Friday’s khutbah was given at the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing in East Lansing, Michgan.
MAR 26, 2014, 12:00 PM
Dawud Walid: Time to act on President Carter’s NSA fears
America has perhaps hit an all-time low for its citizens pertaining to intrusive surveillance and lack of privacy from the federal government.
A sad commentary of this was shown Sunday on “Meet the Press” in an interview with Andrea Mitchell and former President Jimmy Carter. Carter stated that our intelligence services are abusing their authorities. Other former and current elected officials have said the same. This is not a shocking statement.
What is shocking, however, is that Carter stated that he sends snail mail abroad to his foreign contacts out of fear that he’s under surveillance. Within this context, he voiced concerns about National Security Agency (NSA) potentially spying on him, “Because I believe if I send an email it will be monitored.” That a former Commander in Chief believes that the Obama administration is monitoring his communications sounds like something out of the Soviet Union.
Even former presidents don’t feel safe. No wonder Carter said last July that “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.”
Adding on to this, Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg recently voiced his concerns about the NSA using fake Facebook websites to not only intercept social media traffic but also to infect users’ computers with bugs to monitor their activities. We’re in an Orwellian era in which everyone from former presidents, corporate leaders, journalists, human rights activists to college student groups need data encryption to protect themselves, not from online mafia and pirates but from the United States federal government.
Congress must restore the U.S. Constitution by placing restrictions on the executive branch’s ability to monitor citizens and legal residents, without probable cause, in the name of national security. Hopefully, the Amash-Conyers Amendment, a bill aimed at curtailing bulk phone record collection by the NSA, which failed to pass last year by only 15 votes, can be reintroduced.
If we don’t want Big Brother snooping on our personal conversations and infecting our laptops with spyware in the meantime, I guess we all need data encryption or to send our communications via snail mail.
Black Muslims took to Twitter last month in light of Black History Month, which is celebrated in February in North America. The Muslim Anti-Racist Collaborative (MuslimARC), a collaborative of diverse Muslims dedicated to combatting anti-Black racism, discrimination and exclusion within the Muslim community, launched a Twitter campaign that has opened the door to discussing anti-black racism within the Muslim community.
In an interview over email correspondence, Margari Hill, a member of MuslimARC, said that discussions began in 2013 about creating a Twitter campaign that would shed a spotlight on Black experience within the Muslim community. The call out was sent out in the second week of the month, notifying Black Muslims to participate in the live twitter conversations#BeingBlackandMuslim, #UmmahAntiBlackness, and #BlackMuslimFuture.
The #BeingBlackandMuslim campaign has situated Black Muslims as the drivers and leaders of the discussion that proceeded and was covered on Al Jazeera’s “The Stream.” One of the main events that prompted the creation of the Twitter campaign was CAIR- Michigan’s Executive Director Dawud Walid’s article entitled “Responses to my calling out the term ‘abeed’,” which denounced the use of the word, which means “slave” and has been used by both Christian and Muslim Arabs for Black people. As Margari told me in our email correspondence,
“Dawud Walid began to address the frequent use of the the Arabic slur word ab**d among Muslim and Christian Arabs. Several members of MuslimARC’s original core supported his Twitter campaign, and we were all shocked to see numerous Muslims who professed faith be so casually racist. Dawud Walid’s article on how individuals responded to his campaign went viral.”
Some key tweets from the #BeingBlackandMuslim conversation:
Non-Black Muslims also encouraged others to not derail the conversation and to allow Muslims who experience anti-black racism to voice their stories of both struggle and empowerment.
Some Muslims engaged in the conversation with the notion that “We are all Muslim,” yet they were quickly met with responses that explained the particular and very real experience of marginalized Black voices in predominately South Asian and Arab Muslim communities.
“For Muslims to be engaging in anti-black racism is unacceptable given the main thread that connects us: a religion that is explicitly against racism,” says Namira Islam, another member of MuslimARC, about the importance of centering conversations about anti-blackness in the ummah.
Margari further explains,
“Muslims are long overdue for an internal conversation; we need to have a family meeting about this taboo topic. Stereotypes and discrimination have shaped the ways that we interact on a communal level. We are supposed to pretend that we are on a unified front in face of the onslaught of Islamophobia, but it is clear that there are fissures.”
I participated in the first conversation and was energized by joining in with other Black Muslims who have experienced marginalization and racism within the broader Muslim community. I had wanted to include and open a space for folks were identify as queer and Muslim, so I tweeted:
There is always the need to ensure that we are not silencing the stories and experiences of others in our attempts to make pathways to our liberation. The added measure of being queer, along with a Black Muslim identity, contributes to further marginalization, isolation that needs to be addressed Although the tweet didn’t go far into discussions of queer experience, scholars, artists, students who identified both as Muslim and queer had an opportunity recognize and acknowledge each other and have side conversations on the struggle of resisting on multiple fronts beyond our race and faith.
Through using the social media platform, Namira and Margari and the folks at MuslimARC are sparking an international dialogue that could potentially inspire and influence a change in the relational dynamics between non-Black and Black Muslims.
“Islamophobia is external, and antiblack racism is internal. At the end of the day, they’re two separate issues […] it’s important to take care of our intrafamily issues.”
Within the past month, there have been two situations that have captured the attention of American Muslims regarding issues relating to imams. As we put a lot of trust in religious leaders, we should also understand that imams are fallible persons, and that we should not blindly follow or put all of our hopes in them. We, however, must hold them accountable when they actively misuse their positions and/or articulate positions, including on social media, which are clear violations of Islam.
A Bosnian imam in Iowa named Nermin Saphic was recently acquitted of sexually abusing a teenager during a healing ceremony. Though he was cleared of criminal behavior according to the laws of Iowa, Nermin did state that he rubbed oil on her body including her chest while she was naked in her bedroom. There is simply no need for a “jinn exorcism” using oils to rub a sister down on her chest.
I’ve seen zero proof for such a practice in the Qur’an and authentic sunnah, and I suggest to sisters, especially in the Bosnian community, to not let this or any other imam attempt to take away your issues or problems through naked jinn rubdowns. In fact, I’ve never heard of such in my life.
The other issue is the controversy surrounding British preacher Abu Easa, who teaches for Al-Maghrib Institute. Brother Omid Safi basically summed up my thoughts on the issue, so there’s no need for me to filibuster about the misogynist and racially insensitive statements and “jokes” of Abu Easa on Facebook. Read Abu Easa’s “apology.”
The larger issue at hand is that we have a structural problem in the American Muslim community where women are being demeaned and marginalized. I continue to say that the three biggest internal challenges facing Muslims in the U.S.A. are misogyny, racism and sectarianism. These all must be confronted in systematic forms among us if we’re going to prosper and not push more people out of our community.
The good news is that through alternative media, these issues are being given platforms, for such has been swept underneath the rug for decades by Muslim organizations and Islamic centers.
As we need reform in our community which requires discussion, planning and long term organizing, I hope that we are able to have candor while remembering the prophetic principles of tenderness (rifq) and pardoning (‘awf) in the process. Our mission is to eradicate unhealthy behaviors and dismantle structures of oppression, not seeing fellow Muslims as enemies and irredeemable people.