Are White Muslims Racist?

basmillah

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.
Quran translation, Surah an-Nisa, 4:135

hamza-yusufAssalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

I know most of you reading this have listened to or at least heard of the recent terrible comments by Hamza Yusuf on the subject of race at the 2016 RIS conference and maybe you are shocked someone you’ve maybe loved or followed for years could speak these words, perpetrate these racially charged and yes racist myths.

Here is the clip in question for those who have missed it, yes it is that bad. Yes he really does say “It actually makes me a little sick to my stomach to see all these people rising up about… white privilege.” 

I am not so shocked myself though. I ‘grew up’ in terms of the deen as a new Muslim listening to many Hamza Yusuf talks, but over the years I’ve gone off him as my own views came closer to the authentic scholars of ahlus sunnah and drifted away from the traditionalist-ish approach he brings up, as well as when my views on world affairs clashed more and with his pro-western speeches.

You may differ, that’s fine but that is just me and my views of him and I don’t think this particular speech is way out there really, that he was only tired after a long flight as some have tried to suggest, it fits into the same themes he’s been pushing for the past 10 years at least.

Now I’ve been wanting to write an article about the racism of many white revert Muslims for a while now, so rather than devoting a whole article to trashing someone who has already been thoroughly rebuked by so many powerful voices in the Muslim community over the years as well as more recently I want instead to use this incident to ask another more general question about are his views somewhat typical of white Muslim attitudes…

ARE WHITE MUSLIMS RACIST?

Now those who know me personally or have just read my blog over the time it has been up will know I normally complain of discrimination towards reverts (or converts if you like) but in this particular case I want to ask the question are Hamza Yusuf’s comments more indicative of a wider problem among white reverts towards other Muslims, especially black Muslims but also other nationalities, races and cultures?

I would argue they are and as a white revert, involved in new Muslim support activities and Dawah one of my responsibilities to check that racism so it cannot just be dismissed as another bitter rant by an angry person of colour.

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Due to the inherent racism and still colonized minds of so many in the Muslim community, my voice as a white Muslims is heard whilst so many others who are perhaps far more qualified to speak on this topic are ignored and I would be ignoring my own duty as a Muslim if I did not speak out when I am given the opportunity.

You (true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad and his Sunnah) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah.
Quran translation Surah Al ‘Imraan 3:110

This is one of the things I did take from a Hamza Yusuf talk years ago, when he was asked in a Q&A session about the way new Muslims are treated especially well by some parts of the Muslim community, and how it was a responsibility in such circumstances to speak out for the truth and treat that position as an amanah, a trust.

Saying that, it struck me back then and even more so now that that privileged position only really applies to white reverts, the experience of black reverts and other non-white reverts I’ve come to understand is somewhat different.

When some Arab or Asian Muslims is telling a new Muslim he or she is better than them as they’ve reverted, so are ‘like the sahabah’ this is usually addressed to white faces not brown or black ones.

I’ve never met a white revert who has not had this experience probably more than once in one form or another, and I’ve never met a black Muslim who has been treated in this manner… unless you count constantly being compared to and even called Bilal because Bilal is the only black Sahabah or Prophet they know about.

The treatment of white and black (and other ethnic minority) reverts is not the same in our community, that is a fact. If as a white, Arab or Asian Muslim reading this you are suffering from some sort of cognitive dissonance at this point and you are not willing to accept that self-evident and obvious truth then stop reading now because everything else from here on in is going to get even more uncomfortable for you.

I am not saying white reverts don’t suffer some discrimination, they do and dealing with it and the aftermath all the time is part of my job but it’s no-where near on the same levels as other ethnic groups are getting and I’ve known black brothers and sisters leave Islam over this crappy totally anti-Islamic treatment.

It’s not a small thing and nor should we brush it under the carpet because ‘it put people off accepting Islam’ if they are only going to leave later anyway once they experience the reality.

White reverts are treated sometimes as status symbols by the Muslim community, so when a Masjid wants pictures of reverts to put on a fundraising brochure to go to the gulf, who gets called upon to help out?

Who gets the invites (few as they are for reverts) for iftar and Eid with Muslim families or for sitting with visiting scholars from the Muslim lands? Who gets pushed forward as a speaker or even for training to become a scholar and then gets easily accepted as such?

Who then being advantaged in these small but meaningful ways, being known by the community then gets pushed forward for marriage when that time comes and someone has expressed an interest in their son or daughter marrying a revert?

Though white reverts do suffer some discrimination, we should recognize it’s mixed up with a large dollop of privilege as well so it is a duty for us to use that privilege to break down the barriers for those left to one side, to speak out for those who are often silenced or ignored in the masjid and wider Muslim community.

So there is racism towards most reverts, falling least of all upon the whites, but as a section of the Muslim community are we guilty of this most heinous of modern sins? Are many white reverts themselves racist?

roast-beef-dinnerROAST BEEF DINNERS

Get two or more white reverts together in the UK and most likely one will bring up their dislike of curry, or some other ethnic cuisine, or dislike of certain types of clothing and they’ll then have a good moan about how they wanted to become Muslim, not an Arab, Pakistani or a Malay, etc and why cannot they just wear normal English clothing, the worst of them will then explain their need / want to free-mix, listen to music, do Christmas and birthdays etc with their families.

I remember one meeting we had over 10 years ago for the New Muslim Project in Sheffield, where a Masjid was providing us venue and free food for new Muslims and their families and all some of the reverts could do was moan all the way through the meeting about how I bet it’s curry again, why can’t we have have a nice roast beef dinner instead and why do we always get expected to eat Asian / Arab food?

The level of ungratefulness was something ugly to behold, and I am not just saying that because I like curries, I also like roast beef dinners as well but if someone is putting on free food and help for you then don’t whinge and whine about what gets cooked.

There is so often a sense of cultural superiority about a lot of these conversations and meetings and it’s not just white reverts who the only ones guilty of this either.

dont-tell-me-what-they-say-about-meBigoted Asians will often share in their conversations with white reverts some of their own twisted views towards black people, and Arabs the same towards the Asians and blacks in the Muslim community. They attempt to draw you into their conspiratorial little world views as if you will come onto their side or you must already be there purely because of your skin tone, as if these others are ‘not quite the same as us,’ not really Muslim enough, almost other, a lesser being.

They must be used to having such talks with and around white Muslims they meet and know and not being challenged over it, because when it is challenged they are shocked and outraged to be called up over it or else try to claim they meant something else.

So readers, especially reverts but also others please start responding and challenging such attitudes and behaviors or be prepared to face the consequences of potentially sharing in those sins on the day of judgement.

On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (radiallahu anhu) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”
Sahih Muslim

BIGOTRY IN MARRIAGE

I know a lot of black reverts get annoyed that it is only when it comes to marriage that bigotry is brought up in the Muslim community but it’s a topic I did want to bring up as an example, showing the racism of many white reverts and how far we have yet to come as it is an experience they know themselves.

I know as best as I can that it’s not the once in a lifetime issue of marriage which is the main problem, it’s the one hundred and one other little acts of racism and prejudice which cause more day to day problems for black Muslims in our community, the number of times the salam is neither initiated or responded to, the way people stick to their own or those they see like them or like who they would like to be, the way white culture is looked up-to and emulated by the culturally colonized Asians and Arabs especially those brought up in the west but black brothers very quickly get told they need to leave their culture at the door or else told they have jahiliyyah and a chip on the shoulder.

But you ask any white revert just about, and all of them will tell you they’ve struggled to get married, had rejections based on race, culture etc, but ask these same people whether their own children could marry a black revert… and all of a sudden all the racist stereotypes come out.

It’s not just the revert themselves either, sometimes their born Muslim spouse will have bigoted attitudes as well. Saying such a partner is unsuitable for their offspring, they are too strong a character, too lustful,  they are lazy, or have a chip on the shoulder, or else won’t be accepted in our community as if these reverts now they’ve made it and been accepted find it then acceptable to turn their back on others who are still to some degree held on the periphery of the Muslim community.

IT’S TIME TO END THIS

We know that racism whether in subtle or overt forms can be stopped, Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Salam) did so, and provided the Prophet model on how it can be done but it requires action and speech from everyone to do so as a community and as individuals.

We need to really challenge the racist trash when you hear it and not let it go, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES FROM OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS AND SISTERS. We need to reach out in brotherhood, genuine brotherhood to those around us, and pull together as a community and that means listening and acting upon the concerns of others.

It also means slapping people down occasionally when they say something incredibly silly and / or racist. Stop making excuses just because fulan fulan is an imam, or your neighbour or your uncle, just stop it.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.
Quran translation, Surah an-Nisa, 4:135

We need to listen to those voices who are telling us that things are not OK, just because it’s sometimes mostly alright for the white reverts like Hamza Yusuf or myself, that doesn’t mean everyone else is sharing the same experience or that we need to belittle their complaints as it doesn’t seem to fit in how we see ourselves and our lives.

Stop making excuses for racism, whether it is within or without the Muslim community. Just stop it, there is no justification. When you hear that Munkar stand firm against it.

We need to encourage the imams to speak up, to challenge this sort of thing just as they do so when the dhulm, oppression affects them or their own people whether here or around the world. Especially those of us who are listened to because of privileged position, use that privilege to put a stop to the conditions that brought it about in the first place if you know it is not really justified.

We say we are one Ummah, one nation but if one section of the Muslim community is being affected massively by a serious problem, but we don’t see it as our problem because it doesn’t hurt us then we’re not really a community are we?

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 5665, Sahih Muslim 2586

Even if we don’t have these attitudes ourselves, if we the white Muslims turn our backs on others, their problems and experiences because they do not share our own background are we not then guilty of helping perpetrate a racist system?

 

 

 

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “Are White Muslims Racist?

  1. JazakAllah khairan for this. It’s rare to read an acknowledgement of racist attitudes amongst white converts. The focus is always on the racism they experience from other Muslims, without acknowledging the prejudices & cultural supremacist attitudes they may themselves hold.
    May Allah bless us with the insight to see our flaws & cleanse our hearts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not the only one who has seen this, but for some reason it’s rarely called out for what it is. Maybe we’ll see more of that as Muslims develop in the deen and develop their own voice to speak up on issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ma sha Allah, you made some interesting points.
    I am a white British revert and my husband a white American revert. Together we have had some interesting experiences.
    I was previously married to an Algerian and found myself more accepted by the community because I was married to a “Muslim”. When my husband moved to live with me in the UK he wasn’t welcomed. He is white, from the south, raised in a mix race household, ex military, and basically the way he was treated by people was unbelievable, like he may as well have been a member of the KKK, like if his skin tone was darker he would have been better off. This is a huge reason why we moved back to the US.
    Over here, things are hugely different, we live in a large culturally Bosnian community and are seen as outsiders, certainly not welcomed. The way we are treated here goes along with the narrative that Islam is only for brown people and Bosnians. It’s incredibly difficult to even take my children to the masjid. Other children won’t play with them because they’re not Bosnian!!
    As for the black reverts, I’ve seen them mistreated, but also we have also been mistreated because of our skin tone.

    It’s sad, can’t we just embrace each other. I have absolutely no issue with anyone other than with people’s manners. My children are free to marry any race they wish, I would marry any race, it just happened that qadr led me toy husband.
    I now have to watch what I say, I can’t talk about great Islamic African history to an African American because I’m disrespecting their heritage. My half African son can’t stand up and be proud of his African heritage because being from Africa means you apparently have to be brown.
    Ignorance on all sides and when I’m trying to just be peaceful and kind and giving and following the Quran and Sunnah I’m getting bitten from all sides.
    Alhamdulillah alarm killing haal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s sad you have had those experiences, and one American Muslim pulled me up years ago over something similar I did, after I asked him how he felt about Bush and his reply was he felt fed up of being asked about Bush.

      That as an American he should not be assumed to own ‘that a**hole’ and as a Muslim he was fed up of being asked what he felt about the Taliban or Bin Ladin.

      Tried never to do so again with American Muslims I met in the UK, as it could feel hurtful to have their loyalty questioned to the deen just because of their accent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bismillah. Calling for a “roast dinners as we always have curry” sounds to me more like Sheffield/Yorkshire humour than ungratefulness, (a scouse/hotpot/stew may be much more appropriate considering the logistics of making a roast dinner for 50). Humour is a way of breaking down barriers between the different cultures, if you love each other you can say stuff, anything, this may look racist, but why not point out differences, with a smile, all cultures have their ways. Why should the white new Muslim “reverts” have to dress in them long thin dishdashas from Saudi when it’s freezing up north and you can’t run in them, as long as they don’t go against the codes? White “reverts” have to prove to the wider Muslim community that they fit in, at the same time losing links to family and friends. They get the privilege, as long as they comply with all the stereotypes “for being a good Muslim”, obviously this privilege should be used to help injustices wherever. But let’s have a bit of humour inshallah, humour is my cultural heritage, it helped get Britain through the Second World War”. Sorry is this racist!?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The roast dinner thing was one example and was most definitely not humour. I could have picked others and was part of a long running whining theme I experienced from some members of NMP I came across.

      As for being forced to fit in, yes this does happen to some extent with white reverts but no where near as often as it happens to others.

      This is because white culture, the culture of Britain is the background noise of living we are all used to, and have accepted to some degree or another. Someone falling further outside that norm is forced to comply to an even greater degree.

      As for what helped Britain get through WWII, yes I am sure humour helped…

      but I feel the aid sent often unwillingly colonized people across the globe, including the food forcibly sent from India contributing to the deaths of millions there at the end of that war was perhaps a stronger element in that victory.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Certainly there are reverts that hold on to bad habits once becoming muslim. I can’t say that all or most white muslims are racist. I met some who weren’t and are friends of mine and a few who were bigots. Two just this morning. One white man commented about a guest on the deen show assuming he was in the nation of islam because he was black (something that happens to me frequently) and said black people dilute religions with voodoo. A white woman on a sisters only facebook group said she would never marry a black man because she couldn’t trust any. Saying that black people couldn’t speak proper english we were drug dealers, uneducated, and left baby mamas everywhere. When I called her racist she said she was a realist. So obviously people can carry over their haram tendencies over to Islam. A lot of white privilege in the muslim community comes from fetishing of white muslims. Kind of like white hippos. It’s kind of like the reversion of someone from another race is worth less than white peoples. But most of the extreme racism I have faced in the muslim community come from non white muslims. It can be pretty ugly. On two eids I have sisters not responding to my salam and this happens a lot at my university. A few people refuse to consider me for marriage because im black. Most liquor stores and hair extension shops in black communities are run by muslims but no one has an issue with this. If you bring it up people say ‘Islam is perfect but muslims are not’ then do nothing to change this. My only muslim friends are reverts because other muslims act as if they are better than everyone.
    I think a lot of times with any movement or religion or even a trend, people won’t find it valid until white people start doing them. When white people start doing things they all of a sudden stop being comical or stereotypical.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s not a question of whether white reverts are racist but rather were they racists to begin with. Changing religion doesn’t mean people will also change their ways. Yes, some do but others don’t. When you grow up in a certain culture, community and household with certain beliefs then you are product of that culture and society. Those whites who were never racists to begin with will not be racists while Muslims, but those who were racists to begin with will bring that racism with them into Islam. And sadly, white culture is a racist culture with a history of imperial colonization and oppression of other races, the media/hollywood continuously portrays the whites as better. It’s always the white prince charming going to the rescue of a non white woman, be it in hollywood, Disney movies or going to save those “oppressed” women over there in the east. Add to that the institutionalized racism of minorities and white privileged afforded to the whites and with all cultural baggage, the average white person grows up feeling some what superior to others and these views come out more when they are among themselves, as observed by you about their remarks regarding others. So it doesn’t matter if you are a revert/convert or not, if you were a racist to begin with then sooner or later that will come out and show.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all have jahiliyyah to some degree, but when we accept Islam we are meant to leave it behind.

      The issue I am I suppose trying to address, is whether there is something in the condition of the white Muslim which in most cases causes us to not see, and so not be able to let go of this particular pre-islamic trait.

      Like

  6. As a white Muslim, I find this article stereotypical, condescending, and harmful, as well as dismissive of my own challenges. The fact that your white Muslim friends just sit around moaning around eating curry says more about your choice of social circle than it does about the experiences of white Muslims, and it certainly can’t be generalised to a population spanning several countries. Basically, it’s irresponsible journalism. It is better to speak about yourself rather than to speak about “all whites”.

    In this day and age there is a fair amount of broad-scale academic research on Muslims from the West so why not look through that to see statistical discussions of people’s experiences. Implying there is something inherently “jahiliyyah” in a white Muslim is just…well, don’t even know where to start in an article on race.

    Incidentally, I have had some of the most blatant “othering” comments from Bosnians, who have told me things such as “you can’t be a Muslim because there’s no such thing as a white Muslim”. Just saying that just because we all look white doesn’t mean we all see each other as the same. Not even sure where to start with that one…

    Like

    1. Assalaamu Alaykum Apple,

      OK first off, I am neither a journalist nor an academic, nor is this is a news blog or one devoted to research or anything such. So yes, it’s an opinion piece that means it contains my opinions, based upon my experiences. Feel free to disagree or agree.

      I also see where you are coming from on not judging ‘white muslims’ the same given could be from several countries, reverts or otherwise or yes ‘white’ is a social construct not a race or meaningful trait and I understand the origin of this term and how it has came to be used.

      However as the content of my article was British / Western reverts and our unique situation, and this is how we are referred to both by others and ourselves then this is a fair label to use to avoid confusion.

      But your other comment where you state “As a white Muslim, I find this article stereotypical, condescending, and harmful, as well as dismissive of my own challenges” does I feel lack validity.

      Yes, there are are generalizations here, but I using it as such as it is generally true in my experience. And these are not just a few bad friends. This is after 15 years as a Muslim, 14 of those years involved in Dawah and new Muslim work. In that time I must have met a number of reverts in the high hundreds at least, so when I say this is my experience of white reverts then this is a pretty big sample of them.

      Now if that is not representative of you then don’t get offended.

      I am a white Muslim speaking about racism among white reverts as a whole, so clearly I am not stating every white revert is a racist but we do have to work harder than others to check our privilege, especially with the way white reverts have been treated and idolized by some other Muslims.

      So even though I believe there are many white reverts who are not racist, and make efforts to check their privilege it is my general experience most of them collectively are. I’ll be speaking about this more and re-posting other articles on this topic so stick around and have a read as I think this is a topic worth coming back to again and again.

      Finally, regarding your own experiences. I don’t know you (as far as I know) nor do I know what your particular tests in life have been but I do know from dealing with new Muslims on a daily basis, and mentoring between 5 and 10 of them at any one time that though there is some discrimination against white reverts, generally this is usually something relatively small scale compared to that faced by black reverts.

      I do speak about the treatment of reverts more generally, white or black, but in this particular case I felt it necessary to speak about the difference experiences in the between the two and by white reverts towards others.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s