By Anas White
As Salaamu Alaikum,
Let me say in the very beginning, that as a black Muslim man, approaching this topic can honestly be a hard thing to do, especially given sensitivities and emotions in play.
I will start by saying, may peace, and love be with the families of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha. Although the media seems largely disinterested in this story, it has resiliently traversed the globe. At the moment of this writing, the legacy of these outstanding youth, as well as the expression of disapproval at present media coverage, has been shared using #ChapelHillShooting 1.8 million times on twitter.
Having participated heavily in protests, and actions both online, and on the ground in several cities; I feel entitled to saying that I have devoted time, and energy to the cause that is #BlackLivesMatter. It actually hasn’t been very long since we had to speak out against people using #AllLivesMatter. So I couldn’t actually go to sleep tonight, without addressing the issue behind the issue, that is #MuslimLivesMatter.
#BlackLivesMatter began as a statement to an establishment – an overall system if you will, declaring the seeming unrecognized value of black lives. It continues to hold that same meaning, even as it moves to become an expression of the movement itself. A movement against deep rooted systemic racism, high rates of police brutality, extra-judicial executions, media smearing and vitriol, and the failure of the justice system to actually hold anyone accountable for dead black men, except dead black men.
It is important to remember, that #BlackLivesMatter was not born of an occurrence, but of an atmosphere wrought withrepeat occurrence.
Statistically, a black man will be killed by a police officer, every 28 hours. A black teen is 21 times more likely to be killed by police, than a white teen.
A 12 year old black boy was shot and killed for playing with a BB gun, his sister then handcuffed to watch him bleed. A black father was killed in a Walmart, holding a toy gun sold at that very Walmart, in a state where it is legal to carry guns. A black father was shot in the back, while handcuffed. A black father was essentially choked to death in high definition. A black protest was met with a para-military, and national guard troops. A black woman was shot seeking help. A black man was literally lynched.
Where were you then?
My respect to every single one of you that ever attended a protest, and to every Imam that ever gave mention, but I mean this on a deeper level. Where was the Muslim community in response to these egregious civil rights violations? Where is the Muslim community in solidarity with a movement against these civil, and even human rights issues?
I can almost guarantee that the Chapel Hill shootings will be mentioned in every khutbah (sermon) across America this Friday. Not to be misunderstood, it definitely should be mentioned, my point however is, these 3 obviously matter.
The movement of people devaluing their lives is virtually nonexistent. The media is not painting their lives as criminal, in what little they are reporting. Their killer is not at home watching his face plastered on the news. There is no movement of people trying to justify the actions of the terrorist who killed these young Muslims. Muslim parents are actually not having the same talks with their children that black parents are having with theirs.
I do not personally believe, and I invite disagreement – that social media has the right to simply “change the game,” as some seem to think.
“Grateful for social media changing the game. #MuslimLivesMatter” -@NTagouri
I understand when people mean well, I truly do, therefore I challenge people, specifically those in the Muslim community to first, understand #BlackLivesMatter at a ground level, not from social media or any media, alone. Secondly, I challenge the Muslim community to actually build a real relationship with a community, before you co-opt an expression many of you may have never even used.
The opportunity has not passed to put in the work necessary to build these bridges. Ideas such as the Black Lives Matter Toolkit for Muslims presented by an organization to which I devote much time & effort, called the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, or MuslimARC for short. There are also actions which can be taken, such as endorsing the “Call for Justice: Joint Letter on American Muslim Solidarity Against Police Brutality,” also presented by MuslimARC.
See, it’s uncomfortable because I agree with all points made in response to this shooting. This was a tragedy, that shouldn’t have happened, and should be investigated as a hate crime.
I will attend a vigil, I always do, or at least try to. Please, let go of #MuslimLivesMatter, the family has chosen #OurThreeWinners. I hope and pray the Muslim community specifically can build the bridges necessary to begin fighting systemic injustice altogether. Islam’s purpose isn’t to protect Muslims, it’s to uplift fallen humanity.
@Iamesseljay | peace
Anas White is a 23 year old Muslim, artist, writer, and activist, with a deep-rooted interest in race relations particularly as it pertains to members of the African diaspora, religious pluralism, and African spirituality. He hopes to effect a positive change in various communities as far as these areas are concerned, through various forms of creative expression.