Non-Black Muslims Must Care About Black Liberation

For non-Black people of color and for Muslims in general, this moment is of the utmost importance.

Non-Black Muslims Must Care About Black Liberation

For non-Black people of color and for Muslims in general, this moment is of the utmost importance.

By

Haider Syed
Photo - Hajji Hassan (@forthelovers)

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

For non-Black people of color and for Muslims in general, this moment is of the utmost importance.

There’s a lot to be said on what we see unfolding in front of us as Muslims particularly and where we should stand. The complicity to some degree of the Arab store owner whose employee first called the police over George apparently using a fake $20 hill has opened up a can of worms in the Arab community particularly, one that is all too often swept under the rug- that of anti-Black racism. But other non-Black communities of color such as the South Asian community are no different. While some have chosen to remain silent amid this time, others have taken a stance. Our religious traditions and the Prophetic teachings passed down to us, make clear the significance of siding with the oppressed. We are taught to struggle in the face of tyranny and to speak the truth no matter how bitter it may be. 

Yet some have argued that protesting itself or partaking in such acts of self-determination are haram. Despite it being widely recorded that the Prophet and His companions, in the face of the oppressive Quraish, would engage in strategic guerilla tactics to deliberately stifle the Meccan economy that guaranteed them the means to carry out their oppression.

Others have wholeheartedly denounced the action they have seen taken place across American cities. Imagine, criticizing the retaliation of the oppressed to the repression they are subjugated to, instead of those who are administering that very oppression. 

This stance in particular lays bare the mindset that allows for racism to thrive in our communities. This mentality is a product of our inherent desire to appease the white gaze, thinking we will attain all the privileges that come with physical and ideological proximity to whiteness. It is the belief that by glorifying and mimicking what are literally the very tenants that uphold whiteness and in extension white supremacy, dehumanizing Blackness as it does are worth redeeming. It is a byproduct of idolizing whiteness as the pinnacle of what we should adhere to. And many of us as a result internalize self-hatred and racism by viewing ourselves in opposition to Blackness. It’s evident in our silence on political matters to the way in which we hold education as the primary marker of our value as individuals.

While many have rightfully condemned and acknowledged the racism prevalent in our own homes, families, friend circles and religious spaces, others have had a tougher time swallowing these facts. It goes back to the concept of communities such as the South Asian diaspora being perceived as and expected to be model minorities. 

Beginning in the 1970s with the scrapping of the older quota system, immigrants from across Asia coming to America were no longer discriminated based on origin but from thereon categorized in terms of their value as productive, educated and skilled professionals. They were largely accepted as such. As the likes of Vjiay Prashad have concluded, their worth was based upon their economic output and not their ethnicity as they became the benchmark of what a successful minority should look like. Yet this became the perfect threshold to point out the failings of Black Americans as the conversation and blame could now easily be shifted away from racism being a variable. This phenomenon encapsulates much of the wider non-Black Muslim community. 

Structural racism is embodied in individual racist actions and rhetoric yet it is the culmination of a culture in which unconscious biases, negative assumptions, institutional policies, cultural representations, snide jokes, subtle comments, glaring looks, and distrust are instilled in every aspect of life to a degree where they aren’t questioned but accepted as the norm. This results in seeing Blackness as dangerous and associates a skin color with threat.

The Muslim community is highly prone to this sort of internalized anti-Blackness. We continually deny it even exists yet it permeates in the most profound circumstances, let alone in upholding tropes through ridicule or outright hate. 

We thwart our way into Black culture: through Black inspired or crafted fashion and music, and many of us regularly make use of derogatory terms like the n-word thinking that it’s all harmless because we aren’t white. Yet we’re the first in uproar over our own culture being appropriated. And even more so, we do absolutely nothing to address the inherent racism and colorism prevalent in our most immediate spaces. We rarely factor into it our own psyches or make the effort to actually learn about Black history, like the radical Black political tradition which guaranteed many American minorities the rights they enjoy today – extending beyond MLK or Rosa Parks. It was the very sacrifices of Black people organizing in the face of repression which made possible the avenues that non-Black minorities have used as a stepping stone to achieve unprecedented successes. 

Yet many of us only desire the privilege that whiteness guarantees. Others amongst us are white-passing and their ease in proximitizing themselves to whiteness is even more effortless. Yet both are rooted in our colonial pasts and that of cultures dominated by division by caste, tribe and class. There is a rich tradition particularly of Black and Palestinian solidarity as well as Brown and Black solidarity across the Muslim Third World – it’s time we learn more about them. Supporting Black struggles doesn’t make our own struggles any less important. American-Muslims in particular should know to some degree what it feels to be constantly policed and vilified, in a post-9/11 world. Yet many have not made these connections let alone have empathized. 

Our silence does make us complicit, our supposed neutrality as a means to not appear too radical or threatening to the White status quo does the same. We must have these discussions and conversations as we head towards creating a better world. We can’t just not be racist we have to challenge it in it’s every form to uproot it from our families and sacred spaces. That is where dismantling white supremacy begins. 

 

Many of us shared the video of George Floyd’s death with good intentions, yet we have to be cognizant even of why we don’t have much of a problem viewing the trauma of Black death. This is multilayered. 

The store owner’s policy that he adhered to, of calling the police in a situation such as Floyd’s, goes back to the idea of how we want to be viewed by authority –  adhering to norms even though the consequences are that the situation would likely be potential death. The problem is having no problem doing business in the Black community and profiting off of them yet still holding onto stereotypes that necessitate policing Blackness at every turn. 

We have to let go of these preconceived notions and biases, in order to work actively beyond the realm of hashtag movements and online solidarity. A lot of it has to do with how we engage with Blackness as a construct, as non-Black folks. Of the culture we consume, the books that we read, the music that we listen to, the content that we watch. They all factor in moulding our perceptions of racial tropes and standards. We have to on our own reflect on these questions of why we sanctify whiteness and see it as superior. Why do we associate “bad” with Blackness? Why do we see darker complexions as dirty? 

It begins with holding ourselves and our family members accountable and to stop making excuses for what we deem as cultural norms back home, of challenging racism and discrimination outright. They are learned and can be unlearned. It begins with educating ourselves and others on the historical construction of anti-Black racism and the unjust apparatus that represses communities across America. We can’t just accept things the way they are any longer. There isn’t a need to get into the what-aboutism of who supported who when it was one of our own communities facing oppression. 

The Black community is our own too. Black, Indigenous and Palestinian liberation are inherently tied to the settler-colonialism which dehumanized them and that we benefit from even as recent immigrants living here in North America.

It begins with sitting down and dealing with the discomfort and guilt of the racism we allow to fester and perpetuate ourselves. It starts with the content we read. It begins with researching on our own and listening to Black voices. We can’t just be non-racist, we have to be anti-racist, to paraphrase the great Angela Davis. And that means investment and not appropriating Black culture thinking you’re being helpful by promoting it. Investing in the struggle beyond just performative activism and surface-level clout chasing. To not just check in or empathize with those in the Black community through this moment, but to have the right intentions with the work that we have to do in the long term. That this isn’t just for a moment where you say Black lives matter and then move on, but that as long as Black people are dehumanized, discriminated and brutalized against systematically everyday- this is a fight we have to take up every single day as well.

As long as the Black community faces the consequences, we must give up the privileges that allow for it to cultivate, and to direct our resources and money towards uplifting the Black community’s mobilization efforts, solidarity campaigns, educational endeavors, bail funds, essential supplies, care and relief work, and so forth. The time is for action, it’s for taking a stand everywhere. 

If we imagine living in a radically different, far more just world, we have to be radical in our thinking of how to make that possible. If we imagine a more equitable society as Muslims, it begins with ourselves personally and what we’re willing give up in these moments. 

There was an image doing the rounds on Twitter the past few days showing Arab store owners armed, standing outside of their store in order to protect it from looting in Chicago. When we talk about reimagining society, it begins with ourselves and what we’re willing to do for the sake of someone else. Particularly, of mutual aid and collective upliftment in moments of grief and anger. If we can stand there with guns which will intimidate and antagonize hostility, we can just as easily stand there and distribute necessary supplies to those in need.

READ MORE:  Dear Non-Black Muslims, Your Silence Is Deadly

Muslim Hijab-Wearing Teen Punched Repeatedly While On Transit In Vancouver

17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada

Muslim Hijab-Wearing Teen Punched Repeatedly While On Transit In Vancouver

17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada

By

Wali Ahmad
Police are trying to identify a woman who allegedly attacked a teenager wearing a headscarf on public transit on May 21, 2020. (Handout)

June 7, 2020A 17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada on May 21. The transit police have launched an investigation and are requesting the public’s help in identifying the assailant after releasing images of the woman.

According to Metro Vancouver Transit Police’s news release, the victim and her mother were confronted by a female passenger regarding her ethnicity and her Canadian status. After having made a comment to the effect of “your smile is making me want to punch you in the face,” the passenger proceeded to punch the victim several times and partially knocked off her hijab. The two were later separated by the teen’s mother and another passenger. 

A good samaritan followed the assailant off the bus while calling 911. The assailant, after noticing that she was being followed, began assaulting the good samaritan before pulling out a knife. The good samaritan kept their distance and the assailant fled from the scene. 

The suspect is described as possibly an Indigenous woman, approximately 40 years old, 5’8 and weighing around 140lbs. At the time of the assault, she was wearing a black hat, dark sunglasses, dark top with the word “Pink” written on the back, blue jean shorts and black boots, and was carrying a silver reflective backpack.

 

“There is no place for hate, racism or biases on the transit system” said the Transit Police in its news release. “All passengers using our transit system have the right to travel without fear of harassment or assault. Metro Vancouver Transit Police would like to speak to anyone with information about the identity of this suspect or who witnessed this incident.”

Should you recognize the woman, we urge you to contact Metro Vancouver Transit Police’s tip line at 604-516-7419 or by text at 87-77-77 and refer to file 2020-9802.

The incident is hardly the first of its kind in the area. A similar incident occurred almost three years ago in Vancouver’s SkyTrain public transit system, where an 18-year old Noor Fadel was harassed by a man screaming insults, attempting sexual assault and threatened to “kill all Muslims.” When he tried to grab her head, a fellow passenger, 21-year old Jake Taylor, intervened. The assailant was arrested and charged with assault and threatening to cause death or bodily harm.

READ MORE: Ahmaud Arbery Was Called A Racial Slur As He Was Being Killed

Here’s What Muslim Therapists Have To Say On Mental Health

Mental health is a widely important topic that is not discussed thoroughly within the Muslim community, so we interviewed specialists.

Here’s What Muslim Therapists Have To Say on Mental Health​

Mental health is a widely important topic that is not discussed thoroughly within the Muslim community, so we interviewed specialists.

By

Aishah Goumaneh

Mental health is a widely important topic that is not talked about much in the Muslim community. One of the most common ways that people take care of their mental health is through therapy. I spoke with Fahad Khan, Abdulaziz Syed, Saaudiah Muhammad, and Afshan Mohamedali, four professional psychologists. I asked these psychologists, why is therapy important for Muslims? How should one seek therapy? Can therapy help with issues revolving around gender, age, and toxic cultures?

Afshan Mohamedali, PhD

“Anyone can benefit from therapy given that it’s a safe space for self-reflection and growth.”

Therapy is a place for identifying obstacles and solutions in your life. Muslims are not superheroes they are everyday people who also deal with mental health issues. Mental health issues are just as prevalent to Muslims as they are to the general public. Therapy is a holistic approach to healing.

To begin seeking therapy one must identify what kind of help they need first. When you contact therapists be sure to ask about their different helping methods to help you decide what works best for you. “Feel free to schedule first sessions with a few  different providers before choosing one you’re comfortable with and be sure to communicate any concerns you might have about treatment to your therapist.”

“Therapy can absolutely help with issues relating to gender, age, toxic environments, and much more. I find it helpful to explore the ways in which these factors are impactful on mood and anxiety, while also identifying and employing agency in difficult situations. A therapist can help with developing adaptive coping skills, identifying unhelpful behavioral patterns, tolerating uncomfortable emotions, and more.”

Saaudiah Muhammad

Therapy is important for anyone that needs “an impartial and nonjudgmental perspective.” Therapy gives people the opportunity to discuss things that may be harder to discuss with the people closest to you. Therapists do not “fix” clients or tell them how to live their lives. Therapy is a way to get suggestions and different perspectives on difficult issues. However, it is important to remember that therapy is not a replacement for spiritual guidance.

“Our relationship with Allah should be personal and private.”

There are various websites and sources to find therapists. “I have listings in several sites, however, the bulk of my clients find me from my Psychology Today profile.”

Profile pages are comprehensive and can be very detailed. I include on my professional profile pages that I have client focus in faith for Islam so that Muslims in my area can find me if they use filters such as Muslim, Islam or specific gender or ethnicity for instance when searching for therapists. Also, word of mouth is also a viable means to find a therapist. I have gotten many new clients based on referrals from other clients. It is extremely important for clients to feel comfortable in seeking therapy.

Therapy can help with a multitude of issues. Many people fall into the “perfect reality trap” on social media. This leads to people developing low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, etc.

“Areas such as gender, age, and toxic cultures are highlighted in social media in particular.”

Abdulaziz Syed, Therapist Khalil Center

“First, I think it is important to define therapy. While you may get different answers, the American Psychological Association defines it as the following: ‘Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. A psychologist provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental.'”

Modern-day Muslims get so many mixed messages and face several sources of stress from personal to political. So seeking therapy to ensure the wellbeing of their mental health is essential.

The easiest way to seek therapy is to “look online and see someone who you feel would be a good match. You can look online for Muslim therapists if you feel they can understand your situation better”. Khalil Center is one organization out of many more services. Psychology Today is a good place as well. “More and more states are allowing for web therapy so even if you do not have anyone locally, you can find people online.”

Seeking therapy can be difficult when related to “addictions or one’s relationship with parents or seeking a spouse or getting over childhood trauma/neglect or performance anxiety etc.. The list goes on.”

No matter how hard it gets therapists can always help and guide you.

Dr. Fahad Khan

Besides the obvious fact that if you are not okay mentally you should seek help, therapy is essential for Muslims because it allows a person to become more self-aware and gain more insights into their actions and behaviors, which they are required to do as Muslims.”

It is a saying in Islam that whoever becomes aware of themselves can become more aware of their Lord. Knowing yourself is a blessing that everyone should want to gain.

People should go about seeking therapy depending on what works for them, what is more affordable, what or who is more, comfortable for you? You need someone to bring you back to the right path, this could even be a Sheikh. Whatever is most accessible to you, there are even online therapists. There are countless resources for people to gain access to therapy.

Therapy can help with whatever issue in the metaphysical issue. For example if you have a broken leg you would obviously need to seek out physical help such as surgery.

However, you could get therapy to help you deal with the fact that you have a broken leg. Poor family dynamics can definitely be helped with counseling.

Essentially therapy is a basic tool for your mental health. There are countless resources for people to seek out therapy, begin with what you find is comfortable. Issues relating to gender, age, and culture, may not be able to change, however, therapy can help you deal with them. For example, let’s say your culture has disparities between ages or gender – therapy can you help you deal with that.

Therapy is not, or should not, be a luxury. It should be a blessing to ensure that your mental health is in the best quality.