By Layla Abdullah-Poulos
Since the signing of 45’s executive order on immigration, American Muslims from numerous backgrounds engaged in multifaceted forms of resistance. The need to amplify and work against the suppressive measures of the executive order discriminately targeting Muslims is obvious. However, recent calls for resistance stirred some tensions among African American Muslims.
Black Muslims in the US make up 1/3 of the country’s Muslim demographic and comprises a complex subculture that includes Africans, Caribbean, and native-born African American Muslims. The richness of Black Muslim culture includes the extensive heritage of African American Muslims in fighting against oppression and systemic racism from the time of enslavement, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement to today.
African American Muslims have a history of extending their time, energy, resources and bodies in social justice movements outside their culture, and to learn that there is some complacency about fighting against the Muslim Ban is disturbing. However, many African American Muslims expressed ambivalence in engaging in a struggle when issues affecting them are rarely amplified in the American Ummah, and they find themselves struggling for their humanity among their coreligionists.
Therefore, it is important to appreciate from where the ambivalence of some African American Muslims emanates and offer encouragement for all of us to remember Allah’s mandate to combat oppression and tap into the strength passed down from our ancestors.
Premier Muslim academics, writers, thinkers, and activists Asha Mohamood Noor, Hind Makki, Kameelah Rashad and Margari Aziza provide opportunities to gain a better understanding of 45’s executive order on immigration in contexts of its effects on Muslims, correlation to broader oppressions of systemic racism, and the essential commitment for all Muslims to resist it.
Asha Mohamood Noor – Now is not the time to be Divided
I would say to my AA brothers and sisters that this isn’t an issue only facing non-black Muslims. It includes brothers and sisters that look like them. I stand with Black Lives Matter, as so many Somalis and Sudanese Americans who will be impacted, and we would hope that our black brothers and sisters fight against anti-black racism when it affects us too.
This ban further stigmatizes and criminalizes Muslims in the U.S. and globally. We have certain parts of our community, such as Somali Americans in Minneapolis severely impacted by CVE surveillance, and subsequent criminalization, deportation, and detention. They like many Black Muslims fall in a dangerous intersection, facing anti-Black racism and Islamophobia from both individual actors and the state.
This isn’t the time to be divided; this is the time to bridge the divides and stand together as African people.
Hind Makki – The #MuslimBan is anti-Black racism intersecting with Islamophobia
I’m profoundly disappointed to learn that some of my sisters and brothers are apprehensive about fighting against the #MuslimBan.
I’m all too familiar with the feeling that I’m here for the causes of others, while they ignore the issues close to my heart. But, here’s the thing: the #MuslimBan actually directly impacts Black Muslims from Somalia and Sudan. People whose Black bodies are in constant danger in their new country, the United States, are now systematically being targeted on the basis of their country of origin.
The #MuslimBan is anti-Black racism intersecting with Islamophobia.
Kameelah Rashad – This is What Black Muslims Do
Folks forget that we (Black Muslims) also experience Islamophobia. Our ambivalence at times is because we are resentful of the fact that we consistently show up for people and they don’t show up for us. This is what Black people do; we show up; we care.
We show up and expect people to be grateful, but that won’t always be the case. We have to be able to take some comfort in Allah (SWT) seeing us. When we come out, we model what Islam is supposed to be. If support is not reciprocated, we can be hurt and upset, but we have to remind ourselves that this is for Allah (SWT), and the reward we get from Him is unimaginable.
When we start to sound cynical, bitter, or apathetic, that is coming from a place where we feel hurt. How often are people going to call on us to fight other battles when we are wounded and bleeding?
That’s when we stand arms-length in a way that is ridiculing and mocking non-Black Muslims for their level of hysteria. Part of what is difficult is the history and patterns reveal that if a kid got shot tomorrow, in a clear act of anti-Black violence, we know many non-Black Muslims are not going to be there. So, when we see so much lamenting and crying, we are mad as hell.
But Black American Muslims are also erasing Black African Muslims. We have internalized this notion that American Muslims don’t look like us. They’ve done a very good job of making sure that is what we do. Sudanese and Somali Muslims have been under attack for decades in this country and are wondering what they are going to do. So, to say “here they going crying” indicates that you are mainly focusing on Arabs and South Asians. We have to be careful when we ask who is being erased.
It is important that we talk about why we are so angry with each other. There is a lot of misunderstanding and not knowing the histories of how we are oppressed. We have to understand that our communities are connected. I feel compelled to speak out against the Muslim Ban, even though I am from here because I know that the Muslim Ban can turn into “we need all Muslims to live in a certain place.” We see how things can morph.
Be discerning; don’t be a martyr, but think about the vulnerable people who will suffer because we decided to be spiteful and say, “you are on your own.”
Margari Aziza – Radical Empathy
A number of Black Muslims wrestle with solidarity for the immigrant rights movement. We feel pain and resentment from experiences of anti-Blackness from non-Black People of Color. In truth, Muslims Americans from South Asian, Africa, and the Middle East haven’t joined their struggle with Latino immigrant rights issue or Undocumented and Unafraid. When we talk about #NoBanNoWall, we are connecting the ban on Muslims with the plight of migrants from Central America fleeing violence. We need to understand that the root cause of all of our collective suffering is White supremacy, a system that pits people against each other to protect the wealthy. People have to work on self-healing and tearing down walls as we build community. Our work as Muslims is to uproot arrogance, indifference, and despair to build our ummah. We should take our rightful role as helpers (Ansar) in this country and help the immigrants (Muhajirun) and be examples for building a multiracial society.
All of us should be wary about complacency or retreat into our enclaves. We do things because they are the right thing to do, as people of Faith, not because we expect everyone in the community we seek to demonstrate solidarity will honor us for our role in our collective liberation. We stand for justice not as quid pro quo; We stand for justice to please Allah, even if it is against our kin. In truth, many of the people advocating for harmful policies are our kin. Many don’t understand the key role Black Americans played in opening doors for them.
We can advocate for immigrant rights in a way that doesn’t erase Native Americans and isn’t anti-Black. We can also support immigrant rights by linking with our brothers and sisters in the African Diaspora who are disproportionately affected by deportation. Black Muslim immigrants have intersecting oppressions and are the most vulnerable amongst us. They should be centered in these discussions. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: Is our movement limited to being comfortable or to create a just society? If we are truly empathetic people and understand what it is like to be under the boot of an unjust system, we should not be satisfied with just attaining our seat at the table. We should be thinking about creating a new experience where everyone is welcome.
Follow the Commentators
adjunct professor, blogger, editor, freelance writer, co-Founder and Programming Director of MuslimARC
interfaith educator, founder and curator of Side Entrance, co-chair of ISNA Women-Friendly Mosques Taskforce
Asha Mohamood Noor
advocacy and engagement specialist for The Campaign to Take On Hate led by the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC).
founder and president of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative’s Sacred Resistance Check List
1-Page Breakdown of the “Muslim Ban” by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up by Madison Mahdia Lynn
The original post can be found at: Patheos
Sultana Kone' | January 30, 2017
In the name of Allah… Perhaps if we use fewer labels to describe ourselves. We would include ourselves in the larger Muslim community. Instead of identifying ourselves using race, geography or nationality. We could find our similarities with other aMuslims. “Hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not be divided.” I also know that knowing who we are is important. But the labels have become a way our government is trying to separate us and to keep us separated. So let’s not help them. People who don’t know me will ask,” Are you a Muslim?” I will say yes. Then they will often ask,”What kind of Muslim are you?” I usually say,”I’m the same as all the rest .” Then I smile.
Danny | January 31, 2017
This ban has nothing to do with black Americans, regardless of some being Muslims. Most of black Americans aren’t Muslims either.
Rawdah | February 3, 2017
Somalis are African but in what way are they black as understood in the west ?
tbeaux29 | May 16, 2017
WE THE PEOPLE in the US Have EVERY RIGHT to Protect Ourselves.Your Ignorance Of Muslim ban Would mean To BAN ALL MUSLIM COUNTRY’S(hasn’t happen)