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Community, Faith

12 telling accounts of what it’s really like being Black and Muslim

There is no fitting way to introduce the following group of exceptional people that would accredit them justly, so I will provide none. Instead, I offer two things; the former being perhaps lost in the wind, and the latter, insha’Allah, carried by the angels:

I thank you, dear brothers and sisters, and hope with all the sincerity in my heart that things will improve, and soon.

Salaam, rahma, and barakat upon all those who feel wronged unjustly. Peace, mercy, and blessings upon all who suffer from the ignorance of human prejudice. I pray that your suffering will not be in vain and that one day the faces called “dark” in this world will be the most luminous of all, resplendent with the Light of our Creator. 



Julius Allen

Aged 29. Illinois, USA.

Being black is something I had no control over. Being black makes me another thread in the fabric of life that compliments many other colors and shades. There are many others who don’t see things this way unfortunately and it’s caused my people a great deal of problems throughout the centuries. 

Being Muslim was a choice. I made that choice with confidence because it solves all of my problems personally. Being black and Muslim reminds me that my God gives priority to my character over the fact that He made me black. It’s high time that we reclaim our humanity along with giving priority to our characters while celebrating our complimentary differences.





Muhammad Lee

Aged 28. Maryland, USA.

To an American black man who digs deep to fix his family’s lost and broken history, Islam replaced many lost generations of family leaders. When you’re from a family whose past was taken away, there’s a lot of catching up to do. People often forget how important family history is for improving future generations.

Islam serves as a reminder to all of human kind. It reminds us of our human story from the very beginning. It tells us where we came from and how to fix all of humanity’s lost and broken history without separation of race. The religion itself has become like family.



Sheikh Husayn Mekki

Aged 36. Colorado, USA.

Today, to be black and Muslim in the USA means you get a front row seat to experience the “Great  American Nightmare”
(3D glasses not required).

Where you’re going,
The “American Dream” will likely not be showing.  
But since God is Just and Fair,
He never gives us a burden greater than what we could bear.
In other words, you are a
resilient
valiant
bulletproof champion.
Hero or heroine.  
Your experience gives you a sense of empathy,
Purpose, and strategy.  
Let the world see how things will change when your light shines.
Rise up. It’s only a matter of time.



Kili Michelle Ellis

Aged 35. Ohio, USA.

There are a number of labels that define me. I did not choose my race, I loosely made the choice to be a mother, but I did choose to be Muslim! I am a triple minority: female, African-American, and Muslim. I am a walking diversity training test! What a treat, right?

Being a convert to Islam from stubborn agnosticism was quite simply life-changing. However, those euphoric feelings evened out over the last few years. Never mind that I am a convert with over 40 tattoos, loves rock music, gaming, and anime, once married, now divorced with 6 children, and let’s not forget about the social anxiety!

So many misconceptions from others about a woman’s place in Islam, not to mention a black woman’s place. As an African American woman, I feel like I have a responsibility to debunk those stereotypes. Being a Muslimah – a non-hijabi one at that – means I have to prove that I love Allah (swt) just as much as any other Muslim does. As an American, I have to show love for my country, even when sometimes I don’t feel safe in it. It’s hard when everything I am is tainted with disdain, but I hope that someday women like me won’t need to struggle as much.



Ismail Barton

Aged 26. The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.

Where I’m from, most days there thankfully isn’t that much difference between being a black Muslim and being a Muslim of any other race. However, as a black Muslim sometimes when going to a masjid you’ve never been to before, you’re assumed to be a new convert. This has happened to my siblings and I, several times, despite the fact that we are all born Muslims. I rarely take offense as those who make such assumptions are often well meaning. One East Indian brother even offered to teach me how to pray (which I politely declined).

When these interactions occur, they’re subtle reminders that black Muslims are sadly sometimes not seen as “real” Muslims by those of other races. This despite the fact that the very first Muslims to arrive in my country came here from the West coast of Africa as enslaved labourers. On the other hand, I’ve met some truly wonderful Muslims who, even though they were of a different race, truly made me feel like family, which is really how Islam is supposed to be.



Shaykh Ali Abu-Talib Son Of AbdunNur

Aged 68. California, USA.

Race Is A Fiction”

The whole concept of race is a fiction,
A contradiction…
A false restriction.
Race is a notion that’s a devilish constriction.
And race pride is a sin against The Maker –
God made us equal but The Devil is a Faker.

Lies that rob the indigent.
Lies that blame the innocent.
Greedy lies legitimize oppressive social detriment,
Economic Crucifixion,
Antichrist-like racial friction
Planetary chaos brought about by racist fiction.

We all have souls; we all have goals.
This planet is a stage where we’re to play out all our roles.
Lies, truth, honor or shame?
It’s not what race you are. It’s how you play the game.

“Love Thy Neighbor,” God said to implement
Then why so disobedient?
Justice ain’t a sentiment and race is just an ornament.
Superficial preferences…
Prejudicial reverences…
Ethics, manners, mental quickness have no racial references.

Race is a sham, a sickening scam
Race pride is really arrogance, a poisonous flimflam.
Thinking color’s advantageous
Is outrageous;
It’s contagious.
It’s a pride-induced conviction – It’s the flip side of courageous.

Blessed are the humble, even if they sometimes stumble.
Arrogance is lethal, it makes your spirit die and crumble.

These racist nomenclatures are perverting human nature,
Though God made it illegal long before the legislature.

White Supremacy, Zionism, Loving Only My Own Kind-ism
Money Primacy, Mine-ism, Color struck superfinism
Holier-than-thou divine-ism, Revolving Door Punitive Confinism
Afro-centric, Euro-centric, Homocentric, bovine-ism
Not following your own mind-ism,
Goose stepping party line-ism.
Democracy redefined-ism, Two-party the same kind-ism…

Elitism, Defeatism, And Never The Twain Shall Meet-ism
Urban Sprawl Tall Concretism, To Hell With All Yawl Retreatism
Acting like dogs in heatism, Young bedded, unwedded deadbeat-ism…
Traditional Morals Are Obsoletism, Dog Eat Dog Wall Street-ism.
Buyer Beware Corporate Cheat-ism, Greed Creed Corporate Compete-ism.
Criminal Injustice Repeat-ism, That Sickening Other White Meat-ism.

The whole concept of race is a fiction, 
A contradiction…
A false restriction.
Race is a notion that’s a devilish constriction.

And race pride is a sin against The Maker –
God made us equal but The Devil is a Faker.



Marquis Dawkins

Aged 37. Hawaii, USA.

Being Black and Muslim means knowing only Allah fully accepts you because oftentimes, no one else will.

You face rejection from people of the same skin color because of your religion and you face rejection from people of the same religion because of your skin color.

You face a double rejection from your nation because of both.

So it’s knowing that, despite all the hatred around you, Allah accepts and loves you, and that is all you need.



Zainab M

Aged 35. California, USA.

I tried to think of something positive to say, but the only positive thing I can think of is that I know I found the truth and the path to Allah. My experience of being a black Muslimah is no different than what most women like me go through every day. I’ve seen more racism in the 6 years I have been a Muslim from Muslims than I have seen in the 28 years before I converted – and I’m from the South.

When I converted, a white convert brother told me, because he knew what I was going to experience as a black woman, that I should never judge a religion by its people. If I didn’t know this from the beginning, I would have probably left Islam very early due to the racism I’ve seen and people directly or indirectly thinking their people or culture is better than others’.

Trying to find a spouse has been the most difficult in this journey for me. I have watched white convert sisters get married quickly over black convert and black born- Muslim women. A lot of the other cultures out there have an obsession with fair skin or whiteness in general. I really don’t like talking about this because I have mentioned this before and it falls on deaf ears. I might as well be talking to a wall.



Leslie Michaels

Aged 21. Washington, USA.

Being someone who looks neither black nor Muslim is an experience in and of itself. It’s easy to feel silenced when it appears as if you don’t experience the struggle externally.

It’s a silent suffering when you don’t want to speak over others, but also don’t experience absolute privilege.

You’re not white enough to be an ally, too close to be an outsider, too mainstream for your religious community, but too Muslim to leave it behind and seek an identity more suiting of this dunya.



Askarollah

Aged 19. North Carolina, USA.

The truth of living in fear can bring us to a place of lonely solitude
Where no one can be trusted but the Creator of All
If you feel like a target in every corner you turn
If the thought of a cop makes your chest burn
If the sight of police makes thoughts of death run through your head
If activists only speak of the black people who are dead
How would you like being in my place?

When I see a woman walk faster because she thinks I’d snatch her purse
When I see a baby look at me weird ’cause I’m not what it’s used to
It happens so often that it’s just something I’m used to
I just smile and move on; kindness is what I am used to
You feel fear in your heart but it’s the same fear that I’m used to.

The color of our skin was made for identification
So it really shouldn’t matter for our culture or our nation
Although the reality is, we made it a huge factor
And the role models teach hate, even politicians, singers, and actors
We don’t ask for it, but to remove it, we need our own extractor
Can we admit to our wrongs? Look into your reflector
The world keeps getting worse, when will we stand up and fight?
Keep the demons out my ears; keep them out of my sight
But I will never let the evil create doubt,
My dignity of being a Black Muslim is something about
Which I will stand up and shout.



Jamilah Jackson

Aged 39. Connecticut, USA.

Being a marginalized person (black, female, and Muslim) means fighting a war on two fronts. We have to fight racism from our enemies as well as our allies. Making islamophobia and racism moral issues mean you get to feel good if you’re not actively participating, even when you’re not doing anything to challenge the status quo. Being an ally is about what you do – not what you refrain from.

An ally listens without defensiveness and creates spaces within their institutions for us to speak and do our own work (we don’t need others to speak for us). An ally puts something on the line. Being an ally means not being okay with institutional racism because it doesn’t concern you. 



Asiila Imani

Aged 60. California, USA.

Which am I first, Muslim or Black?

For the most part, it’s a dual identity that has not been too much of a problem. I refuse to be vexed by people’s attitudes about either. What does vex me, however, is how such a large number of the Ummah has got it so warped; “it” being the fear and hatred of the ‘dark.’  Especially strange are the color-struck Muslims from the Middle East and South Asia. How often do they belittle their own darker friends, children, and family?

The first humans, Adam and Hawah (our original parents) were made from BLACK mud. As their descendants, we too, in essence, are made of the same.

God ranks us by our level of piety; we are Muslims FIRST before anything else. It’s an incredibly simple concept, yet the illusion of race equality amongst too many of Islam’s adherents is not in line with the truth and spirit of our religion. One’s color cannot possibly make one inherently better than anyone else. Isn’t Quran clear that Allah created different tribes and nations so that He can witness how we behave with each other?

Anyway, this 60-year-old American-born mostly-African Muslim woman been done figured out Amerikkka’s race issues. And 38 years after taking my shahadah, I understand why entire cultures of Muslims have such self-hatred and exaggerated pride. I’ve seen (and experienced) this disjointed “racial” worldview – and find it a sad commentary on our state of being.

A Rastafarian once told me, “The greatest test in this world is how people treat their black-skinned brethren.”

I’m beginning to see the truth in that.

 

Jennah Adam is an aspiring artist and novelist. She lives a quiet life with her family in the American suburbs accompanied by her fantasies, which are many and vivid.

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