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Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

Margari Hill

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We can say “Peace on Earth.” We can sing about it, preach about it or pray about it, but if we have not internalized the mythology to make it happen inside us, then it will not be.”

–Betty Shabazz

Muslims in North America love to talk about our diversity. We beam with pride during visual presentations of our communal rituals. We are awed by multi-hued crowds coming together in complete submission. We cite our ahadith and Qur’anic ayaat, declaring that there is no racism in Islam. While we claim to love diversity and condemn racism, our communities and organizations struggle with racial inequality. Leadership in a number of national Muslim organizations is not inclusive of our largest community, Black/African American Muslims. Just as sister Betty Shabazz said, we can sing about peace, but nothing will happen if we don’t internalize it. Likewise,  we can sing, preach, and pray about racism, but if we have not internalized anti-racism, then racial equality in our communities will not happen.

If our faith community is to thrive, among a number of issues, we must get our racial affairs in order. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. Qur’an 13:11

Image from BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37327113

In order to address the racialized systemic oppression Muslim Americans face in the United States, we must center those who are most impacted, including those who our community largely erases. There are some who say that since non-Black Muslims do not have systemic power in this society, they cannot be racist.  But we as a community have internalized dominant narratives, and benefit to varying degrees from the systemic oppression of Black, Latino, and Indigenous peoples. We reproduce inequality by privileging some by their proximity to whiteness, and perpetuate oppressive interpersonal behaviors that alienate a whole range of people based on their ethnic or racial identity.

Despite the diversity of the American Muslim community, there is a conflation of brown foreignness with authentic Muslim identity in the representation of Muslim Americans in the media, at Muslim run conferences, and even in Muslim American outreach and marketing. Corporate blunders, from Pepsi to Shea Moisture, offend while trying to reach diverse markets. Likewise,  national Muslim organizations still falter in public relations with non-White communities, most notably in their lack of outreach to Black American Muslim communities.

The placement of one Black Muslim women on a flyer is still a milestone that we celebrate. This is because it is still common to see events discussing Muslim American  issues without a single representative from Black Muslim communities.  Recently, after viewing a flyer from a major national organization I tweeted:

A lot of Muslim orgs need affirmative action programs to reverse decades of exclusion and discriminatory practices.

In addition to feeling excluded, numerous Black Muslim speakers complain about tokenism and the micro-aggressions they face within their faith community. I was being intentional when I wrote “affirmative action”, which is defined below as, “an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination.”

I chose affirmative action because in order to make our communities equitable, our institutions must develop policies and practices that will reverse decades practices that have led to tangibly felt disparities. Some examples include hostile work environments for Black professionals, network bias leading to hiring and preferential treatment of Middle Eastern or South Asian affinity groups, lower compensation for Black and Latino employees working in Muslim run organizations. Very little work has been done to explore pay disparities in Muslim institutions. These include candidates with graduate school and doctoral level degrees. If we are to right these wrongs, then we must become proactive in addressing disparities so that our leadership is more representative of Muslim American community racial demographics. We can’t just be color blind in our approach, this is not an even playing field. We must be explicit in countering implicit bias and structural inequality in our communities. This means that we must actively recruit Black and Latino Muslims in leadership positions, offer scholarships to create more learning opportunities, and be careful to avoid bias in our own small network of associates. 

For the past three years, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative has focused largely on interpersonal racism within Muslim communities and worked to raise awareness about the importance of addressing systemic inequalities in our society.

There is not one believing Muslim today who would argue that racism is okay.  This is why Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative is asking for our community to show greater commitment to uprooting bigotry in our faith spaces, in our homes, in our community organizations, in our relationships, and in our work spaces. It is not enough to cite moral platitudes. If we do not internalize the principles and put them into action, then our communities will always be divided. This is why we must take the #SacredPledge to Resist Racism. Otherwise our communal wounds will continue to fester.

 

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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    safiya

    May 22, 2017 at 3:28 PM

    Alhamdulillah, very impressed to see this article.Being a south asian muslim,working in NYC opened my eyes to black muslim masjids,and made me cringe at the opulence,wastage of resources,the obsessive narrative of pakistani problems and some bizarre superiority complex that south asians carry.
    Black muslims are not so hypocritical in that they are not simultaneously anti west and yet actively migrate solely for western materialism.But black muslims on their part,need to look out for their african counterparts and do more,making them feel like this wealthier side of Ummah does care for them,unlike their Gulf muslim neighbors(shame on the Arabs).African Muslims comprise of more than just the arab politics of somalia and sudan, and have a culture on par with arabs or south asians with respect to their Islam.It is the rest of africa who have been viciously neglected as they serve no political purpose of arabs,turks and pakistanis.And this correction of attitude and action will be one of great dawah and embody the true spirit of Islam-integration,equality,wealth distribution and justice.Very little zakat really goes to black muslim masjid expansions/reconstruction or to Africa itself, and this is where proof-is-in-the-pudding comes to fore.

  2. Avatar

    Mian Reagan

    May 31, 2017 at 1:06 AM

    “Despite the diversity of the American Muslim community, there is a conflation of brown foreignness with authentic Muslim identity in the representation of Muslim Americans in the media, at Muslim run conferences, and even in Muslim American outreach and marketing. Corporate blunders, from Pepsi to Shea Moisture, offend while trying to reach diverse markets. Likewise, national Muslim organizations still falter in public relations with non-White communities, most notably in their lack of outreach to Black American Muslim communities.”

    Couple of nights ago, my BROWN SKIN, Authentic Muslim American friend has asked ride to a stranger to a nearest gas station. He lives in her neighborhood. Gentleman is a Black skin Christian American. Happily gave her ride. Problem arise , when he noticed /saw her speaking to her fellow Muslims brothers, in front of the 7/11 and asking about where is the Taraweeh prayer helding this Ramadan, she is new in the area. They Informed her , the same place where they pray Jummah on Friday.

    The Man became suspicious to he Point, that, he was not only Praising “President Trump” view on Muslims or the Ban of 6 Muslim Nations. He reach up to the leasing office, finding details, contacting a nearby church members, (where my friend Volunteer at Sat.Day Tutoring lab, and also participate at their Wednesday noon Prayer Group).That church themselves participate in the local Interfaith Community, Including Muslims.
    Yesterday, my friend was stalked by that Church members, Spanish Congregation service member,who works at the phone store, when she tried to get a Phone for herself.

    Surprisingly enough, the Church Pastor shows up ! my Friend laughed ! and said, why should I ride BUS, I made sure she get what she came here for,and I ride home free ! She asked her to brought her home !!!

    These are the True Face of Black Life Matters Supporters.. Who does not care for other skin, hold their Jealousy towards other race !! my friend came from a WEALTHY WHITE Christian FAMILY by marriage, her Identity has been stolen by others. And felt, continue to pursue their agenda , that, they would succeeds to set her up.

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The Hyperactive And Inattentive Child | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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child looking at cherry tree

Bismillah,

Some kids are fidgety and hyperactive, as if they are “driven by a motor,” constantly moving around, bouncing off the furniture, and unable to stay still and quiet. They may be also quite impulsive, so they can’t wait for their turn, blurt out answers before you finish your sentence, and intrude in on others. Others are inattentive and out of focus – almost always. They are disorganized and forgetful, and they lose their things regularly. These criteria could be bad enough to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, which is Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Some may have the inattention alone, others the hyperactivity alone, while a third group has both.

This spectrum of disorders may lead to poor performance in school, inconsistency in work, emotional immaturity, and social difficulties, but let us not forget that these kids may have some special strengths as well, such as their boundless energy, enthusiasm, humor, and creativity.

The diagnosis of ADHD will need a specialized health care provider to make, but the following tips will be helpful for kids who share some or all the aforementioned criteria, whether they have the disorder or not.

Since a big part of the problem that will lead to most of the difficulties in schooling is the disorganization and lack of focus, it is recommended that we help those kids stay organized and on task through the following measures:

o Consistent schedules and having daily routines even when it comes to the waking up rituals: going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. (Older kids should have prayed fajr before sunrise.) Have the schedule on the refrigerator or bulletin board in their study or bedroom. (Don’t forget to schedule time for play and wholesome recreation.) Let the child be part of the planning and organizing process.

o Keep in the same place their clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Use notebook organizers and color-coded folders. If you homeschool, make the day structured and buy them a desk where they can put their belongings, and if you send them to school, make sure they bring back written assignments.

o Decrease distractions as much as possible. If you home school, then I suggest for you to keep a quiet environment as much as possible and avoid excessiveness in decorating your house (particularly their study place) with knickknacks and pictures. Maybe this would provide us a reason to try (and hopefully appreciate) minimalism!

o TV and videogames are bad for all kids, and even worse for kids with ADHD, except when permissible programs are watched in moderation. See the AAP’s guidelines for “use in moderation.”

Some tips for parents and guardians

  • Consistent rules must be in place. Rewards must be given to the children when they follow them, and punishment must be judiciously used when the rules are broken.
  • Kids with this condition may have low self-esteem, and it is detrimental to their welfare to further lower it. Thus, praise good behaviors frequently even if they were little and expected, such as putting their shoes where they belong.
  • Do not be frustrated with the inconstancy of the child’s performance. He may get a 100% on one test and then fail the next. Use the first to encourage them and prove to them that he can do better.
  • One on one teaching/tutoring may be needed to enable the child to keep up with the schoolwork.

Should we use medication?

Medications are sometimes needed. You must consult your doctor regarding their use.

Here are my non-professional thoughts:

  • Prescribing those medications should never be a kneejerk reaction. First, we must be confident of the diagnosis, then, try all other modalities of therapy, and finally, entertain the option of pharmacological intervention.
  • Medicating the children should never be for the interest/comfort of the parents or teachers; it should be only for the interest of the child.
  • Medications should be tried if the child is failing to keep up with learning knowledge and skills s/he will need in their future, and other therapies failed to help them
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Loving Muslim Marriages Episode 3: Are Muslim Women Becoming Hypersexual?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Loving Muslim Marriage

Are Muslim women with sexual demands becoming “hyper-sexual,” being negatively influenced by life in a Western, post-sexual revolution society? Allah made both men and women sexual, and the recognition of a Muslim woman’s sexual needs is a part of the religion even if it seems missing from the culture. This segment is a continuation of the previous week’s segment titled, “Do Women Desire Sex?”

To view all videos in this series, as well as an links or articles referenced, please visit www.muslimmatters.org/LMM

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How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.

While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.

Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!

  1. Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.

In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.

  1. Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
  2. Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.

A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.

Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!

In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.

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