In a socio-economic sense, most African Americans live in a second-class, plantation-like existence. Don’t get me wrong, it beats outright slavery, but it’s a slave-like existence nonetheless. Even if an African American gains power and influence in this country and decides to use it for other than entertainment purposes, he runs the risk of being brought down. No one really likes the uppity Negroe, especially if they get too “uppity”. Even many other Black Americans have problems with the uppity Black man.
Through the criminal justice system, unequal housing and banking practices, the inner-city public school system, and a seemingly endless list of discriminatory statutes, regulations, and institutional norms which keeps African Americans in the United States of America relegated to a plantation-like existence. Whether you agree or not, there is no doubt about that. The facts speak for themselves.
Within the Black Church, there is almost complete autonomy when it comes to the practice of Christianity, and the way that African Americans run their churches and religious institutions. Even mega churches and pastors who make millions of dollars a year are pretty much left alone. Whatever issues that go on in the African American church are worked out internally. It is unheard of that a Christian scholar in Africa, Europe, Canada, or even the Pope himself would launch a personal attack against a Pastor or a group of Christians in America. We don’t get Christians from Africa, Asia, the Middle East or Europe coming to America and running rough-shod over a Church or church congregation in the United States. If they did, the congregation, after they finished laughing at him for having such audacity, would run him out of town on the same horse he came in on. They might even take his horse.
On the other hand, within African Muslim mosques, there is a great deal of foreign influence that is present and constantly pumped in. Almost every mosque in the United States, has an undue foreign ideological influence that affects the issues they work on, how they work on those issues, how AA Muslims see themselves and how they subordinate to the immigrant Muslim community on so many levels. People will literally walk in off the street into a masjid attended by African American Muslims and jump up to lead the prayer, tell the people how to run things, render legal edicts, or challenge their leadership. The problem is that there are people who actually let them do it. Otherwise it is a preposterous notion.
Very little has been written on the topic of the colonization of the African American communities and how they exist as a second class Muslim community in the United States behind the immigrant Muslims. However, it is real and the spiritual, psychological and trajectory effects of this relationship is felt far and wide. (See The Tale of the Two Muslim Americas). No American Muslim can go to a traditional Muslim country, visit the local mosque and proceed to tell the local people how to run their community, how to deal with their local imam, or try to run the affairs of the local people. The mere idea of it is absurd, and such a person would probably be arrested as a spy and thrown out of the country. Many African American Muslims have been conditioned to think not as free men and women, but as a religious colony here in the United States.
Here’s what boggles the mind; African American Muslims, and African American Christians are the same demographic group. They come from the same ethnic stock, and the same socio-economic backgrounds. They live in the same neighborhoods, attend the same public schools, and endure the same institutional oppression. They are housed in the same jails, play on the same basketball courts, and go to the same colleges and universities. So how is it that African American Christians can build their religious institutions and act autonomously in pursuit of their self-interests, and African American Muslims have such a difficult time in establishing congregations, building masaajid, or acting in their own self-interests without outside interference?
The answer to this question is that African American Muslims by and large, exist as a sub-group of second class Muslims under the greater immigrant community. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that there are too many spheres of influence, all coming from abroad, and all in competition with each other for control of African American Muslims. These outside influence come in the guise of religious sects, Sufi tarqas, islamic political ideologies, and ambitious individuals who seek their own stronghold in american society through affiliation and control over clusters of African American Muslims all across the country. These outside influences are not always entirely islamic either. Oftentimes they represent a regional ethnic, cultural, or political concern emanating from outside of the United States. These outside influences affect the way that many African Americans practice Islam, set their priorities, and determine their beliefs about Islam.
You have the Salafi influence which takes their orders from scholars abroad. If the Salafi sheikh states that the priority is to fight against deviants, then everything else; unemployment, spousal abuse, crime in the neighborhood, the dysfunction of the family and so on, falls to the side. The you have the Sufi influence which comes from all over the place. If a certain Sufi sheikh says to not to bother this or that group, or this or that masjid, or that a certain person is a saint and therefore infallible, then the Sufi sphere of influence prevails in many cases. Then there are the competing interests; political groups, Sufi tariqas, Qaadiri, Tijaaniyya, Naqshabandis, and movements such as the Shehu movement, as well as the Tablighi jamaa’aat. Each of these groups exercises a sphere of influence and in some cases absolute and control over indigenous American Muslims so it is difficult for African American Muslims to establish independent congregations, or to even think independently for fear of being in disagreement with their outside colonial type leadership.
As far as National Islamic Organizations, like ICNA, ISNA, and MAS, the membership and focus of these groups are almost entirely exclusive to immigrant Muslims. Although they routinely claim to speak or represent all Muslims in America, they in fact do not. When a CAIR report characterizes American Muslims as mostly middle class , they are not talking about African American Muslims; they are talking about another Muslim America.
The Black church despite whatever criticism we may have of their beliefs, their liturgical habits, their Pastors, their choirs, or what we call their misguidance or delusion, still acts in accordance to what they view are their best interests, and the interests of their institutions, their congregations, their own moral trajectory, and their own sense of purpose. This has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the Black church. It has more to do with how we can become Muslim and now that we have the Quran and the Sunna, all of a sudden we are paralyzed, and afraid to think for ourselves.
Brothers and sisters cannot even make a thikr without someone inciting an argument amongst us while they sit back thousands of miles away watching a soccer game. Somebody says ‘happy birthday’ and there is a flurry of condemnation based on a fatwa that we’re following the kuffar while the same folks will hardly make a move without kuffaar instruction and approval.
The plight of the Black American deserves prioritization not because they are black, but because they are the poorest and most oppressed people in our country. Prioritizing attention to the poor and the most oppressed in your midst is the Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS). This was also the way of Jesus (AS) and the way of Moses (AS). Just in case you’re wondering.
The black church, and its leadership, does not generally grant license to anyone, be it a government agency, a remote ecclesiastical authority, a foreign agent, a religious scholar not of their midst, or a state or local politician, to speak on their behalf, represent them to our government, or assign for them a reality not their own. Many African American Muslims actually believe that we cannot use the Quran and the Sunna without getting permission and sanction.
THE POINT IS: THAT THERE ARE TOO MANY COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE SPHERES OF INFLUENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY COMING FROM ABROAD
No religious group or sub religious group can engage in forward motion if they have no leader, no congregation, and are splintered into dozens of sub-colonies or plantations where their leader or master is not present nor cannot be held accountable. If Black Christians can build churches, establish institutions of faith and despite their problems, act independent of interlopers acting from abroad, then so can we. If Christians can speak for themselves, then so can we. If Christians can establish local religious congregations that act in their best interests, then so can we.
The ranks of our community should not split up simply because of an email, a fatwa, or at the behest of someone who does not even live in your county, does not understand your condition, and who is not around to be accountable for his statements, or there to pick up the pieces after we’ve splintered our communities, and who’s only contribution is rhetoric. I have never in my life seen an indigenous African American Muslim community split in two or become racked by fitnah except that there was a foreign agent, not from their midst involved.
Let me be clear. I do not support Back Nationalism. I am a Muslim. I follow the Quran and the Sunna, and no race of people is superior to the other. And if a day ever comes when another group becomes the most oppressed, most marginalized, and most victimized group of people in our country, I’ll stand up for them too. I don’t care what race or color they are. Black people are no better than anyone else. But the point is, nether are any other people.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS:
For the African American ex-slave generations, there is nothing that binds us together more than Islam. More than race, more than nationality, more than cities of origin, more than class, tribe, clan or lingo. Islam trumps everything for us. This is why it is imperative that we not fight the ideological proxy wars imposed on us from abroad. I know this is a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is the truth nevertheless. American Muslims need to stop being suckered into neglecting their own self-interests, because of outside meddling and outside interests. Support is not a one sided deal. We’ve supported every Muslim cause that came down the pike. We deserve reciprocal support when we are in the trenches and we are in the trenches now. We fight each other over the positions and statements of scholars from abroad, where in most cases they could care less about our positions or statements, even when our views are supported by the Quran, the Sunna, and the very same texts that they use against us.
STILL DON’T GET IT?
Okay I’ll give it to you raw. We’ve been had, flimflammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, conned, molly whopped, suckered, taken for a ride, hijacked, used, and still being used. Is that clear enough?
Imam Luqman Ahmad
[Taken partially from the upcoming book, Double Edged Slavery, Deconstructing African American Muslim Moral Dysfunction, by Imam Luqman Ahmad, will be available at Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble on November 1st, 2016 [in sha Allah]
American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, patriot, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at email@example.com.