Can I Get a Witness? Mecca’s New Black Imam (Re)Mixes It Up

By Fareeda Ahmed

July 6th, 2009

So you want to make a difference?

Heal the world, make it a better place. I hear you.

But what can you do? After all, you’re just you.

But that’s ok. I’m a you, too. (Nice to meet you.)

So what do we do, the yous of the world. The youth who want to make a change, trim the stale beard of Tradition, and maybe put in some highlights. And even if the yous break through, will anything really change? The prejudice, the poverty, the predicaments of human existence. Will they bend to the protests of mere yous?

Yes, you can. As the historic Fall of 2008 has demonstrated, sometimes it takes just one other you to make it.

“Change has come to America,” said President Obama – a certified you, a black man from Indonesia/Hawaii, the son of a Muslim immigrant from Kenya – last November. Last September, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia selected a black Imam to lead the Grand Mosque in Mecca, a first for the highly-visible position.

The story goes something like this: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia picked up his 16G iPhone and called Sheik Adil Kalbani – a black Imam of humble beginnings and humbler disposition – from the deck of his crescent-shaped wave pool (I’m assured this is exactly how it happened). The King announced Sheik Adil’s appointment to be Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. And thus went out a groudbreaking signal: Saudi Arabia is open and tolerant. Sheik Adil’s race is not the issue it once was. The first black Imam of the Grand Mosque.

Looks like change has come to Saudi Arabia, too.

Every so often, a voice rings out that shakes up the world. And the world echoes back with energized cries for change and (r)evolution, be they personal or pandemic. What shocked and excited us about Obama’s election was his ability to croon to the disheartened youth, to inspire hope, to shine a light – all with his words. Now Sheik Adil, the “black nightingale” as he is called, will sing to the masses.

In celebration of these dissolved barriers to change, I’d like to end with a short rap.

(cue hot beatz track) We don’t have to look for rocks to cast off, or doors to break down, no walls to scale, or thug-backs to crack down./ (what? Yeah! Li’l John!) Sometime you do whatchu do, and the door opens wide, the fight becomes fair. The rock is lifted, the shackles bent, the tides are turned, and it’s evident, heaven sent./ We’re free, baby, it’s you and it’s me. Said Free, son, To be who yous be.  Take it back now.

Ok. I’ll keep working on that. But the truth is – you don’t need to be a president or an Imam or a rapper to make a change. Sometimes you don’t have to worry about being heard at all, you just have to listen. Listen to that message from a former you whose voice rises above all the noise; listen…and Holla Back!

Photo by Bryan Denton/The New York Times/Redux



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