Basheer Jones is a member of the city council of Cleveland, Ohio, and was the first member of the Muslim faith to be elected to that post. He is 2006 graduate cum laude of Morehouse College. Prior to his election, he had been a community activist and radio commentator in Cleveland, working on issues relating to social justice and the achievement of racial equality. The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) sponsored a discussion on Friday, Nov. 16, at Masjid Mu’min, the oldest mosque in Oklahoma, so that Jones could share his experiences with the diverse audience of mosque attendees and other community members.

Jones began his presentation by telling how he was originally a native of New York City and that his mother moved his family to Cleveland in his early youth. For a time, they resided in a Salvation Army facility there. His mother insisted that they needed to assist others despite their own poverty, and that the efforts he made to help others who were in worse conditions than his own endowed him with a sense of gratitude that remains with him today.

“Gratitude is an effective antidote to anger”

He told the attendees that the faith they share has endowed them all with strength and determination that had assisted them in their efforts to overcome setbacks that are part of life. He also pointed out that many of those present were Muslims before that faith was accepted as it is today in the nation and that their courage to practice their religion and the moral lives they lead has served to make Islam more accepted in the U.S. His ability to get elected to the Cleveland City Council, he asserted, was also a result in part of the Muslims in public lives such as sports and entertainment and other fields who had come before him. Jones described the duty to now work to protect the rights of not only Muslims, but people of other faiths and of those who have been marginalized in our society.

Jones continued by recounting the dark history of racism and sexism in America, and reminded his listeners that the first person to accept the Prophet Mohammed was his wife Khadija. He further asserted that Muslim women must be given the respect and recognition that they deserve. Jones praised his own mother, who encouraged him to believe in himself, and told with feeling of how she passed away more than a decade ago from breast cancer.

He told them that their devotion to their faith was an inspiration to others and that he hoped that Allah would bless them and their families and urged them to speak to one another with kindness and to reach out to other people of goodwill of other faiths. After he ended his presentation, Jones visited with those present on a variety of subjects and later commented that they have made him proud to be a Muslim.