This is my personal blog, though, I have not posted anything remotely personal on this in years. In fact, perhaps my last few personal posts have been immediately upon my conversion to Islam in 2008. Since then, I have been learning, feeling, absorbing, and processing all that goes into adopting a new way of life.
I have had very little creative output, in these last 4 years, even though I am an artist, a writer at heart. I have shared little with the world of myself, but instead, allowed my experiences to paint and tamper with the many blanks of my own canvas.
Let me first preface this post by stating that I have been blessed to have met and made dear friends from all ends of the world in my life. After living in Brazil for one summer, traveling throughout Europe for a semester, and subsequently stepping into a faith with some 1.5 billion followers, I have made my fair share of global friends. And while I lived in the Muslim community of Arlington, Texas my first year out of college, I had 3 moms (1 Chinese, 1 Hungarian, and 1 Palestinian-Jordanian), and many big sisters who took care of me in such a magnitude that only Allah (SWT) can repay.
But, in the height of Ramadan, in this blessed month, I, unfortunately, witnessed what can only be rectified, I now understand, by open discourse, and mature conversation. I will post the catalysts of this blog post, and then raise a few points of concern that have lingered in my heart for a few years now. No longer a “baby muslimah”, I am four years of age in my Islam, and like most 4-year olds, I will not be silenced.
One morning, I stumbled across these tweets on my timeline. I promptly let the authors know that this was offensive. I retweeted the message, shocked at what I had just read. Though it was extremely early, many other followers replied back, equally at awe at what they had witnessed.
The person’s friends then began to join in, with even more racially charged rhetoric. The comments below surprised me in such a way that I feel compelled to share, after not sharing much these years. I will let you see for yourself.
**Disclaimer** – The language shown in the posts below may be highly offensive.
The person’s friends then began to chime in and rally behind her:
I felt a need to call this out, not to direct to a specific person, but to address a larger issue, often swept under the rug: racism amongst Muslims. It has many manifestations, most of which are the direct effects of colonialism and the successful indoctrination of white-supremacy that goes along with it. But many of its manifestations are unique to the people and cultures themselves, supporting traditions, and sadly, stereotypes older than the many countries they so fervently represent.
Many people replied to me confused and shocked that such language and flagrant racism would be posted in 2012. It is surprising. But perhaps, what was more unsettling were the responses from many of my peers who were not surprised at all. Who shared their own dealings and experiences, to the point that they have concluded: in Arab countries, you will hear and be called far worse things than even the above.
Is this so? Is this possible? Like all religions, Islam has sectarian differences, and critical distinctions in the interpretations of our religious texts. We understand this.
But can we have such clear divisions, based on skin color, to the point where it is quite okay for an Arab to playfully or even affectionately refer to a person of African descent as “slave” but when such people stand up against such language they are to be corrected, disciplined?
And to be clear, the term “abeed” was not used affectionately in the scenario above. No. This was meant to be used in the way any hate speech is: to infect, to degrade, to dehumanize. The people who posted this hateful language explained themselves to me several times.
The first question I was asked was:
One person tried to dilute the issue, explaining that it’s an “Arab” thing, and not to be confused with “real” racism.
The people using this speech self-identified to a particular culture and nationality of which country I shall not name. But, it can be agreed upon that their people are going through great turmoil having been displaced in the millions, and many of them now refugees.
I ask them, and any other person, are you not diminishing the integrity of your cause for the liberation of your own people by furthering such ignorant views of another?
I called it for what it was. It is racism and it further feeds into the stereotypes about Arabs as being racist.
If only this was the case. If only every Muslim, every Christian, every Jew, truly followed its teachings. I imagine, this world would be a much more peaceful place. But the reality is, we fall short. We fail everyday. We fail ourselves and oppress ourselves. And God forgives us. But we oppress others too.
And in this instance, they oppressed this human being. Sure, she may not like Muslims. She may have even insulted Islam. But, any Muslim living on earth knows that you cannot defend Islam by doing something un-Islamic. Not only is it ineffective, but it is wrong, prohibited, sinful.
Unjust killing is unlawful. Suicide in any circumstance is unlawful. And racism, in any form, is unlawful. The fact that, when this individual purportedly attacked Islam, the immediate line of defense was by attacking her skin color, her race, and her people’s history, is troubling at best, psychologically and emotionally scarring at its worst.
Racism is FORBIDDEN in Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made this very clear in his life example, and felt strongly enough about the subject to make it one of the points in his final sermon.
First, he ordered us to abstain from riba (interest). Next, he commanded us to treat women fairly, and to be kind to them, honoring their rights over men. He then instructed us to adhere to the pillars of Islam and fulfill our obligations to God.
And then, in his characteristic eloquence, clearly spoke out against racism, colorism, and prejudice:
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
Fast forward 1400 years later and where are we as an Ummah (community; nation)?
The Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) also said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.”
And so I ask my fellow Muslims, are we one body?
I have seen black faces, myself included standing in rallies to Free Palestine, to end the oppression in other Muslim lands. We, African Americans, know oppression, enslavement, genocide, and apartheid all too well. The enslavement and systemic dehumanization of Africans in the Americas have been well-documented as one of the most extreme, and darkest moments in human history. So extreme that we remain the only group in human history that have lost all ties to our native countries of origin, languages, religions, and lineage. No other people can claim such loss.
And yet, pioneers for justice, like Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, have dedicated their lives to seeing the end of racism and prejudice against any and all people, regardless of creed, nationality, or skin color.
And so, it seems pretty illogical to me that if someone attacks your religion, your natural rebuttal would be to attack their skin color. The authors of the tweets above tried to explain themselves. Stating that it was done to defend Islam; that the person was bad-mouthing Muslims. Point taken. But that does not make their actions excusable.
Moreover, this the use of the word “abeed”, to my own disgusted astonishment, is not used to refer to anyone other than Blacks WITHIN the Muslim community, be it in the Middle East, or even right here in the US.
Some African-Americans have even started a now-widespread campaign to end the use of the term, starting with their own native city, Chicago, home to one of the largest and most diverse Muslim community in the country.
I invite you to check out the links below, like the page on Facebook, support this cause, and stand up against racism and oppression, even if you have to stand alone. That is Islam.
Like the Facebook page for: We are all ‘Abeed’: Campaign to end the use of the word “abeed” in reference to the black race.
Check out the posts by vloggers such as Dina Toki-o
Any good from the words above is from Allah (SWT). Any faults in this is from my own self.