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Mainstream Islamic Conferences Have a Longstanding History of Normalizing Anti-Blackness

Mainstream Islamic Conferences Have a Longstanding History of Normalizing Anti-Blackness

When I look at mosques that perpetuate patriarchal violence, I see it as powerless men trying to feel in control. Conferences are no different. Often times, it’s non-Black Muslims (mostly Arab and Desi) who organize these tone-deaf conferences, and use them as tools of oppression to silence the voices and contributions of those who are more marginalized (mostly Black Muslims). Loaded statement? Yup, but the history of these conferences and the state of so many of our mosques and Islamic schools are reflective of that.

Anti-Blackness is rooted in White supremacy, and the very nature of White supremacy is anti-Islam.

After this year’s RIS catastrophe, I watched many non-Black Muslims clap as a White sheikh spewed anti-Black stereotypes. And then I watched my non-Black Muslim friends remain silent as a Desi man approached us and made offensive comments about Black skin. I’ve learned to expect very little from too many non-Black Muslims, who are always willing to offer lip service but never do the work.

What does it mean to be Muslim and anti-Black? It means you are a self-hating Muslim. Anti-Blackness is rooted in White supremacy, and the very nature of White supremacy is anti-Islam.

Remember last year when ICNA asked participants in a speed dating event what skin color was preferred for their potential partner? The fact that they didn’t understand why that was problematic the first time is enough of an indicator. Our communities are places where our daughters are encouraged by their mothers to introduce their skin to harmful skin bleaching chemicals in order to appear whiter. This mentality is directly correlated to colonization, and the fact that our Islamic conferences perpetuate that belief is frightening. What has Islam become at the hands of these Muslims who hate themselves?

Their power comes from how close they are to whiteness.

These conference organizers apologize every single year for their shortcomings – but these apologies serve no purpose because they have yet to learn to love their skin. Their power comes from how close they are to whiteness. Make no mistake, there is a reason that even in the Arab community, people from the Levant seem to think they are superior to those from North Africa. Those Muslims who pride themselves on whiteness need to understand that their white skin came through colonization and violence. They pride themselves on being associated with what destroyed their homelands.

I watched conversations unfold this week, where Black Muslims asked for more inclusion in these spaces, and I cringed. What started the conversation was a poster from ICNA Baltimore that highlighted certain speakers, and shockingly none of them were Black. Again I ask, why are we surprised that Black Muslims are not being included in a conference where the organizers bow down to White supremacy?

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It’s the same feeling I get every time I see one of those quotes talking about how “Muslims will teacher their children about Bilal (RA), but not let their daughters marry a Black man.” Black Muslims, listen to me: You’re better than this. Forget this whole “not letting your daughter marry a Black man” nonsense. Why would we give our sons, our bloodline, to people who hate themselves and their religion?

We say “one ummah,” but it is never put into practice.

This is not Islam. These people are not Islam. These conferences do not include Black Muslims in conversations because these non-Black Muslims aspire to whiteness. To Black Muslims, to those of us who have learned to love who we are, protect your imaan from those who use Islam to oppress others. We say “one ummah,” but it is never put into practice. And it is not our responsibility to educate them on what being an ummah means. Our only responsibility is to Allah (SWT), and to protect our children from those who will try to use Islam to make them feel inferior.

We as Muslims bow down to only Allah (SWT), while these self-hating Muslims bow their heads to White supremacy. We cannot lose our faith to them, and cannot allow them to dominate the narrative. Our children deserve so much better then ICNA, RIS and ISNA. And it is the responsibility of Black Muslims and our allies to provide them with that.

View Comments (2)
  • Many people are keen to highlighting the ugly truths in Muslim lives, institutions, values, ideas and even Islam itself for reasons that are malicious. No one is able to read minds, but from your words you seem to me TO NOT BELONG TO THAT GROUP that wants Muslims alienated from their communities. You seem fair and critical; In that spirit, let me say a few things in response.

    In your critique it is hard to figure where the blame stops -with racist Muslims who have white pretentions or with Muslim spaces and institutions. Of course, I understand the entangled nature of persons and institutions made in their image, but the stakes are high for us to merely throw the baby with the bath water. Given that the largest Muslim gatherings whether RIS, ICNA, ISNA and Mosques everywhere are organized by persons and groups with troubling ideas be it racial, patriarchal, or class; it is true that whatever fruit they bear is bitter, but It is far better TO STRUGGLE with these persons and NOT TO GIVE UP on the only existing Muslim Institutions. This is a HUGE DISTINCTION that seems lost to you. The bad exists with the good also in these same institutions. I think you your self are not blind to the good these spaces and institutions do for Muslims. The single narrative you construct about these institutions of the bad things Muslim do, in the spirit of critique is extreme.

    For that reason I sense your critique does not come from within a Muslim frame of reference. Even if a thousand of your points are legit and well intentional, if it comes from a place of liberalism, those points CAN AND IS USED to create a false one sided single narrative. What is worse is that Muslims who seek FROM YOU, A MUSLIM ASSESMENT OF THE FACTS AND A MUSLIM INSPIRED REMEDY you end giving ARELIGIOUS LIBERAL ASSESSMENT AND SOULUTION. WESTERN MUSLIMS HAVE AN UNCONCIOUS INTENALIZED LIBERALISM THAT INFROMs HOW THEY APROACH MUSLIM LIVES, INSTITUTIONS, IDEAS, VALUES, AND ISLAM ITSELF. THIS IS MENTAL COLONIALISM AS WELL. I EQUALLY SUFFER FROM IT as I think you do.

    A Quranic principled solution is this from SURAH ASR:

    “By time, Indeed, mankind is in LOSS. Except for those who have BELIEVED and done GOOD DEEDS and ADVISED each other to TRUTH and ADVISED each other to PATIENCE.”

    So, as Muslim if we want to succeed and not LOSE our institutions and mosques to misogynists and racist: (1) we ought to be grounded in the frame of reference of Muslim BELEIVE, (2) DO GOOD DEEDs such as struggling with misogynist and racists and (3) us you are doing ADVISE each other with the TRUTH of the existence of anti-blackness and misogyny in our communal institutions and spaces and (4) lastly remain PATIENT with our efforts in such struggles in our institutions and spaces and not walk away.

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