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,