Honoring Shia Kindred in Wake of Albuquerque

Our condolences and prayers are with the families and loved ones of Mohammad Ahmadi (62), Muhammad Afzaal Hussain (27), Aftab Hussein (41), and Naeem Hussain (25).  As we await details of the case, our hearts go out to the Albuquerque community and our Shi’a family. You deserve to be safe, you deserve to be loved, and you deserve to practice your faith free from fear of religiously-motivated violence. Echoing other statements in the wake of the Albuquerque murders, we at MuslimARC build on these calls for protection to understand this act of interpersonal violence on a larger systemic level within a racial justice lens. Our response strives to offer action steps that our Ummah–particularly Sunni  Muslims–can take to counter the systemic oppression of our Shi'a kindred. 

This Ashura, American Muslim communities reckoned with anti-Shi’a hate, Shiaphobia, anti-Shi’ism, #ShiaGenocide. The Shi’ite are the conscience of our Ummah. Through their acts of piety, repentance, and remembrance, they remind Muslims that we must stand up for justice–even if it is against our own kin. While this statement is in response to recent violence in the United States, it is important to emphasize that our struggle and solidarity is global beyond U.S. sectarian politics, extending to persecuted Shi'a communities in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. Globally, the Shi'a community accounts for 10-13% of the transnational Muslim Ummah, with estimates of 154 million to 200 million Shi'ites (Pew, 2009).  The idea that Sunni and Shi'a must be in constant opposition to one another is a result of the colonial borders drawn to purposely divide our Ummah. As we reflect on the recent murders in Albuquerque, it is imperative to verbalize the ways that white supremacy, authoritarian governments, and ethnonationalism divide us. 

At MuslimARC, we emphasize that this solidarity necessitates addressing our complicity in current anti-Shi'a violence and our larger Ummah's erasure of almost 1400 years of Shi'a persecution. We must name the persecution of Shi’a communities as Otherizing, systematic, and, at times, racialized. We as Muslims can be both the oppressors and the oppressed. Albuquerque illustrates the ways in which ethnic chauvinism and sectarianism divide our Ummah. We at MuslimARC compiled a list of action items our communities can take in solidarity with Shi'a kindred through a racial justice lens, as well as specific items for Sunni family members:

General Calls to Action

  • Pray. Recite Surah Al-Fatiha and say prayers for Mohammad Ahmad, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein, and Naeem Hussain. Ask for Allah to help heal and comfort their families, loved ones, and all those affected by heinous acts of sectarian violence, human rights violations, and genocide.
  • Grieve and Heal. The violence and heinous acts have assailed the mental health and sense of safety of the New Mexico Muslim Community and Shi’a community nationally.  Our partners as American Muslim Health Professionals encourage all those affected by the violence to seek out mental health support by contacting or texting 1-866-NASEEHA (627-3342).  If you are in crisis, call the BlackLine, 1-800-604-5841. Take the time you need to grieve and care for yourself during this difficult time. 
  • Support. Commit to mutual aid and support the families affected by donating to their crowdfunds. Donate to organizations serving the Shi’a community during this difficult time. The families and community members of Albuquerque created the Crowdfunds below:
  • Avoid. We must avoid rhetoric that welcomes police into our Ummah, who historically have used these moments to further criminalize our communities instead of providing protection. Rather, we must work to create collective community protection free from state surveillance. When we stand together as one, we are safer.
  • Learn. We must commit to learning about the rich history and cultural contributions of Shi’a to Muslim history. We must discuss early Islamic history with nuance and openness rather than silencing Shi’a. We must commit to learn the systemic violence Shi’a face from Sunni Muslims and European Imperialism. This includes U.S. geopolitical power grabs which stoke sectarianism and genocidal policies in Iran and Yemen. 
  • Counter. We must address hate on all levels by countering harmful narratives and collectively working to dismantle anti-Shi'a sentiment wherever we find it, whether in the media, our Sheikhs/Islamic leaders, our books, our relationships, or our institutions. 

Sunni-specific Calls to Action

  • Acknowledge Complicity. Our organizations, Islamic schools, student groups, and other institutions must commit to counter anti-Shi'a ideologies, interrupt interpersonal acts of discrimination and prejudice, and address institutional anti-Shi’a oppression. Our acts of solidarity should avoid reinscribing xenophobic discourses or American exceptionalism that upholds this sectarian/ethnic violence globally.
  • Counter Shi’a Oppression. We must develop analyses and strategies to counter  anti-Shi’ism on a systemic level, including internalized superiority (e.g., debasing Shi’a practices, labeling Shi’as as “kuffar” or ”infidels”), interpersonal behavior (e.g., microaggressions and social aversion), and institutional complicity (e.g., excluding Shi’a from leadership positions). Within these layers, we frequently exclude Shi’a perspectives and do not incorporate sectarian identity in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. 
  • Protect. We must protect our Shi'a kindred and support any Shi'a-led efforts to prevent further acts of violence against our Ummah. We must protect our Shi’a family and their expressions of worship. Support Shia petitions and actions to address governments that persecute Shi’a and prevent them from fulfilling religious requirements such as the Hajj. We must recognize that the targeted killings have culminated in a modern day genocide against the Shia. We must condemn the destruction of Shi’a sacred spaces, whether from state or individual actors–including bombing of gatherings such as the recent procession in Iraq and the desecration of grave sites in Saudi Arabia. We must move beyond calls for unity and call out the ways we as Sunnis have perpetuated the historical and systemic marginalization of our Shi’a kindred. 
  • Hold Space. As our Shi’a kindred grieve, we must refrain from tone policing. We must hold space for them as they process and heal from unspeakable crimes. We ask that Sunnis acknowledge their privilege in these conversations that often results in acts of silencing and erasure. As a Sunni community, we have too often dismissed and discounted the atrocities committed against Shi’a and other religious minorities. In the wake of the tragic murders in Albuquerque, it is now more than ever imperative that Sunni Muslims begin their journey of Shi'a solidarity and finally give our Shi'a family the space to verbalize their joys and griefs free from our judgement. 
  • Show up. As we collectively grieve this tragedy, show your solidarity by being present at local vigils held in remembrance of the fallen. Check out your local masjids, community organizations, and advocacy groups for details on any events happening in your area. In Costa Mesa, CA, Shia Muslim Council and IECOC are hosting a vigil at 8:30 PM Thursday.  Details can be found on this link

These suggestions are by no means comprehensive, and we welcome further conversations for how we can deepen our solidarity. MuslimARC offers space to co-create resources and co-facilitate discussions on achieving solidarity through a racial justice lens. For those interested, become a MuslimARC member today and join us for our upcoming ARCompetency facilitation series led by our AMAL fellows in September, October, or November.

To aid in the solidarity of the Shia, we have put together a list of youtube videos, books, and instagram posts to help you along your journey. 


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