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Understanding the Pain of the Zimmerman Trial

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By Dawud Walid

The recent acquittal in the George Zimmerman case reignited a national discussion about race relations in America.  There were many on one end of the spectrum, who stated the Zimmerman case typifies the lack of racial equity and justice in America for Blackamericans, from the initial profiling of Trayvon Martin, the trying of his character during the legal procedure to the not-guilty verdict for Zimmerman.  Others countered that Zimmerman was within his legal right to defend himself and that the case has nothing to do with race.  Some even went to the extreme of saying Martin was a thug who deserved death.  American Muslims also weighed in on this issue within a similar range of opinions, which I heard in conversations to reading on Twitter and blogs.

How American Muslims perceive the Zimmerman trial differs.  These differing perspectives may be based on varying factors including family lineage, knowledge and interpretation of American history and socio-economic background.  Even when it comes to our reading of the Qur’an and Sunnah, these are interpreted or even colored based upon the prior texts of our experiences.  Thus, my outlook on the Zimmerman verdict is informed not just by Islamic texts but also my experiences as a Black man in America.

The Qur’an commands [5:8], “Be just; it is closest to being regardful (taqwa).”  It’s reported in a hadeeth hasan that Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also stated, “Justice in an hour is better than a year of ritual worship.”  The Islamic jurisprudence definition of justice is to ensure that matters are in their proper places; thus, injustice or oppression is when matters are taken out of their proper places. 

Within this context, I view this case and the American legal system in general as a dichotomy between the appearance of procedural justice, which is also expressed in the rhetoric of national values, with America’s ugly history of racism, which expresses itself in social structures and institutions.  Hence, I simply do not see Zimmerman’s acquittal as being just, meaning that Martin’s homicide based upon citizen racial profiling and his killer being found not-guilty is outside of the bounds of things being in their proper place.

A counter-argument that has been put forth that Blacks primarily kill Blacks as way to dismiss concerns of racism in this case is actually bizarre to me as well.  Yes, Blacks are the primary killers of others as Whites are the primary murders of each other in America.  The grievance, again, that Martin’s murder brings up is an American double standard of applying justice, which is a form of oppression. 

For instance, White people, who kill Blacks in “Stand Your Ground” states are 354% more likely to be cleared of murder than if a White is killed.  To highlight this, a Black woman named Marissa Alexander is currently serving 20 years in a Florida prison for standing her ground while firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband.  Of course, this is the American norm to me of our system though may seem as abnormal to others. 

I ask brothers and sisters in Islam to empathize with the concerns of Blackamericans in terms of the systematic reality of anti-Black racism. Islam’s mandate is not for us to be only concerned about justice when Muslims are involved; justice does not mean “just us.”  Moreover, we cannot expect to overcome anti-Muslim bigoty and anti-Arab/anti-Asian racism in America outside of the framework of dealing with anti-Black racism. 

For those of you who are not Blackamerican that wish to understand more of the plight and concerns of Blackamericans in regards to racism, try listening and placing yourself in shoes that you have not walked in.  This may help you connect with the profound pain that millions of your fellow Americans, who are Black continue to feel around this case and other ridiculous travesties of institutional violence.

Another useful contemporary tool of connecting is to watch the riveting new film “Fruitvale Station” about the last days of Oscar Grant, who was murdered a few years ago by BART Police in California.

I also suggest listening to “Trayvon Martin A Sign of the End of Time” khutbah by Imam Zaid Shakir, “The Dangers of Hubris and the Murder of Trayvon Martin” khutbah by Imam Suhaib Webb and a khutbah that I gave after the Zimmerman verdict titled “Empathizing With Others.”

 

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jay W

    August 2, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    The Zimmerman trial and acquittal is a very poor case to use as context for the misinformed “pain” from the verdict. There was no evidence of racial profiling. It had nothing to do with the “stand your ground” law. The verdict of acquittal was based on Zimmerman defending himself against Martin.

    In the US, the system of justice and law is the same regardless of race. Any “inequality” might result from the quality of attorneys that one can afford.

    BTW: The “black against black” murder rate is a criticism of the media, not to “dismiss” racism. The media fueled the flames of racial division when there was no evidence of racism in the Zimmerman trial. The media showed no concern of the murder rate in the black community, just a “white-Hispanic” killing of a black.

    • Avatar

      Dawud Walid

      August 2, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      he murder rate of black people against black people is equal to whites killing themselves, latinos killing latinos, etc. That is a red herring argument.

      It’s highly doubtful that Zimmerman would have been following Trayvon if he were white wearing a Lacrosse windbreaker with a hood.

      To say that the justice system is the same for all people has been in practice in the USA. Look at racial profiling, which is a fact. Look at the incarceration rates in which whites use and sell drugs at the same rates they are in society yet do not have the level of enforcement, prosecution and incarceration. I could go on and on. Try reading “The New Jim Crow” written by Ohio St. professor Michelle Alexander. Empirical data doesn’t lie.

      You and I, sir, obviously live in two different worlds.

      May Allah (SWT) have us see truth as the truth and follow it, may He have us see falsehood as falsehood and stay away from it.

      • Avatar

        gthog61

        August 2, 2013 at 8:19 PM

        Young black males in the US are about 6% of the population but they are responsible for about half the murders. To say the different racial murder rates are anywhere close to similar is absurd.

        • Avatar

          Dawud Walid

          August 6, 2013 at 9:48 AM

          That’s not what I said. What I said is that according to FBI stats. Blacks primarily kill blacks, and whites are the primary murderers of whites, etc.

          That blacks primarily kill blacks has nothing to do with how non-blacks who shot unarmed blacks are far more likely not to be even charged much less convicted.

          In 2012 every 28 hours, an African-American was extrajudically killed by a cop, security guard or Zimmerman type. There are ridiculous cases of black males who are sitting in back of police cars, who are shot while handcuffed.

      • Avatar

        charo

        August 2, 2013 at 9:37 PM

        “It’s highly doubtful that Zimmerman would have been following Trayvon if he were white wearing a Lacrosse windbreaker with a hood.”

        Where is your evidence that the particular individual, George Zimmerman, would not likely follow someone acting in the same manner if he were white and wearing a Lacrosse windbreaker? What is there in George Zimmerman’s background to indicate that he treated black members of society differently than whites? Are you aware of factors in his life that dictate against that idea? I would understand, though not necessarily agree, with an argument that he was too paranoid, that he didn’t observe enough suspicious behavior to warrant trying to track Trayvon’s movements as he spoke with the dispatcher (even though tracking someone is not illegal unless there is a history of stalking an individual). How could Zimmerman have known the exact moment when the police were going to arrive (he did ask for the police to be sent)?

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        August 3, 2013 at 3:06 AM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        “It’s highly doubtful that Zimmerman would have been following Trayvon if he were white wearing a Lacrosse windbreaker with a hood.”

        Your doubt is with yourself.

        There is a reason we have judges. If we left it to people to make these decisons like this, we would be in serious trouble. Alhamdulilah, in Islam we don’t leave the decisions like this to the mob.

        • Avatar

          Dawud Walid

          August 6, 2013 at 9:56 AM

          First of all, I didn’t call for mob rule.

          Second of all, this and other cases are not decided by judges but by juries, juries of people who carry their own biases. The Zimmerman trial was not decided by a judge. Even one of the jurors said that Zimmerman “got away with murder.” Federal civil rights laws are used to step in when based upon judge instructions or bias on juries that people can be tried on the federal level. Rodney King, who was unarmed, was beat like a dog on video, yet those vicious people were acquitted by a state jury. Was that justice?

          Was justice served in the Holy Land Foundation trial and others in which Muslims have been unfairly convicted due to juror convictions by no Muslims and lack of minorities on jurors? Again, you speak as if a juror conviction means justice, which is an absurd proposition.

          Third, statements like “in Islam,” sound very patronizing. That statement infers that I don’t know Islam, which is condescending.

          • Avatar

            Mahmud

            August 6, 2013 at 5:14 PM

            “Again, you speak as if a juror conviction means justice, which is an absurd proposition.”

            Nope, didn’t say that.

            “It’s highly doubtful that Zimmerman would have been following Trayvon if he were white wearing a Lacrosse windbreaker with a hood.”

            Again, your doubt is with yourself. There is a justice system, and it’s not based on whether you have a bias against a white person or not but on the facts. The jurors were told the full details of the case and did what they were supposed to do.

            I prefer judges as that’s more reasonable.

          • Avatar

            scorpius

            August 7, 2013 at 9:08 PM

            ” Even one of the jurors said that Zimmerman “got away with murder.” ”

            No she didn’t. As William Saletan points out in Slate of all places it was a deceptive edit by ABC.

            http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2013/07/did_george_zimmerman_get_away_with_murder_no_juror_b29_is_being_framed.single.html

      • Avatar

        Rob

        August 3, 2013 at 11:37 PM

        D.W. you look at a liberals point of view people that started the KKK and still want to divide the people of the U.S.A. Myself as a independent really researched the Muslim religion while I spent 18 months there. There is no seeing of others as equals or hand and hand of other religions. Women are 2nd class citizens if even that high. What you should look at is tolerating others before you expect others to to tolerate you. It was not Christians, Jews, Buddhist, or atheists that did 911. Then to have a mosque suggested to be built in the shadows of the trade towers is absurd. Then we have a President getting in bed with the Muslim brotherhood. I think we would get along much better if Muslims if they had consideration for others and showed remorse like that sorry POS president did on his world wide apology tour. I have many friends I made in Iraq I learned to cook Iraqi food as well other Muslim culinary delights where did this happen of course in Iraq where I met genuine nice people and k assisted in opening of a woman run business.

        • Avatar

          markibnmark

          August 7, 2013 at 12:03 AM

          I’m not sure what your Fox News talking points have to do with the article or the subject at hand.

          You sound like someone who believes Obama is a secret Muslim. Does the fact that he has intensified the drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, many of which have killed women, children, and men not known to be terrorists at all mean anything to you? You say that he went on an “apology tour”, but when and where exactly did his policy differ from the Bush administration’s? Are you upset that he didn’t start a war with Iran or another Middle Eastern country? He might have done that had American troops not been stretched so thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. The myth that Obama is somehow friends with the Muslims is ridiculous considering his policy record. He has done nothing to move toward a two state solution in Palestine, and his policies have only furthered the divide between the U.S. and the Muslim world. We Muslims don’t consider him to be an ally let alone one of us. So why do you?

          And as far as the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”, how can you say that peaceful Muslims (the overwhelming majority) don’t have the right to build places of worship where they see fit? It wasn’t the Muslims of Lower Manhattan that committed the terrorist attacks on 9/11. They have been there before that tragic event, and will continue to be there. Why punish them?

        • Avatar

          Syed Ahmed

          August 10, 2013 at 5:36 AM

          Rob, as a muslim I have the right to defend myself, my family, my home and my community from harm. I may choose to help in the protection of my community by volunteering and participating in its crime watch program.

          For me, I do not understand why the two had to resort to violence in the first place. Lets, for the sake of argument, say Zimmerman was a racist and was following Martin for no other reason than that he was black. Martin, angered by being followed approaches Zimmerman and demands ” Why are you following me”? Zimmerman replies: I’m with the community crime watch program and do not recognize you, Who are you and where are you going?

          Now Trayvon Martin could react in one of two ways: 1) By identifying himself and where he was going or 2) Out of anger and frustration throw the first punch. I believe he opted for the second option and that Zimmerman lawful defended his life. The real crime here is the loss of civility and mutual respect.

          Now to your rant about Muslims, 9/11 and religious freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. Before you go flipping off, Syed is my Muslim name. I was born into a Christian family out of Long Island New York in 1952. I have served in the arm forces of my Country and I have seen first hand the loss of innocents so casually referred to as “collateral damage”.. A man steps out of his house to get milk and bread, a Jet screams over head than suddenly a loud blast and he is without a mother, father, wife, and child. Mere collateral damage to us a total and complete loss of family to others.

          To understand the rational of “WHY” Trayvon or those involved in the attacks on Sept 11 2001 acted by no means justifies their actions but are no less important. (Look no further than to our actions in Iraq to understand the “WHY” ) And like Zimmerman we where within our right to protect and defend against further attack.

          Now you as a conservative should read the first amendment and protect and defend it as strongly as you do the 2nd. Freedom of religion encompasses not only Christianity but also Islam.

  2. Avatar

    CL

    August 2, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Jazak Allah khair for this insightful article. I am increasingly frustrated by the myopic perspective of many Muslims when it comes to justice. When someone from their country, culture, or language group in under fire, thousands of emails are sent out petitioning the entire community to help, but detatched from them culturally or linguistically, and your problems don’t exist. This is not true for every single Muslim, but I feel comfortable saying that I’ve observed a lot of it in my locale.
    I’ve also seen a level of anti-Black bigotry among Muslims that is absolutely heartbreaking. If I wish to be honest with my children, I have to say, “honey, there’s no racism in Islam, but there’s a lot of racism in the hearts of Muslims.” I am a Black American Muslim. My parents came of age during the Civil Rights Movement. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived through Jim Crow and tiptoed through life hoping to avoid being lynched or suffering a loved one’s lynching. My great-grandparents were the first generation born free; their parents were slaves. Black Americans have fought and died for the civil rights that many foreign-born and American-born Muslims take for granted. At the same time, the same people are oblivious to the fact that they face the very same threats to their civil rights as Black Americans. A violation of the civil rights of ANYONE should shake EVERYONE to the core.
    I know it’s Ramadan, and what I said might sting some people. Wallahi, that is not my intention, so if you found what I said to be offensive, please find it in your heart to forgive me and to ask Allah to forgive and guide me. As a Black American, this entire Trayvon Martin ordeal makes me wonder about the safety of my own son in this country. It makes me wonder if justice would be on my side if I ever needed justice. And the response of many Muslims makes me wonder whether the my community, the women I pray foot-to-foot with, would support me if I ever needed their support in this way. I seek Allah’s protection from any of us ever knowing the answer to those questions.

    • Avatar

      Allie Farooq

      August 3, 2013 at 12:54 AM

      I would support you 100% we’ve never met..but a sister who stands next to me in prayer..or a sister period..I have their back!
      May Allah give you peace in your heart..
      I understand your worries though..

    • Avatar

      Zaheer

      August 3, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      As-salaamu ‘alaykum

      At the outset: it is unfortunate that you have witnessed so many incidents of bigotry amongst Muslims. We are commanded to treat all humans with respect, and obviously, we are demanded to love our Muslim brethren. So that type of behavior is not a part of Islam.

      However, and this is a general response to what some have said, rather than a direct response to you(though it does address the overall sentiment of your post) – I think you are conflating racial bigotry with the phenomenon of disproportionate black criminality in U.S.A. You are not unique in this (it’s a popular trend in the left and leftist-dominated media), nor can it be said that you are a detached observer, being black yourself.

      I am neither a citizen of the United States nor have I ever been there, so much of what I say here is based on the media and from my research in related areas. Ignore it if you will but I feel it has a place here (others may disagree…).

      While there is certainly a dislike of black people, culture, etc. prevalent in America, and one cannot completely deny it, I do not think it makes sense to dismiss every incident of black criminality as “racism of the US justice system”. I am not going to start posting stats to prove my point, but for those who want them, they are available everywhere: black criminality is far disproportionate to their population size in the US. Their crimes tend also to be more violent than the criminality of every ethnic group. You cannot claim this entire phenomenon is due to “media/justice system/whitey being racist”. This is simply not true, and worse, it removes the responsibility from those committing the crimes, telling them that “nothing is wrong with you, everything is everybody else’s fault, you are a victim of discrimination” etc, etc. This is dangerous and enabling of degenerate and criminal behavior. Again, I am not accusing you of this, I am just indicating how the type of thinking behind your post and others can lead to this.

      Further, you are also linking Trayvon’s case to Blacks in general being looked-down upon by Muslims. These are two separate issues. I respect all people who deserve respect. Any criminals, murderers, rapists, etc. do not deserve respect. If the large majority of them in a certain country happen to black – so be it. I’m not going to go on a campaign of defending them because I falsely believe their criminal convictions are due to racism. I’m sorry to bring out the “playing the race card” cliche, but really, this is what it is.

      Lastly, I agree with those who have stated that Zimmerman was most likely a very suspicious, unstable and paranoid type of person, which is a big part of what lead to this incident. I do not think racial profiling played as big a part as the media, and those who have unquestionably accepted what they have said, made it out to be. It played a small part, to be sure, and Trayvon’s attack on Zimmerman did the rest. So, contrary to the status quo, Trayvon’s death was a tragedy – not the tragedy of “racism”, but the tragedy of American being unable to effectively deal with the elephant in the room – the elephant of race relations.

      In conclusion, and will all due respect, I do not think Trayvon/Zimmerman is an “Islamic issue”, but an issue with a wider audience – it’s something which is at the core of US internal affairs at present. American Muslims, and particularly Black American Muslims have been trying to paint this as an Islamic issue a bit too hard I think. There is no evidence Trayvon was innocent. The way some speak about it, however, you would think Trayvon was a newborn baby ruthlessly killed by a serial-killer who “white America” didn’t convict. So balance and calmness is required from all sides.

      • Avatar

        Dawud Walid

        August 6, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        Every issue in American society is an “Islamic issue,” in which Muslims have a vested interest in promoting or coming out against, especially when it’s in the national discourse. Al-Amr bil ma’ruf wan nahy ‘anil munkar is an obligation be it when Muslims are involved or not. This is ‘Aqeedah 101.

        Part of our lack of complete civic engagement in America has to do with compartmentalizing issues, where we look at “Islamic issues” pertaining to Muslims or our ethnic group, while not caring or participating in issues outside with any of our human and/or monetary capital. This is why many view Muslims are outsiders or not true Americans.

        This is a huge problem.

        • Avatar

          Zaheer

          August 7, 2013 at 2:04 AM

          Salam Dawud,

          This is sort of what I was implying when I put quotes around “Islamic issue”. In theory there shouldn’t be a distinction, but we know there often is. And when one issue out of many is picked upon in general by Islamic scholars/activists, etc, and religious language and rhetoric are used to manipulate people into a certain line-of-thinking, one starts to wonder why.

          I’ve not claimed we shouldn’t care about the Trayvon/Zimmerman issue. In fact, I’m claiming the opposite. However, I suppose I should have chosen my words better: the issue is much wider than just the Islamic perspective. And, in essence, I don’t think there is just one Islamic perspective for this. The Islamic injunction to promote the good, forbid the vice/evil, can really be used to argue either way, as we’ve seen.

          However, from what I’ve read here, and elsewhere, it’s as if it’s a given that the verdict of the trial was unfair, a tragedy, racially, prejudiced, indicative of the white-on-black racism prevalent in America, etc. This is then linked to how black criminality is the fault of this self-same prejudice, etc. etc. etc. and the linking of ideas just gets more contrived as the arguments continue. I feel like this issue is being used to pursue people’s agendas and political beliefs. And, as a Muslim, it’s my religious duty to support this.

          So, I’m saying I disagree with the basic premise of this. Also note I am not an American citizen, nor living in the US, so I won’t comment on whether showing concern/lack of thereof as regards this issue is indicative of the general lack of Muslim participation in American society, whether this a good or bad thing, etc.

  3. Avatar

    gah

    August 2, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Muslims have no standing when it comes to criticizing the US’s treatment of minorities. How many Coptic Christians have been killed in Egypt? How many non-Muslims have been killed in Southern Sudan? Christians are under attack in Syria as well. Saudi Arabia and some of the other Gulf countries didn’t outlaw slavery until well into the 20th Century, and Africans continue to be enslaved in some parts of the Arab world. Even in this country there is a great deal of hostility between the Arab and Muslim communities in and around Detroit, and blacks. Blacks have murdered and raped hundreds of Arabs over the years, and some Arabs have taken revenge against them.

    Black males in the US between ages 16 and 30 (approximately 3 percent of the US population) commit about half the violent crimes. Over 90 percent of interracial crimes are black on white. Again, check with the Arab and Muslim communities in Dearborn MI to see how much violence has been directed at them by blacks over the years.

  4. Avatar

    ZAI

    August 3, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    What’s getting lost among many in the media and the general population is that
    Trayvon Martin had a right to defend himself too? I ask my brothers and sisters here who are so
    quick to cite that this trial was about law and going by the book, what about Trayvon’s right to defense? Maybe he was scared out of his mind? How would any of us react if some dude was following us around and no matter how we ducked, tried to cut across yards, and get away he was right there on our backs and finally he got out of his car and you can see he had a gun holstered to his hip? What would be YOUR reaction? He was a 17 year old kid…he was obviously scared. It’s really easy to judge the kid for “attacking first” when he’s not around anymore to defend his actions and what was going through his mind…I would agree that there wasn’t enough to try Zimmerman for murder, but he should have got SOMETHING like manslaughter/reckless endangerment for putting both himself and Martin IN the position for that confrontation…

    There IS an institutional racism involved that simply didn’t afford Martin that benefit of doubt and carried out the LETTER of the law, whereas thousands of black people like Marissa Alexander DON’T have the benefit of that same standard like Zimmerman did…For Muslims, who have also recently been subject to profiling, presumption of guilt and institutionalized injustice not to see this is especially troubling. You know the Islamophobes ALSO use the analogous line that “Muslims have disproportionate violence and terrorism in their community”…

    …as to this disproportionate violence in the black community, how many have thought
    about the fact that they also have disproportionate poverty? The two go together people…and this is something the corporate masters here do not even allow you to say w/o accusing you of “class warfare”. The black community is caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, crime, lack of investment/development that produces poverty and crime, and on and on. Muslims should be WELL AWARE of this correlation given that violence/civil instability is high in poor nations like Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen, etc. whereas Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Kuwait are mighty safe.

    …and it’s only getting WORSE. Welfare is a paltry $200 or so a month. Jobs are scarce and the one’s that are available are low-paying stagnant wage jobs, which corporations like Walmart ensure will not improve( See their recent tantrum about paying higher wages in DC). Incarceration at disproportionate rates for infractions like selling drugs taint one with a criminal record for LIFE, making procuring a job even harder. Education is substandard in poor areas because it’s funded by local property taxes. Stop looking at isolated examples folks…look at the BIG picture to see what’s going on. Every Tea Partyer and Republican will praise affirmative action and shout “halleluejah” at it’s implementation before they want any American to think about what I’ve said about property taxes/education for even one second…because they know THAT is what gives their kids and kids in every rich suburb the REAL advantage and affirmative action is nothing compared to that.

    It’s really easy for many of us who are not black and have ZERO idea of the discrimination and
    challenges they face to quote statistics and offer dry, legalistic and judgemental diatribes about how they should “fix” their problems and “the law is the law” as if it exists in some vaccum. Ok, Muslims…wave our magic tasbih and shout “Muslim countries…be fixed!” and wait for peace & prosperity to arrive. It ain’t easy huh? Because, “yanni, America and Israel and India and the corporations and IMF and and and and..ya akhee they hate the Muslims!” Then WHY are these platitudes and criticisms so easily leveled at the Black community? Gimmie a break.

    Very disappointing to see this coming from Muslims. Like one of the brothers above said, typical attitude of only caring about complexity and big picture justice when it comes to our own community of origin. So why are we always complaining when non-Muslims don’t care about Muslim pain and complexities of our situation then?

    • Avatar

      RCHOUDH

      August 5, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Excellent rebuttal brother. It’s extremely disappointing to see some Muslims not understand that many of these issues affecting AA communities in the US are ones we are dealing with too, such as racial profiling. I recently read that 30% of Muslim students in NYC get racially/religiously profiled by the police there, similar to what black and Hispanic kids have to face there too (and what Martin had to deal with prior to his death).

    • Avatar

      Zaheer

      August 6, 2013 at 4:04 AM

      Salaam,

      You raise quite a few points, and it will be difficult to address them all in brief, so I’ll address what I think is the thrust of your argument.

      Firstly, Trayvon had a right to defend himself. So did Zimmerman. In this case, ZImmerman had a lethal weapon, Trayvon didn’t. Chances are the one without the weapon will come off worse, and that is what happened. I still don’t see how “racism” is to blame for Trayvon dying. You could argue for centuries that he was racially profiled, but there is no evidence of this. That is not to say ZImmerman is not unstable, or deserving of some form of punishment. I just don’t think that race is the only thing involved here.

      You then go on to link this to racism in general against blacks, and how their poverty is the cause of their crime. Or at least a contributing factor. Of course, they play no part in this, poverty being shunted on to them by their white overlords, and of course, crime being the only reasonably recourse. You speak of “paltry” welfare – instead of speaking about how poor blacks should attempt to uplift themselves, to achieve economic freedom, you encourage them to rely more on welfare, if only the amount were greater? You speak of “infractions” like “selling drugs” as if it’s just a minor offense, and how, of course, racism is to blame for why blacks are arrested for this disproportionately. I think that says it all.

      Then, most disturbingly from my POV, you attempt to equate the problems of black poverty and crime with the struggles and suffering of Muslims in other parts of the world. I, for one, am not deluded enough to think that the problems in Muslim countries are due to Yahud/Zionists/Americans. But you may be right, others might think so. They would be in clear error, though. And you don’t see majority of the poor in Muslim countries involved in drug dealing, extreme violence, hijacking, brutal rapes etc. Yes, there are crimes committed in Muslim countries. I, for one, don’t blame discrimination for that but the people committing the crime.

      This is a very large topic – you speak of property taxes but there’s a whole world of a story behind why certain areas have higher property taxes than others. And it’s not “racism”.

      I appreciate the need to condemn discrimination, wherever it occurs, and to whoever. It is hypocritical to only care about fellow Muslims when they are oppressed, and not others.

      However, in the case of American blacks who are prone to criminal behaviour – I have little sympathy for them. Rather, I feel sympathy for the innocent blacks, who never commit crimes, who try to live upright lives, be good community members, but who have to be associated with criminal behaviour because of those who use any excuse to indulge in expression of their lower self, their nafs. I don’t think Trayvon fitted into either of these categories, but, taking a page out of your book, I’m looking at the bigger picture: the bigger picture is that a large proportion of American Blacks have been blaming discrimination for every single one of their problems, without proper self-reflection. And as I said before, that’s not an “Islamic issue”, but an American issue on race relations.

      • Avatar

        ZAI

        August 6, 2013 at 6:41 AM

        Wa Salaam…

        “You could argue for centuries that he was racially profiled, but there is no evidence of this.”

        There is no evidence he did not either, so to say he wasn’t is just as much conjecture as saying he was. He was definitely profiled as a criminal though and the question is “why” and it’s valid. I agree there is no evidence to convict him of murder, but to say Blacks have NO reason to discuss even the possibility of race playing a part in the case is unfair. Why he was a profiled is a VALID question and they have every right to ask it.

        ” That is not to say ZImmerman is not unstable, or deserving of some form of punishment. I just don’t think that race is the only thing involved here.”

        It is not the only thing involved and it might be true that it’s not involved at all..only Zimmerman and his Lord know. Why he was profiled at all is a valid question though, as is why Zimmerman directly disobeyed law enforcement
        requests to stay in his car and call off his pursuit.

        “You then go on to link this to racism in general against blacks, and how their poverty is the cause of their crime. Or at least a contributing factor.”

        Poverty is a contributing factor to crime. It does not mean all poor people
        will engage in it, infact most don’t…including MOST Blacks. But to deny that
        systematic poverty contributes to SOME people turning to crime is folly. It is a
        reality. That’s not an excuse, but an observation.

        “Of course, they play no part in this, poverty being shunted on to them by their white overlords, and of course, crime being the only reasonably recourse. ”

        I have not said this. It is however undeniable that there is a correlation.
        That’s simply a matter of fact. To combat that correlation would require
        fixing BOTH external and internal realities. Is this not why Islam also has both any external and internal dimension?

        “You speak of “paltry” welfare – instead of speaking about how poor blacks should attempt to uplift themselves, to achieve economic freedom, you encourage them to rely more on welfare,”

        I have nowhere in my writing encouraged living on welfare.
        What I did do was point out that the propaganda that many Republicans and Tea Party types broadcast, that “lazy” or “criminal” people are living on welfare, is ridiculous because no one can live reasonably on welfare. It is simply not possible in modern America. That is simply a populist trope to fire up a certain voting base and achieve certain ideological gains like keeping the minimum wage low, slashing all types of social programs for the needy, etc.

        “You speak of “infractions” like “selling drugs” as if it’s just a minor offense”

        I did not say it is a minor offense. An an infraction is an infraction, It can be qualified by any adjective and I did not choose to assign it one.

        “how, of course, racism is to blame for why blacks are arrested for this disproportionately.”

        They ARE disproportionately arrested and incarcerated for it.
        If you are fond of statistics, then please read “The New Jim Crow”. It is nothing
        BUT statistics cover to cover. Sorry to break the news to you brother, but both sale of drugs and their consumption is proportionally higher in rich suburbs. Why aren’t they in jail? Why do they get lighter sentences even in the rare instance of arrest?

        “Then, most disturbingly from my POV, you attempt to equate the problems of black poverty and crime with the struggles and suffering of Muslims in other parts of the world.”

        I am not equating the specific problems although they are sometimes similar, but I AM equating the lack of looking at these issues and problems as being COMPLEX. Whether here or in the Muslim world…or anywhere for that matter…things are not starkly manichean or plainly dichotomous. There are no simple solutions either. It requires a thorough and holistic analysis and solution/s. If it’s simple for American Blacks, it should also be simple for Muslims back east, right?

        ” I, for one, am not deluded enough to think that the problems in Muslim countries are due to Yahud/Zionists/Americans. But you may be right, others might think so. They would be in clear error, though.”

        Yes, they are in error…but in many cases not COMPLETELY in error. The hypocrisy is when some Muslims think their problems are complex but others aren’t. External realities ARE realities many times…but the admission of that complexity must be extended to everyone. There has to be a standard or no standard at all. Exceptions in this regard are hypocrisy and bias.

        ” And you don’t see majority of the poor in Muslim countries involved in drug dealing”

        #1 Are the MAJORITY of poor Blacks involved in drug dealing?
        …and isn’t my Afghan homeland the kingdom of heroin?

        “extreme violence”

        Again, majority of American Blacks are not either.
        Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen devoid of extreme violence brother?

        ” hijacking”

        Our bad apples hijack planes…not cars. True

        “brutal rapes”

        Have you seen the rape statistics of certain Muslim countries?
        Have you read how many women are harassed and molested, in Egypt
        for instance? Secondly, keep in mind many women don’t report the crimes
        out of fear of socio-economic stigma.

        “Yes, there are crimes committed in Muslim countries. I, for one, don’t blame discrimination for that but the people committing the crime”

        Yes, I agree it is the individual who should be blamed.
        But it can be remedied to some degree with alleviation of poverty and
        complexities and nuances pointed out in ALL cases. What is intolerable is the
        hypocrisy of allowing complexities and nuance for ourselves, but not for others. Further, to deny environment has any affect on behavior is ludicrous. Didn’t Umar(r) suspend the punishment for theft during a drought brother?
        None of this means you excuse the crime, but it does mean we should reflect deeply on how crime can be lessened…and it’s NOT as easy as saying Blacks should work harder and simply look at themselves as if they are existing in a vaccum.

        “This is a very large topic – you speak of property taxes but there’s a whole world of a story behind why certain areas have higher property taxes than others. And it’s not “racism”.”

        i did not say racism results in higher property taxes. I said richer neighborhoods have better school funding because higher property taxes make that possible. That is simply a fact. Right here in Chicago, where I am, the city is firing teachers and slashing budgets…up in Wilmette(rich suburb), they are giving every kid a free iPad. Using local property taxes to fund education indirectly produces defacto segregation because most minorities live in cities. You can test this for yourself: Go to a local school board meeting in a rich suburb and suggest that school funding should come from one collective state pot distributed equally and watch the reaction it will incur.

        “However, in the case of American blacks who are prone to criminal behaviour”

        Are you saying American Blacks are prone to criminal behavior innately?
        …and what crime was Trayvon in the middle of when Zimmeran followed and confronted him?

        “I feel sympathy for the innocent blacks, who never commit crimes, who try to live upright lives, be good community members, but who have to be associated with criminal behaviour because of those who use any excuse to indulge in expression of their lower self, their nafs”

        The onus is on people to not discriminate against innocent blacks through racist generalizations and biases. It is NOT the job of innocent Blacks to be made unofficial representatives of their communities. That is the very essence of racist profiling. The same unwarranted expectations put on the vast majority of innocent Muslims.


        the bigger picture is that a large proportion of American Blacks have been blaming discrimination for every single one of their problems, without proper self-reflection”

        Many of them do. You are correct. But there ARE also systematic and external problems as well…and they are valid. For instance, please read about researchers who tried to rent apartments or interview for a job with “Black sounding” names. To deny externalities completely is ridiculous and even more ridiculous to expect change through simple platitudes. Again, even Islam has an inner AND outer dimension brother.

  5. Avatar

    matt

    August 4, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    “To highlight this, a Black woman named Marissa Alexander is currently serving 20 years in a Florida prison for standing her ground while firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband. Of course, this is the American norm to me of our system though may seem as abnormal to others.”

    You mean the woman that left the scene and returned with a gun and fired at the man with his 2 kids in the house and it ricocheted into the ceiling, endangering all of them. Not to mention he is the one that called 911 not her. The same woman that turned down a 3yr plea deal? Maybe we should be looking at the 10-20-life law instead of spreading racism.

  6. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    August 4, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Great article Mash’Allah and you make some some salient points. This should be a worthwhile read, particularly for Muslims who have immigrated to America and are largely unaware and ignorant of how much racism has both shaped, and continues to shape, American society.

  7. Avatar

    Safiya Baker

    August 4, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    Blacks are not the primary killers of others. That is a lie and a racist statement. Whites, worldwide have killed millions of human beings, animals, plants, etc. with wars and weapons of mass destruction. Yes, black kill other blacks and have many issues, however, we are not the PRIMARY people killing in this world or in this country. I pray that Allah guides the black people back to Islam and heals them from their sicknesses or the mind and heart. I pray that Allah helps blacks to turn away from the evil music and calls of shaytan and take their true positions in this world as decent respectable people as we once were. Blacks are all over the ancient world, asia, Africa, Americas, Europe, etc. But that history has been hidden and forgotten. Now we are sometimes the lowest of the low. Only Islam can save black. Whites in general as a people love killing. Since there appearance in central Europe they have been conquering and killing and ravaging the land. Now they have their eye on the Muslim world. They are also VERY unjust to non-whites all over the world. Their continued killings and injustices must not be sympathized with. May Allah guide them.

  8. Avatar

    Kyle

    August 19, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Asa bro Dawud and thank you for sharing this insight. You and I have both been Muslim for 20 years or more. Nothing is more painful than sharing an insight like the one above with others in the Muslim community only to get the kind of silly, racist replies in this thread. I assume that some of the folks responding are themselves Muslims… at least in terms of their name and religious label. The acquittal of Zimmerman, as tragic as it is, has revealed some clear fault lines in the Muslim community in terms of race. It makes me think of the last interview of Malcolm X in Al Muslimun Magazine in Feb 1965. He assailed the immigrant Muslim community for their aspirations of whiteness and pathetic lack of a social analysis regarding race. This has led me to more boldly lay the gauntlet down in from of those who have migrated to America and who have made no substantive contribution to the nation except to get middle class jobs and live quietly in the suburbs, bolsters racism and white supremacy all the while. The arguments above have long been debunked by even the most lukewarm theories of american sociology. Knowing the low level of social and intellectual development present in many circles of the Muslim community, it still pains me to hear utter stupidity given voice. In any case, I should leave this comment by thanking you for sharing the thought, for continuing the work of civil rights on behalf of Muslims, and for having the fortitude to weather the sheer lack of intelligence on the part of many who call themselves Muslims yet have neither a merciful lens nor sense of the great model of the Prophet (s) that should be the model for us as broad-minded, peaceful, and sensible human beings. Your brother,
    – Kyle J. Isma’il

  9. Avatar

    BestonAb

    October 30, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    My only take on this issue is this, simply put, most people who followed the George Zimmerman trial, had already formed an opinion about who was at fault when the incident first happened. And that is the problem in America. Most often, people decide which side they’ll support in the first moments that they hear about it, often based on sketchy details. The problem with that is, what one lacks in detail or information, one will replace with assumptions. Additionally, those assumptions will tend to be biased. Which is why most Blacks tend to side with the Black party and Whites tend to side with the White party. By the trail, people have become so emotionally vested that it’s too late if not impossible to change their minds. Inevitably, the story becomes about Race. At that point, neither the truth matters nor the law. The only thing on people’s mind is which side will win?

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#Current Affairs

Zahra Billoo Responds To The Women’s March Inc. Voting Her Off The New Board

Zahra Billoo

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Women's March Board

Earlier tonight, I was voted off the Women’s March, Inc. national board. This followed an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists, who have long targeted me, my colleagues, and anyone else who dares speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.

The past 48 hours have been a spiral of bad news and smear efforts. Part of the smear campaign is motivated by opponents of the Women’s March, because the organization has traditionally challenged the status quo of power and white supremacy in our country. However, much of the campaign is driven by people who oppose me and my work challenging the occupation of Palestine, our country’s perpetuation of unjust and endless wars, and law enforcement operations targeting the American Muslim community.

The Women’s March, Inc. is an organization I once held dear. I spoke at the first march, spoke at regional marches every year after, spoke at the convention, participated in national actions including the original Kavanaugh protests, and worked to mobilize Muslim women for their efforts.

During the past few years right-wingers, from the President’s son to the Anti-Defamation League and troll armies, have targeted the Women’s March, Inc. For so long, I’ve admired their resilience in speaking truth to power, in working together, and in never cowering. Over and over again, the co-founders of Women’s March, Inc. put their lives on the line, winning power for all women in all of our diversity. The Women’s March, Inc. that voted me off its board tonight is one that no longer demonstrates the strength that inspired millions of women across the country.

To see and experience its new leaders caving to right-wing pressure, and casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman, a long-time advocate within the organization, without the willingness to make any efforts to learn and grow, breaks my heart. This isn’t about a lost seat, there will be many seats. The Women’s March, Inc. has drawn a line in the sand, one that will exclude many with my lived experiences and critiques. It has effectively said, we will work on some women’s rights at the expense of others.

To be clear, anti-semitism is indeed a growing and dangerous problem in our country, as is anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, ableism, sexism, and so much more. I condemn any form of bigotry unequivocally, but I also refuse to be silent as allegations of bigotry are weaponized against the most marginalized people, those who find sanctuary and hope in the articulation of truth.

In looking at the tweets in question, I acknowledge that I wrote passionately. While I may have phrased some of my content differently today, I stand by my words. I told the truth as my community and I have lived it, through the FBI’s targeting of my community, as I supported families who have lost loved ones because of US military actions, and as I learned from the horrific experiences of Palestinian life.

In attempting to heal and build in an expedited manner within Women’s March, Inc., I offered to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns and to work with my sisters on the new board to learn, heal, and build together. These efforts were rejected. And in rejecting these efforts, the new Women’s March, Inc. demonstrated that they lack the courage to exhibit allyship in the face of fire.

I came to Women’s March, Inc. to work. My body of work has included leading a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization for over a decade, growing it now more than six-fold. In my tenure, I have led the team that forced Abercrombie to change its discriminatory employment policies, have been arrested advocating for DACA, partnered with Jewish organizations including Bend the Arc and Jewish Voice for Peace to fight to protect our communities, and was one of the first lawyers to sue the President.

It is not my first time being the target of a smear campaign. The Women’s March, Inc., more than any place, is where I would have expected us to be able to have courageous conversations and dive deep into relationship-building work.

I am happy to have as many conversations as it takes to listen and learn and heal, but I will no longer be able to do that through Women’s March, Inc. This action today demonstrates that this organization’s new leadership is unable to be an ally during challenging times.

My beliefs drive my work, and I am not seeking accolades or positions of power. These past few days have been the greatest test of that. My integrity, my truth, and my strength comes from God and a place of deep conviction. I will continue my work as a civil rights lawyer and a faith-based activist, speaking out against the occupation of Palestine and settler-colonialism everywhere, challenging Islamophobia and all forms of racism and bigotry in the United States, and building with my community and our allies in our quest to be our most authentic and liberated selves.

Onward, God willing.

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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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