An Interview with Omar Regan


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Omar Regan is the son of Imam Luqman Abdullah, the Muslim Imam who was gunned down by federal authorities last month in Detroit.  Regan says that his father was wrongfully murdered, but also states that he resented law enforcement because “they didn’t care about people in the hood.”  In spite of that, he earnestly asserts that his father did not promote violence and was always a proponent of peaceful dissent.

Regan, who is an entertainer, is most known for his “halal” comedy shows. Regan arduously draws funny stories from his personal life and tries to maintain a positive attitude throughout adversity. He shared memories of growing up with his father in a recent interview with this site. The following are excerpts from that interview.

On growing up with his father…

Growing up with my father, I grew to know that his style of pedagogy entailed being strict and stern about learning and being constructive. He didn’t like us wasting time.  His motto was “don’t waste time. Always study. Always read.” At the same time we had so much fun. In our early childhood we would entertain ourselves by banging pots and pans together and making up our own songs.  That pretty much encapsulated how we grew up; namely, we had a balance.

We were given responsibilities at an early age to ensure that we were  mature individuals; yet our home was always a safe and comforting haven. Our father was principled against all forms of mistreatment and took diligent care of his children and community. He didn’t like the government because of their negligence toward our impoverished community. He had a plan and would always say, “I want you all [his children] to grow up so you can help the people.”

His whole life was basically centralized on that principle: helping the underserved people of our city. For this reason, he devoted his long-term residency to Detroit’s neglected areas. He drove taxis for 20 years so that he could have a schedule that easily accommodated the five daily prayers. The prayers were very important to him. Through this business, he built a personal connection with many taxi cab drivers.

On how his father became an imam….

13745_1184056560668_1205858850_30446744_4873176_nI was one of the first muadhins at Masjid an-Noor.  I would call the adhan and he would lead the prayer. It is important to note however, that he didn’t even want to be the imam.  He frequented Masjid an-Noor and was studying at Chicago, which was one of his favorite things to do (i.e.  studying Islam). When the people of the masjid were breaking off, innovating, and doing things outside of Islam and he said, “We can’t allow this, we must stick to the Qur’an and sunnah.”

So they knew him for his commitment to knowledge and told him that he had to be the imam. In spite of his ardent refusals, they persisted in asking him and he finally conceded to their request and became the imam of Masjid al-Haqq in the slums of Detroit.

On his father carrying a firearm….

My father started carrying a gun after he was shot three times in drive-bys. Law enforcement harassed him a lot, and street gangs didn’t like him because he told them to take their drugs somewhere else.  We were outside the masjid and they came and open-fired at the masjid.  These things happened when we were young. After he got shot 3 times.  He started saying “Hey man.. I don’t wanna get shot again.”

On his father’s relationship and attitude towards non-Muslims…

A ton of non-Muslims are in the neighborhood and speaking right now about how much they used to love my father and how they knew him well on a personal basis.  Non-Muslims were never an issue, yet the media is saying otherwise. His only issue was with  trouble makers.  There are many non-Muslims that stood up for my dad, and are still standing up for him today. For years he was helping feed the people, volunteering with soup kitchens. Pastors in the neighborhood had sermons about him that mentiond what a great man he was and how the media had the wrong perception.  There’s an uproar in the community that is rooted on the loss of a noble resident and the lack of sympathy by the media.

On his father riling up his congregation with fiery sermons…

Sometimes after he got harassed by the police (such as when they broke a speaker when we were calling the adhan) he did have a fiery sermon.  “This is what is going on with these people,” he would say.  And he would wonder why they’re not messing with the drug lords.  We are trying to clean up the neighborhood and they were harassing us.

I can’t say that he incited violence at all.  He told people to depend on Allah and be afraid of Him instead of a few xenophobic police and government officials. He would critique these people for not abiding by their own laws.  That’s the kind of things that he would say.  That’s the “fire” they don’t like.

On the group that the FBI labeled as “The Ummah”…

“The Ummah” was not a group. It is the body of all Muslims.  I know what I learned from my father.  He quoted verses from the Qur’an that say not to break  into sects.

It’s what my dad and Imam Abu Jamil  stood for and sadly both of them are gone now.

I believe this alleged group “Ummah” and the malicious connotations that people ascribe to it are the works of the media and not my father. My dad would always talk about “the Ummah” when referring to the Quranic term of the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

My father was against having an affiliation and his congregation being labeled a certain name.  So I know he wasn’t coining the term “the Ummah.”  It was really misconstrued in the same way that some people misconstrue Imam Siraj who is also a dignified Muslim-American. His teachings are also rooted on the foundation of freedom and prosperity for everyone. He makes me want to be a better Muslim.

On his career as a comedian…

I don’t even know how I can make any of this, the story of my father, funny.  But honestly, we had so much fun growing up so I guess I can contribute that to my father. He liked to laugh, but he didn’t like to laugh all the time because he was a man who spent his time productively.

Sometimes in my comedy bits, I over-emphasize my dad’s strict side because they were filled with valuable teachings.  It’s like when we watch kung fu movies, not cartoons, because they taught discipline. So I would use my father’s “strict” aphorisms in my comedy bits. He used to laugh at my comedy bits and say “that’s true.” He wanted me to make it easier on the people to learn Islam.  And that’s what I tried to do.  I tried to do it through comedy.

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9 Comments

  1. Dunia says:

    inna lillahy wa inna ilaihy raji’un, may Allah grant him a place in Jannah.

  2. shakib says:

    “i don’t ask you to make him rich or famous, i want him to know you”—a prayer of a father on his son. a poor father who had nothing but memories to leave back, and a prayer that never goes dry. parenting is never easy, Mark Twain once remarked how at the age of 17, he thought his father was an ignorant fool and wondered how he learnt so much in three years when he turned 20. we all grow up and grow out of our fathers shoes, but only with hindsight we realize that his becoming obsolete, fading out was his way of teaching us to be on our own, to complete our learning. we all want to remain forcefully in the center of our work, marriage, education — but parenting is about preparing to recede, to complete a prayer, and an ardent hope that once the hold loosens, the sojourn remember the eternal parting.

  3. Yus from the Nati says:

    May Allah forgive his sins and enter him into Jannah, and guide us all to that which pleases Him.

  4. Umar Lee says:

    inna lillahy wa inna ilaihy raji’un. I want to point out as well that Brother Omar is holding a copy of Muslim Quarterly Magazine, a Muslim men’s magazine, which he was featured on the cover of in the last issue.

    It is also nice to see that the Muslim community in the Detroit area has mobilized over their outrage over the killing of the imam.

  5. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    Umar:

    Could you fill folks in on MQ a little?

    SDW

  6. Umar Lee says:

    MQ was founded by brother Omar Zia Haqq out of Chicago in order to deal with issues pertaining to Muslim men. It is a well-produced and professional publication and there are writers covering health, marriage, current events and a number of other categories. I cover current events for MQ.

    It is a quarterly magazine and subscriptions are $15 per year and it also can be purchased at Barnes and Nobel locations.

    http://www.muslimquarterly.com/

  7. It is great that the Muslim community in Detroit is pursuing the shooting death of Imam Luqman. But what about the other cities across America where Muslims live – what are those communities doing about it? They need to do something too. What happened several weeks ago to Imam Luqman is about as serious as it gets.

    I mean no disrespect to Omar Regan and his family, but it seems like Imam Luqman’s shooting death was ages ago because so many other “hot issues” have occupied our time since his death. I live in the metropolitan Chicagoland area and since Imam Luqman’s death we’ve had Dr. Rana and David Headley arrested on alleged terrorism charges. A young man in the Boston area was arrest on terrorism charges. Nidal Hassan allegedly killed 13 people at Ft. Hood. A Muslim in Springfield, Illinois and another in Colorado and another in Dallas, Texas were arrested in separate cases of alleged terrorism. In the past few days the story of the 5 young Muslim men from the DC area in Pakistan allegedly pursuing a role in jihad has become the top story for many.

    But to me it still does not make sense. In all of these other cases no one died. Imam Luqman was shot to death. Granted, I don’t live in Michigan so I’m not privy to the strategic planning taking place there around Imam Luqman’s shooting. What came of the calls for an independent investigation? The FBI was sending a forensic team in to conduct an internal investigation of the shooting. The local police were to conduct an investigation as well. Did any of this happen and if so, what were the results?

    In Illinois Muslims issued press releases on many of the cases referenced above. But when it came to the shooting death of Imam Luqman – nothing. And it was not because the community leadership did not know about it – they knew about it and chose to remain silent.

    There was a major gathering of Muslim leaders recently which included moments of silence for the victims at Ft. Hood (which I think is a worthy undertaking) but as far as I can tell there wasn’t a word said about Imam Luqman. There were 900 Muslims in that room along with Illinois’ governor, state senators, university presidents, clergy and lay leadership from all the larger Christian denominations and on and on. How is it that Imam Luqman’s shooting death did not get mentioned in this event?

    Frankly, I’m a bit shocked that, at least in Illinois, the silence is not only among the immigrant Muslims. The African American Muslims are not saying much either. Or, at least they are not saying much in public. Perhaps there are strategic reasons for this and I happen not to be privy to them. I hope that is the case.

    I read the affidavit of the special agent upon which the arrest warrant for Imam Luqman was predicated and I was disturbed by the words attributed to Imam Luqman. But then I was asked to put a lot of it into the context of the urban setting in which he was living and working and in divorcing myself from my suburban middle class outlook momentarily, I was able to better contextualize the words. That, in turn, lessened the nefarious-ness of the message. I point this out because I want to suggest that I am not averse to keeping an open mind on this issue.

    How is it that we are not in an uproar over the possible negligent homicide (if not worse) of a committed community leader who was doing the work I and many like me don’t have the guts to do?

    I wish Omar Regan and his family well. Thank you for allowing me to vent a bit here and thank you for sharing the interview with Omar Regan.

    WS,
    Junaid
    http://www.americanmuslimjournal.typepad.com

  8. ALI SHABAZZ says:

    MAY ALMIGHTY ALLAH GUIDE YOU ALL THE DAY’S OF YOUR LIFE.

  9. nusybah says:

    inanlliahi waina ilhey rajiun,may ALLAH grant him janah

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