This letter is the result of a collaborative effort by many individuals and as such, no single person claims authorship. With that being said, please scroll down if you would like to sign in support of this statement.
UPDATE: Read ISNA’s Response here.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 43, Number 624
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As Muslims dedicated to justice for all people, we are incredibly disturbed by the state violence experienced by Black communities in Baltimore and around the United States and we stand in solidarity with those calling for justice, transparency, and police accountability.
We offer our prayers and solidarity to the families of Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, and Mya Hall, in addition to the innumerable other Black families who have suffered because of police brutality and institutional racism across the country. In the U.S., a Black person is killed on average once every 28 hours by law enforcement, security guards, or vigilantes. Now more than ever, it is important that we stand in solidarity with the Black community and affirm that Black lives matter, both within and outside the Muslim community.
On April 28, 2015, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a deeply misguided statement rejecting the pain of the Black community and undermining the responsibility of the Baltimore Police Department for the death of Freddie Gray. ISNA was “disturbed over the escalation of violence and rioting shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray…” yet it failed to recognize the disturbing tradition of state-sanctioned violence by police against Black communities, particularly in Baltimore, which has a long history of oppressive policing.
We strongly oppose ISNA’s statement because it intimates little understanding of the lived experiences and needs of the American Muslims ISNA purports to represent — a full one-third of whom are Black. These types of damaging statements employ racially coded language to lend legitimacy to white supremacist attacks on Black communities and social movements. While the American Muslim community is no stranger to surveillance, racism, and profiling, we recognize that Black Muslims experience layers of compounded Islamophobia and anti-blackness on a grand scale.
White supremacy is at the foundation of American society and it has manifested historically through slavery, formal and informal Jim Crow laws, and segregation but it continues to live today through mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, and police brutality. This is in no place more evident than in Baltimore, which has a long, shameful history of oppressive policing and overcriminalization of Black people.
We further acknowledge that non-Black American Muslims continue to benefit from protections and tools – ranging from anti-discrimination laws to the very language of civil and human rights in our society – that were created by Black leaders and strategists. Indeed, it would be perverse if non-Black American Muslims turned their backs or remained silent instead of using this critical time to address the anti-Blackness within our community and work towards an inclusive space for all Muslims.
We urge Muslims of conscience to take heed of this call to organize ourselves so that we may independently join and support the critical social movements of our time, with or without the ISNAs of our community.
Further, we urge all non-Black Muslims to follow the guidance of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (see their statement on Baltimore) and center Black people at this time by prioritizing their opinions, voices, and experiences and following their guidance on the best way to stand in solidarity, which may evolve over time.
We encourage our fellow Muslims to use this moment to inform and educate ourselves and our loved ones on white supremacy and state violence and how it disproportionately impacts Black people in our cities and communities.
We also call on our communities to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the movement for justice in Baltimore. For more information and ways to help, a number of resources and outstanding needs can be found here. There is also an urgent need to help Baltimore residents who do not have running water in their homes, for which you can contribute your support here.
As we express our solidarity with the Black community, we acknowledge and respect the important and hard work of #BlackLivesMatter and all organizers, past and present, within the Black community who have been steadfast in their responses to the normalization of racial profiling, murders, and anti-Blackness. We salute and greatly admire the legacy of the resistance for Black liberation and the continuous work since.
Narrated Muslim: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”