We Need to Celebrate Black History Month Too

Oh ummah, do I have a bone to pick with you. (Don’t I always?)

February is coming to a close and with it, Black History Month is, too. What better time of the year to honor Black Muslims than now? Yet besides the Malcolm X event the Graduate MSA, a brand new initiative under the Rutgers MSA, is hosting tomorrow, our own MSA has not done anything. We need to do better. We need to do a whole heck of a lot better to treat and honor our Black brothers and sisters. The way they are treated in our communities goes against the teachings of Islam and is not the way of the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wa salam. The Malcolm X event is not even being held in the context of Black History Month. It is completely focused on his identity as a Muslim, which brings up another problematic issue.

The 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination was this past Saturday, February 21. I was heartened to see nonblack Muslims on Facebook and Twitter post tributes honoring Malcolm X and his accomplishments. However, something struck out to me: again, it was only the Muslim aspects of his identity being lauded. His acceptance of Islam and completing Hajj leads nonBlack Muslims to believe that the ummah is the haven Malcolm was seeking refuge from white supremacy in the United States. While yes, Islam is the perfect religion and gives equality to all races as Malcolm described it to, the ummah is filled with antiblackness.

We are so proud of Malcolm because look, such a prominent activist during the Civil Rights Movement was a Muslim! In doing so, we ignore his Black identity. Along with his quotes about Islam, let us celebrate his quotes about the Black struggle, especially the ones we know would be deemed as too radical by American Muslim organizations and councils if he lived today. Despite what you may have been taught, Malcolm post-Hajj embraced his Black identity as much as he did pre-Hajj. And he rightfully did so as well. Allah created nations and tribes so that we may know each other, not so that we may become homogenized into one culture. Let us honor his work towards equality, the words he spoke. Let us honor his humanity and who he was as a person. Let us honor the multiple aspects of his identity and the roles he played: Muslim. Freedom fighter. Husband. Father. Friend. Brother.

Let us learn to dismantle the antiblackness within our own communities to make them more welcoming to our Black brothers and sisters. Learn when to step back and when to listen and amplify the voices of Black Muslims. Acknowledge the Black identities of important figures in our religion’s history. Invite Black Muslims to the table when talking about combating Islamophobia. Islamophobia did not start on September 11, 2001. Islam did not first appear in the United States 20-30 years ago when your parents immigrated here. Muslims first came here hundreds of years ago when abducted Africans were brought to North America as slaves. It is all too important that we work with Black people in solidarity to take action against antiblackness in our society. Our ummah tends to expect Black people’s solidarity in causes close to us without offering solidarity to issues that directly affect the Black community, which is completely unacceptable. Solidarity is not a one-way street. it must be given to be reciprocated.

Black History Month is almost over but I hope that this is only just the beginning for all of us in acting like true Muslims to our Black brothers and sisters.

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