by Margari Hill
To Muslim Organizations and Civil Liberties organizations:
We await the grand jury decision on whether Darren Wilson, the police officer who fired on and killed unarmed Michael Brown, will be indicted on criminal charges. Our Noble Prophet ﷺ said, “By Allah, if you have killed one man, it is as if you have killed all the people” (Sunan Sa’id ibn Mansur 2776). While Michael Brown’s death is a deep tragedy in and of itself, the militarized response to the protests it sparked reflect racial disparities and long standing injustices in our society. As Muslims we should draw upon our strong tradition of standing with the most marginalized members of society. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
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 (Sahih International 4:135)
Mass incarceration, police brutality and the frequency of extrajudicial killings of Black Americans in the United States , including that of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah and Amadou Diallo (One every 28 hours) are reflections of the structural racism in our society. The activation of the National Guard in Missouri this week is a stark reminder of the militarized response to non-violent protests. It is our duty as Muslims to stand with the victims of oppression for justice. On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (ra) who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, “Whoso-ever 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” (Muslim). We are calling on our brothers and sisters to stand, speak, and act.
We ask that Muslim organizations be part of the solution by taking proactive steps in responding to a growing crisis. As part of our mission to challenge racism, we invite you to address the grand jury decision and to prepare our communities to create safe space for conversation and develop strategies to address inequity in our society. Regardless of the decision, the realities of structural racism affects the lives of Muslims and people of color nationwide. There are 75 Planned Actions for Darren Wilson Grand Jury Decision which you can join and support. In addition, we offer the suggestions below and we would invite you to share your own ideas as well:
- Pray. Either deepen your prayer for the situation, or get started now. Pray for an end to racism, for the family of Michael Brown, for the people of Ferguson, for the police and other government officials. If you are an imam, be sure to include a prayer for the people of Ferguson in your Friday prayers. Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is no screen between it and Allah” (Musnad Ahmad 12140).
- Connect. Start thinking now about your community and their likely reactions, and needs. Are there other Muslim community centers you could join with? Are there other faith communities? Reach out to other imams and leaders to plan and strategize. Reach out within your community to support Muslims for Ferguson and others who will support this effort.
- Learn. Become well informed about structural racism, police brutality, state surveillance, and prison-industrial complex. The Ferguson syllabus is an excellent place to deepen your knowledge and begin to make connections.
- Discuss. Create safe space to meet and start conversations about the decision, in order to share reactions, fears and hopes. It may be immediate or within 24 or 48 hours, online or in face to face meetings. Gather the resources needed to support honest engagement with this issue with a goal of unmasking, dismantling and eradicating racism.
- Speak. Prepare to teach, preach, and speak out against racism, now and on a regular basis.
- Release. Kaethe Weingarten (South African psychologist) writes “Let yourself release the feelings that you have. if you feel sadness, cry; if anger, yell. Think of one small action that you can take, symbolic or actual, that makes you feel less helpless” Be mindful of how this fear, anxiety, anger and rage manifests itself in our physical bodies.
- Talk. Speak to your children and other young people in your lives about current events. Children especially take their cues from us and we have to be prepared to help them process what is s happening. There are numerous resources on How to Teach Kids About Ferguson. Above all, reassure them of our love and affection.
This is not an exhaustive list, but we hope they prepare us for meaningful action. We urge all Muslims to engage this situation in a way that can bring about sustained change.
If you have questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, please contact one of us. As part of our commitment to fighting racism within the Muslim community and standing for justice, we must take action.1
Jazak Allah kheir,
Margari Hill, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative Co-Founder and Programming Director
1 Adapted heavily from Rev. Dr. Keith Bolton and Rev. Deborah Blood Co-Chairs of the Sacred Conversations on Race Ministry Facebook Post retrieved November 19, 2014; Jazak Allah kheir to Kameelah Mu’min Rashad and Laura Poyneer for the suggestions and edits.