Q. As Muslims, what ought to our stance be on racism or racial discrimination, and will we be supporting social justice actions like Black Lives Matter (BLM)? And isn’t all of this help for BLM privileging justice for black folks over others, particularly once we Muslims realise the growing Islamophobia and injustices being perpetrated in opposition to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters across the globe?
A. At the outset, let me be clear about how I intend to have interaction these issues. And that’s by rooting them in mainstream teachings of Islam in order to deal with the problem of racism in a fashion that could be significant in a British context, and recognised as being Islamic in a Muslim one. I’ve divided the response into 5 components: [i] Islam & racism; [ii] modernity & racism; [iii] Britain & racism; [iv] Muslims & racism; and [v] BLM & racism.
I. Islam & Racism
Although the next verse isn’t talking of the trendy social assemble of racism per se, it’s chatting with the pre-modern idea of groupings of individuals associated by vital remark descent; when it comes to location, language, historical past and tradition. Thus we learn within the Holy Qur’an: O mankind! We have created you from a female and male, after which made you nations and tribes that you simply would possibly know each other. Truly, the noblest of you within the sight of God is he who’s probably the most pious. God is certainly Knowing, Aware. [Q.49:13]
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The Prophet ﷺ introduced pores and skin color into the combo in these phrases: ‘O mankind! Indeed your Lord is one, and indeed your father is one. Truly, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor white (ahmar, lit. ‘red’ or ‘reddish’) over black, nor black over white – besides by piety. Have I not conveyed [the message]?’1
In reality, the Qur’an doesn’t solely negatively condemn such discrimination, however it positively and actively celebrates variety too: And of His indicators is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations of your languages and your colors. In this are indicators for folks of information. [Q.30:22]
The above verses and prophetic assertion, then, have been a complete restructuring of the ethical or moral panorama prevalent all through Arabia on the time. True value would not be decided by pores and skin color, lineage, and even by grandiose exhibits of braveness or generosity. Rather, true value can be measured by taqwa – ‘piety,’ ‘godliness’ and ‘mindfulness’ of God’s instructions and prohibitions.
Once, when one of many Prophet’s wives hurled a racial slur (or ethnoreligious insult, as we would say in the present day) at one other co-wife in a state of annoyance, disparagingly known as her ‘the daughter of a Jew’, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned: ‘Indeed, your [fore]father [Moses] was a Prophet; your [great] uncle [Aaron] was a Prophet; and you are married to a Prophet. What can she boast to you about?’2 Again, when one companion insulted one other particular person, by insulting his mom as a result of she was a non-Arab, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned to him: ‘You still have some pre-Islamic ignorance (jahiliyyah) in you.’3 Thus no Muslim has even the slightest proper to resurrect the vile angle of racism; xenophobia; tribal bigotry; or insulting folks as a consequence of them being seen because the ‘Other’, when the Prophet ﷺ radically eradicated such attitudes from the believer’s worldview and relationships. Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned: ‘There isn’t a single verse in God’s Book that praises somebody or censures somebody as a consequence of simply their lineage. Instead, reward is because of religion and piety, whereas blame is due to disbelief, immorality or disobedience.’4
II. Modernity & Racism
In the 1830s, Samuel Morton, an American craniologist, amassed and studied lots of of human skulls in order to measure variations in mind dimension between folks from varied ethnic backgrounds. Morton believed he had used science to show that white folks have been intellectually superior to different ‘races’. In his Crania Americana, Morton declared that not solely did white folks have bigger brains and thus have been intellectually superior to all different races, but additionally that black folks had the smallest brains sizes and have been therefore inferior to all others. Morton and others used this conclusion as a ‘scientific’ justification to proceed slavery within the United States and negatively stereotype black folks. Many maintain Morton to be the founding father of scientific racism. It’s right here that, based mostly upon this pseudo-science and on sure superficial variations in physiological traits, the categorisation of individuals into distinct ‘races’ begins in earnest. And whereas the institutional racism, racial prejudice, and white supremacy that was to comply with have been directed in any respect races in Morton’s descending hierarchy, offering sufficient grounds to deal with different races in another way, when it comes to rights and privileges, it could be black folks (on the supposed backside of the heap) that may bear the best and most sustained brunt of it.
Of course, trendy science has lengthy since proven that mind dimension isn’t essentially associated to intelligence. Instead, mind dimension is tied to issues like surroundings, local weather and physique dimension, whereas intelligence is extra associated to what number of neurons, or how environment friendly the connections between neurons, are within the mind. Indeed, trendy science has additionally largely debunked the organic foundation of race, displaying that there’s as a lot genetic variety inside such racial teams as there may be between them. Science now regards race as a traditional attribution; a social assemble, however not a scientifically rooted or legitimate classification. And whereas in the present day we are likely to favour the time period ethnicity over the arbitrary assemble of ‘race’ based mostly upon pores and skin color and physiognomy, race stays, for some, a spotlight of particular person and group identification, significantly members of socially deprived teams, like blacks, the place it oftentimes is a supply of satisfaction and pleasure. All this has led many anthropologists to argue that since there is no such thing as a scientific foundation for race, we should always simply chuck the entire concept within the bin. Others say that if we’re going to proceed to insist on the social fiction of racial variations, let it’s based mostly on moral issues that improve justice, equity and familiarity between peoples, not hatred, discrimination and xenophobia. In reality, this latter method of ethnic or racial divides might be extra in step with what Islam needs for humanity. After all, God product of us nations and tribes lita‘arafu – ‘that you might know one another.’
The above, then, amidst the actions of European empires and colonialism is the place such trendy concepts of racial discrimination and racism have been birthed; concepts and realities which nonetheless reverberate frustratingly down to those current instances. Just what number of abnormal white Britons internalised the racist pseudo-science over the previous 100 and fifty years or so, not as a result of they have been significantly dangerous or evil folks, however as a result of they believed the ‘science’, is anybody’s guess. Add to that the standard xenophobia that always exists in opposition to the outsider, the trendy feats and achievements of white Western Europe which feed into the concept of white exceptionalism or supremacy, and the political utility of whipping up blame in opposition to immigrants in instances of nationwide problem and financial downturn, make for well-entrenched myths and discrimination in opposition to folks of color.
III. Britain &Racism
Although the historical past of the United States is drenched in racism; with the problem of race nonetheless being probably the most painful, divisive one for its residents, it’s racism in Britain – my residence, and the place I used to be born and raised – that I’d prefer to confine my remarks and anecdotes to. And in Britain, simply as in America, whereas peoples of numerous ethnic minorities have undeniably been, and proceed to be, victims of racism, it’s discrimination in opposition to black folks that’s by far the extra endemic and systemic.
The latest anti-racist protests which can be going down throughout the nation aren’t simply to indicate anger in regards to the demise of one more black man, George Floyd, by the hands of one more American police officer. They are additionally protests in opposition to the systemic racism right here in Britain too. Long earlier than racism in opposition to blacks, Asians, and Eastern Europeans, Jews as a folks, and in addition the Irish, suffered racism in Britain. Jewish folks nonetheless do.
Whilst structural or institutional racism is troublesome to conclusively show, the lived actuality of individuals of color, in addition to statistics after statistics, or report after report, all level to related conclusions: Britain has a race downside. It doesn’t simply have an issue with informal racism (now known as micro aggression; as skilled in faculties, jobs or on a regular basis life), or racism born from unconscious bias (snap selections conditioned by cultural upbringing or private expertise); it has an issue of systemic racism too – racial discrimination and damaging stereotyping inside lots of its key establishments: the police power and the felony justice system deemed to be among the many most important culprits.
It is, after all, argued that though Britain does certainly have particular person racists, and that acts of racism do tragically nonetheless happen right here, however Britain itself; even when it might have been within the latest previous, isn’t institutionally racist anymore. We have the Equalities Act of 2010, as one of many clearest proofs in opposition to any institutional racism.
Or the case has been put that, ever because the Macpherson Report of 1999, which got here on account of the homicide of Stephen Lawrence, in 1993 – and the 2 phrases in it that stood out from the remainder of the 350 web page report, that London’s Metropolitan Police was ‘institutionally racist’ – Britain’s police forces have internalised the criticism and have come on leaps and bounds since then: individually and institutionally. So to explain Britain’s police forces as nonetheless being systemically racist is unjust and unfair; or so the argument goes.
Be that as it might; and whereas many constructive adjustments of each thoughts and construction have been sincerely made, the stark, present-day statistics inform us one other story. Modern Britain is a spot the place black folks, in distinction to white ones are: 10 instances extra more likely to be stopped and searched; Four time extra more likely to be arrested; twice as more likely to be briefly excluded from faculty; and three instances as more likely to be completely excluded from faculty; and twice as more likely to die in police custody. From any unbiased normal, does this look wherever like equality? And simply as importantly, are we saying that institutional racism is completely absent from these numbers?5
For most of my life, I’ve lived on one council property or one other in East London. In my pre-teen years, I grew up on an property in Chingford, the place the general public have been white, with a couple of Afro-Caribbean households and a few Asian ones: my household being considered one of them. I, like many different non-whites of my era, encountered my share of racist abuse; and for a short while, just a little racist bullying too. On the entire, I obtained together with most youngsters on the property and at its major faculty, no matter color; and so they obtained together with me.
For my whole teen years, I lived on one other property in Leytonstone, the place this time a lot of the residents have been black. It was the mid 1970s, and it was a time when many younger black folks have been, I wouldn’t say struggling an identification disaster, however extra that they have been looking for an identification. For in contrast to their dad and mom, they have been neither Jamaican, Bajan [Barbadian], or Trinidadian, nor did they really feel (or have been made to really feel) completely British. Instead, younger black Britons have been turning to their Blackness to make sense of their place in Britain, creating a way of collective cultural identification within the course of. I felt a higher affinity to that tradition, than I did every other. Voices like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, the Wailing Souls and Black Uhuru spoke to our plight and our aspirations. But while their acutely aware lyrics of roots reggae was popping out of Jamaica, it was home-grown, British reggae artists that may inform our personal particularly British story: artists like Steel Pulse, Black Roots, Mikey Dread or, significantly for me, Aswad (or early Aswad, from ’76-’82). Aswad sang of African Children (which I’d swap in my thoughts for ‘immigrant’ youngsters) ‘living in a concrete situation;’ in ‘precast stone walls, concrete cubicles. Their rent increasing each and every other day; Structural repairs are assessed and yet not done; Lift out of action on the twenty-seventh floor; And when they work, they smell.’ All of us youths crammed into the property’s small youth centre, smiled, nodded away approvingly, and completely recognized with the message once we first heard such acutely aware lyrics booming out at us. Whilst Marley spoke of the day by day ghetto struggles of rising up within the concrete jungle of Kingston 12; Trenchtown, for me, Aswad spoke of parallel struggles rising up within the concrete scenario of Leytonstone E11. We all a really feel it, sure we a really feel it!
Back to racism. My one little anecdotal proof of black victimisation from the police comes from the time once I was dwelling on Leytonstone’s Cathall Road Estate. Police raids have been a reasonably traditional incidence on our property in addition to within the youth centre; typically with precise justification. In the youth centre, the police (normally with their police canine), would stomp in; flip off the music; stamp out any spliff that was lit up; after which we’d all be advised to line up in opposition to the wall with our palms behind our heads. Every time this occurred, with out exception, when it got here to looking out me, they by no means did. They’d merely insist that I depart the centre, or go residence, which I might. I’d then normally come again half an hour or an hour later, and resume enjoying pool, table-tennis or bar soccer; or simply absorb the vibes (not the spliff). Once, after a raid had occurred, I got here again to the centre, just for considered one of my shut Rasta buddies to advise me that it could be greatest if I keep residence for a couple of days. I requested why? He advised me that some individuals who hang around on the centre, however who don’t actually know me, nor dwell on the precise property, are saying that it’s odd that I by no means get searched and that perhaps I used to be a grass. It can be an understatement if I mentioned that I used to be scared stiff. I took the recommendation, and stayed away from the centre for every week, until I obtained the nod that issues have been all okay. A month or so later, and one more raid. But this time, for me it was a Godsend: they really searched me! I felt relieved, vindicated, and took it as a badge of honour. My level being is that all through the ’70s and ’80s, there have been numerous instances once I noticed particularly black folks stigmatised and victimised by the police.
To be sincere, by the mid 1980s, with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism doing their factor in opposition to the far-right National Front; with Reggae and Two-Tone Ska bands and gigs increasingly mixing blacks and whites; and with attitudes of the younger positively altering, I assumed (maybe naively) that racism in Britain would liklely be a factor of the previous by the mid ’90s. Optimism, after all, is totally wholesome, so long as it doesn’t grow to be blind to realism.
IV. Muslims & Racism
Here I’d like to talk about one thing that some Muslims will discover uncomfortable: which is that we [non-black]Muslims have to admit the anti-black racism that infects our personal communities. Sadly, racism in opposition to black folks – together with fellow black Muslims – is all too widespread amongst British Asian Muslims of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. Whether it’s being stared at by aged Asians within the mosque and so made to really feel self-conscious, to the way in which we of South Asian descent use the phrase kala, ‘black’, in a derogatory method; or whether or not it’s about marriage, or considering all black Muslims should be converts after which dispensing patronising reward to them over primary acts like making wudhu – this un-Islamic nonsense; this jahiliyyah, merely has to cease.
We should communicate to our elders about their anti-black racism. We have to respectfully talk about why so lots of our mosques proceed to make black Muslims really feel unwelcome, or drive them away, and what could be carried out about it? Yet whereas our masjids are undeniably masjids; ‘Most mosques function as “race temples” created as enclosures for single ethnicities, and their mono-ethnic and introspective leadership are generally unfamiliar with any novelty occurring outside their silos.’6 Such ‘race temples’ are the place Ethnic Islam guidelines the roost, even at the price of shari‘ah race equality, sirah hospitality, or sunnah unity.
But racism isn’t simply a difficulty with South Asian elders? It lurks within the hearts and minds of my era too; and perhaps that of my youngsters’s? It’s much less the stares or the ignorance about Black achievements, and extra the damaging stereotyping; post-colonial complexes; desperation to whiten-up; or outright racism in relation to marriage. Here as an Asian Muslim father or mother, I’m completely happy for my daughter or son to marry – religiously talking – some adamant fasiq or fasiqah – particularly if they’re of a lighter complexion: however I may by no means settle for them marring a godly, well-mannered, accountable Black particular person! But we persuade ourselves we’re not racist: in spite of everything, I really like the sahabi, Bilal. I weep once I learn Bilal’s life story. My good good friend, Bilal, is black. But the proof is within the pudding, and the reality is that we have to transfer past tokenism; past Bilal.
Those Muslims who make a difficulty of color; whose racist or tribal mindsets cause them to look down upon an individual of darker color or deal with them unequally, allow them to contemplate the son-in-law of the Prophet ﷺ, and fourth Caliph, sayyiduna ‘Ali b. Abi Talib. The classical biographers all state: kana ‘ali adam, shadid al-udmah – ‘Ali was black, jet black.7 Or take our master ‘Umar who is also described in the same terms.8 The colour, adam may refer to skin complexion which is dark brown, like a native American; or darker still, like in native Australian aborigines; or jet black, like many Africans. When the phrase, shadid al-udmah is added, ‘extremely dark’, then there’s no mistaking what is supposed: an individual who, for all intents and functions, is black. Such an outline appears fairly traditional for the Arabs among the many sahabah. Black pores and skin can also be the color of the woman with whom the entire Muhammadan saga begins: our woman Hagar (Hajarah); she was a black Egyptian. Or contemplate the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Our Prophet ﷺ as soon as mentioned: ‘As for Moses, he was tall and dark brown, as like the men of al-Zutt.’9 The Zutt have been a widely known tribe of tall darkish males from the Sudan.10 After realizing the above, if we’re nonetheless going to look down at folks merely as a consequence of their darker complexion, then what ghustakhi; what mockery and disrespect will we be probably drowning in?
Islam is neither racist nor color blind. It needs us to know that pores and skin color has no intrinsic value, solely piety does. Yet on the similar time, it permits us to have fun variations in a method that doesn’t offend Heaven, and in a method that causes us to supply joyful because of the One Who is the Maker of all Colours.
So let’s have the conversations. Let’s have some critical introspection. Let’s hearken to what Black Muslims must say. Let’s want to be healers, not dividers. Let’s educate ourselves in regards to the actuality of Black lives usually, and Black Muslim lives specifically. Olusoga’s Black & British and Akala’s Natives are good locations to begin. Sherman Jackson’s Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering is, with its theological insights, a should learn. Above all, let’s work in the direction of not simply being non-racist, however anti-racist.
Change, fortunately, is within the air. For city, millennial Muslims, and people of a era youthful nonetheless, these older ethnic divides are increasingly of an irrelevance of their lives (although I’m undecided how a lot this is applicable to these raised in ethnic silos in Britain’s much less urbanised cities). Such millennials have heard the tales of the intra-ethnic preventing; the anti-black racism; the token hospitality to black Muslims, however with out ever giving them a voice; and the fruitless makes an attempt to make the ‘race temples’ extra inclusive, and the way after a long time, it’s a case of banging heads and brick partitions. So owing to this, they’re in search of to create extra inclusive, culturally extra significant areas; away from all this poisonous, ethnic Islam. Surely that’s the place the remainder of us ought to be heading too?
V. BLM & Racism
The Qur’an says: Help each other in righteousness and piety, assist not each other in sin or transgression. [Q.5:2] Between this verse and the hilf al-fudul pact the Prophet ﷺ upheld and endorsed even after prophethood, we have now a strong non secular foundation for supporting any particular person or group working for problems with social justice: be it for Muslims or non-Muslims; be it led by Muslims or non-Muslims.
The Black Lives Matter motion has confirmed itself to be a strong and efficient car over the previous 5 years to demand reform when it comes to anti-Black racism; with their present deal with justice for George Floyd and his household. Thus, how can Muslims not help it? Of course, we can’t give any organisation carte blanche help. Religiously, we Muslims can’t give unconditional help to anyone save to God and His Prophet ﷺ. Given that BLM has a couple of acknowledged goals which can be inconsistent with Islam’s theology (‘freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking’ is considered one of them, as an illustration), our activism should be guided by sacred data and illumined by revealed steering. Our intention isn’t supporting BLM, as such. Instead, it’s a case of creating a stand in opposition to injustice, on this case anti-Black racism: supporting these people or organisations which can be more likely to be the best in attaining this objective. (It ought to go with out saying, that we are able to work for justice for a couple of trigger or a couple of set of individuals on the similar time). And that is what the above verse and the hilf al-fudul pact take into account. And identical to the BLM describes itself as ‘unapologetically Black’, maybe a few of us must be a tad extra unapologetically Muslim?
But let’s take our focus off such theological nuances for now, and tie a ribbon round the entire thing and say: Let us, a minimum of in spirit and in precept, if not in physique, absolutely help Black Lives Matter as a trigger, greater than as a motion, in in search of to resolve structural racism; get justice carried out for all of the George Floyds and all of the Stephen Lawrences; and to get folks to replicate on their very own attitudes to racism and the racial ‘Other’ – guaranteeing our knee isn’t on the necks of others. We ought to help the general objectives of any grassroots motion that’s working for a fairer, extra simply and tolerant Britain for everybody: black or white. Of course, for that to occur, from a Black Muslim perspective, anti-Black racism in addition to an ever-growing Islamophobia should be tackled. Currently in Britain, God forbid that you’re ostensibly a Muslim and Black!
Racism impacts all folks of color. But in relation to Black folks, they face a singular anti-black prejudice as the final word Other, propagated each by white majorities and even different ethnic minorities. As a marginalised group South Asians, little question, have their very own prejudices thrown their method. But they aren’t the identical lived experiences as that of Black folks. And whereas it may be simple to lump everybody collectively and understand ourselves as having a shared trauma, statistics present that this equivalence isn’t actually true.
In closing, I’d prefer to thank my youngest daughter, Atiyyah, for uplifting me to revisit and renew my concepts on anti-black racism; and my good friend, Dr Abdul Haqq Baker for prompting me to put in writing this piece, providing invaluable strategies, after which reviewing it for me.
Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq.
1. Ahmad, Musnad, no.22978. Ibn Taymiyyah declared its chain to be sahih in Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Riyadh: Dar Ishbiliyah, 1998), 1:412.
2. Al-Tirmidhi, no.3894, the place he declared the hadith to be hasan sahih.
3. Al-Bukhari, nos.2545; 6050.
4. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 35:230.
5. GOV.UK: Black Caribbean Ethnicity Facts and Figures.
6. Abdal Hakim Murad, Travelling Home (Cambridge: The Quilliam Press, 2020), 49-50.
7. See: Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Madinat al-Dimashq (Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 42:24.
8. As per Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1971), 3:236
9. Al-Bukhari, no.3438.
10. Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (Cairo: Dar al-‘Alamiyyah, 2013), 8:61.