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.
It was certainly expected that in attempting to explore this question we would invite the usual criticisms that always tend to impede any type of serious and frank discussion of Black community issues, especially when viewed in the context of Islam’s universality. Unfortunately, in the minds of some confused individuals “Blackamerican progress” and Islam are mutually exclusive thoughts. Because of the ‘teachings’ of the past decade or so from certain imams and du’aat – even Blackamerican ones – we now see that any talk of Blackamerican Muslims showing concern for their own community immediately provokes shrill accusations of “nationalism” or of “dividing the Muslim community”. And what is so tragically ironic about it all is that at the same time these people raise the ugly specter of “nationalism” – being unable to advance even a cogent definition of the term – they will in the same breath utter the completely absurd statement of “I’m not Black, I’m not African American. I’M JUST MUSLIM”. However they are not able sustain the delusion of being a racial and ethnic tabula rasa (blank slate) for very long, and waste no time reinventing themselves into the mirror image of a Saudi, Sudani, Pakistani, or what have you.
This type of self-negating attitude provides great insight into why Blackamerican Muslims ceded the agenda to the immigrant community, and ultimately came to accept their insular outlook on the community at large. In essence, they felt insecure in their Islamic identity and not really worthy of leadership. This in turn raises the more troubling question of how such a resilient people developed this profound lack of confidence? The answer, however uncomfortable, seems inescapable: Blackamericans – even after accepting Islam – still suffer from a crippling inferiority complex which has never abated since the days of slavery . Renowned sociologist and scholar E. Franklin Frazier, in his classic, earth shaking book entitled Black Bourgeoisie, diagnosed the malady brilliantly,
“The entire history of the Negro in the United States has been of a nature to create in the Negro a feeling of racial inferiority. During the more than two centuries of enslavement by the white man, every means was employed to stamp a feeling of natural inferiority in the Negro’s soul. Christianity and the Bible was utilized both to prove and give divine sanction to his alleged racial inferiority or, as some contended, his exclusion from the races of mankind”.
” A legalized system of racial segregation was established which stigmatized the Negro as unfit for human association, and every type of propaganda was employed to prove that the Negro was morally degenerate and intellectually incapable of being educated. Living constantly under the domination and contempt of the white man, the Negro came to believe in his own inferiority, whether he ignored or accepted the values of the white man’s world. The black bourgeoisie……exhibits most strikingly the inferiority complex of those who would escape their racial identification.”
With the learned professor’s diagnosis before us it becomes easy to explain the strange, bizarre – indeed pitiful – antics that some Blackamerican Muslims exhibit in the name of Islamic practice. In a desperate attempt to find relief from the psychic damage centuries of racial stigmatization has stamped upon his soul, he will rush to assume, in totality, the identity of another nation regardless of how ridiculous he looks in the eyes of the world. Because of his dark skin color he missed the opportunity to “pass” for a white man, but upon entering the fold of Islam he could comfortably cast aside his Blackamerican identity with the perfect alibi…. one centered in God and religion.
“Islamic passing” expresses itself in many interesting ways. One version is to literally “pass” from America to a Muslim country by shedding their past history and cutting off family in the hopes that their children and/or grandchildren will marry amongst the natives and become Saudis, Egyptians, Kuwaitis or what have you. Similar to ‘mulattos‘ and ‘octoroons’ in the early twentieth century that passed into whiteness by breaking with their past and living white lives, the intent here is to make a clean and complete break with their Blackamerican culture and heritage and start new lives as “real” Muslims. Hence the mantra: “I am just a Muslim”. They are not only making “hijrah” from America, but from blackness itself. Something leads me to believe that were it not for stringent visa regulations many of our brothers would have chosen this avenue.
In lieu of the above, another form of “passing” is to no longer wear “kafir clothes” and restrict ones attire to the national dress of some Muslim country – usually some kind of long thobes – speak English with a fake and broken Arabic accent (or perhaps Urdu), and believe Arab (or Pakistani) women are all princesses and all black women are low and unworthy. They will leave off “kafir food” (American cuisine) and only consume “Muslim food”, that is, Pakistani, Arab, etc. delicacies.
Just to cement the point, one popular salafi speaker – who is Blackamerican – even wrote a series in which he told his followers that – AS A RELIGIOUS POINT – the Arabs are Superior to the rest of the Ummah. He mentioned in this series that one of his teachers threatened that anyone who disbelieved in this noxious doctrine would be classified as a ‘deviant’. And the others under him readily accepted this without question despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary in Islam. It is no wonder we began to hear Blacks in the community say of Blackamerican Muslims that we have gotten off the back of the bus to get on the back of the camel. It was precisely this kind of indoctrination that passed as teaching that only exacerbated the inferiority complex that Blackamericans already had.
There are of course other ways to delude oneself into believing that one is no longer a Blackamerican, but perhaps one of the more pernicious ways involves turning away from Blackamerican women in search of “real” Muslim women from other country’s. It seems that Morocco is the hot destination for wives these days. This is of course not to over generalize or indict any specific person or couple, but only to highlight the frightful impact the phenomenon is having on the Blackamerican Muslimah’s prospects for finding a husband (see what I said about this issue here).
This inferiority complex is so pernicious that it causes a person to militate against his own self interest. Admittedly, in the abstract this sounds completely implausible, but this is exactly what happens when concerned elements in the Blackamerican Muslim community attempt to rectify the litany of ills confronting them. Self righteous – truly ignorant – members of that very same community stand up and scream “nationalism”. This leads one to ask, is it “nationalism” to protect the chastity of African American women and check the horrific out-of-wedlock birth rate in the Black community (70%) ? Is it “nationalism” to help brothers with felony records find work and rebuild their lives? Is it “nationalism” to fight against racial gentrification and help others find affordable housing? Is it “nationalism” to condemn a racist criminal justice system which positively targets Black men and boys? Is it “nationalism” to get Black folk, who suffer disproportionately from stroke, cancer, heart attack, and AIDs, affordable health care? And one could go on and on.
But of course all of the above issues are not the real concern of the ” I’M JUST MUSLIM’ Muslims, who, stumbling along in their self-abasing inferiority complex and identity confusion, perfectly attired in the garb of an “alien nation”, merely wish to escape (if only in delusion) the bleak reality of being Black in America. For the record (not that I’ve ever given anyone reason to believe otherwise), “nationalism” of any variety is a major evil and anathema to Islam, and all measures should be taken to condemn it wherever and whenever it appears. We have “nationalism” to “thank” for world wars, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, so to attribute this philosophy to a Muslim is no small matter. It is a filthy creed that the Prophet (p.b.u.h) likened to a “dung beetle”. But “nationality” is not “nationalism”, a critical distinction completely lost on the“IM JUST MUSLIM” Muslims. Nationhood is one of the marvels of Allah’s Creation, and attachment to ones racial or ethnic group is a sentiment deeply embedded in the fitrah (natural disposition) of the human being. And so we’ve been informed that mankind was created into “nations and tribes” and that the variation in our “colors and languages” are signs of Allah.
When racial, ethnic, and national sentiments are pumped up with pride and a feeling of superiority takes hold of the people; where aid and assistance are extended to ones own group to the exclusion of others;then you’ve identified “nationalism”.
“A Companion of the Holy Prophet asked: “What is partisanship? Is loving ones tribe (or nation) partisanship?” The Prophet said: “No. Partisanship is to support ones tribe (or nation) in oppression” (Ibn Majah).
Before leaving this topic, we should also like to make it clear that Al Islam is the balm which heals all the afflictions of men’s hearts, including and especially this sickening racial inferiority complex. This beautiful religion positively disparages, if not outright prohibits, the kind of “slavish imitation” and “feeble-mindedness”displayed by far too many Blackamerican Muslims.
So in conclusion, its important to say that the title of the series was in no way to imply (God forbid) that there are no Blackamerican Muslims fighting for justice, or trying to make a difference in their communities. To say such a thing would be an injustice in itself. The scores of sincere Muslims involved in Imam Jamil Al Amin’s case would immediately disprove that thesis. One such brother that comes to mind is long time human rights advocate El-Hajj Mauri Salakhan, who heads up the Peace and Justice Foundation in Maryland. But what we’ve attempted to do was examine the larger question of why Blackamerican Muslims failed to develop a national presense in matters related to social justice and community involvement in America. Our brief overview of recent history has brought us to where we are today in a post 9/11 environment. That horrid atrocity has changed the thinking of America in a myriad of ways; ways that have caused all segments of the Muslim community in this country to realize that we absolutely must bridge the gaps that divide us, and “cooperate in righteousness and God-consciousness”.
Nevertheless, each segment of the community must pull their own weight and work in the areas where they’ll be most effective. All the talent and ability of our youth, and wisdom and guidance of our seniors, must be brought to bear on the vexing problems of American life. Perhaps with MANA we have turned a corner. I remain hopeful and even enthusiastic about this important undertaking….but guarded. We’ve seen big flashes before. Looked at from a number of different perspectives, MANA’s first annual convention was seen as a success, if only for the reason that Blackamerican Muslims were able to come together and make salat (prayer), an act of worship which contains its own power to unite. The conference clearly demonstrated a new level of maturity for in the past, Blackamerican Muslim groups tended to remain aloof from each other, nursing suspicions and at times contempt for one another. The fact that so many Blackamerican Muslims from all persuasions attended was also a good sign, for had such a conference been attempted in the 1990’s it would have been tarred and feathered by the salafis, and respected leaders in the community would have feared having their reputations trashed for even attending. The very fact that no such conference ever took place during the 90’s attests to the strenght of the salafi movement’s isolationist philosophy.
All this was very encouraging to see. There remained however at least one stain on an otherwise positive program, that being the invitation of NOI minister Larry 4X (sometimes known as Akbar Muhammad) to speak before the Muslims. This was more than a mistake, it was a wrong, and it is my fervent prayer that the leaders of MANA realize this and summarily drop this objectionable individual (maybe we can help them accomplish this, inshallah).
All in all, it is well past time to take responsibility for our families and communities and raise up a responsible and educated (Islamically and secularly) next generation of Blackamerican Muslim children, rather than waiting for the immigrants to do it for us. It is also my hope that the children of immigrants will understand these issues better than their parents.
And Allah’s the One whose Help is sought