The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) has been following the controversy arising from the statements made by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf that arose during the 2016 Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) convention. The initial statements, problematic response to criticism, and discussions on social media are emblematic of a toxic and divisive racial discourse in North America. All underscore the importance and necessity of quality anti-bias and anti-racism training to uproot the ill effects of systemic racism in our ummah. MuslimARC advocates for creating Brave spaces to unlearn bias and mitigate privilege through facilitated dialogue that allows for a deeper understanding of how systemic racism affects us all.
The overshadowing of so many powerful narratives featured at the RIS 2016 convention is unfortunate. However, if we fail to understand implicit and explicit bias, future incidents will continue to divide our community. Looking forward, we hope that this incident can be an opportunity for community education and healing. To move the conversation forward, we highlight the following:
- Speak well. For productive conversations on race, we caution against name-calling, verbal abuse, harassment, and slander. However, excessive focus on both vitriolic detractors and on personal character vouching erases important and much needed perspectives from the conversation.
- Focus on impact and not intent. Good intentions and good will does not shield us from internalizing dominant narratives about People of Color or Muslims.
- Center. We must center the marginalized and the historically disenfranchised, and recognize the psychological, spiritual, and emotional trauma they face to assist in true healing and reconciliation.
- Learn. We need improved understandings of race, power, and privilege in Muslim communities. Further, we need to understand how our diverse social identities shape our individual responses to discussions on race. We must continue to work to become better equipped for difficult conversations.
MuslimARC is committed to providing our community with resources to address racial bias and inequity, as well as resolving intercultural conflict in Muslim communities utilizing the Prophetic model of addressing disputes. We have filled a void within the community by providing anti-racism education, and to respond to incidents of this kind, with an eye toward dismantling the structural racism that still pervades our community. May Allah subhana wa ta’ala guide us.