Getting Our Hands Dirty

Ali Elashram, Beneficiary, Center for Muslim Life at Maryland

Disclaimer: The ideas espoused by guest authors do not represent the views of the Center for Muslim Life at Maryland. They represent the views of the author and the author only.

Baltimore, MD –

It seems like many of us still suffer from a feeling of alienation socially.


CMLMD afforded me the opportunity to write some thoughts about this issue last winter, and I’d like to follow up with those thoughts now.

In short, it seems to me that as Muslims in the US we can do more to help ourselves socially, and that a big hurdle for us to clear is becoming producers of culture.

And as has been shared by Chaplain Tarif before, consumers don’t decide. Without being producers of culture, we’re pretty easy targets as scapegoats.

If Muslims are alienated because we look a certain way or any other outward marker, I wonder why and how the Amish can still ride in horse and buggies and dress in the manner they do without being alienated? That lifestyle is far more countercultural than anything I see from Muslims.

My hunch is the key to their enfranchisement is that they produce culture. They produce food, furniture, and much more, in addition to preserving their traditions.

They don’t simply abstain from aspects of the dominant culture, they produce their own culture that others benefit from. They are respected for it, as they should be, and they produce their way to social affirmation.

Throughout history, Muslims have always been skilled craftspeople.


They were known far and wide for the beauty and quality of their work. But, today, I’m not sure we can say that.

Many of the subcultures that make up the greater Muslim community in the US seem to buy in to a notion that working with one’s hands is a low-level function for low-level people.

How contrary to reality.

Having skills and commitment to a craft is a path to location in society and respect as equal members of it.

It just requires getting our hands dirty.

Ali Elashram is an alumnus of the University of Maryland (’12). He benefitted greatly from the presence of Chaplain Tarif Shraim in his formative undergraduate years.


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