Racial Politics in Muslim America, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

The issue of racial and ethnic division, in a pluralistic society like the United States in one of the most difficult issues of our time. Many of are afraid to even talk about it, let alone face it head on. However, our time on this planet is short.


Malcolm XAll Muslims in America must pray the same prayers, fast the same fast, perform the same Hajj, and believe in the same God. They follow the same Quran, love the same Prophet and pray to the same Qibla. However, they are all different people, from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, and having different history, culture, ethnic and national traditions, and societal norms. The Muslims living in the United States are perhaps the most uniquely diverse assembly of Muslims anywhere in the world, except for during the annual Hajj.Having a diverse community in our current case is not an accomplishment; it is a challenge.

Muslims living in the United States must learn to respect each other’s diversity, intelligence, and cultural backgrounds, and norms, and refrain from criticizing that which does to contradict the Kitaab or the Sunna of the Prophet . No one has a monopoly on Islam, or upon the guidance of Allah. No one group should ridicule, or think less of the other group. We are Muslims, and brothers and sisters in Islam. No one should ridicule Arabs, because they are Arab, or Pakistanis because they are Pakistani, or  think less of  Blacks because they are Black.

We should not find fault with the Afghani Muslims simply because of their origin. Nor should be find fault with Fiji Muslims or Muslims from Bangladesh, Malaysia, or Vietnam, because of who they are and their cultural norms, and backgrounds. “O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong”.[1]

We should not discriminate against each other in our masaajid, nor refuse the basic rights of respect, tolerance, and Islamic decency to one another based upon race, ethnic heritage or country of origin. No group of Muslims should ever think that they are God’s chosen people, in exclusion of others, nor think that they have a monopoly over religious knowledge, understanding of the religion, or that they have been endowed with special powers in the religion of Islam, in exclusion of others. All of these are mere fantasies, existing only in the minds of the unknowing, for Allah guides who He pleases, He endows with understanding whom He please and He raises in degrees whomever he pleases. “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who has the most taqwa. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.[2] Taqwa is in the heart, and no one knows the details of what’s in the heart, except Allah, be He Exalted and Glorified, far above what the ascribe to Him.

The Muslim world still struggles with sectarianism of the worst kind, which results in Muslim on Muslim killing, fighting, transgression, and gross levels of intolerance based on ethnicity, tribal affiliation, race, and religious, or political groupism. Some of this have crept into Muslim American society. However, we still have time to address it if we have the courage. Because of our diversity, Muslims living in the United States of America have perhaps the best opportunity of all other Muslims on the planet to fully demonstrate in our actions the true meaning of universal brotherhood in Islam, we should not squander this opportunity, nor take it for granted.

The issue of racial and ethnic division, in a pluralistic society like the United States in one of the most difficult issues of our time. Many of are afraid to even talk about it, let alone face it head on. However, our time on this planet is short. A time will come when none of us who are present today, will be alive. Thus, we should make every attempt to do something great in the way of evolving to a greater level of godliness, and Muslim brotherhood. This will not only demonstrate to our Lord, our true understanding of our religious ideals of egalitarianism, harmony, and higher reasoning, but it will magnify to others, the extent of His mercy and grace. Were we to to intrepidly confront the issue of racial and ethnic division in earnest,  we will have done something monumental that will forever change the course of history, and uplift our civilization to heights heretofore unknown.

Many parts of the Muslim world are beset by Muslim on Muslim fighting and killing, intolerance, tribal differences and ethnic strife, and embroiled in warfare over political and doctrinal differences. We do not have to take that route. We in the United States are uniquely situated at this juncture of our history to set a new paradigm, and to be examples to Muslims in other parts of the world. Perhaps this is why we are all assembled here, Black, white, Arab, Pakistani, Asian, and African. I believe that we are here, in all of our diversity, for a purpose. Let us not, let this great assembly go to waste.   Just a thought.

Imam Luqman Ahmad.


[1] Quran, 49:11.

[2] Quran, 49:13.

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