Trigger Happy Law Enforcement?

Maybe it’s just me, but something has to give. I mean come on, when is it OK to unload 50 rounds of ammo at three unarmed suspects? When is it OK to fire around 100 rounds of ammo at a ninety-three year old woman? Many of you that follow the national news, know that I’m referring to the incidents that have occurred in New York City and Atlanta, where in one instance, while it is still unclear what happened, three unarmed men leaving a bachelor party were gun downed unarmed by NYPD. One of the victims was supposed to get married the next day. In the other incident, a ninety-three year old woman was gunned down after cops stormed through her apartment allegedly a drug bust gone bad and she fired at the cops.

Now, the details in these cases are still being investigated and speculated, so I won’t be too quick to rush to judgment, however, I find it hard to believe no matter the excuse, that such force was required in these incidents.

I was a United States Marine, for the most part put as blunt as possible, Marines are trained warriors. It doesn’t matter if our “job” is Administration, Legal, a Mechanic, or Infantry, in the Marine Corps, every Marine (male/female) is a basic infantryman. Therefore, we are constantly trained in matters of combat and more specifically, we are trained marksman. We are constantly drilled on the rules of engagement, and how and when to use deadly force. One of our constant mantras is “One shot, One Kill”.

I bring this up because, I can’t quite connect the dots. In the Marine Corps and Military in general, we train 17 plus year olds, how to handle weapons, most far more deadly than a 9 mm and how and when to engage the enemy or perceived threats. Even in instances where deadly force is authorized like on Military Instillations, we are taught to warn first, disable second, and as a LAST resort fire with the intent to kill.

I can’t quite understand how a 17 yr old can grasp the concept that if one doesn’t respond to a verbal command you fire to disable, like shoot the knee, or some area of the body that won’t kill, but somehow our trained Law Enforcement, many of which that are caught up in these incidents have many years of experience, fire and end up killing their suspects. Not only that, it doesn’t seem to take one shot to take a suspect down, but several clips of ammo. An M16 service rifle holds about 30 rounds if memory serves me right, and the way I was trained, that’s all I need to kill 30 people if need be, and I went into the Corps at the age of 17. I had to have a parental waiver and signature just to join! So, why is it that these professional law enforcement agents need more than that to kill three unarmed suspects and a ninety-three year old woman?

Am I to believe that somehow, the military is more capable of training 17 yr olds about marksmanship and the rules of engagement than law enforcement? If so, maybe we should have the military train cops.

If this isn’t the case, then what is the problem? Where is the disconnect? I mean how much of a threat do three unarmed men pose to a dozen officers with guns? You mean to tell me that even if threatened, no one knows how to fire at the knees? The worst part is the suspects never even left the car, it was fired upon. I find it hard to believe that this vehicle posed the same threat a speeding vehicle through an Iraqi checkpoint poses.

The same goes for the Atlanta incident, I’m supposed to believe that a ninety-three year old woman is such a good shot and has that much more reaction time than a handful of officers, some probably no more than a quarter of her age?

Something is terribly wrong and I find it insulting that not only is law enforcement trying to play us for fools, but so are the media and the spin artists.

Granted, not all Law Enforcement behaves this way, but sometimes, we have to have the guts to say what needs to be said and speak the truth to the powers that be.
Maybe it’s just me, but all too often, it seems that I rarely if ever, hear of three white men or elderly white women, being shot at in this manner by cops. Yes, I’m pulling the race card, because its sickening to know that in this Country today, as a 26 year old black man, my odds of being killed by the cops for appearing threatening or looking like I have a gun in probably 10 times greater than my white and non-black counterparts. To ignore this ugly reality, is to live in a fantasy world. Young black men in particular, have to watch where we go at night, how we dress, and how we talk, to ensure we are mistaken enough to get killed. Here you have yet another tale of black men being at the wrong place at the wrong time apparently, celebrating because one of them was doing something that many of us should be doing anyway, getting married. I don’t expect non-blacks to understand, but these things are real.

I grew up in the inner city of NJ and my wife in Harlem, New York, because we know the unwritten rules, she won’t even allow me to leave my home after sunset because she is scared for my life. When I have to go, she reminds me to have my ID and Cell phone and to try and stay in public places. It seems like I’m being briefed on how to avoid getting mugged or something, but the ugly truth, is as a 26 yr old black man in America, its not the criminals I have to worry about at night, but more so, those who are supposed to protect me from the criminals.

As long as elderly black women and unarmed black men continue to be victims of overzealous, trigger happy, law enforcement, I’m sad to admit, I doubt my wife or many other wives, mothers, and significant others, feelings would change or black people in general. There was a time when it was the lynching we feared, now we fear driving while black.

The sad thing is, while the time has changed, the situation is different, the cast of characters for the most part are still in the same play.

Kramer and Racism

Yes, Yes, I know. You are sick and tired of Kramer-gate. So am I to a degree, therefore, I won’t write specifically on the incident, but more so on the implications of what was said and the effect it has had on Americans in general.

In my humble opinion, I believe the national attention this incident has been given has exposed the still fresh wounds that haven’t been exposed on a level such as this in my opinion, since Katrina, and prior to that the OJ trial.

The proof is in the pudding. While I’m fairly confident that most Americans found his remarks uncalled for and reprehensible, I’m equally confident that the effects on Americans in general, were different, specifically along the racial lines. The racial divide in this country was once again identified. The funny thing is, it’s ever present, but many choose for whatever reasons to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the rooms of America.

Most blacks, felt like an apology was or wasn’t necessary, because we tend to just expect this type of thing sometime. We don’t tend to admit it openly, but I’m certain most blacks feel like all whites and to many degrees non-blacks in general harbor some prejudice against us or racist attitude within their hearts. So when incidents like this occur, we tend to say “Ah hah, I knew it”. Granted, I can’t speak for all blacks, but from my personal experiences within the black community, this is what I have observed and witnessed.

The “shock” of this incident wasn’t really that for most blacks. It was a conformation for us, and in my opinion, really just exposed how we feel about white people. I also believe that the “shock” was more so for non-blacks, because many felt what he said was out of line. However, I’m not so convinced that it was the out of line comments, more so than the fact that what he said wasn’t PC. I liken it to speaking to strangers about matters that happen inside the home. I don’t think it was so much the idea that he expressed views that weren’t expressed from within the house, but more so the idea that he had the gaul to let down his guard and speak to strangers outside the house.

Personally, I hope that isn’t true. But from what I have observed from the blogs and msg boards, indicates to me, that whites don’t think of it as that big of a deal. I tend to see that many just chalk it up to misplaced anger, rage, etc. foolishness or bad taste. Blacks on the other had see it as a vindication of our beliefs about white America, that they are disconnected from the truth or our plight, non-concerned, ignorant, or just don’t care about what it means to be black in America.

I fairly certain that my assumptions and opinions aren’t 100% accurate, but I’m certain there is at least a grain of truth in what I have written.

So the real question that remains is where do we go from here?

I believe Kramer-gate, is a perfect opportunity to dialogue, once again about the racial divide that is a reality in many of our everyday lives. It also is a great time to discuss when freedom of speech goes wrong. We have many words in our American lexicon, and there are very few if any that contain as much venom as the infamous N-word. I would be lying, if I didn’t say I was guilty for using such words at times, which I try earnestly to omit from my vocabulary. I think its time to eradicate it from our daily speech and teach that it’s not slang, hip, or cool to use such words. I was impressed, when I heard the comedian Paul Mooney declare that he will never use that word again, now its time to press this issue harder.

If anything, one thing this incident did expose is that you can’t change the meaning and intent of some words.

Furthermore, we have to remain vigilant, not only on the usage of words, but the implications behind them that can still cause as much calamity as this incident has. Racism in America is very real. We can’t continue the way we are in America by hoping to ignore it and sweep it under the rug.

The biggest problem in America as it concerns racism is the idea and fact that America has yet to fully deal with its past sins of slavery and Jim Crow. The fact, that we encourage blacks and whites, to forget these crimes or let by gones be by gones, helps fester the issue into what it still is at present. I believe that until we deal with America’s past and present as it relates to the treatment of her former slaves, we will continue to go to bed with problems unresolved.

The mere fact that the government of the United States still won’t officially apologize for slavery and Jim Crow, shows how big of an issue this still is. How can you expect a wounded people to heal, if you continue to ignore the injury? We need more than a medicine or anesthetic that numbs the pain for a short while. We need a rehabilitation program, prescription, and if necessary a surgery, that will heal the wounds permanently. Blacks and Whites in America are still wounded because of our past transgressions as a Nation. Until we deal with this once and for all, I’m sad to say, that we can just expect many more Kramer-gates, Katrina’s, and OJ trials, among other things.

In a way, Kramer-gate has done a service to us in an unexpected way, because it has brought us to the table, and has promoted dialogue, once again.

Let us pray this dialogue, produces many fruits.

The Pope

Yes, once again I am revisiting and beating this dead horse. Besides, it’s almost like I have no choice. Turn to CNN and every five minutes there is mention of the visit in Turkey and what it means to Muslims. Priests and Islamic scholars have been speaking on CNN all morning thus far. Personally, I’m quite sick of it really, because there are more pressing issues in the world as always, and I’m still recovering from the overdose of the “Kramer” incident, not to mention the overzealous police department in NYC and Atlanta, who for some odd ball reason, need to fire 50-100 rounds of ammo into citizens, but I will save those for other posts.

Moving right along…I’m not trying to get caught up in Pope-gate yet again, but I guess from my mere typing on the matter today, I’m caught already hook, line, and sinker. So let me get a few things off my chest….

As those who have read my rants before know, I have been more critical of the “Muslim” response in all this, rather than the actual Pope and his comments. I say “Muslim” in quotation, because most Muslims around the world like me just watched the news and read the paper back in September and shook our heads. We didn’t go out burning effigies of the Pope, calling for his assassination, or killing priests and nuns. This is the unadulterated truth, no matter what the media is spoon feeding the populace. 1.5 billion Muslims didn’t take to the streets. Most of us at the most talked about it at the dinner table, or at work amongst our peers, but of course, according to the media, the “Muslim World” was outraged and like the foamed-mouth savages they are, took to the streets in violent protest.

For the several THOUSAND that did, As I lamented in my “Muslim Outrage” post and even in the “This Pope thing won’t Did” thread, I feel like the protests are not only a gross waste of energy on our part, but also it does the Muslim community a disservice and goes against the core principles and teachings of Islam. Through these actions, we not only prove the point of the Pope, but we also discredit our religion.

If Islam was a political party, we would be finished and get 0 votes, because we are our own worst enemies, and give the other “party” all the ammunition they need to sway the “voters” against us. We are loosing the PR campaign, mainly because of ourselves. I mean, I can prove probably a thousand ways how and why Islam is the religion of peace, but that means absolutely NOTHING to non-Muslims when they can turn on CNN and see suicide bombings, or see the reactions to the Pontiff’s comments. Now if we had 25, 000 Muslims protesting against radicals and terrorists, that would be another thing. But here the Pope says Islam teaches violence, then “Muslims” kill a nun and a priest. Who would or should believe me or an Islamic scholar when we say “oh no the Pope is wrong, Islam teaches peace”. There are far more examples of violence committed in the name of Islam than there are of peace in Islam in the media. Whose fault is that? Certainly, we know the media thrives on sensationalism and ratings, and its not “entertaining” to show the Muslim-Jewish peace walks in America, the feed the homeless drives, or just the plain ole ordinary Muslim that works in the GAP or goes to work everyday to support their family and doesn’t bother anyone. “Entertainment” is suicide bombers and mobs of Muslims chanting “Allahu Akbar!!!”

So how do we counter these perceptions?

For starters, let’s stop taking to the streets every time someone offends us. I mean come on, is Allah (swt) not sufficient? I’m certain that Allah (swt) can defend Himself. He doesn’t need several thousand Muslims to remind non-Muslims how blasphemous their words are. Let Allah (swt) defend the Prophet (saw) and the Koran for that matter. Are we oppressed? Not all of us, but for those of us that are defend that, however don’t transgress the limits. Make our zeal worth something. End the poverty in the Muslim world, educate the women and children. End the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Stop the violence in Darfur. I’m getting to a point where I want to throw up, when Muslims have the time and energy to protest the Pope coming to Turkey, but not enough time and energy to help stop the Sunni/Shia killing each other in Iraq, the Palestinian oppression, or the Muslim women getting raped and maimed in Darfur.

Are we getting to a point where we care more about what people say, write, or draw, then the actual suffering of our people?

In a way, I’m kind of glad this Pope thing occurred, because it is a time for dialogue, however, I would prefer it be amongst ourselves. I could care less what the non-Muslim thinks. I’m more concerned with what we are doing and calling it Islam. Let them think and let them talk. Truth stands clear from falsehood, what could they say if we did the righteous things according to Islam anyway?

Maybe its just me, but I’m certain, Allah (swt) could care less if we get offended by a speech or cartoon, and cares a lot more about Muslim on Muslim violence, murder, suicide, and genocide. Maybe it’s just me…

The little known history of Islam and Black Muslims in America

My thoughts on the subject are more of a commentary and less of a history lesson.  A fellow Muslim blogger brought up the very interesting subject of the origins of Islam in America on his site Wa Salaam which is entitled “The Unknown Islam in America“.   After reading this insightful blog I felt moved to comment on my feelings on being a decendent of slaves and the importance of the Islam they brought with them and the associated movements that kept Islam alive and well in America since.

Im a firm believer in reverencing the womb that bore me.  Not so much the physical womb of my mother, but the spiritual womb of the circumstances, people, and experiences that have shaped and birthed me into the man that I have become.  For this reason, I could never see myself completely angry or sad about my past, regardless of the 20/20 clarity of hindsight.  I believe that Allah (swt) allows us to be in situations to shape us into what we are to become.  I believe that every choice, action, and situation, good or bad, is a necessary step in our eventual perfection, whatever that is.

Therefore, I don’t regret being a Marine, I don’t regret being a Christian, I don’t regret being an American, or regret any of my past experiences, trangressions, etc.  In fact, I love the Marine Corps, I love the black Church that raised me, I love being an American, and I am thankful to Allah (swt) for allowing the ability to grow and given me the wisdom and the knowledge to appreciate the blessings of Allah (swt).  It is said that you can never know pleasure until you know pain, you can never know happiness until you know sadness, and you can never know life until you know death.  For these reasons and many more I am proud of the womb that bore me.

My point in all this, is there is a womb that bore Islam in America that is hardly recognized, given the attention needed, and in many instances out right insulted.  The brother on Wa Salaam has done Muslims and non-Muslims alike, a great service by opening up this dialogue on the history of Islam in America.  May Allah (swt) bless him for that.

Before there was a Malcolm X or a Muhammad Ali or even a Warith Deen Muhammad, there was Elijah Muhammad.  Before Elijah Muhammad and Master Fard Muhammad, there was Noble Drew Ali, before Noble Drew Ali there were many others from immigrants, to explorers, to shipwrecked Moors in Maryland, to the Wahhab brothers in North Carolina, to the Muslim Slaves that suffered in the Black Holocaust, and the list goes on.

We would be wise to research and seek out this knowledge.

As a Muslim and specifically as a Black Muslim, I believe the history of my people is just as important as the history of Islam, especially when its the history of Islam as experienced bymy ancestors.  From the early Islamic conversions and conquests in North Africa to West Africa and beyond, to the blood and tear soaked shores of the Eastern Coasts of America, all of this is an integral part to understanding and in truth, reverencing Allah (swt) more for the rise of Islam in America.

To seperate or to make distiction(s) between those who belong in this history, brings not only the history an injustice, but helps fester the ignorance that is in the Islamic and broader American societies that pretend that Islam existed in a vacuum prior to the immigration of foreign born Muslims to these shores.

I am bewildered, hurt, and oft times upset, when people blatantly insult who I consider not only black heroes but Islamic heroes, because of their lack of adherence to the Sunnah or their definition of Islam.  Sure, Elijah Muhammad and Noble Drew Ali, were not Sunni or even Shia Muslims.  However, what was the effect of what they did produce and spread?  Babies don’t come out the womb walking do they?  Nor does the sun rise in one instant.  So should we get angry with the baby for crawling?  Should we get upset with the sun for not rising on our command?  These things happen in Allah’s (swt) time and according to His will Alone.

Noble Drew Ali, Elijah, and others, while debateably Muslim or non-Muslim did a great work that if it were not allowed by Allah (swt) would most certainly have not spread as it did, producing the great Muhammad Ali or Malcolm X.  I doubt if I would have come to know Islam or many blacks in America in this day and age.  These men helped usher in a consciousness that made blacks want to know their history, want to know their culture, their God and religion.  It made entire communitiesof former slaves who were still oppressed by their former slave-masters and their children, seek their Islamic roots that were brought by our ancestors.  It made us go research and study the works of former Muslim slaves who stayed Muslim, it made us proud at what we found, and helped shape and grow us into our Islamic identity.

 I find it particularly insulting, when these people are looked down as insignificant.  To me, its like saying my mother is insignificant in my birth.

  

Muslim versus Muslim

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but something has to be said about our religion of peace. Please do not think that in my sarcasm, I believe Islam is anything other than the religion of peace, but as I have so often commented in the past, it appears more and more everyday, that what Islam teaches and what Muslims actually do are two different things.

How long can we maintain our argument about the peaceful teaching of Islam when we are not even peaceful to one another? We have Muslims right now as I type these words dying in the streets of Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, and many other places. Who are the killers? More often than not it’s not the so called “infidel” or the “kuffar” it’s the so-called Muslims.

So called, because how can we call ourselves that when we allow the killing of fellow Muslims? When did Allah (swt) or the Messenger (saw) ever advocate that it was OK to kill your fellow brothers and sisters?

Oh but you say it’s OK because they are Sunni or Shia, or it’s OK because they collaborate with the Americans. I say you are full of it! Those are excuses, any and all that believe “La Illaha IllAllah” are to be respected, protected, and DEFENDED, by the Ummah. This should go without saying.

How is blowing a market up by roadside bomb, suicide bomb, etc. justified? Oh you want to kill a couple of Israeli’s or American’s you say….well guess what? For every one or two “infidels” you kill, ten or twenty MUSLIMS end up being killed. Even if you wanted to justify fighting occupation, when, please tell me when did Allah (swt) or the Messenger (saw) advocate the killing of civilians, women, and children? It doesn’t matter what their ethnicity, religion, or nationality, if they are non-combatants, it should go without saying that they are off limits.

We don’t need a “convert” like me to tell of things many of us already know. No I don’t speak fluent Arabic, and what little I do speak and understand I need work. However, I’m certain Yusef Ali, Maulana Ali, Pickhall, and Asad knew a “little” about Arabic, all of whom translations I own and have read and own. From Surah Al-Fatihah to An-Nasr, I have yet to come across any justification for this madness in either Koran or Sunnah for that matter.

We sit around everyday arguing with the non-Muslims, trying to prove to them how our religion doesn’t advocate this or that. How do we “prove” this to them? Oh I know, we dissertate, contextualize exegete, be philosophical, and be theological, all these things are good, but what are we actually DOING to stop this violence and show them by ACTUAL ACTION?

I have said it many times, all the energy that we spend burning effigies of the Pope, Bush, the US flag, etc. should be and can be better spent fixing our own problems. You would think that we love Israel and America more than we love Allah (swt). We are fixated on complaining and whining about what they have done to us. But what have we done to ourselves?

Who is responsible for the Muslim that blows up a market in Baghdad that kills 30 Iraqi’s? Can the US presence be responsible? In theory maybe, but if I sell you a gun, is it really my fault if you actually use it? So it’s supposed to be OK that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are being slaughtered by Muslims, because Americans are there? It’s supposed to be OK that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are killed by fellow Muslims directly and indirectly, because of the Israeli presence? Who’s the scape goat for the situation in Darfur?

I Am not absolving the actions of the US or Israel….absolutely not. But I have to use the same reason and wisdom that Allah (swt) has given me and apply it to all circumstances.

Here in the inner cities of America, there is a similar problem. We call it black on black crime. Certainly we realize that there are socio-economic realities that help create the environment, but the mark of a person of reason is that we transcend our reality or our environment and use our skills to make that environment/reality better. I grew up in the inner city; I had every opportunity to sell/use drugs, kill, steal, rape, etc. I knew where and how to get access to these things, but because it was there it didn’t mean I had to succumb to it.

No man can bear the burden of another, that is Koran, so who’s fault is it the gun manufacturer or the one pulling the trigger? Who’s fault is it, the woman for having beauty or the rapist? Who’s fault is it the store owner with the cash, or the robber? It’s called personal responsibility.

We are 1.5 billion WEAK. You mean to tell me with all the oil in the Middle East and Africa, much of it in the hands of so-called Islamic States, with all the wealth and resources, we can’t build up our lands? You want a Palestinian State? Lets place about 100,000 multi-national Muslim troops on the agreed upon boarders. Let put billions of Muslim dollars into Palestine and build infrastructure. I mean at some point we have to face the facts: ISRAEL IS GOING NO WHERE!!! It’s put up or shut up time. Are we supposed to continue to let generation after generations suffer, because we don’t agree with 1948? Is land that valuable? What’s so bad with the land we have?

In real-estate, the mantra is “location, location, location” Israel is only as great as they make it the same is also true for Palestine. If we just established the boarders of what we currently have and build it up, before you know it, everyone would rather live in Palestine than Israel anyway.

The same appies with Iraq, stop the fighting and build it up. The same applies for every one of our lands. We are fooling ourselves if we think that protesting the “West” is going to change our reality. We have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves.
The ugly truth which we don’t want to face is that no one is truly interested in being Muslim. Because if that was the case, we would come to the table and try to actually resolve things, because peace is better than war, is it not? We would actually care about Muslims the world over instead of select groups. We would stop applying lip service to the Muslims in need.

We love the Palestinians so much, but not one Muslim nation has decided to take control of the situation. We love Iraq so much but how many Islamic nations are telling them to stop killing one another and let women and children be safe enough to go to school or the market? We love Islam so much, yet we turn a blind eye to Muslim women being raped gathering firewood in the Sudan, and don’t get me started again on domestic violence in general.

How can we continue to lie and say that we love Allah (swt) and the Prophet (saw), when we allow all these limits to be transgressed? Whatever happened to the Islam of action? The one that detested all the things Allah (swt) detests? It’s our entire problem including me. Anytime a Muslim child is harmed, anytime a Muslim woman is harmed, anytime a Muslim is in distress, and we are not actively doing something to prevent it, we are responsible. Anytime we turn a blind eye because they are Arab, African, Iraqi, Shia, Sunni, etc. this is unacceptable and unIslamic. All these hyphenated titles we love to claim are nothing more than tools of Shaitan to keep us divided and off the straight path. Allah (swt) never said that we are Arab Muslims, African Muslims, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, etc. He commanded us to just be Muslim.

Islam is the religion of peace if we practice it. Peace is maintained by strength, not just the ability to blow things up or behead people, we seem to be very good at that, but the type of strength that allows you to resist the carnal desires to do those things. Peace is maintained by the type of strength that gives us the courage and ability to work toward making our community and all mankind better. If not, then what was Ramadan for? What is physical fasting needed for, if we don’t utilize the spiritual principles of restraint? What ever happed of repelling evil with good?

Muslims are supposed to be the beacon of what submission to Allah (swt) truly means. We should stand out regardless of race or religion. We stand out today, but not in a way that would please Allah (swt).

It’s about time we re-evaluate what it means to truly be a Muslim. Islam is not about how often you offer salah, give zakat, or make it to Hajj this year or not. Islam is not about how much Koran you can memorize or recite, or if you wear Hijab, a beard or not. Islam is the system from our Rabb, which through practice, will bring about peace. Peace is only sustainable through actively engaging in the activities to bring about that peace.

A system can only be judged in the context of those who use it. So how can we get mad when non-Muslims say what they say about Islam? We know its not the truth, some of them even know it, but would you believe me more if I said I was a good husband, or if you saw me and my wife together happy and getting along?

2:177 True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish – it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and truly pious are they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God.

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَالْمَلآئِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُواْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

Black and Muslim

I don’t often speak on this subject….well at least in the public sphere, because it’s a weighty and emotion filled discussion to have. In American society these days one couldn’t even begin to understand the shoes one like myself have to wear everyday. I don’t even have to go into the negative effects of being a black man in America (or worse a black woman), but add into that mixture the identity of Muslim and then you have something truly volatile.

I read the other day that polls suggested that 39% of Americans were in favor of Muslims carrying a special identification. My wife and I joked “I guess they want us to wear crescents on our clothes.” This of course, was an obvious reference to the ugliness that the Jews of Germany had to endure. It wasn’t so much a “ha ha” joke, but more of a satirical joke that really had us disturbed at the direction this country is going. Not just in race relations but in religious relations.

My words can’t even expound on how disturbing it is to know that everyday you have to be continually challenged. It’s one thing to get used to being challenged because of your skin color, but to add your beliefs into the mix, well that makes it that much more difficult.

What makes matters worse is that in the Islamic community itself, oftentimes, believe it or not, black Muslims are treated as second class citizens. It hurts at times it seriously does, because as a convert, I expected so much more from my Muslim brethren. As a Baptist, I knew very well the most segregated hour in America. As Dr King, once remarked Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, I was used to that, to a degree. Everyone knows that you have black churches, white churches, and even Asian churches these days. I came to Islam, with the belief that this would be something different. In many ways yes, I guess, because when I go to the larger Masjids, I pray next to all sorts of individuals regardless of ethnicity and oftentimes Fiqh. I couldn’t tell you who is Sunni, Shia, Sufi, etc. if you paid me. However, I have also been to Masjids where there are predominately black or immigrant Muslims and you know the various differences. For the record, I haven’t run into too many white Muslims, go figure…

Either way, many may be angry with this “airing” of dirty laundry, but it is the truth. I’m not going to say I have experienced direct prejudice in the Islamic community, but I will admit there are a lot of indirect things going on. Between my wife and the many black Muslims I have met over the years, one thing is for certain, something is going on. Muslims don’t tend to speak about this, but it does happen. When you come across Muslims that immigrated from the Middle East or Asia and you tell them you are Muslim, they look at you like your an oddity, the first thing they ask is “Where are you from?” most assume I must be from Africa, when I say NJ, then I must be one of those “black Muslims”, you know the Nation of Islam…When you address racial “issues” in the Muslim community, you get the standard “Islam doesn’t care about race” speech, which is true, but like most things in the “Muslim” community these days, what Islam actually teaches and what Muslims actually practice, tend to be two separate things.

I’m don’t want to expound on this much further, but if you don’t believe me, try being a Black Muslim and offer to marry a Muslim woman whose parents are Arab, Persian, or even Asian and see what happens. I had a landlord once who is an Arab Egyptian woman, who in complaining to my wife about the sadness she felt because her daughter wanted to marry a Muslim brother from southeast Asia (I think Indonesia), say ”I can’t believe my daughter wants to marry that non-Arab guy, he looks like a monkey, but Alhumdulilah, at least he’s not a black man!”. Now of course this is one incident, and she doesn’t speak for all Arabs, but I have heard many stories as it relates to Arabs and Blacks. This is not an urban legend either, even non-Muslims in the inner cities who know somewhat about Muslims, know what I’m talking about.

But I digress….

Outside of the problems within my Muslim community, the double-negative weight that I wear on my shoulders is one that is bearable, but certainly heavy. Many don’t know what its like to have this double-negative, or worse triple-negative if you’re a black woman who is Muslim, and I suspect many don’t care.

I guess what bothers me the most is that just as blacks in general are written off as having contributed little to nothing to American or world history in general, the same is also applied to Islamic history in America. I have found that the more you know about a people the more you understand and respect. In this current reality, because Muslims and non-Muslims alike know little or nothing about black people and/or black Muslims, our burden seems to never get lighter.

I look at how Islam is growing inAmerica and it’s almost as if black Muslims had nothing to do with it. Everytime an “expert” on Islam is interviewed in the news, on the radio, etc. I rarely if ever see a black face. Then we wonder why Islam is stereotyped as an Arab religion. Muslims tend to feed into this madness. Now we have Bridges TV and soon Al-Jezeera in English, and I wonder how many Black Muslim anchors are there or will be there?

For those that don’t know, Islam in America was here before anyone in the Middle East ever came to America. Black Muslims are the indigenous Muslims in this country. We helped build this country. We made it OK to be a Muslim in this country. Whether it was Sunni Islam, Noble Drew Ali, Master Fard Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad, etc. it was black people who were the face of Islam in this country. Why is this important you ask? Well, one cannot know where they are going, until they understand where they have been. Part of the complexities and hardships that face those that are black and Muslim come from the lack of knowledge of who we are. If we were known, we would be understood, and therefore it would be a little easier for my wife and children to go grocery shopping. While they may still get uneasy looks from non-Muslims, maybe, just maybe, they could at least avoid uneasy looks from fellow Muslims.

Granted, this whole post is akin to a long rant, and yes I do that from time to time, however I felt it in my heart to communicate that while it is admirable that we support the Palestinians, or the Pakistani quake victims, the Iraqis, and Indonesians, I felt that if we understood black Muslims we would also care about what we care about too, like the African Muslims in Darfur for instance, who for one reason or another seem to be missing from the protestor and charity collectors agendas. I felt that if we understood black Muslims we would also know that brothers Malcolm Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) and Muhammad Ali, wouldn’t have been who they were if it were not for the teachings of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad’s father, Elijah Muhammad. If we understand how this relates and why it is important we might understand why black Muslims get offended when all things “Islamic” tend to have an Arab face, we might understand that in this we are truly together and we are brothers.

The pain that many immigrant Muslims are feeling now after 9/11, know that we have been feeling it since the day we were born. Since the slave ships first arrived on these shores, since Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) was crushed between rocks, and beyond we have known this pain. Know that after 9/11 that pain that you are beginning to know is a familiar and increasing pain to us.

I wanted to share all these things and more, not to be divisive or controversial, but to hopefully bridge the misunderstanding gap, that at times stagnates our unity. In this Islamic community we have many cancers that plague us and this is one of them. My issues are your issues and your issues are my issues. The Prophet (saw) said that the believer wants for his brother what he has for himself. If I am weak so are you and vice versa. No house divided can stand, and if you don’t believe me, look around you. 1.5 billion weak. The sleeping giant who is supposed to be the best for mankind, what are we now? I wanted you to know that its hard for all of us and most of all I wanted to share how hard it is being Black and Muslim.

30:22 And among his wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of innate knowledge!

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ

49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.  Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.  

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

Women in Islam

I’m certain this topic has been done to the nth degree, however I don’t think it has been done or discussed enough.  I’m convinced by the mere fact that we still see the disgraces and open hypocrisy among the Ummah as it concerns the treatment of women, that apparently there is not enough talking and certainly not enough action.

On the website of the Saudi Embassy in the US you can read this section on Women and Islam:

WOMEN IN ISLAM
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“It is He Who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): “If Thou givest us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.”
(Qur’an: Translation of the meaning, 7:189)

Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her own property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s. Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.

The Messenger of God said:

“The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.”

Polygamy

The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Qur’an, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.

Marriage

A Muslim marriage is not a ³sacrament², but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, no Muslim girl can be forced to marry against her will.             

Now I don’t claim to be psychic, but we can all read this information and compare this to the actual reality of what happens in Saudi Arabia and see something “wrong”.

Lets be honest for a minute, many a Muslim man has argued how great Islam views women (and it does), but how many Muslim men actually act in accordance with that greatness?

I don’t know about some of you, but I’m getting a little sick and tired of my fellow Muslims who say one thing and do another.  Maybe its the nature of the religious convert, or maybe its just me, but the beauty of the Koran is what motivated my acceptance of Islam.  However, if I viewed the actions of Muslims to make a decision, I don’t think I would have readily accepted Islam as I did.

I’m not speaking from the perspective of an outsider looking in.  I see some of this crap right here in America.  I call it crap, because that is exactly what it is.  You go to some Masjids and the women are blocked off in some corner of the room, you go to iftars and the men and women are separate and the men feast while the women fight for food, you go to the mall and the wife walks behind her husband, etc.  I don’t even have to speak about what happens outside of America do I?  These are actual experiences I have had right here in the D. C. area, I need not look at the Muslimahs in Sudan who can’t even go get firewood without the threat of rape, or the women in Pakistan being forced into marriage.

I’m beginning to wonder if we are even reading the same Koran at times.  How can we read about the equality and sacredness of the woman and yet treat her as we do?  How can we read about how we should be equitable and just to our wives, yet treat her as a second-class citizen?  How can we as MUSLIMS even resort to lustful thoughts and sexual deviancy toward a woman, let alone a Muslimah, and still call ourselves that which we are by the very name Muslim are not?

For the record, “Muslim” is not just a name, its a title.  We should treat it as such.  Muslim is the best word one could be called.  What’s better than being called one who submits to the One Creator and Sustainer of the Entire Universe?  Muslim doesn’t imply part-time submission either.  If you are indeed one who submits, then it should be apparent in your actions, words, etc. because the very word “submit” is a verb, that means it denotes an action.  So if your a Muslim that means you are showing an action, the action you are supposed to be showing is spelled out in the Koran itself and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw).  These actions aren’t just to be shown in the Masjid or Home (even though those places rarely get that respect these days) but they are to be shown to all mankind, for Allah (swt) did say that He perfected our Deen did He not?

Obviously, I could spin this to talk about many issues in our Ummah, however, I want to solely focus on the woman…today that is. 

We love to sit back and “marvel” at how non-Muslims view us as an Ummah.  We love to correct their assertions about how we practice.  Yet, I have yet to see us actually look in the mirror and marvel at where they get these “fanciful” ideas.  Lets be honest for a moment:  Can we really believe that “they” make up these things about how ”we” treat women, if they weren’t given examples by ”us”?

I was horrified this past Ramadan, when I found out from my wife, that at the local Masjid (which will remain nameless), two Muslim sisters got into a physical fight at iftar over food!  Why you ask?  Well, this particular Masjid segregates the men and women (yes even at iftar) and therefore, has different food for each group.  The men feast like kings, yet the women barely get enough.  So the stage was set and ripe for two Sisters to get upset at the pushing and shoving in line to attempt to get food.

I was appalled on so many levels.  First, the Masjid is foolish for segregating husbands and wives during iftar, Second, at least ensure there is enough food for everyone, Third, the two sisters should have done much better than resorting to that ESPECIALLY during Ramadan, but Last and certainly not least, what if the Masjid had non-Muslim guests?  What would they have thought about this?

This is but one example, but the message is clear:  We have to get out acts together.  The woman is sacred….PERIOD.  We treat the Kaaba as sacred so we cover it with a cloth.  We consider our bodies as sacred so we cover them too right?  Covering, although physical in application most of the time, is really more spiritual above all else.  Allah (swt) in the Koran declares “men are the protectors and maintainers of women”.  Allah (swt) also reminds us that women are EQUAL partners of man, we should reverence the womb that bore us, and the Prophet (saw) told us the paradise lies at the foot of the mother.  Yet, instead of covering her with kindess and the peace of mind that brings about security what do we cover her with?  Do you think forcing her to stay home, remain uneducated, or walk behind you is security?  Do you think the threat of death, rape, or torture makes a women feel safe?

We have all this guidance and instruction, so what’s our problem?  Can we not read, comprehend, etc. ? What is it?  Have we allowed the testosterone to overwhelm and cloud our judgement?  How would we feel if someone hit our mother/daughter/sister?  How would we feel if someone raped our mother/daughter/sister?  How would we feel if someone denied them education, freedom from the tyranny of men, freedom of choice, etc. ?

Allah (swt) doesn’t need nor want a people like this.  It is time we stand up like Muslims or sit down as non-believers.

4:1 O MANKIND! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Asad(4,1)   And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand your rights from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you!

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالاً كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاء وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا

16:72 And God has given you mates of your own kinds Asad(16,81)  and has given you, through your mates, children and children’s children, and has provided for you sustenance out of the good things of life. Will men, Asad(16,82)  then, continue to believe in things false and vain, and thus blaspheme against God’s blessings? 

وَاللّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَزْوَاجِكُم بَنِينَ وَحَفَدَةً وَرَزَقَكُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ أَفَبِالْبَاطِلِ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَبِنِعْمَتِ اللّهِ هُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ