NEW YORK – The distinctive experiences of American Black Muslims are often overlooked due to a prevailing stereotype that Muslims descend from specific ethnicities and regions, primarily Arab or Asian. However, the Muslim demographic in the United States comprises of a rich tapestry of cultures and heritages, including Black Muslims.
Discussions included how they resist against cultural erasure as well as how they encounter both racism and Islamophobia resulting from social intersections of race and religion.
MuslimARC expressed on Twitter that the goal of the Twitter town hall was to “explore the tensions and connections between African Diasporic communities in North America”.
MuslimARC posed the following questions:
- How do we center Black Muslims? How do we fight the erasure of African Muslims in discussions about a #BlackMuslimFuture?
- African, Afro Caribbean, Afro Latino, and Black Muslims: Looking forward, how can we celebrate the diversity and its diaspora?
- Who are some Black Muslims who give hope about our #BlackMuslimFuture?
- What are some of the challenges and opportunities for creating a thriving #BlackMuslimFuture?
- What institutions, programs, initiatives or changes would you like to see developed for our #BlackMuslimFuture?
- What lessons/wisdom do we hope to impart to Black Muslim youth and new converts about being Black and Muslims 5, 10, 20 years from now?
The organization also invited participants to post links, pics and resources on #BeingBlackAndMuslim and #BlackMuslimFuture.
The #BeingBlackAndMuslim town hall was populated with a myriad of tweets as Black Muslims from a variety of backgrounds shared their perspectives. Some Black Muslims asserted mutual ownership of their Islamic identities and blackness:
Participants of the Twitter town hall also expressed the need to appreciate the history of Black Muslims in the United States and their role in establishing Islam as an American religion:
MuslimARC co-founder Margari Hill explains, “The ‘us versus them’ binary that posits Muslims as the foreign “other” ignores the long history of Muslim in North America, which predates the Declaration of Independence.” Native-born American Muslims often find their culture erased as well as important societal issues that directly affect them.
Participants also addressed issues of general racism to which they are subject as well as the intracultural racism they face in Muslim communities:
Regarding enduring racism against Black American Muslims, executive director of CAIR, Michigan Dawud Walid expounds, “Intra-Muslim racism is an issue often swept under the rug in the American Muslim community. Some of its manifestations are overt while its varying expressions tend to be more subtle…A hurtful symptom of the disease of racism among us is seen in the derogatory terms that are used by many Muslims to describe people of various racial groups. From my observations it appears that Black Americans are the subjects of the majority of this name calling.”
In addition to black Muslims, non-black Muslims joined the town hall in solidarity and appreciation for the challenges black Muslims face:
A growing number of non-black American Muslims are beginning to appreciate the need for the inclusion of black American Muslims in the cultural Dialogue.
Law professor Khalid Beydoun states, “To talk about Muslim Americans, you have to start by talking about African Americans.”