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Racism In Muslim America – Unpacking The Conversation

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The most impenetrable systems of institutional racism in the United States of America has been the police, the courts, the criminal justice system, and the prison industrial complex. Now, in part because of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man by a white Minnesota police officer, there is a crack in the wall that wasn’t there before. Chiefs of police, mayors, district attorneys, and legislators across the country, are taking a closer and more publicized look at policing and systemic racism in in the United States. Which means that there are no more protected classes in the conversation about race in America -and that includes Muslim America.

The caveat is that the conversation about racism in Muslim America requires a level of candor, intellectual honesty, and moral courage, that we as Muslim Americans are not quite accustomed to. The sooner we understand that, the better. We’ll never get to the bottom of racism in Muslim America until racist and bigoted Muslims and Muslim organizations admit their bigotry and muster the courage to have real dialogue -the kind which that they cannot control.

Controlled, choreographed conversations about race, is itself a type of racism. There are no white knights in shining armor here. The adult-level discussion about racism in Muslim America has been muted, even censored, for decades, even though it was an ongoing issue and often spoke about privately amongst Black American Sunni Muslims going back to the 1950s at least. However, it was strictly taboo in Muslim America, even among converts, to speak publicly or in mixed company about racism in Muslim America. It’s been that way for a long time until recent years. It was considered an airing of our “dirty laundry”, or “splitting the Ummah”, or even to some, sacrilege, to suggest that any Muslim would harbor the blemish of racism or racial bigotry towards another Muslim.  In America proper, the conversation about racism in America has been ongoing since the late 1600s, before the United States ever even had the notion of being a republic.

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Regurgitating the story about Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) does not suffice as a conversation about racism in Muslim America. Pretending that it does, is nothing but a two-way insult. Those who offer it as evidence that racism in Muslim America does not exist, insult the intelligence of the Muslims who know that it does exist. And those who except the Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) story as a compete conversation, only insult themselves. So, let’s step it up a few notches; at least enough to put the conversation in the sphere of credulity.

400 years of Nlack suffering and racism in America was such an affront to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), be He Exalted and Glorified, that He dispatched a virus to slow everything down, and stilled the entire planet so that the whole world could take another look at it -including the Muslim world. More and more of white America, and even the world, is taking notice of the plight of Black people in the United States. From local governments, police, educational institutions, the business world, and every day ordinary citizens, people are reaching out more.  The most impenetrable systems of institutional racism in America have been the police, the courts, and the criminal justice system, and the prison industrial complex. There is a crack in the wall that wasn’t there before. Which means that there are no more protected classes in the conversation about race in America, and that includes Muslim America.

Now would be a really good time for Muslim America to address the festered wounds of racism within our own religious practice. A spate of carefully orchestrated panel discussions will not put the issue to rest, and may indeed highlight the bigotry and civilizational hubris that has come to characterize racism in Muslim America. Umar ibn al-Khattaab raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Call yourselves into account before you are called into account.” [Tirmidhi] . Muslim moral credibility has always been in question amongst non-Muslims in America, which is one reason why American imams are not the go-to members of the cloth for questions or answers about morality. If we fail at this juncture in our history, in addressing racism, candidly, openly, and bilaterally, then our collective morality as a religious community will be further stained; and it won’t be a question anymore.

 

Related links:

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

Your Black Muslim Friends Are Not Okay, America’s Knee Is On Their Neck

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American born, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad who comes from pioneering Muslim parents, has been an Imam for 24 years is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam, housed in the first building built originally as a Mosque in the State of Ohio. He is author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery”, a book about the civilizational status of Black American Sunni Muslims. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com and can be reached at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com Shaykh Luqman graduated from the language and usool ud-deen program at Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan and received his ijaazah in Hafs Quran recitation from the Quranic village of Wad al-Faadni in the Jazeerah Province of Sudan. Shaykh Luqman also studied at Umm Al-Quraa University in Saudi Arabia and at the Haram al-Makki. While in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in addition to the teachers at Um al-Qura, the Imam studied with Sheikh Suleiman al-Hazmi, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq who was his sheikh of tafseer al-Quran, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali. Shaykh Luqman learned usool al-hadith from Sheikh Muhammad bin Humayad a classic era Az’harian trained in the Ottoman period. Imam Luqman also took lessons from the late African American Shaykh; Muhammad Ghulaam Al-Haarith, one of the first indigenous American Muslims to attend Azhar University.

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