In the Land of Trump, Making the Musa Move: The Case of the Shop Keeper in the Hood

[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]s Arab and South Asian Muslim immigrants to America, their children, and grandchildren invest blood, sweat, and tears building social capital (the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively), they will never be able to gain the respect of African-Americans and Latinos in the inner city until they collectively stop benefiting from the structural violence used against these two segments of the community.

Structural violence is the violence of injustice and inequity. The “structures” inherent in a society refers to social relations and economic, political, legal, religious, or cultural arrangements that shape how individuals and groups interact within a given system. Such policies may be experienced individually, but structural violence targets classes of people and subjects them to oppression. Structural violence is about unequal power, the power to decide over the distribution of resources.

Building Trust

A community’s social capital positively affects overall trust. The inner city Black man doesn’t trust the immigrant Muslim shopkeeper because he has not invested anything of inherent value into the local neighborhood. Trust meaning an expectation that alleviates the fear that a person will not act opportunistically in their dealings with oneself. When this trust is created, both parties in a life transaction become more willing to share their resources without worrying that they will be taken advantage of by the other.[1] Simply, if the immigrant Muslim was taken out of the inner-city ecosystem, would the black community lose anything of value? The following diagram explains this concept:

America’s economically disadvantaged urban areas are booby trapped with social-economic systems that promote generational enslavement and exploitation of certain segments of society. Inner city schools increasingly resemble prisons, and it is no wonder that share prices of for-profit prison companies soared immediately after Donald Trump secured the American Presidency.

Structural Violence against African-Americans is in Plain Sight

In order to understand structural violence you have to understand that, unlike physical violence, structural violence is silent and long standing. A gunshot is loud and instantaneous, while the school to prison pipeline is quiet and transgenerational, seemingly invisible yet clear as day to those who live on Martin Luther King, Jr. St/Ave/Dr/Blvd[1]. At the very moment in which you are reading this article prisons are being built for little black children that haven’t been born yet. One-in-six black males were incarcerated in 2001. If current trends continue, one-in-three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetime.[2] Mass incarceration has major economic implications, and coincidentally the 13th amendment that abolished slavery had an important caveat that allowed slavery: “as punishment for a crime.” Since then, prison and forced labor have gone hand-in-hand. Several major corporations are benefiting from cheap prison labor, while the school-to-prison pipeline guarantees a steady flow of “workers” for these businesses.[3] Legislation encouraging mass incarceration fueled the legalized discrimination and marginalization of large segments of the African-American community. According to the NAACP, African-Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million people currently in United States prisons. The “war on drugs,” like the “war on terror,” led to legislative restriction of liberties and constitutional freedoms. Supreme Court legislation that empowered local police to implement “Terry stops” and other pretext based search methods has made many inner cities police states for young black men.

Can’t Form Alliances And Commit Food Stamp Fraud At The Same Time

We need to accept that a large segment of the American Muslim immigrant community elevated themselves and their families socioeconomically by benefiting from such violence against Latinos and African-Americans in the inner city. The Islamic values of such immigrants encourages them to be sympathetic and mindful of the oppression and persecution of mankind; however, they have often set up bodegas and corner stores in the poorest parts of large urban areas that specialize in the provision of cheap liquid poison and expensive food of little nutritional value.

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A recent indictment alleges that 14 retail store operators, many of whom were Muslim, committed food stamp fraud. They received $16 million in federal payments for transactions in which no food was actually provided. U.S Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein stated, “the food stamp program is intended to put food on the tables of needy recipients, not to put money in the pockets of greedy criminals.” Where selflessness and empathy is needed most, to build trust in the minority community, the general Muslim has been overpowered by greed and arrogance, damaging communities. Food stamp fraud may be the least serious of the many illegal activities that take place in these stores.

The turning point in the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is the moment where he understands the disastrous impacts the structural violence of Pharoah’s Egypt had against the Children of Israel and made the conscious decision to give up his life of privilege and struggle against the forces of oppression. In the case of the immigrant American Muslim, if there was ever any privilege, the Trump era has without doubt threatened that privilege. Tariq Toure summarized our collective role beautifully:

“I believe more than ever we are about to see unraveling of preconceived notions about the American dream. Today we have the option to wake ourselves from the slumber we have invested in to build new interpersonal realities that can push back against the hate and bigotry that is forecasted.”

Forming alliances with others who wish to fight against bigotry, xenophobia and structural violence starts by “building new interpersonal realities”. Many questions for the immigrant American Muslim community remain to be answered: Will the attempt to join with other minority groups be seen as genuine? Will they continue to ignore the problems arising from inner-city Muslim entrepreneurs that benefit economically by poisoning those who are socioeconomically the weakest and lowest amongst us? Will they make the epic shift, which Musa made?

Other Issues When the Two Communities Live Together

Inexpensive real estate has also caused a surge in Muslim “sub-ghettos.” Cities across the East Coast of the United States have pockets of densely populated Muslim communities that live within a larger demographic of predominantly African-American and Latino residents. Cultural barriers have often created mutual suspicion and lack of trust between the immigrant Muslims and such inner city neighbors. First-generation immigrants did very little to contribute to the broader communities in which they live because they were focused primarily on creating economic stability for future generations. If both groups realize their shared struggle and collective position and role in the greater society, they would rightfully come together to form a powerful force.

Immigrant Muslim communities in America will not gain the respect of the general society until they selflessly contribute to the social capital of the inner city in a genuine manner. Until the inner city minorities view the immigrant Muslims as people that have real concern for them, they will never gain the respect needed to sincerely hold hands and unite against any force. Indigenous American Muslims (like the old African-American uncle in your masjid) of Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Detroit worked hard to better the communities they lived in, as a duty to Allah and their people. They founded community restoration and cleanup programs, participated in food giveaways, and even conducted neighborhood patrols that often resulted in declines in criminal activity. These efforts have historically gained Muslims of all races a certain level of respect in inner city neighborhoods across America. However, these individuals often have no authority or a platform to speak in 90 percent of our masajid. So, while many second- and third-generation American Muslims are understanding the importance of building social bridges and fighting tooth and nail to contribute to the social capital of American Muslims, there is a segment of the American Muslim community that continues to benefit from the exploitation of those who should be our most important allies.

 

[1] Every city has a Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave, which is almost always in the “hood.”

[2] http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/

[3] http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/school-to-prison-pipeline-fact-sheet/

[1] Tsai, W., & Ghoshal, S. (1998). Social capital and value creation: The role of intrafirm networks. Academy of management Journal, 41(4), 464-476.

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3 responses to “In the Land of Trump, Making the Musa Move: The Case of the Shop Keeper in the Hood”

  1. Jazak allah khair for shedding light on this Very thought Provoking issue of structural Violence .

  2. Aliya says:

    To soothe your nerves in all this turmoil read a truly soul stirring tribute to Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
    *The Shining Light (pbuh)*
    https://gum.co/kiSzD

  3. Omer says:

    “Indigenous American Muslims (like the old African-American uncle in your masjid) of Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Detroit worked hard to better the communities they lived in, as a duty to Allah and their people. They founded community restoration and cleanup programs, participated in food giveaways, and even conducted neighborhood patrols that often resulted in declines in criminal activity. These efforts have historically gained Muslims of all races a certain level of respect in inner city neighborhoods across America. However, these individuals often have no authority or a platform to speak in 90 percent of our masajid.”

    OK but this prescription hasn’t succeeded for African Americans so why should immigrant Muslims follow it?

    Aren’t you simply advocating immigrant Muslims to become more like African-Americans? Considering the problems African-Americans nobly sought to fix remain strong, as BLM clearly evinces, maybe this isn’t the right course to chart.

    ‘African-Americanize’ the immigrant Muslim or ‘immigrantize’ African American Muslim puts us back at square one.

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