Topic: The Power of Diversity in the Community (Grades 9 & 10)
Title: Discrimination within Diversity: Anti-Blackness in the Muslim Community
By: Shaimaa Al-Zaman of Princeton Junction, NJ
Muslims make up one of the most racially diverse religious groups in the United States, coming from at least seventy-seven different countries and various generations of immigrants. As a South-Asian Muslim, the diversity within the mosques and Islamic community around me is undeniably something that I take pride in. Whether I am attending weddings and fundraising events or visiting the mosque to perform daily prayers, simply being in the mosque guarantees that I will meet people from all backgrounds and cultures. More than this, it is invaluable to me that despite the differences between myself and others at the mosque, I will be seen as an equal in our collective place of worship. However, this is not the case for Muslims of all races. Despite evident diversity and multiculturalism, anti-Blackness is rooted deeply in Muslim-American communities.
Although there is no basis in Islam for discrimination against any group of people, discrimination against African-American Muslims (both subtle and outright) has become common among Muslim individuals. There are certain misinformed beliefs and prejudices that cause this, ranging from the idea that most Black Muslims are converts to Islam and thus less authentic as Muslims, to the colorism that is prevalent in many South Asian countries. This habit of not seeing Black Muslims as “real Muslims” continues despite the fact that they account for at least one-fifth of the Muslim population in the US, and it is argued that Islam was originally brought to America by African Muslims. It is even common for some Muslims to refer to African American Muslims as “abed” or slave, and they are often segregated out of mostly South Asian and Arab mosques.
Additionally, reactions within the Muslim community to instances of police brutality reveal intrafaith racism as well. Through several horrifying cases–the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, the murder of fifteen year old Somali Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussain, the shooting of Usaama Rahim–the silence on the part of many non-Black Muslims has been glaringly obvious. Some Muslims even went as far as to condemn peaceful protests against police brutality for being too violent: after Freddie Gray passed away, the Islamic Society of North America described the resulting protests as “wanton destruction, thievery, looting and arson.” In communities where African-Americans are especially targeted by the police, many Muslims prefer to keep quiet and stay out of any conflict, even reporting incidents to the police themselves. This is common even though Muslims as a whole are targeted by police too.
In order to protect our uniquely multiethnic communities, it is imperative to discuss racial bias within the Muslim community, whether implicit or explicit. While overt racism may reduce over time, it is equally important for non-Black Muslims to actively speak up on issues that affect Black Muslims. Initiatives have already started to reduce intrafaith racism: for example, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network works to reduce racial tensions between Arab store owners and African-American customers in Chicago and Atlanta. More than simply tolerating each other, it is necessary to constantly stand up for justice as well. Intolerance and Islamophobia in the non-Muslim community cannot reduce until the racism between Muslims is addressed and gradually eliminated.
Mansoor, Sanya. “How Muslims Are Grappling With Anti-Blackness and Policing.” Time, Time, 15 Sept. 2020, time.com/5884176/islam-black-lives-matter-policing-muslims/.
“OPINION: American Muslims Have a Race Problem.” Al Jazeera America, america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/6/american-muslims-have-a-race-problem.html.
“Section 1: A Demographic Portrait of Muslim Americans.” Pew Research Center – U.S. Politics & Policy, Pew Research Center, 31 Dec. 2019, www.pewresearch.org/politics/2011/08/30/section-1-a-demographic-portrait-of-muslim-a mericans/