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Imam Johari Malik & Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid on Zawahari’s Statements on Obama

The following are statements of African-American Imams. It’s time to let BAMs to speak for themselves inshallah!

—————–

STATEMENT OF IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK
From “Out House” to the White House!

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johari-malik.jpg

As a black American, I was an admirer of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz -Malcolm X (may Allah grant him peace) for many years before I finally converted to Islam over 25 years ago.  Like so many other Blacks in America and around world, I am outraged by the comments attributed to Mr. Al-Zawahiri.  Just in case Al-Zawahiri hasn’t noticed, both Malcolm X and President-elect Obama are heroes in Africa, Asia, Europe, around the world and all across America – including Black America.

His shallow attempt at dividing American Muslims from our president is an exercise in futility.  Al-Zawahiri’s comments only serve as a distraction, when we as Americans should be celebrating, we must take a detour to silence more hate speech from this group.

I am offended that this group consistently portrays Islam as a murderous and irrational religion practiced by racists and sexists.  Just as I would not portray the Ku Klux Klan as “Christian” or Hitler as “Catholic”, I can’t call the streaming absurdities of these kinds of people – “Islam”! Racism and murder are not part of Islam – Al-Zawahiri’s comments were (as usual) racist and divisive.

I was also offended at the hijacking of Malcolm X’s legacy in which Mr. Al-Zawahiri implied that Malcolm would approve of their un-Islamic murderous methods.  Malcolm X has said that he believed in the sanctity of life and the rule of law.  The Al-Qaeda gang of lawless murderers is looking to cover their bloody tracks by dragging Brother Malcolm X into their dark and musty cave of division.

In a recent speech by the Deputy-Amir of MANA (Muslim Alliance in North America) said,

“He (Malcolm X) said right here in Harlem in a rally in this very building (Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood), on July 5, 1964 “ … SO LET US TRY THE BALLOT. AND IF THE BALLOT DOESN’T WORK, WE’LL TRY SOMETHING ELSE. BUT LET US TRY THE BALLOT. AND THE ONLY WAY WE CAN TRY THE BALLOT IS TO ORGANIZE AND PUT ON A CAMPAIGN THAT WILL CREATE A NEW CLIMATE.” ”

Let it be known that Black American-Muslims see Malcolm X as a martyr (shaheed in Islam). Black American Muslims did not struggle through the civil rights movement and the acceptance of Islam to go from the “back of the bus” to the “back of the camel”.  How dare this racist Al-Zawahiri use the words of Malcolm X against the legitimate aspirations of Black people.

I was offended that Al-Zawahiri throws around the term “slave” to describe blacks in the pejorative!  This man, Al-Zawahiri, does a major disservice to the cause of Islam in America.  Black Muslims in America plan to pull the sheets off the sins of Arab-style-Klansman using the cover of Islamic brotherhood to exploit our people.

While I say this, I am not racist to call myself a Muslim African-American nor does it violate the spirit Islam to refer to all African-Americans as my people.  The Prophet (as) said, ‘Oh my people…..’ this affirmation was a comment to the people of Mecca both Muslim and those of other faiths.

I recall the prophet Muhammad, (as) said there is no superiority between the Arab and the non-Arab, the White over the Black nor the Black over the White…..

The Obama victory is the culmination on centuries of struggle; lynching, torture, murderer, rape and incarceration for political and religious freedom.  Today, I refuse to be castrated by hating Al-Qaeda group hiding in a cave.

While Mr. Al-Zawahiri comments spew from his  “Out house”.  Barak Obama is an African-American and he is…… ‘In the HOUSE!!!!!’, not  a “house-negro” but a black man’s house!  African-American Muslims are also “in the house!” – U.S. House of Representatives (Muslim congressman: Keith Ellison and Andre’ Carlson) and soon to be in the Senate and one day Muslims……..in every aspect of American life.

We are proud to be Muslim and we love our country. There is no contradiction.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, serves as Director of Outreach for the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, VA and as Chair of Governmental Issues for the Muslim Alliance in North America. The views expressed do not reflect the official position of the forementioned organizations
————–

talib.jpgSTATEMENT BY IMAM AL-HAJJ TALIB ‘ABDUR-RASHID
OF THE MOSQUE OF ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD INC.  IN RESPONSE TO THE RECENT STATEMENT ATTRIBUTED TO AL-ZAWAHRI OF EL-QAEDA
Delivered at a Press Conference Convened at the Shabazz Center in Harlem NYC
Nov. 20, 2008

AS-SALAAMU ‘ALAIKUM. THE MOSQUE OF ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD WAS FOUNDED FOUR DECADES AGO IN PART, AS A RESP0NSE TO THE FACT THAT IT HAD BECOME OBVIOUS THAT THE THEN EXISTING SUNNI MUSLIM COMMUNITIES LACKED KNOWLEDGE AND DISCIPLINE, AND WERE THEREBY EXPOSED TO MANIPULATION AND APPARENT USE AS A POLITICAL ARM.

THIS UNFORTUNATE SITUATION WAS RAPIDLY RESULTING IN CONFUSION, AND UN-ISLAMIC TEACHINGS WITHIN THE SUNNI MUSLIM COMMUNITIES, AND THE ALIENATION OF MANY PEOPLE WHO WANTED A TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM. THE SINCERITY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS AND OUR PAST NAIVETÉ HAS APPARENTLY LED MODERN FORCES TO THINK THAT OUR PEOPLE CAN BE MANIPULATED , AT THIS OUTSET OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

SO LET US MAKE IT CLEAR THAT AMERICA IS, AS THE AUTHOR AND RESEARCHER SYLVIANNE DIOUF POINTS OUT, THE ONLY WESTERN COUNTRY WITH AN INDIGENOUS MUSLIM POPULATION OF AFRICAN DESCENT. NO ONE AT HOME  OR ABROAD SPEAKS FOR MUSLIM AFRICAN AMERICANS BUT THEIR OWN LEADERS.
FURTHER, OVERWHELMINGLY, AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIM LEADERS REJECT CALLS TO BOTH RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL EXTREMISM , PARTICULARLY WHEN SUCH CALLS ARE BASED UPON APPEALS TO EMOTION AND A PROJECTED INTERNATIONAL AGENDA DECLARED BY OTHERS, INSTEAD OF A DOMESTIC AGENDA DECLARED BY OURSELVES.

INSOFAR AS EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ, POPULARLY KNOWN AS MALCOLM X IS CONCERNED (MAY ALLAH FORGIVE HIS SINS AND GRANT HIM PARADISE), WE WHO LIVE THE REALITY OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BOTH BLACK AND MUSLIM IN AMERICA, AS OPPOSED TO JUST READING ABOUT IT – WE THE PEOPLE – KNOW WHAT EL-HAJJ MALIK TAUGHT.

HE SAID RIGHT HERE IN HARLEM IN A RALLY IN THIS VERY BUILDING , ON JULY 5, 1964 :  “ … SO LET US TRY THE BALLOT. AND IF THE BALLOT DOESN’T WORK, WE’LL TRY SOMETHING ELSE. BUT LET US TRY THE BALLOT. AND THE ONLY WAY WE CAN TRY THE BALLOT IS TO ORGANIZE AND PUT ON A CAMPAIGN THAT WILL CREATE A NEW CLIMATE.

IT IS CLEAR TO US THAT THE SUCCESSFUL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN  OF PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA WAS AN ACCEPTANCE OF BROTHER MALCOLM’S CHALLENGE TO AMERICANS OF AFRICAN DESCENT TO  “TRY THE BALLOT”.

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, AN AL-JAZEERA REPORTER WHO WAS AN ARAB ASKED ME IF I THOUGHT THAT IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY, EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ (MALCOLM X) WOULD VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA. WHEN I ANSWERED “YES”, THE REPORTER WAVED HIS HAND AND DISMISSED MY RESPONSE WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME WHY I ANSWERED AS I DID.

WELL I PERSONALLY HAVE SPOKEN WITH SOME OF THE FEW  SURVIVING ELDERS IN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, WHO WERE ACTUAL AND AUTHENTIC,  CLOSE FOLLOWERS AND SUPPORTERS OF EL-HAJJ MALIK.

THEY HAVE SAID TO ME THAT THE GREAT AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIM LEADER WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD OF THE DISCIPLINE AND INTEGRITY WITH WHICH THE PRESIDENT-ELECT CONDUCTED HIMSELF DURING THE CAMPAIGN. EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD THEY SAY, O F PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA’S TRIUMPH OVER TREMENDOUS ODDS,  AND THE FACT THAT 97%  OF AFRICAN AMERICANS VOTED FOR OBAMA, AS WELL AS MANY, MANY WHITE, SPANISH-SPEAKING, AND OTHER AMERICANS, OF VARIOUS ETHNICITIES AND BACKGROUNDS.

BY THE SAME TOKEN, JUST AS THE PRESIDENT-ELECT HIMSELF HAS SAID THAT DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING WOULD BE IN THE STREETS LEADING POOR PEOPLE RATHER THAN SITTING IN THE WHITE HOUSE WITH HIM, WE UNDERSTAND THAT THIS APPLIES AS WELL TO BROTHER EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ/ MALCOLM X, WHO FOLLOWED THE QUR’ANIC MANDATE TO SPEAK THE TRUTH NO MATTER WHOM OR WHAT, EVEN IF IT IS AGAINST ONESELF

THAT IS WHAT OUR ELDERS HAVE SAID TO US, AND THEY ARE IN A MUCH BETTER POSITION TO MAKE SUCH DETERMINATIONS, THAN THOSE WHO WHILE THEY SHARE OUR COMMON FAITH, HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN DISCONNECTED FROM AFRICAN AMERICANS GENERALLY, AND MUSLIM AFRICAN AMERICANS IN PARTICULAR.

EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ WAS A MAN OF INTEGRITY WHO STOOD FOR JUSTICE AGAINST INJUSTICE. HE NEVER CALLED FOR ACTS OF INJUSTICE AGAINST OTHERS AS A RESPONSE TO INJUSTICE AGAINST HIS PEOPLE. HE STOOD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS,  AND THE PRINCIPLE  OF SELF-DEFENSE RECOGNIZED IN INTERNATIONAL LAW. HE WOULD HAVE REJECTED, AND WE REJECT , ACTS OF POLITICAL EXTREMISM THAT EXCEED THE BOUNDARIES OF ISLAMIC LAW, AND TAKE THE LIVES OF INNOCENT, NON-COMBATANT CIVILIANS.

SO WE SAY TO ALL WHO WOULD SEEK TO MANIPULATE US, OR MANIPULATE OTHERS AGAINST US, THAT WE KNOW OUR FULL HISTORY IN AMERICA AND WE ARE STRIVING TO UNDERSTAND THE GEO-POLITICAL COMPLEXITIES OF LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD.  MALCOLM X STOOD FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE AND SO DO WE. WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH ALL PEOPLES WHO SHARE THESE IDEALS.

LASTLY, WE BELIEVE THAT BEFORE PEOPLE CRITICIZE PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA ‘S PERFORMANCE AS PRESIDENT  OF THE UNITED STATES, THAT  BOTH  PRUDENCE AND JUSTICE DEMAND THAT HE FIRST BE ALLOWED TO ACTUALLY TAKE OFFICE AND ASSUME THE POWERS AND RESPONSIBILITIES THEREOF, AND BEGIN TO EXERCISE THEM.

IN MIGHT BE THAT WE AS MUSLIM AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERS WILL IN THE FUTURE BE CRITICAL OF SOME OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S DECISIONS AND ACTIONS. ALMIGHTY GOD, WHOM WE WHO ARE MUSLIMS CALL ALLAH, KNOWS BEST.

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AsimG

    November 22, 2008 at 12:26 PM

    Asalaamu Alaykum,

    Man the balance between love of Islam and love of country is not easy to find.

  2. Pingback: Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid and New York Imams Do the Right Thing. « A Singular Voice

  3. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 22, 2008 at 12:56 PM

    Again, I think this a completely media manufactured issue and these Muslim leaders show a very superficial understanding over what is really going on. I want to make clear that I’m not an apologist for Zawahiri and have numerous strong criticism for him and his methodology, but that beside the point for the moment. I honestly doubt that any of these Muslim leaders read the transcript of the audio tape in question and are rather just responding to what has been filtered through CNN and the rest of the corporate media. All of this is really a tempest in a teacup. The attempt to portray Zawahiri as being a racist is just absurd and does not much up with the facts. As Muslims, we should not take our talking points from CNN and the assorted “counter-terrorism” blowhards that populate the cable networks, rather we should undertake an objective evaluation of what was said and why and if there is any truth to it. If the Muslims are truly worried about racism, they should be speaking up for all of those brown Muslim people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Iran that Barack Obama is admittedly perfectly content to bomb back to the Stone Age.

    I would also ask where were these Muslim organizations and leaders when Zawahiri was issuing videos, books, and articles justifying the killing of non-combatants in Western countries, breaking covenants, as well as the killing of Muslims in terrorist attacks under the excuse that they are “human shields”? Zawahiri has distorted the shari’a to further his the-ends-justify-the-means methodology, yet we don’t see any of these Muslims standing up to defend the shari’a from these distortions and manipulations or writing detailed and scholarly refutations and rebuttals, yet as soon as the Dear Leader is called a “House Slave” everyone is all of a sudden outraged by Zawahiri and wrongfully, and I dare say cynically, calling him a racist, as if he were channeling David Duke. I find the whole situation disappointing.

  4. Avatar

    MM Associates

    November 22, 2008 at 12:59 PM

    [written by abu abdAllah]

    bismillah. ameen to the duas for El Hajj Malik el-Shabaz, aka Malcolm X. RahimAllah. without doubt a man who was killed soon after his hijrah, soon after he had made his hijrah a turning point in his comprehension of submission to Allah, soon after he had become a standard-bearer for his brother and sisters who were still in the Nation. may Allah accept him among the shaheed.

    personally, i still think that the best way to rebut the comments of a minority of hateful people is to refuse to give them any prominence. if someone were to ask me about my opinion of a certain group of people, i hope i have the presence of mind to just say “who? i don’t know anyone who is as interested in their views as you are. maybe you should report on something people do care about.”

    a sure sign that the Obama Administration does not plan on ruling by “divide and conquer” at home, does not plan on perpetuating athe politics of fear and hate? that mention of these militants gradually fades from public life.

  5. Avatar

    Abdul-Kareem

    November 22, 2008 at 1:11 PM

    @ Abu Umar

    Imam Johari Abdul-Malik makes clear in his post that he is outraged by their justifications of murder.

  6. Avatar

    Pasha

    November 22, 2008 at 1:13 PM

    The media cut and pastes and distorts. I’m no commenting on what anyone said or is saying but it’s amazing how everyone rushes to criticism when it’s impossible to get the full facts.

  7. Avatar

    MM Associates

    November 22, 2008 at 1:14 PM

    [written by abu abdAllah]

    bismillah. maybe a group of smart-minded Muslim Americans needs to take out an ad in the NYT and/or WSJ:

    (a sample text that could be edited by someone like Iesa Galloway)
    Stop paying attention to the media trolls of the Muslim world

    An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

    We are in an era of mass media-trolls. So the next time one of these literal and ideological cave-dwellers surfaces and claims to speak on behalf of all Muslims, or bad enough, claims to be addressing American Muslims, just remember that said individual or small group’s comments are no more worthy of reply than a common internet troll.

    When the mass media picks up those comments, it’s the mass media that has been taken advantage of by the trolls. We sympathize with you, but the solution is simple. Start covering the news — and stop following the trolls.

    (props to Amad for that troll definition, used in a different thread)

  8. Avatar

    Abdur-Rahman Muhammad

    November 22, 2008 at 1:27 PM

    Kudos to Imam Johari and Imam Talib in condemning this racist and murderous maniac. Thanks also to Amad. I know we have had our differences in the past, and we still do, but I must be fair and say I really appreciate you posting this in support of the Black community that was attacked by this man.

  9. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 22, 2008 at 2:33 PM

    the Black community that was attacked by this man.

    How was his statement an attack on the Black community? Or are Powell, Rice, and Obama (the only blacks attacked by Zawahiri) the embodiment of or the representatives of the entire black community?

  10. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    Where in the heck did he attack the Black community? You guys are really getting on nerves now. I mean you have no sense of justice. Is Obama a embodiment of black community? If you guys have this much problem with zawahiri using the “house slave” or “house negro” word why do you guys find it acceptable to using within the black community?

    This is media blowing things out of proportion and I find it really disappointing that the leaders of muslim community rushing to condemn him. What has Obama done for the muslims anyways? He has not even given them anything. On the other hand he has picked people like Sonal Shah,Rahm Emmanual etc.

  11. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 22, 2008 at 2:51 PM

    Really, I don’t see how any of the members of Bin Laden’s group can even attempt to specifically Black Muslims in America. They are as disconnected and far apart as A and Z.

  12. Avatar

    Olivia

    November 22, 2008 at 2:52 PM

    sorry that comment by Siraaj was posted by me.

  13. Avatar

    Abdul-Kareem

    November 22, 2008 at 3:18 PM

    I am curious as to why many non-blacks are trying to tell blacks what should offend them. I tend to defer to them on this

  14. Avatar

    Saad

    November 22, 2008 at 5:07 PM

    Can any of these Imams please elaborate and provide evidences for Islamically accepting nationalism and patriotism?

    • Avatar

      Muhammad Rashid Aliyu

      May 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

      ‏حدثنا ‏ ‏أبو بكر بن أبي شيبة ‏ ‏حدثنا ‏ ‏زياد بن الربيع اليحمدي ‏ ‏عن ‏ ‏عباد بن كثير الشامي ‏ ‏عن ‏ ‏امرأة منهم يقال لها ‏ ‏فسيلة ‏ ‏قالت سمعت ‏ ‏أبي ‏ ‏يقول ‏
      ‏سألت النبي ‏ ‏صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏فقلت يا رسول الله أمن العصبية أن يحب الرجل قومه قال ‏ ‏لا ولكن من العصبية أن يعين الرجل قومه على الظلم

      “O Messenger of Allah, is it Al-‘Asabeeyah (racism & tribalism) that a man love his own people?” He said` ‘No! But Al-‘Asabeeyah is that a man helps his people in oppression and wrong-doing.’[1]

  15. Avatar

    hamdan

    November 22, 2008 at 5:21 PM

    What a joke. Haven’t they heard of al-Walaa wal Baraa’? What are these two going to say when Obama continues the war on Muslims? Islaam is innocent of this racialism.

  16. Avatar

    Mr Lee X Slave

    November 22, 2008 at 6:14 PM

    THE MUSLIM WORLD DOES NOT RESPECT YOU SO-CALLED ORTHODOX MUSLIMS, THEY CONTINUE TO SE YOU BROTHERS AS THEIR SLAVES. SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT THE ‘BLACK MUSLIMS’ THEY MAY NOT LIKE US BUT THEY KNOW WE ARE NOT OR WILL EVER KISS THEIR BUTTS, TO BE RECOGNIZED, BY THE WILLING PARTICIPANTS ( who have not even apologized ) FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THE ENSLAVEMENT OF US THEIR MUSLIM BROTHERS. DAMN IT IS GOOD TO BE FREE!

  17. Amad

    Amad

    November 22, 2008 at 6:27 PM

    Story in CNN.

    This is a positive outcome alhamdulilah. Average Joe on the street gets an opportunity to see Muslims in America stand up for something that is positive and has wide support. I am sure if you ask an average American, probably a good chunk of them still think Muslims don’t have an issue with Al-Qaeda.

    So, even just using opportunities to get the word out in the media, of mainstream Muslim disapproval of al-Qaida is sufficient justification for what may seem an over-reaction to something trivial, if placed relative to the corpus of Zawahiri’s vile activities.

    In any case, it is amusing to see people tell others who are affected by certain statements how the others should feel about it!

    I am with Abdul Kareem. That is why I posted the statements because I defer judgment of offense to BAMs because they would know what they are feeling better than what I would know how they are feeling. And these statements are coming not from average BAMs, but BAMs who are respected Imams and elders in our communities. These are not members of NOI or black panthers or some other splinter group. They are recognized elders and part of the circle of the American Muslim leaders, whether we like it or not. I hope that we would all show required deference to them, EVEN if we disagree with their opinions.

    wallahualam.

    P.S. Any personal attacks targeted at the Imams, just like any attacks on our Shayookh, will not be tolerated.

  18. Avatar

    al-istiqamah.com

    November 22, 2008 at 7:14 PM

    The glee with which African-American Muslims are rubbing their hands that an African-American has been elected to the WHITE house – purely because he shares their skin colour- is alien to the teachings of Islam regarding not having pride in one’s ancestral roots.

    Has Obama given any indication that the Muslim world will suffer less under his foreign policy than it did under Clinton or Bush?

  19. Avatar

    MT.Akbar

    November 22, 2008 at 8:42 PM

    Ayman Zawahiri is a propaganditst, an extremist, someone who according to Islamic law is a criminal. His comments were offensive because he is an outsider with no connection to the African American history or movement for liberation in America. His usage of Imam Malcolm X was disturbing because the two couldn’t be more sharply different in principles and methodology. The school of Malcolm X sought solidarity with the oppressed of the world and DID NOT make them targets in their schema of power, unlike Zawihiri and his acolytes who have committed atrocities against civilians and other poor folks. Zawihiri is closer to a utilitarian philosophy then a universal one which was espoused by Malcolm who was deeply effected by Islamic principles.

    It is a whole othet topic to discuss the problematic nature of an Obama presidency for both America and the world and the legitimate critique that must be aimed at him and the pressures (as Cornel West states) must be laid upon him to move in a progressive and truly repersentative manner. That discussion must be removed from this vitrolic contribution by Zawahiri “The outsider.”

    In light of recent appointments and past policy discussions it seems Obama will continue to move for neo-liberalism, unrepersentative and undermocratic forces here at home and abroad and imperialism. Aside from these wares which will not be altered in his sales as the merchant of change, the real substantive difference at least that separates him from the rest of the American political cartel is his ability to be open to dialogue and different views and be more diplomatic – this gives us some hope.

    PS. sorry for the ramble

    -MT

  20. Avatar

    Musa Franco

    November 22, 2008 at 9:42 PM

    Mr. Lee X Slave

    You went from being a slave to the White man to being a slave of the black man; oh and then to another white man (Farad Muhammad). As far as orthodox muslims. Well, we are not slaves to any created beings. have been emancipated by the Religion that the prophet muhammad. Not enslaved to a man like farad muhammad. I hope someone can post the article by Zaid Shakir called the prophet Muhammad and blackness.

    Wa Salaam Ala Man Taba3a Al Huda

  21. Avatar

    Naeem

    November 23, 2008 at 2:02 AM

    AA- Amad,

    “I am sure if you ask an average American, probably a good chunk of them still think Muslims don’t have an issue with Al-Qaeda.”

    And if after 7 years of loudly denouncing OBL and his crew, at every possible opportunity, at every public function, the Muslim community is still thought to support Al-Qaeda, what good will this CNN story do?

    Sorry bro, Joe six-pack will always be joe six-pack…ain’t no changing that! Just look at how many Joe’s and Jane’s thought/think Obama is a Muslim.

  22. Avatar

    Sarrah B.

    November 25, 2008 at 5:58 PM

    Jazakh Allahu Khair for this post. I would love to see more colaboration between the immigrant Muslim community and the indiginous Muslim community in America. I truly believe that it is only through more colaboration that we can better understand one another, respect one another, and truly embrace one another in faithful brother/sisterhood as Islam mandates/promotes.

    Growing up in America it has always boggled my mind how many Muslims (note, I didn’t say ALL) can be so incredibly racist and prejudice to others, while we are living here as religious and ethnic minorities and have experienced *some* of the same prejudice and in fact like to cry about how bad we have it (and I don’t think we have it that bad at all, Alhamdulillah).

    I think immigrant muslims and 2nd generation Muslims really need to take some time to understand the history of this country in order for us to progress as Muslim-Americans in the right direction. I think many would be surprised at what they might find and how they can better understand their role in it all.

    Please keep the posts like these coming! And even better, find a way for more Black American Muslims to regularly contribute to this site.

    Ok final rant – this site is amazing Mashallah. :o)

  23. Avatar

    J

    November 26, 2008 at 5:18 PM

    Bro/Sister al-istiqamah.com

    The glee with which African-American Muslims are rubbing their hands that an African-American has been elected

    Why shouldn’t they be? It is the culmination of many decades of struggle by their people to reach equality in the land?

    to the WHITE house –

    Umm, it’s called the white house because it is painted white.

    purely because he shares their skin colour- is alien to the teachings of Islam regarding not having pride in one’s ancestral roots.

    If a certain group of people have been oppressed for hundreds of years, and finally attain equality (although it’s just a symbolic event of course), then this is something to be happy about. It’s preposterous to link this to jahiliyyah or assabiyyah.

  24. Avatar

    Someone Somewhere

    December 8, 2008 at 5:35 AM

    I think discussing Zawahiri’s is positive, but when we become too affected by it we simply him to succed in fulfilling divisive goals.

  25. Avatar

    Umar Farooq

    September 8, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    @ al-istiqamah.com

    All praise be to Allah the most gracious most merciful. In whose name I bear witness to the truth so help me God if i’m in error. Both sides of the argument have some correctness here( I’m African by the way). However, Allah as my witness, if it were up to the Saudis my black behind would still be in shackles ( It was not until 1962 that King Faisal formally abolished slavery in Saudi Arabia with pressure from the UN- whom we consider to be Kaffirs) .

    I’m not afraid to say that there is a fascist strain of thought flowing throughout the ‘Islamic World’. So don’t be surprised if brothers don’t see eye to eye on this issue.

    I’ll tell you what . when the islamic world is ready to elect a leader regardless of his color or his head being shriveled up like a raisin (as quoted from the racist(hadith) see bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 662.) Then we’ll stop rejoicing at the Obama victory, but until then my raisin headed people quoted in the false hadith are gonna have to agree to disagree.

    ps. al-istiqamah.com -Dont lie , you know how disgracefull it would be if your sister( or any female relative) were to marry a raisin headed blackman (even if he was a muslim ) I lie ?

  26. Avatar

    Umm Uthmaan

    November 8, 2009 at 4:35 AM

    I have helped African brothers marry Asian sisters, so don’t slander me. I’m a Muslim sister, and no, it wouldn’t be shameful to me if anyone in our family married an African or mixed-race Muslim. What is shameful to me is the fact that so many African Americans are responding to the call of jahiliyah. What benefit has Obama brought you so far, as an African Muslim? It’s Christianity that put the Africans in chains, and there you are revelling over a mixed-race Christian being in the White House, who is continuing the foreign policy of Bush.

  27. Avatar

    The Black Whirl Wind

    June 19, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    First Zawahiri, ben Laden and the entire al-qaeda organization are muharibuun (illegal combatants) who are fighting without the permission of a Muslim ruler. the Qu’ran and the Sunna are explicite regarding the rulings of the muharibi. they are to be fought by the collective body of Muslims. If Zawahiri or his ilk had any genuine love for Black people or its large Muslim population, they would have consulted our leadership BEFORE making any attacks upon the nations in which we live and reside. Every single terrorist attack by these muharibuun have had dire consequence upon Muslims in the west and our ability to call people to Allah. if Zawahiri really identitfies with al-Hajj Malik El Shabazz, he would have known that there is an ongoing protracted struggle going on in the US for the rights of Muslims in the country that go back to trhe period of Antebellum America. The evoking of the words of al-Hajj Malik El Shabazz is a ploy and a hook, nothing more. And none of the dedicated soldiers to our struggle in the US will give any weight or consideration to Zawahiri’s words simply because he is legally a muharibi and politically and opportunists.

    Now as for Obama, powell and Rice being a house negroes. That is EXACLTY what they are and I didnt need Zawahiri hiding in a cave to tell me that. In fact, Zawahiri’s remarks fall short of describing the reality of Obama. Obama is typical of the black slave drivers who when they were given charge over the plantation in the absence of the slave master would go out of their way to be more violent, harsh and cruel than the white slave master. So far, none of the unjust, illegal or unconstitutoinal rulings implemented by Cheney and his shadow president Bush have been abolished. More Muslim have been killed under Obama than under Cheney. more tortures of innocent Muslims have occured under Obama than under Cheney. More illegal surveillance of US Muslims have occured under Obama than under Cheney. Obama has done NOTHING for the benefit of the people that he claims to be apart of, with the exception of havuing a few barbeques in the White House and inviting a couple of hip hop artists. All meaningful legislation to assure the protection of the human, political and economic rights of the US’s chief national minority has been ignored by the Obama administration. All the promises he made have all been unfulfilled. And the problem is not a single Black leader including Muslims are willing to admit this – simply because he is black! That is racism.

    So Johari may feel comfortable calling Zawahiri racist. He may well be, although nothing in his statement proves it. I can say that Johari is also racist for supporting an unjust ruler simply because he is black. To me both Zawahiri and Johari are playing the race card, because neither one of them REALLY cares about the genuine policies of al-Hajj Malikl El Shabazz. Zawahiri has an excuse, he’s is an Egyptian hiding in a cave in Afghanistan with no real advisers except somne loser white boy from southern California. What is Johari’s excuse for not actively supporting the political policies of al-Hajj Malik El Shabazz? Like Zawahiri, Johari is also evoking our Shining prince’s words and picking and choosing segments of his words which accomodate his own acquiesance to domestic colonization.

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#Society

The Problem With “When They Go Low, We Go High” In An Anti-Black Society

In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama’s quote, ‘When they go low, we go high’, was first invoked in response to growing anti-black and racist sentiments hurled by the current president and his supporters. Like many others, I believed it was stirring and motivational, yet never felt right in my heart, let alone mind. Going high, but what was the starting point? How are we defining the actions of the ‘they’ or ‘them’? What is the breaking point, when engagement with the ‘they’ becomes problematic and leads to your destruction? Are there rules to this engagement? What game are we playing? Who gets to be the judge or referee? So, the quote and the sentiment never really set right in my heart and led to more questions than answers.

The first assumption of the quote, ‘they’  have a moral compass and actively engaging you in this manner, placing you on the same level. The reality, whiteness in America seeks to maintain its power and control. White slaveholders and the system of hate they used to justify those they enslaved, built a model of power and control, which is the foundation of our current economy and societal structure. This institutionalized whiteness is so ingrained in our culture we are blind to its implications and oblivious to how we each play a role in maintaining this system. Ignorance of the historical development of this country and the narrative of being ‘American’ allows for ‘them’ to maintain their control and a passive acceptance of ‘their’ control and power.

The ‘they’ is often not embodied in a singular person or one group, but a collective body of thoughts and behavior; perpetuating fundamental beliefs or maintaining a perceived status quo. It is individual, institutional, and structural. While social media is full of single racially- charged incidents, when viewed as a whole, they are rooted in long-held beliefs and perceptions of white superiority and disdain for Black presence in their daily lives. Guilt, maybe. Fear. Many are not even aware of how and why they ‘hate’ Black people they simply, do. Here is where we will begin, if you cannot soundly identify or recognize why you hold a particular belief or idea, your actions can never firmly centered in a morally or ethically position. Many of the recent encounters reveal whiteness is predicated on lies; and the belief that white words are superior to truth. The interaction between a San Francisco couple, confronting a Black Man. provides a case study in how we are often engaged and the surveillance of our presence. Threats to call the police, with false information was of no significance to them in their minds, they were right and justified. This incident and the modern-day lynchings of Black persons, allows us to understand ‘they’ or morally bankrupt and will do whatever is necessary to maintain their perceived control.

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A quote by Matshona Dhilwayo bridges the gap between the contradictions in my heart and the understanding my mind seeks,

“It is possible to turn the other cheek when one has stopped counting.”

For generations, Black Americans have taken the ‘higher’ road in response to prejudice and discrimination. At times I believe, we have stopped counting because we knew few changes were coming or justice. During the pinnacle of the civil rights movement during the 60’s the emergence of Malcolm X, challenged the idea of ‘turning the cheek’ when faced with violent acts perpetrated upon Blacks by Whites. The slaps, the senseless murders of Black people on the streets, you count and recognize your enemy for who and what they represent.

In confronting our enemy, we must meet them on their home field of engagement. Millions have taken to the streets across the globe, no longer willing to accept the status quo and suffer needlessly at the hands of those who seek to negate our very existence. As a country, we must understand, this was NEVER a fair fight, on an equal field of battle, or with ample weapons. Nothing about the ‘American’ way of life ever guaranteed any of us a fair shot or equality.

You can not get justice from a system founded by people who in the 1700s published books on how to address the ‘negro problem’. Even Thomas Jefferson knew this day was coming, but in the end, he still held firmly to the belief we were an inferior race who could be easily controlled and manipulated.

Did the enemy play fair when Dr. King was trying to catch a moment of calm at the Lorraine Hotel? Was the enemy morally centered when Malcolm stood in the Audubon Auditorium and was assassinated in front of his family? Did they think twice as Medger Evers pulled into his driveway to spend the evening with his wife and family? When Fred Hampton lay in bed beside his wife was there a second thought?

The idea is not to meet your enemy on some lofty plateau of moral superiority, because they have none; their superiority is based on an ideology that doesn’t even recognize you as their equal. The real lesson, learn from your enemy- their tactics, fighting styles, and methods of engagement. Fight them not with their tools, but your own.

As people of faith, we tend to view those around us, as divine creations of The One; forgetting it was one of those divine creations, who we call the Shaytan. Yes, we accept others for who they are and respect all of humanity. The balance then becomes in recognizing just as the Quran teaches, not everyone will be called to faith or will lead peaceful harmonious lives. This is where we find ourselves, after almost five hundred years of oppression and abuse across the world, here in America, there may not be any redemptive hope for our enemy or the system they created. This does not mean, we simply acquiesce to their control and power, it means we engage them on a level playing field and defeat them using their own rules and weapons.

Knowing your enemy does not mean you become them; nor does it eliminate Divine intervention during periods of unrest. Knowing your enemy, is simply that you fully embrace the reality that they are your enemy and act accordingly. While we hold firm to our faith and the knowledge that He is the Best of Planners, we cannot enter into the enemy’s seat of power believing our mere presence and fervent prayers will somehow miraculously and instantly change their heart. That is not our calling or role, and not our divine purpose. Imams, scholars, and activists engaged in the work of justice and equality, are not divinely elevated to personas and are not representatives of our Lord, but mere offering religious insight and guidance. They hold space, offering insight, and protection.

Never, in the history of this country, have those in power and control ever fully recognized, accepted, or atoned for the entrapment, kidnapping, and enslavement of Africans. Instead, they have violently and systematically created a country of denial and continued oppression. The argument is that things have improved from the ’60s.  My response, I am still not free of the anxiety of having my children taken from this world, simply because they are Black.

We are not allowed to move about this world without having to do twice as much; be ten times better; while still being thought of as less than.

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#Society

On British Muslims & Racism: Do Black Lives Matter?

Q. As Muslims, what should our stance be on racism or racial discrimination, and should we be supporting social justice movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM)? And isn’t all of this support for BLM privileging justice for black people over others, especially when we Muslims realise the increasing Islamophobia and injustices being perpetrated against our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe?

A. At the outset, let me be clear about how I intend to engage these concerns. And that is by rooting them in mainstream teachings of Islam so as to address the issue of racism in a manner that might be meaningful in a British context, and recognised as being Islamic in a Muslim one. I have divided the response into five parts: [i] Islam & racism; [ii] modernity & racism; [iii] Britain & racism; [iv] Muslims & racism; and [v] BLM & racism.

I. Islam & Racism

Although the following verse is not speaking of the modern social construct of racism per se, it is speaking to the pre-modern concept of groupings of people related by significant comment descent; in terms of location, language, history and culture. Thus we read in the Holy Qur’an: O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and then made you nations and tribes that you might know one another. Truly, the noblest of you in the sight of God is he who is the most pious. God is indeed Knowing, Aware. [Q.49:13]

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The Prophet ﷺ brought skin colour into the mix in these words: ‘O mankind! Indeed your Lord is one, and indeed your father is one. Truly, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor white (ahmar, lit. ‘red’ or ‘reddish’) over black, nor black over white – except by piety. Have I not conveyed [the message]?’1

In fact, the Qur’an doesn’t only negatively condemn such discrimination, but it positively and actively celebrates diversity too: And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the differences of your languages and your colours. In this are signs for people of knowledge. [Q.30:22]

The above verses and prophetic statement, then, were a total restructuring of the moral or ethical landscape prevalent throughout Arabia at the time. True worth would no longer be determined by skin colour, lineage, or even by grandiose shows of courage or generosity. Rather, true worth would be measured by taqwa – ‘piety,’ ‘godliness’ and ‘mindfulness’ of God’s commands and prohibitions.

Once, when one of the Prophet’s wives hurled a racial slur (or ethnoreligious insult, as we might say today) at another co-wife in a state of annoyance, disparagingly called her ‘the daughter of a Jew’, the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Indeed, your [fore]father [Moses] was a Prophet; your [great] uncle [Aaron] was a Prophet; and you are married to a Prophet. What can she boast to you about?’2 Again, when one companion insulted another person, by insulting his mother because she was a non-Arab, the Prophet ﷺ said to him: ‘You still have some pre-Islamic ignorance (jahiliyyah) in you.’3 Thus no Muslim has even the slightest right to resurrect the vile attitude of racism; xenophobia; tribal bigotry; or insulting people due to them being seen as the ‘Other’, when the Prophet ﷺ radically eliminated such attitudes from the believer’s worldview and relationships. Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘There isn’t a single verse in God’s Book that praises someone or censures someone due to just their lineage. Instead, praise is due to faith and piety, while blame is because of disbelief, immorality or disobedience.’4

II. Modernity & Racism

In the 1830s, Samuel Morton, an American craniologist, amassed and studied hundreds of human skulls so as to measure differences in brain size between people from various ethnic backgrounds. Morton believed he had used science to prove that white people were intellectually superior to other ‘races’. In his Crania Americana, Morton declared that not only did white people have larger brains and thus were intellectually superior to all other races, but also that black people had the smallest brains sizes and were hence inferior to all others. Morton and others used this conclusion as a ‘scientific’ justification to continue slavery in the United States and negatively stereotype black people. Many hold Morton to be the founding father of scientific racism. It’s here that, based upon this pseudo-science and on certain superficial differences in physiological traits, the categorisation of people into distinct ‘races’ begins in earnest. And while the institutional racism, racial prejudice, and white supremacy that was to follow were directed at all races in Morton’s descending hierarchy, providing adequate grounds to treat other races differently, in terms of rights and privileges, it would be black people (at the supposed bottom of the heap) that would bear the greatest and most sustained brunt of it.

Of course, modern science has long since shown that brain size isn’t necessarily related to intelligence. Instead, brain size is tied to things like environment, climate and body size, while intelligence is more related to how many neurons, or how efficient the connections between neurons, are in the brain. Indeed, modern science has also largely debunked the biological basis of race, showing that there is as much genetic diversity within such racial groups as there is between them. Science now regards race as a conventional attribution; a social construct, but not a scientifically rooted or valid classification. And while today we tend to favour the term ethnicity over the arbitrary construct of ‘race’ based upon skin colour and physiognomy, race remains, for some, a focus of individual and group identity, particularly members of socially disadvantaged groups, like blacks, where it oftentimes is a source of pride and joy. All this has led many anthropologists to argue that since there is no scientific basis for race, we should just chuck the whole idea in the bin. Others say that if we’re going to continue to insist on the social fiction of racial differences, let it be based on ethical considerations that enhance justice, fairness and familiarity between peoples, not hatred, discrimination and xenophobia. In fact, this latter way of looking at ethnic or racial divides is probably more in keeping with what Islam wants for humanity. After all, God made of us nations and tribes lita‘arafu – ‘that you might know one another.’

The above, then, amidst the activities of European empires and colonialism is where such modern ideas of racial discrimination and racism were birthed; ideas and realities which still reverberate frustratingly down to these present times. Just how many ordinary white Britons internalised the racist pseudo-science over the past one hundred and fifty years or so, not because they were particularly bad or evil people, but because they believed the ‘science’, is anyone’s guess. Add to that the usual xenophobia that often exists against the outsider, the modern feats and achievements of white Western Europe which feed into the idea of white exceptionalism or supremacy, and the political utility of whipping up blame against immigrants in times of national difficulty and economic downturn, make for well-entrenched myths and discrimination against people of colour.

III. Britain &Racism

Although the history of the United States is drenched in racism; with the issue of race still being the most painful, divisive one for its citizens, it is racism in Britain – my home, and where I was born and raised – that I’d like to confine my remarks and anecdotes to. And in Britain, just as in America, while peoples of diverse ethnic minorities have undeniably been, and continue to be, victims of racism, it is discrimination against black people that is by far the more endemic and systemic.

The recent anti-racist protests that are taking place across the country aren’t just to show anger about the death of yet another black man, George Floyd, at the hands of yet another American police officer. They are also protests against the systemic racism here in Britain too. Long before racism against blacks, Asians, and Eastern Europeans, Jews as a people, and also the Irish, suffered racism in Britain. Jewish people still do.

Whilst structural or institutional racism is difficult to conclusively prove, the lived reality of people of colour, as well as statistics after statistics, or report after report, all point to similar conclusions: Britain has a race problem. It doesn’t just have a problem with casual racism (now called micro aggression; as experienced in schools, jobs or everyday life), or racism born from unconscious bias (snap decisions conditioned by cultural upbringing or personal experience); it has a problem of systemic racism too – racial discrimination and negative stereotyping within many of its key institutions: the police force and the criminal justice system deemed to be among the main culprits.

It is, of course, argued that although Britain does indeed have individual racists, and that acts of racism do tragically still occur here, but Britain itself; even if it may have been in the recent past, isn’t institutionally racist anymore. We have the Equalities Act of 2010, as one of the clearest proofs against any institutional racism.

Or the case has been put that, ever since the Macpherson Report of 1999, which came as a result of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, in 1993 – and the two words in it that stood out from the rest of the 350 page report, that London’s Metropolitan Police was ‘institutionally racist’ – Britain’s police forces have internalised the criticism and have come on leaps and bounds since then: individually and institutionally. So to describe Britain’s police forces as still being systemically racist is unjust and unfair; or so the argument goes.

Be that as it may; and while many positive changes of both mind and structure have been sincerely made, the stark, present-day statistics tell us another story. Modern Britain is a place where black people, in contrast to white ones are: 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched; 4 time more likely to be arrested; twice as likely to be temporarily excluded from school; and 3 times as likely to be permanently excluded from school; and twice as likely to die in police custody. From any unbiased standard, does this look anywhere like equality? And just as importantly, are we saying that institutional racism is totally absent from these numbers?5

For most of my life, I’ve lived on one council estate or another in East London. In my pre-teen years, I grew up on an estate in Chingford, where most of the people were white, with a few Afro-Caribbean families and a couple of Asian ones: my family being one of them. I, like many other non-whites of my generation, encountered my share of racist abuse; and for a short time, a little racist bullying too. On the whole, I got along with most kids on the estate and at its primary school, regardless of colour; and they got along with me.

For my entire teen years, I lived on another estate in Leytonstone, where this time most of the residents were black. It was the mid 1970s, and it was a time when many young black people were, I wouldn’t say suffering an identity crisis, but more that they were searching for an identity. For unlike their parents, they were neither Jamaican, Bajan [Barbadian], or Trinidadian, nor did they feel (or were made to feel) totally British. Instead, young black Britons were turning to their Blackness to make sense of their place in Britain, developing a sense of collective cultural identity in the process. I felt a greater affinity to that culture, than I did any other. Voices like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, the Wailing Souls and Black Uhuru spoke to our plight and our aspirations. But whilst their conscious lyrics of roots reggae was coming out of Jamaica, it was home-grown, British reggae artists that would tell our own specifically British story: artists like Steel Pulse, Black Roots, Mikey Dread or, particularly for me, Aswad (or early Aswad, from ’76-’82). Aswad sang of African Children (which I’d swap in my mind for ‘immigrant’ children) ‘living in a concrete situation;’ in ‘precast stone walls, concrete cubicles. Their rent increasing each and every other day; Structural repairs are assessed and yet not done; Lift out of action on the twenty-seventh floor; And when they work, they smell.’ All of us youths crammed into the estate’s small youth centre, smiled, nodded away approvingly, and perfectly identified with the message when we first heard such conscious lyrics booming out at us. Whilst Marley spoke of the daily ghetto struggles of growing up in the concrete jungle of Kingston 12; Trenchtown, for me, Aswad spoke of parallel struggles growing up in the concrete situation of Leytonstone E11. We all a feel it, yes we a feel it!

Back to racism. My one little anecdotal proof of black victimisation from the police comes from the time when I was living on Leytonstone’s Cathall Road Estate. Police raids were a fairly usual occurrence on our estate as well as in the youth centre; sometimes with actual justification. In the youth centre, the police (usually with their police dogs), would stomp in; turn off the music; stamp out any spliff that was lit up; and then we’d all be told to line up against the wall with our hands behind our heads. Every time this happened, without exception, when it came to searching me, they never did. They’d simply insist that I leave the centre, or go home, which I would. I’d then usually come back half an hour or an hour later, and resume playing pool, table-tennis or bar football; or just soak up the vibes (not the spliff). Once, after a raid had happened, I came back to the centre, only for one of my close Rasta friends to advise me that it would be best if I stay home for a few days. I asked why? He told me that some people who hang out at the centre, but who don’t really know me, nor live on the actual estate, are saying that it’s odd that I never get searched and that maybe I was a grass. It would be an understatement if I said that I was scared stiff. I took the advice, and stayed away from the centre for a week, till I got the nod that things were all okay. A month or so later, and yet another raid. But this time, for me it was a Godsend: they actually searched me! I felt relieved, vindicated, and took it as a badge of honour. My point being is that throughout the ’70s and ’80s, there were countless times when I saw specifically black people stigmatised and victimised by the police.

To be honest, by the mid 1980s, with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism doing their thing against the far-right National Front; with Reggae and Two-Tone Ska bands and gigs more and more mixing blacks and whites; and with attitudes of the young positively changing, I thought (perhaps naively) that racism in Britain would liklely be a thing of the past by the mid ’90s. Optimism, of course, is entirely healthy, as long as it doesn’t become blind to realism.

IV. Muslims & Racism

Here I’d like to speak about something that some Muslims will find uncomfortable: which is that we [non-black]Muslims need to admit the anti-black racism that infects our own communities. Sadly, racism against black people – including fellow black Muslims – is all too common among British Asian Muslims of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. Whether it is being stared at by elderly Asians in the mosque and so made to feel self-conscious, to the way we of South Asian descent use the word kala, ‘black’, in a derogatory way; or whether it’s about marriage, or thinking all black Muslims must be converts and then dishing out patronising praise to them over basic acts like making wudhu – this un-Islamic nonsense; this jahiliyyah, simply has to stop.

We must speak to our elders about their anti-black racism. We need to respectfully discuss why so many of our mosques continue to make black Muslims feel unwelcome, or drive them away, and what can be done about it? Yet while our masjids are undeniably masjids; ‘Most mosques function as “race temples” created as enclosures for single ethnicities, and their mono-ethnic and introspective leadership are generally unfamiliar with any novelty occurring outside their silos.’6 Such ‘race temples’ are where Ethnic Islam rules the roost, even at the cost of shari‘ah race equality, sirah hospitality, or sunnah unity.

But racism isn’t just an issue with South Asian elders? It lurks in the hearts and minds of my generation too; and maybe that of my children’s? It’s less the stares or the ignorance about Black achievements, and more the negative stereotyping; post-colonial complexes; desperation to whiten-up; or outright racism when it comes to marriage. Here as an Asian Muslim parent, I’m happy for my daughter or son to marry – religiously speaking – some adamant fasiq or fasiqah – especially if they are of a lighter complexion: but I could never accept them marring a godly, well-mannered, responsible Black person! But we convince ourselves we are not racist: after all, I love the sahabi, Bilal. I weep when I read Bilal’s life story. My good friend, Bilal, is black. But the proof is in the pudding, and the truth is that we need to move beyond tokenism; beyond Bilal.

Those Muslims who make an issue of colour; whose racist or tribal mindsets lead them to look down upon a person of darker colour or treat them unequally, let them consider the son-in-law of the Prophet ﷺ, and fourth Caliph, sayyiduna ‘Ali b. Abi Talib. The classical biographers all state: kana ‘ali adam, shadid al-udmah – ‘Ali was black, jet black.7 Or take our master ‘Umar who is also described in the same terms.8 The colour, adam may refer to skin complexion which is dark brown, like a native American; or darker still, like in native Australian aborigines; or jet black, like many Africans. When the phrase, shadid al-udmah is added, ‘extremely dark’, then there’s no mistaking what is meant: a person who, for all intents and purposes, is black. Such a description seems quite usual for the Arabs among the sahabah. Black skin is also the colour of the lady with whom the whole Muhammadan saga begins: our lady Hagar (Hajarah); she was a black Egyptian. Or consider the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Our Prophet ﷺ once said: ‘As for Moses, he was tall and dark brown, as like the men of al-Zutt.’9 The Zutt were a well-known tribe of tall dark men from the Sudan.10 After knowing the above, if we are still going to look down at people merely due to their darker complexion, then what ghustakhi; what mockery and disrespect will we be possibly drowning in?

Islam is neither racist nor colour blind. It wants us to understand that skin colour has no intrinsic worth, only piety does. Yet at the same time, it allows us to celebrate differences in a way that does not offend Heaven, and in a way that causes us to offer joyful thanks to the One Who is the Maker of all Colours.

Islam is neither racist nor colour blind. It wants us to understand that skin colour has no intrinsic worth, only piety does. Yet at the same time, it allows us to celebrate differences in a way that does not offend Heaven, and in a way that causes us to offer joyful thanks to the One Who is the Maker of all Colours.Click To Tweet

So let’s have the conversations. Let’s have some serious introspection. Let’s listen to what Black Muslims have to say. Let’s desire to be healers, not dividers. Let’s educate ourselves about the reality of Black lives in general, and Black Muslim lives in particular. Olusoga’s Black & British and Akala’s Natives are good places to start. Sherman Jackson’s Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering is, with its theological insights, a must read. Above all, let’s work towards not just being non-racist, but anti-racist.

Change, thankfully, is in the air. For urban, millennial Muslims, and those of a generation younger still, these older ethnic divides are more and more of an irrelevance in their lives (though I’m not sure how much this applies to those raised in ethnic silos in Britain’s less urbanised cities). Such millennials have heard the stories of the intra-ethnic fighting; the anti-black racism; the token hospitality to black Muslims, but without ever giving them a voice; and the fruitless attempts to make the ‘race temples’ more inclusive, and how after decades, it’s a case of banging heads and brick walls. So owing to this, they are seeking to create more inclusive, culturally more meaningful spaces; away from all this toxic, ethnic Islam. Surely that’s where the rest of us should be heading too?

V. BLM & Racism

The Qur’an says: Help one another in righteousness and piety, help not one another in sin or transgression. [Q.5:2] Between this verse and the hilf al-fudul pact the Prophet ﷺ upheld and endorsed even after prophethood, we have a solid religious basis for supporting any individual or group working for issues of social justice: be it for Muslims or non-Muslims; be it led by Muslims or non-Muslims.

The Black Lives Matter movement has proven itself to be a powerful and effective vehicle over the past five years to demand reform in terms of anti-Black racism; with their current focus on justice for George Floyd and his family. Thus, how can Muslims not support it? Of course, we cannot give any organisation carte blanche support. Religiously, we Muslims cannot give unconditional support to anybody save to God and His Prophet ﷺ. Given that BLM has a few stated aims that are inconsistent with Islam’s theology (‘freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking’ is one of them, for instance), our activism must be guided by sacred knowledge and illumined by revealed guidance. Our intention is not supporting BLM, as such. Instead, it’s a case of making a stand against injustice, in this case anti-Black racism: supporting those individuals or organisations that are likely to be the most effective in achieving this goal. (It should go without saying, that we can work for justice for more than one cause or more than one set of people at the same time). And this is what the above verse and the hilf al-fudul pact have in mind. And just like the BLM describes itself as ‘unapologetically Black’, perhaps some of us need to be a tad more unapologetically Muslim?

But let’s take our focus off such theological nuances for now, and tie a ribbon around the whole thing and say: Let us, at least in spirit and in principle, if not in body, fully support Black Lives Matter as a cause, more than as a movement, in seeking to resolve structural racism; get justice done for all the George Floyds and all the Stephen Lawrences; and to get people to reflect on their own attitudes to racism and the racial ‘Other’ – ensuring our knee isn’t on the necks of others. We should support the overall goals of any grassroots movement that is working for a fairer, more just and tolerant Britain for everyone: black or white. Of course, for that to happen, from a Black Muslim perspective, anti-Black racism as well as an ever-growing Islamophobia must be tackled. Currently in Britain, God forbid that you are ostensibly a Muslim and Black!

Racism affects all people of colour. But when it comes to Black people, they face a unique anti-black prejudice as the ultimate Other, propagated both by white majorities and even other ethnic minorities. As a marginalised community South Asians, no doubt, have their own prejudices thrown their way. But they are not the same lived experiences as that of Black people. And while it can be easy to lump everyone together and perceive ourselves as having a shared trauma, statistics show that this equivalence is not really true.

In closing, I’d like to thank my youngest daughter, Atiyyah, for inspiring me to revisit and renew my ideas on anti-black racism; and my friend, Dr Abdul Haqq Baker for prompting me to write this piece, offering invaluable suggestions, and then reviewing it for me.

Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq.

1. Ahmad, Musnad, no.22978. Ibn Taymiyyah declared its chain to be sahih in Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Riyadh: Dar Ishbiliyah, 1998), 1:412.

2. Al-Tirmidhi, no.3894, where he declared the hadith to be hasan sahih.

3. Al-Bukhari, nos.2545; 6050.

4. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 35:230.

5. GOV.UK: Black Caribbean Ethnicity Facts and Figures.

6. Abdal Hakim Murad, Travelling Home (Cambridge: The Quilliam Press, 2020), 49-50.

7. See: Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Madinat al-Dimashq (Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 42:24.

8. As per Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1971), 3:236

9. Al-Bukhari, no.3438.

10. Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (Cairo: Dar al-‘Alamiyyah, 2013), 8:61.

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Non-Black Muslims Will Need To Do More Than Post Hashtags And Attend Rallies To Combat Anti-Black Racism

The events of the past two weeks have highlighted the disastrous outcomes that emerge when racism and white supremacy interplay with police brutality. The unbridled aggression by the police results from ineffective and insufficient sanctions on police power and authority. The casual murder of Mr. George Floyd by a police officer, filmed by bystanders and security cameras, is the spark that apparently allowed for more citizens to galvanize and echo the cry that “Black Lives Matter.” In response to this, various Muslims and Muslim groups and organizations have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and have attempted to raise their version of awareness.

Data from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in 2020 show there is a strong support from the Muslim community towards building coalitions with Black Lives Matter movements, with 65% of Muslim respondents to a nationally representative survey indicating support, more than any other faith group measured.

 

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Although another ISPU survey administered in 2017 indicates there is strong Muslim support for the Black Lives Matter movement in general (66%, higher than any faith group measured that year, and the general public), there are questions around how much of this is performative, perfunctory and merely playing to the popular theme of the moment. Black Muslims and Black Americans – in general – have consistently experienced anti-Black treatment at the hands of non-Black Muslims in business, social and religious spaces. In ISPU’s 2017 American Muslim Poll, 33% of Muslims who identify as Black or African American reported experiencing racial discrimination at the hands of another Muslim. Although Black Muslims are more likely to report racial discrimination from outside their faith community (56% vs. 33%), one cannot ignore the issue of intra-Muslim racism, especially since the experience is often far more painful when it comes from a fellow believer.

Since protests began in late May, various non-Black Muslims and non-Black Muslim-led organizations have attempted to speak up and lend their voice to the issue. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are just a few of the organizations that have made statements, hosted events or co-sponsored events to help raise awareness of racism. Muslim organizations have over the years consistently addressed oppression – mainly in other countries. There have been hundreds of rallies and protests against oppression that have occurred in non-White Muslim countries. Additionally, Islam as a theology, calls on us to depise oppression and challenge it. Therefore, it is understandable that non-Black Muslims and non-Black Muslim organizations would eventually see the need to speak out against oppression of minorities in America, and now specifically African American and Black Muslims. But it has taken many generations to get here, even though oppression has been a bedrock of this nation for centuries.

For many years, non-Black Americans championed the causes of non-Black Muslims but seldom the Black Muslims. For many decades, Black Muslims have called the Adhan, raised money for foreign causes and highlighted foreign issues. The support and respect have seldom been returned or reciprocated to the Black community. Although the faith and approximated-shared experiences may at times allow for empathy from non-Black Muslims toward African Americans and Black Muslims, non-Black Muslims and organizations continue to fail to be real purveyors of justice when it comes to the oppression of African Americans and Black Muslims in America.

For years, various organizations have hosted or publicized events that do not have Black Muslims on their panels. The line-up changes once the community pushes back. In a number of cases, there is a connection between anti-Black racism and the exclusion of Muslim women, particularly Black Muslim women. The exclusion of Black Muslims from the public and national discourse on the American Muslim experience, is an example of the anti-Black racism that is not interpersonal, but systemic in the Muslim community. This is important to note, because an event is seldom conceived or approved by one individual.

In one example from less than a month ago, two national organizations were prominently featured as co-hosts. We can then safely say that at least two people (we can assume with a fair degree of certainty that it was more) saw the line-up and the final ad for the event and still chose to publicize the event. One of the speakers then chose to decline to participate and recommended an African American Muslim woman replace him on the panel. That multiple Muslims were involved in the planning of this event and approved the final list of speakers while choosing not to correct or be more just in their representation of Islam in America points to this issue of anti-Black racism as not merely being interpersonal, but systemic. This is just one example of many. ISPU data collected in 2017 illustrates that Black Muslims experience a higher rate of intrafaith racial discrimination than non-Black Muslims, with 33% reporting that a fellow believer discriminated against them because of their race in the past year at least once. (Figure 2)

Muslims Experience Racism From Other Muslims as Well as from the General Public.png

In this past week alone, I have had to personally deal with acts of anti-Black racism while talking about the importance of addressing racism in this country. In one incident, I was invited to be part of a newly formed coalition. Attendees were majority African American Muslims, but there were also non-Black Muslims (white and minorities) scheduled to be in attendance or helping to organize. One non-Black Muslim was effusive in how they communicated with me during the day. However, once I began pushing back on how the event was being organized, their tone shifted to dismissive and rude. I struggled with naming this anti-Black racism because, as a communication scholar, my default is to look at the theory behind why we communicate how we do. So even as we experience it, we still try to find reasons not to believe it.

In a second incident, a number of individuals with religious duties were discussing the topics of engagement for our upcoming meeting. A non-Black Muslim of color indicated that they wanted to discuss another topic in addition to Black Lives Matter and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. I responded stating that the way in which the statement was worded was hurtful and represented an erasure of the lived experience of Black individuals in this country. The response was further dismissal and glossing over of the experience, even after other non-Black Muslims attempted to redirect the individual and encourage them to focus on anti-Black racism. The person’s initial response was clearly rooted in anti-Black racism–even if unintentional–as to this moment, it does not seem like the person understands how their initial statement and subsequent responses continue to perpetuate anti-Black racism. In the end, the individual did agree that they will also focus on Black Lives Matter in our next meeting as long as we were willing to focus on other issues in future meetings.

These various types of aggressions against Black Muslims in Muslim spaces continue to place a burden on the Black Muslim community, particularly the African American Muslim community. I am a Black Muslim who has spent over half of my life here in America. However, I also know that as an immigrant, I sometimes experience a different level of privilege as a result of my immigrant status.” It feels like I am seen as different from African American Muslims at times. Anti-Black racism among Muslims is layered, insidious, systemic and interpersonal. The approaches to addressing anti-Black racism and to supporting Black Lives Matter Movement cannot be sporadic or occasional. It will require painful discussions, robust analyses and purposeful action to continue the changes that have gained some momentum in this moment.

There are many who are already doing the work to bring meaningful change and awareness. Non-Black Muslims will need to do more than post hashtags and attend rallies. To address racism, it is important to use valid tools, invite and connect with the appropriate people and support active organizations. Supporting any Black organization is not the approach. There needs to be a seeking out and supporting of organizations, individuals and tools that do or support anti-racism work in our communities.

  • Organizations to research, work with and/or fund long-term: MuslimARC (Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative), Muslim Wellness Foundation and the Black Muslim Psychology Conference, Black Muslim COVID Coalition and Sapelo Square. These are just a few to begin with. There are more. Research. Find them. Support them.

  • Individuals to learn from and grow with: Ms. Margari Hill, Dr. Kameelah Rashad, Dr. Donna Auston, Imam Dawud Walid, Sr. Ismahan Abdullahi, Imam Mik’ail Stewart Saadiq, Imam Nadim Ali and many, many others. Many of these individuals are currently engaging in a lot of scholarly work, community support and community keeping. Research their work, look up events when they are slated to speak and give talks, and engage them in that way as a start. If they or their organizations have opportunities where you can pay them to do a presentation that is in the normal scope of their operations, then do that. I would urge you not to offer them a mere stipend. See what it takes to have professional development for an organization and compensate accordingly. There are many other non-Muslim intellectuals who are doing work and have written extensively. We have intentionally named Muslims and Muslim organizations in this piece.

    • There are some non-Black Muslims of Color who are also doing significant work that can help individuals of particular cultural backgrounds understand the underpinnings of their own anti-Black racism.

    • Dr. Mona Masood is doing great work facilitating discussion on anti-Black racism among diasporic populations from South Asia particularly.

    • Dr. Sylvia Chan-Malik also researches Black Muslims and offers classes on combating racism. These classes are specifically targeted for a non-Black cross-section of the community.

  • Tools to employ:

    • The Black Islam Syllabus, developed and curated by Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler, is an extensive list of scholarly research and writings, movies, poetry, TV shows, websites, essays and hashtags. This is a great place to begin.

    • Identity Politics podcast, co-directed by Sr. Makkah Ali, can provide insight into issues around race and identity in the Muslim community.

There are many other resources available that can start or enhance the process of working to combat anti-Black Muslim racism, bolster support for Black Lives Matter initiatives and draw us closer to being a community and nation that truly values each other with equity.

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