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On Oppression, Allah’s Aid, and Prophetic Love: Reflections on the work of Rami Nashashibi

There’s a lot of important material in the video below that’s imperative for us as a community to digest. Look at the example of those who bring light under extremely trying circumstances, those who serve without limit, those who do not participate in enmity with believers who may even show hostility to them.

“You do not truly believe until you want for your brothers what you want for yourselves.”

Malcolm X mentions how this narration of the Prophet (pbuh) automatically struck him in its social relevance and profundity. Scholars have said this narration does not only refer to brothers in faith, but rather brothers in humanity.

And Allah is He who aids His servant, so long as His servant aids his brother.

For the American Muslim community, we have to ask ourselves– who needs aid more than us? Who is being persecuted in our contexts worse than us? Who is being discriminated against systematically and institutionally worse than us? If we serve, honor, and aid them in sincerity to Allah, because this is our job as Muslims and reflects the consequence of true belief, is the example of Prophetic love, Allah will aid us. If the intention is to seek political gain or advantage– this is opportunism, not Prophetic love and will bear no lasting spiritual or material consequence.

Think of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tarika Wilson, and others whose names don’t get media attention.

American Muslims are not ‘the new black.’ Wait, let me refine that statement which still bears the mark of ignorance. About 60% of American Muslims are not ‘the new Black.’ Not yet anyway. 40% of American Muslims are African American and are doubly targeted for both religion and race. They’ve always been black. Yet suburban Muslim communities rarely deal with, let alone learn from, honor, and serve African American Muslim communities and/or those in the inner city. May Allah protect us all. The truth is we need each other, and today more than ever.

In America, race is still more contentious than religion. There’s a difference between red neck hate crimes shamefully being carried out when no one’s looking  and being killed in the name of the law, in public, in the street, or in one’s home without a warrant, with one’s baby— and having the perpetrators not face serious consequences.

I was happy to help efforts that raised awareness for the Chapel Hill shooting victims. I was thrilled to see the momentum and the wave of support coming from every corner. I never knew we as a community could mobilize like that overnight. But a part of me ached and still does ache that a similar response did not emerge and has not emerged for the Black Lives that Matter, beyond twitter campaigns.

It’s an indication to me that our internal condition still needs to change. Our belief is lacking because our love is lacking.

The example of the Ansaar and Muhajireen comes to mind, though this mutually replenishing and healing relationship has slightly different factors for our context today. Our African American Muslim brothers and sisters have a spiritual richness in knowing how to struggle in this land, live Islam prophetically, and overcome institutional oppression. Immigrant Muslim families might have wealth, and might have even enjoyed some of the perks of self-perceived ‘whiteness’, but they may be less equipped to build truly Prophetic Islamic institutions in America. Some may hail a greater level of religious learning from traditional institutions in the Muslim world, but without contextual knowledge and experience the nature of such learning bears less benefit, and can even stagnate. Let’s be honest for a second. If a suburban masjid is shut down, will anyone but the Muslims care or notice?

On the other hand, if an institution like IMAN or Islah LA or Ta’leef Collective is shut down, the neighborhood would certainly care. An African American elderly lady of another faith at Ta’leef told me she comes to the programs because she finds healing. The contribution is meaningful for the neighborhood at large, not just the Muslims, and not simply in a hand-out sort of way. There is real, substantial human connection and love.

In the time of the economic boycott in Mecca, there were people of the Quraysh who had not accepted Islam who are also boycotted by the Meccan elite because they expressed solidarity and support for their Muslim brothers and sisters. If an increasing wave of oppression and repression hits American Muslims, God forbid, I imagine the safest place for sanctuary and protection to be the inner cities of America where understanding the nature of institutional oppression is nothing new, but rather a part of a heritage of dignified resistance.

Please read Rami Nashashibi’s recent piece, “Hijrah to the Hood: Renewing Malcolm’s Call 50 Years Later,” and watch the video below. When I watched this video, I couldn’t help but feel: We need to make choices. I need to make choices. I ask that Allah guides us to the choices He is most pleased with. Ameen.

“An Intimate Conversation with Rami Nashashibi.”



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