Laila Murad 0

Don't limit our access to Islamic education

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Dr. Salah-uddin Kazi
Dr. Syed Abdul Latif
Mufti Ikram Ul Haq
Dr. Mohamed Yakub Puthawala
Dr. Mohammad Arif
Fawad I Qamar
Janu N Memon

Dear Board Members of Masjid Al Islam,

We are writing to express our concern with your recent announcement regarding events that charge a fee being held at the masjid.

We believe that your decision is detrimental to the access our community has to Islamic education and also reinforces a harmful mentality that devalues the worth of Islamic education and activities. You say you would like to make sure that these important classes and workshops are accessible to all, however in reality, this will lead to us and our children having less access to such information.

We appreciate all of those who are willing and able to volunteer their time to teach these classes and workshops for free, but we understand that our community volunteers have many obligations and can only do so much. If we place too much pressure and expectations on our few community members who volunteer their time, this will lead to burnout and eventually there will be even fewer qualified individuals willing or able to teach such classes. We have seen this happen over and over again and know that it is unsustainable. We also know that because of a lack of time and resources, our dear volunteers will only be able to give a limited amount of energy to develop, teach, and host these workshops and classes. There will be fewer options available to us as a community.

In addition to the time and energy that is required for such classes to be taught, there are often many expenses associated with these events, and the fees charged may only cover the overhead costs at best, meaning these volunteers are not getting paid and are sometimes even paying out of their own pockets. Who will cover the costs of these expenses that are necessary to make the classes and events happen? We believe that it is fair for the organizers and teachers to ask for registration fees to cover these costs. We also believe it is fair for them to ask for fees to reimburse them for their time and services. It should be our choice as community members to pay to have these options available to us.

In addition to your decision to limit our access to invaluable information by limiting the classes and workshops that will be available, you are also taking people away from the masjid as a community space that we can gather. We will be having to gather elsewhere, outside the community, to access this information, rather than being in our own masjid that should be a safe and wholesome place for us to gather. Instead, those who would like to teach and host these important events will have to look elsewhere for venues, which will most likely have costs associated. This will increase the overhead cost of events and classes, thus increasing the fees charged for events and making them even harder for us to afford. If the board would like to lower the cost of these important classes and workshops, it makes more sense for the masjid to offer its space as a venue.

An important event has already been cancelled due to your decision. Even though the people who registered for the event were happy to pay the event's fees to cover the overhead costs, they were deprived of the information because you cancelled the event. We deserve to have these options available to us, not taken from us.

We also reject the growing mentality that Islamic education and services must always be offered for free. Many of us gladly register our children in sports and other extracurricular activities, making sure to budget for these programs. Should we question paying similar fees for Islamic courses? Shouldn't we prioritize investing in our children's and our own Islamic education? We do not question the salaries that other professions make, and oftentimes give more respect to them but devalue those who teach us about our religion. This takes respectable, halal jobs away from our community and also informs the younger generations that Islamic education is not valued and that they should strive for other, "respected", money-making careers. It is no secret that we are struggling to find and develop leaders in the Muslim community from the younger generations and we may soon find ourselves without knowledge, community and leadership. Decisions like this one are a big part of the problem.

Again, we appreciate volunteers that make free classes available at Masjid Al-Islam possible and ask that Allah reward them immensely for their efforts. We hope that you continue to do what you can to make classes and workshops that are free and available to all in a sustainable manner, but we ask that you not take away our choice and access to classes that do charge a fee and that you do not participate in the devaluing of Islamic education and leadership.

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