“ALHAMDULILAH, WE ARE ALL MUSLIMS”

I remember the conversation just like it was yesterday. I was attending a local summer camp for Muslim families, and the sisters and I were sitting in a circle discussing the problems of the Muslim community in our state. The discussion turned to the issue of race and discrimination among Muslims.

Some of the sisters in the circle expressed how they felt that racism is alive and well among Muslims in America, and how tight-knit culture-based cliques often make them feel excluded. While most of the sisters agreed with this assessment, one sister took a different stance on the issue. From her perspective, racism among Muslims wasn't that big of an issue, in fact she said something along the lines of “I don't see color, we are all Muslims, Alhamdulilah”. Alhamdulilah indeed, but we can't brush away the experiences of others, and we as Muslims in America should address this big white elephant in the room.

Allah knows that sister's intention, but by claiming to not see color when she interacts with other Mulims, this sister may have been expressing the all-too-common phenonemon of color blind racism. Color blind racism occurs when someone disregards race or color as having an effect on a given circumstance or interaction. So, an individual who is a color blind racist tends to make statements such as the following:

*It's not about race, it's about culture …
*I have a lot of Black friends…
*I'm not prejudiced, but …
*I voted for Barack Obama.
*I don't see you as Black.
*It's not race, it depends on a person's background …
*It's not race, it's economics …

The list can go on, and I'm sure many readers may personally know of color blind racists. But the point is, this form of racism exists in our communities, and too often Black Muslims (i.e. immigrant Africans, first-generation Africans, or African Americans), and convert Muslims are overwhelmingly the ones experiencing this form of racism. So, does color blind racism exist more among some group of Muslims, and not others? We don't know the answer to that. But let's try to understand if this is the case. For example, immigrant Muslims are used to insular social groups – that's the way it used to be back home. Naturally, humans feel more comfortable and relate more towards those who are of a similar skin color, facial features, language, hair texture, and those who share similar culinary preferences. Thus, it may be difficult for Muslims that do not have immigrant backgrounds to fit in as easily. But make no mistake about it, color blind racism is a human phenomenon, not only a Muslim one.

A LOADED WORD

The term color blind racism was originally coined in the 70s, in order to describe White Americans's continued aversion to Blacks, which fell short of Jim Crow racism – the malignant form of racism in hich Whites used to terrorize and assault Blacks decades earlier. Some individuals may take issue with the word “racism” – perhaps believing it to be too strong when used to describe the the actions of fellow Muslims who could  be labeled as color blind racists. Take the example of the sister from the camp in the beginning of this article. The sister was approximately in her forties and from a immigrant Muslim group. She attends a mosque where the congregation is partially mixed, in which she is a member of the predominant culture, and she spoke well of how engaging and active her masjid community is. From this alone, we may not be able to label her a racist, and we are not in a position to judge others. However, with regards to the same masjid that the sister lauded as being inclusive, I have heard several complaints from converts and other Muslims that this mosque community is less than welcoming. So, the term color blind racism takes into consideration the reality of the situation, from different points of views, as compared to the “whitewashed” version of it, and unlike overt racism the focus is not just on the behavior.

NOSTALGIA FOR THE GOOD OLE DAYS OF ISLAM

From listening to numerous lectures by Muslim American scholars, I've learned that one of the roadblocks Muslim Americans face in confronting social issues is that in our minds we sanitize and mythologize the society of the Prophet (PBUH). The reality is, many of the social issues that exist now, such as alcoholism, prostitution, and drugs, all existed at that time, too. And racism is not an exception. The following is an exchange between Abu Dharr and Bilal, may Allah be pleased with both of them:

“Abu Dharr, the leader of the tribe of Ghifar, and one who accepted Islam in its early days, narrates:

Once I was conversing with Bilal. Our conversation gave way to a dispute. Angry with him, the following insult burst from my mouth: 'You cannot comprehend this, O son of a black woman!'

As Islam expressly forbade all kinds of racial, tribal and color discrimination, Bilal was both upset and greatly angered.

Some time later, a man came and told me that the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings, summoned me. I went to him immediately. He said to me:

'I have been informed that you addressed Bilal as the son of a black woman.'

I was deeply ashamed and could say nothing. God's Messenger continued his reprimand: 'This means you still retain the standards and judgements of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance. Islam has eradicated all those false standards or measures judging people by blood, fame, color or wealth. It has established that the best and most honorable of men is he who is the most pious and upright in conduct. Is it right to defame a believer just because he is black?'

Abu Dharr felt profound remorse. He went straight to Bilal's house and, putting his head on the threshold, said: 'This head will not rise from here until the blessed feet of Bilal tread on the face of foolish, impolite Abu Dharr.'

Bilal responded: 'That face deserves to be kissed, not trodden upon,' and forgave Abu Dharr.”

JUST SAY SALAM

Despite the gains that have been made in race relations in this country, race is a touchy conversation for many Americans to engage in. The terminology used by color blind racists exists because individuals don't want to be seen as being racist, and they try to deflect this characterization through semantics (i.e. “I'm not not racist, but…;” “I have alot of Black friends,” etc). For Muslims, we know that all actions are based on intentions. One of the first steps we can do to overcome color blind racism in our communities is to purify our intentions when we interact with individuals from a racial group different than ours. All too often I hear from many Muslims that when they greet some Muslims with salam, it is not returned. Although it may seem like a trivial step in combating racism, in returning salam, you are facilitating peace and brotherhood, and acknowledging other Muslims first and foremost as your sister or brother in religion. Thus, saying and returning salam helps reaffirim to yourself the good intentions of brotherhood and sisterhood and signals to others that you embrace them.

There are countless ways of diffusing color blind racism in our communities, and I invite readers to share experiences and ideas. As Muslims living in a country in which overt and covert racism still exists, we need to have this conversation amongst ourselves. We often hear from politicians and pundits that Americans need to engage in a national dialogue about race. One thing that easily slips from our minds is that the Prophet (PBUH) was a revolutionary man, and that through the revelation of the Qur'an, he was an agent of societal change, targeting acts of discrimination, as illustrated by the hadith involving Bilal and Abu Dhar. We Muslims have a great religion of racial and class inclusivity to be proud of; lets uphold those standards in our daily interactions.

References:

“Colour-Blind Racism”. ABAGOND. (2011).  http://abagond.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/colour-blind-racism/

82 Responses

  1. MW_M

    what was the point of this article? It didn’t propose any solutions nor even pinpoint a specific problem, nor even adequately define what is meant by “colorblind racism.” I thought maybe the page hadn’t loaded all the way when I read the article, it seems half finished.

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    • Safia Farole

      Its Black History Month, and I feel that just like the broader US population, Muslims need to have an open conversation about race. Its fine if you don’t want to, or don’t appreciate it. Just keep in mind that this is a blog article, not a anything that is inherently supposed to be lenghthy or formal. To the best of my ability I defined colorblind racism, and I don’t know how you can miss that. My fear is to bombard readers with too many technical defitions, thats why I kept it simple.

      As for solutions, no one can solve world poverty in a day. The same goes for racism . I proposed a simple icebreaker (i.e. making sure you say salam to all Muslims). Readers are free to chip in; the solutions to this problem are beyond in any one person, including myself.

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  2. Yusuf Smith

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    As important as giving salam is returning it properly. A lot of Muslims who are converts (of whatever colour) will report that they have given salam to a Muslim in a mosque and been told “wa ‘alaikum” in response, because the other person assumed they were not Muslim.

    We should never assume that someone isn’t Muslim if they give us salam, unless we know it for a fact. Not everyone who is Muslim is Asian- or Arab-looking, or bears obvious outward signs of Islam, such as hijaab or other traditional clothing or a long beard, and we shouldn’t assume someone is not just because they don’t “look like a Muslim” to us. To return the salam of a Muslim as if they weren’t is very offensive to them.

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    • Safia Farole

      I didn’t realize this partial salam thing was going on. But you’re right, that it is just as bad as not responding to salam (given the suspicious nature of the response). Muslims (perhaps, especially the older generation) need to swallow the fact here in the West, what constitutes “looking like a Muslim” is not categorizable.

      Jazakallahi Khair for sheding light on this as an examle of exculsion.

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  3. Hassan

    With all due respect, what does color blind racism means? I mean what are we looking to cure? I can understand racism, I have seen people (muslims) who do some racism against others, but I know many (and easily more) muslims that do not do that. So what are we curing/fighting against here?

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    • Safia Farole

      From the article: “Color blind racism occurs when someone disregards race or color as having an effect on a given circumstance or interaction. So, an individual who is a color blind racist tends to make statements such as the following…”

      Also from the article: “The term color blind racism was originally coined in the 70s, in order to describe White Americans’s continued aversion to Blacks, which fell short of Jim Crow racism – the malignant form of racism in hich Whites used to terrorize and assault Blacks decades earlier.”

      We aren’t looking for the cure – as I mentioned, how can we cure something like racism? Colorblind racism is a unique form of racism that may slip under the radar, while we are looking for the “blatant” type of racism you wrote about. I’m trying to raise awareness and propose some ways (not all), that can help diffuse the tensions created by racism generally.

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      • Hassan

        How do you know if someone is genuinely disregarding color versus someone who is not? Those statements may be indicator, but not for certain, and someone who does not make such statements, still may be racist. Its quite confusing.

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      • Safia Farole

        Its social science. There is no such thing as certainty in this field. Since you seem interested in the topic (and since I’m not a social scientist who studies race), I suggest you read this paper about colorblind racism called ” “I Am Not a Racist But…”: Mapping White College Students’ Racial Ideology in the USA”. You don’t have to read all of it, but I think it clarifies answers to your questions. Here’s the link:

        http://www.pineforge.com/oswcondensed/study/articles/08/Bonilla-Silva.pdf

        If the link doesn’t work for you, google scholar the title and you’ll find it.

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  4. Uo

    A much needed article, jzk. One thing that I’ve noticed which creates a barrier is language. You frequently see “uncles” in masjids speaking to friends in Urdu, Arabic, or one of the West African languages amongst themselves. It’s understandable, given the comfort level they have with their first born tongue, but it leads to exclusion and diminished communication. I would hope that everyone would try and make a greater effort toward speaking English so as to involve everyone, and I’ve found that youth are typically much better with dissolving racial lines and spending time together.

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    • Safia Farole

      I agree with your argument. You’re right that language can be used as a tool for exclusion. I also get the general feeling that Muslim youth are more better at overcoming racial barriers than their parents. Islam is a religion that has never justified racism, and overtime inshallah I pray that race and cultural issues among Muslims becomes a non-issue.

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  5. Leo

    Assalamu alaikum. I’m sorry for being a dope but am I correct in thinking colourblind racism is this: when you meet a person of different race you act as though that doesnt change the way you deal/ interact with them? If this is the case then what are you saying in the article? When we meet someone of a different race it should affect the way we interact with them? The way I see it when interacting with someone of a different race we have 3 options: 1. We interact with them better than a person our own race 2. We interact with them as equals 3. We interact with them worse than a person our own race.
    I could be way off target. Again I apologise for being a dope. I bet you didn’t think this article would create this much confusion (it’s not a reflection on you but your readers more likely :) )

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    • Safia Farole

      Leo, the question you’re asking is not dope, and I don’t think you’re a dope for asking either:)

      To tweek your defintion slightly, I would add that colorblind racism occurs when someone tries their best to attribute the outcome of a sitation to anything besides race. For some, they may use the langage of color blind racism (examples of which I gave in the article) to intentionally skirt away from being labeled a racist. And as some readers have pointed out, some folks may be doing it unintentionally.

      Any article is open to debate, and I realize that not everyone processes things similarly. I’m open to dialoguing about this, and I’m glad some readers are too!

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  6. abu Abdullah

    Alhamdulillah, I am a born and raised Indian and feel , as a collective community, Indians are the biggest ‘color conscious’ people in the world. Not only for color of skin, they prejudice caste, job, sex and so many ultra subtle nuances. Treating daughters as suitcases and sons as fun machine and list is endless. Auzubillah.
    I would like to know how individually you have overcome your own clear/subtle element of racism in persona life. Any practical advice from audience is appreciated.
    wassalam

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    • Safia Farole

      Jazakallahi Khair abu Abdullah for sharing your personal experiences with culture, and for being honest about it.

      I also come from an Eastern background as well, and the main form of discrimination in Somalia and among Somalis is tribal discrimination (which includes exclusion based on language, skin tone, facial feature, and occupation). Even living in America, those tribal distinctions continue to haunt us when it comes to business transactions, marriage, exc. I try to overcome these realities by not assuming the worst when I meet someone from a different tribe (or even different ethnicity). As I’ve grown up, I notice that a change in mentality is so important to conquering so many things, and racism is no exception. Its called the “self fulfilling prophecy” in social psychology – if you assume the worst from someone, they will end up acting that way towards you anyways because of the way you treat them (with that projection in your mind). So, I try my best to make make excuses for the way someone acts towards me, rather than instantaneously jumping to racism as the conclusion.

      I hope that helps in terms of providing practical solutions. I know I’m missing something though – readers jump in!

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    • CR

      Aleikum salam,

      now look at it in reverse. Thirty years ago I was one of the very few white, middle class nurses doing our course at the hospital we were training in. Each training ward was either run by Mauritians (Muslims … I found out later!), West Indian (big mama sister- in- charge was one of our favourites), Irish or Pakistani or whatever. We had to choose what ward to train on and often the handful of ‘white British’ were singled out for the rotten wards where we had to work harder. I remember being extremely happy on some wards rather than others. Most ‘racism’ towards us came from the Irish ward. I remember the West Indian sister showing me her daughter’s wedding photos and, in those days, colour photos were more expensive to produce. I flippantly commented that she should have done black and white ones then realised my error….. She and the rest of the nurses were in stitches … to my relief!

      I really would prefer to call it ‘cultureism’ in some cases such as above. Certainly a lot of people had a chip on their shoulders about what the British (whites) did to others’ countries in the past. This attitude on both or all sides does get watered down, alhamdulilah, through the generations, especially with inter-racial marriage …… also embracing Islam widens peoples’ minds and educates us away from generalising.

      The story of Bilal was very nice but excuse my warped sense of humour ….. had I been Bilal I would have said, “Which part of my foot….. the black or the white part?” I am sure the people then had the same humour as we do now and not everything was serious all the time!

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  7. Hello Kitty

    Bluntly, the article makes some weird assertions, has a confusing narrative, and could probably have been proofread and edited a little better to make it read a little smoother.

    From her perspective, racism among Muslims wasn’t that big of an issue,

    Fair enough, it could be considered color blind racism to willfully assert that the issue doesn’t exist, when there are people around you relating experiences that most assuredly are, in fact racism.

    But how is this racist?

    in fact she said something along the lines of “I don’t see color, we are all Muslims, Alhamdulilah”.

    ^^How does that prove the point of color blind racism? To me, this part of her quote reflects what we should all be striving for too. It’s wrong for her to be oblivious to the plights of other Muslims and how racism has negatively affected their lives, but what on earth is wrong with not seeing skin color in regards to our interactions with fellow Muslims?

    Allah knows that sister’s intention, but by claiming to not see color when she interacts with other Mulims, this sister may have been expressing the all-too-common phenonemon of color blind racism. Color blind racism occurs when someone disregards race or color as having an effect on a given circumstance or interaction.

    What are you talking about here? Am I a “color blind racist” because I don’t act any different when interacting with white Muslims than I do with Arabs, Pakistanis, or sisters from Senegal? I pray the same with them, we talk about the same stuff, and frankly the only time any differences are apparent are when we’re talking about foods we grew up eating, or places we’ve been etc. If someone’s telling me about an experience they’ve had that they directly relate to someone treating them a certain way because of their skin color, or because of their culture, well then of course I recognize that these kinds of things do occur because there are some bigoted people in the world. Their experiences aren’t always going to be the same as mine there, of course. But in my day to day life, if I’m inviting a friend over so our kids can play together, their skin color or ethnicity isn’t a factor in our interactions.

    She attends a mosque where the congregation is partially mixed, in which she is a member of the predominant culture, and she spoke well of how engaging and active her masjid community is. From this alone, we may not be able to label her a racist, and we are not in a position to judge others. However, with regards to the same masjid that the sister lauded as being inclusive, I have heard several complaints from converts and other Muslims that this mosque community is less than welcoming.

    How do you know she was being racist and dismissive of other people’s experiences though? You don’t prove that that was the case here. What if she was just relating her experiences there, which have been nothing but positive? Relating those positive experiences certainly does not mean that she automatically must believe that no one else could have experienced racism or bigotry at this same masjid. Based on the information readers are given here, there’s no way of proving that her words had a racist or bigoted context. There’s nothing racist about being shocked or surprised at reports of racism occurring in a place you had thought was very inclusive and open. Denying their existence, or downplaying others’ experiences would be racist, but her words here don’t conclusively prove that that’s what she was doing.

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    • Safia Farole

      Hence the disclaimer “Allah knows that sister’s intention” at the begining of the sentence. No one is trying to judge anyone else; I’m trying to give an example of how the mentality of colorblind racism manifests itself.

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      • Hassan

        I think that disclaimer would be accurate if the sister said something racist, and we would try to find excuse for her. Right now we are doubting her non-racist remarks..

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      • BintKhalil

        Assalamu alaikum

        I believe the issue is that the sister is downplaying the experiences of racism experienced by others in the community, by claiming that racism does not exist, thereby possibly demonstrating racism herself. It’s like some Muslims who claim that the community doesn’t suffer from problems of domestic abuse, thereby contributing to the problem themselves.

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      • Safia Farole

        The covering up of domestic abuse by some in our community is a good analogy to colorblind racism. T

        Thank you readers for being so helpful to others by trying to clarify this example!

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      • Hello Kitty

        That’s not even remotely proven by the writer though. She says that’s what it means, but gives the reader nothing concrete to prove it with. With the information given here, how do you know the woman quoted in the article downplayed the others’ experiences? The comments quoted by the writer certainly don’t prove it. I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the writer of this piece, and I think she’s alluding to an important issue, but she doesn’t back any of it up with any real evidence, and that’s a huge problem.

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      • BintKhalil

        From her perspective, racism among Muslims wasn’t that big of an issue …

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      • Hello Kitty

        From her perspective, racism among Muslims wasn’t that big of an issue …

        Yeah, I know the author says this in the article. That’s the conclusion she drew from this interaction. But nothing else in the article backs up or proves that that is the correct conclusion or only possible conclusion.

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      • Hassan

        May be she did not have such experience, what is the big deal? And I said, as muslims, we should be giving other muslims benefit of doubt when they say something apparently wrong, and this case we are doubting her even if she did not say anything apparently racist

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    • Ali Colak

      Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim

      Assalamu alaykum,
      Color-blind racism refers to racism that is not overtly racist. As a hypothetical example a person may refuse to marry his daughter with a black man but he will not say openly that it is because he is black even to himself. He will use some other reason. Sister Safiia never said that the sister whom she mentioned was racist but simply that it was still possible for her to engage in this hidden form of racism. Color-blind racism is very difficult to detect and therefore very difficult to define. Due to its hidden nature it reminds me a little of riya actually.

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      • Safia Farole

        Thank you Br. Ali. You’re explanation is spot on. And you use a great example – it happens all to frequently to many Muslims during the marriage process.

        I feel like some readers are missing the forrest for the trees when they focus extensively on this example I’ve provided. I hope we can have a discussion that is more deep and meaningful.

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      • Hello Kitty

        Based on what though? Color blind racism and discrimination is still an awful thing to be accused of falling prey to. It’s not an accusation I would throw about without providing a lot of evidence that it is what that person was in fact doing, and not an accusation I would make before really trying to get to the bottom of what the person said so I could fully understand whether or not I was interpreting them correctly. It doesn’t sound like that was really done here at all, at least with the side we’re given in this article.

        What is a racist, if not someone who engages in racist behaviour, even color blind racist behaviour? It’s not an accusation to be taken lightly, that’s for sure. I don’t agree with the “refusal to marry one’s daughter to a black man” comparison at all either. Who cares if the guy’s in denial about his reasoning, it’s still outright racist, and there’s no way to soften that. Being oblivious to the fact that some people have been discriminated against or treated badly because of their skin color or nationality or ethnicity at your masjid may mean that you need to increase your awareness, and make yourself more open to understanding what others around you experience or are going through, but it doesn’t put you anywhere near the racist dad who doesn’t want a black son in law. The woman in the article sounds a bit sheltered and oblivious, but I see no evidence that she was trying to shut down people from discussing the ways they’ve been discriminated against, or saying she doesn’t believe it’s ever happened to them. That’s a long, long stretch there, at least with what the reader is given in the article.

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      • Khaled

        To add to HelloKitty’s point, its possible that the sister even experiences some of what is perceived as racist and she doesn’t see it that way. I go to a lot of masaajid that are run by Pakistanis (I’m Arab) and some of them talk to me, but a lot of the “uncle” types avoid me like the plague. Maybe they can’t speak English/Arabic, maybe they don’t like “Wahhaabis” or maybe they’re racist, but it doesn’t cross my mind in all honesty like it may with a convert, whether black white or Asian.

        I think a more important question to ask is: is this issue a problem with the typical Muslimmatters reader, or is this only an “auntie and uncle” issue which can’t be resolved here because they don’t read this website?

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      • Safia Farole

        I don’t think this is just an auntie/uncle issue. I have witnessed and experienced acts of exclusion (call it whatever you will) perpetrated by Muslims my age when I was in college, whether it was exclusion based on race or language. Who is going to be informed enough to correct the actions of aunties and uncles if we don’t have this discussion on a blog like MM?

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      • Umm-Ayoub

        I feel like I am sensing some color blind issues from some of you towards this sister. I mean like she said she wrote this article to help create dialog among us Muslims about racism instead you guys are dissecting every word she said. Let us take it easy on each other shall we.

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      • Hassan

        May be the concept is so abstract to grasp? What is up with accusing others of racism (either color-blind or what).

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      • Hello Kitty

        Baseless accusations of color blind or any other kind of racism are just as wrong. Not cool at all. Critical reading and analysis of the both the article and issue does not equate to any kind of racism. It’s unfortunate that there are people out there like yourself who delegitimize an important topic by making absurd, baseless accusations that completely obfuscate the entire issue. Nice work there.

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  8. ahlam

    JazakAllahu Khairan for the article.!

    The problem is the Ummah is somehow tolerating prejudice and is in a way allowing it to mature and feed into our language and daily life even if when every Muslim says that Islam is against it with their tongue.Our Ummah should be purging it out from within its midst,just like it would do to elements of jaahilyyah because racism or discrimination is part of the kafir pre-Islamic culture where ignorance reigned.So, logically Muslims should be disgusted by it just as they would be with anything to do with Abu Jahl and co. and run the other way when they see it (racism) coming! We don’t want to have any character of Abu Jahl’s in us, do we? Be an Abu Dharr(may Allah be pleased with him), be a hero:)

    I believe its just a symptom of a disease in the Ummah, the disease being lack of Taqwa and love of dunya, because if people did not think they lived for ever and realized that *everything* belonged to Allah, including our bodies and would return to Him, they would be more bothered about saving their skins from the Fire on D-Day than what color it was today! Looking at it from this perspective makes it all seem so pathetic.

    May Allah (subhanahu wa taa’la) forgive us for what we do not know and protect us.

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    • Safia Farole

      Money quote:

      “the disease being lack of Taqwa and love of dunya, because if people did not think they lived for ever and realized that *everything* belonged to Allah, including our bodies and would return to Him, they would be more bothered about saving their skins from the Fire on D-Day than what color it was today!”

      This is so true! Thank you for helping to elevate this disusion, and for helping us understand what is one of the root causes of racism.

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  9. Hena Zuberi

    Jazakillah Khair Safia for starting the conversation. At least there is a discussion going on now whereas there was none before. Racism in a problem in our communities across all levels and ages to the extent that even young kids divide across the racial and I’ll throw in ethnic lines in our weekend school classes. These same kids attend regular public school and may not act that way there but once they are within their own ‘crowd’ they fall into the same routine as their parents.

    Unconscious racism is still racism – though perhaps not malicious. It is the taking advantage of being of one race which is dominant or in the majority. ie having an Eid gathering and not inviting a person of another race because you think that ‘they’ wont be comfortable there. Or arranging a talk in Urdu at the mosque because most people speak Urdu but 100% don’t. The person arranging it may be doing it to accommodate the majority not out of malice. Although this may not seem like racism it is the exact kind of racism that Safia is speaking about b/c now you have excluded those that do not speak the language.

    Or take the board of an Islamic organization, you have elections and Race 1’s candidate wins because all people of that race voted for him not because they thought Race 2’s candidate was or Race 2 people were less Muslim but because we are naturally inclined to gravitate towards people ‘like’ us. This benefit that race 1 candidate has is called colorblind racism. This is how I am understanding it please correct me if I am wrong.

    Minimization of racism is in itself racism. Safia, I think maybe you are one step ahead of the rest of the crowd- maybe some of us haven’t even gotten to the point of accepting that there is racism in our communities- we don’t even know what blatant racism is, we don’t think what we are saying or doing is racist, to a lot of us its just a joke or just ‘words’. I am not referring to any commenters, just making a general statement.

    I hope that people add their experiences so we learn more about this.phenomena.
    Salams

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    • Hello Kitty

      It would be great if the hypothetical masjid were able to host both an Urdu session and English session so that more people could benefit from the discussion, but at the same time, if 98 people understand Urdu, and 2 dont, why should 98 people miss out on what could be a very beneficial learning opportunity? And how on earth is that racist? If the session can only be held in Urdu, then even though some may not understand it, there’s nothing wrong with holding the session. I only understand two languages. There are a lot more things going on in this world though than just the two languages I can understand. That doesn’t mean those whose languages aren’t one of the two I can understand are racist or discriminating against me. Their lives get to go on even though I can’t follow along because I don’t speak their language. Exclusions happen in life all the time, and not all of them are borne out of racism, inadvertently or not. It’s life, and it doesn’t always mean you’re a victim of racism.

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      • Umm-Ayoub

        A good Muslim is someone who is always considerate of other Muslims(and non-Muslims) no matter how big or small or what color their skin. Our Prophet(PB) warn us not to speak in different tongue if there is a person with us who doesn’t understand our tongue and to converse in a tongue everyone present understands .

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      • Hello Kitty

        No one has said it’s fine or ok for people to exclude a person in a personal conversation by speaking in a language not understood by the entire group. That’s terrible manners, and discriminatory. But nevertheless, avoiding all exclusions due to language is nigh near impossible. And it’s not due to any form of racism. Participation in this forum automatically excludes non English speakers. Does that mean the existence of this website is then automatically racist because of this exclusion? Of course not.

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    • Safia Farole

      Sr. Hena thank you for sharing your observation about Muslim kids. Thats why I love having an open forum of discussion on this blog – I’m learning things from readers that I may have never noticed.

      And your example of language exclusion is all too common. There is a masjid that is literally a 2 minute drive from my home, but I’m putt off from attending khutbah’s because its offered in my native tongue. Although I understand, there are so many Muslims present who don’t speak my language. My heart was crushed when I asked a sister why she likes coming to khutbah at this masjid (even though she doesn’t understand it ) – she said she just wants the ajar. There are countless examples; but like you mentioned, the masjid administrators may not be doing this out of malice for other ethnic groups. But to overlook the fact that there may be discontent among the masses as a result of actions like these is at the essence of colorblind racism.

      I believe you’re correct in that this topic may be too advanced for some readers, who may not have a foundational understanding of what racism is, and the effects of racism (and this is not to look down on others). Its my job as a writer on this blog to try to educate other Muslims on issues that are complicating harmony among us. If I have illuminated one readers mind about this issue that I care deeply about, then I’m satisfied.

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    • ahlam

      There is a hadith where the Prophet said that in a group of three, two people should not speak in exclusion of the third:

      Abdullah ibn Massoud quotes the Prophet as saying: “Should there be three of you, then let not two of them be in conversation to the exclusion of the third, because this will hurt him.” (Related by Al-Bukahri and Muslim)

      I think it makes it inconsiderate/insensitive if we ignore that one person in the corner and who could have been beneficial to his community…

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  10. Nayma

    JAK Sister Safiya for sharing that hadith about Bilal(ra) and Abu Dharr(ra).

    Racism exists in Muslim communities like it did earlier. But there is hope with the example of sahabas and following the Sunnah, we will be able to overcome it. Islam is beautiful and helps us deals with all sorts of problems in our hearts.

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  11. Charles

    Racism is a problem, and we should talk about it. But we need to be aware of where terms are coming from and how they are being defined.

    Sr. Safia said it’s “social science.” According to Wikipedia, color-blindness

    is a sociological term referring to the disregard of racial characteristics when selecting which individuals will participate in some activity or receive some service.

    Put into practice, color-blind operations use no racial data or profiling and make no classifications, categorizations, or distinctions based upon race. An example of this would be a college processing admissions without regard to or knowledge of the racial characteristics of applicants.

    In other words, if you treat everyone the same, you’re a racist.

    There’s no doubt that racism exists, as does the denial of its existence. The examples of language exclusion and who people let their daughters marry are pertinent. Yet, terms like color blindness, which turn every act into a form of racism, are statements of a biased ideology that should be avoided.

    Even so, it’s good that Sr. Safia has brought this issue to the community’s attention. And I agree with her that we should “purify our intentions when we interact with individuals from a racial group different than ours” and that we should “uphold [Islam's] standards in our daily interactions.”

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  12. ZAI

    This is a really complex topic. It’s not black and white(no pun intended).

    I think it’s really unfair to assume that a lot of things that go on in the immigrant Muslim communities are forms of “color-blind” racism. Just as the disclaimer said and many people’s comments reiterated, we cannot know people’s intentions…

    Have any of you considered the fact that most immigrant Muslims are 1st generation here?
    Why do we expect that they will be any different from earlier immigrants like Italians, Poles, Germans, Greeks, Jews or any of the rest?

    People who are new immigrants experience a new reality that is often very jarring for them and they seek out people of similar cultural background to facilitate their lives by being around those with whom they already have a lot in common, including language. Sorry, but that is NOT racism…it’s natural and a form of coping/comfort.

    Have we considered that for a lot of these people, their language skills are subpar and they might simply feel less comfortable around culturally different people, not due to racism but embarrassment that THEY can’t communicate at the same level?

    It’s really easy to judge that and talk about Islamic ideals…but how many of us would be willing to go to a Muslim majority country, as English speaking Americans, and totally blend in at the drop of a hat w/o ever wishing we ran into another English speaking American?

    It’s really easy to proclaim an Islamic ideal, which YES is the ideal we should work for, but it’s a lot harder to live it. To demand that of immigrants who are new here within one generation is really harsh and unforgiving in my opinion. It’s really easy to say and much harder to do…again, reverse it and put yourself in their shoes.
    Immigrating from everything you’ve ever known is not easy…I think a lot of us 2nd generation folks or non-immigrants simply dismiss that and take assimilation for granted.

    There are a lot of issues that are similar to the language issue where subtlety and some gentleness are required to examine the subject. We can’t just jump and shout racism of one kind or another.

    For example, regarding the marriage issue: again no, it is NOT all racism.
    Again, some immigrants are simply worried about being able to relate to inlaws from a different culture or even the resultant grandkids. It’s not so much racism as it is a worry that they will be excluded because of their inability to communicate or find common ground. That is NOT “color-blind” racism…and it’s deeply insulting to call it that when many of these folks are totally pure hearted and not racist in the least, but are simply worried about mundane/everyday life issues…

    Furthermore, not everyone who is against intermarriage is himself/herself a racist…but perhaps fearful for the welfare of their child because they know its a racist WORLD out there.

    For example an Arab man might reject a black suitor for his daughter because he’s black…but he is not necessarily a racist. He could be a completely pure hearted, kind and egalitarian individual….but his thinking might be that racism against blacks is very prevelant in his community, and he might simply be worried that his daughter will suffer from that racism herself through that marriage, as would any grandchildren, because of it’s prevelance in the society as a whole. Therefore he might just want to spare her the pain of that kind of rejection…

    To those of you who think that’s a cop-out, sorry, but as any parent will tell you they will do whatever it takes, even including being called a moral coward or selling out an ideal, to ensure what they think is a good life for their kids or protect them from any percieved harm. Most people will sacrifice a lot of things for their ideals…but most people also draw the line at their children. You have to be a parent to realize that and a lot of us younger folks who aren’t yet are too liberal in throwing the racist card at our parents. Not ALL of them are racist and in many ways the large society or culture is at fault, not neceassarily many individuals…

    So yeah, call some of these people moral cowards or say they help to sustain the very racist society they say they’re against…so hypocrites. But not racist itself. It is entirely possible to say they are not personally racist. Again..it is more complex than that…

    Those few examples being said…
    Yeah…racism is alive and well within Muslim cultures and it’s definitely an issue. It is a completely repugnant thing that we should strive to eliminate. But the key word there is STRIVE. It is ridiculous to expect an overnight change by quoting an ayah of Quran or a Hadith and being harsh serves no purpose except to put people on the defensive.

    1. Immigrating is hard to do…so it would behoove us to have some mercy and cut some immigrants some slack. They’re not all racists…it’s more complex than that. Centuries of cultural baggage or homogenous “comfort” aren’t gonna disappear overnight…

    2. Even when it comes to marriage, it’s not all “color-blind” racism. Yes, a LOT of it is based on racism…but we cannot apply that label with a broad stroke. There are SOME people who have more nuanced or mundane reasons for being averse to intermarriage, for example, and some of them are coming from places of good intention for their children….they’re not all personally racist…again it’s more complex than that.

    and given 1 & 2…

    3. It is going to take TIME. Sorry, but this change ain’t gonna happen overnight. I would be the first person to condemn racism in our Muslim cultures, but I also realize it’s going to take time to change. It will be a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation here who acculturates and defines themselves as part of a larger Muslim community who changes it…we do not have the prophet here to personally guide this change within a single generation.

    4. We need a SOCIETAL change, not just a personal one. In order to truly eliminate racism, you must eliminate the societal/cultural factors , economic environments, educational gaps, etc. that perpetuate it. Until we do that, many people who are NOT racist but simply fearful for themselves, their kids, or whatever will be hesitant to be the first or one of few individuals who go against the grain. They will see it as a risk with “consequences” for lack of a better word and continue to reinforce the system even if they personally disagree with it…It is human nature to be risk-averse

    Again…no disagreement whatsoever that racism is a problem and exists within the Muslim communities, nor that it is a repugnant vile thing where in is found to truly be the case…just saying it’s complex. We can’t just quote Quran and Hadith and think it’ll go away, nor expect immediate results….

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    • BintKhalil

      Assalamu alaikum

      Your comment and the one below yours have excellent points.

      Jazakum Allah khair

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    • Safia Farole

      Thank you ZAI for your contribution to this discussion. I believe I have hit on several of your points in my article – particularly the fact that it is natural for people of similar heritage to seek others like themselves out – its just human! But where colorblind racism comes into the equation is when you DENY that race has anything to do with the outcome of a situation or someone’s condition (i.e. all other assumptions are made, despite the fact that the role of race may be glaringly obvious).

      No one is expecting overnight change. I just want Muslims to especially appreciate that we probably wouldn’t be enjoying the lives we live in this country if it wasn’t for the gross injustice of racism and terrorism that was historically wraught upon African Americans. We need to remind ourselves of that legacy, whether we are immigrant or not (and I’m speaking as an immigrant myself).

      Again, I am satisfied if one reader goes back to their families (who may not speak English), and educate them about how some other Muslims may perceive certain behaviors.

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  13. Salam

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    You are touching upon an important issue but have regrettably used confusing examples. The example of the woman you mentioned did not seem racist at all. I am just not feeling that example at all.

    Regarding language, I am an American who currently lives in Jordan. The American Muslims here often get together, speak in English, etc. – and some are currently trying to arrange to have weekly khutbahs in English at a proposed Islamic center that would specially cater to English-speaking Muslims. If you are an English-speaking Muslim like me, you probably think that is pretty cool. But somehow we American Muslims don’t like it when the reverse happens in the United States. I think every American Muslim should have the experience of living in a foreign country and understanding what it is like to be a stranger in an unfamiliar land. I have seen American Muslims in Jordan who seem incapable of mixing with the wider Arab population and only stick to people of their own kind. Yet no one accuses them of racism because we all understand the insecurities they feel at being away from home and having limited experience with the culture, language, etc.

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    • Safia Farole

      You’re right, the example I used is not overt racism – that’s the point, the statement she made is one that is characteristic of colorblind racism – i.e. overlooking or denying the fact that someone may not enjoy the same community you do because perhaps they feel excluded (as a result of not being in a majority culture). I hope that helps. If you’re not feeling my example, several readers have offered good ones in the comments section.

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    • Safia Farole

      Jazakallahi Khair Jeremiah for adding this source to our discussion. I haven’t finished reading all of it, but I’m definetely bookmarking it, inshallah. I recommend it for any of our readers who are eager to explore this topic further.

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  14. Mohammed Guggen

    Safia,

    This is an excellent article!

    Color Blindedness is alive and well everywhere, especially in so-called “islamic” countries, with Saudi Arabia topping the list.

    I am a western convert and have travelled extensively through south asia, far east and the middle east. I found saudi arabia to be the worst in its treatment of muslim expats, especially from indonesia, phillipines, india, pakistan and bangladesh. They get paid far less and are treated as sub-human solely based on their color and ethnicity.

    For example, in saudi there is strict segregation based on gender. However, females can travel in a taxi without a mahram if the taxi driver is from pakistan or india or bangladesh. Now if it is a saudi taxi driver, mahram is required. Go figure ….

    I asked my saudi friend as to why and he explained that saudis consider non-saudi taxi drivers as sub-humans.
    I was shocked. Go figure ….

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    • sabirah

      yes, a saudi man cannot marry a non saudi woman as first wife etc, weird racist marriage laws.
      I wonder how they justify these laws. i mean what happens is that they say this is a form of Islam or protection of islamic laws and eventually people will say it’s an islamic necessity

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      • Mansoor Ansari

        @Sabirah

        not true… i know both Saudi men & women who are married to non-saudis, infact non-arabs and it’s their 1st marriage. My mom being one of them.

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      • MW_M

        forget about first wife, a non-saudi male can not mary a saudi female period

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    • MW_M

      I still don’t understand the term color blind racism, how is your term any different from straight up racism?

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  15. Nazia

    Assalaamu’alaikum,

    Good article. Haven’t read all the comments, but you asked for ideas on what we can do as a community to correct this social ill…my thoughts are that widening our social circles is an approach, from inviting families from other backgrounds to your house up to allowing your children to marry into another race. Sounds intuitive, but it’s just not happening. Social circles play a big role in our subconscious perceptions of others, and those of us that want to be “broad minded” are at a disadvantage if we do not have personal relationships with individuals from that race. They might still be the “other” whether we like it or not. As far as marriage, I know that’s a can of worms. I personally didn’t want to marry outside of my culture because I really wanted my parents to have a deep and personal relationship with my husband which meant they would have to speak the same language since my parents aren’t THAT fluent in English, and alhamdulillah, my husband and parents get along great. Now that I’m married, I told my husband that I never want to stop my children from marrying outside the desi sphere (and he’s on board!) b/c as first-generation Americans, it culturally puts us on a more even playing field with other races that are also American. I think for Muslims in America, our melting pot just needs to brew a little more.

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    • Safia Farole

      You know whats funny?…the title of this article was initially: “Race Matters – From Color Blind Racism to Color Blind Marriages in the Ummah”. So I was also going to write about the flip side to racism – color blind marriages. I know the interracial marriage stuff is complicated, but its happening in our Ummah, and as you mentioned, I don’t think its a Black or White issue.

      I have serveral interracial marriages in my family, and Alhamdulilah they’re working out fine – its just important that both people are on the same footing with regards to deen. Interracial marriages are not scarry…its the future of our ummah in the West, inshallah. Lets embrace it:)

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      • BintKhalil

        How would you describe a color-blind marriage – one in which a person is married to someone of another race yet makes racist comments about that race?

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  16. sabirah

    asalamu alaikum i like the article because it discusses a touchy subject that nobody likes to talk about. Is there racism? People can’t really deny that it exists, or they are living on a pink cloud.
    it exists based on colour, ethnicity and culture or mazhab. I realized that differentiations are made within all islamic aspect of life in particular marriage etc. Racism in islam is developing into “they don’t pracice our mazhab, ahl us sunnah, etc, they are not proper muslims”. mazhabism?
    Truly, shaytan finds a way to get between people easily, either through skin colour, gender, school of thought. how shall we overcome that as an ummah? Or is it let them fight between each other until the strongest group wins?
    this is a great weakness for us.

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  17. Sidiq

    I hope that people understand that not tolerating inter-racial marriages is perfectly permissible in Islam, especially by parents and also such as the Saudi law on Non-Saudis banned from marrying Saudis, there is nothing in Islam preventing this and it is not racism.

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  18. Mohammed Guggen

    Sidiq – February 24, 2011 • 2:35 PM .I hope that people understand that not tolerating inter-racial marriages is perfectly permissible in Islam, especially by parents and also such as the Saudi law on Non-Saudis banned from marrying Saudis, there is nothing in Islam preventing this and it is not racism.

    Can you please provide references/verses from the Holy Quran. Thanks!

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    • Sidiq

      I would but don’t need to lol. If a person wants to say contrary to what I have said, they are the ones that have to provide the evidence. They have to give me clear proof from Qur’an or hadeeth saying that it is not allowed to prevent interracial marriages by parents or State.

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      • Safia Farole

        I’m no scholar – so thats the disclaimer here.

        This is just my understanding, and reflection on this issue. I think everyone has a right to not tolerate interracial marriages, but I think the problem arises when parents refuse to marry their daughter or son off to someone of another race, DESPITE the child wanting to do so. Its okay to not want to intermarry, but I think it becomes a problem when the parent is imposing this option on the child, and outright reject suitors on the basis of race, DESPITE the child wanting to pursue a person of a different race, culture, exc. Remember, the child has the right to marry anyone the want (albeit taking into consideration parents wishes), but the child can’t be forced to relinquish that decision just because mom and dad don’t want to marry into that race.

        I could be wrong. I think the topic of interracial marriages is more touchy than racism itself:)

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      • Hello Kitty

        Exactly how does the topic of interracial or intercultural marriages differ from racism itself though? People can talk all they want about how broad minded they are, or how much they believe in standing up to all forms of racism, exposing it, etc. but when it comes time to put their words into action, how many of them end up being little more than hypocrites? That’s the real test right there. If you’re someone who speaks out against racism, but pitch a fit over your child choosing a spouse of another nationality, or skin color etc, then you’re nothing but a hypocrite. If that person’s skin color or nationality is a bigger consideration for you as a parent than their deen, you’re not only a hypocrite, but a bad parent and a bad Muslim. Deen will always trump any other marriage compatibility factor, no matter what. And if you don’t believe that, you’re denying sunnah.

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      • F

        Wrong statement. The burden of proof lies on the person making the claim, not the other way around.

        It’s like me saying you are a thief and asking you to prove otherwise. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

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      • Sidiq

        It is well-known that in Islam, the burden of proof lies on the person claiming something to be impermissible when it comes to non-religious matters such as marriage and food etc. So your analogy is redundant/irrelevant and deeply flawed.

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      • Hello Kitty

        Where is race or nationality ever mentioned in the Islamic edicts of who is halal and who is not to marry? It’s not permitted to marry fornicators or idol worshippers, etc. but race and nationality are never established as impermissible factors. So then wouldn’t the burden of proof lie on those seeking to make the halal impermissible because of skin color or nationality, by disallowing marriages among those who are Islamically permissible to marry? The only thing redundant, irrelevant and deeply flawed here is you trying to legitimize blatant bigotry. Way gross.

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  19. Margari Aziza

    Salaam alaikum,

    Another form of color blind racism is by accusing an offended person who was a victim of a racial slight of being racist for bringing it up. There is the blame the victim thing. Often, minorities are accused of having a bad attitude. “Perhaps it is your fault why people treat you this way, you are standing out because of your attitude.” Or if you can’t blame the victim, then the entire ethnic group for why people treat them that way.

    We need to have diversity training in our communities. We need to address our shortcomings in how we deal with each other.

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    • Safia Farole

      That is so true Margari. We definetely do need diversity traning or cultural competency in our communities – I think these type of open forum sessions would provide a foundational understanding of what racism is, and its many different forms (as some reader suggested that individuals in our communities need).

      I enjoy reading your blog, and I’m honored that you took the time to read this post!

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  20. Charles

    Sidiq,

    I’m having trouble following your logic. If a country has a law forbidding citizens from marrying non-citizens, then it is the country that has made something impermissible, and so it would be the country’s responsibility to provide evidence and reasoning for their position. Wouldn’t it?

    A few years back, Ibn Abee Omar wrote a post, “Thoughts and Advice on Interracial Marriages”, here on Muslim Matters. On another site, a Muslim wrote a thoughtful piece about interracial marriage that may be of interest.

    On a forum at Egyptsearch.com, one poster wrote that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) authorized several interracial marriages, stating,

    The Prophet of Islam encouraged a female in his own family, Zaynab bint Jahsh, to marry a black man, i.e. Zayd ibn Haritha. Zaynab’s brother refused to give her away in marriage on the grounds that Zayd was a freed black slave, whereas she was an aristocratic white-skinned Arab woman of noble lineage. Yet, the Prophet of Islam rejected this attitude of bigotry and insisted that Zaynab marry Zayd based on his piety and good character. The family continually refused until God revealed the following verse of the Quran:

    It is not becoming of a believing man or woman, once God and His Messenger have decreed an affair, to have an option to follow their own choice. (Quran, 33:36)

    This would seem to indicate that one couldn’t make interracial marriage forbidden. Perhaps someone who knows more about this verse and hadith could comment on them.

    Over at IslamToday, in the context of interracial marriage, Sheikh `Abd al-Rahmân b. Ibrâhîm al-`Uthmân, professor at al-Imâm University, responded that although a woman must have her father’s consent, at the same time, her guardian must allow her to marry the man of her choice as long as his religion and character are suitable. He cited this source:

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If a man whose religion and character pleases you approaches you with a proposal pf marriage, then let him get married. If you do not do so, there will be tribulation and great corruption in the land.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî]

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    • Sidiq

      I appreciate your response, I once thought like that, until I was exposed to some Fiqh lessons in Islam… Good questions you have there and nice links. But ultimately race is a factor in determining the compatibility of a couple and if the wali or State decrees that interracial marriages are over-stepping this mark, then they have the prerogative to refuse the marriage. What’s interesting is that the classical scholars mostly were in disagreement over whether or not it is should be obligatory for this compatibility factor to be met, there was not much disagreement over the permissibility of refusing marriages based upon race, social status and other key factors. I heard this in a lecture and coincidently the scholar who conducted it is a writer for here for MM! I’ll say no more.

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  21. Mirza Shahebaz Baig

    How about people marrying in the same race and yet able to be racist with the same race, in a way that if someone disagrees ( read different opinion than their) with them, then they are not useful (bad). Its natural human psychology, that one needs to understand. Drawing line could be if it is causing anyone harm.

    For example, its not I get to decide if I am rude to someone or not. Its upto that certain someone’s perception about it.

    Let me give an example of what I am trying to explain about racist by disagreements, albeit I have difficulty explaining myself (in writing particularly). First thing first, I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, because GUILT works!! (its the self realization and acting on it in such a way to bring ourself closer to Allaah that counts and not forcing anyone to do certain act)

    I vividly remember one Muslim man during 2009 Ilmsummit mash Allah gave a wild card session, It was about Border Crossing and Immigration Problems between US-Mexico. Someone like me, born and brought up in India, working in the midwest, as most Indians do (with computers) by default, may have no sensitivity (concern) for the topic had it not been brought through this. may Allah reward him multiple blessings and continue to bless his studious effort in University of Madinah. Ameen.

    Another example, I recently learned about, could be, Islamic Relief organization mash Allaah organizing campaign for malaria. Guess how many people came for the seminar? 130,000 $$$ odd was the expense, barely 250 people showed up when the expectation was at least 1500 people for that fund raiser. Something you and I consider, had it been a fundraiser for a certain Muslim country in oppressed land ( may Allaah save Muslims from Fitnah and make them closer to His Deen and steadfast against tyrants and close against one another, ameen), I am sure the numbers would be different. And its me and I am not blaming anyone because I need to teach myself that I could not do 10 different things in great way, but I could commit to one of the tasks and try to do it consistently to help out ( self and others) may be just may be Allaah accept it.

    Problem lies in some ways either as a cause or as a result us being desensitized.

    The recent lessons I learnt includes following,

    – its difficult being a father of a girl (in desi culture) in this country, hence the fathers are racist towards their daughters in a very subtle ways ( even though they aren’t really hating the other half of world population, as a whole) they don’t themselves realize that its the daughters that , if raised properly, guarantee jannah for them and its only daughters who could love them much more than their sons would ever do.

    – Silat Rahm. Just because you have a cousin who is american and had jobs in president’s offices impresses you don’t ignore your poor cousin back home who is equally be good to your parents in your absence. You pray for both of them and try to be nice to both of them equally, otherwise it would be a form of being a ‘mutaffif’ (or for lack of a better term ahle sahoolat, people of self convenience) isn’t it? By the way what is arabic for being ‘racist’?

    – Everyone thinks the mode of action they are taking is the right way to do it. (Few acknowledge self mistakes).

    wassalam

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  22. Mirza Shahebaz Baig

    Salamualaikum, How about people marrying in the same race and yet able to be racist with the same race? in a way that if someone disagrees ( read different opinion than their) with them, then they are not useful (bad). Its natural human psychology, that one needs to understand. Drawing line could be if it is causing anyone harm.

    For example, its not I get to decide if I am rude to someone or not. Its upto that certain someone’s perception about it.

    Let me give an example of what I am trying to explain about racist by disagreements, albeit I have difficulty explaining myself (in writing particularly). First thing first, I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, because GUILT works!! (its the self realization and acting on it in such a way to bring ourself closer to Allaah that counts and not forcing anyone to do certain act)

    I vividly remember one Muslim man during 2009 Ilmsummit mash Allah gave a wild card session, It was about Border Crossing and Immigration Problems between US-Mexico. Someone like me, born and brought up in India, working in the midwest, as most Indians do (with computers) by default, may have no sensitivity (concern) for the topic had it not been brought through this. may Allah reward him multiple blessings and continue to bless his studious effort in University of Madinah. Ameen.

    Another example, I recently learned about, could be, Islamic Relief organization mash Allaah organizing campaign for malaria. Guess how many people came for the seminar? 130,000 $$$ odd was the expense, barely 250 people showed up when the expectation was at least 1500 people for that fund raiser. Something you and I consider, had it been a fundraiser for a certain Muslim country in oppressed land ( may Allaah save Muslims from Fitnah and make them closer to His Deen and steadfast against tyrants and close against one another, ameen), I am sure the numbers would be different. And its me and I am not blaming anyone because I need to teach myself that I could not do 10 different things in great way, but I could commit to one of the tasks and try to do it consistently to help out ( self and others) may be just may be Allaah accept it.

    Problem lies in some ways either as a cause or as a result us being desensitized.

    The recent lessons I learnt includes following,

    – its difficult being a father of a girl (in desi culture) in this country, hence the fathers are racist towards their daughters in a very subtle ways ( even though they aren’t really hating the other half of world population, as a whole) they don’t themselves realize that its the daughters that , if raised properly, guarantee jannah for them and its only daughters who could love them much more than their sons would ever do.

    – Silat Rahm. Just because you have a cousin who is american and had jobs in president’s offices impresses you don’t ignore your poor cousin back home who is equally be good to your parents in your absence. You pray for both of them and try to be nice to both of them equally, otherwise it would be a form of being a ‘mutaffif’ (or for lack of a better term ahle sahoolat, people of self convenience) isn’t it? By the way what is arabic for being ‘racist’?

    – Everyone thinks the mode of action they are taking is the right way to do it. (Few acknowledge self mistakes).

    wassalam

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  23. RCHOUDH

    Assalamu alaikum sister Safia,

    Jazakillah ul Khair for writing about a very sensitive but important issue and Jazakum’Allah ul Khair to everyone for their input. From my understanding colorblind racism is almost never overt like (insert ethnic/race) supremacist style racism is and most folks engaging in colorblind racism often don’t mean to do it because it’s more subconscious. So for example France engages in colorblind census taking, meaning no French citizen is categorized according to their race/ethnicity/country of origin they are all considered to be French. Now regarding everyone as French citizens sounds ideal, but the reality is that “ethnic” French citizens (those belonging to minority races/ethnicities/religions) face alot of discrimination that goes unaccounted for because there are no surveys/statistics to back up the problems they face. Instead the “ethnic” French are blamed for the problems they face, being told they’re being “too lazy, introverted, religious” maybe if they acted more “French” they could be successful. This doesn’t take into consideration the fact that no much French culture is adopted, the “ethnic” French will still have to contend with racism and discrimination because short of completely changing your physical appearance, name and other markers of your identity, you can’t escape being seen as really not “French”.

    Sorry for the longwinded post I was just trying to show how colorblind racism can manifest in a society (as opposed to regular old-style racism that overtly existed in the US during the Jim Crow era). Even if intentions are benign (like saying you consider all citizens to be equal) the actions don’t follow up leading to racism to manifest anyway.
    One thing I have since learned is that amongst individuals it is best to practice moderation as Islam always recommends. Meaning when you meet someone it is ok to acknowledge their race/ethnicity and it’s good to learn about certain aspects of their culture that might benefit you (like new words from their language, new foods, etc). At the same time however don’t overemphasize upon their race/ethnicity/culture when interacting with them and try to NEVER fall into stereotyping them based on their group. Always challenge whatever stereotypes you may have carried about different groups and always seek forgiveness if you say/do something wrong that you didn’t mean to offend (making racist jokes no matter how innocuous if you see your brother/sister in Islam uncomfortable with the jokes). The Rasul (S) and his Sahabah used to acknowledge the different Muslims among them who were not Arab (Suhayb Ar-Rumi, Bilal Al-Habashi, Salman Al-Farsi). At the same time they never “othered” them by their differences instead they became closer to them based on their exceptional Islamic characters.

    Finally I agree with everyone who stated we should always give someone the benefit of the doubt over some wrong action we believe they might have committed. With colorblind racism, since its effects are more subtle and almost always the person usually doesn’t intend to act racist, therefore the act is not out of malice, we should avoid accusing them of being racist. Rather we should gently try to point out the wrong action and explain why it may be perceived as wrong and therefore the best thing to do is to refrain from it. I pray to Allah to forgive me my faults and mistakes in conveying this message.

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    • Safia Farole

      RCHOUDH, Mashallah you really hit the nail on the head with the examples you’ve offered. Jazakallahi khair for bringing them to the table. The French example you give helps us to broaden our horizons, as most readers may be more familiar with examples of race relations in the US.

      In my article I didn’t mention the point about avoiding stereotypes, and its great that you point that out here, because unfortunately sometimes stereotypes do guide our interaction with other races (be they Muslim or non-Muslim).

      Nice job.

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  24. abu bakr

    Hazrat Bilal asked for the hand in marriage of an arab woman!! The issue of racism in Islamic societies needs to be discussed. I myself am from a country (Guyana) in which the muslim minority of asian descent has issues with afro converts. I live in a country where Moroccan hate Algerian etc. A lot of backwardness still around inthe muslim world. In fgact, in many ways, we are worse than the christians we criticise

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  25. RCHOUDH

    @Safia

    Wa iyaki and I just want to mention a mistake I made with the following sentence. I was supposed to write, “no matter how much French culture is adopted…” Thank you!

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  26. Candice Elam

    Assalaamu alaikum, folks! This is just a personal thing, but people who claim to not be racist make me very uncomfortable. Given the fact that racism existed even in the society of the Prophet (saws) and the fact that every single Muslim country (and most other non-European countries, for that matter) were colonized and stratified in such a way that the lighter skinned people had greater social, political, and economic advantages, I just can’t imagine that anyone nowadays would be completely free of even a shred of racism, overt or color blind. We’ve come to the point that calling someone a racist is almost as bad as calling someone a pedophile. As soon as you throw either word out there, people just run the other way. Nevertheless, I believe that the only way to move towards anti-racism is to challenge it within our own selves. Most people don’t want to go there, so they tell themselves (and anyone else who’ll listen) that they’re not racist. It takes very little to spark racial tensions, and the people who are convinced of their non-racism are not in a position to interpret why they acted/reacted/spoke/thought a certain way when those tensions arise. As Muslims, we’re ordered to speak the truth even if it’s against our own selves. That being said, if each of us were better at being self-critical about racism than we are at finding manifestations of racism in others, we’d be a lot closer to bringing about anti-racism in our communities, masaajid, and families.

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  27. Chaz

    If I was a slave trader my self, buying more than selling, and called black Africans pug nosed raisen heads… would I be a racist?
    Thanks,
    Chaz

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