With all that is going on regarding post September 11th alarms and false alarms, mass detention of Muslim immigrants, new policies in immigration and islamaphobia, is it now an appropriate time to address the race issue amongst Muslims in America? Some would say no, that it is an issue better shelved until a later time. On the other hand, ignoring the problem or denying its existence may only exacerbate the current immigration dilemma.
Many immigrant Muslims find themselves caught between two forces of east and west. While desperately wanting to become whole Americans, to be an accepted part of the melting pot in the tradition of the Italian, the Irish, the Polish, the Jews, and others, many of them have found that newly gained citizenship or a shiny new green card, does not guarantee acceptance. Those who unwittingly thought themselves immune from wholesale discrimination and targeting were stunned in the aftermath of September 11th. The fact that most immigrant Muslims were just as appalled, as everybody else and the fact that hundreds of Muslims were among the victims in that terrible act did not stem the hemorrhage of hate that was immediately directed towards them.
With almost daily new calls for anything from mass deportation, fingerprinting and denial of basic rights, to Nazi style registration, the situation looks like it may deteriorate before it gets any better. We should keep mind that Japanese Americans were not interned in concentration camps until eighteen months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The separatist nature of the immigrant Muslim community does not help their case. Although there are exceptions, for the most part in American cities, immigrant Muslim communities are conspicuously separate from their indigenous American Muslim counter parts.
Sure, immigrant Muslims have made a hearty college try at becoming anchored to American community life. The problem is they opted to be anchored to the mainstream white American community, a course that has a few drawbacks. One is that, America, with all her amber waves of grain, is a distinctly western, mostly white and non-Islamic community that will never accept Middle Eastern Muslims or former Muslims unless they totally repudiate their prior beliefs and become full-fledged Christians, especially now, given the current political climate. "And the Jews and Christians will never be satisfied with you until you follow their way". Two, is that the two cultures are fundamentally different, and Muslims from the Middle East and the Indian sub continent do poor imitations of good old boy Americans. In my opinion, this strategy will ultimately backfire on the immigrant Muslims because as the moods of the country changes, deep-seated hostilities against Muslims will be unleashed upon them.
Although African American Muslims constitute only 23% of the Muslims in America, one thing can be said about them; they understand the political terrain, they have battled racism on this continent for 400 years, and they have learned how to flex their power. African American Muslims not only understand America, we practically built the place!! We could have told the immigrants that a few invitations to white house dinners do not equal policy changes. We could have told them that political organizing, unless you have a whole lot of money to spend, is done from the bottom up, not from the top down.
American Muslims are able to give da'wah and build communities of Muslims without the threat of deportation. And since we did not come here for our piece of the American pie and only recently have had access to it, we aren't threatened by losing it. Thus, a more prudent direction for the immigrant community would be to have aligned themselves with their American Muslim brothers. Perhaps, had they done so, they wouldn't feel so alienated now, especially during these times.
As for the so-called Muslims who come to America and abandon Islam, American Muslims have very little in common with them and would prefer that they turn around and go back where they came from. They shame our religion and deter our invitation to Islam. The immigrant Muslims who run the party and liquor stores in inner cities do a poor job at representing what Islam is all about, even if, they have placards hanging in the store with Allah's or the Prophet's name on them.
The image of the Muslim woman adorned in Islamic headgear behind the liquor store counter, gleefully accepting money for an Olde English 800, or rolling off lottery tickets, is not exactly the image that we as Muslims in American are trying to portray. As an American, why would I want someone to come here simply to contribute to alcoholism, gambling and unreasonably high grocery prices? And as African Americans, we deal with enough racism as it is. Why should we promote or agree with importing more of it?
Americans in general are still pretty uninformed about the racial demographics of Islam. Although public discussion of the subject is still relatively taboo, many American Muslims will tell you story after story about the ill and condescending treatment they receive from immigrant Muslims. If the extent of racial prejudice and racial-ethnic separation amongst American Muslims were known by the masses, it would add fuel to the anti-immigrant sentiment.
Although racism is still practiced in America, blatant racism in no longer status quo. Even rednecks are prone to take umbrage at blatant racism when they are not the ones doing it. This is why the allegations of slavery in the Sudan and Mauritania were taken so seriously by the mainstream, even though we still practice slavery in our own prison systems in the form of free labor. Americans still practice racism against blacks but they don't want any non-white people doing it. It like they are saying; "these are our niggers, and if anyone is going to discriminate against them, it will be us".
Many immigrant Muslims have found great degrees of acceptance in mainstream American society. In many cases, acceptance is not without a cost; the cost of almost totally abandoning their religious culture. After all, for an immigrant Muslim, to become a "real" American, he has to not only pass the rigors of INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services), he has to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, drink Budweiser, and wave the flag. Many Arabs, Pakistanis and other Muslim immigrants have done just that. Is it enough? For some perhaps, for others apparently not.
The failure to amalgamate the Muslim community into a non-nationalist, colorblind community has aggravated the problems currently facing Muslim immigrants. Since they are separate from the majority of the American Muslims, particularly their most suitable allies, African American Muslims, the latter has become ambivalent at best and totally oblivious at worse to their plight. If fact, outside of Islam, indigenous American Muslims have little in common with people from the middle east. The food, the music, the dress, the sports, the way we think, they are all different. If we cannot demonstrate to the non-Muslim community that we have settled the racial problem in Islam, we lose the claim to moral legitimacy.
So how do we go forward? First we need to build a Muslim community based upon Islam and not race or nationality. Secondly, we have to address the issue of post-colonial programming. Thirdly we have to realize that before being American, Arab, black or white, we are Muslims first. Furthermore, we are obligated as Muslims to be united by Islam; it is considered fard (incumbent). Allah clearly says: "And hold ye fast to the rope of Allah together and do not separate".
Racism is prohibited in Islam, and both immigrant and indigenous Muslims living in America need to realize that. Besides, indigenous and immigrant Muslims both have something to offer to the collective. They can help us assimilate the Islamic religion, knowledge and culture. We can help them learn how to live in the United States without making a fool of yourself or your faith.
Masha-allah,what a wonderful article.You have
definately nailed it. I come from a small country on the west coast of Africa and we have a small
number arab muslims who have lived there for years and years. They have families and bussiness' there, but they never accept the us.They'll hire us to do meenly jobs, we even go to the same schools some times etc.. but that's it. You can't mix with them and I think thatis sad.Even in America here I've experienced the same thing with arabs, pakistanis and so on;all of whom are muslims.I really hope that there will be more articles like this by the grace of allah so that there may be more discussions and gadually a solution to this ugly thing in our muslim society
May allah guide all true believers.
Should we all as Muslims in America seek our own piece of Americana .. Or should we consolidate as Muslims living in America and pursue a course of patriotism that agrees with Islam, benefits the whole and not tainted by our own sectarianism?
Patriotism, Politics and Islam in U.S.
8/9/2002 - Social Political - Article Ref: IV0208-1712
By: Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
To pledge or not to pledge, that is the question. The quandary regarding just how patriotic should the American Muslim be, or shouldn't be, is complex at best, absolutely mind-boggling at worst. Does good old flag waving, ground kissing, American patriotism contradict Islam? And as for the American Muslim, is he or she better off assuming the mantle of national pride? Or should we hold fast to the ever-elusive notion of "we are all Muslims and we are all in this together". Should immigrant Muslims possess a different patriotism agenda than indigenous American Muslims? Perhaps some of these questions need to be answered first before we go off trying to out do Americans in being American as suggested by some of the national Muslim organizations that claim to represent American Muslims.
you dont want to pledge allegiance to America..? What are you doing here..? Why does America need citizens like this?
We are in a crisis due to throwing Islam behind our backs. We have forgotten our mission in life i.e to worship none but Allah. We have not understood the meaning of ibadat.
We need to start taking seriously, the teaching of Deen to our kids from very early age.
We need to give them proper ta'aleem and tarbiyyah so that they learn and live the Islam.
So they know the rights of Allah, the rights of muslims, rights or non-muslims, they know the shariah so they can make the proper ibadah.
And they acquire the proper ingredients in their character and personality that are vital for this most honorable responsibility of dawah of Islam
We can't afford to handover our kids to others to inculcate their minds with seeds of materialism and turn them into tools to further ther materialstic world view.
We have a higher and noble goal of life that is to serve Allah and we need to realize that. Our goal is to make our kids human beings who are raised in rank more than the angels. Only Islamic teachings and tarbiyyah can raise a person to that level.
We need many families willing to devote their life and their kids entirely for the service of Allah.
Only then we can be positive about our future. Only then we would in a better position with Allah's help to save ourselves, our families, our communites from destruction and also to fulfill our obligation to the rest of the community of making dawah.
May Allah give me and others the ability to make sacrifices for the sake of Allah.
It also true that in Islam slavery is allowed. But if these people were "slaves" only by the word. The treatement they received from their "masters" was far better than the treatment any corporation gives its employees today. There should be a book written about slavery in Islam, to represent it in an Islamic perspective.
Slaves in Islam should for example be given by the master the same food, clothing and means of transport that the master himself/herself uses. his can be seen in through the words and action of the Prophet Mohammed and his companians.
As for taking away the culture of the people of Eatern Europe, not true. These people willing gave up that culture because the Islamic culture was far superior. You will aslo find that a lot of the changes that Western culture has seen over the past 500 years which are applauded today, were present in Islamic culture long before.
Esther, if you really want to find out rather than to badmouth us (i.e. Muslims), then do some unbiased research.
while i was in USA, the most irritating thing was seeing a lot of grocery shops run by immigrants ( majorly Muslim immigrants)
grocery shops which sold everything:
this articles reminded me of that
i can not recal veiled women selling in those shops, but surely i have seen men from those stores greeting each other with "salams" and leaving for Friday prayer-
however i had Muslim friends - who were first generation in states from Pakistan, Egypt and many more Muslim countries which did behave the way they should - did earch living in the very halal manner
so i can not say that among immigrants there is only one tendency -they are different just like Americans
but i think American Muslims in a joint effort have to do something about these grocery shops with their haram offerings
hope i made myself clear
Like "stop pouring your money into silly campaign contributions and help the fellow Muslim with their day to day problems." Perhaps organize community events which are more "Islamic" in nature and less "Pakistani" or "Bosnian" or something else.
I would like to mention that as an immigrant Muslim I don't have any bias towards Muslims black or white. Islam is the only color blind religion.
it's sad that our brothers middle eastners get discriminated while african american muslim play a low profile, but the on the other end, muslim middle eastners should better understand the proper meaning of brotherhood in islam, i studied at the islamic university in malaysia, there things are on racial lines, arab muslim students are always in bars drinking openly, arabs and other middle eastners viewed us african muslim as alien to islam not as brother, if they continue this same pattern in the US , we'll always be separated, others will always look down on us. drinking, acting like non religious people for their acceptance will only lead them making more funs of us,
we should better understand the meaning of brotherhood in islam, racism and other unislamic behavious will do us no good
may Allah bless the Ummah.
Masha'Allah I really appreciated your article. Racism is an issue that many of us Muslims have neglected to address outright. As Rasul Allah (saaw) taught us in Madinah, racism contravenes Islamic principles of equity and equality. Madinah is the perfect paradigm for all times--there were Arabs, Europeans, blacks, and others coexisting beautifully and purely under the banner of Islam. Let's work together to remake Madinah, America is probably a better place than most. May Allah (ta'ala) grant this deen victory and bless our efforts. Ameen. As an immigrant Muslim, I am grateful to have friends from all over the world, and many of them being Hispanic and African American Muslims. Let's grow up and live the Islamic ideal. Thank you and as-salaam 'alaykum.
It is very good that this issue has been finally addressed on some platform. Being in the US military and being African-American brings with it many stigmas. Nothwithstanding, the ignorance of individuals from overseas and within the interior of the US because of their essentially racist practices. Violating Sunnah guidelines and principles by being rude to other Muslims, not returning the peace (As-Salaamu Alaikum Wa-Rathmatullah) simply because of appearance or complexion. From New Jersey and Philadelphia, to Chicago to North Carolina I have experienced all forms of ignorance possible.
Although, the brothers and sisters are confused by not realizing that jihad is fought WITHIN and devulged by Allah, and not any man!
Once we begin to universally remember exactly what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught us about conduct, brotherhood/sisterhood, and the struggles for inner and outer peace internationally and nationally then maybe we will see some progress amoungst our Ummah.
I greet you in the greatest blessing my brothers and sisters in Islam.
As-Salaamu Alaikum Wa-Rathmatullah,
US Navy Hospital Corpsman
None of my comments are reflective of the United States Navy. Only the morality of what they taught me of HONOR, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE.
Dear brother, I read your article about racism and I think that you are very right about everything.
It is about time someone to speak up. I wish that all brothers and sisters read your article and look inside their harts and right the wrong. Racism is haram (prohibited) in Islam. It has no place. No racist can call him/herself a true Muslim. But sadly enough, I didn't spend half a year in Canada when I learned about the sad reality; Muslims are being racists. And the racism goes in many directions.
Oh yes, many of the imigrant Muslims will try to fit in and follow the main stream white majority and their culture. Nay, sometimes I would say they even over do them in their way of dressing, behaviour and ignorance. They look up at them. They believe that by doing so they will be seen smart, progresive and "modern", and get a bigger slice of the American pie. They all end up selling the signs of Allah for a miserable price. What's the use of their hijab? One can't cover up the haram deeds one does with one's hijab from Allah Subhanna Wa Ta'ala.
Masha'allah, brother keep on the good work, May Allah grant you success in your struggle and help you make the Umma realize thet we are one because Allah meant us to be one. What, they can't see how the Christians ridiculed themselves by having separate churches for the white Christians and black Christians. Ya Allah dont't allow ever that to happen to us Muslims, help us see that we all belong to One God and His Way, and Allah in his wisdom created us to be so varied but all the same in His Sight, the best of us is the one that has the most Taqwa.
Dear brothers and sisters, this article and comments have moved me in such a way that I have posted a prevoius comment and have emailed the Imam asking if there is a not-for-profit organization that could go to the mosques and islamic centers in usa to lecture on this problem, I even suggested that I would start one. This problem hurts me so and from the responses of American muslims it hurts them too as well as muslims from the East. We are muslims before we are anything else, our Islamic family comes first, before anything. I love Allah(swt), and would die for my faith at a second notice, this behavior is haram, we must not let satan win this battle we must unite under Allah. If all muslims read the quran and did everything in it we not would be in this mess in usa as well as what's going on in the East. Wassalam
There are really some excellent points raised in this article. If we practiced what the holy Quran tells us, this article would not be neccessary.
I just wanted to say that the author of this piece hit it right on the nose, and really brought out the truth. I hope that this is a wake up call to most people.
I support fully what this article is representing from the Black community. It needed to be said. Masalaam A.
At the same time I think it's only fair to mention that the problem with Muslims is not just with immigrants and african americans. On many occasions I hear arabs suggesting that all indians are hindu and also consider pakistani and indians the same thing when they are different. Amoung muslim we also have the problem with class. Muslim with money and nice cars not associating with muslim who don't. In our Ummah there are many problems that we face.
I think the problem with race and class in the muslim community has gotten better. Many times I hear my friends comment that they have a lot of respect for African American muslims and that we do good things in this country for everyone..not just ourselves. I also am starting to see muslims from different ethnic groups associate with one another more often and even marrying. Next time you see a brother or sister you don't know, give them the greating. It can do a lot. Salaam =)
article. Racism is a huge problem within the
American ummah. I think a big part of this,
being a revert to Islam myself, is that reverts
are made to feel that they must adopt Arabic
names, start wearing imported clothing, start
eating on the floor, and do everything that
Arabs do on a daily basis. This "inferiority
complex" handed down to non-Arab Muslims
is very wrong and as non-Arab Muslims we
need to make sure that we do not confuse the
cultural elements of Arabia with the religious
elements of Islam, the faith. If we want to fix
this problem, I have a feeling that much of it
goes back to the way people were
indoctrinated in their homes and in their
learning institutions, etc. Also, it would be
good to see African-Americans leading the
integrated mosques [you know, the mosques
in the USA that are mixed, not just
African-American, or Pakistani, or Arab...which
are sadly the result of this very topic!] instead
of importing some Saudi shiekh to handle that
job. Maybe then so many black Muslims won't
be run off from the mosque due to the
overwhelming racist sentiment! But, if
anything, this really helps relations with black
and white Americans that revert. I've found
that I have more in common with
African-Americans than I do with the
immigrants, and even white American reverts
are looked at condescendingly, too!
I have been waiting a lomg time to hear someone address this issue as intelligently as presented in this article. I am Muslim, and African American, I have witnessed most of the paradoxes you cited among many Muslims, I live in the inner city and the majority of the corner stores that contribute to the ills of alcholism, and price gougeing of the poor are owned and operated by Muslims who won't recognize, or give me the greeting even when dressed in "Arab style Hijab" Sisters in the mall who are also in Hijab, who appear to be of middle eastern desent, will look at me and not return the greeting, this happens all too often, could this be hidden racism? I have just about given up on understanding why Muslims are not glad to find other Muslims, no matter where they come from, especially since 9/11. Allah (swt) has said not the take the non believer as close friends and companions, but it seems as though the Muslims are not seeking each other out as trusued friends. I hate to think so, but maybe we Native American Muslims are to trusting, and think that all those who identify themselves as Muslims are practicing the tennants of Islam, instead of just being Muslim by nationality, habit, or ethnicity.
Alhumdulillah, congratulations on exposing the
mainstream ignorance of the Ummah. Supon-Allah, it has been 1yr and 8 months since my conversion.
Inundated with covert racist statements by mostly
Arab muslims,I become very saddened. As I rushed
to enter the subway sandwich shop, some young man
asked me, "are you muslim ?" "Yes", I replied
With my black hijab and abaya. I then asked the
young man " are you muslim ?" I did not want to
assume because he looked of Arab descent." Yes",
he answered. The questions began, "do you read
the Quran, do you read it in arabic, do you make
salat." Before I was taken into questioning, I
appropriately responded, "As-salaam 'alaikam",
after all he began the conversation. No response
at all! There are many other incidences. Question,
why am I always aked by Arab sisters," is your
husband a muslim ?" Would I ask an Arab sister this, NO! I know when one wants to conversate and
when one wants to simply know if your GOOD enough
to be a muslim!
I WAS VERY DELIGHTED OF IMAM'S ARTICLE. WHEN IT COMES TO RACISM , YOU MAY FIND IT IN ISLAMIC COUNTRIS , EVEN MUSLIM COUNTRY WHERE ONE IS BORN. IT IS DUE TO LACK OF IMAN. IF WE LOOK AT EXAMPLE OF PROPHET MUHAMMED SAV AND HIS COMPANIONS.DUE TO THEIR FAITH AN IMAN MUHAJIRIN ANS ANSAR WERE BROUGHT TOGATHER. MUHAJIRIN LEFT MECCA TO MIGRATE MEDINAH WHERE ANSAR THEY SHARED THERE WEALTH WITH MUHAJIRIN WITHOUT ANY RACE OR COLOR.WHEN MUSLIMS COME TO PATTERN OF DEEN WHEN RASULULLAH SAV LEFT WE WILL RESOLVE ALL PROBLEMS. YES , BEING MUSLIM OR FAITH IN ONE ALLAH, WE MAY FACE DIFICULTIES. IT HAPPENED TO PEOPLE PRIOR TO US INCLUDUNG PROPHETS.MAKE OUR BELIEF STRONG AND HAVE FIRM YAQEEN IN ALLH AND PRACTICE SUNNAH OR WAY SHOWN BY RASULULAH SAV. SUCCECC LIES IN THAT.THI WORLD IS FOR SHORT TIME AND MAN LIVES FOR 60 OR 70 YEARS. REAL SUCCESS IS HEREAFTER WHICH IS JANNAH.
if u were already uneased about the way you were treated by immagrant muslim(occasionaly)from other countries then reading this article u sure would develope some sort of prejudice or ill feeling towards our immagrant brothers and sisters i think this article was informative but so negatively so that i couldnt derive any good from the article other than AMerican muslims needs to show the Immagrant muslims the ropes which doesnt really sit well with me cause you have all different types of muslims amrican at that who still do and act in the same such ways as the immagrant muslims so we all need to reach out to each other but we have many more things to work on as a community than this many more but thanks for letting me share but this is my opinion which everyone is entitled to. thanks
Alhamdulilah, I am very glad that Imam wrote this article. It is very sad to see in America that this ethnic group have their masjid and another group have their masjid this is due to the fact that pepople bring their culture into Islam. And it is very sad to see the muslim immigrants being proud to immitate the western culture. And what is more sickening is to see or hear talking about boyfriend girlfriend or some of these ethnic group who would rather give a white boy their daughter than to a black muslim.
Well thought of!
Please tell me how can we of help? I only see 1 or 2 African-American Muslims in my Mosque. Most of the African-Americans worship some where else.
race problem within the ummah in America.
As a revert myself a few years back, I quickly
learned that many of the mosques here were
no different than the Southern white male
dominated churches I grew up in. The racism
from the immigrant Arab population is very
evident. Thank God someone is finally
discussing it in print as so many other
American Muslims already know this truth. If
we can ever fix this race problem, inshallah,
we can work on the misogyny issues within
the ummah, too. Thank you Imam Ahmad for
writing this story.
Racial Politics In Muslim America. Our Brother has said and discussed a big problem I have seen in America from our brothers and sisters coming from the East. I wish this could be more addressed in the mosque and islamic centers across america. In the past, I would say to myself don't they know the call them "sand niggers". Don't they now how white america see them, boy are they lying to themselves. This issue is give more thougth on zawaj.com, the article is "Impossible women seeks impossible man" it take this thought pattern further when choosing a mate. All I can say is our religion is great because it is the only religion with principles of no color line, remember Islam is perfect muslim are not. Peace be with you brothers and sisters.
The Qur'an mentions the ones who sold the Ayahs for a few 'Bucks'.
May Allah guide us.
I think the main problems are mostly cultural and worsened by language barrier. Immigrants who really want to live in the US have more insecurity than indigenous Muslim. It's easy to understand, they jump into the wrong conclusion: by embracing the mainstream's way of life they will get the acceptance they need badly.
However, it's really sad if discrimination is rampant within different US Muslim communities, as Islam forbids such disgusting practice!