One of the most outstanding features of Islam is its unequivocal opposition to notions of superiority/inferiority based on race or tribal group.
It is one of the characteristics of Islam which has attracted millions of souls to it over the centuries.
“O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Truly the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (the one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Quran 49:13)
“Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it then We bring forth fruits of different colours; and in the mountains are streaks white and red, of diverse hues and others raven black. And of humans and beasts and cattle there are various colours. Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah. Truly Allah is Mighty, Most Forgiving.” (Quran 35: 27-28)
This message was emphasised in the Final Sermon of Prophet Mohammad (s).
“You are all from Adam, and Adam is from dust. There is no virtue for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for a white person over a black person, nor for a black person over a white person, except by righteousness.” [at-Tirmidhi].
Although what were Islamic notions are now understood to be basic universal values, they were not accepted into the mainstream of Western opinion until quite recently.
The 1776 American Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed that all men are created equal, was meant to apply only to white men.
President George Washington wore dentures made from the teeth of healthy slaves.
The Unitarian Thomas Jefferson, still a highly respected president, raped his slave girl over many years. Although he freed the children produced and did not sell them as was common practice, he kept her enslaved .
One of the scientific greats of American history J Marion Sims, the father of gynaecology, carried our operations on slave women without anaesthetic, as he believed “blacks cannot feel pain.” When he operated on white women he used anaesthetic.
His statue was not removed by the Mayor of New York until 2018. [USA Today, 19 June 2020]
What about the Muslims?
The Yaqeen Institute provides Talk Toolkits on the matter of “Racism within Our Ranks.”
It reports: “According to an ISPU poll, Black Muslims are just as likely to experience racism from their own faith community as Black Americans are from their own faith communities (ie other Christians), with both groups more likely to report experiencing racial discrimination from the general public. [Yaqeen Institute, 27 February 2019 ]
In the United Kingdom as part of “A study into Anti-Blackness amongst young Muslims within the UK,” 250 non-Black Muslims were surveyed. Most were between the ages of 20 and 30. Most were from the subcontinent –Bangladesh (49%), Pakistan (30%) and India (13%). [Muslim Census, 5 July 2020]
It found that over 98% believed that racism exists within the UK Muslim community. Up to 97% said that the UK Muslim community is not doing enough to tackle the issue of racism.
Some of the recommendations were:
- A substantial increase in Islamic lectures and khutbahs (sermons) around racism and black Muslims in Islam.
- Muslim organisations and charities to seriously look at their recruiting structures, especially at executive and board level, to improve black Muslim representation.
- Mosques to take an active role in calling out transgressions that involve anti-black racism.
After 1400 years of the Quranic message that we have not adequately addressed this issue is a blot on the name and reputation of the Ummah.