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.
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?
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?
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?
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.