Muhammad Ali The Muslim

The world is in mourning at the news of the passing of Muhammad Ali. You don’t need me to explain how he’ll be forever known for his boxing prowess, his jovial personality, his humanitarianism or how pretty he was. However, as the flood of well wishes, media reports, and social media discussions continue, what is particularly disturbing to me as a Black American Muslim is how Ali’s core, his Islamic faith and his Blackness seem to be sanitized from the narrative.

Ali was unapologetically Black and unapologetically Muslim, this cannot be denied even if one did very little research into the man. As his star was rising, he joined the Nation of Islam and was given the name Muhammad Ali from Elijah Muhammad himself. As a member of the NOI, many of his legendary statements, protests, and moral decisions came about during that time. Even after his time in the NOI, Ali stayed committed to Civil Rights and Humanitarianism all the while ensuring that his Muslim faith and his experiences in America as a Black man, guided and strengthened his resolve. You can barely find an interview recorded or otherwise, where these topics don’t come up.

Yet, if you read or listen to many of the pieces out about Ali, most seem to ignore these central tenets of his being. I’m not alone in noticing this trend. Many on social media are critiquing the use of the word transcendence for instance. The media is liberally using this term in a way that suggests that regardless of how Ali started, or what was near and dear to him, his message of love for so many transcends him being a Muslim or even Black.

On the surface that sounds good, i.e. Muhammad Ali was a citizen of the world and for all people. However, while this is true, ignoring his origin and that which motivated him, diminishes the totality of who he was as a human being while at the same time exposes the hypocrisy that is American politic, culture, and history.

If it is OK to publicly mourn and publish op-ed after op-ed about The Greatest of All Time, why is it hard to bring up his Black Nationalist roots or his Love for Islam?

The answer is that hypocrisy is as American as apple pie.

We are a nation who declared Independence from England saying that all men are created equal, while many who signed that declaration were slave owners. So the irony that the same media who makes huge profits on demonizing Islam, would now fill the airwaves honoring a Muslim man named Muhammad Ali, is not lost on those of us who are Black and Muslim. America routinely promotes and demonizes groups. We love celebrities like Ellen but hate and legislate against the LGBT community or we’ll adopt Hip Hop culture into every day life, but place little to no value on those lives that influence the latest dress, dances, or song. We’ve been a contradiction since day one. Slaves weren’t considered human but were OK to sleep with, right Thomas Jefferson?

Ali was a proud Muslim and showed it time and time again. For instance, Ali has the only star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that is on a wall because he did not want the name of Prophet Muhammad (saw) stepped on, after 9/11 he was one of the first to condemn the terrorists and explain what Islam actually means, and even as recently as December 2015, Ali took Donald Trump to task because of his rhetoric about Muslims.

The media and others speak about transcendence which is being used as a synonym for ignore, look the other way, spin, etc. because if they made Muhammad Ali’s Muslim faith part of the narrative, then people would have to face some hard truths about our perception and treatment of Muslims.

We might begin to realize that the majority of Muslims in America are Black Americans and many athletes, celebrities, etc. are Muslim and we might begin to understand that views that groups like ISIS hold are as foreign to the overwhelming majority of Muslims as they are to anyone else.

In other words the truth about Muslims and Islam is bad for ratings and demonizing Muslims and Islam is big business.

I encourage those of conscience to not let people and the media ignore the Islam of Ali. Muhammad Ali was a Black man, a devout Muslim man, a hero, a friend, a humanitarian, and The Greatest of All Time. Muhammad Ali was all those things and more and there is nothing wrong with any of it.

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#MuslimResponse The GOP Debate

downloadAP_undercard_debate_jef_151215_12x5_1600On December 15, 2015, America and much of the world, were given nearly 5 hours of the best the GOP has to offer when it comes to national security. Vying for the Republican Presidential nomination viewers were presented with a CNN Debate that had the production value and hype of a major sporting event. I eagerly awaited the entrance music, fireworks, and Micheal Buffer’s famous “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuumble.” The Party faithful were given so much of the red-meat they crave, that they’re going to have to schedule a colonoscopy.

Those of us who aren’t part of the GOP base heard “Ruuuun the Moozlums are coming!” and war, war, war, fear, fear, fear, and the country was better off with George W. Bush!

The debate was about National Security or in GOP speak: What are you going to do about the Moozlums and Russia? No mention of gun violence, domestic terrorism which by the way 90% is committed by White Male Christians, nor Climate Control.

As a Black, American, Muslim, Veteran, I was left more than a little underwhelmed. In truth, I spent more time tweeting in all caps due to my outrage at some of the things that were said, than anything else. After all the debating was done, I felt as if I were a wet rag, wrung out and left to dry. To even think that any of those candidates could possibly be the next President of the United States is terrifying, some (Trump/Cruz) more than others.

Being a Black man, I didn’t expect any issues regarding the Black community to be addressed and I was right. No mention of Black unemployment, disproportionate incarceration and sentences, or any #BlackLivesMatter causes. Outside of having a Black man on the stage, the GOP had zero to offer Black Americans. I guess these issues will have to wait until they get around to discussing domestic policy, but I won’t hold my breath.

As an American in general, I’m disturbed by the vision these candidates put forth in both debates. In no uncertain terms, the candidates mostly agreed that we should be engaged in perpetual war in the Middle East, that we should give up our privacy for security’s sake, and that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, should be suspended or not apply at all to some Americans. For a Party that calls itself Conservative, the proposals put forth, which would see an increase in our Defense spending (55% of our budget already goes to Defense), requiring private companies to give the government customer data if suspected of crimes, and drastically changing the Constitution, were the direct opposite of anything conservative. Add to the fact that they mocked Climate Change as a concern and you’d have to wonder if the GOP has a different English dictionary than everyone one else defining the word conserve.

It was definitely not a good night if you are a Muslim and I seriously doubt the GOP cares if they get any votes from American Muslims at all. With notable exceptions such as Senator Lindsey Graham’s passionate appeal to end this anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslims were bombarded with accusation after accusation that made me feel as if Islam were on trial. In the 1st debate, Rick Santorum spoke at great length about Islam not really being a religion thereby excluding it from the same legal protections as other religions. To hear him speak about Sunnis, Shia, Jihad, and the Caliphate you’d think he were an expert on Islamic Studies. Except all his “facts” were wrong. Huckabee agreed which isn’t surprising and Graham and Kasich looked on uncomfortably. You could see in their eyes that that they realized that the inmates are running the asylum these days.

The second round of debates weren’t that much easier on Muslims either. The suspension of rights, surveillance of Mosques, and even the indiscriminate killing of innocent women and children either through carpet bombing or targeted assassinations of terrorist’s families were openly discussed as serious policy proposals and not the insane, fascist, rantings they were. Trump and others double downed on the barring of Muslims immigrating into the US and Cruz had a fascination with the term Radical Islamic Terrorism. Unfortunately, for Cruz and those like him who couldn’t strategize out of a wet paper bag, what they call being PC i.e. being correct in politics, is the right way to do things. The phrase “Radical Islam” is insulting to potential Muslim allies. When you insult your allies, you help recruit for ISIS. The war they claim to want to win is prolonged ever time they put their low information base above the safety and security of all Americans and our troops overseas. Actual professionals in the Federal Government, Private Sector, and even the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, have pointed out that this way of speaking about Muslims only helps the enemy.

If a bunch of voters from the GOP Base want to hear derogatory and inflammatory rhetoric towards Muslims, if it’ll get votes, these candidates are all to eager to comply. Votes apparently, are more important than national security in a supposed national security debate.

As a veteran I was more than a little upset. In the first debate Santorum with his women should be barefoot and pregnant rhetoric, suggested that not only should women not be able to serve in combat roles, but also that the generals had it all wrong and though he a guy who’s never served in the Military a day in his life, had all the answers. He promised in no uncertain terms that he’d roll back the Military’s rules that allow women to serve in combat roles. I imagine he’d do the same for DADT as well. Rick Santorum’s comments were offensive because they presumed that women weren’t capable and that the leadership of the military would change it’s standards and weaken readiness, just to appease politics. Or worse, that the Pentagon leadership is incompetent.

This idea the the military didn’t know what it was doing, continued to be the talking point of the night. In the first and second rounds of debate the reoccurring theme was that the military was weak and couldn’t do its job, the Generals at the Pentagon were clueless puppets for Obama, and that America was worse now than it has ever been in American history apparently. This line of commentary was especially troubling, because all of these candidates are vying to be Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, yet before they’re even close to remotely being sworn in, they’ve already disrespected those whom they’d potentially lead. A leader who doesn’t respect those under his or her command isn’t much of a leader at all. They’re a figurehead who inspires no loyalty or confidence and is just an inept politician.

I could go on, but in the end, this isn’t about me regardless of my background or perspective. This is about the future of our country. We can choose to live in a country that sees diversity as the enemy, hope as weakness, and respect as a pointless exercise in being PC, or we could choose to rise above our prejudices and the differences that divide us, knowing that true strength is when we rise above fear and move forward in hope, love, peace, and strength.

Semper Fidelis

 

 

 

How To Defeat ISIS

rt_ISIS_syria_march_kb_140924_16x9_992ISIS our favorite talking point of the moment, is enshrined in American politic as the quintessential threat that all must address. They’re more dangerous than gun violence, mass killing, poverty, unemployment, and lack of affordable healthcare and education. We’re told by the punditry in the media, that if we don’t do something decisive about them now, Western Civilization as we know it will collapse. As a result, the President and anyone vying for The White House in 2016, are putting out plans that have just enough red meat to appease the unknown masses.

Unfortunately, Americans with our longstanding tradition of cowboy antics, are not in the mood to hear knowledgeable, nuanced discussion on what is necessary to defeat ISIS. Instead, we eagerly size up the President and Presidential candidates based on how tough their language is and how willing they are to send troops into yet another Middle East quagmire. Though it seems hard to believe, talking tough, will not be enough to stop the rise and spread of ISIS.

Nearly every plan offered from all the candidates as well as the President himself, involve some variation of increased military action, along with platitudes about homeland security, much of which dangerously walks the line of giving up freedoms as a necessity of security. What you will not hear is the obvious, which is that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other like-minded groups exist based on an ideology of hate. This ideology helps them recruit, it’s in their messaging and in their branding. ISIS has a social media and online presence that rivals many Fortune 500 companies.

Therefore, the question that no one seems to be asking, is how can sending troops into Syria/Iraq or dropping more bombs, stop the ideology from spreading? It can also be argued, that the increased destruction and murder of innocent women and children due to drone strikes and bombing campaigns, help ISIS far more than harming them. In other words, you can’t bomb an ideology into submission. If that were so, we would have ended the so-called General War On Terror (GWOT) during the George W. Bush era.

The greatest weapon ISIS has is it’s ability to spread it’s message. Any plan to destroy ISIS that doesn’t include a comprehensive strategy that addresses ISIS ideology, should be ignored as yet another attempt at politics and or a plan  paid for by the Military Industrial Complex. The best way to isolate and hurt ISIS is to delegitimize them as an entity.

What’s In A Name?

ISIS or ISIL stands for the Islamic State in Syria or Islamic State in the Levant (region). This terrorist group calls themselves an Islamic State. There is a specific reason why they chose to do that. By calling themselves an Islamic State complete with a Caliph, means that they are trying to convince Muslims that they should be accepted as a legit state that must be accepted and supported as the entity for all Muslims ordained by God. Many Muslims long for a legit Islamic State, with a religious head, the Caliph. The Caliph would be the supreme leader for all the world’s Muslims. It’s a big deal.

However, the so-called Islamic State doesn’t follow or behave in any way Muslims would expect as taught in a basic Islamic Studies class. They kill innocents, they destroy religious buildings, and they openly defy Islamic law. However, potential recruits aren’t aware of these things, because the counter arguments are not reaching them. In fact, ISIS can claim that it’s all Western propaganda.

Furthermore, when we call them an Islamic State, we give credence to the name. Our media outlets and politicians are so eager to connect their actions with Islam, that instead of calling them a name they hate Daesh, which means ISIL in Arabic, but sounds familiar to words that mean one who sows discord, we persist in calling them a name they love. This is important because in calling them what they love we simultaneously do the will of Daesh and make them seem like a viable, real, Islamic State. We backhandedly do their will and aid in their propaganda. We also alienate Muslims worldwide on our insistence on referring to anything they do as Islamic.

Muslims Our Unused Ally

Speaking of Muslims in general, it seems that politicians are falling over themselves to turn their greatest ally against Daesh into the greatest recruits for them. Politicians eager to appease their anti-Muslim base, openly joke that any attempt to use terms that don’t anger Muslims is political correctness. They laugh, joke, and even increase the rhetoric because it’s red meat for the base. However, what they dismiss as being too PC is actually the appropriate way to marginalize Daesh. Every time the word Islam or Islamic is used in association with any terrorist group, we reinforce their message that they are acting according to Islamic teachings, principles, and values which is incorrect. Even if you hate Islam as a religion, one should not be so eager to do what the terrorists want. If a terrorist main way of gaining recruits is to convince them that they are doing Islam’s work, why would we want to validate that claim? Why would we support the terrorists?

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Nearly 7 million live in the US according to some estimates. When it comes to domestic terrorism even in the last 50 years, according to the FBI crime statistics, Muslims accounted for less than 4% of domestic terror. It should be obvious that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. As such, we should do whatever we can to deny Daesh potential recruits by bolstering our support of Muslims and enlisting them to help fight Daesh. It does not help when major media outlets, politicians, and others with a platform go out of their way to treat otherwise loyal Muslim citizens as outsiders and the proverbial other, and even going so far as to connect their beliefs and ideals with those of terrorists. When Daesh and other terrorists, as part of their recruiting pitch tell Muslims that the West is at war with Islam and are vehemently anti-Muslim, all they have to do is look to our media for evidence.

If we were truly serious about defeating Daesh instead of good soundbites, appeasing an anti-Muslim base, or doing the bidding of those who stand to make billions off perpetual war in the Middle East, we should embrace, enlist, and promote Muslim scholars, activists, leaders, and others who could contradict the message of hate that Daesh and others spread. By reiterating what Islam actually is, versus what it is not, and with the full backing of those concerned with defeating the terrorists, Muslims could be our greatest weapon against them.

In this war against ideology, the only way to defeat the ideas spread by Daesh and other terrorists, is to put forward a better ideology that people of conscious could readily embrace. We have to defeat evil with what is better.

The Anti-Muslim Comments by Ben Carson

150501182005-ben-carson-in-arizona-exlarge-169In a week that included a 14 year old nerd Ahmed Mohammad being arrested at school for a science project and a supporter at a Trump rally stating “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims” without rebuke, Ben Carson, currently in second place for the Republican Presidential nomination, ended the week when he said “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Ahmed Mohammad received lots of support though some like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have made dubious claims against the teen claiming that the arrest was justified or the teen staged an elaborate hoax, Donald Trump has come out and said he has plenty of Muslim friends and that he shouldn’t be held accountable for what people say at his rallies, and Ben Carson is now walking back his comments as best as he can stating that his words were taken out of context.

The issue as I see it has nothing to do with what was said by Ben Carson or the Trump supporter necessarily, it’s what is implied by the statements that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Islamophobia is real, is ugly, and has real world consequences like a 14 year old teen being arrested for something other teens who aren’t Muslims likely would not.

Islamophobia by definition though many claim it doesn’t exist, means that an individual harbors an irrational fear of Muslims and/or Islam. The key word here as with all phobia’s is irrational. In a world that boasts a population of 1.5 billion Muslims, when you hear the claims about Muslims compared with the facts, to still believe in claims like all Muslims are terrorists, are anti-women, hate democracy, etc. to still harbor those beliefs regardless of the facts is an irrational position. So when people believe that the reason behind Ahmed Mohammad’s arrest is perfectly logical because of incidents at schools, even though the facts show that if there was a tragedy at a school, the perpetrator will likely be a White male, ignoring these facts regarding school mass killings, is illogical and point toward islamophobia, especially if the individuals with those beliefs do not have the same ideas about White males.

So what was implied by Ben Carson’s comments on Meet The Press when he stated that he wouldn’t advocate the US electing a Muslim President and that Islam isn’t consistent with the US Constitution? Ben Carson has the right to harbor whatever beliefs he wants to, that is not even up for debate. However, if you’re running to be President of everyone in America, telling 3 million citizens that their faith makes them unworthy to be President and that their beliefs are inconsistent with the US Constitution sets poor precedent and it not consistent with what is expected of a leader.

At issue once again, is this idea that Muslims believe in some different God than the Judeo-Christian God and that we believe in a legal system that is inconsistent with the US Constitution. First and foremost, it doesn’t matter what God Muslims believe or don’t believe when it comes to being an elected official in America, but to state that Muslims do not believe in the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and the Prophets of the Bible, points to a juvenile and ignorant understanding of Islamic beliefs and is really an ideological assault by a certain demographic that is hateful, arrogant, and part of an agenda bent on marginalizing a religious community. Secondly, there is this all to common misconception about Shariah Law used as a blunt object against American Muslims to bludgeon and question their motives and beliefs.

Shariah Law, unlike what many non-Muslims who are anti-Islam claim, is not a static legal jurisprudence that is documented in some book, letter, or document that all Muslims read, believe, and swear allegiance to. In fact, there is no complete anything that can be called Shariah Law. What Shariah Law is actually a concept and idea that every Muslim subscribes to in some shape or form that states that when it comes to laws and living your life, one should try to implement them in a manner consistent with those messages revealed by God. The concept of Shariah Law is primarily derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah (example of Muhammad). As such, what is called Shariah Law is as diverse as those who interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is why this argument that Muslims have beliefs inconsistent with the US Constitution or any government is flawed on the premise. There may be Muslims who disagree with elements of the US Constitution and back their claims with examples from the Qur’an and Sunnah, however there may be just as many Muslims who feel differently and back their claims with example from the Qur’an and Sunnah as well. Shariah Law is open to individual interpretation for the most part.

The mistake people make on this topic of Shariah Law concerns the nature of what Shariah includes. Shariah isn’t just about whether or not there should be capital punishment for crimes, the rights of women, the status of minorities, or other hot topic issues. Shariah also includes how Muslims should pray, marry, bury their dead, how to dress, what to eat, and many other day to day activities. In other words, Shariah is no different from any other religion’s laws, cannon, or rules.

This is why it’s extremely disturbing that Muslims are always singled out exclusively as having beliefs incompatible with the US Constitution, laws, and values. There is no religion without questionable things written in their texts. The Bible states that kids should be killed for disobeying parents, women should obey their husbands like a god, and many more horrific things. There have been doctrines in various religions that any modern person would feel are wrong. Yet, we never question whether or not Christians should be allowed to be President or hold elected office when the very book they profess belief in and swear their oaths on, contains so many unsavory and barbaric passages. As Americans, we give our Christian and Jewish elected officials the benefit of the doubt that even though their texts says these things and even though they haven’t been asked to defend, expunge, or repudiate these verses, that they will act on what they have professed in their campaigns and abide by the oaths they swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

This question of whether or not Muslims can be just as loyal or abide by the oaths we swear, is why allegations of islamophobia are relevant. Ben Carson’s comments, just like those often professed by members of the Republican Party and even members of the Left like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, that somehow place American Muslims in this unique category different from any other religion regardless of a textual comparison, is very disturbing and should be exposed for the bigotry that it is. I personally find these recent discussions extremely abhorrent because unlike Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and many others who harbor these beliefs, I along with 2 members of Congress Andre Carson and Keith Ellison, and hundreds of veterans, have actually sworn oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and have kept those oaths by serving honorably. Some have even given their lives on the battlefield as recently called to attention by Senator Harry Reid concerning Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim member of the US Army who died in defense of America. Khan was also awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

We cannot continue to allow these comments that single out a single religious minority in America to stand. We would not allow it for any other group and our history bears witness to what harm this type of bigotry can cause. As Catholics, Jews, and others know all too well, the stereotypes, comments, rumors, and allegations can lead to much worse. Islamophobia propagated in comments by Carson, Trump, and others with such large followings, help spread the division in America and ostracism of American Muslims. Right now, in many places in America, Muslims have to fight for their rights to practice their religion freely, to build houses of worship, be able to build cemeteries to bury their dead, and be able to take off from work or school for religious holidays.

When Ben Carson tries to downplay his comments by suggesting that what he meant was that he wouldn’t support anyone who supports theocracy and that as long as Muslims reject those things that he and others feel are inherent in Islam alone, is ridiculous. The presumption that Muslims automatically support theocracy or backward ideas because they are Muslim is why these comments are so inflammatory even after the spin. No one who wants to lead all Americans, should hold ideas that remotely suggest that any religious minority especially one with 3 million members should somehow face a religious litmus test. There is nothing just about judging whether or not Muslims can be President when the appraisal doesn’t consider what Muslims have actually said, done, or even the oaths they have already sworn.

What’s amazing is that the two front-runners of the Republican Party running for President share these views. This says a lot to me as an American, as a Veteran, and as a Muslim, about the vision they have for America, because they do not include me, my family, or my friends.

When Is A Riot A Riot?

B0UHfLACMAE0wrCIt’s happening again. People are making the rounds slyly doing their wink and nod routine about “The Blacks” rioting in Baltimore. If you have the stomach click on the various news reports and check out the comments to the articles. You’ll see lots of calls for killing, arrests, etc. against protestors. They are routinely called savages, animals, and worse and some proudly display pictures and meme’s of their heroes Zimmerman, Wilson, and others who killed Blacks and got away with it.

Though none of the keyboard warriors at least that I’ve witnessed, have out and out called for Blacks to be lynched, this is exactly what is going on. Violence against all Blacks is being advocated, hinted at, and joked about openly and stoked by the media’s reports that routinely fan the flames of hate and agitation against Blacks. While this is nothing new in America, it’s no less disturbing. The reality is that while there are some protestors who are committing crimes the overwhelming majority are not. This was also the case in Ferguson and other places.

However the media and their legion of hate peddlers emphasize the criminals to indirectly influence judgement on the whole. As such, you’ll never hear in the narrative from the media consumer, “why are SOME people doing this?”, no what you will routinely hear is “why are THEY doing this?” and worse “why do THEY do this?”

Now some may claim that this is not about race and they are not only lying, they are telling a damn lie. The narrative has been and continues to be that Blacks are criminal savages that must be put down. This narrative is routinely enforced through the focusing on the negatives in the Black community and the highlighting of crimes being committed instead of achievements. This imagery that is continually reinforced also plays a part in why some cops target Blacks disproportionately in the first place.

Now before some of you try to use the fake and purposefully vague and dismissive race card argument, take a look at all the times mostly White rioters have been covered in the media. Ask yourself how many times national news reported or called a group of Whites who damaged property, overturned cars, or burned things down due to mass drunkenness, the celebration, or loss of a sports team etc. a riot? How many times were these incidents covered as breaking news on all cable news networks? When were these groups or any groups of Whites on the whole called savage, barbaric, or indicative of their race?

The sensationalist media coverage continual stokes the base fears of Whites for ratings in order to illicit vicious responses and commentaries against Blacks because that makes money.

When we deal with the reasons behind the riots then we can expect the reactions to go away.

Here’s a good post that gives and example of the biased coverage poignantly.

When the Criminal This Time Is Black and Muslim

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There are days when being an American Muslim can make you want to bang your head on your desk in frustration. For the most part, like most Americans regardless of the notorious hyphenation, as an American Muslim, I live, work, entertain, and spend time with family and friends, like any other citizen in the land of red, white, and blue. I go to see summer movies, check out the occasional horror flick, anxiously await the next Game Of Thrones novel, stand in line for my iPhone, and buy the latest Xbox games. Rarely am I ever questioned about my faith by others and rarely do I feel uncomfortable as a Muslim in the country where I was born and my forefathers enslaved.

That isn’t to say that my experience is typical of every American Muslim because it is not. First of all, I’m a Black male originally from New Jersey, and I don’t look stereotypically Muslim. I’m a convert, who’s family is uber Christian so I’m just as comfortable eating Kabob as I am a traditional Sunday dinner, minus the pork in my collard greens of course. To be honest, most Black American Muslims have experiences that are often completely different than our non-Black counterparts.

For example, when cable news spreads propaganda about my religion, as maddening as it is, I know that when I walk out the door, I’m going to be seen as just another Black guy, which can have it’s own issues in of itself, but I digress. I’m never looked at as a terrorist based on my ethnicity, or the way I dress whether it’s my suit and tie for work, or mundane clothing typical of my age/region. Though most won’t admit it, the brunt of anti-Islam rhetoric and it’s resulting prejudicial behavior in some, is usually levied against Muslim women who wear hijab and American Muslims of Arab, South East Asian, or similar ethnic descent. For the most part, if you’re a Black American Muslim who isn’t a woman wearing hijab or a man in “traditional” garb from Muslim countries, you’re just another Black guy or woman.

Which is why when I learned that a “convert” to Islam beheaded a co-worker in Oklahoma, I instantly got a little ill. I was mortified by the crime as any beheading should affect a normal human being with a heart, but I was also nauseated by the implications of what might come of the media blitz as they salivate over this disgusting, tragic event.

Say what you will, but I know I’m not the only Black American Muslim who upon reading the headlines, immediately hoped that the guy wasn’t Black. Let’s face it: If the headline had been “Muslim beheaded…” instead of “Muslim convert beheaded…” the mental imagery would have been different. We can blame the media and social engineering for this, but without going into a Sociology discussion, I’ll readily admit that I personally conjure up varying images based on the headline. “Muslim” without the convert addendum, would have made me think non-Black and “Muslim convert” made me instantly think Black guy. It’s a sad world we live in and I’m embarrassed to even write this.

Unfortunately, in our sensationalized, if it bleeds it leads, news programs, every time a convert to Islam is mentioned in connection with some crime, they are usually Black, and every time a Muslim in general, is mentioned in connection with some crime they were usually non-Black. I believe wholeheartedly that this is by design as not all converts to Islam are Black, nor the majority of non-Converts “Middle Eastern”. Nor are Muslims alone guilty of the crimes usually associated with us, which is why it’s always been shameful that the religion of the criminal is only mentioned when the criminal is Muslim. Which is why the news had to go through great lengths to explain the Boston Marathon bombers non-Arabness. In this “ISIS is the new Al-Qaeda” reality that we now live in, Muslims have once again been put on the defensive, having to explain away our religion, issue fatwas, hold press conferences, hold up signs, etc. etc. etc. etc. to state what should be apparent to any rational adult. I still find myself awestruck that people still believe that 1/3 of the Earth’s population believes that their religion teaches to kill all non-Muslims.

So what do you do when you’re a Black American Muslim, already feeling the pressures of just being a Black Man in America, in light of constant news reports of police brutality and rarely having to address your religion in your daily life, only to find out that you too have been dragged into the “homegrown” ISIS madness? As a parent, already used to having to explain to my sons why they can’t wear hoodies, play with things that can be “mistaken” for a gun, and to be mindful of where they are at all times, now I wonder if I have to add to the list, be careful of who you tell your name to, don’t get caught wearing a Kufi, and watch being seen entering and leaving the Mosque.

This whole media frenzy is getting out of hand and I fear that it will only get worse in light of this tragedy. What’s at stake here is not Islam or even the perception of what that means. This divisive rhetoric that has caused news anchors and politicians to feel comfortable freely calling American Muslims terrorists, un-patriotic, dangerous, and worse, is not only disgusting, but dangerous. How incidents like this beheading in Oklahoma are covered, only help to widen the net of bigotry toward Muslims by including more Americans as potential threats and targets of hate crimes. Though an entire industry of hate-speech against Muslims arose after 9/11, rarely have Muslims like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, and others been included in the stereotyping. With Nidal Hassan Malik, his crime was used to fuel the narrative that Muslims in the military were not to be trusted. This crime, will deliver the industry of sensationalism and hate against Muslims, the motive to include Black converts to Islam to their list of undesirables. The claim that ISIS is at your door is realized in one man’s actions and it would be a lie to say that I’m not fearful of what’s to come. I guess I might finally be able to truly relate to my Arab, Pakistani, Women, etc. American Muslim counterparts who’ve for years have had to walk on eggshells daily in this post-9/11 world.

Why Aren’t Celebrities Speaking Out Against Injustice In Palestine?

15-rihanna-free-palestine.w529.h352.2xIf it were left up to our Western media we would all believe that everything is right in the world. All we’d be allowed to know is that a plane crashed somewhere near Russia, Israel is defending itself against an enemy more dangerous than Godzilla, and Lebron James is going back to Cleveland. Thank God for the internet and in particular social media! The reality is that we can not rely on our media as a valuable source of information. We’ve known this for quite some time in politics and most other issues, but it’s becoming even more painfully obvious when it comes to coverage of Palestine. Although this is not a new phenomenon as our media has always ignored Palestinian suffering in favor of Israeli government talking points, it’s nothing short of amazing that mainstream media persists today knowing that the internet bears witness against their false narratives. Unless you’re a person who cares more about human suffering in the world instead of what this or that Kardashian is doing and instead seek out unbiased information, how would you know about the apartheid going on under your nose?

Imagine a society where in times like these, people whom we elevate to near god-like status as we fill their pockets, actually did something worthwhile outside of entertaining? Imagine if Beyoncé paused between shaking her booty on the stage and encouraged her audience to get involved? Imagine if Kanye West stopped mid-rant about this or that beef of the day, and spoke out against the bombs being dropped on civilians in Gaza? I mean think about it and I’m not singling out any particular celebrities here, but time and time again, we the consumer go out and make people rich and famous, and though many give back in charitable ways that rarely if ever get promoted, when it comes to the global issues they are silent. This isn’t just about Gaza either. They rarely have a word to say when it comes to politics and barely when it comes to domestic issues as well.

So what should one make of the crickets coming from the privileged sector of our society? Should they even feel the need to use their platform to make their fans and followers aware of human tragedy? Some may argue that it’s not their duty and I’d have to agree. Yes, when I spend hundreds of dollars on entertainment essentially funding our decadence, I’m not asking actors, musicians, etc. to preach to me about social ills. However, what does it say about a person if they know they have the ability to effect change but instead do nothing? We already know politicians long ago sold their souls and though it’s heart wrenching to see our President repeat the tired old talking points reminding us who really runs the country, it should be expected. Truth is a foreign concept in US politic. So expecting more from our politicians is a worthless endeavor. However, should a platform necessitate a need to be used in order to address issues that the average joe cannot? Should celebrity be used in a meaningful way to promote change? Should those who have the ability to reach millions in a single tweet selfishly guard expressing how they feel on real world issues?

Obviously, one can somewhat excuse the cowardice of up and coming celebrities fearing their words could ruin their careers, but what about well established personalities? What’s their problem? Recently, Rihanna for instance, attempted to lead on this front and tweeted #freepalestine a courageous gesture that could have been celebrated and possibly encourage others to do the same, but unfortunately, moments later, she deleted the tweet and lied that it was an accident. In other words, Rihanna like Dwight Howard before her, accidentally advocated an end to Palestinian suffering.

What kind of world do we live in when speaking out against the oppression and slaughter of a people is considered an accident? It’s sickening to know that the mere mention of Palestine has Voldermort-esque properties, making even those who have no fear in posting nude pics of themselves, using sex tapes to fuel their careers, or leaking all manner of details about their hookups public, afraid to go on record stating that they believe the slaughter of women and children is wrong. I’m curious to know how one sleeps at night knowing that with all their influence they remain silent on the cause of our time. How will history judge this period when the world did nothing and even after the lessons of Nazi Germany and Apartheid in a South Africa, we turned a blind eye to the similar conditions in Palestine? How will history view those who had the power to ease that suffering but refused to speak out because they feared the loss of an album sale or an appearance in a a summer blockbuster? What’s left of our humanity, when we fear the mere acknowledgement of senseless violence and destruction against Palestine?