How This Year’s Being ME Toronto Conference Showed Real Allyship To Black MuslimsWritten by Samiya Ahmed
Muslim Link is sharing Canadians’ reactions to Chelby Daigle’s article “Outrage About the Lack of Black Muslim Nominees at Awards Gala Shows Hypocrisy Not Allyship”
This is the response of Samiya Ahmed, a Toronto-based Somali Canadian community activist, who is highly involved in a variety of Muslim community spaces, including spaces that do not have much Black Muslim presence.
She co-presented the workshop “On Being Black and Muslim: Hard Truths and Healing” at this year’s Being ME-Muslimah Empowered Toronto Conference in May 2017.
With Chelby Daigle’s article “Outrage About the Lack of Black Muslim Nominees at Awards Gala Shows Hypocrisy Not Allyship”, another Black Muslimah is exerting her energy to provide free public education.
Read it, understand it, reflect on it, choose to act differently and do better.
So we are all on the same page: YES to calling out Sh. Hamza Yusuf's remarks about Black communities in the Winter of 2016 and YES to calling out the MAX Gala Awards lack of Black Muslim nominees in the Summer of 2017.
But what have you been doing in between these public controversies?
No, inviting one Black Muslim speaker to talk about Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali in February during Black History Month doesn’t count as allyship in my eyes.
There is one glimmer of genuine allyship that I was personally involved with that I would like to share with you as it gives me hope that things can change inshallah (God willing).
A few months ago, myself, alongside two of my colleagues, Roda Omar and Fatma Hassan, decided to develop an Anti-Blackness 101 training for the Muslim community. The training provides space for reflection on social location, power and privilege within the Muslim Canadian context, it begins with highlighting the often forgotten and discounted rich history of Black Muslims spanning back to the time of the Prophet Mohamed (s.a.w) to present day examples of Black Muslim excellence in North America!
Furthermore, this training allows non-Black Muslims to examine their spoken and unspoken biases and challenges them to interrupt the oppression and erasure of Black Muslim experience that has become inherent in our larger communities.
Through conversation with the Being ME Toronto Conference planning committee, we had an opportunity to deliver this training with a mixed audience of both Black and non-Black Muslim Women.
The creation of this space for training as a mode for community reflection and action as well as having prominent Black Muslim women on the main stage of the conference is an excellent example of how our community can do better and on how a Muslim organization can challenge and change their practice after being called out.
The burden of educating the community often falls on Black Muslims and it is often a thankless job.
Black Muslims are often exhausted by navigating systemic anti-black racism in the mainstream society and seek sanctuary in Muslim spaces that often prove problematic, unsafe and harmful.
Black Muslims are continuously negotiating their intersecting identities with both the Black and Muslim communities, often being forced to choose between the two and being accepted in neither!
However, many Black Muslims and particularly Black Muslim women continue to carry this burden of educating the community even when they are on the brink of breaking down.
Black Muslim women continue this work primarily because we continue to view the rest of the community as our siblings and therefore we need to hold them accountable and protect their faith by stopping them from continuing their oppression of others. We are Muslims who know our deen (religion) and if we see our brother or sister in Islam oppressing it is our duty to try to stop them.
In addition, we Black Muslim women want to protect the next generation of Black Muslim children who are growing up in communities, in mosques, Islamic Schools, and attending Muslim conferences and events.
We want to preserve the joy and innocence of Black Muslim children and protect them from the trauma that comes from experiencing anti-Black racism and exclusion in Muslim community spaces, trauma that we have experienced ourselves and keep seeing repeated across Black Muslim generations!
This needs to stop!
Black people have been involved with Islam since the beginning. The deen (religion) was practiced in East Africa by the Prophet (pbuh)’s companions and Black Muslims who converted before the migration to Medina! And for the record one of the earliest Muslim universities is the University of Timbuktu in West Africa (The first was also founded in Africa, in Morocco, and by a woman!).
Therefore we are not newcomers to this faith nor will we be seeking permission for our place in Islam from you or your organizations.
Every time I have a conversation with a Muslim group I am astonished by just how deep the anti-black racism goes and how normalized it is within groups of Muslims who consider themselves community leaders, social justice worriers and ”woke” individuals!
The best things I heard in response to Chelby Daigle’s article in what I like to call this episode of “Toronto Muslims’ Anti-Blackness Chronicles”, was….Wait for it!
“I don`t hear Black Muslims complaining when we raise funds for famine relief in East Africa!”
“If Black Muslims want to lead than they should do the work!”
Do you really think that Black Muslims were not out here raising funds for Syria, forever standing with Palestine and even being super invested in the Arab spring?
Do you really think that Black Muslims are not out here fighting Islamophobia in addition to anti-black racism inside and outside their communities?
It is a simple formula, if you choose to use the label “Islam/Muslim” in the title of your organizations or events than you better have more than just token representation by 1/3 of the people you represent.
If you insist on speaking on behalf of ALL Muslims in Canada and/or you claim to work on behalf of ALL Muslims in Canada you better be asking the following:
Do you or your organization get anti-oppression training or create space for Black Muslims to formally educate you or your organization on challenging anti-Blackness, like the space we were provided at the Being ME Toronto conference this May?
Do you create opportunities in your own organizations and events for Black Muslims to feature prominently and take on leadership roles beyond tokenism?
Do you call out members of your family, organization and community on their anti-Blackness?
Do you speak up and show allyship by educating members of your communities so the burden of education around anti-Blackness does not always have to fall on Black Muslims?
If your answers are YES to all of these questions than TabarakAllah and May you be granted strength and patience to continue doing your work!
If the answer is NO to any of these questions, than it is time to, as Umar (R.A) used to say “Hold yourself accountable, before you are held accountable”.
More free public education from your Sister in Islam.
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