A few days ago, I woke up that morning with my newsfeed flooded.
“MUHAMMAD ALI DEAD AT 74,” the headlines read.
Many people were posting/tweeting their condolences, and honouring the “great Muhammad Ali.”
They mentioned that he was the “greatest boxer of all time,” while simultaneously completely disregarding his political work on the fight for human rights for all black people.
His death is telling during a time when Islamophobia is on the rise, and the likes of Donald Trump tweet that Muhammad Ali–a Muslim–will be missed, whilst continuing to preach anti-Muslim rhetoric.
As I scrolled through Facebook, I noticed many non-black Muslims posting about how great of a Muslim Muhammad Ali was, how great of a man he was, and honoring him through long online posts.
I couldn’t help but think…so now you say our names? Now we are Muslims; now we are important and included. Now you remember us. When we become Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Ibtihaj Muhammad–legendary icons–this is when we are important to you.
An example from Muhammad Ali’s own life–it’s like when he was “American enough” for inclusion in the draft for the Vietnam War, but not “American” enough to have basic human rights.
We–Black Muslims–only matter when we’re popular. In my day to day life as a Black Muslim woman, I–and many other Black Muslims–experience anti-Blackness as the norm in the Muslim community.
This is not a new issue. In April, Eman talked about the anti-blackness that occurred when the news broke regarding the deaths of Mohamedtaha Omar, Adam Kamel Mekki, and Muhannad Adam Tairab, three young Black men, who were murdered. Students from the University of Ottawa created a documentary discussing their experiences of racism in the Muslim Community. Riya Jama wrote a wonderful tweet calling out the non-black muslim community.
This is just a handful of the many anti-Black experiences we as Black Muslims face.
In Muhammad Ali’s case, they seek to erase his Blackness; the Blackness he was so proud of.
If the non-Black Muslim community thinks that we are good enough to be remembered by the likes of you, yet continues to have non-Black masjid boards and Muslim student association boards, continues to not raise funds for donations for Black Muslim countries–only Arab ones– and continues to be a voluntourist to “poor black African children,” then guess what?
You are part of the problem.
You are the ones who continue to only teach about the Arab sahabas (companions of the Prophet) and not teach us about the many black Sahabas ( and also Black prophets) that were integral during the time of Prophet (saw).
How sad is it that as a kid, the only Black Muslim I knew was Bilal (RA), who yes did wonderful things, but–true to anti-Blackness typecasting–was a slave?
We don’t need your empty gestures of thanks; we need you to sit and listen and to help dismantle the anti-Blackness in the Muslim community.
Non-Black Muslims, I want you to support Black Muslims, and to always remember and acknowledge the privilege that you possess within the Muslim community.
Don’t honor and remember Muhammad Ali today, only for you to silence me when I speak out about the truth.