Racism, bigotry upon Arabs & Muslims

The following talk was given at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge in Dearborn on 2/13/10.

Discussion on racism and bigotry against Arabs and Muslims, what to do about it, and recognizing internal bigotry among Muslims.

Click here to listen.


Affirmative Action Is Going Down & So Is Black America Unless…

The US Supreme Court today ruled that White firemen were unreasonable denied promotions in New Haven, CT when tests were set aside for promotions because they adversely excluded Blacks due to their generally lower test scores. 

Today’s ruling was another strike against decades of affirmative action in America.  This, however, is not a surprise at all to me for a couple of reasons.

For one, it was to be expected as of November 5, 2008 when America elected its first Black president that affirmative action would become a questionable issue to many Americans, especially to those who had a propensity to lean towards affirmative action being “reverse discrimination” or “reverse racism”.  Now that there is a Black president (though he is not from the offspring of slaves), everything is equal now has become the mantra from the “Right.”  Even those on the “Left” who made silly proclamations on election night that “Dr. King’s dream has been realized” feed into this non-sense.

The reality is racism in America is real though less overt towards Blacks (Arabs are checking it more these days).  Racism is institutionalized in America though nothing like it was a century ago.  For instance, White abuse drugs at similar rates as Blacks in America, yet Blacks make up 50% of the 2 million people in person.  This is an obvious sentencing issue since Blacks only make up 12% of the population.  School expulsion rates are disproportionate, exploitation through usury occurs at much higher rates, and other forms of more subtle discrimination are still the order of the day in America.

On the other hand, much of what Black America suffers today is self induced in which affirmative action and even reparations can not fix.  Black out of wedlock births were significantly lower in 1959 than now.  It’s hard to fathom a group of people succeeding socially and economically when 70% of its children are born into single parent homes in which a large percentage of the mothers are under-educated.  Since Black male role models in too many homes are MIA, too many Black children look to rappers like Lil’ Wayne to athletes like football star Terrell Owens, who live flashy, dysfunctional lifestyles as role models.

Blacks are the biggest consumers with the least amount of capital in America.  Prior to desegregation (never has been true integration), Blacks had vibrant business districts and owned significantly more farms.  No one is stopping Blacks from cultivating Black business cooperation like Arabs, Jews and Koreans have in America.  The psychological chains of slavery that grip Black America and are stronger than chains made of iron are the greater issue.

I’ll share some thoughts tomorrow, G-d willing, on the role of Muslims in the Black community on how we need to step up to the plate with others in offering a solution and going back to the old school so to speak in solving these issues.

Meeting with Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

Last night at the time for breaking fast, I had the pleasure of having a very interesting discussion with Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, along with some of his students and a few Arab-American Muslim leaders.

SEE info on Ambassador Ahmed: http://www.akbarahmed.org/id1.html

Ambassador Ahmed is currently in Detroit filming documentary material on American Muslims and how they are perceived in society.  He and his crew’s first stop was in St. Louis before reaching Detroit.  Last night, he interviewed Sayyid Hassan Al-Qazwini, Imam of the Islamic Center of America, which is America’s largest mosque.

SEE: http://journeyintoamerica.wordpress.com/

One very interesting piece of information that was relayed last night were the comments that the students heard and filmed in the inner city of Detroit relating to perceptions of Muslims.  They stated that Detroiters, especially African-Americans, had very negative perceptions about Arab Muslims especially as it relates to how they conduct business in their gas stations.  Some of them even stated that they wished they would go back to where they came from.

Obviously, the dreadful economic condition and the sense of hopelessness in Detroit should be taken into account with these comments as well as some high profile incidents in recent years of Arab-American gas station workers killing unarmed Black patrons.  Less than two weeks ago, a young Yemeni was beaten to death by a group of Black youth in Southwest Detroit outside of a gas station.

The information that I heard last night only solidifies a conclusion that I made years ago that in the Black community, there is a distinction made between African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims, especially Arabs.  Whereas African-American Muslims, especially those who were either in the Nation of Islam or evolved from that movement, have been traditionally viewed as more socio-politically progressive and a source of positive male role models for Black youth, Arabs are generally viewed as exploiters of the Black community, as Jewish people were once viewed in the “hood.”  Actually, one of the students even stated that one African-American said that “the Arabs are even worse.”

Of course, the majority of Arab-Americans do not own stores in urban areas, nor are all of their merchants hostile towards Blacks just as the majority of Jewish merchants, who used to do business in the Black community were not hostile towards Blacks. 

The video of the Detroit interviews should be on Journey Into America blog in a day or two.  I highly suggest taking a look at it.

African American Muslims refute the clash of civilisations


African American Muslims refute the clash of civilisations
by Dawud Walid
17 June 2008

Southfield, Michigan – Serving as a point of departure from the so-called “clash of civilisations”, African American Muslims counter the claim that hostility is inevitable between Westerners and Muslims. Having barely any historical connections to outside modern nation states, African American Muslims have been entirely formed by the American experience; indeed, their “American-ness” is beyond challenge. And yet they are completely Muslim.

African American Muslims have roots in America that are four centuries old. They provide the larger Muslim American community with a unique connection to the West that is generally lacking in European Muslim communities. This connectivity offers a supportive narrative to all Muslims in America, and provides the African American community with an active role in bridging the gap between the West and the Muslim world.

Unlike Muslims that have migrated to Europe, Muslim Americans form a substantial indigenous demographic. This population, which is overwhelmingly African American, has an irrefutable connection with America. While the institution of slavery sought to erase religions, languages and cultural practices, African American Muslim heritage has been preserved through its historic contribution to freedom, justice and equality.

The role that African Americans have forged for themselves has benefited all Americans and in fact the entire globe. Their struggles, notably during the Civil Rights movement, paved the way for a practice of Islam in America that is not found in other Western nations and even in some Muslim majority nations. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave Muslims the right to attend Friday prayer services and gave women the right to wear the headscarf at their places of employment and schools.

The Civil Rights Act does not allow an employer the right “to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin.” (Section 703.(a).(2))

The same movement further challenged America to address the social ills of white supremacy and opened the door for the Immigration Act of 1965, which had the residual effect of greatly increasing the number of Muslims in America from South Asia.

The American Muslim community has benefited from the majority of its members belonging to the African American community, a group that embodies America’s consciousness regarding civil and human rights. The increased recognition of the importance of this demographic within the American Muslim community may be recent, yet its value has long preceded the realisation.

From America’s first Muslim judge and Detroit’s first Muslim Deputy Mayor, Adam Shakoor, to America’s first two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Andre Carson (D-IN), Muslims domestically and internationally have been empowered by pioneering African Americans. The tangible benefits, such as introducing domestic legislation that takes into account Muslim concerns and voting with greater understanding than the average American congressman on issues relating to the Muslim world, are obvious.

The greater reward to Muslims, therefore, is that of hope.

If these Muslims have overcome the experience of marginalisation to hold elected offices in America, then perhaps all American Muslims have the same potential. Muslims in Africa, Asia and Europe can hold strong to the idea that if Muslim descendants of American slaves can be respected in broader American society, then perhaps America can undergo a healthy reform in its foreign policy and assess the Muslim world with a more balanced eye.

The Jeffersonian idea that “all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, has an exceptionally strong following among African American Muslims. With this rich history and historical legitimacy as Americans, African American Muslims will continue to be a vital ingredient in cultivating a better life for Muslims throughout America and will continue to serve as a spiritual link between America and the Muslim world.


* Dawud Walid is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan (CAIR-MI) and Assistant Imam of Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan.