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.

Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz

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.

Journalist and Writer Umar Lee.

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.

The events now unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri that resulted from the murder of Michael Brown, an eighteen year-old unarmed black youth by white police officer Darren Wilson, causes me to reflect on the reasons why I accepted Islam in the first place. In those days, Islam was presented not as some mere religious creed, but indeed a revolutionary program that promised to deliver social and economic justice to the suffering black people of America. My series of articles entitled Why Black Americans Don’t Stand for Justice was an attempt to explain the reasons why those early, ideal aspirations were ultimately thwarted by the immigrant Muslim establishment. Through sheer numbers and deep pockets, immigrant Muslim organizations were able to co-opt the best and the brightest of our Black Muslim leadership, a trend that continues to this day.

And even then this was not the whole story, for there has always been a strain of criminality in black Islam which further crippled the movement for racial justice and sadly, constituted an internal weakness which in the end proved deadly .

Nevertheless, I’m watching events in Ferguson and find myself asking “where are the Muslims?” or again, “where is the clarion voice of Malcolm?” This used to be our field of work, so just when did we forsake our mission to bring Islam to our people, and struggle to make their lot better in this racist country called America?

If we remember, this is what the Muslim Alliance of North America (M.A.N.A) was suppose to be created for, but lack of clear vision and goals, ineptitude, a top-down dictatorial leadership style, lack of commitment, slavish reliance on immigrant money, and a disturbing alliance with N.O.I types, profoundly limited its impact.

That said, it is now time for a M.A.N.A type organization (if not a reorganized M.A.N.A itself) to rise up and meet the challenges of the hour, make the call to Allah’s Oneness, and fight like hell the vicious onslaught of murder against our people.

After twenty years of the immigrants’ controlling the Islamic agenda in America, by the year 2000 Blackamericans had clearly taken the “back seat” when it came to community issues. Having taken up this knotty and controversial question of why “Black American Muslims don’t stand for justice”, we’ve learned that one of the most important factors in our failure to develop and maintain a community activist, social justice tradition has been the overwhelming dominance and influence of the immigrant Muslim community. In arriving at this conclusion it has never been my purpose to demonize any group of Muslims or resort to racial demagoguery, nor assail the feelings of anyone. It is my firm belief that the Muslims in America are essentially good and well meaning people, nevertheless, I have always held to the principle of telling the truth as best I understood it, and let the chips fall where they may.

However after having looked at this issue from all angles, its also becoming clear to me that immigrant dominance does not fully explain why Blackamerican Muslims don’t stand for justice. The record reflects that the immigrant organizations’ power-play for control of the “Islamic” agenda in America met little to no resistance from Blackamerican Muslims. The question then is why.

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With the inauguration of the 1990’s, the Muslim American community was in the firm grip of the immigrants, a result of being better educated, better organized, and awash in cash. They grew so dominant in both strength and numbers that the small, humble communities of Blackamerican Muslims could no longer compete, and over time completely lost their baring and focus. Perhaps not consciously, but by the sheer weight of immigrant dominance and its insular outlook, Blackamerican Muslims were influenced to turn a blind eye to the grievous conditions of their neighborhoods and communities. Some however did not require much pressure, but were themselves all too ready to assume an “alien identity” (Arab, Pakistani, or whatever) in order to facilitate an escape (at least in their own deluded mind) from the realities of being Black in America (more about that in the final installment).

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By the 1980’s “The Dar” and the Islamic Party had completely run out of steam, leaving in their wake a gaping void in the Blackamerican Muslim scene. While there remained some committed brothers (and sisters) who carried the work forward – brothers like Imam Khalid Griggs of Winston-Salem, N.C. (former DC Islamic Party) – there were no Islamic initiatives forthcoming which could project a national vision. At the same time, immigrant Muslims were streaming into the country in larger and larger numbers, and the masjids they (and their movements) established began to take on a new ethnic flavor. The immigrants were not interested in things like community involvement, and generally speaking, were of a much more insular frame of mind. They affected an air of being the “real Muslims“, had more money and education, and began to take the leading role in the American Islamic movement.

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By the middle of the 1970’s, American racial politics had undergone sweeping changes. The strident, urban street protests had given way to a strategy of “working within the system”, allowing movement leaders and activists (those who were not killed or imprisoned) to take full advantage of the hard-fought successes of the previous decade. Many went back to college and qualified themselves to take cushy jobs in academia and government, but there were other reasons for the change in strategy as well. Movement workers witnessed with horror the cold-blooded, ruthless tactics of the government to crush what it called “urban rebellions”. Most illustrious of this type of brutality was the vicious police slaying of Chicago Black Panthers’ Fred Hampton and Mark Clark while they slept. Blackamerican Muslims, like Blacks in general, realized the times were changing and simply sought a new direction.

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In changing the site’s design a couple of years ago, I somehow lost one of my important works, the series you are about read here. Published in the winter of 2007 and 2008, many consider it a classic study and its impact at the time unprecedented. I now post it again for those who did not get the opportunity to read it the first time. One important note: Apologies to Al Sharpton and the black radio hosts who we were a bit unkind to in this piece.

On Nov. 16th in Washington, DC, your and my favorite James Brown preacher, the right Reverend Al Sharpton, will be leading a protest demonstration on the steps of the Justice Department to highlight its gross negligence in enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws in a year that has witnessed scores of un-investigated racial incidents. From the Jena 6 trials in Louisiana, to noose sightings in a number of different cities, to the brutal rape, kid-napping and torture of a young, mentally challenged Black women in West Virginia, racism in America is once again rearing its ugly head. Taking the lead in a resurgence of civil rights activism is a tightly-knit coalition of Black radio personalities (Micheal Basden, Warren Ballentine, and Sharpton himself) and church leaders, who’ve been raising public awareness for the past year about these disturbing incidents.

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