On Friday, March 11, Black Muslim women will take to the internet, posting selfies and sharing how the erasure of Black Muslim women from the Muslim narrative has affected us, using the hashtags #BombBlackHijabis and #BombBlackMuslimahs.
When this idea was first introduced, I was immediately overtaken with excitement to participate, but my reasons were not the ones you might expect. This isn’t just about sharing selfies through the void of social media. This is about taking back our narrative.
When I decided to get involved, my first thought was of my daughter; a lively dark skinned girl, with an infectious laugh and an insatiable appetite. I thought about the year she started school and how much I agonized over making the right choices for her.
I didn’t enroll my daughter in an Islamic school. Not because there were too few of them, because there are four private Islamic schools in my area. And not because the quality of education at the Islamic schools was bad, because students from these school go on to earn degrees from prestigious Universities across the country.
I chose not to enroll her in Islamic school because she would be one of the few dark-skinned girls enrolled, and I didn’t want to have to explain why her teachers and “friends” constantly referred to her as a Abed. I didn’t want little boys to tell her that she wasn’t pretty because she was dark-skinned.
I didn’t want her to struggle in finding a place within the tapestry of our Ummah. An Ummah where South Asian, Arab, and– to a lesser extent– Persian expressions of Islam pass for orthodoxy, but her own cultural and historical roots are often ignored.
I chose not to enroll my daughter because I wanted to delay her first experience with overt racism. I wanted her first experiences of Islam outside of her home to be ones where she was welcomed and celebrated as an equal. I didn’t want to have to make excuses for fellow Muslims. I didn’t want to have to fight that battle on top of all the other battles that come with raising a Black Muslim Female child in America.
To this day, when she imagines figures from Islamic history, she imagines them as brown like her. She has no reason not to. The masjid we attend is full of women of African, Caribbean and American extraction; whose brown skin and colorful clothing look like hers.
She is still excited whenever she sees other Muslims in public, regardless of ethnicity, and only slightly baffled when certain sisters don’t return her greetings. She is one of only three girls in her school who wears hijab, but she is not the only Muslim. Her friends, mostly Black and Hispanic, have never explained to her that she can’t be beautiful because she is Black. Her teachers, mostly Black and Hispanic, have lovingly tucked her locs back under her hijab when they flop out during recess, without pausing to make her explain why her hair is like that or question whether or not locs are clean. The ummah, as she knows it, is a place where she belongs, full of people who, as she explains it “can be anything or anyone.”
Unfortunately, my daughter is an exception to the rule. Too many young Muslim girls’ first experiences of racism are at the hands of other Muslims.
Muslim women have made amazing strides in the last 100 years to reclaim their rightful place in the world. We are Nobel Prize winners, Olympians, pop stars and fashion icons. The one barrier that we have yet to break down is one of color.
Hashtags like #UnfairAndLovely and #BlackinMSA have called attention to the fact that colorism and anti-black racism are still real problems in our communities.
In the conversation about Blackness in Islam and about Women in Islam, the intersection of Black Muslim Women’s issues are often ignored. While South Asian and Arab women have many struggles in common, the struggle of the Black Muslim woman is unique. Often, speaking about us makes others uncomfortable. They aren’t sure how to relate. They want to sweep us away under the rug of an Islam that is “color blind”.
The intersectionality of race, gender and class that #BombBlackHijabis occupy, present too many challenges to their world view. They don’t yet have the language to articulate the fact that they have internalized the European colonial mentality about color, race, and class. They aren’t ready to admit that they see Black Muslim women as a necessary evil, but not a thing that could be beautiful, honorable, desirable, or strong. After all, you can’t stop people from practicing Islam, can you?
On March 11, I am going to participate in #BombBlackHijabis, because I want my daughter to uncover an Ummah that is ready to hear her story. I want millions of other black and brown skinned little Muslim girls to see more images of Black Muslim women in all our variations and profundity. I want to be able to enroll my daughter in a Muslim school without fear that they will call her a Abed, as if slavery is the natural origin of Blackness.
I want other Muslims to know that there were, and continue to be, more Black Muslims in our Islamic history than Bilal, Ibn Battuta and Malcolm X. I want the world to see that at every turn, at every step, in every way, black Muslim women have held the banner of Islam high. Even today, we hold together families and communities with grace and dignity.
I want the broken hearted women whose marriages were torn apart because their skin was the wrong color, to voice that pain and start healing. I want the millions of women who had to endure glib remarks about “preferring” fair skin to drop kick the small minded haters who said it with a stunning selfie. I want the ummah at large to recognize the unimaginable debt that they owe Black Muslim women for laying the groundwork for a truly global Islam. I want to reclaim my space as a Black woman in Islam. I want to remind everyone that we, Black Muslim women, have always been a part of the story of Islam.
I want to celebrate you, the originator of Muslim swag, an innovator of Muslim expression, #BombBlackHijabis and #BombBlackMuslimahs.
Written by Safura Salam
Hashtag movement started by @safuratumbles and @afrohijab.
❤❤❤ I’m so ready for this! Love from your sister in California!
I look forward to seeing many pictures of beautiful black Muslimahs.
I was unfamiliar with the term “Bomb Black” to mean beautiful. I see now that it is common in certain circles, but it is not widely known.
It reads like a command, with “bomb” being a verb as in “Go bomb some Black Muslims” . . . .Once released, a hashtag can take on a life of its own. I pray it does not get in the keyboards of Muslim-haters who could turn a lovely idea into something quite ugly and viral.
Before the 11th, the hashtag might be something to consider and pray about.
I agree, the number 11 (in itself) is anxiety provoking in American society when associated with anything Islamic.
Lol, side note; whoever thought of that tag line hasn’t heard of the FBI. Bombs and anything associated with Islam (hijabis) is going to cause a stir at the office lol.
Please change the hashtag. Bomb reads as a verb and not an adjective. We need to be mindful in our language especially if we plan to spread a potentially harmful message around the world. Not everyone understands the term “bomb”. Can it be changed to beautiful-bangin-Royal…something
I totally agree.
I agree 110% thank you
This was a well written experience that I share as a Black woman myself. Unfortunately though the reality remains that in Islam itself there is racism and colorism— the beautiful women in paradise are said to have white skin and big eyes. There are hadiths that promote racism as well, and of course there is the horror of slavery in Islam. I had to leave Islam because of this. I wanted it to be for me as a Black woman, but then I realized that just because it was promoted it that way doesn’t mean that it actually is. Black Muslim criticize Black Christians for being Christians because of the racism and slavery in the Bible and because it was the slave masters religion…. But we have the same in Islam! I remember wanting a voice and my narrative told [again] but once I started to do the research, I realized that there is no real reason for me to have a voice here unless it deals with actual human rights that all people should have. Good luck though on the day. I’ll follow because I love seeing Black women taking pride in their blackness.
Salam dear sister.I am very sadden by your horrible experience with muslims. Unfortunately due to colonialism,the world is suffering from a inferiority complex racism.Even in Africa and the Caribbean racism is very present amongst blacks.The lighter the skin the more beautiful.This a consequence of arrogance and pride.One thinks that he or she is better than the other.Arabic and hebrew are semantic languages,they cannot be translated word for word.This is not black as in skin color but meaning that some will be lit up with noor (light) and others will be dark and gloomy. Has nothing whatsoever to do with race.One cannot read the koran and quote the english words,rather understand the arabic definition
If we turn to religious symbols, we see that these positive connotations of blackness are also present in the theological worldview cultivated by Islam. For example, the Ka’aba, the cube-shaped edifice that every Muslim faces during his/her daily prayers is constructed of gray stones. It is honorifically referred to as the House of God (Bayt Allah). It is draped in a black covering –al-Kiswa. At that black-cloaked house, the only object we are allowed to kiss, as an act of worship, is a black stone –al-Hajar al-Aswad. In the Tradition of Gabriel, when he appeared before the Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, and a group of his followers in the form of a man, of all of the features, which could have been singled out to emphasize his striking beauty, his intensely black hair is mentioned (Shadid Sawad ash-Sha’r). Black hair is celebrated in Arab literature as a sign of beauty and virtue. The black seed (al-Habba as-Sawda’) is considered the most beneficial of all medicines, being described as the cure for everything except death.
The color representing the family of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessing of God upon him, was black. He wore a black turban, a practice widely followed by those claiming descent from him. It is interesting to note that the standard of the Prophet’s, Peace be upon him, polity was black while his banner was white. The black standard was the more prominent of the two. The Abbasids, whose revolt was nominally undertaken to establish the political authority of the Prophet’s family, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, took the black flag as their standard.
When the Qur’an mentions several colors in juxtaposition, it in no way conveys any negative connotations for black or blackness. God says, Have you not seen how God sends water from the sky, and We bring forth therewith fruit of diverse colors; and in the mountains are streaks of white and red, of various shades, and [others] intensely black.
I highly recommend reading this article:
Peace and Blessing!
Black History Matter by Anse Tamara a North American female scholar .In Honor of Black History Month, Anse Tamara speaks about how #blackhistorymatters, our role as Muslims in reviving the narrative of black Muslims, and the importance of learning and teaching an encompassing history of Islam in the U.S., Africa and worldwide. Finally she gives us action points for how to bring back the black Muslim narrative.
I love the idea, but hate the hashtag. Please change it!
I think #royal is better than #bomb but love the idea! ♡
It’s funny to me that everyone’s so caught up on the hashtag having”Bomb” in it. I mean, I’m sure we are all aware that saying something is “the Bomb” is a colloquialism commonly used in the African American community. This word specifically was used in this instance for its aesthetic personality with the accompanying words in the hashtag; all things I assume are understood but felt should be pointed out for certainty.
Now, why are we so caught up on the term bomb? It’s simple, because we’re scared. We’re scared we’re going to end up on some FBI terrorist watch list. We’re scared someone’s going to question our motives in posting pictures of beautiful, black, Muslim women, in every regard, in all their glory and calling them “bomb”. But most of all, we’re scared to show we are proud to be Muslim, proud to be black, and unwilling to let the world develop our narrative. And this day of celebration and solidarity has been set to go against exactly that.
Consider this. We’re so afraid to say “bomb” in a hash tag but we’ll post pictures of “Free Palestine” and the “Israeli occupation” any day of the week? What seems more suspicious using a colloquialism or possibly being associated with groups describe as terrorist organizations by the US governmet (Hamas and Hezbola)?…
I think this is very serious. I think our reputation is important. You would NEVER see an Arab Muslimah’s say #bombArabMuslimahs. We are under a psychological spell and we must break out if this.
As’salaamu alaykum, Masha’Allah this was a good article! #bombblackmuslimahs
The hashtag should have spread a message of PEACE. In your heart <3 , if it doesn't feel right. DON'T DO IT!! The choice yours. Self Love is Crucial!! I love myself too much to intentionally associate myself with a word I am not associated with. You wouldn't see an Arab going around saying #BombArabHijabis. Please think about it! Self Love above all!! <3
It was a beautiful article and thank you for sharing the story.
Any ideas for a hashtag change? We still have time to change it! How about #BlackMuslimahMagic #BlackHijabiMagic
I like how you say #royal or yes babe 😉 #royalblack
The royal theme is cool. I Like #royal black 🙂
Bomb, Royal, whatever…I’m down for this.
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