Sanctifying Marriage – Not The Role of Government – Muslims Can Differ In Opinion

April 21, 2013

Imam Johari Abdul-MalikThe Washington Post recently quoted only a “sound bite” of my comments on marriage in America, the role of religious interpretation, government and law.  My comments were distilled into a discourage about same-sex marriage, which is a narrow slice of my comments.

From my understanding of the Qur’an, marriage in Islam is between members of the opposite sex.  Yet, I believe that people can engage in many types of sexual behaviors and still be Muslim.  The goal is to try to understand God’s message and then to apply it.  The way one has sex is not be their public definition.  As a person of faith, the primary identifier is one’s relationship with the transcendent God/Allah and not one’s appetite for food, drink, sex, race or gender.

In America, religion is a very personal thing.  As such, very few individuals like to be told how to define their relationship with God and wish to define their relationship with God on their own terms without government involvement.  It is for this reason that I believe that faith in America is still very vibrant, while it is falling by the wayside in Europe.

Likewise on the issue of marriage, I do not believe that our government should ever have gotten into the business of “sanctifying” marriage. In other words, the gov’t should not define what “is” and “is not” marriage any more than they should define who “is” and “is not” a Muslim, Christian or Jew. In marriage, the gov’t should only be in the business of enforcing binding contracts between adult aka “civil unions”!

The issue of (religious) marriage as should have been put into the authority of religious communities. If we do that then, everyone would be free to practice whatever they like in their own religion as long as they do not infringe upon the constitutional right of others.

This is perfectly in line with my own faith tradition. The Qur’an says:

“To you be your way and to us be our way….”

Within Muslim history there have been many groups, sects, offshoots and various interpretations of the faith, each group interrupting the scriptures on their own terms in context, content and time and today is no different.

I have a particular reading and understand of Islam that puts sexual behavior in the light of specific verses and prophetic traditions, but he priority in religion is to find out what God wants and then to do that, not to find out what you want and then find the text that you think allows you to do it.

Imam Johari Hosts First Muslim-Media Roundtable

February 26, 2013

February 26th 2013, Imam Johari Abdul-MalikImam Johari Abdul-Malik is launching the Muslim-Media Roundtable Busboys and Poets (1025-5th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 at 11:00am.

The Featured Presenters:

Sara Fitzgerald has served as a member of the board of directors of the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.) since 2009. She worked as an editor and new media developer for The Washington Post from 1979 to 1994, and supervised its Religion page in 1980. She has also worked as an editor and reporter for National Journal magazine, The St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), The Miami Herald and the Akron Beacon Journal. As director of member services for the Interactive Services Association from 1994 to 1996, she worked on many public policy issues involving the early online industry. She is former president of the board of directors of the United Church of Christ’s Central Atlantic Conference, the denomination’s regional organization covering the area from New Jersey to Virginia, and is a longtime member of Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington. She is the author of the recently published biography “Elly Peterson: ‘Mother’ of the Moderates,” published by the University of Michigan Press. She holds a B.A. in history and journalism from the University of Michigan.

Cheryl Leanza, principal in the A Learned Hand consulting firm (, currently serves as public policy adviser to the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.) and as co-chair of the Media and Telecommunications Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Her other clients have included the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the Future of Music Coalition, Public Knowledge and Native Public Media, among others. In addition, she served for over six years as the non-profit Media Access Project law firm, and as a staff member at the Federal Communications Commission. She holds masters and law degrees from the University of Michigan.

Muslim Media Roundtable

To facilitate broader and stronger relationships between Muslim (religious and civic) leaders and media professionals based on mutual trust and understanding.

Main Objectives:
Foster enhanced understanding of the issues (cultural, financial, geopolitical, historical, philosophical, and religious).
Facilitate introductions to the press of new resources across the Muslim community for press corps outreach as circumstances and issues warrant.
Create and maintain an environment of mutual trust among press corps and Muslims that will lead to greater cooperation and collaboration.
Facilitate relationships that will result in accurate, consistent, fair and balanced reporting on Islam and Muslims.

The Roundtable is the outgrowth of a private activist think tank, EMERGE786. The roundtable discussions will not be sponsored by any national Muslim organizations.

For the Record
All of the conversations will be “off-the-record”. Journalists are free to follow-up with any individuals after the event with the caveat that they are not representatives of nor speaking for the roundtable organizers.

Individual Introductions (10min)
Panel discussion on a selected topic (30min)
Roundtable discussion (30min)
Lunch & networking (20min)
Total Time: 1.5 hours

Start Time: 11:00am
End Time: 12:30pm

Outreach Objectives
Develop opportunities for Muslims to experience professional mentoring
Create opportunities to develop relationships with editors and editorial boards.

Members of the think tank will develop a list of prospective audience participants that will be composed of individuals that span the media spectrum (print, blogosphere, electronic). The primary goal of the meeting will be to strengthen relationships between Muslim newsmakers and shapers and the media.

The intention of the think tank is to invite members of Washington media press corps to quarterly events. The purpose of the events will be to expand and enhance relationships between the press corps and members of the Muslim community. The ultimate objective is to create relationships that will in turn result in consistent, accurate, fair and balanced reporting on affairs that are important to Muslims and the society within which they live.

Prospective Invitees
The roundtable guest list will be developed with the intention to promote ethnic, gender, and political and socioeconomic diversity. Invited participants consisting of prominent members of the Muslim community will be asked to invite professionals from the media that they would like to attend.
The guests will be from across the spectrum, including (1) mainstream media, (2) Muslims, (3) leaders from leading Muslim organizations, (4) subject matter specialists for roundtable topics, and (5) individuals that have a personal story to tell regarding the topic of the day. The guests will be sorted into random groups for the roundtable discussions.

A committee will select topics after getting feedback from members of the media and Muslim organizations.

Media Representation
For each roundtable, the goal is to have a total of the following:
10 Mainstream media (This includes Muslims working in mainstream media)
5 Muslim Media (Those representing Muslim media).

5 Leading Organizations (examples)
5 Specialist and activists (examples)
5 Community Stake holders (examples)

Media Muslim Media Muslim Organization Specialist Personal Group

2 1 1 1 1 A
2 1 1 1 1 B
2 1 1 1 1 C
2 1 1 1 1 D
2 1 1 1 1 E

For each roundtable matches will be made from a random of drawing lots. The intent is to create a new mix of media people and Muslims. Each table will have a facilitator that will help to focus the conversation.

Frequency: 4-6 per year (Quarterly)
Before Ramadan
Before Hajj
The other roundtable discussions will be spaced across the balance of the year.

Please note the following proposed occasions for the discussions:
Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday mornings
During the late morning starting at approximately11:00 AM and concluding at 12:30 noon.

The Roundtable program duration will be for 90 minutes.

The roundtable organizers will host a brown-bag or low cost lunch. The Muslim Media Roundtable will strive to provide light refreshments.




The Federal Communications Commission’s report “The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age” This 360-page report, released in June 2011, found that while there has been tremendous innovation in the modern media landscape, there are also some very worrisome and consequential gaps in coverage. The full report, as well as an executive summary, is available at: 2011 Everett C. Parker Lecture in Ethics and Telecommunications (September, 2011) Video of 2011 Parker Lecture, presented by Steven Waldman, principal author of the Federal Communications Commission’s report “The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age” “Religion in the Media (December 2006-December 2007),” prepared by Douglas Gould and Company for the Ford Foundation’s Religion and Culture: Meeting the Challenge of Pluralism This report provided the third in a series of analyses of how the American media presented religious topics to the public and thus contributed to shaping Americans’ perceptions of religious institutions and practices. United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. The United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., (OC Inc.) is the media justice ministry of the United Church of Christ, a 1.1-million-member Protestant denomination Office of Communication, Inc.: United Church of Christ:

Join Imam Johari on NPR’s: Talk of The Nation

September 21, 2012

How DId Herman Cain Jump to the Front of the Pack and Fall?

December 6, 2011

Herman Cain was the “Putney Swope” Candidate. He never thought he would be the front runner and nobody else did. Just like Putney none on the right wanted to promote one of their own so they threw away their endorsements and “Putney Cain” got the chairman’s seat. As an Imam today I would not endorse watching the 1969 film but the lessons are clear……Sorry to see Putney Cain go but it’s just a case of “Truth and Soul” baby!

Putney Swope, a 1969 film written and directed by Robert Downey, Sr. and starring Arnold Johnson as Swope, is a comedy satirizing the advertising world, the portrayal of race in Hollywood films, the white power structure, and nature of corporate corruption.

Putney Swope, the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm, is accidentally put in charge after the unexpected death of the chairman of the board: each board member actually believed that he, himself, should be elected Chairman, but the bylaws of the corporation prohibit voting for oneself, so each individual member voted his secret ballot for the person that no one else would vote for: Putney Swope.

Renaming the business “Truth and Soul, Inc.”, Swope replaces all but one of the white employees and insists they no longer accept business from companies that produce alcoholwar toys, or tobacco. The success of the business draws unwanted attention from the United States Government, which considers it “a threat to the national security.

Who Was Anwar Al-Awlaki?

October 2, 2011

Who Was Anwar Al-Awlaki?  National Review tells the story of the Al-Awlaki that I know.

Radical Exiled American Imam Assassinated in Drone Attack

September 30, 2011

Upon the death of a person the Qur’an teaches us to say,

“innallilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon” translated “from God we come and to God is our return.”

Today, the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center acknowledges the death of a former Imam, Anwar Al-Awlaki.  While employed at Dar Al-Hijrah, he was known for his interfaith outreach, civic engagement, and tolerance in the Northern Virginia community.

However, after Mr. Al-Awlaki’s departure in 2002, he was arrested by Yemeni authorities and allegedly tortured.  It was then that Al-Awlaki began preaching violence.  He was killed violently in an apparent drone strike today. In recent years, while in his self-imposed exile, Mr. Al-Awlaki encouraged impressionable American-Muslims to attack their own country.  Al-Awlaki will no longer spread his hate speech over the internet to Muslim youth provoking them to engage in violence against their fellow Americans.

We reiterate that in Islam, as an American faith community, we do not accept violence nor extremism and recommit ourselves to our message living our faith in peace, tolerance, and the promotion of the public good.

The Qur’an teaches us:

“…. if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” 5:32

We must also add that in previous statements we have rejected the use of extra-judicial assassination of any human being and especially an American citizen which includes Al-Awlaki.  We reiterate our commitment to “due process under law” and justice and are concerned that the alleged drone attack sends the wrong message to law abiding people around the world.


*Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center is one the largest and diverse Islamic Centers in the nation. We are committed to service the community as a place of worship, education and social service. Learn more at


Contact: 202-345-5233   Imam Johari Abdul-Malik; Director of Outreach

ABC News 7: Interfaith services, unity gatherings promote understanding among believers, non-believers

September 14, 2011

Across America and the D.C. area, people of different faiths and no faith came together for unity and understanding on September 11.  Several houses of worship brought Muslims from the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic and Christians from Arlington, VA together.

ABC7’s Autria Godfrey has the story.

Imam Johari said, “Instead of 911 tearing us apart, it brought us together as a community.  The enemies of America and it’s people of all faiths lost that day and freedom of religion and consciousness was the ultimate winner”.


Rock Spring Congregational Church Interfaith Service.

A Closer Look At The Virginia Mask Law

September 14, 2011

Reprinted from WUSA9



The faith and civil rights  communities must join with legislators to amend this law to insure public safety while maintaining the respect for religious freedom.

Although, I do not subscribe to the school of thought that says Muslim women must cover their faces in public.  I believe it is their right to do so.  

While I must remind the readers that in Philadelphia some men have committed armed robbery while wearing niqab, the face veil.  


(WUSA) — As we’re approaching Halloween, you may want to refrain from wearing your mask in public before the scary day if you live in Virginia. Doing so landed a 19-year-old Spotsylvania man behind bars.

Wearing masks in Virginia’s public places is a felony that could land you behind bars up to 5 years. Attorney Robert Hall showed us the 1960 statute last amended in 1986. The code prohibits anyone older than 16 from wearing masks or hoods except on Halloween or for medical, safety, or weather reasons.  Why?

“This was oriented towards making Klu Klux Klan members be less intimidating by requiring them to disclose their identity,” explained Hall.

But what if you’re concealing your identity for religious reasons like many Muslim women? Surprisingly, there is no exemption: according to the law, that too is illegal.

“If someone thought it was important to their reelection or their initial election that they propose the prosecution of someone wearing a burkah, they could get them on this statute,” said Hall.

“Clearly, there should be a religious exemption,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik with the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. He says it’s a dangerous loophole that infringes on their civil rights.

He added, “Virginia has changed. There are people who cover their faces now who didn’t cover their faces in the 1960s.”

This is clearly an old law. Should Virginia take it off the books or update it?  Send your thoughts to or sound off on our Facebook page.

9/11 Anniversary: Local Muslims Reflect On Changes, Good And Bad

September 9, 2011

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, says the years after 9/11 forced the mosque and its members to come out of their shells.

WAMU 88.5

Play associated audioImam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, says the years after 9/11 forced the mosque and its members to come out of their shells.

Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church is the largest mosque in the D.C. area, and one of the largest in the country. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik says even before 9/11, Dar al-Hijrah was a microcosm of Muslim cultures across the globe.

“There are about 37 different languages spoken here, so anything that happens in countries of Muslim majority — I don’t want to call them the ‘Muslim world’ — there’s a connection here at this mosque,” Abdul-Malik says.

Since the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, however, the mosque, and Abdul-Malki himself, have had to make some adjustments. Abdul-Malik has had to explain exactly what those connections are. Many people want to know about Dar al-Hijrah’s former Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual Yemeni and American citizen who left the U.S. in 2002 and has since been linked to several terror plots.

And Abdul-Malik doesn’t shy away from discussing the controversies when he feels he can provide clarification and teach people about his religion. His face has become a familiar one on cable talk shows. He says 9/11 forced Dar al-Hijrah and the other Muslim communities to move beyond an introspective stance. He points to the expansion of the mosque’s charitable efforts.

“After September 11, it became apparent that [the mosque] didn’t really meet the standards of Islam to “Ta’am al Miskeen” — to feed the indigent person,” he says. The practice never qualifies that Muslims should only reach out to other Muslims. “But now in the post 9/11 reality, it had to be feeding people who are of other faiths,” Abdul-Malik adds.

Post-9/11 atmosphere has bred mistrust

But there are others that say the post-9/11 scrutiny has been detrimental to Muslim communities. Aziz Abu-Sarah, co-executive director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, says local mosques have lost a warmth and an openness.

“Nowadays, there’s a lot of fear of the person that says I’m interested to study Islam, because, often it’s the fear that this person is an informant,” Abu-Sarah says. “So even within the mosque, there’s this fear that there’s somebody spying on me all the time.”

Abu-Sarah points to a recent example of continuing community unease with Muslims in Northern Virginia: the opposition faced by Fairfax’s Islamic Saudi Academy. When it wanted to expand in 2009, there was vehement community push-back. The county’s board of supervisors ultimately approved the project in a close vote.

Abu-Sarah feels a conservative Christian or Jewish school would not have faced the same obstacles.

“I think that’s the way a lot of Muslims in Northern Virginia feel today … that we are targeted, mistrusted, and therefore we also mistrust the community,” he says.

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Muslim Americans say life has gotten more difficult since 9/11. That’s up from 53 percent who said the same in 2007.

But yet 79 percent of Muslim Americans rate their communities as positive places to live.

Among neighbors, much has stayed the same

Adnan Ansari agrees that on the community level, things are headed in the right direction. He’s the vice president of programs for Islamic Relief USA, which is based in Alexandria. Immediately after 9-11, Ansari says, some Muslim groups were asked to prove a negative: that they were not tied to terrorism.

But those questions died down quickly, he adds, and he and his wife find things are better at the neighborhood level than they’ve ever been.

“We live in Sterling, and whenever we leave we hand over the keys to our neighbor, and she is Catholic,” he says, laughing. “So as a couple there is no problem in any way.”

Back at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, Sabahat Adil, her hair covered with a shimmering, white patterned head scarf, is rounding up her staff to serve Iftar to women there. Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims break their daily fast during the month of Ramadan.

Adil directs the mosque’s social services outreach, and is very clearly a bit of a mother figure to women here. On a personal level, she says, her relationships with her non-Muslim friends, neighbors, and even strangers, are more tension-free than ever.

“I feel it has gotten better, definitely,” she says. “I don’t feel anybody is targeting me because I’m a Muslim, and I do wear scarf. So it’s all good.”

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Adil says things aren’t perfect, but local Muslims have a choice: seeing the glass as half-empty or half full. She’s choosing the latter.

Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque Opens Doors: Ramadan Without Hunger

August 21, 2011

Mosque Fights Hunger in Ramadan

DEBORAH POTTER, guest host: During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and then break their fast with a meal called the iftar. At one mosque in the Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia, several hundred people usually attend the nightly iftar, according to one of the imams, and this year they are welcoming even more, not all of whom are Muslim. The Dar Al-Hijrah mosque has announced a policy to allow in anyone who wants a meal. There are only two requirements: those who show up must be dressed appropriately and must be sober. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is the outreach director at Dar Al-Hijrah. He says he can’t tell who comes to break the Ramadan fast and who comes simply because of hunger. For him, it doesn’t matter.

IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK (Director of Outreach, Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center): The Prophet Muhammad said none of you are a believer if you go to bed with your stomach full and your neighbor’s hungry. So your belief, all this praying and all of your devotion is invalid if you can sleep at night knowing your neighbor is hungry. And in Ramadan this mosque feeds maybe 800 to 1,000 people every night, so I said, you know, if we are feeding that many people at night, will it matter if we feed an extra 100 people? One of the beautiful parts being in a very large and diverse mosque—I mean we speak over 37 different languages, have people come from every ethnic group. So when you look out across the community you see every complexion and style of dress and face, and so it is not possible to tell who is a Muslim and who is not a Muslim, and I have experienced it, and it is a good experience to know that you’re table is open, that your neighbor has gotten over the fear of you to join you to break bread. The Qur’an says that the food of the Muslim is lawful for the Jews and the Christians and that food of the Christians and the Jews are lawful to Muslims. This way we can all sit at the same table to break bread from the same God who has provided for all of us.


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