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Pray, Connect, Learn, Speak – Ferguson

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We await the grand jury decision on whether Darren Wilson, the police officer who fired on and killed unarmed Michael Brown, will be indicted on criminal charges. Our Noble Prophet ﷺ said, “By Allah, if you have killed one man, it is as if you have killed all the people” (Sunan Sa’id ibn Mansur 2776). While Michael Brown’s death is a deep tragedy in and of itself, the militarized response to the protests it sparked reflect racial disparities and long standing injustices in our society. As Muslims we should draw upon our strong tradition of standing with the most marginalized members of society.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

4:135

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted (Sahih International 4:135)

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Mass incarceration, police brutality and the frequency of  extrajudicial killings  of Black Americans in the United States , including that of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah and Amadou Diallo (one every 28 hours) are reflections of the structural racism in our society. The activation of the National Guard  in Missouri this week is a stark reminder of the militarized response to non-violent protests. It is our duty as Muslims to stand with the victims of oppression for justice. On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, “Whoso-ever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim). We are calling on our brothers and sisters to stand, speak, and act.

We ask that Muslim organizations be part of the solution by taking proactive steps in responding to a growing crisis. As part of our mission to challenge racism, we invite you to address the grand jury decision and to prepare our communities to create safe space for conversation and develop strategies to address inequity in our society. Regardless of the decision, the realities of structural racism affects the lives of Muslims and people of color nationwide.  There are 75 Planned Actions for Darren Wilson Grand Jury Decision which you can join and support. In addition, we offer the suggestions below and we would invite you to share your own ideas as well:

  • Pray. Either deepen your prayer for the situation, or get started now. Pray for an end to racism, for the family of Michael Brown, for the people of Ferguson, for the police and other government officials. If you are an imam, be sure to include a prayer for the people of Ferguson in your Friday prayers.  Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is no screen between it and Allah” (Musnad Ahmad 12140).

  • Connect. Start thinking now about your community and their likely reactions, and needs. Are there other Muslim community centers you could join with? Are there other faith communities? Reach out to other imams and leaders to plan and strategize. Reach out within your community to support Muslims for Ferguson and others who will support this effort.

  • Learn. Become well informed about structural racism, police brutality, state surveillance, and prison-industrial complex. The Ferguson syllabus is an excellent place to deepen your knowledge and begin to make connections.

  • Discuss. Create safe space to meet and start conversations about the decision, in order to share reactions, fears and hopes. It may be immediate or within 24 or 48 hours, online or in face to face meetings. Gather the resources needed to support honest engagement with this issue with a goal of unmasking, dismantling and eradicating racism.

  • Speak. Prepare to teach, preach, and speak out against racism, now and on a regular basis.

  • Release. Kaethe Weingarten (South African psychologist) writes “Let yourself release the feelings that you have. if you feel sadness, cry; if anger, yell. Think of one small action that you can take, symbolic or actual, that makes you feel less helpless” Be mindful of how this fear, anxiety, anger and rage manifests itself in our physical bodies.

  • Talk. Speak to your children and other young people in your lives about current events. Children especially take their cues from us and we have to be prepared to help them process what is s happening. There are numerous resources on How to Teach Kids About Ferguson. Above all, reassure them of our love and affection.

This is not an exhaustive list, but we hope they prepare us for meaningful action. We urge all Muslims to engage this situation in a way that can bring about sustained change.

If you have questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, please contact one of us. As part of our commitment to fighting racism within the Muslim community and standing for justice, we must take action.

Jazak Allah khayr,

Margari Hill,

Co-founder and Programming Director

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

(Adapted heavily from Rev. Dr. Keith Bolton and Rev. Deborah Blood Co-Chairs of the Sacred Conversations on Race Ministry Facebook  Post retrieved November 19, 2014)

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Margari Aziza Hill is co-founder and Programming Director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), assistant editor at AltM, co-founder of Muslims Make it Plain, and columnist at MuslimMatters. She is on the Advisory Council of Islam, Social Justice & Interreligious Engagement Program at the Union Theological Seminary and winner of the 2015 MPAC Change Maker Award. She has nearly a decade of teaching experiences at all levels from elementary, secondary, college level, to adult education. She earned her master’s in History of the Middle East and Islamic Africa from Stanford University in 2006. Her research includes colonial surveillance in Northern Nigeria, anti-colonial resistance among West Africans in Sudan during the early 20th century, and race in Muslim communities. She is also a freelance writer with articles published in Time, SISTERS, Islamic Monthly, Al Jazeera English, Virtual Mosque (formerly Suhaibwebb.com), and Spice Digest. She has given talks and lectures in various universities and Muslim communities.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Hassan

    November 21, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    So we have already decided and agreed that Darren Wilson is guilty? Is there any chance he is not if grand jury does not indict him?

  2. Pingback: Pray, Connect, Learn, Speak – Ferguson | PASS THE KNOWLEDGE (LIGHT & LIFE)

  3. Susan

    November 21, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    My daughter, who is an 18-year old Muslim, is enroute from NY to Ferguson now with a Jew and Christian, as part of Stony Point Center’s Community of Living Traditions’ delegation to provide solidartity with the family of Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson, and the oppressed where ever they may be on this earth. It is their intention to be a source of strength, hope, and a model of non-violent resistance in pursuit of justice.

    Please keep them in your Duaa’.

  4. M. Mahmud

    November 21, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    I’m going to make this point and hopefully we can all agree-

    Accusations mean little without evidence. Darren is accused of unjustly killing a man. We can do what we will but courts will have to weigh evidence and judge him based on that. Whatever injustice in this life that is not settled here will be settled before Allah on the final day.

    Secondly, what evidence is there that Darren Wilson was motivated by racism during the altercation? If it has not been conclusively proven beyond reasonable doubt that the murder was unjust, how are we even able to come close to judging his intentions?

    • razainc

      November 23, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      The issue is about structural racism in which African-Americans are criminalized for nothing other than the color of their skin. And police shooting of African-Americans are very common with little consequences.

      • Zaheer

        November 24, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        But in this specific instance, is that the case? There are conflicting reports about whether Michael Brown was resisting arrest or not, not to mention the fact that his “innocence” as many have tried to claim, is definitely under scrutiny and not at all self-evident.

        As with most racial incidents in America, people are quick to jump to conclusions before the facts are in, and usually the media (and those who parrot them) come to the conclusion that “blacks got the short-end of the stick, again”. It’s yet to be determined if that’s the case.

  5. Susan

    November 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Does the lack of commentary on this thread speak to our apathy?

  6. razainc

    November 24, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    @Zaheer I would say the evidence from most of the witnesses is pretty strong, racism is criminalizing African Americans and seeing them as more dangerous without evidence. Remember Brown was unarmed he did not need to be killed he could have been injured and subdued if the officer really was afraid.

  7. Balkani

    December 18, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Bismillah,
    The lack of action from Muslims leaders and the community at large shows the apathy of the Muslims in the West not only towards the atrocities against their own brothers and sisters elsewhere, but also to their local communities. It is clear; that too many of us rather choose to turn a blind eye to wide spread injustice because we prefer this life over the next. We choose to be blind to the suffering of other minorities in this unjust system. We will use any excuse necessary to wash our conscious and move on with our petty lives. This problem is bigger than just the present cases; it is a long train of injustice towards minorities such as blacks, Hispanics and of course Muslims. The point many Muslims miss is that THE SYSTEM IS BROKE AND IT IS NOT GOING TO PROTECT YOU! So, wake up! Stop believing that a piece of paper is going to protect your rights; you need to stand in solidarity with those that are oppressed and be the reason for positive change.
    Alhamdulillahi Rabil’Al-ameen.

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