Important radio discussion this Saturday on intra-Muslim racism

Arab American Association of New York Director Linda Sarsour and I are scheduled to be 900 AM WURD in Philadelphia this Saturday from 5pm to 6pm Eastern to discuss the issue of the usage of the slur “abeed” and the broader issue of intra-Muslim racism and tribalism.

Islam Today Radio Show is hosted weekly by University of Pennsylvania Chaplain Kameelah Rashad.

The show may be listened to live-streaming at  Callers may join the conversation at (866) 361-0900 or (215) 634-8065.

New medical pot legislation for Michigan problematic

Nov 26, 2013, 3:30 pm

New medical pot legislation for Michigan problematic

House Judiciary Committee Chair Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, states that he’s making medical pot his top priority for next month given the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent rulings against it. Though I believe Cotter has noble intentions, attempting to legislate pot into pharmacies from a state perspective, as House Bill 4271 is highly problematic.

Marijuana is a scheduled I controlled substance and is illegal for usage according to the federal government. Moreover, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which approves the safety of all drugs to be sold over the counter and in pharmacies states that “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

Pharmacies are obligated to adhere to federal law. Not abiding by federal regulations could result in pharmacies having their licenses revoked and criminal charges for the owners. Although the Obama administration has taken a kind of hands-off approach in his second term to medical pot, such legislation from Michigan could be challenged in federal court based upon the discretion of the next U.S. Attorney General.

The federal government has supremacy over states in such issues.

I’m not opposed to medical marijuana if it is approved, regularly tested for quality like other drugs, sold by approved pharmacies and taxed like other prescriptions. What I’m not in favor of are piecemeal approaches that are on constitutionally shaky ground. Medical marijuana needs a federal solution like immigration reform, not what Cotter is putting forward.

Moving past addressing ‘abeed’ on social media to grassroots actions

My post from yesterday “Responses to my calling out the term ‘abeed'” is making its way around social media.  I’m grateful that many Arab-Americans are circulating it, taking ownership that there is a problem of anti-black racism in the community and are speaking out against it on social media.  This is a positive development no doubt.

Beyond that, what I’d like to see is this issue being addressed on the street level.  Social media activism is great, but there must be discussions and actions in person.  We are not social beings, who just live behind computer screens and smart phones.

Of course, the usage of “abeed” is also perpetrated by Arab Christians and should be addressed by their preachers too as well as the disease of racism.  My primary concern, however, is that the issue of racism be discussed more from the minbar in a more forward way and regularly by Islamic leaders.  I don’t mean simply quoting ayaat and ahadeeth about racial equality and superficially invoking the names of Bilal (RA) and Malcolm X (RH).  I’m speaking of addressing the issue of active racism and tribalism from racial slurs and denying children marriage because of race to more passive forms like how fellow Muslims are ignored or made to feel unwelcomed in certain spaces including masaajid.  To this date, the only non-Black American Muslim leader that I’ve ever heard address this in person with depth in 2 decades is Sayyid Hassan Al-Qazwini, a 12ver imam from Dearborn.  I know that a few others such as Shaykh Omar Suleiman have addressed this issue as well in depth.

I believe many of the preachers themselves have their own racial biases, which is one reason why this topic has been rarely addressed.  Others don’t see it as a problem because of their own ethnic privilege.  As I was told by one shaykh, racism is not a problem in the American Muslim community because he doesn’t see it.  That sounds like many White Americans, who say racial profiling is not a real problem in America because they have never seen racially profiled by law enforcement.  I believe that this privileged mentality needs to be addressed too at main sessions of Islamic conferences and seminars such as ISNA, ICNA/MAS, Al-Maghrib Institute, etc.

Outside of religious institutions, the discussions also need to take place in other spaces, which include MSA’s, Arab Student Unions and secular community organizations.  Again, we need to have a series of in-person discussions in order to get different points of views, so that we can facilitate the healing process in our communities and build power for better collaborations. 

Outside of these, no one needs approval or permission from an institution to start these conversations in a locality.  Some institutions will in fact resist.  The onus is upon each person who is aware of the problem.  Let’s get to work, and deal with this.

Responses to my calling out the term ‘abeed’

Two months ago, I wrote an oped titled “Fellow humans are not abeed” for the Arab American News to address the usage of the term abeed, meaning slaves, used by many Arabs to describe black people.  After receiving some positive feedback from some of my Arab-American friends, primarily in Metro Detroit, I decided to search Twitter for the usage of this term in varying transliterations (abeed, 3abeed, 3beed, 3bid, 3abid & 3abed).  What I found was very casual usage of the term, almost exclusively from teenagers and young adults, who are Arab-Americans and appear to have been raised in the USA.

image (1)bullying

I decided at this point to not comment directly to those tweeps, but to merely tweet my article at them with the hopes that they read it and stop calling black people slaves.  What I’ve experienced from doing this as well as later engaging some of these tweeps in the past two months continue to be four things.

The first is that some simply have­­­­­­­­­­ not responded to the article when I sent it to them.  Some continue to tweet in which I have not seen them tweet abeed again.  Others have continued to use the slur.

The second response is that some have actually apologized for using the term.  Of those, some of them also said that they didn’t know abeed meant slaves.  They said that their families simple refer to all blacks as abeed.  This is a deeper structural issue of racism among Arabs, primarily in the Levant, which I plan on writing about later.

The third response is that of defending the usage of the term abeed that we are all abeedullah (slaves of Allah), and that I should stop being so touchy.  Of course, this is insincere because they don’t really view blacks as the best worshippers, nor do they call other Arabs with light skin including their own family abeed.  Calling anyone slave is haram (forbidden) anyway according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

The last of the responses has been horrendous, which involve cussing me out to calling me a slave.

image (3)abeed

Some Arab-Americans who joined me in calling out the usage of abeed themselves have even been attacked.  One tactic of shame used is calling someone “abeed lover” like how white supremacists say “nigger lover.”

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An Arab American colleague of mine is in the planning stages of starting a national campaign to address not just this nomenclature issue, but the broader issue of anti-black racism among Arabs.  Keep in mind that there are Arabs who have dark skin that would be considered black in the USA if looked upon strictly by physical characteristics.

In the interim, an Arab American friend of mine in Michigan has started the twitter account Arab AntiBlack Racism to call out anti-black racism among Arabs and to challenge fellow Arabs on Twitter not to be passive observers when seeing slurs hurled against blacks.

This issue is a race of the tortoise not the hare.  There are deep roots of tribalism and colorism in the Arab world, which pre-date colonialism, were encouraged during colonialism and further solidified within many Arab Americans based upon America’s racial hierarchy.

I also keenly realize that if Muslims sincerely strive to effectively challenge Islamopobia, there needs to be a simultaneous effort to combat ethnic bigotry among Muslims.  The Creator helps those who have spiritual integrity and authenticity.  It’s not authentic to talk about Islamophobia and Arabophobia while being silent on its cancer-like manifestations among Muslims and Arabs.  Also, this is not simply Arab on black racism that Muslims need to face.  There is Somali on “Bantu” racism, black on white bigotry among some in Islamic centers, colorism between Pakistanis and Bengalis, etc.

Given, however, that the most overt discrimination that I see on Twitter is Arab on black racism and my personal interests as a black man, who has felt my share of anti-black racism in the heart of Arab America, Metro Detroit, I’m obliged to deal with this most entrenched form that I see.  This is in no way an indictment on all Arab Americans.  I do know, however, that this issue has been dealt with too passively for many years.  Problems don’t fix themselves on their own as proof of the racism exhibited by those born and raised in the USA. I hope that my challenging it will push more Arab Americans to take more aggressive stands against anti-black racism.