The Boston Globe carried an article about Imam Talal Eid, former imam at the Islamic Center of New England (ICNE) in Sharon and Quincy. We've mentioned Imam Eid here several times, since his story is linked to that of Imam Muhammed Masood, the former Imam of the Sharon mosque, arrested last November as part of a religious visa fraud sweep.
Imam Eid has a loyal following, you might call it a refugee community, and he's managed to carve out his own role as an independent religious leader.
"Nearly 20 months since delivering his last khutba , or sermon, at the Quincy mosque, the Lebanese-born spiritual leader has reinvented himself as an imam "at-large." From his home in Quincy, Eid runs a one-stop shop of Islamic services that he calls the Islamic Institute of Boston. He performs marriages, officiates funerals, blesses newborns, and counsels quarreling couples and troubled teenagers. Last February, Brandeis hired him as the university's first Muslim chaplain, a role he performs twice per week on top of his twice-weekly duties at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he has been the Muslim chaplain for eight years. He has twice been invited to Ramadan dinners with President Bush at the White House and has been sent overseas by the State Department as the face of Muslim Americans."
The article provides some details of the controversy at the Sharon mosque. More details provided by members of the ICNE community who supported Eid can be found at the ICNE Founders Trust website. Nabeel Khudairi, president of the Islamic Council of New England, is quoted in the Globe article as calling it a turf battle. If you do call it a turf battle, exactly who was the battle between? Why is it that so often when I google the name of someone from the ICNE (like Dr. Khudairi's), there's a connection to the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB)? The ISB really seems to get its people into leadership positions of many area Islamic organizations (ICNE, IANE, ISGL, MAS, etc.).
More on how an "at-large" imam holds services:
"When he does need a mosque, a loyal core of congregants pitches in to get him one. So when Eid Al-Adha, one of two major Muslim holidays, arrived in the final weekend of December, area businesses such as the East Gas and Convenience Store and Haymarket International Food , along with several "anonymous community members, " donated money to rent a hall at the Tara Sheraton in Braintree. Eid performed two services, drawing at least 300 people between them."
Good showing! I heard there were more like 500 people there. The imam's perspective of religious sevice:
"There are two kinds of imams, Eid believes: those who stay in the mosque and study dogma, and those who go out into the community to serve it. And although he no longer has a mosque, Eid said he still has the original appointment from the Muslim World League, a theological and cultural entity in Saudi Arabia that certifies imams, that sent him to Boston in 1982."
The Muslim World League, according to the ICNE Founders website, is an NGO representing nearly 50 Muslim countries at the United Nations. It is mostly funded by Saudi Arabia (85%) and "spends millions of dollars each year sponsoring trained imams for Islamic organizations in the U.S. and Canada." Hmmm. Can't say I'm thrilled about that, given the track record of the KSA for exporting Wahabi radicalism to our shores. But Imam Talal Eid hardly appears to be a Wahabi Muslim. In fact, he's been criticized for being too moderate. Some of his followers believe that's why he was removed form his position at the Sharon mosque. Jihad Watch had a interesting entry on this in July 2005, quoting from a forum at Reviving Islam.com:
"Okay this guy Talaal Eid, I have meet him on a few occasions. This guy is a hardcore modernist who went and visited the Pope and made du'a [prayed] for Bush and the military and against the Iraqi mujahideen [jihadists] during Eid last Ramadan. He went around telling the media that his masjid [mosque] had been hijacked by "Salafi" ["pure ones," usually Wahhabis] extremists. I don't know him well or anything like that, but I know many brothers that do. This guy is wacked out. He resigned as Imam, and than decided he wanted to still be Imam and is now making lots of trouble because the board won't let him resign. (he is even threatening legal action)."
"As for being "beloved" from what I hear he was widely despised in Quincy and many people refused to even pray behind him and made a second juma'ah [Friday, i.e., the practice of going to the mosque to hear a sermon]. The Islamic Center of New England oversees two masajid [mosques]: one in Quincy and one in Sharon. I don't really know the community in Quincy, but I do know the one in Sharon (as I regularly pray there). This brother Rajab Aboubakr (BOD, ICNE) that is mentioned, I hang out with his son as I do with the son of Imam Hafiz Masood in Sharon (whom Talaal and his cronies make out to be "extremists")."
"....So you can be sure if the Ikhwaanis [members of the Muslim Brotherhood] around here hate this guy (and are willing to make takfeer of him [i.e., consider him anathema]) that he is really messed up. Talaal and several other secularists have been recently making alot of trouble in the community. Some of the secularists had threatened to crash a fund raising even a few months back when Siraj Wahhaj came and are now accusing Imam Masood of immigration violations."
There we go again with Imam Masood's name! The Globe article discusses Imam Eid's work with Muslim students at Brandeis, answering their questions about their faith. I take slight issue with one statement, which was how Imam Eid helped the students there to counter the criticism that verses in the Koran order Muslims to kill others. Eid "explained to her that the verses being cited were not commands but references to battles and historical events." Maybe so, but you need to get that message across to the thousands of jihadists around the world who use exactly these Koranic verses to justify murderous attacks on "crusaders, Jews and apostates." Don't tell us, tell those guys.
Regarding the situation of American Muslims, the imam says:
"You need to help Muslims abroad understand that Muslims, despite the difficulties, are having somewhat of a better life than any Muslim minority in the world....You find Muslims in the FBI, in the Army, police, as firefighters. Muslims are everywhere here."
I'm thinking that American Muslims have more opportunities here than in most Muslim-majority countries as well, or else why would they continue to immigrate here in such numbers?
The article teases that "There might even be a mosque involved." Hmmm...which one?
Godspeed to Imam Eid.