Inclusion: The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
So now that we understand what inclusion means, let’s get to the nitty-gritty and talk about the real problem – exclusion. You know those moments where you’re like, “Ummm, no. Not in 2016?!?” Yeah. You know the ones. Especially these days. Can I get an amen?
Let me give you some examples if you need a little reminder of what I’m talking about: The rise of Trump and his ideas of class separatism; Social media cronies who confirm that everyone has a butt and an opinion, yet hides behind computer screens and belittles others; Oh!, and let us not forget about this one – the segregated mosques where snide remarks are made and dirty looks are given to a Muslimah of a different culture! And while I’m on my rant, what’s up with the sisters not giving salaams (Islamic greeting) in public spaces because they don’t know you? What? Isn’t my hijab an indicator we’re part of the same club?
Listen, let’s not tip-toe around the matter. Exclusion not only occurs in Islam among different races, but within the same race as well. That whole “your-not-worthy-enough-to-sit-with-us-crap” is tired.
We’ve got to put a stop to it now because I’m trying to be fabulous and “ain’t nobody got time for this mess!” And please don’t say it isn’t happening because, girl, I’ve had first hand experience from my very own sisters in Islam…many, many, many times.
Before inclusion, I promoted diversity. But unfortunately, diversity just wasn’t enough. Today diversity merely means that a company will post a (as in singular) lighter skinned black Muslim on their beauty page. Or, they will add an Asian to the staff. Oh, and how about they will hire a Hispanic to meet their diversity quota. I became blinded by these unfair diversity tactics, until I became that “token.” I’d be the only Black Muslim on an all-white staff at work, the only Black Muslim in an Islamic organization, and the only Black Muslim on the panel. I looked around myself and paused. You’ve got to be kidding me?
Inclusion is such a simple term, but not so much because here I am talking about it. What it really means is treating others how you’d like to be treated. It means understanding our cultural differences and textures and respecting them. That’s it.
You’re the ‘newbie’, don’t really know anyone, but excited to get hired at your dream job. Lunch rolls around and you’ve got your PB&J ready. Sitting at one of the tables in the cafeteria is a group of seasoned workers. They all stop talking and just stare at you. No hellos. Nothing. You get this shrinking feeling inside as you almost crawl to the empty table near the window. You unwrap your PB&J, but your appetite is gone. That group of workers are no longer silent but snickering and slapping each other on the back. You just know that they are talking about you. You start to feel worthless, like an outsider, like you’ve done something wrong. You’ve just experienced exclusion.
In college, I wanted to make more Muslim friends, so I joined an Islamic organization. I was a freshman and excited to attend. My stomach twisted in anxiety as I entered the meeting. Around the circular table were Muslims from all around the world, mainly the Middle East. No African-American Muslims, I thought. But it was fine, I’d be the first then I’d pave the way so others would feel comfortable enough to join.
The next day, I was walking on campus, and I saw one of the Middle-Eastern girls from the organization that had spoken in the meeting chatting with her friend. As we crossed paths, I waved and gave her salaams. She looked me dead in the face, as I recall, the expression appeared to say ‘why is she talking to me?’.
I never went back to another meeting. And down the line, more Muslim women would do the exact same thing when I gave salaams. Look me dead in the face and ignore me.
Muslims are more segregated than ever, and it’s all of OUR faults. It’s like we’ve went back in time. This is a sisterhood. We shouldn’t care about what someone looks like, how much money they do or don’t have, and all these other stupid categories we put ourselves in. Is she a good person with a good character? Is she an amazing friend and mother? Is she a hard-worker and someone who strives to be positive despite the adversities she’s been faced with?
What Can We Do To Unify The Sisterhood?
I’m not asking you guys to make like Angelina Jolie and adopt a child from each continent, but there are a few simple things that you can do right now to make other sisters (and people in general) feel welcome. See a sister in public? You can smile. Got some teeth? Show em’ and give some kind of greeting if you’re feeling extra welcoming.
Are you at the mosque? See a new sister or girl sitting by her lonesome? Break away from your comfortable group of girl pals and sit next to her instead. Have your friends join in, too. I don’t know, maybe you can like talk. Tell her you like her hijab or something.
See a Muslimah who looks totally different from yourself? Make a mental note to look past color and prejudices and focus on the similarities instead. We have a lot more in common than you think.
In this world, there is enough prejudice and negativity. Let’s choose to do something different. Be that change that you wish to see. Let’s choose to uplift our African, Middle-Eastern, Caucasian, Latino, Black, and Asian sisters and really start to include everyone in the beauty and sisterhood of Islam by unifying Muslim women whenever we can.
Let’s keep the conversation going.
Have you ever experienced exclusion or inclusion in Islam? How’d you handle it?