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How Not to Stop Racism in the Arab American Community – A Response

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By: Diala Khalife

A response to “How do you stop racism in the Arab American community? Heck if I know”

I write this in response to a deeply problematic blog post published by Muslim Matters on December 11th. The piece was met with objections and critiques by some Arabs and non-Arab Muslims on Twitter [1].

The original post attempts to analyze the persistence of anti-Black racism in the Arab American community. However, it reduces anti-Black racism to interpersonal interactions, and minimizes its severity and consequences.

The post also commends Brother Dawud Walid for his writing  and work to challenge anti-Black racism in the Arab American community; however, the author does not acknowledge or process his or his community’s complicity in perpetuating anti-Black racism, or our accountability to dismantle it.

Confronting or “stopping” anti-Black racism requires us as Arab Americans to both elevate our discourse on the subject and to develop community efforts to dismantle it. I offer these recommendations on how we can deepen our discourse on anti-Black racism in the Arab American community:

1. Do not discuss Arab American anti-Black racism as a pathology “that can lead someone to judge another based solely on the color of their skin;” also, do not reduce it to “bigotry,” or Arab Americans “being jerks;” do not discuss racism as though it is unrelated to power.

Referring to racism as “bigotry” minimizes the severity and consequences of anti-Blackness in our community. We need only look to Black men like Michael Haynes, murdered by an Arab gas station owner in Detroit, to recognize how devastating its consequences can be.

Racism is not a “disease” or a pathology. This analysis reduces anti-Blackness to the ways it is manifested in racist interactions, and is perpetuated at the individual level. This is the same reason why it is reductive to suggest “engagement between the communities” or “basketball leagues” as a means of confronting anti-Black racism – it naively assumes racism can be “solved” by basketball games that increase interaction between Black and Arab Americans.

Racism is not the product of repeated racist interactions: anti-Black racism is a set of multiple, intersecting structures. White supremacy is one structure that is foundational to the distribution of power, resources, rights, protections, and the assignment of ability and worth along racial lines to uphold a hierarchal system in which Whiteness dominates. White supremacy is maintained by systemically – though not to equal degrees – advantaging all non-Black people in the US at the expense of devaluing, dehumanizing, exploiting, killing and marginalizing Black people and communities. And white supremacy is not just made and maintained by white people – it is also upheld by people of color. This means as Arab Americans, though we are also marginalized by white supremacy, we are also privileged by it in relation to the majority of Black Americans.

For example, we light-skinned Arab Americans [2] are privileged by our ability to pass as white. Also, the majority of Arab Americans are class-privileged, meaning we benefit from the ways capitalism intersects with white supremacy to marginalize and exploit Black people and communities. Not only do we benefit from white supremacy – we are actively complicit in upholding it. This segues neatly into my next recommendation.

2.  Do not generalize anti-Black racism among Arabs and Arab Muslims as simply “racism.”

In order to seriously address anti-Black racism in the Arab American community, we need to talk about anti-Blackness with specificity; this means naming and analyzing the specific ways Arab Americans have been and are still complicit in producing and maintaining structures that dehumanize, abuse, exploit and devalue Black people.

Let us take, for example, the lecherous Arab-owned liquor stores and gas stations in poor Black neighborhoods, such as parts of Detroit and Chicago: these stores participate in the ways that capitalism systemically exploits Black people and communities. Arab American gas station and store owners often deliberately set up in poor Black communities and become financially successful at the expense of the people in these communities. Most of these store owners, who usually do not even live in these neighborhoods, suck money out of them without putting any of their profits back into the community.

Not only are Arab Americans– at both the collective and individual level – actively complicit in the economic exploitation of Black people and communities: Arab Americans also reinforce these systems by justifying the inequalities that are the result of it. I repeatedly hear materially successful Arab immigrants in Michigan, for example, disdain poor Black people who have not “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” and other statements that blame Black people, not racist structures, for the high concentration of poverty in several Black communities. You can read about some Arab American store owners that have made similar statements in the relevant chapter in Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream.

3. Do not praise Brother Dawud Walid exposing anti-Black racism in your community while simultaneously not articulating a commitment to take action against it yourself, and not calling on others in your community to take action.

When you highlight Dawud Walid’s commendable efforts to combat racism without taking action yourself, you inappropriately place the responsibility on Black people to dismantle the racism that dehumanizes and exploits them; it is never their responsibility. At the same time, you also deflect from your complicity in this racism, and fail to claim accountability for it. This is especially problematic in the absence of a concerted effort to confront anti-Blackness in the Arab American community.

Claiming accountability and recognizing our complicity are only the first steps we must take to challenge Arab American anti-Black racism. I hope this post will compel fellow Arab Americans to recognize the urgency of developing community efforts and discourses that aggressively challenge anti-Black racism.

 

[1] My thoughts draw on Twitter conversations with Amina Wadud (@aminawadud), Dawud Walid (@DawudWalid) on the original Muslim Matters post; they are also are informed by Tweets from Tareq Yaqub (@Tareq772) on it. My thoughts have also been formed and informed by an Open Letter to Non-Black People of Color written by students at the University of Michigan, and by the Black Girl Dangerous post “We are not all Trayvon: Challenging anti-Black racism in poc communities.”

[2] I recognize that my post in many ways reinforces a Black-Arab binary that essentializes Arabness and Blackness. I did not have room to discuss nuances and complexities in this piece. I hope to discuss why this binary is problematic in future writing, along with discussing intra-communal ethnic racism in the Arab American community.

I Tweet on anti-Black racism in the Arab American community and in the Arab world at @ArabAntBlackRac.

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Youssef Chouhoud

    December 25, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    Jazzak Allahu khayr for your input. Since you took the time and care to respond to my article in long form, I’ll return the gesture. InshAllah we will publish my response next week. In the meantime, I will encourage others to read and comment on your piece. Again, thanks for your effort.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 25, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      Salam Youssef,

      Thank for taking the time to respond to my article and engage with it.

      In the effort of extending this conversation in ways that are more centered on pushing the discourse than responding to each others’ pieces, I am wondering if instead you’d be interested in collaborating with me on an open letter to the Arab American community. We can include a broad sketch of anti-Black racism in our community, highlight examples of community efforts to address this, and include our own recommendations; most importantly it will include a call for action/a statement of individual and collective community accountability.

      I think working together could enrich our writing on this. I understand we have different understandings of anti-Black racism, but I think we have more to gain by writing together than writing in response to each other. Please let me know your thoughts on this.

      • Avatar

        Youssef Chouhoud

        December 28, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        W/Salam Diala,

        If the goal is to push the discourse, I think it is important that we first clarify what it is we’re talking about. I’d like to spell out my ideas a bit more, some of which I think have been misunderstood or misrepresented.

        ***

        First, the aim of my article. My post was, in large part (I’ll get to the exception in a bit), not meant as an analysis of racism in Arab-American communities, but an acknowledgment of the phenomenon, a nod to Br. Dawud’s efforts to increase awareness, and preliminary thoughts on how to address these ills. That is why although I acknowledged some of the factors that have influenced anti-Black attitudes (including structural ones), I did not elaborate on them. Aside from it not being the focus of my piece, the reason I did not go into greater analytical detail is because I’m generally skeptical of our ability to recognize the relationship one process has with another, let alone form a coherent understanding of multivariate complex processes.

        Put differently, I have no idea how one can, with any confidence, disentangle (among other factors) the influence of American racial stereotypes, economic disparity, Arab historical legacy, etc., on anti-Black attitudes in the Arab-American community. Barring disaggregation, I don’t see how you can have a meaningful discussion about the structural causes of racism that are specific to Arab-Americans, let alone hold Arab-Americans collectively and invariably complicit in maintaining such structures. Such an enterprise is far too generalized and deterministic, making light of the agency that has lead to multiple examples of inclusive Muslim communities with comparatively healthy race relations. Thus, in an effort to get to what we really care about, I took for granted the existence (to varying degrees) of anti-Black racism in Arab-American communities and focused on a preliminary discussion of what we can do to undermine it.

        ***

        Second, the call to action. Contrary to your assertion, I did not place the onus on Br. Dawud to remedy our situation. In fact, you alluded to (albeit in caricatured fashion) the preliminary recommendation that I mentioned in my post. I admit that I could have chosen a more apt example; in offering a basketball league as a possible manifestation of the crosscutting interactions that I suggested communities implement, I clearly opened myself up to charges of reductionism and triviality. More importantly, a trusted mentor advised me that some may read into that example racial connotations that clearly I didn’t intend. So, mea culpa on that point.

        I stand by my underlying contention, however. No one could argue against the need for more discussion and awareness of this topic in our masajid and conferences. It would no doubt be beneficial to educate those who are not aware of the harm that is caused by racial slurs (or are unaware that they are racial slurs in the first place), as well as underscoring the Prophetic teachings on brotherhood in our community and the evils of any chauvinist belief.

        Yet, we have to be mindful of the limitations of these tactics. Are we assuming that the ones who pay close attention to what their imams say are the same ones perpetrating racism in our community? Are the individuals that are attentively sitting in conference sessions the same ones that go back home and casually throw around racial epithets?

        This is where the exception to my analytical sidestepping comes in. Clearly segregation plays a meaningful role in the perpetuation of racism in our communities, and so my previous piece suggested that we – everyone – work together to build a more inclusive atmosphere with activities that bring together our youth, especially. My point is that discussion decoupled from engagement has a low ceiling of success. The only proven way to undercut racism is by ratcheting up empathy. If an Arab kid goes to an Arab mosque, has all Arab or White friends, and gets his cultural legacy from his Arab parents, do you really think that some lecture from an imam is going to reach him if the ideas of his own supremacy and another’s inferiority are everywhere else reinforced?

        I argue, then, that we should address the issue, but make sure we are attaching with it a concreteness that will instill empathy in those that talk alone are unlikely to reach – which are the ones we need to reach the most. We don’t want to lecture, we want to educate; and anyone who has studied pedagogy will tell you that the more you center the learning around the subject’s self-realization, the more likely the lesson will hit home.

        ***

        Last, a note on your approach. I think you may focus a bit too much on within-group solutions to racism. This problem, however, can’t be addressed in a vacuum. This is an issue that must be tackled at the broader community level since, as I’ve alluded to above, it is isolation that provides the breeding grounds for racism.

        A corollary to the level at which we address racism is the way in which we address it. There is a sense of blaming and shaming that I feel accompanies the litmus test of complicity that you offer. I realize this may not be your intention, but it is nonetheless manifest in the interactions I see on Twitter where individuals are called out for using racist slurs and multiple people pounce on their ignorance. The effect of this tactic is often retrenchment and an ossifying of racist attitudes. We have to be more mindful (and this is a reminder for me first) not to harden hearts in our quest to make a point, however valid it may be.

        ***

        In sum, while I recognize that there are structural reasons for the persistence of racism among Arab-Americans, I feel it is far too difficult to pinpoint and generalize about these structures in any meaningful way. That is not to say that on an individual community level, structural factors that heighten racial tension cannot be addressed — the case that one commenter noted below about IMAN surveying liquor store owners and the neighboring community, then finding solutions to help the owners provide more wholesome products is a prime example. Each community, however, will have its own dynamics and forces at work, so generalizing would lead to false assumptions and false conclusions.

        The only apt general recommendation I see is greater education coupled with greater interaction. Here, too, each community will have to assess how to broach the topic effectively and manifest cross-cutting activities, but this general approach I feel provides the most bang for your buck. To that point, a more inclusive community would not only tackle the ills of racism, but of classism and other chauvinist behavior, too. I make no claim that this is a panacea, but it a sturdy foundation and guard, nonetheless.

        There are lots of forces that opt us in to various beliefs of our superiority over another. Our goal should be to foster an environment that makes it easier to opt-out of these misguided notions.

        I apologize for writing a lot here, but it will be my last word on this topic for a while as conference papers and qualifying exams beckon. I readily admit I could be wrong about some of my notions and I still have a lot to learn (please feel free to forward any material you think would be beneficial). I hope, however, that I’ve offered something of use for you to consider. Barack Allahu feeki for your diligence.

        w/Salam,
        Youssef

    • Avatar

      KHADIJAH BINT COSTELLO

      December 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM

      The words of our Prophet Muhmammad sala lahu alahi wa salam make it so very clear, that remains an enigma as to why racism among Muslims continues to be a big problem. In his last sermon he said to his Ummah:
      “All of mankind is from Adam and Eve. An arab does not have superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white have no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shallbe legitimate to a Muslim, which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”

      • Avatar

        Riz Khan

        December 26, 2013 at 9:08 AM

        Mashallah! beautiful words! nothing can be more beautiful than the sayings of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Allah may guide all the sisters and brothers along the right path.

  2. Avatar

    David

    December 25, 2013 at 5:04 AM

    In response time to this article cease with blaming Caucasian people out of convenience for points. The hub is Blacks and Arabs not having a good structure in Detroit and etc. That is the consequence of unary.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 25, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      Hi David,

      Thank you reading my piece and thank you for your comment. As The Saliba mentioned in their comment, the references to whiteness and white supremacy do not deflect accountability from Arab Americans in their role in perpetuating anti-Black racism, nor dismiss the role played by structural inequalities in Detroit.

      I am referencing whiteness to account for the ways in which Arab Americans’ (Levantine, and other typically light-skinned Arab Americans) classification as white on the census, as well as our light skin, have given us access to many privileges that come with being assimilated into this category, and the ability to “pass” as white.

      • Avatar

        Hamza21

        December 25, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        Thank you for this timely article but I must correct you ALL arabs are classified as “white” by the US census regardless of skin color, as noted by 30 year old court case of Mostafa Hefny.

        http://thegrio.com/2012/09/04/detroit-immigrant-wants-to-be-classified-as-black/

        • Avatar

          Diala Khalife

          December 26, 2013 at 2:16 AM

          Salam Hamza21,

          Thank you for your comment, and for that link. I think we are the same page. Was not disputing that all Arabs are classified as white by the census, but trying to account for the fact that dark-skinned Arabs do not have the ability to pass -i.e., be perceived as white.

  3. Avatar

    are you stupid

    December 25, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    WHY IS THERE ANTI-BLACK RACISM? [edited] please be respectful and use a real name/or handle when commenting according to our comments policy.

    • Avatar

      Arab American

      December 25, 2013 at 7:20 AM

      It would be a benefit to humanity not to be around people like you

  4. Avatar

    Hassan

    December 25, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    In point number 1, the case you mention of Michael Haynes, how was it related to racism? Is it automatically assumed that when crime is committed against black person it must be due to racism, not just person committing crime being jerk?

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 26, 2013 at 2:24 AM

      Salam Hassan,

      Thank you for your comment. There are outrageously high numbers of Black men (and women – Rekia Boyd, Renisha McBride) that are murdered because they are falsely perceived as a danger or threats to their killers lives; this fear is racialized – it is deeply connected to and produced by tropes (images and narratives) that depict Black people as hyper-aggressive, prone to violence and criminality.

      So due to these images, narratives, the high tensions between Black residents and Arab storeowners in these neighborhoods, and the fact that anti-Black racism is deeply internalized in the Arab American community, I think we can safely say that Michael Haynes’ murder was due to anti-Black racism.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        December 26, 2013 at 9:10 AM

        I think this is a quite dangerous that you assume intentions, but regardless the person is dead and the killer should be punished.

        • Avatar

          Diala Khalife

          December 27, 2013 at 1:28 AM

          Respectfully, I actually do not presume intention, but consider intention irrelevant; what matters is impact. And I think it is more dangerous to presume the staggeringly high numbers of Black people murdered by non-Black folks has nothing to do with race, than to presume purposeful intent.

  5. Avatar

    Safia

    December 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Thank you sister Diala for writing this piece. And thank you for recognizing your privilege and standing in solidarity with black Americans. I was appalled by the previous article on this issue, and said to myself – of all people Arab Americans (and other Muslim immigrants; 1st 2nd or nth generation) should have nothing but praise to say about black Americans because had it not been for the civil rights struggle and the sacrifices of so many black bodies, this community would not have been able to even establish roots in America.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 26, 2013 at 2:38 AM

      Thank you, sister Safia, for reading and for your comment. :)

      I agree, we are deeply indebted in many ways to Black Americans, whose language and ideas we have consistently used to mobilize and inspire our own civil rights struggles. I would add to your thoughts that we also have a responsibility to be more active and consistent allies in their continuing struggles to dismantle anti-Black racism in the US – especially in the face of their consistent, tireless solidarity with us in Palestine anti-Zionist struggles.

    • Avatar

      Nadia

      December 29, 2013 at 12:14 AM

      Very well said Safia! Well all should be very thankful for those who sacrifices their lives for as to enjoy this country.

  6. Avatar

    The Saliha

    December 25, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum,
    Loved your article! Using Critical Race Theory definitely opens up the conversation so that we’re not just using the same old line, “Let’s all hold hands and get along.” Racism is much more complicated then that.
    Also in response to David, Dalia’s piece isn’t take a shot at Caucasians as much as she’s looking at Whiteness: who qualifies as White, and the affordances that are produced from being assimilated into this label.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 26, 2013 at 2:43 AM

      Assalamu Aalaykum,

      Thank you so much. :) I appreciate it! I am also weary of language like “Let’s all hold hands and get a long” that first of all, assumes anti-racist work can/has to happen without the discomfort of those perpetuating racism, and without the presence of tension and agitation. I am also weary of it because it doesn’t capture how racism is deeply tied to unequal power relations!

      I appreciate your response to David’s comment – that is exactly what I meant.

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  8. Avatar

    David

    December 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    MR, Khalife. The only people that get privileges are those whom give it to others. America is governed by the U.S Constitution and this the supreme law of the land. Personally I look at the intent of character.

    • Avatar

      Ala

      December 25, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      David, it’s MRS, not MR.

      Wonderful article, Diala. I’m so glad you wrote on this subject, as it’s been something that has bothered me (as an Arab American male) for as long as I can remember. The problem doesn’t seem to be improving, either. So ironic, and frustrating.

      • Avatar

        Diala Khalife

        December 26, 2013 at 2:54 AM

        Thank you so much, Ala.

        I also do not remember a time when I didn’t observe this in our community. It is tragically ironic considering many things but particularly 1) the fact that in our civil rights struggles and in our organizing around Palestine we consistently draw on and mobilize around the ideas of Black scholars and activists; 2) Arab Americans, particularly Arab American males appropriate Blackness (particularly representations of Blackness in commercial hip hop videos) and mimic Black “swag” all while being enacting anti-Black racism.

        I think unfortunately it will remain deep and persistent until we as a community make a concerted effort to confront it, and change our practices that reinforce it.

  9. Avatar

    Muhamed

    December 25, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Excellent points made, thank you for pointing out specific issues that must be addressed (especially in point 2).

    This is not a criticism of most of the content here, but I feel the author carries a rather harsh tone in her assessment (to a degree). Youssef, by his own admission, states that he has no ready-made answers – which logically welcomes this type of feedback; I feel the tone could have been a bit more respectful.

    Also, point 3 is extrapolating negativity that isn’t necessarily there. He’s highlighting the efforts Dawud has been making, but he does not argue that this in and of itself is enough to take care of the issue. He does not place the onus of addressing these structural problems on the shoulders of black Muslims by pointing out his positive outlook of one specific effort. I’m not sure why any one article on this website is supposed to be a comprehensive catch-all for every issue on a particular subject.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 26, 2013 at 3:05 AM

      Salam Muhamed,

      Thank you for your comment! I see where you’re coming from. However, I have to say that usually arguments/issues with tone tend to get in the way of engaging with the ideas in the article, and derail from them (see here for example: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument).

      I also do not think I was disrespectful in any way in my article.

      In addition I do not think, nor did others who commented on his article on Twitter, that in point 3 I extrapolated implications that were not present in the article; the author highlighting Dawud’s work was not accompanied by a statement of his individual or our community complicity, or a call for action; this is why I say the article implicitly places the burden on Dawud and others.

      Third, I did not include this in my article, but I will get to it here – the piece did not only do the above, but also dismissed the potential impact of some of the suggestions Dawud makes as “negligible.” This is also deeply problematic.

      I did not any way expect Youssef’s piece to be a “catch-all” but I do think it is fair to expect that Muslim Matters articles contain rigorous analyses of racism that are not reductive or limited.

      Thank you and would appreciate your thoughts.

  10. Avatar

    David

    December 25, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Ala, Thanks for your enlightened words. But lot MRS, Khalife speak for self.

  11. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    December 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I think it’s good to raise this subject and I commend Dawud and Diala on that level. However, I found no useful or concrete suggestions in this article. It seemed mostly to be a confusing lecture on what language one should use in describing the problem of anti-Black racism. Oh, wait, am I not supposed to say, “racism”? Confusing.

    I’ll offer an idea, though though it is not fully formed.

    Wealthy Arab-Americans and Muslims should create a foundation that would do two things:

    1. Train and finance poor Arab immigrants to start businesses other than liquor stores. These immigrants get into the liquor store business because their relatives are already in it, so the know-how is there, and because the bar to entry is low. Give them alternatives.

    2. Finance African-Americans to start businesses in African-American neighborhoods, with a focus on alcohol-free grocery stores that offer fresh produce and meats at affordable prices.

      • Avatar

        Amel

        December 27, 2013 at 1:25 AM

        Am glad to read of such an initiative and pray this will become more widespread throughout the country. Reading the articles, it is striking to me how much people fear not having enough money if they stop selling alcohol and other prohibited items. People should understand that the amount of rezq/sustenance one will have in a lifetime has already been determined while in the womb. How you acquire it, however, is up to you.

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 26, 2013 at 3:25 AM

      Salam Wael,

      Thank you for your comment. Please point out what parts of my article are confusing to you so I can explain and clarify. I think your comment that “It seemed mostly to be a confusing lecture on what language one should use in describing the problem of anti-Black racism” is dismissive.

      My article focused on the discourse the previous article lacked in analyzing and describing anti-Black racism. I tend to think that analyses of racism that are limited and reductive are harmful to efforts to address it; here’s why: they undermine the severity, pervasiveness and consequences of this racism in our community, and they do not compel aggressive responses to it.

      You say “Oh, wait, am I not supposed to say, “racism”? Confusing.” I wrote that we must specify that we are talking about anti-Black racism because there are specific ways we have been complicit in perpetuating it, and this specificity of our relationship and racial positioning to Black people is not captured with the general term “racism.”

      To your other point, that my article contained no concrete recommendations – I agree this is a shortcoming, and I hope to write on my suggestions and recommendations in future articles (see my comment to Youssef above). I agree that the Arab owned convenience stores, liquor stores and gas stations in poor Black neighborhoods is one crucial area in need of urgent change.

    • Avatar

      Houssein

      December 28, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      Baaraka llahu fiik, good idea . Racism doesn’t exist in real
      Islam , dangerous is to sell our faith in Allah for fear to lose
      some dollars.We should stand up for the poor people , justice
      and bounty will come from Allah.
      Prophet Mohammed was sent as a Merci and we are representing
      of him.
      Living in ignorance is not part of Islam, we should learn our dine and
      act upon it, if not we will become foam as the prophet said.
      Thanks

  12. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    December 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    I am stunned that Muslims Matters is dealing with this in such an articulate fashion. I know Islam tells us not to be racist, but for years, I have seen many Muslims dodge this issue totally. To be fair, there is Indo/Pak racism and Spanish racism and even black racism. But each has a unique feature. Indo/Pak racism is really classism based on the setup in the old country and black Americans end up being the untouchables. Spanish racism is a softer racism since they have a high degree of miscegenation in Spanish society. Black racism is another one we as Muslims don’t condemn enough. It is only a small impotent group, but we should all make it very clear we do not like Louis Farrakhan lying on our Prophet or our deen. We say they are not Muslims in a too-polite way and as a result, way too many people are confused about the fake Muslims in the Nation of Islam. To be racist is one thing. To operate a business based on your racism when you claim you are a Muslim is another thing altogether. We all like money and some of us, even Muslims, we get so desperate we do haram and don’t care who we hurt. That best describes the Arabs who sell the haram in black neighborhoods. As Muslims we all know it’s wrong to sell poison. The only justification I can think of when I see my Muslim brothers and sisters selling haram is that they think that because they are in America and in a black community, the rules of Islam do not apply to them. We all have a preference for what we grew up with, the people and the language. But when that preference veers off into hurting those who don’t look like you is what hurts me. I have dark skin. Praise be to Allah, Islam is my life’s achievement. I live in a black area and I hurt for all those who have not received guidance and I hurt that the people who come to my community to exploit the ignorance and lack of guidance claim Islam. That is the difference between harmless prejudice and hostile destructive discrimination. We can’t help but to like our kind. How can you be a Muslim and not understand when you are destroying another human being or think that because that soul you suck off lives in dark skin, that Allah does not see?

  13. Avatar

    Abu Abdillah

    December 25, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    As-Salamu `alaikum,

    An obvious oversight this article has fallen into that the initial article fell into as well is that racism is racism. I’ve seen African-American muslims commit more or less the same racially motivated slights–and worse–against Arabs. I’ve also witnessed the presumed aggressor of all things racist (the white man, of course) being the recipient of the same evil words and deeds this article assumes the white race guilty of. Similarly, the exclusion of white muslims, convert and otherwise from a discussion that concerns them as much as anyone else is indicative of the limited understanding of racism in the first place.

    • Avatar

      Dawud Walid

      December 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Abu Abdillah,

      There’s a difference between racism and bigotry. As there are Black Americans who are Muslims and show bigotry towards Arabs, it’s not something deeply institutionalized, nor does it have practical bearing in the community. The same does not hold true regarding Arab anti-Black racism.

      Racism involves a power dynamic, brother. Power relates to who defines Islam and authority for our community including who leads national organizations. A Black person, who is Muslim in vast majority of cases that says something bigoted about Arabs, for instance, is not calling into question the legitimacy of someone’s standing in the Muslim community nor threatening their identity. When the inverse is done, it literally has to the point of running people out of the deen.

      So racism and bigotry is not proportional though both are un-Islamic. The latter in no way equals the former regarding social consequence and how it plays out in the Muslim community. You’re comparing the two within the context of this conversation seems diversionary to be frank.

      White Muslims in the community face a different challenge of being fetishized in many cases in immigrant communities and being seen as “The Man” in many majority Black congregations. That’s a whole other topic.

      • Avatar

        Abu Abdillah

        December 26, 2013 at 3:24 PM

        As-Salamu `alaikum,

        I appreciate your response, Dawud, and am, of course, aware of the distinction between racism and bigotry. However, the point I made was hardly diversionary, but instead based upon years of observation of this specify in various communities here as well as in the Middle East. The racism of some Arabs toward some African-Americans is, without a doubt, a serious detriment to our community, it is only one aspect of a dynamic, if not volatile, reality.

        • Avatar

          Diala Khalife

          December 27, 2013 at 2:11 AM

          As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Dawud, Abu Abdillah,

          Respectfully, I have to echo Dawud’s point that racism and bigotry should not be compared or conflated because the latter is not institutionalized/structural, nor are the consequences nearly as severe.

          I also agree with Dawud that comparing the two – particularly comparing Arab anti-Black racism to prejudiced comments by Black Americans to Arabs – is diversionary; in other words, it deflects and derails the conversation from Arab anti-Black racism (which is the original topic at hand), and which you admit is a serious, pervasive reality in our community.

          • Avatar

            Abu Abdillah

            December 27, 2013 at 6:07 PM

            Wa ‘alaikum al-Salam wa Rahmatullah,

            Thanks for your response Diala. I’m not sure if I would have taken the time to respond to an anonymous commenter on a blog.

  14. Avatar

    Riz Khan

    December 26, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    I intend to publish the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and to distribute it in my immediate neighborhood. First of all it is a work for sawab/thawab (reward for good work from Allah). Second it would educate the people about the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Third it would help in curtailing racisim due to the specific instructions as below!

    “An arab does not have superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white have no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; except by piety and good action.”

    I think only love and friendship can reduce evil. if someone is racist why not give him/her a gift of the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) with the words against racism highlighted. We are all muslims. We belong to same faith. if someone is racist let us teach him/her the true message of Islam with love and kindness. May Allah guide all the sisters and brothers along the right path, Ameen!

  15. Avatar

    Dr. Amina Wadud

    December 26, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    Salaam Sis.

    Thank you for writing this excellent and deeply insightful essay. As the responses to it In the comment section indicate, it is not only timely but much needed.

    I am convinced that when Islam is taken as a radical transformative way of life, we do have the ability to overcome our short comings, no matter how systemic certain ill-habits, like racism, sexism may be. To me, that is the power of tawhid…we are all one humanity before one God.

    Everything else is shirk.

    Keep up the good work and may Allah bless you in your efforts.

    Your sister in Allah, amina wadud

    • Avatar

      Diala Khalife

      December 27, 2013 at 2:22 AM

      Salaam Sis.,

      Thank *you* for your deeply insightful Tweets on the issues in the previous post. And for your call for and emphasis on the importance of both discourse and action.

      Inshallah the work of everyone who is involved in the effort that Brother Dawud Walid began will bring about concerted movements to confront and dismantle this in our communities.

      Your sister in Allah, Diala

  16. Avatar

    AREF ASSAF

    December 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Careful use of terms is in order here. I think the accusation should be levied more against Muslim Arabs and other Muslims. Not all Arabs are Muslims. The racism you speak of hardly exists outside of the slums or inner cities. It is not evident in the larger cities, in our daily interaction with Black Americans in our professional job environments. But and while I recognize the disease of racism does afflict the majority of business owners who venture into Black areas, other ethnic communities can easily be found guilty of same. Koreans, and specially Indian liquor store owners are taking advantage of the economic failure of inner cities and the corresponding social and political ills. Arab Christians on the other hand tend to establish their business in either Arab/Middle Eastern sections of towns or in ‘mainstream’ business locations. While I have no tolerance for discriminatory practices or racism-based attitudes towards people of different color or faith. The writers need not fall in generalizations that will obscure any possible solution. I don’t have time to elaborate here but here is my summation of the dilemma at hand: What we are witnessing here is economic racism rather than color based racism. And the price some of these merchants pay is often their own lives.

    • Avatar

      Dawud Walid

      December 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      It’s not simply economic based or classism. It is systemic relating to tribalism and racism even more so.

      I know several brothers, including myself, who were interested in marrying Arab sisters in which the men were turned away for no good reason. They reason was Black and/or not being from their nationality, not lack of education or money. One brother I know is a medical doctor for goodness sake. Some of us have been called 3abed in these situations. You’d be hard pressed to find a Black American Muslim who doesn’t know someone that this has happen to, if not it happening to them personally.

      This is clear un-Islamic and not something isolated. I don’t think that you realize the extent of the problem at hand, but we’re telling you.

      • Avatar

        Amel

        December 27, 2013 at 1:09 AM

        As-salamu Alaykum,
        There is also discrimination between Arabs themselves when it comes to marriage. In Jordan, for example, about half the population is Palestinian. Jordanians and Palestinians go to school together, work together, and live side-by-side. Palestinians are not exactly new in the country. When it comes to marriage, however, many families (on both sides) will not allow it. There are many exceptions, however, which is something positive, because I believe that marriage is the main way that such problems can be solved. When people allow their children to marry into different groups, they are doing something very good for society because the children of these marriages will understand that racism or tribalism is rooted in ignorance. I have pointed out many times that if these same Jordanians and Palestinians were in America, Americans would simply consider them “Arabs” (and Muslims) and not care about the finer nuances of which tribe or village they came from. They might be discriminated against in America even if they come from a very prestigious tribe or family. No one is going to care about that. I think when you get to such a point, where you yourself are discriminated against for some reason, it makes you start thinking about the issue more deeply.

        If you are a parent and want your children to be open-minded, you cannot just talk about the issue, although talking is important. You must take the initiative to have friends of your own who are from different cultures and races. You should visit them in their homes and have these friends visit you. You should have your children play together. As they get older, you should expose your children to different cultural experiences. They should read the literature of oppressed peoples and understand their own history (whatever it is). You should not tolerate racial slurs and obviously should not make any yourself. These are all things you can do on a practical level…because it is much easier to change the attitudes of the next generation than it is to reprogram an older one.

        Regarding the phenomenon of Arab-run liquor stores, this probably needs a post (or a book) of its own. Having known many people in this business, I would say that such people are generally very, very ignorant of Islam and its teachings. Many are very uneducated and are even illiterate. Many are greedy as well, so you are dealing with a very bad combination of characteristics to start with. I am mainly talking about the owners, especially the first-generation ones who immigrated from other countries. Their employees may be there for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they were raised into the business by their parents, or they have newly immigrated to America and have not found other work. Some masjids send dawah teams to these stores, which is good, but I think it needs to go a bit further than that. When these teams go to such stores, they should go with a list of other jobs they can do…a list of employers that will be willing to hire them. Maybe the masjid could pay for them to attend college as well. Otherwise, you may have appealed to a person’s sense of guilt and religious duty, but you have not offered them practical alternatives. If you go a bit deeply into why people work at such stores, you will find that many are trapped and controlled by the owners. In some cases, it is purely psychological, but in other cases it is more than that. The point is, though, that there are people working in such stores who do not want to be there. These people need to be shown a way out. Others have made their choices in life and will continue to destroy their lives and the lives of others (including their own families) by remaining in such a disgusting business. But maybe it would be a good idea for communities to start thinking about ways to get rid of such businesses…perhaps by buying them and having the former owners sign a contract promising not to start another store. These stores could then be transformed into regular grocery stores or something else that is halal, which would then provide more employment for Muslims as well.

  17. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    December 27, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Assalamu alaikum sister Dalia,

    Mash’Allah great article and I hope and pray that both you and Brother Youssef can work together to bring more insightful and necessary articles such as the ones you both have already written about re: racism in Muslim communities. I just wanted to say that I also agree with your assertion that racism is more than just people spewing racist slurs at each other. It’s also extremely institutionalized and I was disappointed to learn about how some Arab Muslims perpetuate such institutionalized racism through the opening of liquor stores in predominantly black neighborhoods (I’m from the East Coast and so I’m not that familiar with how Muslim communities are like in places like Chicago and Detroit). And I also liked how you mention the role American white supremacy places in maintaining a racist hierarchy of “acceptable/unacceptable” groups below the predominant white majority. Besides light-skinned Arabs being given white privilege status due to their skin color, you also have Asian Muslims (both South and Southeast) clamoring to live up to the “model minority myth” that is usually bestowed upon Asians in general. I believe that immigrants in general (especially those of the first-generation) are made to believe in the idea that the American Dream is achievable by anyone who’s “hard-working” and that also plays a factor in these Muslims discriminating against African-American/Latino Muslims. I have a question though about the distinction between racism and bigotry. I’ve been onto other social justice anti-racist sites and usually whenever such a distinction is made, people get very upset and start to derail the conversation by giving examples of how “privileged” people are discriminated against too. So is it still feasible to continue making this distinction, because the average person who may have never studied about Critical Race Theory might take offense at the notion that their experiences with discrimination are not examples of racism? Hope I’ve made myself clear, and if not, I apologize!

  18. Avatar

    Kobie

    December 28, 2013 at 8:53 AM

  19. Avatar

    Halima

    December 28, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    I think the first article posed a question and also challenged us to look for a solution. You did that here. Amazing article sis. Loved it.

  20. Avatar

    TimbuktuTexas

    December 29, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    AA – Thank you all so much for this discussion on a primal issue that affects us all (whether we understand it or not). In the above dialogue, I would fall on the side of an institutionalized racism underpinning and masking a lot of what we consider individual preferences…cultural gaps and failures in the society at large, drifting down to effect the personal response. (Btw, we should all know that dividing and devaluing a people is a necessary step of the oppressor, and there is overwhelming proof that African Americans have a **great** history.) This is a fight against ignorance, and we need to address these issues if we truly want a richer, stronger and happier present/future. There are efforts underway. In the quick, branded societies of today, we need a hard “re-brand” away from these temporal caricatures of convenience and towards fostering real connections that move us forward, together. We will all benefit for the good, as Muslims, as Americans, and as humanity. God is great(er) – we probably haven’t seen anything yet.

  21. Pingback: Talk Arabs How Not to Stop Racism in the Arab American Community – A Response » Talk Arabs

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#Current Affairs

A Closer Look At The Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia

Hena Zuberi

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Kashmir hearing in Congress
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Expectations on Capitol Hill were pretty low going into the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation’s historic hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”. Previously, hearings on India have not been critical and the Kashmiri Muslim point of view has not been discussed.

Chairman of the sub-committee Brad Sherman (D-CA) wasted no time setting the stage for where he wanted to go with this hearing, stating, ”the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.” He also pointed to the state of the 2 million-minority population in Assam. Missing from his opening statements were remarks on the state of the rest of the minorities in India, esp. Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Muslims. Ranking member Ted Yoho (R-FL) was soft on the gross realities of the occupation, highlighting one case of a Kashmiri constituent, and referred to the abrogation of Article 370 as an internal matter of India. He also brought up the Indian talking point of economic progress in the region but this concept was thoroughly dismissed by later testimony and Q&A.

The State department veteran Alice Wells, Acting Secretary on South and Central Asian Affairs seemed woefully ill-prepared for the critical nature of the hearing. Both Wells and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Destro could not or did not present solid facts and figures about detention and tried to explain away the oppression as “inconveniences”. They were unable to comment or provide clarity on the situation on the ground in Kashmir, with Destro saying, “we are in the same information blackout as you are.” Some of Sec. Wells’s comments were of direct Indian government persuasion.

Several of Justice For All’s talking points were raised during the hearing.

There was commentary on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked about the anti-Muslim program. She questioned the panel on the public statements by Indian officials that only Muslims have to prove their birth records. Rejecting the notion that a democratic ally cannot be policed, she said that the United States does that in many situations and “this should not be an exception.”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman Sherman, along the same lines.

Destro observed that the appeals process “may disadvantage poor and illiterate populations who lack documentation”. “We are closely following this situation and urge the Government of India to take these issues into consideration,” he added.

”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman ShermanClick To Tweet

Wells testified that “violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states” are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.

Congresswoman Alice Spanberger, (D-VA) a former CIA intelligence officer, asked whether India has shared examples of terror attacks and incidents that have been thwarted due to the communications blockade. When Wells stated that she could not comment, Spanberger asked for a classified hearing so that US officials could give their assessment on the validity of the national security argument of the Indian government. Chair Sherman associated himself with her questioning and vowed to take her suggestion seriously.

Chairman Brad Sherman, as well as several other Congresspeople both on and off the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked several pertinent and critical questions.

Questioning the Indian Government narrative Chairman Sherman asked if the United is “supposed to trust these government of India officials when the government of India doesn’t allow our diplomats to visit?” Representative Sheila Jackson asked if reputable Indian diplomats or journalists had ever been denied entry into any state in the United States?

Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) referred to a report about the detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in Congress.

Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and David Cicilline of Rhode Island both had a heavy human rights approach to the questioning. Congresswoman Lee asked Assistant Secretary Destro if he would describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis,” Mr Destro said, “Yes, it is.” She then went on to call the United States government to stop a potential genocide.

Washington has not changed its stance on the designation of the Line of Control. Chairman Sherman brought up the issue of disputed territory to the State Department.“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” answered Wells. “We recognize de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

The subcommittee focused on personal testimonies as well as human rights organization Amnesty’s testimony during the second half of the hearing.

Though no Kashmiri Muslims testified, the panel presented electrifying testimonies from Dr. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri and Dr. Angana Chatterji, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Bearing witness to the rising fascism and Hindu nationalism’s grip on India, both witnesses brought up beef lynchings, with Chatterji raising the concern of the genocidal inclinations of the Modi government. 

“Hindu majoritarianism – the cultural nationalism and political assertion of the Hindu majority – sanctifies India as intrinsically Hindu and marks the non-Hindu as its adversary. Race and nation are made synonymous, and Hindus –the formerly colonized, now governing, elite – are depicted as the national race,” said Dr. Chatterji.

Kashmiri witness Dr. Nitisha Kaul stated in her testimony that “human rights defenders, who were already under severe pressure, since August 5 are unable to function in Kashmir. For instance, every year on 30 August, the UN Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Ms Parveena Ahangar, organises a vigil protest involving hundreds of elderly women and men whose sons had become victims of for instance, in the most recent parliamentary elections, the voters’ turnout was very low and in many booths, not a single vote was cast.”

Kaul emphasized the extension of the oppression, by highlighting that this year the peaceful gathering of elderly parents mourning and waiting for their disappeared sons was not allowed. She shared Ahanga’s quote: “This year we have been strangled, and there was no coming there was no coming together because, through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”

Ilhan Omar challenged Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh’s take that the siege was in place to save Muslim women from “terrorists.” This is a trope that is often used to wage war and is especially used in the so-called “war on terror.” “It is a very colonial move on the part of the nation-states around it as if they are “liberating Kashmiri women,” said Dr. Kaul.

Chatterji bore witness to the woes of Kashmiri women who bear the brunt of the Indian occupational forces’ sexual brutality. “The woman’s body becomes the battlefield,” she said replying to a question by Congresswoman Houlahan from Pennsylvania. Dr. Kaul stated that the 1944 new Kashmir manifesto contained an entire section on gender rights. She spoke on the equity and equality in Kashmir: “They go to protests. Women become heads of households because of dead husbands.”

She also reminded the committee that BJP’s Amit Shah, also part of the government in 2002 and responsible for the program on Muslim community stated that Western human rights cannot be blindly applied here in India.

Representative Wild from Pennsylvania asked why the Indian government would not allow transparency. When human rights organizations and journalists can work in active war zones, she rejected the anti-terrorism narrative pushed by Ravi Batra, a last-minute BJP addition to the panel. “When there isn’t transparency something is being hidden and this is what really concerns me terribly,” said Wild.

A Sindhi-American witness spoke on minority rights in Pakistan, especially the forced conversion of Hindus. This is a concern that needs to be tackled by Muslims as there is no compulsion in Islam and is antithetical to the religion.

During the hearing, Amnesty International reported thousands in detention under the Public Safety Act while the State Department numbered it at hundreds. Dr. Asif Mahmoud, a key organizer, presented the health situation in Kashmir.

The overall situation of the Rohingya was covered and links were made to the start of the genocide in Burma and the parallels in India. The members of the House referred to it as genocide with the State Department still calling it ethnic cleansing.

Although the hearing focused on the current state of Jammu and Kashmir and not much was brought up about self-determination or the plebiscite, Kashmiri-Americans and their supporters left the hearing room satisfied that their voices were heard for the first time in the halls of the US Congress.

What was most concerning point of the entire hearing was that Kashmir was not brought up categorically as disputed territory and the issue was referred to as an integral matter of India. This needs deep, consistent and long-term work by advocates of Kashmir. With the continuous rise of RSS, Indian minority issues need a much sharper focus, and a regular pounding of the pavements of Congress to educate the Foreign Relations committees.

Some action items for American Muslims post-hearing.

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What We Should Know About The Slaying Of An Imam 10 Years Ago In Dearborn

Dawud Walid, Guest Contributor

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informant jibril imam Luqman
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October 28, 2019 marks 10 years since the tragic homicide of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was shot 20 times in Dearborn, Michigan by a special FBI tactical squad. The homicide of Imam Abdullah was the culmination of the FBI spending over a million dollars in a so-called counterterrorism investigation which included rental of a commercial warehouse and freight trucks, the purchase of expensive electronic items and payment to at least 3 confidential informants. The raid on that fateful day in which Abdullah was killed and some of his congregants were arrested had nothing to do with terrorism-related charges, yet the imam and by extension the Detroit Muslim community was smeared in the process.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that agents were compelled to kill Abdullah because he purportedly shot a law enforcement canine during the arrest raid. CAIR-Michigan filed a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful death and fraud in this matter because there was no forensic evidence that corroborated that Abdullah had a firearm much less shot an FBI dog, which the bureau considered a law enforcement officer. There were no proofs provided that any gunpowder was on Abdullah’s hand or fingertips which would have existed if he had fired a gun, and none of his DNA nor fingerprints were found on the alleged gun. In fact, there was not even a picture of a gun at the scene nor did the Dearborn Police see any gun. The FBI blocked the Dearborn Police from entering the scene of the homicide for over an hour after the shooting which allowed the FBI special tactical team to leave with the purported firearm. In other words, the shooters of Abdullah, who headed back to DC without even being questioned by the Dearborn Police, are the only source that he had a gun. We believe that the FBI used what is known as a throwaway gun in a coverup when they killed the imam.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital. When the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan and the Acting US Attorney held a press conference about the incident, it was followed up later with special recognition for “Freddy” the FBI dog while the imam was painted as a type of extremist who wanted to establish sharia in the Westside of Detroit.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital.Click To Tweet

The lawsuit which we filed against the FBI was dismissed not because of the merits of our arguments but due to the federal government during the Obama administration suppressing information. The FBI would not release the names of their shooting squad which forced us to name them as John Does. The DOJ countered that we did not have standing on behalf of the family because we did not name actual persons. When we refiled using the names of the Special Agent in Charge and the head of the tactical team, neither who were actual shooters, the DOJ argued that the statute of limitations ran out in our complaint. We submitted an appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding the coordinated suppression of evidence; however, our appeal was denied. We still hold to this day that the FBI wrongfully killed the imam which was followed up by a systematic coverup.

Since the homicide of Abdullah, we now know that government surveillance against the Muslim community and the suspected terrorist watchlists grew tremendously during the Obama years in comparison to the Bush era. Also, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which further targeted the community began under the Obama administration. Government spying and the broad usage of confidential informants, some who act as agent provocateurs, in our community are still concerns of ours. Where Americans pray or who we associate with that may have unpopular political views should not be predicates for FBI surveillance. In many cases, this has led to young American Muslims being criminalized. For Imam Abdullah, it led to his demise.

During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. Click To Tweet

As my mentor, the late Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said when he stood with us in this case, “We are not anti-police; we are anti-law enforcement misconduct.” It is not our position that law enforcement be completely abolished. We are, however, against the unethical usage of informants which is part and parcel of the prolific history of the FBI in targeting prominent Americans such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, whose religious and political views were viewed as threatening by the status quo. During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. We never want to see another homicide such as what took place to Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah due to overzealous actions predicated upon misguided FBI policy.

Photo: Luqman Abdullah, second from left. FBI informant “Jibril,” third from left. Credit: Intercept

21 Shots and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam (Luqman Ameen Abdullah) Dies in Michigan

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Questions About My Political Activism | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Imam Omar Suleiman activism
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem,

I thank Allah for the blessing of in person interactions. The simple joy of meeting your brother and sister in the Masjid with a smile and salaam that removes the shaytan from our hearts. The ability to ask questions clearly and immediately bury hatchets (which some forgo for destructive emails and WhatsApp threads even with their neighbors). I’m blessed to live in the incredible Valley Ranch Islamic Center community where I serve as Resident Scholar in a voluntary capacity. Members of my Masjid and the Dallas community can approach me and ask me anything about something I’ve said or something being said about me, and we walk away as brothers and sisters. I had the same blessing in New Orleans where I served as full-time Imam for 6 years. And I am blessed to meet people around the country and around the world that I love for Allah. Those are lifelong bonds that I pray continue in the hereafter under Allah’s shade. 

I also thank Allah for the online world that allows people to connect in good when otherwise they would not have been able to benefit. Without social media and expanding ways of technology, good content and avenues for charity would be far more limited. I’m grateful for all of you that have connected with me and prayed for me over the years. I don’t want to take away from any of that. With that being said, the online world does of course have its pitfalls. There can be a lack of mercy and husn al dhann (good assumptions) with one another, and widespread gossip and slander. It’s also uniquely destructive to those who garner large followings even due to good reasons. It’s very easy to praise someone you only know through videos and pictures, as it is to tear them down. Allah has tested some of us with fame through this machine, and it is a mighty test. I pray that Allah allows all of the people that I’ve been blessed to benefit in this world to be witnesses for me on the day of judgment, and that He not shame me or raise me amongst the hypocrites who didn’t practice what they preached. 

As the great sage Imam Ibn Al Jawzee (ra) said, “Know that if people are impressed with you, in reality they are impressed with the beauty of Allah’s covering of your sins.” It is very easy to deceive and be deceived through a screen. I pray that Allah allow any unjust critiques that I receive to be an expiation for all the undue praise I receive. People are usually imbalanced in their love and hate. The test is whether that love stops you from correcting your brother when he is wrong, or that hate that causes you to swerve from justice.

With that introduction, I’d like to address questions about my political positions and affiliations. Why? Because I do believe in accountability and transparency. Deceptive voices should be ignored, concerned ones shouldn’t. Certainly, there are falsehoods and hit pieces that often are disguised as legitimate critiques. But there are also legitimate critiques and/or requests for clarification. Over the past several years, I have had both types forwarded to me. I am not concerned with those who use deception to falsely portray me or my work. I am concerned about those who genuinely have questions, and don’t have them answered. I have sought to clarify my own political positions through my work on numerous occasions such as here, here, and here. I will quote some of that content here. But I hope this will be a thorough article that can be referenced any time in the future when questions about who I am and what I represent are brought up. Moreover, I hope it can be a conversation starter about what types of political frameworks are actually beneficial to the community.

The Foundation and Legitimate Differences

I believe that the Quran and Sunnah should be the foundation for everything that we do, public and private. That means never exceeding their boundaries, and also manifesting their calls. Many people forget the latter, and only focus on the former. If the only time the Quran and Sunnah are invoked in discussions of activism and justice is to shut down something deemed illegitimate or impermissible, we suggest that our divine sources have stagnated and are unable to converse with the world around us today. I believe in amplifying the beautiful solutions from our religion to confront the ugly realities of the climate around us. The Deen is rich and beautiful. The Seerah is an incredible guide to everything in life. Through Yaqeen Institute, I had the blessing of doing the 40 on justice series that spanned for over a year and a half where I hoped to articulate a Sunnah-lens to the issues around us. My goal is to now develop that into a book. I believe the person and message of the Prophet (saw) speaks to us as clearly now as it did in the year 620, and that everything we do should be in accordance with it.

There can be reasonable debate about the Sunnah and how it’s lived in certain aspects around us. Some use Hudaybiya to justify every form of engagement and say things like, “if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) were alive, he would do this.” I don’t want to project anything on the Prophet (saw). My attempt is to draw from his Sunnah, not legitimize my shahawat. There are areas where the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) showed compromise, but he never lost clarity. While the treaty of Hudaybiya had to omit “Al Rahman Al Raheem” from the name of Allah, and “RasulAllah” from the name of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), none of the companions were confused about their realities.

The legitimate debates around how to truly implement the Sunnah today largely emanate from what aspects of the Prophetic call are it’s defining features, and what our priorities and timelines, political or otherwise, should be. Tawheed is the foundation and primary basis for it all. As for what aspects of the call are defining features, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent us a mercy to the worlds, defined his mission as perfection of character, said that Allah loves gentleness in all of His affairs, and was revolutionary in his compassion to everything around him. That doesn’t mean he didn’t at times get angry or use power to eliminate evil. He was not limited by his mercy, but always enhanced by it.

As for priorities and timelines, even the companions frequently differed. There are examples from the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and after. During Hudaybiya, Ali (ra) did not want to erase from the treaty what the Quraysh wanted him to. Omar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) wanted to proceed forth to Makkah that very moment. The companions found themselves unwilling to accept that they would have to turn back. Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) saw things the way the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw them. Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) advised the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in those difficult times how to get everyone on the same page despite those strong feelings.

The debates about this were deep in many aspects of Fiqh (jurisprudence) after the death of the Prophet (saw), none so more than regarding political issues. We know the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to seek both justice and stability. But at what point and at what cost is it permissible to challenge the power structure? No one was ambiguous about tyranny, but they differed greatly as to how to challenge it. In the first massive fitna to engulf the community, the painful debate over the assassination of Uthman  put Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) on the defensive about whether or not he was interested in pursuing his killers in the first place. He was of course, but believed in stabilizing the Khilafa before pursuing the assassins to not cause more bloodshed. When Omar Ibn AbdulAzeez (ra) who pushed legendary reforms in his 2 year Khilafa was questioned by his son about some of the things he wasn’t pursuing, he responded, “Oh my son, do you want me to try to compel them upon the religion all at once, so that they abandon it all at once?”

My work politically revolves around eliminating suffering, domestically and abroad. This shapes how I view militarism, poverty, policing, mass incarceration, environmental issues, healthcare, immigration, and torture. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “find me amongst the oppressed. Are you given aid and support by Allah except by how you treat your most vulnerable?” I believe that we as Muslims, especially those who claim orthodoxy, should assert ourselves in these areas. This doesn’t mean that I think this is the only area in which Muslims should be active. Different people should work in different areas of good, and not undermine one another. Good efforts should be complementary to each other. My background suits this particular role. I grew up with deeply humanitarian parents, worked as a field coordinator in disaster relief, and feel strongly moved towards these causes. While most came to know me through Islamic lectures, I have never not been involved in these things. Fighting exploitation and oppression are part and parcel of our religious identity. Not only should Muslims be present in these areas, they should be leading the way. And that’s not because it’s good political strategy or public relations, but because it’s scriptural imperative.

I’m also concerned with Religious Freedom and think we should assert our right as a Muslim community, as should other communities, to live out our faith unhindered, and our institutions un-harassed. Conservatives tend to leave Muslims out in their calls and lace them with other forms of bigotry we can’t stomach, and liberals often alienate religious communities like Orthodox Jews, Black Churches, Muslims, etc. while claiming to be for pluralism and inclusivity.

I cannot in good conscience support anything that is opposed to the Sunnah, even as a matter of political expediency. I believe in working together with communities on things we agree upon, and learning to respectfully coexist with things we don’t agree upon. On such affairs, I maintain political neutrality with religious clarity and relationship building that allows us to have these hard discussions as human beings seeking to reduce societal tension and promote the common good. I use multi-faith work as a blueprint for this. If people can harmoniously coexist despite strong beliefs about God, purpose, salvation, and scripture, surely they can learn to coexist on political issues that are of far lesser consequence to them in their worldviews. 

All of this warrants discussion on priorities, pragmatism, gradualism, and political programs. As Muslims, we should have vibrant disagreements that start off with: 1. What Allah and the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) deem as good is good, and what they deem as bad is bad. 2. People can disagree on how to apply those realities to the world around us without obscuring the lawful and the prohibited. 3. People should maintain good assumptions about one another and not accuse their intentions when they disagree. 

At the end of the day, these are largely areas of Ijtihad and we’re all on the same team.

Pictures and Associations

I rarely request anyone to take pictures with me, but I never turn them down. I have my reasons for that. It is primarily a personal decision I formed after going to the funeral of Muhammad Ali (may Allah have mercy on him) in Louisville. I was deeply moved by how everyone from the shuttle driver, to the hotel clerk, to the gas station employees, etc. had a story about meeting him. He never turned down a request, and that meant something to people. My colleagues and I differ on this issue. On one hand, we don’t want to feed celebrity culture. On the other hand, we don’t want to disappoint, hurt, or leave people feeling slighted. This is where I’m at on this, and I don’t think I have it in me to say no to someone who asks for a picture. 

My “associations” are widespread because I engage numerous spaces. I get invited to conferences and campuses, mosques and festivals. Anywhere I go, I try to be courteous to people and that should not mean an endorsement of all that they do or stand for. I do not believe appearing in a picture with someone or in a common space is me promoting them, or even them promoting me. 

Guilt by association is the most deceitful way of targeting someone. It’s what the Khawarij do. It’s also what Islamophobes have been doing to take down every Muslim leader in the community since 9/11. They draw the association as wide as possible, then associate you with every position through that association making it impossible to defend yourself.

My positions are only the ones I actually espouse.

Platforms and Panels

As for platforms and panels, I typically will not turn them down unless I feel like the platform itself is so biased that I won’t be able to speak my mind, or there is no value in my opinion even if I’m allowed to speak it. Most recently I sat on a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival on religious freedom with Sr. Asma Uddin from the Freedom Forum Institute, and staunch republicans like Rep. Matt Krause and Kevin Roberts, the Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m in dialogue at an event early next year with the most prominent evangelical preacher in the country. I often share the stage with staunch liberals who agree with me on issues of militarism, torture, policing, and immigration, but are quite hostile to religion. I try to do right by my part on panels regardless of who else is serving on it. The only time I would participate in a public boycott of a panel or platform is if it’s a collective push to purge someone who has just taken a position or done something that would inherently tarnish the panel or platform. I did this, for example, in the wake of the Rabaa’ massacre with scholars who legitimized it. When I’m invited to a highly partisan place like the Texas Democratic Convention, I try to be very specific with my subject matter (where I spoke about children victimized by policy here and abroad, and brought up Gitmo and Abu Ghraib).

How Do I Choose Whether or Not to Accept an Invitation

Istikhara (prayer) and Istishara (consultation). I have turned down many high profile events because I thought my presence would be tokenizing and unsubstantial. With my invocation in Congress, I literally forwarded the invite to my teacher and asked him whether or not I should do it. He advised me to go forward and give an invocation that would leave people thinking. I hope that was achieved even though I must admit I wasn’t expecting the flurry of attacks afterwards. Imam Siraj traces the beginning of the avalanche of hate against him to his invocation in congress, but I had hoped that all the relationships I had built would ward off some of that.

Most of my invites are not so confusing, but some of them are. Have I regretted accepting certain invites? Yes. But I don’t lament too much over them so long as I did proper Istikhara and Istishara.

Demonstrations, Coalitions, and Alliances

In our tribal politics in America, platforms are wide and coalitions are narrow. I believe in the exact opposite. I believe we should have specific issues that we determine important and meaningful, and form broad coalitions around those specific issues. This way the work is focused, the ally-ship is clear, and the advocacy is unproblematic. When it’s a bunch of people working on a small set of issues, the issues dominate the conversation as opposed to who is at the table. It’s about what we’re at the table for. 

So if we’re going to organize a march on the border, against ICE deportations, or against police brutality, I don’t care who else is coming to march or where they stand on other issues. This to me was the essence of Hilf Al Fudul. The tribes came together for one purpose of supporting those who were exploited because they didn’t have the protection of belonging to powerful classes, and the Prophet (saw) said he would take that pledge in jahiliya or Islam.

Partisan Politics

I don’t believe in uncritically adopting a platform, or letting a party take advantage of our vulnerability. We need to challenge Democrats just as strongly as we do Republicans, while remaining independent and principled. We have a right to an agenda like any other community. Politicians should have to work for our vote, and we shouldn’t shy away from where we differ with candidates even when we vote for them.

You can read my article on voting here in which I lay out those principles.

As a side note on endorsements, I’ve only endorsed 2 candidates in my life, one a Muslim candidate for city council and another a candidate for county chair. With the Beto campaign against Ted Cruz last year, who I believe is the most dangerous man in the Senate for various reasons, I particularly reached out to the campaign to clarify some concerns about the criminalizing of BDS. I applauded him for taking the time to meet me and clarify those concerns. With the recent news on his  comments on revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, I once again reached out to those who I know from the campaign to register the community’s disapproval and was able to have a fruitful conversation about it. And no, I’m not endorsing him or any candidate for president right now.

Left vs Right

I wrote an article in the Dallas Morning News about transcending the left/right divide. In it, I said, “Most of the religious presence in our political discourse seems to be superficial with the religious left and the religious right often simply representing nothing more than the political left and the political right with collars.”

I believe Muslims should be engaging well-meaning people on different issues from different backgrounds. While the political right may have taken on an overtly Islamophobic posture, there are conservative religious groups that may be willing to work with us and dialogue on issues of mutual concern. I welcome that 

We need to be a part of constructing the moral center in America instead of waiting for it to happen without our input whether its on domestic or foreign policy. We don’t have to adopt anyone else’s blind spots. We can talk about the child from Guatemala and the child from Gaza. We can talk about the sanctity of the child in the womb, and the sanctity of the child in the cage. We can talk about Gitmo and Abu Ghraib abroad, and our own mass incarceration systems at home. If some Republicans are the only ones willing to speak about the Muslim Uighurs in the name of religious freedom, we can work with them on that.

Not everyone has to work in all of these spaces simultaneously, but we should appreciate those who do so long as they don’t forsake their principles in the process.

On Engaging Government

This is a hard one so I’ll break it down into a few things:

  1. Local, State, Federal

I strongly believe in the idea of most politics being local, and that Muslims need to have a strong presence in city and state government. My invitation to Congress was due to my local work with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson who has been an incredible ally to our community. I think it gets trickier at the federal level. I’ve personally never been inside the White House under any administration for an Iftar or otherwise, but I don’t fault all who have. I know some who have tried very hard to do right in those tricky spaces. I was invited to the last Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department and declined. I think this is the trickiest space of them all, and wish those who engage it well. My hope is that anyone who does engage it raise our issues and make it clear to the community that they are doing so. I have never participated in CVE work, nor has Yaqeen ever taken CVE money, and I am opposed to it as a framework due to how it’s used exclusively against the Muslim community.

I differentiate between patriotism and nationalism and believe that our government should be held accountable for its violation of human rights like any other government. And war crimes have spanned administrations of both parties for a very long time.

  1. Foreign Governments

I am particularly skeptical of many Muslim governments considering the role that installed dictators and despots have played in suppressing the Muslim community worldwide. They have been the greatest violators of our rights, and the most shameful purveyors of Islamophobia as evidenced by the support given to China’s genocide of the Uyghurs. I don’t think it’s impossible to work with foreign leaders on specific issues, but that it requires crystal clear clarity from those who do on the issues those governments are criminally implicated. Granting religious legitimacy to tyrants who have themselves harmed or enabled harm towards the global community is incredibly dangerous. And it is important to not become co-opted by the lesser aggressors from the Muslim world. While some foreign leaders do better than others on certain issues, they will consistently disappoint on others. None of them should be able to buy the silence of the American Muslim community.

On Muslim Politicians

No politician, Muslim or otherwise, deserves our uncritical support for their political positions. Every Muslim, politician or otherwise, deserves our dua for their guidance and wellbeing. 

This is a tricky reality to navigate. When they take bold political positions, they should be qualifiedly praised specifically for those actions. When they do things that are problematic, they should be measuredly criticized specifically for those actions. We should want them to do well, and want well for them. As politicians, they naturally make decisions that they have to be accountable to the public for. As brothers and sisters, we should pray for them to make the right decisions and be enabled with and for the truth. As a community, we can’t put it on them to save the Deen. There will be more politicians that will come up in coming years, and our Dawah needs to continue independent of them while reminding them with good manners, supporting them with Dua and Naseeha, and politically engaging them like any other politician.

 

“Donate your reputation to Allah.” by Imam @OmarSuleiman504 Click To Tweet

Callouts

I will not engage in mudslinging or callouts personally, even when they’re against me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something that I could easily respond to with one line. But Allah is sufficient for me, and He is the best disposer of all matters. I would hope people can see through unfair attacks. And even when they can’t, I trust that Allah will make the best of the situation and I’d rather not take the community on a ride. Through one of these particular episodes, my teacher and friend told me, “Donate your reputation to Allah.” That stuck with me. If I’m doing what I’m doing for His sake, I shouldn’t be too bothered when other than Him deals with me uncharitably. If I am, I need to work harder on my own intentions.

As for others, I will not use social media to put people on blast. I discuss concepts, not people. Now two fair questions arise from this:

  1.  Can one assume that because I’ve supported people by name in certain contexts, but not criticized them by name, that I support all of their positions? I understand why people could derive that conclusion, and it’s not something I’ve particularly figured out. I don’t think ambiguous cheap shots are the solution either. I personally don’t burn bridges with people in fear of wronging them, and in hopes that I can still advise them. I feel like that’s the best I can do. I hope that people can appreciate that approach not as the only approach, but as an approach.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to employ the language of “what is it with a people that do such and such” (ما بال أقوام يفعلون كذا وكذا ) without actually naming the person in several narrations. This could be seen by some as passive-aggressive, but it’s about clarifying the concept and not focusing on the individual. I typically will try to employ this approach, and will sometimes fall short of it.

  1. Should there not be those who explicitly address wrongdoings, fairly hold leaders accountable, and ask important questions? There absolutely should be, but with good character and fair critique. We can’t adopt the tactics of Islamophobes against our own community. Half-truths, guilt by association, casting aspersions on character, etc. are grievous sins. They also take away from the legitimate critiques. Unfortunately, social media seems so drenched in toxicity that it seems impossible to discuss things with balance. With that being said, we need more forums to have important conversations and I can’t blame people in the meantime for feeling left out of those conversations and confused. As a rule of thumb, try to keep things depersonalized and to the issues. And when you have to say something critical of your brother or sister, try to say something about their good as well. 

What is considered public vs. private

There seems to be this prevailing idea that if it isn’t posted or tweeted, it’s not public. I try to be open in discussion with brothers and sisters when they meet face to face and am much more willing to discuss sensitive issues then. I don’t know of any basis in the Sunnah that would suggest social media is the only way to have a public position. I don’t mind being quoted in what I say in my halaqas or public settings, but simply don’t prefer to engage in certain discussions on social media.

Yaqeen’s direction and funding 

I am not Yaqeen. My political activism is not Yaqeen. I serve as the President of the organization with one vote on the board. I am blessed to work with an incredible team of over 60 people and growing that believe in the mission of the organization to foster a strong viable Islamic identity that preserves the religion in the hearts of our future generations, takes back the narrative from Islamophobes of all sorts, and demonstrates a path forward that doesn’t depart from our divine sources. Some of the writers are my teachers. Others come from entirely different backgrounds. I contribute a tiny fraction of papers myself, but am fulltime in my role as the President of the organization. Yaqeen set out to be as encompassing as possible of Muslim scholars and academics that believe in commitment to the religion, and contributing to the world through it. I believe strongly in institutions that are bigger than personalities, and that is the culture we try to foster from within.

As for our methodology, we have a course and a paper out soon from our scholars which should clarify further what we view as valid means of interpretation, and valid opinions. We try to do extensive peer review and allow opinions to be published within the fold of Islamic acceptability. 

We have extended our hands to Muslim organizations around the country and world to partner in good, and never charge a dime for our content. And for the sake of maintaining independence and integrity, Yaqeen has never taken money from any government entity or foundation that espouses ideas that would delegitimize it. Al hamdulila, all of it is through generous private donors that have found benefit from our content and I’m grateful to each of them for it.

Mistakes

Let me start with the personal. Anyone that serves as an Imam, activist, or representative of the community will be put in awkward situations frequently. Part of growth is learning from those mistakes and being wiser in future situations. I will still inevitably be put in compromising situations and pray that Allah guides me to deal with them with wisdom and rightful guidance. I will continue to listen to people who lovingly point those mistakes out to me in hopes that I do better in the future. May Allah reward them all. And I will take the best of unforgiving critiques and try to still benefit from them. May Allah reward them also if they’re done in sincerity, and forgive them if done for other reasons.

As for the communal, we haven’t figured out a way to host reasonable disagreements that involve various segments of the community. Yaqeen is meant to be a platform to foster some of that within our scopes of research, and some sites like Muslim Matters have also sought to be that when issues of concern arise. Over the past few years, I’ve had the blessing of being a part of an annual retreat that brings together various Islamic scholars of different backgrounds to foster unity amongst ourselves and create space for critical conversation. Sadly there are too many other divisions that exist in the community though to be remedied through that particular space. I think the community has felt locked out of certain discussions, and I can’t blame them for feeling that way. 

Solutions

Clarity. People like myself who are involved in multiple worlds need to not leave the community out of our thinking and articulate our frameworks better. I own that, as I have made many assumptions about what the community did or didn’t think about my positions.

Spaces. I’ve been blessed to be a part of forming some wonderful onsite spaces and forums where we have had some of these difficult conversations. I want to be a part of forming some of these spaces online with the realistic expectation that they will never equal the blessing of sitting with one another. I hope our community invests in more retreats where scholars of different backgrounds, activists, etc. can come together and discuss tough things, and then produce their findings. 

The Rope of Allah

Allah tells us to hold firm to the rope of Allah. The rope isn’t a political idea or opinion, it’s divine revelation. We are bonded by it and should honor that bond. We can disagree with each other and still love each other. We can debate ideas intelligently without descending into tactics unbefitting of the ummah of the Prophet (saw). We should be just with one another and not use the ways of our enemies against each other. I’m sure not everyone agrees with my framework above, and I may also change some of my opinions as time goes on. I pray that none of it ever swerves from what is established through the divine sources, or into anything divisive, hateful, or unjust.

The Quran speaks of justice, unity, and accountability. Those themes are not contradictory in Allah’s book, nor do they have to be in our lives. The Sunnah manifests that in a way that we can all learn how to conduct ourselves. This doesn’t mean we excuse everything in the name of Adab, it means we use Adab even when holding people accountable.

I end with this: Yunus al-Sadafi reported: I have not seen anyone wiser than Al-Shafi’i, may Allah be pleased with him. I debated him one day over an issue, and then we separated. He later met me and took my hand, then he said, “O Abu Musa, can we not continue to be brothers, even if we disagree on an issue?”

May Allah keep us united upon good, faithful to Him always, carriers of His Prophet’s way, and beneficial to the entirety of humanity. May He forgive us for our shortcomings, guide us to the straight path, and remove from us all that displeases Him in our worship and work.

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَىَّ

O Allah, I seek refuge with You from going astray or stumbling, from wronging others or being wronged, and from behaving or being treated in an ignorant manner.

Read: Our Brothers Who have Transgressed Against Us | Imam Omar Suleiman

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