Recently, I wrote an article lamenting the absence of any Muslim presence in Ferguson, Missouri which was misunderstood by some to mean that Muslims were not on the scene at all. This requires a clarification on my part inasmuch as Muslims, in their individual capacities, have played a somewhat prominent role in the protests and at times, have even become the face of the struggle.
The point of that article was to underscore the need for African-American Muslims to have their own institutions that can respond in an organized way to the gross injustices against black people in America, in the same way, for example, that black Christians have spokesman and leaders in the person of pastors and ministers. To that extent, I believe the points originally articulated in the piece hold true, and that is because Islam has a very clear and explicit mandate to fight injustice in a unified manner. Fighting to establish justice is the very embodiment of what we are suppose to represent.
That said, special mention must be made of the true warriors we have on the ground in Ferguson. First and foremost is sister Jamilah Nasheed, the Missouri state representative who has collected 70,000 signatures to have the local prosecutor handling the case removed, Bob McCulloch, removed. This beautiful Muslim sister reminds me of the great Ida B Wells-Barnett in her strong spirit of righteous indignation and rage. In an era when so many black politicians have sold out black people she deserves special commendation.
Then there is Malik Zulu Shabazz, who appears to be reinventing himself as a mainstream leader after having fronted the New Black Panthers for so many years. I have known Malik for many years dating back to our student days at Howard University and in years subsequent. We have certainly had our differences but developed a very friendly and respectful relationship. He is a gifted orator and organizer, a strong leader for sure. It is true that he is a bit of a showman, but on some level or another most charismatic leaders tend to have this trait, and I am perfectly fine with that. He is a good brother who deserves our support.
Another prominent Muslim personality who has received quite a bit of face time in the media is renown journalist and writer Umar Lee. Lee made quite a name for himself some years ago by authoring an analysis of the Black Salafi Muslim Movement in America. He is a white Muslim brother with a lot of soul who hails from a multiracial family. Possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the region, Lee has been providing valuable commentary on MSNBC about the racial and economic demographics of St. Louis and surrounding areas. But more than that Umar Lee is an activist who works closely with the brothers and sisters in the street, those we most commonly refer to as the grassroots. He is representing Islam and Muslims in a fine and honorable way, and he deserves or prayers of support.
There are many other examples that could have been cited but I believe we have sufficiently made the point. In closing, I should just like to pose a question for our reflection; If believing brothers and sisters like the ones mentioned above could be so impactful in their own individual capacity, how much more effective would Muslims be if we functioned as an organized, well-oiled machine.