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The Logic of Racist Muslims and Their Attacks on Critical Race Theory

 

For centuries in America, the descendants of enslaved Africans were subjected to Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, racially restrictive covenants, and a litany of other racially discriminatory social policies. After a long fought civil rights struggle, African-American legal scholars such as Derrick Bell, a former civil rights attorney, began writing and theorizing on how structural racism against African-Americans continued even post Jim-crow era merely transitioning from de’jure to defacto.  Bell is one of the greatest African-American legal minds and his writings solidify a field that later became known as Critical Race Theory.  The academic field of Critical Race Theory is of major importance to African-Americans for several reasons.

  • It exposes the illusions of a post-racial America.
  • Highlights the real societal consequences of structural racism on Black life
  • It provides stellar legal analysis on the limitations of civil rights law in addressing structural racism.

Critical race theory is of direct relevance to African-Americans, including African-American Muslims who live and reside in neighborhoods which are directly impacted by the legacy of Jim Crow.

The Anti-Black Logic of Muslim Critics of Critical Race Theory

 

As of recently, critical race theory, one of the most important traditions of African-American legal studies, has been under attack by Muslim public speakers This occurred in a lecture by U.K London Muslim speaker, Abdullah Al Andalusi who declared in his lecture The Middle Way “Don’t bring critical race theory into Islamic discussions.”  Of course, such a position cannot be adopted by African-American Muslims who actually live in communities impacted by the legacy of Jim-Crow, and who view critical race theory as a valuable academic field to draw from in order to gain political awareness about defacto structural racism facing their communnities.  Abdullah Al Andalusi arguments against Critical Race theory have thoroughly refuted by Professor Shareef Muhammad. However, in this article, we intend to further elaborate upon this refutation of Abdullah Al Andalusia’s criticism of critical race theory and expose its underlying anti-black logic. Abdullah Al Andalusi has critiqued critical race theory for being:

  • Liberal
  • committed to advocating Bell’s concept of racial realism
  • western
  • perpetrating discrimination.

How Abdullah Andalusi De-Legitimizes Black Political Thought

 Andalusi  argues that critical race theory is not needed among Muslims due to its liberal underpinnings. In reality ,critical race theory has been widely interpreted within academia for being a critique of the failure of liberal legal thought to address structural racism.  For example, Jeffrey Pyle, a critic of critical race theory, in an article titled Critical Race Theory’s Attack on the Promises of Liberalism notes that “The [critical race] theory holds that despite the great victories of the civil rights movement, liberal legal thought has consistently failed African Americans” and that “ the liberal legal system reflects and perpetuates racial subordination.” Jeffrey Pyle, in criticism of critical race theory goes as far as to declare  “Without liberalism to critique critical race theory would have little meaning.”

So, what exactly is Abdullah Al Andalusi’s argument for why Derrick Bell and Critical race theory reinforces liberalism?  Abdullah Al Andalusi provides a quote where Derrick Bell states Critical Race Theorists “are highly suspicious of the liberal agenda, distrust its method, and want to retain what they see as a valuable strain of egalitarianism which may exist” as proof that Bell believes in liberalism and his only issue is that modern liberal projects has not fully attained the objectives of complete equality.  This is simply Bell saying he desires for Black people to be treated equitably in America. Which is why Abdullah Aldalusi needs to answer is any desire on the part of Black people to garner equitable treatment within America and fair treatment under its laws a reinforcement of “liberalism” and if so what is his Islamic alternative? Though, Andalusi has not  proven his assertion that critical race theory reinforces western liberalism, for the sake of argument, let’s concede Bell retains some elements of liberalism.

The bottom line is that Derrick Bell through Critical Race Theory makes valuable political contributions to the Black struggle for justice which is of immense value to Black Muslims. Bell, of course was not a Muslim but was a Christian. Instead of outlining an Islamic agenda to address the structural racism that Bell condemns, Andalusi is basically critiquing Bell’s work for not being based in the Qu’ran and Sunnah. Ok, what’s next?

The great African-American abolitionist, Fredrick Douglass, in his arguments for ending America’s racialized system of enslavement against African-Americans unequivocally evoked arguments from the liberal tradition.  Is Abdullah Al Andalusia going to write an article on “How the Liberal Kufr of Fredrick Douglass’ advocacy for the abolition of slavery will destroy Muslim unity and lead Muslims to Jahannam?   Abdullah Al Dalusi’ arguments against Critical Race Theory is the 21st century equivalent of this.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous I have Dream speech, that “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation.”  Is Abdullah Andalusi’s next article going to be about how Reverend Martin Luther King’s Dream of ending racial discrimination against Black people Is based upon a Liberal Democratic Kufr  which if embraced by Muslims will inhibit the Establishment of the Caliphate?

The great African-American sociologist W.E.B Dubois was among the earliest to conduct studies of the impact of institutional racism on Black life.  His influence and studies have been utilized to guide African-American political advocacy. Yet, W.E.B Dubois was not Muslim, did not conduct his studies from an Islamic basis, and in fact came to identify as a socialist.  Is Abdullah Al Andalusi going to write an article on “Why Muslims shouldn’t adopt W.E.B Dubois studies on institutional racism due to its socialist influences in a growing era of materialist disbelief?

African-American Civil Rights attorney Michelle Alexander in her book the New Jim Crow: Mass-Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness discusses the role of structural racism in the prison system of America. Alexander too has identified as a socialist. Are we going to hear from Andalusi of how the secular socialist kufr undertones of her books on institutional racism in the prison system can potentially lead Muslims to the hellfire?

This essential the logic of Andalusi when he concerns himself with how unsuspecting Muslims will be ensnared by liberalism through being recommended to read Bell’s work.

How Andalusi Fails to Comprehend Bell’s Racial Realism

Andalusi asserts that Critical Race Theory reinforces “race consciousness” and even embraces it deliberately (which Derrick Bell calls ‘racial realism’, which he sees as a useful means to combat against “White race” supremacy).” Andalusi further sees Bell’s notion of racial realism as destroying Muslim unity needed to revive the caliphate. He provides anecdotal evidence by stating:

Many Muslims of European descent who make uncontroversial points about Islam and call for Islamic revival in the Muslim world and the resumption of the Islamic way of life, are attacked for expressing “whiteness” or accused of thinking themselves as “white saviours” following a colonial tradition of their ancestors telling “brown people” what to do (myself being on the receiving end of this from an individual called Abu Layth.

First of all, Andalusi has failed to establish any causal connection between Abu Layth’s commentary and critical race theory, which is a legal field that analyzes structural racism against Black people. Neither Bell’s concept of racial realism or critical race theory posits that any white person who makes a statement calling for Islam automatically makes them a “white savior.” I’m not aware of who Abu Layth is nor the full context for Abu Layth’s statement.  Did Abu Layth read critical race theory books, embrace Bell’s concept of racial realism,  and then come to call Andalusi a white saviour? I doubt it.

Bell’s concept of racial realism, was designed to awaken African-Americans, including African-American Muslims of systemic institutional racism post-Jim crow. Bell’s highlights that racial realism is:

 “The reality is that blacks still suffer a disproportionately higher rate of poverty, joblessness, and insufficient health care than other ethnic populations in the United States The ideal is that law, through racial equality, can lift them out of this trap. I such we abandon this ideal.”                                                                              

Again, Andalusi  has failed to describe how racial realism infringes on any Islamic belief. Racial Realism is merely the idea that structural racism exists in American society and Black folks should be skeptical of the liberal legal system to resolve it. What Andalusi is essentially saying is that by Black people being aware and conscious of systemic structural racism through the embrace of Bell’s racial realism, that somehow they are destroying Muslim unity required for his geopoltiical goal of restoring the Caliphate. To Layth point, Andalusi’s statement of “Don’t bring critical race theory into Islamic discussions” with no engagement with African-American Muslims who engage in Islamic discussions of how to address the reality of structural racism in a post-Jim crow era and see critical race theory as offering valuable political insights, is a textbook case of a white savior complex. When you declare as though you have religious authority, that Muslims do not need to bring critical race theory into Islamic discussions, you marginalize Black Muslims who use critical race theory and bring the insights of critical race theorists into Islamic discussions of improving their communities in the aftermath of jim crow.

As Professor Shareef Muhammad noted, race consciousness for African-Americans was never a theoretical construct that we had the option of rejecting but a cognitive imperative. The impact of slavery denied the ability of enslaved Africans to reproduce tribally as we were subjected to laws that oppressed us by means of race, and subjected to a socio-political reality that oppressed us on the basis of the modern concept of race. Racial realism as advocated by Bell is valuable in exposing the limitations of the liberal legal system in resolving structural racism.

The Paternalism of Andalusi 

In his article, Why Muslims Do Not Need Critical Race Theory,  Andalusi writes “This is the problem that fundamentally afflicts Muslims across the board. We do not ask what insights Islam would shed upon modern problems, but instead run towards thinkers with completely different Aqedah’s (creeds), which if we unwittingly adopted them because it helped do some good in one area, it would undo Islamic concepts in many other areas.”

How to deal with the reality of structural racism is an immediate modern problem for African-American Muslims.  In understanding the impact of slavery, institutional racism, ..etc., it is inevitable that  African-American Muslims turn to thinkers such as Fredrick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Dubois, and others in the African-American literary canon, considering that slavery denied the ability of enslaved Africans to transgenerational transmit Islamic knowledge, Islam did not survive among enslaved Africans  post-slavery, and, there were hardly any descendants of enslaved African Muslims to theorize on issues of  slavery from an Islamic basis in the period following slavery.

Abdullah Andalusi  is essentially implying is that by  Black Muslims seeing value in the   insights and theories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Trinitarian Christian) W.E.B Dubois(socialist), Fredrick Douglass(he fought against slavery using liberal arguments), and other non- Muslims critical race theorists, in the struggle against racial oppression  that somehow  its indicative of a lack of conviction in Islam. He has no understanding as to how African-American Muslims have garnered valuable political insights from non-Muslim black theorists and have used it, extracted benefit from it, and incorporated it into Islamic based agendas in ways that do not undermine Islamic foundational beliefs.

Derrick Bell was not Muslim. Bell never advocated his theories for large geopolitical issues facing the larger Muslim world.  However,  through critical race theory, Bell offered valuable political insights on continuation of school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education which is of immediate concern to Black Muslims living in communities impacted by this legacy of Jim-Crow.  If by virtue of not being Muslim or not theorizing from an Islamic perspective, Bell’s work is deemed of not value to Muslims and we should instead turn only to Islamic thinkers on the topic, perhaps Andalusi  can point to an Islamic scholar or Shaykh, who has done comparable work in the area of school desegregation as Derrick Bell. Perhaps, Andalusi can provide us with an Islamic thinker on redlining and blockbusting and provide us with with an Islamic solution to it.

Abdullah anDalasi, makes a totally asinine claim which is completely unwarranted by evidence when he states “most people around the world would be able to clearly observe discrimination that occurs despite equal laws, not just against African Americans….”  If Abdullah Andalusi isn’t too busy writing his next article on how Reverend Martin Luther King’s  quest for racial justice in his Letter From the Birghmaam Jail is based on a Trinitarian Kufr that if embraced by Muslims will lead Muslims astray, then perhaps he can enlighten us with some empirical data that would substantiate his claim that most people around the world are able to observe post Jim-crow racialdi scrimination against Black people. After all an essential claim of critical race theory is that civil rights legislation made structural racism hardly to detect and thus harder to address.

 

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