Category: Politics

BlogPolitics

Believers Bail Out

Believers Bail Out

by Khadijah Abdul-Haqq

Across the United States, half a million defendants are held in the criminal court system bail bondspre-trial simply because they are unable to pay their cash bond. The vast majority of them are Black and other People of Color. During Ramadan 2018, a collective of scholars and activists launched the Believers Bail Out (BBO) to free Muslims who are incarcerated before trial. Inspired by the National Bail Out movement, BBO was led by Sapelo Square, in partnership with MPower Change, Chicago Community Bond Fund, and Sirat Chicago.

BBO reunites recipients  with their families and communities; highlights the impact of immoral and destructive bail practices; and supports nationwide efforts against mass incarceration. In addition to providing bail and support for individuals released on bond in Chicago, the campaign hosted fundraising iftars and teach-ins to support policy efforts and to raise awareness within Muslim communities on the injustices of money bail and the broader prison industrial complex.

“We are working to get the Muslim community here in the U.S. to deeply engage in the movement to end mass incarceration,” explained Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, senior editor of Sapelo Square and member of the campaign team.

“We are working to get the Muslim community here in the U.S. to deeply engage in the movement to end mass incarceration,” explained Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, senior editor of Sapelo Square and member of the campaign team. “We do this by reminding ourselves of the longstanding practice, from the Qur’an, and from the Prophet Muhammad, of helping those in need. This includes freeing those in bondage. Being held in jail, just because you are poor, is precisely that form of bondage; it’s an injustice.”

For the 30 days of Ramadan, people from all walks of life donated money to the LaunchGood campaign; after the first week $23,000 was raised which exceeded its original  goal of raising $15,000.

“Thanks to the generosity and support of our community, the Believers Bail Out campaign was able to raise $123,262 from over 2,000 donors. Alhamdulillah! We have paid the bonds for two brothers and are in the process of facilitating another brother’s release with post-bond support such as legal fees or representation, housing assistance, access to food, job placement, etc. Our team is also currently reviewing other cases,” said Attorney Kamilah A. Pickett, BBO Education Lead.

“Our work so far has focused on Cook County, Illinois, but we are also in the process of developing an agreement with the National Bail Fund Network to make our funds available to eligible Muslims in pre-trial detention outside of the Chicago area. We are exploring the possibility of using the funds we have raised to help Muslims with immigration bonds.”kalief browder

The eighth amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits the government from imposing excessive bonds, fines or cruel and unusual punishment on defendants. However, each year, hundreds of thousands of defendants like Kalief Browder, a precocious young boy of 16, are kept in prison for months or years awaiting trial because they cannot afford to post bail.

In 2010, Browder was arrested and charged with assault and robbery. He spent three years on Rikers Island, N.Y., because his family could not afford the $3,000 cash bail bond. In 2015, after two harrowing years of enduring mental illness following his release, tragically, Kalief Browder committed suicide (Gonnerman, 2015). The New York Prison system and its cash bond system failed Kalief Browder and continues to fail countless other defendants.

In Cook County, Ill., Blacks comprise 24% (U.S Latino behind barsCensus, 2017) of the overall population, but 68% of the jail population (B.I.U. Cook County Sheriff, 2018). According to the most recent reports, 90% of the Cook County Jail is being held on pre-trial bonds (David E. Olson, 2012).”

The system is broken on several levels, with the first being how the bail bond is determined. Bail is collateral collected by the criminal court system to ensure the defendant’s return to court at the appointed time. The amount of the bail is customarily measured by the severity of the alleged crimes. However, the judge has the ultimate authority to decide how high bail will be set, if bail will be required for release or if a defendant may be released on their own recognizance.

Judges frequently determine bail amounts within minutes of meeting a defendant. Within 15 minutes, maybe less, a judge will assess the defendant’s trustworthiness, intentions to return to court, and whether they are a threat to society. Judges have the final say regardless of whatever biases they hold; at that moment, the judge holds the future of every defendant who appears before the court in their hands.

This is why BBO is crucially time-sensitive and requires additional support. It utilizes funds collected in the form of zakat (obligatory alms that is a personal obligation and the third pillar of Islam) and sadaqa (volunteer charity) for cash bonds.

Zakat purifies your wealth. People dislike to be separated from their money and giving it may increase the giver in good deeds. Zakat is meant to balance out the scales between the haves and have-nots.  Zakat is also used to free captives and this is why BBO is capitalizing on this option for the benefit of the oppressed and humanity.

Purchasing the freedom of Muslims is not a new matter. For instance, Abu Bakr purchased the freedom of Bilal ibn Rabah (radi allahu anhu), the well-known Caller to prayer.

Purchasing the freedom of Muslims is not a new matter. For instance, Abu Bakr purchased the freedom of Bilal ibn Rabah (radi allahu anhu), the well-known Caller to prayer. It’s important to note that another slave by the name of Salman al Farsi (radi allahu anhu) was also freed by the help of the ummah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wassalam). So, let’s help free our brothers and sisters and, by the same token, reap the rewards in this life and the next.

Even though Ramadan has ended, the spirit of fighting for freedom continues. BBO will resume active fundraising next Ramadan. In the meanwhile, the intention is to educate the community to build a movement to end money bail and mass incarceration. BBO also wants to build relationships with and support Muslim-led organizations that are providing the type of post-bond support that our brothers and sisters will need.  For more information on how you can help, visit believersbailout.org

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Khadijah AbdulHaqq

 

Khadijah Abdul-Haqq is the children’s book author of the acclaimed Nanni’s Hijab. She is passionate about arts, fairness, love, freedom and good vibes. Visit her blog at Ramblings of an unconventional Muslimah.

 

 

Works Cited

B.I.U. Cook County Sheriff. (2018, June 29). Cook County Sheriff. org. Retrieved from Sheriffs Daily Report: https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CCSO_BIU_CommunicationsCCDOC_v1_2018_06_29.pdf

Believers Bail Out. (2018, 07). Take Action. Retrieved from Believers Bailout: https://believersbailout.org/take-action/

David E. Olson, S. T. (2012). Population Dynamics and the Characteristics of inmates in the Cook County. Chicago, Illinois: Cook County Sheriff’s Reentry Council.

Gonnerman, J. (2015, June 7). The New Yorker. Retrieved from Kalief Browder, 1993-2015: https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015

LaunchGood. (2018, July 13). LaunchGood. Retrieved from Believers Bailout: https://www.launchgood.com/project/believers_bail_out#!/

Misri, A. I. (1991). Zakat. In N. I. Misri, Umdat Al-Salik (p. 244). Beltsville: Amana Publications. Retrieved from http://www.mihraab.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Reliance-of-the-Traveler-Translation.pdf

Palaez, V. (2018, May 05). Global Research . Org. Retrieved from The Prison Industry in the United States:Big Business or a New Form of Slavery: https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

U.S. Census. (2017, July 1). Quick Facts/population Estimates. Retrieved from The United States Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/cookcountyillinois/RHI225217#viewtop

 

BlogPolitics

Love is at the Root of Our Resistance

By Sapelo Square

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?” 4:75

Colin Kaepernick, received the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience awardcolin k on April 21.  The Ambassador of Conscience Award celebrates individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights through acts of conscience, confronting injustice and using their talents to inspire others.

The organization celebrated Colin Kaepernick’s spirit of activism and exceptional courage when he initiated a protest by NFL players against police brutality by taking a knee while the national anthem played during the 2016 NFL season.

His bravery shined a light on racism and allowed him to use his voice against oppression.  He has continued to stand to against injustice including the injustice of losing his job, and remaining unsigned by the NFL.

His bravery shined a light on racism and allowed him to use his voice against oppression.  He has continued to stand to against injustice including the injustice of losing his job, and remaining unsigned by the NFL.

“Just like the Ambassadors of Conscience before him, Colin Kaepernick chooses to speak out and inspire others despite the professional and personal risks. When high profile people choose to take a stand for human rights, it emboldens many others in their struggles against injustice. Colin Kaepernick’s commitment is all the more remarkable colin's wordsbecause of the alarming levels of vitriol it has attracted from those in power,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

 

Colin Kaepernick’s actions of protest have been inspired by many, including Malcolm X.  We share his entire moving acceptance speech at Amnesty International because love is also at the root of our work.  Colin Kaepernick’s Remarks


 

 

 

 

BlogPolitics

The Black Power Politics of Malcolm X

As we approach the birth anniversary of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz aka Malcolm X, we share this repost.

By Hakeem Muhammad

Throughout his life, Malcolm X’s political and theological views constantly evolved. However, several core elements never changed. One was his recognition of white supremacy as a global political system that had to be vehemently opposed. Malcolm explained, “The economy, the politics, the civil life of America is controlled by the white man.” Political scientist Charles Mills advances this analysis; the United States is often falsely conceived of as a raceless liberal democracy instead of what it actually is: a white supremacist state.

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Malcolm X, in his autobiography, explains that this political arrangement had Black people confined to ghettos, living for mere survival and unable to aspire to higher ambitions in life. Within these ghettos, Blacks were subjected to unbearable living conditions.  He lamented that many of his childhood friends had the potential to be great mathematicians or scientists, but were instead victims of the white man’s world because they were born Black.

 

Malcolm X recognized how whites dominated People of Color politically, socially, economically, militarily and judicially. Consequently, there was no American dream, only an American nightmare. 

Malcolm X recognized how whites dominated People of Color politically, socially, economically, militarily and judicially. Consequently, there was no American dream, only an American nightmare. A nightmare that resulted in Black people being trapped in a never-ending sequence of poverty, inferior education and living conditions, leading to an early death or prison.

The Power of Islamic Theology in America’s Ghettos: Resisting White Supremacy

Malcolm X characterized Black people as politically dead footballs thrown in a game played between conservatives and liberals. White liberals mastered the science of being an ally; i.e., posing as the friend of Black people and promising token gestures to win their allegiance, whereas White conservatives were overt in their disdain of Black people.

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In the tradition of Black liberation theology, Malcolm X interpreted scripture and utilized the eschatological elements of theology, those dealing with divine judgment, to combat white supremacy. Malcolm X taught that, “It is only a matter of time before White America too will be utterly destroyed by her own sins, and all traces of her former glory will be removed from this planet forever.” In fact, his emphasis on piety among Black people was profoundly political: by ceasing immoral activities such as drug usage that were introduced during slavery and systematically inculcated by white slave masters, Blacks would come closer to God, and God would aid Black people in their struggle against white supremacy.

For Malcolm X, the struggle for Black liberation depended on God and not on white liberal “do-gooders.” 

For Malcolm X, the struggle for Black liberation depended on God and not on white liberal “do-gooders.” Specifically, he believed that Islam would enable Black people who had been “robbed of a knowledge of self” to avoid the destructive lifestyles that white supremacy normalized in Black communities to keep Blacks in the “prison or early death cycle,” drug usage, fornication, adultery, profanity usage, drunkenness, stealing, cheating and gambling.

Islam’s ability to raise Blacks from the mud to avoid the prison or death trap of an anti-Black society was disdained by the white dominant class. In his speech,God’s Judgment of White America,” Malcolm X noted,

Why is the American white man so set against the twenty-two million “Negroes” learning about the religion of Islam? Islam is the religion that elevates the morals of the people who want to do right.

Malcolm X recognized that anti-Islamic sentiments were a manifestation of white supremacy. Even when he parted ways from the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X maintained an Islamic commitment to empowering the Black community. He established the Muslim Mosque Incorporated, which was dedicated to promoting Islam as the cure to social problems in the Black community.

Malcolm X: The Negro Preacher to the Negro Imam

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Malcolm X developed a very sophisticated critique of “The Negro Preacher” who worked to pacify Black people against the struggle to end white supremacy. Such a preacher treated the Bible as a dead letter scripture, which occurs when the rich stories and prophecies found within holy books are treated only as history and the power of theology is not being actualized upon to initiate a contemporary critique of anti-Blackness. In protest to dead letter scripture, Malcolm X criticized how Christian pastors would teach about Pharaoh in Egypt, but would not teach about modern-day Pharaohs and what civilization represented modern-day Egypt. The Negro Preachers, aligned with liberal democratic institutions, would never be sufficient to solve the race problem. According to Malcolm, since these Negro Preachers were educated in seminary schools operated by white slave masters or his descendants, they could only teach a doctrine of white supremacy. In contemporary times, Malcolm X’s analysis of the “Negro preacher” can be applied to the “Negro Imam.”

Unlike Malcolm X, the Negro Imam is silent on white supremacy as a global political system. Instead of being in urban centers answering theological questions of Black folks, the Negro Imam works in Muslim communities where he is subjected to continued racism. The Negro Imam soon understands that no matter how much Quran, Hadith, Sirah or Fiqh he knows, Muslim immigrants will still see him as a “nigg–.” Nonetheless, the Negro Imam is content with merely working within Muslim immigrant-built institutions instead of actively working to create independent Black Muslim institutions for Black power politics.

If the Negro Imam does in fact work in a masjid in the Black community, the masjid mainly consists of only “prayer rug activity” with minimal commitment to uplifting the Black community. In fact, the Qu’ranic Studies program of the Negro Imam’s masjid merely seeks to examine the roots of various Arabic words yet has no Qu’ranic based agenda being actively developed and carried out to transform the Black community in the image of the Qu’ran.

The Negro Imam is proud of his Islamic education, which is a product of either Muslim immigrant-built seminary schools or overseas Islamic institutions. He can wax poetically about Al Ghazali’s cosmological argument, Ibn Tammiya’s argument against the Greek logicians and other complex aspects of theology. But he fails to take the classical scholarship of Islam and make it relevant to the Black struggle today. He also fails to produce Islamic content for oppressed Black communities — which is the unfinished theological project of Malcolm X. Instead, the Negro Imam gives dead sermons that are irrelevant to the struggle of Black people.

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The Negro Imam is not in the ‘hood promoting the Sunnah and Islamic doctrines as the cure to social ills in the Black community in the tradition of Malcolm X. In fact, the apathy of the Negro Imam to evoke theology that counters anti-Blackness and establish Black Muslim institutions that empower marginalized Black communities in America is the reason Islam is no longer at the center of the Black struggle in America as it once was during the days of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X.

In a discussion with Imam Amin Nathari, he told me, the Negro Imam is, “a mindset even more so than it is any one individual. But of course there are some who embody this mindset and display these traits more than others!”

Black Muslims for Black Power Politics!

Today, what the media considers to be the “mainstream Muslim community” in America is primarily South Asian- and Arab-controlled Muslim institutions. These organizations, who set the narrative for what is portrayed as Islam in America, often align themselves with liberal Democrats in contradiction to the Black power politics of Malcolm X and continuously marginalize strong Black Muslim voices.

These institutions oppose Islamophobia by focusing on how patriotic American Muslims are when Malcolm X in his famous “Bullet or the Ballot” speech stated, “No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of Americanism.” These institutions oppose the travel ban by reverting to the narrative that Muslim Immigrants deserve the “American dream — an American dream that was sustained by Black suffering. They see no contradiction between honoring Muhammad Ali and Muslim Americans who fought in imperial wars and subsequently became co-opted by the Democratic Party.

These Muslim immigrant organizations have public relations efforts largely designed to assuage white America’s fears about Islam. The Negro Imam affiliated with these Sheik-Daoud-FamelMalcolm-Xsmallorganizations will spend an entire career being a good “moderate Muslim” acquiescing to the white supremacist notion of collective guilt after the latest incident puts Muslims in a bad spotlight. This comes at the expense of having ministries actively addressing the spiritual needs of Black folks in the neighborhoods that are hardest hit by white supremacy and who through internal colonialism have been ostracized from mainstream America. The strict separation of religion from the lived material realities of Black people is the trick of secularism. Both the Negro Imam and Muslim immigrant institutions ultimately get subsumed by a theology that presents no credible threat to white supremacy.

As Black Muslims turn to Malcolm X for theological and political insights, not just as a social prop, they will seek to establish actual Black Muslim institutions that are firmly dedicated to ending global white supremacy. Black Muslims will look to the spiritual wisdom of our ancestors Uthman Dan Fodio, Nana Asma’u, Askia Muhammad and others to organize for Black power to actually dictate what the narrative for Islam in America means: freedom, justice and equality for the Black man and woman. To do this, Black Muslims should use the legacy of Malcolm X to engage the world.


Hakeem MHakeem Muhammad is a Black Muslim Public Intellectual, and Educator at Muslim Empowerment Institute (MEI). Muhammad’s scholarship is dedicated to Islamic revival in the Black community. He believes that Islam must be restored to have the transformative effect it once had in mitigating the social ills of Black America. Muhammad previously worked for the African-American Male Initiative to increase the college retention rates of Black male students. He has also taught political philosophy for the Cal Speech and Debate Camp at U.C Berkeley. Muhammad is also the author of the forthcoming book, The Significance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to the Entire Muslim Ummah.

BlogPolitics

Say His Name: The Significance of Stephon Clark

By Sapelo Square

Geographer and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore defines racism [1] as “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” This definition describes a reality that Black people know well. A reality in which by virtue of who you are not — not white, and/or male, and/or wealthy and so on — life is precarious; it comes with more risk. A reality in which, to paraphrase the poet Amir Sulaiman, we find ourselves as dead people walking. This vulnerability to premature death comes in many forms — smokestacks in the ‘hood that lead to high rates of asthma, food deserts that lead to poor nutrition or inadequate medical care that leads to poor health outcomes — all of which contribute to an increased likelihood that you may die sooner than you would if you were not “different.”

stephon clarkThe most arresting forms of premature death that bring Black vulnerability into high definition — are those like the death of Stephon Clark, who was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18, 2018.

 

The most arresting forms of premature death that bring Black vulnerability into high definition — are those like the death of Stephon Clark, who was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18, 2018.

His death was premature because a young healthy person in the security of their own home is an unlikely candidate for death. Yet, as a young Black person, as a working class person and as a Muslim, his group-differentiated differences made him extremely vulnerable to death at the hands of the police by state-sanctioned violence.

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Photo by Ismail Bilal

Stephon Clark was laid to rest about a week after his killing, but the significance of his death to the pressing issues of racism and police violence that Black people face in the United States remain. With his death and with those who preceded him, we know many are trying to process, seek answers and seek inspiration. As you do so, we offer the words of three Black Muslims which are directly and indirectly connected to Stephon Clark: Imam Zaid Shakir, Amir Sulaiman and Maimouna Yousseff.

We begin with remarks made by Imam Zaid Shakir of the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California, at Clark’s funeral service. Imam Zaid includes a quote from Amir Sulaiman’s poem “Dead Man Walking,” which we also include here. Finally, we link to the soul-stirring song, “Say My Name” in which the hip hop artist Maimouna Yousseff sings, “If I should die tomorrow at the hands of the policeman…please don’t forget about me, Say My Name.”

As Imam Zaid notes in his remarks, Brother Stephon joins the tragic pantheon of Black people killed by the police or citizen-vigilantes. However, we must not allow the story to end there; we must, as our sister Maimouna Yousseff, reminds us, #sayhisname, say all of their names, as a reminder, in prayer and in our continued struggle.

Imam Zaid Shakir’s Remarks

(If you care to watch his remarks they start at 1:06:52)

As salaamu alaykum,

Imam Zaid Shakir from the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California.imamzaidbio

I am honored to be here with the family of Stephon Clark, with all of the clergy. We thank Reverend Scarbrough for opening the doors of his church to the community and to us. And we thank the family for being so patient. Just want to underscore what the Reverend Al Sharpton said that this is a national issue. Today, we are gathered to memorialize and subsequently bury Stephon Clark.

But yesterday it was Amadou Diallo, and Sean Bell, and Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Gary King, Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner. Or. Or it was Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Miriam Carey, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Alesia Thomas, Shantel Davis, Rekia Boyd, or 7-year-old Aiyana [Stanley-]Jones in Detroit, Michigan.

The community is rightfully pained.

Is rightfully angry.

Is rightfully frustrated.

To borrow from the poet, because we’ve “built our coffins much too often” and we’re tired of seeing our people die.

And it’s not just our people. Every year in this country, white folks are shot, brown folks are shot. Upwards to 1,000 people are shot by the police. That is a systemic problem, not a local problem. Not a Sacramento problem. It is a uniquely American problem!

In 71 years, 1 person in Ireland, in 71 years, was shot by the police…That’s a uniquely American problem. In 24 years, in the United Kingdom and Wales combined, 55 people, in 24 years, were shot by the police. Upwards to 1,000 in America, every year. That is an American problem. It is a systemic problem.

But it is also a problem of our hearts. [inaudible] diseased. Our hearts are diseased. And we have to cure our hearts. Cure our hearts so we recognize every one of us is our brother or our sister:

Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red. If you have some polka dot people, they’re our brothers and sisters.

We are a human family!

And just as Stephon Clark, when he came together with our sister Salena [Manni] here, (pause) nations were brought together, religions were brought together — when those two beautiful individuals came together.

And that’s a lesson for us: that we can put aside all of this racial animosity. We can put aside the religious bigotry and prejudice and sectarianism. We can put aside our differences to come together as a human family to ensure that justice is done for Stephon Clark! That justice is done for all of those people we listed — and we can be here all day listing — That justice was done for them.

But it can only be done when each and every one of us affirms

That I am my brother’s keeper!

That I am my sister’s keeper!

That I do have a responsibility to all of my brothers and sisters who are God’s children

And we say that figuratively. My Muslims brothers might get me, saying God had children. I am speaking figuratively, my brother.

So we are going to take the body outside. Members of the Muslim community and others are welcome to fellowship with us [or] to watch. We are going to line up and say the funeral prayer for him.

We pray that he is at peace — he is at peace.

And we pray that, as the Reverend Sharpton said, we fulfill our collective responsibility to his wife, and his children, to his mother and grandmother, [and] to his siblings. That we can demonstrate that out of the most tragic and difficult situations, great good can come.

We are going to go outside now

Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

 

Amir Sulaiman’s “Dead Man Walking”https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-28284663-8821782213-1-original

Maimouna Youssef Say My Name

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Quran Khatm for Stephon Clark. Let us continue to remember and pray for our deceased Brother. From Allah we come, and to Him we shall return. Sign-up

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[1] Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Ruth Wilson Gilmo, p. 28