The Muslim Student Association (MSA) and organizations like it have played a prominent role in developing Muslim intellectuals, practitioners, and community leaders in North America. However, for decades, Black Muslim Students have noted and expressed feelings of marginalization within the safe spaces that MSAs are supposed to provide for all Muslim students.
These reflect the marginalization that occurs more broadly in multi-racial Muslim spaces irrespective of age and background. This past weekend, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) launched a hashtag called #BlackInMSA to amplify the voices of those affected.
MuslimARC is a racial justice education organization by and for Muslims. We see education as a garrison to address concerns of intra-Muslim racism. We see multiple opportunities now for MSAs to immediately begin to change the unhealthy and un-Islamic environments within their spaces and foster genuine brotherhood and sisterhood on campus. We are here as a resource for MSAs and highlight best practices and examples from around the country regarding how MSAs can improve.
We understand that MSA leaders are often under multiple stressors. We remind them here: Islamophobia is but a branch on the tree of racism. To allow racism to flourish in a Muslim student organization is severely damaging to us politically, socially, and, most importantly, spiritually. It is in our best interests for dunya and mandatory for our akhirah to seek to rectify the racism we find in our communities.
Through the hashtag, it became clear that Arab/South Asian millennials perpetuate marginalization with the idea that racism, bigotry, and caste are a thing of the past within their community. After receiving an outpouring of comments regarding the erasure of Black Muslim students within the broad framework of MSAs, we have provided a brief list of recommendations in the hopes that we can continue to work to develop solidarity under the banner of Islam and dignity.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, said,
“A Muslim is a brother of (another) Muslim, he neither wrongs him nor does hand him over to one who does him wrong. If anyone fulfils his brother’s needs, Allah will fulfil his needs; if one relieves a Muslim of his troubles, Allah will relieve his troubles on the Day of Resurrection…” [Bukhari and Muslim].
Today the Muslim world finds itself in another era of social unrest and confusion. This is an overwhelming opportunity to advance the human experience. It is uncertain what generations to come will perceive of this time. As Muslims, however, we must work to ensure that they are not met with the dogma and ignorance of their predecessors.
And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. Qur’an 49:11