Thursday, July 21, 2005

Racial Tension in the American Umma

by Kelly Crosby

I was talking with my father one day and we get into this habit of listing all of the isues of the New Orleans Muslim community. Alhamdulillah, I am happy that I have not experienced the direct brunt of racism, sexism or any other unIslamic behavior...yet. But when I talk to some of my friends and what they have experienced, it's makes me nervous. But one of his comments stayed with me long after we finished talking. He said, "there is no way for African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims to come together on anything in this community until we all address the problem of Muslim-owned cornerstores."

We all know about the cornerstores. I have a Palestinian friend who taught me some of the deen; his family owns such a store. It began to bother him so much that he left it and got another job. Or in his words, "I want to deal in business that's halal." These cornerstores dot the neighborhoods of poor Black people who don't have the transportation to get to the larger supermarkets. A lot of them are on government assistance so one stop to the local store takes care of everything. I wouldn't have any problems with these stores if they didn't carry certain items--namely, pork, alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets. For me it's mostly the alcohol but that other stuff is just as haram.

Many of these stores in New Orleans are located by housing projects where many people believe that they will live and die in the ghetto. Masha'Allah, that's not always the case as I have family members raised in the "projects" and they made it out of there. But many already believe that there is no hope for a better future.

Unfortunately some turn to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Some prefer to waste their money by buying lottery scratchouts. And who is the person behind the counter helping his fellow brother in humanity, this beautiful child of Bani Adam, destroy himself? It's the devout Muslim who would never drink, smoke (well, SOME of us don't) or spend our hard earned money on the lottery. This is horrible, hypocritical dawah. In fact, this is the 2nd worst kind of dawah. The 1st is the "Muslim" man who sleeps around, dumps his girlfriends (sometimes inpregnating them and asking for an abortion, eeeewww!) all the while thinking he's exempt from God's judgement just because he is a Muslim.

The subject came up because I was talking a friend who works at an Islamic school. She's the only African-American Muslim teacher amongst the Palestinian teachers and student body. So, she's basically got the burden of teaching our umma's diversity on her shoulders. She told me that sometimes, she'll hear the kids say, "Black people are dirty. They all do drugs. They're all crackheads and drugdealers." Naturally she chimes in, "Wait, I'm Black." But these young, impressionable children say, "But you're a Muslim. You're different." You see where I am going.

Where are these children getting their perceptions of Black people from and why hasn't this been addressed? They are getting their stereotypes from their parents, who just happen to own these funky stores in the poor neighborhoods. What I don't understand is how can you talk about "urban blight" when you sell the very things causing the social decay and then run right back to the suburbs where everything is clean, safe, nice, and uh...ya know. And don't think Black people have not taken notice.

I have been confronted by them, asking, why are Muslims so pious when it's their own kind but treat Blacks in such a disrespectful way? And you know what? There really isn't any answer that's suitable. This is how people start to believe that Islam, of all religions, is anti-Black. (Let's not forget the idiotic Muslim-on-Muslim slaughter in Sudan).

So what's up? When these cornerstore-owners look at their customers, why don't they see Bilal ibn Rabah (radiallahu anhu) or Nana Asma'u?

What about Malcolm X? Mohammad Ali? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Why go on about Muslim diversity, brag on its luminous Black figures and then wax on about how those n**gers are tearin' up the neighborhood?

Why live in fear that you may get robbed but the thief blew his money on lottery tickets that you sold him?

Or here's a real funny one. Why go on about how Black people are this and that when your sons and daughters are listening to rap, wearing FUBU, Sean John or any other hip-hop label, speaking slang, using the n-word as a term of affection for their friends and might have Black boy/girlfriends on the side?

Yeah, I went there. Or maybe it's like the comedian D.L Hugley said, "Everybody wants to be Black 'til the cops come."

Now before I move on, don't think I am laying this all on the Muslim storeowners. If you are an American adult, 21 years or older, you have the option of buying alcohol. No one is holding a gun to their head to make them buy it. You can opt for gum instead of cigarettes, beer for soda, turkey instead of pork. Remember, Blacks and Latinos are heavily targeted by liquor and cigarette companies. They intentionally put more billboards in Black neighborhoods and in Black publications (which is something those publications need to think about) promoting these things.

The only reason why I started writing this post is because of Umm Zee's hardships with Islamic schools and then I went off into this tangent as usual. African-American Muslims represent at least 33% of the Muslims in America. Maybe more. How do you think it makes us feel when we see immigrant Muslims, some we know from the masjid, selling poison to our people. Yeah, I said, "our people," not just Black people but humanity. Muslims are supposed to help cure social and cultural diseases, not spread them.

Wouldn't you be horrified if you found your daughter smoking or your son drunk out of his mind? How do you think honest, hardworking, but poor Black people feel when they come home and see the same thing? Just as all Muslims aren't terrorists, not all Black people are crooks, murderers, rapists, welfare mothers and drug dealers. You hate it when people call you "al-Qeada" or "bin Laden." Well we hate the word n**ger and I don't care how many rappers use the word, I still hate it! I would hate to be called a n**ger, just as much as you hate to be called sand n**ger.

See the connection. See how other racists view us? N**ger. Sand N**ger. In their eyes, Blacks, South Asians, Arabs, and Latinoes, are all dirty brown people. They didn't even bother to come with a new racial slur, they just added a word to an older one that still hurts to this day.

Now you know me, I'm not going to end this post on a sad note. Many Muslims from all racial backgrounds are seeing this glaring problem and are doing something about it.

Iman Central is one of those groups.

Here is an article about this group standing in solidarity with African-Americans trying to prevent yet another liquor store from opening in the community.


It's a long link so get highlight the thing then.....ya know what to do.

Click here to read Racial Tensions part 2

3 comment(s):

  • Great posts. But it goes even further than that. Imagine being a white convert, as I am. There is not a community from which to draw from like there is in the African American community. After Jummah prayers here everyone pretty much retires to hanging out with their group, Palestinians, Somalis, Khaleji, Asians, African Americans. Were does the very small group of white converts go?

    The same is for marriage. Where does the white convert find a wife? Many people in the community want their daughters to marry just people of their own faith.(violation of Islamic principles in itself). Again, African Americans can draw from their wider Muslim community. This isnt an option for the white American convert. I was lucky enough, alhamdulillah, to get married to a Saudi lady(not too common considering).

    Race is a HUGE issue that needs to be dealt with in the Muslim community. It goes in many different angles. I have gotten some pretty bad responses to my very presence in mosques from African Americans whom it seems clear came from a Nation of Islam background and still have held onto some of the "white man is the devil" idea.

    On the other hand, I have had African American brothers who were the nicest most helpful and best Muslims I have even met. The dedication of some of these African American brothers is truly inspiring.

    Again, there is a race issue in Islam that must be dealt with. Thanks for bringing it up.

    By Blogger أبو سنان, at 7/22/2005 07:56:00 AM  

  • Abu Sinan not all African American Muslims have a community from which to draw on. I am Shi'a, the numbers of African Amerian Shi'a are teeny tiny, growing, but still small. Sure, I can spend time with people who look like me and share a common cultural heritage, but they may also harbor dee p prejudice or even hatred toward me because of my beliefs.

    Not only that, but the issues with being African-American in the wider Muslim community go deeper than having a community of people from your own culture from which to draw support. If even on a superficial level white privilege still carries over for white converts and degradign stereotypes about African Americans persist. As a white man you are more likely to be assumed to be well-educated and upstanding (even if you aren't good enough to marry Br. Y's daughter) but the African American has to contend with being assumed to be a criminal, untrustworthy, ignorant AND not worthy of marrying Br. Y's daughter.

    The issues of racism/tribalism in our ummah must be confronted they are dangerous, but we have to be willing to see that all isn't equal and confront those problems from many angles. You're eloquent by the way, I'd love to see some posts on what white converts go through as well. Though in many respects its easier for women than men, at least white women are desireable marriage partners in the racial hierarchy.

    By Blogger UmmAli, at 7/22/2005 03:01:00 PM  

  • Liquor store ownership is public information. Make a national website of Muslim Liquor Store owners and let's see if the ethnic minorities stay silent. Give the tools and incentive to those that you are criticizing for inaction and see what happens next. Mosques/Masjids are reluctant to openly speak out such actions, heck, some even accept money to support their operations from these establishments. BTW, just do a search on: kareem abdul jabbar beer and see what a fellow Muslim was willing to do. He did apologize and admit a lack of judgement, but we should be willing to give that same benefit to these store owners as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/25/2005 04:28:00 PM  

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