Excellent reply from our brother Hussain Thomas, an active Da’ee from London who regularly attends speakers corner on why the statement from Abu Ibraheem was so problematic to our black brothers and sisters, and why he is going to find it so hard to get over these words.
O you who believe, be persistently standing firm for Allah as witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just, for that is nearer to righteousness. Fear Allah, for verily, Allah is aware of what you do.
Quran translation, Surat Al-Ma’idah, 5:8
Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,
A large number of people on social media, including myself have been critical on our respected brother Abu Ibraheem Hussnayn for his racism during his otherwise very admirable efforts to forbid the munkar during ‘Chaand Raat’ celebrations in Birmingham. This is a cultural celebration with no basis in Islam which takes place the night before Eid and often involves many blameworthy acts.
His words if you’ve not heard or seen them yet were,
‘Brothers, we’re not black; let’s stop talking like we’re black! Let’s talk in a decent way, with decent manners.’
Though this was one comment in a long night, we need to be clear about this, using black as synonymous with gangster-ism is extremely insulting, it’s degrading of a whole people and yes it’s racism and anyone saying it is racist to some degree and I am surprised people cannot see this clearly.
It also turns out this is not the first time he has done this, so it cannot be excused as just a slip, as some have tried to do on his behalf. More comments have been found and exposed from a talk he gave in the past entitled ‘Evil Effects of Music’ when he makes similar comments, “When they are out on the streets they are gangsters, they talk like Jamaicans, they walk like Jamaicans but the man was born in like heartlands hospital.”
WHY IS THIS RACIST – SURELY HE DIDN’T MEAN TO BE?
Using black, or Jamaican as shorthand for all the worst shortcomings of urban living is racist, it shows an individual is at best on a subconscious level taken on and then perpetrating these harmful stereotypes that these negatives are due to blackness or black culture.
Now no one is saying a person who does this is a Nazi, or National Front level racist, but it is a form of racism and the person who does this is a racist. Racism is not a binary, either you’re a good person or you’re Adolf Hitler, it’s instead a spectrum.
Racist is defined as: showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.
Being racist therefore does not require active intent or feelings of superiority as some claim, many good people or those at least striving to be good as Muslims should be, will fall into it unintentionally from time to time.
Some reading this might also be uncomfortable and defensive upon hearing this label being used here in it’s correct and right place, as people you know and love or perhaps you yourself have made similar comments.
Asians and Arabs … Yes I am talking to you now or many of you at least, and yes, you the white reverts. Your discomfort is because you’ve probably heard racial slurs, negative stereotypes from people around you often as you grew up or attended madrasah or the masjid, or sat or ate with your friends and family. You most likely never challenged it, many of you thus normalised it, maybe yourself you internalised it and you don’t now want to feel you or those around you are evil or wrong.
That discomfort of yours’ should not stop us addressing the issue, we cannot excuse it but also should be clear that is not the same as saying you or these other people are irredeemably evil or might not be good in many other ways.
STANDING FIRM IN JUSTICE
O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as 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. Follow not your desires, lest you not be just. If you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then Allah is aware of what you do.
Quran translation, Surat An-Nisa 4:135
We also need to be fair, we cannot throw someone under the bus for what is in most cases probably unintentional bias, coming from decades of living among people who also have such biasses on a day to day basis.
Racism is from jahiliyyah and needs to be corrected in our hearts, speech and actions as Rasoolullah (Salallahu alayhi wa salam) said to Abu Dharr when he insulted Bilal (May Allah be pleased with them both) “You are a man in whom there is still some jahiliyyah.”
Abu Ibraheem is a brother who has helped hundreds through his Ruqya and thousands, including myself through his many beneficial lectures and talks on the evils and dangers of Sihr, the jinn as well as many other topics.
He’s a brilliant speaker, a da’ee, calling people to Islam and to the practice of Islam and I don’t doubt his intentions were good during these talks. But even if you don’t like his style or delivery, or content of his reminders most would at least say he does not mean to be racist or sees himself as such.
Another form of Jahiliyyah is use of profanity, cursing others, being unjust and people have been going way over the top when it comes to this matter and it’s reaching the levels of mob justice.
But even if they were saying evil things in response, it doesn’t justify the original comments and besides we hold our respected teachers, activists and imams to a higher standard than general laypeople but still we need to be fair also and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
It certainly looks to me that he’s catching the flak for the whole Asian community right now which is unfair on him, and those around him but is the nature of the beast when it comes to public speaking and being a public figure.
RACISM IS JAHILIYYAH NOT KUFR OR NIFAQ
Though this is not kufr or nifaq, unless like some other sins it becomes justified or taken to extremes but this is still not a small issue, just a minor sin, a slip up or casual mistake as people have said who have tried to defend their brother, themselves or those they know, or their own culture when they’ve shown these traits.
Our black brothers and sisters are leaving the deen or leaving off practicing Islam partially over the way they are treated by Arabs and Asians (and yes white reverts) in the Masaajid and the wider Muslim community in the UK and too many of those crying foul now this has been brought to light were silent when it was not causing them issues personally before.
But we still have to be fair, and if someone falls into error on some matter it does not mean we cannot benefit from them elsewhere, even whilst we urge them to change their ways, this is especially true when their error be on a subconscious level, i.e unintentional.
Though this has been a very ugly episode, especially coming right after Ramadhan if we process and work through this problem correctly then Allah willing all of us, and I mean all, including those who have fallen into this mistake can when matters calm a little use this episode to move forward after a period of reflection.
To do that though requires bringing this problem into the light, so we can then check ourselves, check those around us and make sure racist attitudes are never again tolerated in our community no matter who is the perpetrator.
Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,
Having taken part in the part social experiment that was “Muslims like us” I have come to realise that Muslims want to have their cake and eat it. We constantly cry and whinge about lack of representation in mass media, but as soon as Muslims step up to do just that the criticism begins.
Many Muslims complaining that those of us who took part in the show did not reflect what they considered to be an accurate portrayal of British Muslims, expecting all ten of us to be bearded and fully ‘hijabed’ because obviously that’s exactly what the Muslim populace of Britain are like. To them we all wake up for Fajr at the same time and every single Muslim in Britain is a hafiz.
Many non-practicing Muslims were quick to slate women on the program who did not wear hijab or openly practice the faith when they themselves were a reflection of these sisters. It seems as though Muslims expected reincarnations of the sahaba to be headhunted for this BBC2 program and because predictably we fell short, we have been labeled sellouts and conspirators pushing an agenda to normalise ‘Liberal Islam’.
Muslims fail to understand a couple of things. Firstly, had the Muslims on the show all been perfect saints who did no wrong, all practiced the exact same version of Islam and agreed on all issues nobody would have watched the program, because frankly it would have made for boring viewing. Not even British Muslims would have watched a program about perfect Muslims living among each other perfectly whilst doing perfect things. Another reason why such a cast could not be produced is that it would be impossible unless scripted and definitely would not be a realistic portrayal of British Muslims as we are.
I appreciate that I have received some very positive feedback for my contribution to the program, as have one or two others but the reality is that I only stood out because of the chaotic bunch I was in the show with. I can say this with certainty because all the issues I faced in the house are issues I face in the wider community as do many young black Muslims.
I did my utmost best to carry myself with class in the face of hostility and anti-blackness that was prevalent in the house and I have been commended for it. The reality is there is nothing I faced in the house that does not happen in local masjids, in schools and online. Myself and Abdul Haqq were often subjected to aggression and disrespect for daring to have an opinion on aspects of Islam as if we were somehow less worthy of speaking on the religion and when we tried to justify our stances using Quran and sunnah we were called “dominant”.
Time and time again, I was subjected to micro aggressions and casual racism from fellow housemates ranging from being told that Nigerians deserved to be colonised by the English for “not fighting back” (we actually did and gave the English hell) to how Africans should look at the bright side of slavery and colonialism and how the Indians built all the great things in Africa (yes someone said this to me with a straight face). The vast majority of these interactions unfortunately were not featured in the program, due to editing and what people saw was the culmination of it all, in quite possibly the most normal form of conflict in any household, yes, I am talking about onion gate.
For daring to complain about someone using something I bought without my permission (someone who had been provoking me for six days consecutively) and taking umbrage to him being rude to me I was surrounded by almost all the “liberal” south Asian housemates and called aggressive whilst being shouted at and squared up to.
Surrounded, out numbered and abused, at no point did I raise my voice or behave in a threatening manner, yet somehow in the minds of my housemates I was an aggressive bully. For a period of ten days I had to endure this high level of ignorance and many have asked me how I managed to remain calm in such a situation, the truth is simple. This was just another day in the life of a black man in the Muslim and wider community. My proof is in the outpouring of comments from non-black Muslims online who somehow found a way to blame me for the confrontation. The narrative of the “angry black man” is an easy sell it seems.
Very few questioned why the same brother who united an entire household to do act in the way of charity and serve the community by feeding the homeless would lose patience. No excuses made for a black brother who had very much been the mediator of the house.
It reminded me that as Muslims we are only as good as the last thing we did unless our name is Muhammad Ali or Malcolm X. And of course let’s not forget Bilal, every non-black Muslim’s token black friend. In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that the program was a success as many non Muslims from areas where there aren’t an abundance of Muslims have reached out to me to ask for information about Islam and for this I am completely grateful to Allah.
This program was designed to entertain and enlighten, not as a dawah project however wherever there is Islam there will be dawah because that is the beauty of Allah’s religion. Most Muslims I spoke to feared to partake in the program not because of what the editing would do but simply because they feared that no matter how hard they tried to do good, their own community would condemn them.
I took part in this program because I didn’t want to be one of the angry backseat drivers/keyboard scholars that sits and criticises from their armchair. I did not want to watch this program at home and regret not doing it after seeing someone else “let the ummah down” so I stepped up to the plate. Was I perfect? No. But hand on heart I can say I made my best efforts to show Islam, as I know it, in a good light.
Are there better Muslims and representatives than me out there? Absolutely, but I’m not one to wait for someone else to do something for me.
Muslims are quick to hold other people to standards they don’t hold themselves (complaining I didn’t show enough restraint whilst not showing any themselves as they openly slander us) as if we are somehow more obliged to be good Muslims because there is a camera and England is watching. One must remind British Muslims that we are all being watched, not just by cameras but by the One we worship five times a day. If you are more concerned with how Muslims look in front of a camera than with how we all look in front of the King of kings, I do believe you are not in a position to judge anyone and may want to revisit the fundamentals of your religion.