In fact, Black American Imams aren’t seen that much either. Not speaking independently on any national stage. In Muslim America today, Black American Imams are rarely viewed as equal to other Imams, especially if they open their mouths with anything that rejects the prevailing narrative of Black American Muslim intellectual inferiority to immigrant Muslims. That is starting to change with this second and third generation of Muslims. However, we still have a long ways to go on both sides.
Racial bias has figured high in Muslim America, but self-hate, and self-deprecation on the part of Black Sunni Muslims, has figured high as well. Maybe even more. And please, no more Bilal stories. We already know that there were companions of the Prophet (SAWS) who were Black. However, the Prophet (SAWS) is not the one under indictment about racism. We have no issues with the conduct of Rasoolillaah (SAWS). It’s the subtle and not so subtle racism that still exists in the ummah that we’re most concerned about.
Nevertheless. As the issue of racism and racial bias continues to be at the forefront of American domestic dialogue, Muslim America needs to understand that they are not exempt from dealing with it. Am I risking backlash from this post? Of course, what else is new? However, backlash won’t make the problem disappear.
Keep in mind that with the teaching of ‘puritan’ aqeeda in the 1980’s, came the incessant debates and arguments about theology, and hidden inside Islamic puritanism, were the attacks on nearly everything, about our country, our way of life, and our culture. Nearly all of our celebrations, things like birthdays, baby showers, graduation parties, and even family picnics, were prohibited by one or another fatwa.
There were even fatwas against being happy during Christmas season, or being happy when a kaafir is happy, and accepting gifts from grandma . Then they went after our sports, I remember reading the fatwa haraming football, and co-ed sports. But that wasn’t enough, they attacked our clothing, our relationships with our neighbors and our families, our relationships with own country, our priorities as a free people, and even our politics, were all put in check by various fatwas coming from abroad, some of which we continue to argue about till this very day.
Then came the fatwas that haramed all of our music outright, which meant a good chunk of our poetry, which is part of our music. Even lullabies sung to babies were haram according to some. We were ordered to boycott Israel while Muslim countries have treaties and do billions of dollars worth of business with Israel. Then there was the fatwas prohibiting photographs, and sport trophies, and attending the funerals of relatives who were not Muslim, Then there was the fatwas calling for jihad against our own country. Incredulously, many of us fell for a lot of it. Even had some of us speaking with fake accents.
If you’ve been Muslim since the 1980s, you would know this. Scholars who used to weigh in on everything American, have evolved since then, but not after leaving behind considerable damage. Not even an apology. An entire generation of Muslims were lost in the morass of moral chaos. Some folks still cannot even tell the basic difference between right and wrong. Just a couple of weeks ago, Muslims were clamoring that a shaykh from abroad showed that a man knitting or sewing is permissible, when we come from a nation of men custom tailors and clothing designers.
The hijacking of Islam in America and the marginalization and indifference towards Black American Muslims by the now larger Muslim community, including scholars, is no laughing matter. But brothers speaking with fake accents, now that was funny. Nevertheless, Saudi based scholars, and scholarship have had more influence over Black American Muslims and converts, than scholars from any other region on the planet.
When vestiges of the post slave culture of the Arabian peninsula mixed with the pre-existing slave mentality of Black Americans who studied there, it was disastrous. You can still see the effects of it today in Black Muslim America, which is one reason why it’s important to know our history. I believe that it is inevitable that a new, and free domestic Muslim ummah must and in sha Allah, will emerge, that is untethered by the now self-imposed colonial like hold from the Muslim world abroad that still continues to suffocate Muslims and converts in America. If you don’t get what I’m saying now, in sha Allah you will. I stand by my words.
Iman Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad