Double Jeopardy for African American Muslims

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: United States Of America Views: 8014

Nearly a third of Muslims in the United States are Black. However, "Islam-phobia" - negative images and buzz words that produce stereotyping, physical and verbal attacks, and racial profiling of Muslims of color, including Muslims of African descent - has exploded in this country since the events of September 11, 2001.

"September 11 only heightened the misconceptions about Islam," Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid pointed out. "Islam-phobia has risen in the post-September 11 era among certain populations in the United States." 

Walid and four other Black Muslims spoke to Black journalists on media perceptions and misperceptions on Islam during the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention in Indianapolis on August 17.

Walid offered as an example a recent incident that occurred during a flight scare that CNN and others reported, which supposedly involved a Muslim woman. "The lady was not a Muslim but a 59-year-old Caucasian... [She] had no matches or Vaseline or letters written in Arabic," he said. "When you mention the word 'terrorists,' the first thing that comes to mind will be Muslim."

The panelists were especially critical of the mainstream media.

Walid points out that the "real face" of Islam is obscured by the hate speak used by the Bush administration and is used as a polarizing tool "that plays itself in the media," he said, calling U.S. President George Bush "a divisive president."

University of California, Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg recently wrote in a Los Angeles Times commentary that the phrase "Islamo-fascism" has been around for more than 15 years, but after September 11 it is now used "to justify a broad-based military campaign against Islamic governments and groups hostile to the West." 

"A tool of war is words," claimed Imam Michael Saahir of Indianapolis' Nur-Allah (Light of God) Islamic Center. 

Islam is a religion and a way of life, not a political ideology, the panelists asserted. Islam isn't about war, violence or invading countries but instead is "a fair and balanced system of life," Brenda Shaheed, vice-president of enrollment management for Indianapolis-based Martin University, pointed out. "We often get a one-sided and distorted view of Islam. There has to be another side presented."

However, the Black media shouldn't shoulder this responsibility alone, said Saahir, who also writes for the Indianapolis Recorder, the city's weekly Black newspaper.

Suhailah Siddeeq Brehane, a stay-at-home mother from Atlanta who has been a Muslim all her life, adds she is disturbed with the media's negative portrayal of her and her fellow Black Muslims. "It is hurting all of us," she said sadly.

The role of women in Islam also is misrepresented, continued Shaheed, who has been married to a Muslim for 36 years. Muslim women can choose their husbands, earn a living, and are equal partners in marriages, she insisted. "I have been Muslim for 30 years. I'm American and dress modestly as an African American Muslim woman." 

There is no standard of dress: Islamic apparel varies from country to country, said Imam Faheem Shuaibe of Oakland, California's Masjid Waritheen, who moderated the panel. 

Furthermore, all Muslims, especially Blacks, don't look alike, maintained Shaheed. "We have been forced with this [image] all the time." 

Walid also asked the media to expand its coverage beyond "the stories on Ramadan written every year. We can comment on more than just the war on terror or being harassed. The new center on the Detroit Pistons is a Muslim. Every single concern that concerns every other American, we have an opinion [as well]." 

Muslims must also speak up whenever negative images are presented by the media, Walid noted. His organization once met with Detroit newspapers to voice their concerns. "We want our needs to be addressed as any other group in a respectable way," he added.

Since September 11, more people have sought to learn more about Islam, Walid noted, but overall Americans still have a negative perception of the religion. "A latest Gallop poll [said] that 41 percent of Americans have a negative view about Islam," he mentioned.

According to Walid, "Islam still is the nation's fastest growing religion. Americans, including Caucasians and Latinos, are converting to Islam."

Walid believes that a change in the White House might help to eliminate negative perceptions on Islam. "I think that if there was a different administration [with] a different language about the Muslim community and had a different foreign policy and a domestic agenda, and a different agenda on the so-called war on terror, I think Islam-phobia would decrease."

Charles Hallman writes for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He welcomes reader responses to [email protected]

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: United States Of America
Views: 8014

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Older Comments:
I am for this article, but I must say it is written poorly. Please, when writing about such matters, make sure the articles are written well. If an educated non-Muslim were to read this, they would be disappointed at the level of coverage on such a sensitive topic.

It is really funny to me how not too long ago, president George 'Walker Texas Ranger' Bush proclaimed that, "Islam is peace".

And now, he's throwing around the term, "Islamic fascism. Along with so many other morons in the "Bush Administration". It really only proves that either he is a hypocrite, or he has absolutely no understanding or comprehension of what the heck he is talking about. I'd say it's both.

People don't want to learn, they want to remain ignorant. People fear what they don't understand, it's natural. And as long as the media keeps spoon feeding them, they'll believe what they want to believe, unless people like us (the Muslims ourselves) educated them.

We can't leave education and understanding about Islam in the hands of, and at the mercy of, these twisted news broadcasters. Certainly there are some good ones, but I'm speaking about those who intentionally spread lies to brainwash people into hating Muslims (and other groups of people) for their own agendas. It is US, and only US who need to educate ourselves, so that we can educate others about this beautiful and sacred way of life. We can't rely on "them".

They do the same thing with (us) blacks. Every night on the news, who do they show stealing, or killing, or shooting? A black person. Nobody wants to know/hear about the psycho white guy who killed his whole family. No, we want to see black people on television being criminals.

God bless all of you, and God HELP America. Please, HELP us.

It is indeed unfortunate that President Bush chose a blanket and a very negative term of so-called "Islamic Fascism". It only served to indicate his propensities (or his administration's) to use such term oblivious to the sensitivities of muslims worldwide. It also re-inforces the suspicion and negative feelings of ordinary americans towards muslims. By declaring "Islamic Fascism" has wrongly institutionalised the anti-muslim feelings.

No muslim leader has use the term "christian fascism" when the serbs carried out the so-called "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia nor "jewish fascism" is used when israeli army destroyed in massive scale civilian infrastructures and killing hundreds of civilian (mainly children) in Lebanon just to take revenge for the kidnapping of two soldiers by the Hisbollah.

Those groups who indulged in wanton destructions can not represent all muslims. They have their own agenda. Therefor the term "Islamic fascism" is a misnomer, misleading, malicious and misused.

Yes the unfortunate jeopardy exist. Our duty is to educate people what is the truth. Even during the times of Prophet Muhammed SAWS PBUH used to downgrade him (SAWS). People here understand very well and more open minded. You have a diamond with you and you need to aquire those qualities to preserve it or else the lustre will go away. May Allah guide us and forgive our sins and make us more and more humble and lead a life with the footprints of Prophet Muhammed SAWS aameen.

Assalamu alaikum:
I have complete agreement with this article. As a Muslim american expatriate, When I enter the US (I still work here) I can see the effects and the glares that people give me when I wear a head scarf. Before 9/11 this was not so apparent. I encourage all who vote this year in the US to vote against the Republican regime, we Must knock these neocon imperialists from power. Anyone else is the lesser of the evils! Do you want to go on being hated by the world? I moved to Mexico and am treated better here, Inshallah you will take this to heart. Good article, and very timely!

SAAD FROM U.S.A. said:
Bisillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim.

I agree with the statement in the article made by CAIR's Dawud Walid that the Bush administration is greatly increasing this "Islam-phobia" in the U.S. by using "buzz-words" and making it appear to the general citizenry that Islam is terror and vice-versa.

The term being used lately by Pres. Bush and others in the administration, such as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, has been "Islamic-fascism." As a Muslim, this term greatly aggrevates and hurts me because it indirectly paints Islam itself in a negative light, based solely on the acts of a very small minority. I hope that the use of this term as a means to justify this administration's actions and possible future actions will stop and that, as the article states, the true ideals and notion of Islam are also protrayed to the American public.

After all, can it not be argued that Judeo-Christian "fascism" let to the illegal establishment of Israel in Palestine and that such "fascism" is still being supported by the West, which is sadly having negative repercussions on our Muslim Ummah. InshAllah, justice will indeed be served for our Ummah.



there is alots of truth in this article but still the title "Double Jeopardy for African American Muslims" is too far to be true. from my experience, I did not see racial profiling in today's America worst than what can happen to you if you are a moslem with middleeast look.

Islam in general, prohibit for us to make any difference between moslems according to their color or race. then if we consider ourselves true moslems, we should speak about what bother The Nation of Islam. moslems may practice Islam wrong but Islam is not responsible if we choose to practice it wrong.

unlike the American culture, who is based on white and black, Islam is based on right or wrong. as long as you are a moslem and you are under attack in this culture, the moslems arround the world stand in your side to get your right as a moslem and not as a colored moslem.