Islam. Imam Shamsi Ali has the courage to clarify the difference between Mainstream Muslims who respect the United States Constitution and Radicals, extremists, fundamentalist Muslims who have created mistrust among all.