One of the goals in addressing racism in Muslim America is mending rifts between Black American Muslims and converts and the rest of the American Muslim population and for the politically correct minded, not to offend anyone in the process. Mending when it comes to Muslims, can occur almost instantaneously by the grace of the Almighty God, Allah, because Allah joins the hearts. However, mending is not the immediate goal. Mending is a divine by-product that spontaneously or gradually occurs according to the grace and decree of Allah. “And remember the favor of Allah upon you when you were enemies and He joined between your hearts and you became after that, brethren”. Mending is indeed one of the long-term goals and part of our hope in addressing this situation. However, in my opinion, it is a subsequent goal, an eventual goal, but not at the top of the priority menu. It’s not the main course. When Muslim leaders come out the box and talk about healing, without even getting an acknowledgment from Muslims who engage or have engaged in racial bigotry against Black Muslims, I cringe.
The main goal at this juncture in my view is to identify and limit the harmful and civilizationally destructive effects of racism in Muslim America because for all intents and purposes, multi-dimensional racism in Muslim American is a major contributing factor to the decline of Black American Muslim communities in the United States and to our precipitous march towards extinction. You cannot snap your finders and suddenly racial bigotry, disdain, and sentiments of civilizational irrelevance aimed at Black American Muslims and converts disappears into thin air. We all know that is does not work that way. I also know from recent, personal experience that in addressing this issue candidly and publicly, there are people in the Muslim community both immigrants, as well as indigenous Blacks, who are going to be offended. So not offending, even if it were a central priority, is an inevitability. If we approached the topic based on not offending anyone, we would never be able to even begin the conversation. Racism in Muslim America has so many tentacles, its tentacles have tentacles. So, is it possible to address racism in Muslim America without offending anyone? Not likely.
Principally racism in and of itself is offensive as it gets. It goes against the foundational principles and ethics of Islam and that is offensive, especially if it’s directed at you or you are the victim of it. Muslims who are not even racist or who may be oblivious to racism within our ranks may be offended because it is a counter narrative to the sanitized version of Muslim America that has been fed since 9/11 to the American public.
We must keep in mind that since 911 American Muslims, especially the immigrant community, has been fostering a narrative of the American Muslims as largely middle class, educated, civic minded, patriotic, and supportive of good causes. All the fluffy stuff. Enough fluff to take over the teddy bear industry. We have advanced the notion at great expense, that racism in Muslim America does not exist because after all, there is no racism in Islam. To suggest that there is a problem of race in Muslim America is like telling a 5-year-old on Christmas eve teething with excitement and anticipation, that there is no such thing as Santa Claus.
In many ways, we seem to have dug our own hole here. In our acquired hypersensitivity to not be offended, nor to offend in any way, we have undermined our ability to candidly address matters that make us uncomfortable. Racism in Muslim America is at the top of that list. This is not going to be a walk in the park, but with faith, there is hope. After all we are Muslims.
Imam Abu laith Luqman Ahmad
Imam Luqman Ahmad is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org