The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) has closely watched the tragic events and uprising unfold in Baltimore and stands in solidarity with victims of police brutality in cities across America, as well as with protestors and activists calling for justice. While the expressions of solidarity have rippled across social media, MuslimARC is deeply concerned about a problematic statement released by The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) on April 28, 2015, in which the organization states it is “disturbed over the escalation of violence and rioting shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray, an African American male who died nearly two weeks ago in police custody.”
MuslimARC believes the statement fails to recognize the lived realities of a group that has been routinely disenfranchised and continues to withstand serious injustice and oppression. We are also concerned by the absence of any calls for accountability towards the Baltimore Police Department for the violent taking of a life, especially amid an expression of disapproval toward the response.
We wish to work to heal the wounds within our communities and see authentic unity that transcends class and ethnic background. We cannot emphasize enough that these types of statements are painful, harmful, and serve to weaken any ties of brotherhood and sisterhood in our ummah.
We call for radical empathy and bold leadership from organizations that seek to represent American Muslims.
MuslimARC would ask that ISNA consider re-evaluating this statement. We are available for discussion on how organizations can develop productive statements on the Baltimore uprising.
We commend ICNA, CAIR-PA and members of our esteemed Ulema, including Sh. Omar Suleiman, Sh. Yasir Qadhi, Sh. Suhaib Webb, AbdelRahman Murphy and others for their words regarding the oppression faced by those in Baltimore.
As Naeem Baig, President of ICNA, stated:
“There is a problem with color in our country. There is a problem when law enforcement officers are prejudiced against minorities and abuse them. Police violence only gets worse when compounded with racial inequality and poverty. We must all stand up and say enough is enough.
The call for nonviolence by the state as it continuously inflicts violence on its citizens is hollow. While we do not condone the destroying of property, or harm of any kind, neither can we condemn the protestors who are fed up with police brutality and sick of living cautiously in fear. We value the sanctity of life. We must demand justice. This is our right. We must not stop agitating for truth and asking important questions.”
MuslimARC would like to remind all American Muslim leaders and organizations that standing and speaking for justice is a Divine mandate. Allah (SWT) states in Surah An-Nisa, Verse 135:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allâh, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allâh is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allâh is Ever Well Acquainted with what you do.” [4:135]
Black Muslims constitute more than one-third of all American Muslims. It is of utmost importance that our ties of brotherhood and sisterhood are honored at this moment. The Prophet (saw) stated, “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” [Bukhari & Muslim].
MuslimARC calls for review and/or retraction of statements that disregard the dynamics between a systemically and historically oppressed, disenfranchised community and a consistently violent state-sanctioned oppressor. We call for organizations who seek to speak for American Muslims to consult and listen to those they deem to represent.
We welcome any questions or inquiries from organizations or individuals who seek to deepen their understanding of police brutality, racism, anti-blackness, and/or our role as Muslims in fighting against these oppressions. We recommend that American Muslim organizations immediately begin seeking knowledge from Black Muslim scholars, educators, and activists on the ground in Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, and elsewhere on these issues if they have not done so already.
Allah (SWT) is Al-Ghaffar, the Forgiving, and we remind ourselves first and foremost that seeking to rectify one’s harmful actions is commendable and a sign of strong leadership.
Our #BlackLivesMatter Toolkit for Muslims is available on the web at www.muslimarc.org/blacklivesmatter.