Black Americans are the most oppressed, most despised, most marginalized people in the United States, and for the basest and most immutable reason; simply because they are Black. This type of racial oppression and injustice is not only a crime against people, but a crime against God, and a rejection of His Sovereignty and His attributes of Completeness and Perfection. According to the Islamic faith, differences in peoples’ language and color are signs of Allah and not badges of superiority or inferiority. “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge“. 30:22
What makes racism so heinous a crime against God is that it subverts the message of a just God, that people are judged by what is inside, not by what is outside. The Prophet (SAWS) “Verily Allah does not look at your shapes or your attire, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds“. [Muslim]. Black people in America are not oppressed because of their religion, their politics, their occupations, their choices of clothes, cars, or houses; Blacks suffer oppression in the United States simply because of the color of their skin; a color which was chosen by their Creator. “It is He who fashions you in the womb in whatever way He chooses.” 3:6
The first racist act known to man originated from none other than the devil himself. God said, “What prevented thee from submitting when I commanded thee?’ He said, ‘I am better than he. Thou hast created me of fire while him hast thou created of clay.” 7:12 This shows that racial discrimination was a crime against God even before it was a crime against man. As an African American, I find racial injustice repugnant to the highest degree, and as a Muslim, I find it especially abhorrent because it is in defiance of the Lord.
Racism is one of the premier issues of our time, and Muslims, although they don’t realize it, are right in the middle of it. When Muslims engage in the practice of racism, exploit the slave mentality amongst Blacks in America, and assume the role of the master, it is no less a crime against God, a rejection of His sovereignty and an assault upon tawhid [monotheism]. “Verily the most honored of you to Allah are the most God-fearing of you.” 49:13
Although I’m not the protestor on the street, make a lot of noise, sign carrying type of person, I understand the ideals of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black people are routinely shot, killed, arrested, manhandled and harassed by police officers in this country for no other reason except that they are Black. The protests and the movement are meant to bring attention to this travesty, and for it to stop. I get that. We decry police brutality and excessive violence and rightly so but the police save more Black lives than they oppress becase if we didn’t have them in the hood, we’d probably kill each other even more. Brother look over their shoulders for the police and the brother right next to him ends up being the one who turns on him. So while we wait for the system and the culture of institutional racism to change, we ourselves need to make some changes in the interim.
For Black Lives to matter, Black lives have to first, matter to Blacks more than they matter to non-Blacks. That would necessitate that we protest more when we kill each other than when others kill us, that we monitor our families more than we follow families on television, and that we respect our own wealth more than we support the corporations that market their products to us.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let us consider that all White police officers are not racist – and not all of them, or even a majority of them – are out to kill, assault, oppress or deny African Americans their human rights, their constitutional rights or rights granted to them by God Almighty. We should also recognize that there does exist a culture of crime, violence and family breakdown in the black community that creates an impression, that in some ways, Black lives do not matter to Black people in the ways that they should.
On the other hand, when it comes to dollars and cents, Black lives matter a whole lot to many people. From the profit-driven prison industrial complex which depends on high percentages of African American males to spend time in jail, to the thousands of local municipalities in America that salivate over revenue gained from disproportionately issued traffic citations, municipal ordinances and petty fines for African American residents, Black lives matter in real dollars and cents. To the many business interests who profit from racially biased policies, laws, and ghettoes, Black lives matter in bllions of dollars.
Court-appointed attorneys value the lives of poor Blacks because they make a living off of them by pretending to defend them in a racially biased criminal justice system. Sometimes they even make a collegiate attempt to work on their behalf, defend them earnestly, and seek acquittals. Either way, it’s their livelihood, it pays the bills, and it is done disproportionately off the backs of Black Americans.
Black lives indeed matter to the false hair, false nails, and false eyelash industry that rake in billions a year supplying Black women (and men) with a wide assortment of falsities. Black lives certainly mattered to the subprime lenders, banks, and mortgage brokers, who became multi-billionaires by way of unscrupulous lending and left poor unsuspecting families – disproportionately African-American – in debt and without homes.
Black lives matter to auto insurance companies to the tune of about $800 more per year, per driver. Black lives matter to the party and liquor store owners, many with names like Muhammad, Abdullah, and Ibrahim, who send their kids to college with profits earned from outrageously priced groceries, a full range of liquid intoxicants, and the sale of candy-colored rolls of lottery tickets.
The companies that make and supply marijuana rolling papers and blunt wrappers can appreciate that Black lives matter since Blacks helped create a whole new industry for them on a silver platter. Black lives matter a whole lot to the abortion clinics and organizations like Planned Parenthood that rake in billions each year off Black abortions. So all this fuss about Black lives matter needs to be put into perspective; it would indeed seem that black lives matter to everyone else except blacks.
The cold truth is that Black lives matter to the people who profit from Black Americans. From the media and pundits who make money off covering and pontificating about the rallies, and the protests, to the millions of dollars in law enforcement overtime and hazard pay generated when people take to the streets. People and corporations are making money off the politics and economics of racism, but it’s not going back to the communities that need it. Then we return home from the protests and marches with souvenirs, selfies, and stories to tell the kids and Grandkids, but the conditions in the neighborhoods stay the same.
Police brutality, deeply-entrenched institutional racism, and injustice against Blacks and other minorities in America is real. Although we have made tremendous progress since slavery, and since th days of Jim Crow, we are far away from being at the end of this struggle. Part of that struggle needs to be an honest and intrepid self-assessment about what we may need to change in ourselves, and what we can do to improve our condition.“Verily Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves“. 13:11. As Black American Muslims, our community deals with the effects of racism on several fronts simultaneously. From neo-Jim Crowism and institutionalized racism that begins before birth, to our own slave mentality, self-hate, and crabs-in-a-barrel syndrome, to the racism, racial bias and marginalization we find in Muslim America.
Racism in the American Muslim community negatively impacts not only the way many new Muslims perceive the culture of Islam, if affects the way non-Muslims view Muslims and the religion of Islam as well. More disturbingly, it impacts in monumental ways, the trajectory of Muslim communities where converts are the majority, as well as the ones in which they are a minority. So given the prominence of race in our national domestic dialogue, when will the American Muslim community step up to the plate and be open and honest about race relations in our own religious community? When will we unpack that conversation beyond the usual party line? We hardly even want to admit that it is a problem. As race relations have improved in America, it has done nothing but deteriorate in the American Muslim community. This is the truth whether we care to admit it or not.
This whole conversation about race in America is a teachable moment for American Muslims. Racism is a moral issue at its core, and has to do with the way we view and understand God Almighty. If you are a Muslim and think that this issue has nothing to do with you. Think again.
Imam Luqman Ahmad
Imam Luqman Ahmad is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org