Home>Posts>Community Issues>A critical view of Umaa by a former insider

A critical view of Umaa by a former insider

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19-July-2019

Dr. Pervez Shah a respected Urologist from DC, founded Umaa. He was also one of the pioneers of Appna. Umaa was founded in 2002 and had its first conference perhaps in 2003 Which was attended by over 4000 people. This was indeed a good achievement. The Shia Muslim community was excited about having a voice. […]

Dr. Pervez Shah a respected Urologist from DC, founded Umaa. He was also one of the pioneers of Appna. Umaa was founded in 2002 and had its first conference perhaps in 2003 Which was attended by over 4000 people.

This was indeed a good achievement. The Shia Muslim community was excited about having a voice.

Although the Shi’a population has increased by leaps and bounds attendance at Umaa events never surpassed the original numbers.

Looking at UMAA track record it seems obvious that the organization besides conducting a yearly conference was unable to succeed in its projected mission.

The stated mission of the organization was, 

“UMAA seeks to provide a forum to foster unity among all Muslims, to participate in civic and political responsibilities, to dispel misgivings about Islam and Muslims, to help fellow Americans better understand Islam through the Qu’ran and the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his Ahl al-Bayt (AS), and to take all necessary measures to help implement UMAA’s objectives including, but not limited to, the social, religious, economic, and political advancement of Muslims in America”.

1) UMAA seeks to provide a forum to foster unity among all Muslims – UMAA failed to do that terribly.  Not only that Umaa has advertently or inadvertently fallen in traps with a decade-old blood feud with no other than the another Shia organization in the USA, the Muslim Congress.

The fact is Umaa was never able to develop a system nor a forum to resolve conflicts let alone unity. There is not a single project that Umaa can claim it has nurtured over the years with another organization that has benefited Muslims.

2) To participate in civic and political responsibilities- there is no evidence to show Umaa developed any sort of rudimentary signs of civic and political responsibilities.

3) Dispel misgivings about Islam and Muslims, to help fellow Americans better understand Islam through the Qu’ran and the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his Ahl al-Bayt (AS)- Once again these hefty mission statements lack vigor and are slogans on paper. Besides hoping to help fellow Americans to better understand Islam we see no projects to achieve this goal. The only activity of Umaa for more than a decade has been a yearly conference which is at best a semi-religious attired social desi event with hardly 1%  of participants that are non-Muslim American that would benefit from teachings. 

4) Take all necessary measures to help implement UMAA’s objectives including, but not limited to, the social, religious, economic, and political advancement of Muslims in America – Perhaps the think tank and administration of Umaa were sleep when they wrote this. It seems they have taken all necessary measures to NOT implement the objectives for the advancement of Muslims. It’s a shameful failure.

While with the hefty mission, Umaa was well respected in the North American Shia community for whatever worth. It is when the present President of Umaa got in the game several years ago things turned for the worse. 

The marginalization of the founder Dr. Shah. Besides patronization, he was converted into a holy artifact. His founding friends within the organization threw their old patron in chief under the bus. The oligarchical clique running Umaa did not even have the courtesy to return his phone calls.

It does not take investigative journalism to see the obvious results besides the pervasive negative commentary of past presidents and past board members to understand that unfortunately, Umaa became an offshoot of Ehtesham Abidi’s personal property in its modus operandi. Up do this date they have no system nor terms of presidential election or selection.

Ehtesham ran the organization together with the brothers Rahat and Azmat Hussian, while Rahat was employed at his business.

There was no accountability, no reporting, no system, no coordination. The two brothers became the true henchmen of Ehtesham. While one would argue that they may or may not be in the board but nothing happened without them. 

Right from inception, Umaa had access to Washington and was consulted on Shi’a perspectives on Muslim national and international issues.

The news for Shias of North America is due to nature and whatever reasons for the inception of Umaa, this organization has been considered the Shia go-to forum for many NGOs, Governmental and Civil organizations in this country and Rahat was the only Shia representative appointed by Umaa for years. Being in these important forums representing the Shias of America one thing Rahat did at best was never caucus nor communicated with any other Shia organization nor the board members of Umaa of his activities.

The fact is no one has shown more discontent on Rahat performance then Dr. Shah who has been widely known to complain during Umaa conferences lately about his poor performance, lack of communication of his activities, taking directions, his arrogance and lack of respect for his job duties. Rahat did what Rahat thought or perhaps Ehtisham was enough to decide what was right for Shias of North America, alone. This has been going on for years in the era of the most severe Shia genocide in the world. No the voice was ever raised by Umaa on the Shi’a Genocide in Pakistan Afghanistan, Middle East, and Africa.No effort was made to have Washington speak against Anti-Shi’a laws in Place like Malaysia, or at the very least we see no evidence of it.

While Umaa may have had a solid start it is safe to say, it was not able to capitalize on its purpose and access to Washington. The issues facing North American and Global Shi’a community were never addressed. Thus the special position in Washington that Umaa gained at its inception was squandered by limited or negligible achievement for North American or Global Shi’a.

Umaa lacked transparency, vision, operation, communication, progress, and above all the responsibility to the charter.

Limited to one conference in a year with dwindling attendance there is nothing Umaa could claim in its list of achievements and responsibilities.

Governance has been limited to one man’s failed inspiration operating in strange secrecy with a group of self-appointed individuals and a Board of Directors that show no fiduciary responsibility.  

History will speak for itself and it is and because Umaa is a stated non-profit organization with religious objectives, its failure will echo and document for posterity and failures of its governing board and especially the president will be responsible for this burden in this world and hereafter.

Good wishes for Umaa is in the hearts of many American Muslims but seems it’s no more a matter of wishful thinking. 

Editor’s note:

“We are reproducing an unedited critique of North American Shia Organisations to encourage debate and different points of view. The content, views, information, or opinions expressed in this submission do not necessarily represent those of World Shia Forum.”

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