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5 Political Reasons Why Non-Black Muslims Must Challenge the Racism In Their Communities

In 1960s United States, the biggest opponents to Israel and Western-backed Arab dictators were black liberation activists. They quickly learnt that if they were to be free from White Supremacy, they must oppose it in all its forms. Their political support for Palestine is the main reason why Zionists opposed the Black Civil Rights movement.

In 1960s United States, the biggest opponents to Israel and Western-backed Arab dictators were black liberation activists. They quickly learnt that if they were to be free from White Supremacy, they must oppose it in all its forms. Their political support for Palestine is the main reason why Zionists opposed the Black Civil Rights movement.

As Muslims, we are already asserting for the moral and religious reasons illustrating why we need to deal with anti-Black racism within our Muslim communities. The entire weight of our religion and history makes it a moral and spiritual obligation for us to cleanse ourselves from this disease. This should be enough, but so far, it hasn’t been.

If we do not push for this internal reform, there are real political realities we will have to face. Here are 5 of them:

1. Not Fighting for the Oppressed Puts Us All in Danger

Tyrants and oppressors often use an underclass to justify their exploitation. Scapegoating becomes a typical and powerful tool to deflect accountability and enable corruption. 

Take the Windrush scandal for example. Dozens of Black British citizens were uprooted from their home and deported, never to return. This is despite being born in the UK after their forefathers were granted citizenship by the UK state decades ago. The government records of citizenship suddenly vanished. They were made stateless overnight, with no human or civil rights to speak of. 

This is now an acute threat that lingers over EU citizens who have settled in a post-Brexit UK. But in reality, it is a threat to all of us. The Tory crusade to make citizenship a privilege and no longer a fundamental right affirms that. You’d think you’d see a lot more outrage among non-Black communities then, right?

The recent Home Office response, headed by Priti Patel, speaks volumes. After some public outrage and even a legal instruction from UK courts to not deport, the UK government deported them anyway. 

They stated that those deported are criminals who no longer has a place in this country. An anti-Black trope in itself, but effective in the court of public opinion. Deep down, so many buy into anti-Black narratives of being more prone to criminality. Not just in the heads of British whites, but also in many British South Asians and Arabs. But who do you think comes next? 

The same applies when it comes to anti-Black racism in the US. The brutalisation and widespread discrimination of Black Americans justifies the relative exploitation of the rest of the population. Scapegoating robs the underclass of empathy.

We all have a role to play. Hard campaigning tactics, such as protests, firm moral demands and spectacles can create shocks of hope in a society that has resigned to the status quo and can give soft campaigners more leverage to push for greater change inside those structures themselves. 

Fighting for their equality is inherently fighting for ourselves. But like other divisive narratives, anti-black narratives make us feel separate, keeping us blind to that reality, and gives leverage to those who profit from the exploitation of us all.  

2. Our Ability to Fight Islamophobia is Stunted

The other major reason why non-black Muslims do not defend black (and other oppressed) people, is because, across the board, our political education is severely lacking. 

Our lack of understanding of how the structures of discrimination work means we don’t understand racism as an organised social structure and its forms. Instead, we absorb a reduced notion that racism can simply be just racial name-calling – making us so fixated on the symptoms that we never see the structural causes that make those symptoms every day, everywhere and always present. 

This also means we are just as poor in our ability to defend ourselves against structural Islamophobia. Because it is the same discriminatory structures that are targeting us too. 

They use the same tactics as well, but our inability as a community to learn those tactics of racism in the previous decades means we were wholly ill-equipped to deal with Islamophobia from 2001 onwards. Even to the point where half of the last 20 years we were in denial that structural Islamophobia is a priority for us at all. 

Not confronting the anti-Black attitudes in Muslim communities certainly stunted our capacity to learn, because to begin that learning would mean giving up those narratives of anti-Black racism. And by and large, we haven’t.  

I’ve broken bread with Muslim activists who say we need focus on our freedom from Islamophobia first and then push for reform internally afterwards. My reply has always been that a lack of reform greatly stops us succeeding in our fight against Islamophobia. The divisions significantly hamstrings us.

It’s also about changing our cultural norm that sustains prejudices, causing other forms of divisions too. 

The Gujrati-dominated Muslim community in Blackburn didn’t blink an eye when its MP, Jack Straw, blamed Pakistanis on grooming gangs. Because they saw it wasn’t about them. It was about Pakistanis, even though it’s clear he meant Muslims and the impacts of increased Islamophobia affected us all. The same was true when Straw made anti-Niqab comments because they saw it as an attack on Salafis. Not Hanafis. 

A recent report by the Black Muslim Forum shows how unwelcome our black brothers and sisters are in mosques and university Islamic Societies. South Asians, especially, create divisions of “Pakistani”, “Gujrati” or “Sri-Lankan” mosques, but then chastise Black Muslims for creating “division and fitna” who form to their own spaces because of our racism. 

Subconsciously, White Supremacy has superseded the Deen of Allah and our nafs is stopping us confronting it. If we don’t heal these divisions, we won’t have a chance in dealing with Islamophobia.

3. Continued Subjugation by White Supremacy

With de-colonial political education, you begin to see the bigger picture of the wider fight at hand. Ever since European colonialism started 10 centuries ago, the exploitative nature of European self-supremacy became the dominant global theme with their expansion. Black people, Muslims, Jews, women, and basically anyone who didn’t fit the Western European male ideal, were treated as inferior and subjugated in their reach. 

The development of more sophisticated “White is right” through empire, inherently caused its polar opposite, black inferiority, whereby everyone else is placed on a spectrum. Colonial systems regimented those identities via their structures. By doing so, regimenting a global structure and culture of privilege and those of increasing privilege made to hate those with less, even though the ones at the top of the pyramid hated us all.

Today, this ideological residue is still present in people of colour, in effect carrying political white minds inside their brown skins. 

Psychologically, these narratives make it likely to induce more conformity to structures of White Supremacy than opposition, even if we dislike them. And those who do like them, end up being Uncle Toms who work against all Muslims, as they do against our Black citizens.

Even if we get our act together when it comes to structural Islamophobia, it is just one tentacle of an entire octopus called White Supremacy. Even if Islamophobia is no longer a problem, we may be instruments of oppression against our own brothers and sisters if we still harbour racist narratives about them. As the likes of Trevor Phillips does with us. 

Hence, to only demand freedom and equality from Islamophobia is self-defeating and not in line with Islam.  

4. Deters Coalition Building for Other Muslim Causes

Recently, you might have seen some Muslims publicly express outrage or dismay that #BlackLivesMatter is getting more attention than say causes like Kashmir, Palestine or the Rohingya.  

But the problem isn’t a moral one as they are framing it. It is a practical one. They are just a lot more organised than those who profess to support these other Muslim causes. And the reasons we are less organised is partly explained by the above three points. In the lack of political clarity, default colonial narratives pacify us. 

What Muslim activists should be doing is trying to build coalitions with various communities or campaign groups. In doing so, creating greater campaigning power for the broad range of Muslim issues caused by the legacy of White Supremacy, but it means when help is needed, we need to be present. 

In 1960s United States, the biggest opponents to Israel and Western-backed Arab dictators were black liberation activists. They quickly learnt that if they were to be free from White Supremacy, they must oppose it in all its forms. Their political support for Palestine is the main reason why Zionists opposed the Black Civil Rights movement. The Black Panthers were especially graphic and open in their moral opposition of Israel and all forms of US global capitalism. 

If we knew how strong Black political movements are committed to equality, we would do more engaging and less asserting that Black Muslims are causing more division by not supporting other Muslim causes. They do. After all, they won’t work with people who disrespect them. Just like we won’t.

5. Impacts on Geo-Politics: The Costs of Cultural, Economic and Political Division

Its assumed that heads of nation-states almost entirely govern the business of that happens between nations, but that’s not entirely true. 

Take the recent example of Pakistan and Turkey. Both Erdogan and Khan evoke historical and religious connections between the two countries while they were offering trade and immigration relationships. They both want to become stronger nations, but they know that it’s going to take trust and respect between the two people to make trade and other relationships work well, no matter what policies they enact. It’s the people who make it work on the ground. 

The more Muslim nations invest in these kinds of win-win relationships the more prosperous Muslims nations will be. This has political ramifications too, as the more a people empathise with another nation, the more they will demand their freedom and equality if they are attacked. 

But if cultural barriers, such as racism, deter us from creating these bonds with Muslim African nations, then how can we rise and go strong together? Like in the UK and the US, we render ourselves vulnerable and defenceless when we insist on being divided based on narratives that don’t even originate from Islam. 

What’s remarkable is that our oppressors understand this coalition-building better than us. Not least, Israel is making strong attempts to influence African nations as they are growing economically – which we know from past previous, will, in turn, be a co-option into the Zionist ideology. All the moral hand-wringing won’t mean much if that happens, because our own prejudice deterred us from forming those coalitions in the first place.

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