I read a blog post by Kiah G. on the “absence of Blackness in Baltimore (Black Mecca)” at this year’s (or any year, frankly) ICNA conference. Kiah hit the nail right on the head addressing the larger problem in the Muslim Community of denying the presence, contribution and importance of Black Muslims.
Kiah G. opened with, “Last Friday I went to my first ever ICNA convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I wasn’t sure what I was going to see when I got there, but I had an idea. A week before, ICNA had put out an image on Facebook that said the following ‘Islam empowers women with honor and dignity #ICNA2017.’ It included an image of all the prominent women who were speaking at the convention.”
Problem? Well here is the poster:
The negligence is real, with one Latina speaker and no Black women on the poster. It’s as if there are no Black Muslim Women qualified to speak at ICNA. Hmmm, well before you even go there, there are plenty, so I don’t want to hear that played out line of “maybe there aren’t any educated/qualified Black Muslim Women.”
Stop. Just stop.
The ICNA conference focused on topics about civil rights, racism, etc. Naming a session “America’s Original Sins: Racism and Social Inequality” for which there were no Black speakers on the panel. Pray tell, how do you have a discussion on America’s Original sin addressing racism and NOT have a Black speaker? Who do you think this “original sin” was perpetrated against? Discussing racism in America without Black people is as crazy as discussing women’s issues without women.
Maybe we can chalk this up to an unfortunate oversight, but here is the thing. Ignorance is harmful and what kind of oversight is repeated so consistently (I myself have attended several ICNA conferences and the verdict is the same). If this is indeed an “innocent” oversight, then I would implore my Muslim brothers and sisters to open their eyes and do better. Be better. You are our brothers and sisters in Islam. We love and respect you. It’s time for you do to the same.
I don’t want to throw too much shade at the ICNA organizers (or maybe I do) because they are not the only ones and this is not an isolated event.
These racist views, discriminatory actions and anti-blackness ideologies are a plague in the world, in our country and our Muslim communities.
This isn’t a new plague either, but it is past time to remedy it. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him, spoke out against racism and even talked about this in his last sermon; declaring,
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
This ideology of superiority based on race has no place in Islam, despite this fact Muslims have made Black Muslims feel like we have to qualify our existence. We are screaming “We are here, we are here, and we are here!” Desperately fighting for our existence and importance to be known. We should not have to fight. We are here and we are important.
Being Black and Muslim is walking into the masjid and having to prove you’re Muslim and then walking back into the world and having to prove you’re human.
Black Muslims historically, as well as contemporarily, have molded the landscape of Islam in America and yet are consistently put on the judging block to be rated on importance and religiosity.
If you can exclude and discriminate against another Muslim, against Allah’s creation; then maybe you need to check your relationship with your creator.
I’m sure this isn’t the first article you’ve read on being Black and Muslim and the exclusion and discrimination that comes with it. Maybe you’ve seen Bobby Rogers’s awesome project #BeingBlackandMuslim. Good. You’ll keep seeing us and hearing from us because we are Muslim, Black and present and no amount of discrimination can erase us.