HAVE WE ABDICATED OUR RESPONSIBILITY
by Mahmoud Andrade Ibrahim
…..an excerpt from the book : Islam and the Black American by Sherman Jackson
“In one of her essays recollecting her experiences as a foreign student in America back in the 1970’s, the Morrocan Muslim feminist Fatima Mernissi recalls her surprise to find that Islam was spreading among Blackamericans. This was strange, according to Mernissi, because while Blackamericans seemed to be finding in Islam a message of equality and social justice , (she found) inequality and exploitation of the disenfranchised had always operated in her experience as accepted norms.
Having lived and traveled throughout the Muslim and especially the Arab world, Mernissi was well acquainted with the rigid class divisions and social stratification that characterized Muslim societies. This in fact was the source of her amazement. For if societies that held up Islam as the ideal sustained inequities and exploitation, how was one to explain the tendency among Blackamericans to turn precisely to that ideal as a basis for alleviating their sociopolitical woes?”
In my estimation, by underscoring the above passage, what Dr. Sherman Jackson is directing our attention to in his book is that our (the blackamerican) vision of Islam is connected, whether we admit to it or not, to the work that was done by groups like the Moorish Temple, the Nation of Islam and others who linked their neo-Islamic ideas to the notions of social justice and equality. The Black Muslim Movement ( Nation of Islam) carved into the psychology of the blackamerican community the idea that Islam was a vehicle that aided in the processes of social change and religious fulfillment.
The sunni/shia relationships come into the blackamerican community a little later on when most community-folk had already associated Islam with blackness, socially conscious behavior and ideas of moral superiority. The Nation of Islam, more than any other group promoted that image by way of its visibility inside the blackamerican community using its National organ,the Muhammad Speaks newspaper.
The sunni groups gain their momentum in the sixties amidst the social upheavals that defined that era. Our collective psychology, that of the new converts to Islam, was also shaped by the idea that Islam was synonymous with social justice and the other egalitarian notions such as freedom, justice and equality, again piggybacking on the work done by Moorish Science and the NOI.
But much like those communists of the 1950’s and 60’s who praised the principles of that political order but refused to see the devastation caused by Stalin, despite the evidence of those millions who were killed and countless other disappeared souls under his direct authorship (when I began working at WBAI in the eighties, there were still pictures of Stalin in various parts of the radio-station) , we, the Muslims, are equally guilty because we have refused to look at the realities of the Muslim world, much of which is based on systematic exploitation and authoritarian abuse. WE HAVE ABDICATED OUR RESPONSIBILITY.
However, we can reshape and advance our vision of Islam, one that does not promote the backwardness of much of the Muslim world. We can define what is applicable and practical in our approach to Islam and not continue to allow others to define it for us, especially because they have corrupted its practice in their own homelands. We can dis-associate ourselves from the present madness (i.e. rulings and sentiments based in different epochs and varying cultures ) and we can define for ourselves questions such as:
What constitutes acceptable Muslim practice for us in America.
We can be free to recognize the full equality of women in every sphere of life and discontinue our gaze upon the cultural models of lesser developed societies.
There is an expression that says, ‘every man knows only where his shoe pinches’. The meaning, of course is clear, no one else can tell you what your cultural priorities are or what your social conditions require. We, the Blackamerican Muslim, understand our situation and our communities better than anyone else and we have the confidence to address them better than anyone else !
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