This is not a difficult topic for me to write about. However, it is difficult for many to read about if addressed candidly and honestly. Censorship, is still very much an unspoken rule and a one sided conversation in Muslim America when it comes to issues of race and the relationship between Muslim immigrant communities and Black American and convert communities. Nevertheless, American Muslims. particularly Black Americans and converts, owe it to themselves to understand how we got were we are regarding our moral trajectory in this country. Especially as a new and frail part of Muslim civilization. Of course this article does not tell the whole story, but it is certainly part of the story. Pay attention.
After 9/11, the American Muslim community and the whole country went into panic mode for different reasons. Americans in general were shocked and horrified that such a large-scale attack, purportedly by Muslim terrorists, would hit so close to home. American Muslims were panicked because of the backlash, and potential backlash against American Muslims. By November 5th, more than a thousand American Muslims and Muslims living in the United States were detained. Many were deported. Some left the country on their own. Suspicion, in and outside of the Muslim community was everywhere. For many Muslims, the worst thing in the world was to be viewed as a potential terrorist, to be the object of criticism, or be rejected or ridiculed by the American masses.
After the World Trade Center bombing were the catalyst for the American Muslim community to embark on a massive, multi-billion-dollar, public relations campaign to temper the backlash, improve the image of Islam and Muslims in the eyes of the American public, and insulate American Muslims from any criticism, constructive or not.
The meaning of the word Islam was almost immediately replaced from submission to peace, and the newly invented neologism (Islamophobia) was hastily summoned into full currency as a push back against anti-Muslim sentiment, and all criticism of Muslims. Acts of charity work were carefully choreographed, recorded, and publicized for public consumption, Masaajid doubled down on half-hearted interfaith efforts, and words such as jihad, the word bay’ah, and the word jamaa’at, were reinterpreted or removed outright from everyday Muslim dialogue.
The ambitious public relations campaign spread to every part of Muslim America and was financed by immigrant Muslim individuals, businessmen and organizations, who crafted the policy, the planning, and executed implementation or the massive PR campaign through a variety of venues. Fighting islamophobia was touted by major national Islamic organizations as the number one priority of Muslims in America. Billions of dollars flowed in from the Gulf states to assist in the anti-islamophobia campaign although hardly any of the money went to helping Black Muslim groups, organizations, and communities so they could join in the effort.
The image of Islam in the eyes of politicians and the American public took precedence over the actual moral essence and practice of the religion, and that image portrayed as a white or light skinned immigrant who is as American as apple pie, mostly middle class, and shares the values of our country. The image and narrative of the American Muslim convert in the inner city was nearly completely ignored, even vilified by some Muslims. In one report, co-authored by CAIR (Council for American Islamic Relations), we were characterized as being less patriotic than immigrant Muslims, and more likely to extremism. That was the projected image then, as it is now.
Black American Muslims and coverts, an already marginalized population within Muslim America, who were less likely to suffer any backlash because of the events of 9/11, who had no national organizations of clout and finance that represented their interests, and who were less likely to be under threat of deportation since they were already citizens, had no choice except to go along for the ride.
Thus, the narrative, the political interests, and the voice of the American Muslim community of largely immigrants, became the narrative, the voice, and the politics of Black American Muslims, who very few, realized even until now, that they (Black American Muslims and converts) were and still are, an entirely new and different Muslim civilization. An entire generation of Muslims were raised on image, and imaging as representing what Islam is all about. This helped cement the colonized disposition of Black American Muslim converts, under the shadow of the larger, more affluent, more educated, and greater resourced immigrant Muslim population America. A situation that continues until this very day.
There is no validation whatsoever anymore for the Black American Muslim slave mentality. It cannot be justified at this point in our history. We know too much about the damage. We have paid too much of a cost. It gets in the way of too much. When we were barely out of slavery, it was understandable. During the Jim Crow years, it was understandable. In the beginning of the civil rights movement, it was understandable. When we were inundated with books on theology from overseas it was understandable, and when we found ourselves for the last 40 years, going back and forth bickering over fatwas, terminologies, shaykhs, and arguing other people’s arguments like fools, it became barely understandable.
At this point in time, it is simply senseless to give the Black American Muslim slave mentality any more oxygen. It’s time to let it die a slow death. Dismantling it may take an entire generation and will not be easy. However, it way past its expiration date. A new, free domestic Muslim ummah must and in sha Allah, will emerge, that is untethered by the now self-imposed colonial like hold from the multiple spheres of influence from the Muslim world abroad that still continue to suffocate Muslims and converts in America. And Allah knows best.
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
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Imam Luqman Ahmad is an Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at email@example.com He is the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, and the book, Double Edged Slavery, about the colonial disposition of Black American Muslims in the shadow of the American Muslim immigrant community.