Back in 2001, on two occasions I had the opportunity to meet Abdur Rahman, then the recently arrived Imam for the Santa Barbara area Islamic Community. This was in the months prior to 9-11, and then when 9-11 occurred, I invited him to join in an interfaith service of Remembrance and Prayer. He graciously accepted that invitation, serving as one of three speakers. He would reprise that role a year later, and appeared at countless events interpreting Islam to our community. We had a number of opportunities to sit and share about our respective faiths. A relatively young man, he showed wisdom beyond his years. I consider him a friend and have appreciated his willingness to go where needed.
Sometime last year he asked me to help him in an INS matter, which I did by sending a letter of reference. We hoped that his immigration status would be cleared up -- he had come into the country on a religious worker visa. Unfortunately the government has ruled against him and he must return to England. Apparently the reason is that he violated his visa -- by selling spiritual texts on line. It is true, he runs a publishing company and provides spiritual texts and guidance online, but surely this is a technicality.
My greatest concern is for the fledgling Islamic community, to which he has given leadership. They were set to finally build a mosque in the community, now that is certainly on hold. Thus, they are in my prayers. My prayers go as well to him and has family as they must make a quick exit from the country. I pray that he'll be able to return soon, for his community will need his leadership.
We talk about the need for "moderate" Islamic leadership and then when we have it, we get rid of it. Not smart!