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.