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Why Abdullah bin Hamid Ali of Zaytuna College Cannot Teach Black People Islam

Within the broader African-American community, Black Muslims were once renowned and respected for uplifting their communities. African-Americans took a leadership role in the struggle against white supremacy. The term “uncle tom, Black Muslim” would have been seen as an oxymoron in the days of Malcolm X. It was the ability of Black Muslims to make Islam speak to the most oppressed Black communities that accounts for Islam’s rapid influence and growth in Black America. Unfortunately,  there are elements in the Muslim community today who are seeking to impugn this legacy.

Zaytuna College is the first accredited Muslim undergraduate college in the United States. It was collectively founded by Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Hatem Bazian.  In 2016, Hamza Yusuf blatantly disrespected African-American Muslims by denying systemic racism in America’s police forces. He declared that the breakdown of the Black family and not institutional racism was the true problem facing the Black community.

In a very pertinent question, brother Bilal Abdullah, of the Being Black And Muslim in America Podcast, asked”With this type of thinking, what is Zaytuna institute going to produce? They are not going to produce revolutionary minds who transform their communities with Islam. They are going to produce passive Muslims who are making excuses for this system. They not going to stand against injustices facing the people, especially black people. ”

Indeed, it would appear that Hamza Yusuf has hired a Black professor who shares with him his egregious denial of the structural racism facing Black America. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a Professor at Zaytuna College. According to his biography, he teaches Islamic law and the prophetic tradition at Zaytuna college.  Here are some blatant examples of Abdullah bin Hamid serving as a Black face for White Supremacy.

Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali argues that police brutality impacts White Americans just as much as it does Black Americans. He ignores data from Stanford Open Policing Project and the ACLU’s study on Stop and Frisk. He also ignores  a  study indicating that police brutality is detrimentally impacting the mental health of Black people.  These studies provide  unequivocal evidence that police brutality disproportionately falls on Black Americans.

Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali argues that there is no evidence that discrimination in hiring is a government policy and that “violators usually get prosecuted” because “EO[equal opportunity] laws exist to fight against this.”  Of course, this is  blatant ignorance of how structural racism operates in America society. This likely explains Abdullah Ali’s sophomoric effort to critique critical race theory.

Racial discrimination in hiring is a pervasive reality. African Americans with “black sounding” names are less likely to be called back for job interviews  than those with “white sounding” names even when the qualifications are identical.    Another study found that White men with criminal records were  viewed more positively by hiring managers than Black men without a criminal record .

The fact that there may not be governmental actors mandating such racial discrimination by law does not take away from its negative impact on black social-economic mobility.

Ali provides no proof for his claim that violators of equal protections usually get prosecuted. Indeed,many African-Americans who are victims of racial discrimination in hiring have neither the time nor resources to sue their former employers under equal protection laws. This is one of the reasons of why racism can persist despite formal equality under the law.

In addition to denying the role of structural racism in driven black mass-incarceration and denying the role of racism in voter suppression, Abdullah Hamid Ali makes an additional egregious claim. He asserts that poor black spending habits are a more significant factor in the black-white income gap than the history of slavery and institutional racism.    Ali writes “Wealth disparities: we all know the history leading to “some” of this. But, much of what we witness can be attributed to irresponsible behavior and not taking advantage of education.”

Of course, the claim for which Abdullah Ali presents no evidence to support is easily debunked by studies on the area from Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice by Claud Anderson, and  How White Folks Got So Rich by the Reclamation Project.

A study on this very topic titled What Is Behind the Persistence of the Racial Wealth Gap? by economist Dionissi Aliprantis concluded that “The current racial wealth gap is the consequence of many decades of racial inequality that imposed barriers to wealth accumulation either through explicit prohibition during slavery or unequal treatment after emancipation. Examples of postemancipation barriers include legally mandated segregation in schools and housing, discrimination in the labor market, and redlining, which reduced access to capital in black neighborhoods.”

Abdullah Ali believes that much of the wealth disparity between Blacks and Whites can be attributed to poor education and irresponsible behavior on behalf of Black people. Abdullah Ali does not provide any evidence that Black people engage in higher levels of irresponsible behavior than do white people.  Whites have greater wealth than do blacks. As a result, whites have a greater shield when it comes to being protected from  irresponsible financial behavior.

It is the irresponsible behavior on the part of whites in the form of slavery, jim crow, redlining, and segregation that has resulted in black poverty.  Ali also fails to consider that Black people who live in poverty due to historical segregation do not have access to equitable education as whites.  Furthermore, the acquisition of education by black people does not solve wealth disparities. A study noted that whites who are high-school dropouts have more wealth than Black college graduates.  Another study also noted whites are more wealthier than Black people at every education level.  Black women in particular obtain college degrees at record levels but it has not  translated to an end in racial wealth disparities.

 Why Abdullah Ali Cannot Teach Black People Islam 

None of the opinions of Abdullah Ali on the black white wealth gap nor police brutality are supported by any studies or data. It’s just  right-wing talking points. Abdullah Ali’s political commentary are the uneducated ramblings of a man who watches more Ben Sharpio and Jordan Peterson lectures than Malcolm X, Safiya Bukhari, Imam Jamil Al Amin, Selou Odinga, and Dhoruba Bin Wahad. Yet, this man was given a professorship position at America’s first accredited Muslim college!

Abdullah Ali’s political commentary are a blatant disrespect to the struggle of Black people against white supremacy. Black Muslims need to be influenced by the Islam of Malcolm X and Safiya Bukhari as we struggle against the defacto structural racism still impacting our communities.

After years of slavery, black codes, red-lining, the last thing Black Muslims need giving the Khutba at their Mosques is someone who is going to sound like Uncle Ruckus from the Bondoocks or Clayton Bigsby from Dave Chappelle’s famous comedy skit.

Abdullah Ali’s political beliefs will only keep Black folks trapped in “Toby Muhammad” style  interpretation of Islam in which Islam is reduced to rituals without playing an active role in confronting the appalling political conditions facing Black America.  This goes for anyone. It does not matter how much classical Arabic texts one has translated or how much Al-Ghazali texts one has studied, any man that believes “irresponsible behavior” on behalf of black people  and not “slavery” is the more significant factor in the black/white wealth disparity has no business teaching any black person Islam.

 

 

The Danger of Delegitimizing Black Political Thought to Muslims: Why Muslims need Critical Race Theory!

“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586

There are Muslims in Black neighborhoods impacted by the legacy of Jim Crow, black codes, blockbusting, redlining, and a litany of other racially discriminatory policies. They include Muslims such as Rafiq, a former gang leader of Chicago, from the neighborhood of Altgeld Garden, a segregated community that racist city planners intentionally placed toxic waste dumps and garbage incinerators, who stated, “If it hadn’t been for Islam, man, I’d probably be dead.” It includes Jon, from a black neighborhood in Minnesota that was subjected to racially restrictive covenants and exclusionary zoning policies, who once stated “I lost my oldest brother to gang violence when I was six years old, I have five older brother all of them have been shot, and been to prison. I’ve been shot. I have been to jail. Learning about Islam has given me a purpose. Learning about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and the companions of the prophet, pbuh, these were soldiers who were all about uplifting the community.”

Moreover, it includes perhaps the most famous of African-American Muslims, Malcolm X. Who upon noticing his former gang hideout spot on his way to lecture to Harvard Law school, thought to himself “I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man’s society when–soon now, in prison– I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed  my life.”

These Muslims are just as part of the Muslim Ummah as Palestinians children forced into brutal interrogation rooms by Zionists settlers and Uyghur Muslims in China.  For such Muslims, critical race theorists from Derrick Bell to Dr. Tommy Curry have provided indispensable political insights into understanding the shift of racism from de’jure to de facto and the failure of liberal legal theory to provide adequate redress to structural racism. When it comes to understanding school desegregation, Derrick Bell’s analysis in Serving Two Masters and Dr Tommy Curry’s applications of critical race theory to understand police brutality has been instrumental to Muslims in communities impacted by Jim Crow.

In as much as Muslims who reside in communities impacted by Jim Crow are part of the Ummah. Instead of reacting to this part of the Ummah’s oppression with sleeplessness and fever due to blockbusting, predatory lending, and redlining, several popular Muslim public speakers have taken it upon themselves to render un-Islamic critical race theory and to speak and write about critical race theory as though it its usage by Muslims represents some threat to the faith.

As of recently, U.K based Muslim speaker Abdullah Andalusi stated that there is no need for critical race theory in Islamic discussions. Though, the initial critique of Abdullah Andalusi and Daniel Haqiqajtou was that critical race theory was Liberal, with Andalusi saying it part one of his reviews that “Derrick Bell himself admits he isn’t against liberal ideology per se, only some modern liberal projects that he sees hasn’t properly attained the objectives of complete equality they promised.” After lamenting the liberalism of Derrick Bell in part one of his critique, in part two, Abdullah Andalusi declares Bell and critical race theorists to be part of a neo-Marxist movement.  In this article, we respond to Abdullah Andalusi’s latest critique of critical race theory.

The Evaluative Framework  In Determining The Usefulness of Critical Race Theory to Muslims

 It is essential to note that African-American Muslims are both racial and religious minorities. According to the 2010 U.S census, African-Americans constitute 12% of the total American population. Within the African-American community itself, the majority of the population is Christian, with only a minority being Muslim.

In local struggles against manifestations of institutional racism, it is inevitable that African-American Muslims take from, are influenced by, and incorporate from concepts that may have been pioneered by African-American political thinkers who are not Muslim. Derrick Bell  writes that “Critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship, a majority of whose authors are both essentially people of color and ideologically committed to the struggle against racism, particularly as institutionalized and by law.” Critical race theory was not coined by Derrick Bell but is the name given to a vast field of legal scholarship that began to analyze post-jim crow oppression of African-Americans. The vast body of legal scholarship offers important political insights to Black people. Abdullah Andalusi declaring this body of knowledge to be unislamic because it has egalitarian sentiments or Derrick Bell said X that contradicts Islam downplays the ability of Black Muslims to incorporate and draw from this knowledge in ways that do not contravene Islam.

Therefore, Muslim anti-critical race theorists pointing out certain beliefs that Derrick Bell holds that run contrary to Islam is not saying much anything as to whether Muslims can accept critical race theory. Bell was not Muslim, it’s inevitable he may have a statement or two that doesn’t comport with Islamic teachings. Still, African-Americans including African-Americans Muslims, he offers indispensable insights on issues such as school segregation and the operation of racism in American society.

Thus, the crux of this debate cannot be whether every critical race theorist is a Muslim, whose every theory is rooted in Islam but he larger question is whether African-American Muslims can incorporate critical race theory in ways, which do not contradict foundational Islamic beliefs, to both understand racism, and combat it, and the answer is a resounding yes as critical race theory does not require one to compromise any Islamic belief.

 How Abdullah Andalusi misses Critical Race Theory’s Critique of Marxism

 Abdullah Andalusi outlines the basic premises of critical race theory, such as 1) racism is central to American society. 2) The disproportionate wealth gap between Afro-Americans and Euro-Americans is indicative of race-based domination, and 3) the U.S government’s decision to repeal racial segregation being rooted in need to improve its image in the context of the cold war and not because the government was generally interested in improving African-American plight. Abdullah Andalusi has not demonstrated how any of these foundational principles of critical race theory contravene any Islamic tenant.  Abdullah Andalusi has not even attempted to falsify any of these key concepts of critical race theory as false through deploying any Islamic knowledge.

Abdullah Andalusi himself admits that “CRT may not explicitly contain ideas that contradict foundational Islamic beliefs,like belief in One God, it is fundamentally based upon premises intractably connected to Neo-Marxism….”   Just what are these links to Neo-Marxism? Abdullah Andalusi says Bell’s work is rooted in egalitarianism.

How Abdullah Andalusi Makes The Same Argument Against Critical Race Theory as Marxists Whilst Claiming Critical Race Theory is Marxist.

Contemporary Marxists themselves do not see critical race theory as being part of a neo-Marxist movement. Quite the opposite. In the article, Critical Race Theory: A Marxist Critique, Marxist writer  Mike Cole writes that  critical race theory leads to the “homogenization of all white people” because “we should not lose sight of the life chances of millions of working-class white people who, along with racialized groups, are part of the 99 %, not the 1%.”

Abdullah Andalusi makes this exact argument against critical race theory in his lecture, The Middle Way: How Muslims should navigate Western society polarized between Right and Left Wing, where Abdullah Andalui proclaims “Not every white American is rich and powerful. Many of them are hillbillies and rednecks. These people are poor and looked down upon; they are called poor white trash.”  Both Marxist thinker Mike Cole and Abdullah Andalusi make the same argument that critical race theory homogenizes white people as being rich whereas most whites are working class.

What both Abdullah Andalusi misses in his marxist-like critique of critical race theory is the ways in which structural racism aids poor whites at the expense of upper class blacks.

As to the Abdullah Andalusi argument of critical race theorist being part of a neo-Marxist movement, he merely intentionally ignores or, more likely, is deliberately ignorant of the ways that critical race theory has been deployed to render Marxism as an ideology insufficient to redress structural racism.  The fact that Abdullah Andalusi inaccurately  perceives critical race theory as being part of a “neo-Marxist movement” impugns his ability to critique it accurately.

In Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation, John Eligon and Robert Gebeloff note that “Black families making $100,000 or more are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods than even white households making less than $25,000. This is particularly true in areas with a long history of residential segregation.”

A study from the Equality of Opportunity Project found that upper class Black folks face inequities in access to the health care system. Additionally, due to the history of racial segregation in housing and the deliberate placing of African-American neighborhoods in undesirable areas by white city planners, race and not class status was the largest factor in determining factor in exposure to  P.M 2.5, a damaging health particle created when fossil fuels are burned. The Environmental Protection Agency notes, “Black Americans are subjected to higher levels of air pollution than white Americans regardless of their wealth.”

Moreover, upper class Black people are subjected to racial profiling by police officers of lower income, including incidents where black folks of higher incomes have been arrested going into their own homes, and a wealthy African-American NBA player went into an expensive jewelry store and was subsequently harassed by police who thought he didn’t belong there.  Therefore, the critique that critical race theory has of Marxism, which Abdullah Andalusi misses, are how the white proletariat and white upper class perpetuate the oppression of black people.

Abdullah Andalusi’s accurately notes that W.E.B Dubois was influenced by Marxism but omits to mention W.E.B Dubois’ famous essay, titled Marxism and the Negro Problem, where Dubois indicated that Marxism failed to conceptualize how the white proletariat and white capitalist class equally exploited the Negro. In other words, Marxist emphasis on analyzing oppression through the lens of class and economics obfuscates how structural racism helps the white poor at the expense of even the black of upper economic classes. Andalusi replicates this error of Marxists by mentioning how there are poor white people in America in his critique of critical race theory.

Frank Wilderson, a prominent critic of Marxism within Black political thought, indicates that Marx’s concept of workers is inapplicable to Black people, writing: “Work is a white category. … The point is we were never meant to be workers…” In other words, the fact that Black people were brought to America as slaves as a source of unpaid labor. The fact that structural racism has compelled large segments of Black communities in inner cities into the position of the sub-proletariat, which Marx believes had no role to play in the “communist revolution” and was in fact a “threat to the revolution.”

This why many critical race theorists have seen Marxist ideology as unable to provide adequate to understand and redress to institutional racism.

Applying Abdullah Andalusi’s Association Fallacy 

What Abdullah Andalusi  makes  is an association fallacy whereby he concludes that elements of Marxist influence on critical race theory make the theory part of a  neo-Marxist movement.  Influential Muslim brotherhood thinker, Sayyid Qutb called for the creation of a vanguard that modeled themselves after the pious companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him that would implement Islam in the world, which on the surface level may seem similar to the Marxist Leninist call to establish a class conscious vanguard party composed of the working class. Of course, one can also see traces of Leninist influence in the way Hizb Tahrir’s Taqi al-Din al-Nabhan set up the organizational structures.

Interestingly enough committing the same association fallacy of Abdullah Andalusi, was Hamza Yusuf, who in a lecture titled “Framing Islam Into Marxist Thought”  referred to Qutb and Ali Shariati as both being  “repackaged Marxists” to the displeasure of many Muslims.

Of course, one may note that Ali Shariati wrote an entire book titled Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique and Sayyid Qutb viewed the proliferation of Socialist thought among Muslims as being indicative of jahiliya. Yet the association/influence fallacy deployed by Hamza Yusuf allows him to refer to Qutb and Shariati  as “repackaged Marxist” based upon perceived elements of Marxist influences in their works is also continuously committed by Abdullah Andalusi in his efforts to label  the black political thinkers in critical Race theory as being part of a neo Marxist movement.

Simply put, Abdullah Andalusi hasn’t done sufficient analysis to prove that critical race theory is a neo-marxist movement. Here is a challenge for him. Let’s take a specific analytical piece within critical race theory titled Serving Two Masters: Integration Ideals and Client Interests in School Desegregation Litigation by Derrick Bell.   In this article, Bell discusses the failure of school desegregation efforts. This article is considered a foundational work within critical race theory that brought attention to systemic school segregation against African-Americans.  What Marxist,  neo-Marxist, or Post-modern tools does Bell deploy to come to his legal analysis and how will the faith of an African-American Muslim be contravened by adopting Bell’s application of critical race theory to understand school desegregation? Lastly, how is neo-Marxism promoted through this work?

How Abdullah Andalusi misreads critical Race theory

The very fact that Abdullah Andalusi inaccurately perceptive critical race theory as being part of a “neo-Marxist movement” impugns his ability to comment on it legitimately. Abdulah Andalusi writes:

 

If “Whites” have more wealth than African-Americans do, CRT explains this as “domination.’. However, wealth disparity alone does not necessarily mean the domination of one group by the other. When the Muhajireen (emigrants) came with the Prophet (ﷺ) to Yathrib to start the Islamic polity, Al-Madinah (the City – a normative title if ever there was one), the Muslims of Madinah (the Ansar, helpers) had vastly more wealth than the emigrants, and this remained mostly the case. The Islamic concern was not to equalize wealth, but to ensure that the emigrants had their basic needs and requirements met…”

 

Critical race theory’s claims are reversal causal of what Abdullah Andalusi claims. critical race theorists look at manifestations of structural racism against black people from slavery, sharecropping, predatory lending, real estate discrimination, the disproportionate placing of loan sharks in black communities, racist banking practices and other forms of racially based oppression and from that concludes that whites having more wealth than Blacks are rooted in this larger  racial domination.

Additionally, critical race theory looks at ways in which the system of white supremacy grants even poor whites better-living arrangements than even upper-class blacks. Perhaps, most demonstrated by how the ability of racial segregation to confine even upper class Black Americans in neighborhoods wherein they are subjected to devastating health toxins on a much higher level than either poor whites.  Both critical race theories analyze how structural racism influences Blacks of the higher classes and the specifics as mentioned earlier as to how critical race theorists arrived at their conclusion that the white-Black wealth gap is a form of domination renders the rest of Abdullah Andalusi’s argument null and void.

Black-Americans have such minimal wealth that at current trends even two whole centuries from now they will continue to lag in terms of household wealth in comparison to whites.  Abdullah Andalusi’s analogy between Black Americans and White Americans, and the Ansar and Muhajireen is absurd for several reasons.

First, Black Americans was brought to America through forced migration on slave ships,  whites were able to accumulate and pass on transgenerational wealth through slavery, and even after slavery, the U.S government financially compensated white slave owners for losing their former slaves whereas former black slaves received nothing.  After slavery, Blacks were subjected to Black Codes that prohibited them from establishing businesses and other enterprises for socio-economic advancement, and many were forced into a de facto system of slavery known as sharecropping. The G. I Bill, which aided White Americans to have a path to homeownership, was denied to Blacks. The New Deal passed during the great depression to provide economic relief to American citizens were also denied mainly to Blacks.

Additionally, the American socioeconomic system facilitates white people building wealth from Black people in explosive ways that Islam would find objectionable. For example, the bank Wells Fargo steered Black people whom they referred as white people into obtaining high-interest usurious home mortgages. In Bank Accused of Pushing Mortgage Deals on Blacks,” Michael Powell notes “for a decade, systematically [singled] out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages.” Option One, the mortgage wing of H & $ Block, charged a Black borrowers with a credit score of 523 $10, 635 to finance $167,000, while a white borrowers with a credit score of 520 paid $2275 to finance.  Black people with higher credit score were still given higher interest rates on mortgage loans than whites with lower credit score were once against demonstrates how structural racism facing Black Americans regardless of their economic class. In “The Collapse of Black Wealth,” by Monica Potts, she notes that the subprime mortgage crisis, in which many Black borrowers defaulted on high usurious loans, the devastated wealth of African-Americans.  Economic Policy Institute indicates, “black households had a median net wealth of just $4,900 in 2010, compared with $97,000 for white households. A third of black households had zero or negative wealth.”  A recent study from the Institute of Policy Studies also found that by 2083, the median wealth of Black households would likely fall to zero.

Though, while Islam does not seek to make human beings “absolutely equal” in terms of wealth such as Marxism when the source of wealth disparities are rooted in exploitative practices. Neither Islam would find objectionable and outright haram, i.e. the discriminatory racial issuing of high usurious loan, challenging such wealth inequality is not Un-Islamic, nor would the only goal of Muslims be to ensure the population at the receiving end of these unjust economic practices have their basic needs met. Theoretically speaking, if African-American families had their basic needs met in terms of food, clothing, and shelter (which is not the case), yet wealth disparities were still being facilitated due to racially discriminatory high-interest loans, this would fail to live up to Islamic standards of justice.  The fact that Islam emphasizes earning one’s wealth in ways which are halal (Islamically permissible) is an indications of this fact. On the day of judgment, humans will be questioned as to their wealth and how they earned it.  

Abdullah Andalusi’s Critique of CRT is just as applicable to non-CRT, Antiracism Scholarship

Like Muslim anti-critical race theorists Daniel Haqiqajtou, Abdullah Andalusia also posit that Muslims can learn about structural racism and “without having to read a single book of Derrick Bell or any of the coterie of CRT writers.” He then discusses how several of the studies I cited are outside the realm of critical race theory.  Abdullah Andalusi like Daniel Haqiqajtou fails to explain how scholarship on structural racism and studies on structural racism would not be a victim to the same critique as Bell. For example, the study I cited on wealth disparity between Blacks and Whites comes from an organization titled Equality of Opportunity Project, whose research is rooted in some liberal egalitarian premises that Abdullah Andalusi finds problematic in Bell. Abdullah Andalusi, based upon his same contentions against Bell would be forced to argue how the liberal assumptions of this study mean Muslims should reject it.

Additionally, several studies on institutional racism are conducted by Civil Rights Organizations that have foundational egalitarian premises that Abdullah Andalusi would find problematic. With the liberal egalitarian principle that human beings should be free from unreasonable intrusions of privacy, the ACLU conducted a study finding Blacks are subjected to police harassment at alarming rates. The study is rooted in liberal and not Islamic foundations as to why police harassment of Black people is wrong.   Is Abdullah Andalusi going to pen his next article why Muslims cannot accept the ACLU’s studies on police harassment of black people because its bases the notion that police harassment is bad on liberal concepts? If no, why are Bell’s insights on structural racism and how it operates to be rejected because he has egalitarian ideas influencing his work?

Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, where she discusses how various drug policies have mostly resulted in Black American men being subjected to a new Jim Crow. Her belief in Democratic Socialism guides much of her scholarship on the subject; Abdullah Andalusi could just as well argue this means Muslims cannot accept Alexander’s analysis on the Jim Crow because the Democratic socialist ideals undergirding her work, if adopted by Muslims, can inhibit the Caliphate.

Well, perhaps, Abdullah Andalusi and Daniel Haqiqatjou can present us with scholarship in the field of anti-racism wholly devoid of influences in western sociology or liberal assumptions of egalitarianism, or any un-Islamic influences whatsoever. Whose authors and researchers hold views, which in 100% conform to Islam in every way on topics ranging from slavery, predatory lending, black codes, redlining, Jim Crow… etc…  Present us with an Islamic alternative on understanding school desegregation so that Derrick Bell’s work is unnecessary.

 Remembering the Lessons of Imam Abdullah Haroon

The efforts of Muslim public speakers to render “unislamic” a body of knowledge that provides legal analysis on oppression of Black people should be a wake up call to Muslims.

Muslims should do well to remember the valuable lesson in the life of Imam Abdullah Haroon. He was an Imam in Apartheid South Africa who urged the Muslim community and Islamic scholars of his day to join in the effort of resisting apartheid. The Islamic scholars and the broader Muslim community at the end were apprehensive about joining blacks in fighting apartheid, concerned with Marxist influences on organizations such as the African National Congress and Pan-African Congress.

The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa declared “Has the government forbidden the worship of Allah and spreading of Islam? Has the government closed down or ordered the demolition of any Mosque in a declared white area?”  So long as the Apartheid South Africa government did not prevent Muslims from their ritualistic acts of worships, the Muslim Judicial Council did not believe in joining the armed resistance against apartheid. The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa did not perceive the ways in which apartheid hindered dawah to Islam, by segregating Blacks into Bantustans and forcibly subjecting them to Christian education.

The Muslim Judicial Council legal verdicts for why Muslims shouldn’t join the struggle against apartheid mirrors how Daniel Haqiqatjou while viewing critical race theory as threatening the aquidah of Muslims, failed to conceptualize how racial injustices have historically treated the aqidah of African-American Muslims. Though forced conversions to Christianity and corporal punishments being issued to enslaved Africans who openly practiced Islam.

In an effort to end apartheid, Imam Haroon reached out and built bridges with Black communities and liberation movements, such as the African National Congress and Pan-African Congress.  His stance, according to Ursula Gunther, represented, “A break with the ulama’s hegemony.”  Soon, Imam Haroon became a member of the Pan African Congress and was “dedicated to the overthrow of apartheid by all means at its disposal, including violence.” Imam Haroon was arrested under the Terrorism Act of 1967 and because of his struggle against apartheid; he would be assassinated by apartheid South Africa’s police force while under interrogation, because of him being classified as an embarrassment to the ulama of his day, “Haroon was virtually forgotten by Muslims.

Like the Muslim anti-critical race, theorists of today, the “scholars” of the Muslim Judicial Council were concerned about the Marxist influences of various Black anti-apartheid movements. As long as the apartheid government didn’t prevent them from religious acts of worship, they did not see it as obligatory to overthrow apartheid. Imam Abdullah Haroon was viewed as an embarrassment to the Muslim community of his day that few Muslims attended his jannazya.  Only years later, after the fall of apartheid, would Imam Abdullah Haroon’s name be honored with his Islamic scholars who criticized him being viewed as cowards.

The Muslim anti-critical race theorists of today mirror the Islamic scholars during the era of Imam Abdullah Haroon, a cowardly episode in Islamic history.   These Muslim anti-critical race theorists have little engagement with Muslims in blacks communities impacted by jim crow today, they dismiss a body of work dedicated to analyzing the oppression of black people as “nonsense”, they promote misconceptions of black political thinkers, and they demonstrate utter apathy towards actualizing Islamic resistance to white supremacy.

Muslims have a choice of deciding as to whether they will follow the path of Imam Abdullah Haroon and his unapologetic support of black resistance to structural racism, or follow in the way of the Muslim anti-critical race theorists.

The answer to this question will have major implications in terms of Islamic outreach to oppressed black communities and Dawah in African American communities.

Muslims: The choice is yours. What path will you take?

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.

 

Has Lamppost Education Initiative Sold Out Black People? Addressing Dr. Abdullah Ali’s Poor Critique of Critical Race Theory.

Black people in America are suffering under immense oppression.

Black-Americans have such minimal wealth that at current trends even two whole centuries from now they will continue to lag in terms of household wealth in comparison to whites.[1]

In an empirical study titled “The Prison Boom & Lack of Black Progress, University of Chicago economists Neal and Rick, after examining Black and white income inequality, unemployment rates, and the increasing number of Black men in Chicago who are in prison, concluded: “the Great Recession has left most Black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.”[2]

In a study of the impact of the Fair Housing Act intended to outlaw racial discrimination, sociologist Douglass S. Massey notes that, due to practices such as redlining, racial steering, and block-busting that developed in the Post-Jim Crow era, “the level of Black-white segregation has hardly changed.”[3]

Studies have found that applicants with more “Black-Sounding” names on resumes (i.e. Jamal, Lakeshia) were less likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with more “White-Sounding” names(I.E John, Emily) even when credentials were identical.[4]

Even more troubling, a study found employers to be more likely to hire a white person with a criminal record than a Black person without one, even when qualifications were the same.[5]

 

Lamppost Education Initiative Joins the The Muslim Anti-Critical Race Theorists 

As Black people are subjected to the prison industrial complex, placed systematically in polluted neighborhood through racist city-planning, and continue to be at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy, Dr. Abdullah Ali of Lamppost Education Initiative decided to pen a timely article titled How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? where he concerns himself with how critical race theory  “solidifies the otherization of “whites.” [6] That’s right folks!

Those oh so  poor white people, that Black critical racist theorists such as Derrick Bell  are ‘otherizing”  through their academic works on institutional racism must surely be happy that they have such a brave advocate in the form of Dr. Abdullah Ali and Lamppost Education Initiative.  In How Islamic is Critical Race Theory?  Dr. Abdullah Ali writes:

 

A critical race theorist would never accept the notion that he/she is being racist against white people. That’s because the theorist has convinced him/herself that only whites can be racist due to the fact that only whites have power. That is to say that racism can only be racism if and when you have the power to oppress others. And, since only white people have this power according to the critical race theorist, only they can be racist. [7]

In this statement, Dr. Abdullah Ali ignorantly assumes that all critical race theorists are Black or people of color.  They aren’t. From the beginning of his critique, Dr. Abdullah Ali indicates that he has not done his due diligence in terms of researching what he is critiquing. He is critiquing a caricature of what he thinks critical race theory is. Indeed, the authors, Richard Degaldo and Jean Stefanic, of the one and only book that Dr. Abdullah Ali cites titled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction are not Black. [8]

So one is puzzled as to why Dr. Abdullah Ali believes all critical race theorists are just some Black or other people of color folks who won’t acknowledge their alleged racism against whites.  In reality, Dr. Abullah Ali has essentialized critical race theorists as just a bunch of Black and people of color folks who just wont acknowledge they can be racist towards whites.

Critical race theorists such as Richard Degaldo, who is Latino, in works such as Racism, Capitalism, and The Search for Reform will tell you that “[t]oday, more Black children attend segregated schools than before Brown came down.[9]  The real assertion of critical race theory, as opposed to the caricature that Abdullah Ali attempts to refute posits that structural racism goes beyond mere interpersonal interactions and attitudes.

Works within critical race theory such as Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva indicate that even if Whites collectively improved in their interpersonal interactions with Black folks and stopped displaying racist animosity toward Black folks, this alone  would not be enough to remedy the years of wealth, opportunity, and material gain garnered through years of Black codes, jim crow, and other manifestation of institutional racism.[10]

Does Critical Race Theory reinforce biological determinism? 

Dr. Abdullah Ali claims that critical race theory essentializes white people by reinforcing biological determinism.  He writes that critical race theory ‘enforces biological race and behavioral determinism” by suggesting  that “to be white is to be “privileged” and “racist.” [11]

These is not a single critical race theorist who bases their analysis of structural racism upon biological behavioral determinism.  One wonders is Dr. Abdullah Ali critiquing The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism by Michael Bradley or the Nation of Islam’s theology of Yacub?  Critical race theorists do not make their analysis based of structural racism upon  biological determinism. Rather, the assertion is that years of slavery, Black codes, and jim crow, and defacto forms of  racial discrimination has continued to significantly reduce the quality of life for Black folks in education, health, and economics.

Moreover, the social structural in America socializes white people into maintaining this unjust racialized hierarchy.  As  Bonilla-Silva has indicated in Racism Without Racists, you can still have a system of structural racism and immense racial inequality in a society where white people themselves may not be individually racially prejudice against Black people.

Structural Racism in America manifests as a system of white domination that economically, socially, and judicially controls, dominates, and subjugates Black folks, Native-Americans, and other non-whites. Structural racism in America allows for whites to control and dictate the standard of living of Black folks and to yield such control in ways that are detrimental. For example, in the Chicago neighborhood of Altgelds Gardens white city-planners intentionally placed Black communities near garbage instructors and toxic waste dumps.

An angry Black man advocate can call a random white person on the street a “White devil oppressor”, but it won’t result in a power dynamic in which Black folks have the ability to mass-incarcerate white folks, exploit white folks through predatory loans, or systematically place white folks in toxic neighborhoods. Beyond potential hurt feelings, it has no systemic structural impact.  Similarly, Dr. Abdullah Ali cannot show a single structural impact to the “otherization of whites” he absurdly claims is fostered by Black critical racist theorists against whites in the areas of employment, economics, or education..etc.

Does Critical Race Theory Essentialize White People? 

Dr. Abdullah Ali asserts that critical race theory “is essentialist because it lumps all “whites” together into a shared experience vis-à-vis “coloreds” such that there is no distinction between the English, Scottish, French, German, Russian, Slav, Irish, Italian, Swede, Jew.”[12]

Only someone with no real engagement with critical race theory would possibility make such an uninformed statement about critical race theory.  Works such as Whiteness as property by Cherl Harris,[13]  Whiteness and Ethnicity of White Ethnics in the United States[14]  How the Irish Became White by Ignatiev[15] have thoroughly addressed how European immigrants in America sought to unify around the ideology of whiteness in order to reap social benefits and subjugate Black people.

Lamppost Education Initiatives Obfuscates The Oppression of Black people

Why are Muslims discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether the immense Black-white wealth gap is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what is the Islamic agenda to deal with it? Why are we discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether or not the fact that the current mass-incarceration of Black men is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what is the Islamic agenda to deal with it? Why are we discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether racially discriminatory city planning that has confined Black communities to polluted neighborhoods is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what’s the Islamic agenda to deal with it?

Lamppost Education Initiative should be thoroughly ashamed at the miseducation they are directing towards Muslim communities through their decision to publish the article How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? Black intellectuals in critical race theory who are seriously seeking to analyze the oppression of Black people post jim crow are portrayed by Dr. Abdullah Ali as folks who just wont acknowledge they can be racist towards white folks and in doing so, otherize white people.

Critical race theory was pioneered by African-American legal scholar, Derrick Bell as mechanism to address the very real racism that Black folks faced in a post-jim crow world. Derrick Bell was a former lawyer in the NAACP who sought to end school segregation and decades lived in horror upon realizing that schools were just as segregated. Derrick Bell produces what is arguably the best account of understanding the ulterior motives that went behind the decision of the Supreme Court to declare the unconstitutionality of school segregation,

Sure, not all of the scholars of critical race theory are Muslim.  Still, critical race theorists make valuable contributions towards understanding the political plight of Black folks post-jim crow. Muslims, especially Black Muslim, should be involved in addressing the systemic oppression facing Black communities and can garner important insights through studying critical race theory.

Muslims certainly should not be involved in insinuating that a field designed to analyze structural racism facing Black communities post-jim crow is somehow otherizing or essentializing of white people based upon their complete misunderstanding of the theory.

As Black folks are being oppressed, the focus of Lamppost Education Initiative. is to publish an article on how critical race theory harms white people via essentialism and otherization. They posit this critique after a poor reading of critical race theory.

The political insights are most pertinent to Black folks in neighborhoods directly impacted by the legacy of jim crow. What is quite revealing is that when Lamppost posted their article How Islamic is Critical Race Theory on twitter, they tagged multiple personal accounts of non-Black Muslims and did not tag a single personal account of a Black man in a neighborhood directly impacted by the legacy of Jim Crow. It should be very clear who Lamppost Education Initiative is catering to and who their audience is. Its certainly not Black folks.

Oh Muslims! Remember the legacy of sister Safiya Bukhari!  Remember the Legacy of Malcolm X! Remember the egacy of Albert “Nuh” Washington. Strive hard against the mainstream American Muslim establishment’s attempt to detach Islam from the Black struggle against White Supremacy.


 

[1] Joshua Holland(2016), The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today,  The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-average-Black-family-would-need-228-years-to-build-the-wealth-of-a-white-family-today/

[2] Derek Neal & Armin Rick, The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch, (2014), https://www.nber.org/papers/w20283.pdf

[3] Douglas S Massey & Nancy A. Denton, (1993)  American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass, 225

[4] Marianne Bertrand et al(2003) Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination Mullainathan, National Bureau of Economic Research, https://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

[5]  Devah Pager (2003) The Mark of a Criminal Record Devah Pager Northwestern Universityhttp://www.princeton.edu/~pager/pager_ajs.pdf

[7] Abdillah Bin Hamid Ali(2019), How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? https://lamppostedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/how-Islamic_critical_race_theory.pdf

[8] Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic(2001) , Critical Race Theory, An Introduction

[9]  Degaldo(2014), Rodrigo’s Equation: Race, Capitalism, and the Search for Reform, https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/wflr49&div=6&id=&page=&t=1560471802

[10] Eduardo Bonilla-Silva(2003),  Racism without racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva,

[11] Abdillah Bin Hamid Ali(2019), How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? https://lamppostedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/how-Islamic_critical_race_theory.pdf

[12] IBID

[13]Harris(1993), Whiteness as Property, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1341787

[14] MCDermott(2005), Whiteness and Ethnicity of White Ethnics in the United States, https://www.jstor.org/stable/29737719

[15] Noah Ignatiev, (1995), How the Irish Became White by Ignatiev

 

Are Muslim Anti-Critical Race Theorists Liberals in Muslim Clothing?

I just wrapped up a discussion with Daniel Haqiqatjou as to whether Muslims should adopt or accept critical theory. There will be more forthcoming thoughts regarding that discussion.

As for now, I will discuss why Muslim anti-critical race theorists are in fact more liberal than they think. In a discussion, Abdullah Al AAndalusi, writes:

This is a continuation of an argument that Abdullah Al Andausi made in his Middle Way lecture. He argues that social policies aiming to address the legacy of Jim-Crow and Black Codes in the form of “positive discrimination” “create rancour” and result in them joining facist movements.  His mistake is that he attributes causality of “poor whites” in joining white supremacist movements to legislation endeavoring to end racial discrimination.

This argument is not based upon Islamic ethics but liberal consequentialism in which the morality of an action is to be judged solely by its consequences.  When we look at even legislation prohibiting racial discrimination from the end of school segregation, end of racially segregated schooling, ..etc. there was an increase among whites(of all classes) in joining the KKK and other racist movements which perpetrated  acts of violence against Black people.  After the Fair Housing Act was passed seeking to end housing segregation where I am from in Chicago, Whites preceded to start facist movements,. They bombed and killed  black people in order to intimidate them into remaining in certain neighborhoods.

However, this does not mean that the end of racially segregated schools, racially segregated housing, ..etc. were not worthy goals to pursue.

No Muslims would make the liberal consequentialist argument that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,  should stop seeking to proclaim the oneness of God simply because there will be backlash from the idolaters among the Quraysh.

When it comes to achieving addressing the legacy of jim crow, the fact that some poor whites will seek to uphold white supremacy by joining facist movements is not a reason for why we should not address the legacy of Jim crow.  To quotes Dr. Charles Mills:

De facto white supremacy treats as a neutral baseline “the existing color-coded configurations of wealth, poverty, property, and opportunities;” it assiduously maintains “the pretense that formal, juridical equality is sufficient to remedy inequities created on a foundation of several hundred years of racial privilege….White supremacy organizes group power not only in explicitly white supremacist polities like the Confederate States of America, Nazi Germany, and apartheid South Africa, but also in polities that renounce white supremacist ideology but still protect distributions of wealth, office, education, and opportunity systemically biased in favor of whites.”

The question that I pose for Muslim anti-critical race theorist is how they seek to address continued structural racism in a post-jim crow era in a way that is attuned with Islamic values.

Moinul Abu Hamza & The Incompetence of Colonized Muslim Critiques of Critical Race Theory!

 

Moinul Abu Hamza & The Incompetence of Muslim Critiques of Critical Race Theory!

Imagine the following scenario based upon the notorious torture ring that Jon Burge conducted against Black men.   A Black American, who happens to be a Christian, is apprehended by the police in the street. He is taken into police custody where the police call him the n-word. They apply electric shock to his genitals and suffocate him in order to force him to confess to crimes that he did not commit. The judge does not believe the African-American Christian brother when he says his confession was obtained through torture and allows his confession to be utilized by the prosecution against him. He is found guilty and spends 20 years of his life in prison on false charges before defense attorneys are able to help to overturn his conviction.

Upon leaving prison, the African American Christian brother stumbles upon self-proclaimed “Muslim intellectuals” dedicated to fighting the supposed “secular liberal” influence of critical race theory upon society.

The African-American Christian brother explains what happened to him and remarks “The police really did me wrong. Many think civil rights legislation ended structural racism but its clear that structural racism was able to maintain itself post jim-Crow.”

The self proclaimed Muslim intellectual responds “Structural Racism? Where is your evidence for this structural racism in the Qu’ran and Sunnah. Stop being a liberal social justice warrior. You aren’t qualified to speak on this because you haven’t studied Islam and believe in the trinity. Plus, by talking about racism you’ve only reinforced racism.”

As absurd as this sounds, this is the underlying logic of recent efforts of self-proclaimed Muslim intellectuals to refute critical race theory.  In a recent discussion I had with a critic of my previous article titled Why Muslims Need Critical Race Theory, Moinul Abu Hamza preceded to lambaste critical race theory as a western & secular liberal theory but not substantive analysis.

I explained to him that critical race theory is functionally a critique by African-American legal scholars of how structural racism was able to maintain itself in  a “western” and “secular liberal society” in a post jim-crow era. I explained how African-American critical race theorists have critiqued foundational secular western liberal thinkers from John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Jean Rousseau. Therefore, the categorization of critical race theory as being a western secular liberal theory is both ignorant and untrue. Moinul Abu Hamza responded to this by stating:

 

“If you think ive not educated myself about CRT, tell me your qualifications in Islamic sciences. Where have you studied and with who?”

 

Continuing, Moinul Abu Hamza writes:

 

Hakeem, please tell me your qualifications to say Islam has not addressed these issues and is bereft of answer so that you need to crawl up to CRT.

 

Instead of addressing my argument for why the categorization of critical race theory as a “western liberal” theory was inaccurate, Moinul Abu Hamza preceded to ask me about what my qualifications are in Islamic sciences. Additionally, Moinul Abu Hamza preceded to argue from a fundamentally unfounded assertions that by turning to critical race theory one is somehow implying Islam is bereft of answers to societal problems.

This is fundamentally untrue.  Critical Race theory, as posited by Derrick Bell, is literally a theory that posits that structural racism against African-Americans was able to maintain itself in a jim crow era after the passage of civil rights legislation. Moinul Abu Hamza never explains why the acceptance of this basic premise means one must be a “liberal Muslim” who does not believe Islam has answers to societal problems. He makes conclusory remarks which he never cares to substantiate.

I am admittedly not a scholar of Islam. Given the role of Moinul Abu Hamza role as the founder of the Qu’ran institute and his copious lectures he has providing tasfirs of the Qu’ran, he has likely studied under more Islamic scholars than me in traditional Islamic sciences.

The basic assumption of your argument is that somehow one needs to be an ulema or Islamic scholar to have a valid perspective on white supremacy and structural racism in American society.  African-Americans descend from Islamic civilizations in West Africa which were rich in Islamic heritage and learning. Unfortunately, the process of the transatlantic slave trade prohibited the ability of Africans to transgenerationally transmit Islamic knowledge.

Moinul Abu Hamza argument is essentially the equivalent of telling Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois, or Martin Delany, individuals who emerged from slavery, that all of what they say about white supremacy or racism is erroneous merely because they are non-Muslim or not learned in the Islamic tradition. Its a stupid and nonsensical argument.

I am an African-American Muslim human-rights attorney. I have worked to bring litigation against correctional facilities that have perpetrated human rights abuses against incarcerated African-American converts to Islam.  I have worked to defend African-American males who were falsely arrested and victims of police misconduct.   I have assisted in efforts to exonerate African-American males who have been falsely convicted of crimes. I see value in critical race theory in guiding my work as an attorney.

Prior to law school, I taught courses on Black political thought, including critical race theory at programs held at Harvard and U.C Berkeley.  I do not see any conflict between my Islamic faith and basic conclusions of critical race theory.

The basis premises of critical race theory are not really even a question of theology. What one does the insights and conclusions offered by critical race theory is the question of theology.  For example, one can accept the conclusions of critical race theory and say “this is why we need a Marxist-Leninist revolution” or one can accept the basic conclusions of critical race theory and say “This is Why we need Islam.” My position is the latter.

I am not foreclosing the possibility that there may be meaningful critiques of the critical race theory from the perspective of Islam. All I am saying, is that neither Moinul Abu Hamza or Abdullah Andalusi have presented such critiques. All that has been presented is an academically lazy categorization of critical race theory as a “western, liberal, social justice warrior philosophy”  when critical race theory is in fact a serious critique of the racism within western, liberal society by African-American legal scholars and political theorists.

Muslims: Improve Your Knowledge of Critical Race Theory 

Whether it be Moinul Abu Hamza or Abdullah Andalusi, Muslims are critiquing critical race theory from a position of ignorance.

This Sunday, Daniel Haqiqatjou, of the Muslim Skeptic Podcast, will be addressing the topic of “Can Muslims Accept Critical Race Theory?” and God-Willing, I hope to call into his show to clear up misconceptions that Muslims are presenting concerning Critical Race Theory. In a past statement, Daniel Haqiqatjou has stated:

 

There is this video of an ex-marine who hated Islam but then converted to Islam that is being shared widely.

Don’t take the wrong message from that video.

The ex-marine didn’t stop hating Islam and Muslims because an activist told him he suffered from islamophobia and he is a racist bigot who doesnt understand his white privilege, etc., etc.

He stopped hating Islam and Muslims because he read the Qur’an. And not only did he stop hating, he actually became Muslim.

Insofar as our dawah abandons the Qur’an and, instead, aligns with leftist activism with its reliance on critical race theory, decolonial studies, intersectional gender justice nonsense, etc., the less effective it will be. In fact, it will not be dawah at all. It will just be victimhood whining, which only breeds more resentment and hatred of Muslims and Islam.

 

I believe Critical Race Theory is very useful in giving Dawah to Islam.  I give dawah in very economically desolated African-American housing projects and inner-city neighborhoods. These are often neighborhoods where the drug economy and gang activity is rampant. Prior to speaking with brothers from such neighborhoods about Islam, I do research regarding these communities from the realm of critical race theory

In doing such research, you will often find that such communities have a history of being subjected to discriminatory and racist social policies. When I give dawah to brothers in these neighborhoods, I describe in concrete terms the ways in which the white power structure has worked to foster the desolated conditions of these neighborhoods. Then I talk about how Islam can empower them to rise above and transform the conditions that they are in. These response that I have received from brothers in such communities has only been positive and Allah knows best, but I believe it has only increased loved for Muslims and Islam.

As for the issue of the white marine, I mean sure. Someone isn’t going to read Derrick Bell’s article on Racial Realism, and be inspired to convert to Islam.  That was not the purpose of his research or writing. Nonetheless, reading Derrick Bell and other critical race theorists is a meaningful endeavor if one seeks to challenge historical racial injustices against African-Americans.

Derrick Bell, wrote in order to give insights into the African-American political tradition.  Additionally, there are Black critical race theorists who are very critical of the left and leftist politics. Therefore, it is inaccurate to paint critical race theory as a liberal or leftist social justice project.

The real question is absent the insights of Black political theorists in critical race theory: what type of Muslim is this ex-Muslim marine going to be? Is he going to be a Muslim that seeks to challenge white supremacy on a structural level or someone who continues to uphold it even after taking his shahada?

On another note, I find it quite odd that this ex-marine went from wanting to bomb an Islamic center to being placed as the head of the Islamic center after being Muslim for less than three years. Was there really not Black brother more qualified for the position to run an Islamic center than someone who three years previously wanted to blow Muslims up?

Abdullah Andalusi to Moinul Abū Hamza: Exemplifying Colonized Muslim Ignorance of Black Political Thought

 

In my article, Why Muslims Need Critical Race Theory, I responded to claims of various Muslim public speakers who have offered very shallow criticisms of critical race theory. In this article, I will further elaborate on the shallowness of their understanding of critical race theory and the dire social consequences of Muslims not engaging with Black political thought in a meaningful way.

Muslim have a very important responsibility to challenge oppression, tyranny, and injustice. African-American legal scholars pioneered critical race theory  to study how after the passage of civil rights legislation, the social mobility of African-Americans continued to be inhibited by defacto racial discrimination.

That is, as opposed to de’jure or legalistic racial discrimination, in which you have black codes and jjim crow laws that mandate segregated and unequal standards of living for African-Americans, critical race theorists posit that structural racism shifted in its mondus operani. An example they cite are  redlining and blockbusting replaced “no blacks allowed sign” as mechanisms to maintain racially segregated housing.

Critical race theory offers insights into 1) how structural racism can function absent laws mandating racial segregation and 2) how the removal of racist laws by Supreme Court were motivated by the need for America’s to clean up its image on an international level than a serious effort to end structural racism against African-Americans. 

Dismissing this entire body of African-American political thought, Abdullah Andalusi states “Don’t bring critical race theory into Islamic discussions” and that  “the western social justice warrior concept of racism coming from what they call critical race theory which is the ideological concept they come up with starts discriminating right off the back.”

 Islam is a faith that obligates challenging oppression and injustice.  On what basis does critical race theory have no basis in Islamic discussions when it is fundamentally an African-American critique of being subjugated in a western-liberal state in which structural racism continues to have dire consequences even in a post jim crow era?  

The only  that is demonstrated “‘right off the back’ is that Abdullah Andalusi’s understanding of critical race theory is derived from social media online caricatures. His critique demonstrates that he has had no serious academic engagement with the works of African-American legal scholars and philosophers who pioneered critical race theory.

Far from being western, critical race theory emerges among African-American legal scholars who while in what is dubbed “the west” as a result of forced migration, have been politically, economically, and socially outside of mainstream “western” society. Critical Race Theory is fundamentally a critique of how liberal European settler colonies such as the United States are organized around the concept of race and how even in a post black code & jim-crow era, structural racism has merely shifted from de’jure to defacto.

 With no serious engagement as to what critical race theory is, Abdullah Andalusi is accusing critical race theory, which is used by African-American legal scholars to analyze how racial discrimination can function on a defaco level as opposed to de’jure level of “perpetrating discrimination.” This is because he has not take the time to learn as to what critical race theory even is nor engage with it in a serious way. 

Critical race theory is a critique of how liberal European settler colonies are able to maintain systems of structural racism through non-legalistic means. Critical race theory emerges from the failure of civil rights legislation in the United States to adequately alleviate structural racism. Abdullah Andalusi responds to this by essentially discussing how in Islam  “we are all the human race, how we all come from Adam, and how we are all one human.”

This statement would be less non-sequitur if Abdullah Andalusi was juxtaposing how Islam would not organize a society based upon notions of race but higher ideals of piety.   However, this is not what Abdullah Andalusi does. Instead, he suggests that those who are making a criticism of the very real subjugation that occurs as a result of the decision of liberal European settler colonies to organize around race are themselves reinforcing racism because “in a way, using the word racism is racist if you say you’re discriminating against black people, your saying they are a different race. We are all the same race.”

Using the word racism does not mean one must accept race as a biological reality. Rather, one can acknowledge that race is a fictitious construct, yet use the word racism to describe the very real inequities and oppression that manifest  as a result of the decision of European settler colonies to organize around race. 

What’s remarkable is that Abdullah Andalusi is not consistent in terms of his line argumentation.   He erroneously labels CRT as “western” and insinuates that it comes from ‘the west.’  Similarly, Moniul Abu Hamza in response to my article refers to critical race theory as a western theory. 

The same questions can be returned to both Abdullah Andalusi and Moniul Abu Hamza. Why are you talking about “the west”? “The west” isn’t a valid biological or historical construct. The term “the west” is typically used by many Western Europeans to pretend they had some historical connection to ancient Greek to deny their barbarian roots.

The notion of “the west” is just as much as “fictitious” or `”non-biological” construct as race. Yet Abdullah Andalusi and Moniul Abu Hamza continue to see value in using the term “the west.” Their overzealous usage of the term ‘the west’ even causes them to  erroneously label critical race theory as “western thought?” Derrick Bell, the black legal scholar who pioneered critical race theory, would likely tell you that critical race theory is a critique of Black folks of being subjugated in a western liberal state. 

Why does not using the term “the west” reinforce the notion that the west actually exist by reinforcing European cartography and a western/non-west binary of the world?

Let’s continue: why should Muslims criticize the inequities of capitalism through fractional reserve banking and the system of speculative assets? Don’t you know speculative assets aren’t real? Islamic economists critiquing a system of speculative assets only reinforce  the notion that speculative assets are indeed real.

The point is that things that are not real can still have dire social consequences and talking about it is not a reinforcement of it.  Moinul Abū Hamza writes concerning the article:

Moinul Abū Hamza, a critic of the Why Muslims Need Critical Race Theory article.

 

“A study of how the West looks into the mirror from a western lens and seeks to adjusts itself from both ends of the human extremes. Basically an effort to redress the balance on a faulty scale void of morals and divine guidance. I’m surprised how Muslims find utility in every other book and author other than Allah (swa)’s book. But these are the times of confusion. We can’t even agree on what day of the week it is. We fall for anything. That’s my opinion in brief, I’m building on my understanding out in the real world outside of WordPress jihad and if you agree with the article, you are oh so welcome to inject yourselves and your children and pollute your circle of friends, just make sure your children are duat, your wife still wears hijab, and they don’t end up applying the same theories on to the Quran and taking issue. Eventually. Allah did not send a book and another book to explain it. Because this Deen is built on Quranic guidance, an experienced, actualised religion. For me, i’ll take a pass from these theories.”

 

This statement is just stupid. It makes a variety of unfounded assumption.

 

  1. As i’ve explained, Abdullah Andalusi’s arguments concerning how  critical race theorists reinforce race & racism by using the terms are just as applicable to Moniul Abu Hamza’s usage of the term “the West” and “western.”
  2. Critical race theory isn’t liberal or a liberal theory. It is literally a critique among African-American legal scholars of the failure of liberalism to sufficiently address structural racism.
  3. The Qu’ran is a revelation from Allah(swt) that was sent to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  It provides a system of guidance, ethics,and morals for humans to follow. Critical race theory is a critique by African-American legal scholars of how structural racism of non-Islamic/Secular liberal societies shifted from de’jure to defacto post jim-crow and black codes. Critical race theory offers theories concerning of how structural racism can exist in a society absent a legalistic mechanism.  
  4. Derrick Bell and Dr. Charles Mills are critical race theorists/philosophers who are critical of how structural racism functions in the United States. Both the Qu’ran and Prophetic tradition stand strongly opposed to racism.  I’m not aware of any efforts of critical race theorists to critique the Qu’ran. I as an African-American Muslim, accept the underlying premises of critical race theory and obviously believe Islamic ethics are an alternative to the problems critical race theory identifies.

As i’ve stated, critical race theory certainly is not infallible. I’m willing and open to hear an Islamic critique of critical race theory.  However, I have not seen any real critique of critical race theory from its Muslim critiques that would even demonstrate  that they know what critical race theory is.  When Ibn Taymiyya sought to refute the Greek logicians, he actually studied the arguments of the Greek logicians. In Incoherence of the Philosophers, Al-Ghazali actually had to study and know Greek thought. Now, we have Muslims attempting to refute “critical race theory” without even bothering to study critical race theory and have no clue as to what critical race theory even is. Pathetic.

 

Why Muslims Need Critical Race Theory  

I am a Muslim. As a profession, I have also taught and lectured extensively on Black Political Thought including Critical Race theory at universities from U.C Berkeley to  Harvard University. Critical Race theory posits that even in a post-Jim Crow era, structural racism continues to operate on a defacto as opposed to de jure level with detrimental impacts to the standard of living, quality of life and access to opportunities for African-Americans.

As someone who works in many impoverished inner-city African-American neighborhoods on a grassroots level, I believe critical race theory, while certainly not infallible, offers valuable political insights that Muslims should study and engage with in a meaningful way.

Recently, there have been many Muslims who engage in Dawah who have endeavored to pushback against Muslim social justice activists who have adopted liberal or leftist political frameworks. In such critiques, Muslim public figures such as Daniel Haqiqatjou, Imam Zaid Shakir, Abdullah Andalusi, Ismail Royer,  Nour Goda, among others, have sought to critique critical race theory. They categorize critical race theory as being a liberal or leftist political framework. 

In their critiques, however, they have only demonstrated an immense ignorance as to what critical race theory even is. Their critiques are replete with intellectual laziness that only demonstrate they have not even bothered to read nor study  foundational works of critical race theory.  This article aims to 1) explain how such Muslims public speakers fundamentally misunderstand critical race theory and 2)explain how critical race theory bolsters Islamic critiques of liberalism.

The Ignorance of Muslim Opposition to Critical Race Theory

Daniel Haqiqatjou has stated that “Insofar as our dawah abandons the Qur’an and, instead, aligns with leftist activism with its reliance on critical race theory, decolonial studies, intersectional gender justice nonsense, etc., the less effective it will be. In fact, it will not be dawah at all. It will just be victimhood whining, which only breeds more resentment and hatred of Muslims and Islam.

In another lecture titled The Middle Way, Abdullah Andalusi writes that  “Islam doesnt have a word for racism….We are all human race.  Humans tend to hate each other based on tribe. It’s not limited to melanin in skin. People of the same ethnic group, same religion, but different tribes can hate each other just as much as a white supremacist hate immigrant.  The western social justice warrior concept of racism coming from critical race theory starts discriminating off the back.”

The characterization of critical race theory as being liberal or western is grotesquely inaccurate. Critical race theory emerged as a critique of the inability of liberalism and liberal political strategies to alleviate the structural racism facing African-American communities.

Critical race theory posits that liberal political reformist maneuvers in the form of civil rights legislation that prohibited de’jure racial discrimination only merely shifted it from de’jure to defacto.

For example, racially restrictive covenants made it impossible for African-Americans to move into neighborhoods which were designated as “white only.” African-American residential homes were often placed by city agencies near toxic waste dumps. African-Americans were often denied essential social services such as plumbing and garbage disposal services.

The Fair Housing Act outlawed these practices. Yet, critical race theory examines the ways how even after racial discrimination was formally outlawed, racial discrimination in housing continued via blockbusting and redlining, without a formal legal mechanism mandating such segregated policies.  

The origins of critical race theory traces its origins to African-American legal scholar, Derrick Bell, who once worked as an attorney for the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP). Bell was part of the legal team that sought to end racial discrimination in schooling. This culminated in the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education which prohibited racially segregated schools.

In later writings which serve as the beginning of what is dubbed critical race theory, Bell reflected upon his work in the NAACP in more critical ways.   In fighting to end racially segregated schools, Bell stated the NAACP legal strategy relied upon the argument that racial discrimination in schooling would hurt America’s image in the cold war.  

Bell argues that the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court to end de’jure racial discrimination was facilitated by the need for the United States to better improve its image to newly decolonized nations in the cold war. It was not driven primarily by the fact that racial discrimination was inherently wrong. Bell believed much of his former work in the NAACP was ineffective in resolving structural racism in a meaningful way.

The second part of Bell’s analysis posits that structural racism is able to maintain itself even after legalized racial discrimination came to an end.  As proof, Bell cites data that indicated schools continued to be just as racially segregated even after the Brown vs. Board of Education declared racial segregation in schooling to be unconstitutional.

Now the question is this: what in Bell’s theory violates any tenet of Islam? What in this theory is liberal? What in this theory exactly is western? In fact, Bell is critiquing the inability of a western liberal state to resolve structural racism of a meaningful level.

Malcolm X, made similar critiques when he stated that “Washington, D.C tries to pacify our people with deceitful promises of tricky, civil rights legislation” and  “civil rights legislation will never solve our problem.” In fact, one can argue that it many ways Malcolm X’s critiques of the mainstream civil rights theory served a precursor to much of Bell’s writings.

In his lecture, Abdullah Al AnDalusi accuses critical race theory, a theory of African-American legal scholars to analyze structural racism in a post jim crow era as being the culprit in “perpetrating discrimination.”

Is Critical Race Theory Liberal?

There have been efforts of Muslim public thinkers to claim somehow that critical race theory is western or liberal, and this has the impact of undermining Islamic ethics. Ismail Royer, an American convert to Islam and Research and Program Associate at the Religious Freedom Institute, writes that “The paradox about these absurd attacks on American Muslim politicians/activists is that there activism actually involves undermining Islam with their “intersectional feminism” and critical race theory.”

Abdullah Andalusi also argues that critical race theory is somehow liberal or western in his lecture the Middle Way. The reality is that critical race theory has been highly critical of liberalism’s foundational founders.  African-American political theorist and critical race theorist, Dr. Charles Mills. for example has brilliantly critiqued how Immanuel Kant once wrote a treatise on how to properly beat African slaves with split bamboo to extract better labor from them and the implications this has on his categorical imperative theory.

Dr. Charles Mills writes that “Kant believed in a natural racial hierarchy, with whites at the top, and blacks and Native-Americans at the bottom. He saw the last two races as natural slaves.”

Critical Race theorists have been highly critical of John Lcoke. In his book The Critique of Racial Liberalism, Dr. Charles Mills  “John Locke invests in African slavery and justifies the aborignal expropritation; Immanuel kant turns out to be one of the pioneering theorists of modern “scientific racism“…liberalism needs to be reconceptualized as ideologically central to the imperial project.”

Critical race theorists have been critical of the ways in which John Locke introduced into the fundamental constitutions of Carolina in 1669, the right of white men to have “absolute power over their African slaves, and thus the right to kill their slaves with impunity.”

Several critical race theorists have noted that slavery has existed throughout history but was not always based upon race. They have noted and critique John Locke specifically as being  “an architect of the new race-based slavery.”

The Political Reality of Global White Supremacy

Critical Race theorists use the term white supremacy to identify the power system that has shaped the modern world. By white supremacist, they do not mean fringe figures such as an EDL or KKK members. They mean the essential thinkers that have shaped the modern world– Kant, Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Dr. Charles Mills defines white supremacy as “the system of domination by which white people have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people.”

In a discussion with Abdullah Andalusi, he writes that  “CRT is problematic for two reasons, it creates a category called “whiteness” & ascribes to it culture and beliefs when visually low melaninated skin clearly has no connection to beliefs, culture.”

This is simply false. Critical race theorists are not the ones who created a category called whiteness. Derrick Bell, the founder of critical race theory, grew up in the United States, a society organized around the concept of white supremacy and through critical race theory merely analyzed how white supremacy continued even after African-Americans obtained formal, juridical equality.  It is not that Derrick Bell created a category called whiteness.

Rather, Derrick Bell grew up in the United States which through Jim Crow Laws and Black codes were predicated upon upholding a false construct known as whiteness. European settler colonists created a concept known as whiteness and upheld a political construct known as white supremacy in their political relationship with people they designated as non-white.

In this lecture, the Middle Why, Abdullah Andalusi spends time discussing how critical race theorists are in error because race is not a valid biological concept. This is non-sequitur.

Acknowledging that white supremacy as a political reality and to criticize that political arrangement does not require one to believe race has any biological reality. Critical race theory is critique of how European settler colonies have organized societies around race and created detrimental outcomes to groups of people who have been categorized into certain races.

In his lecture, Abdullah Andalusi precedes to talk about poor white people exist in the United States. Again, this is non-sequitur in addressing the basic contention of critical race theory that structural racism against African-Americans continued in a post jim crow era. As a result of the uniqueness of racism, poor whites are not nearly as detrimentally impacted by the rise of the prison industrial complex nor are they as adversely impacted by incidents of police brutality.

Poor whites have access to more opportunities for social economic mobility than do Black people.  Additionally, the existence of poor whites does not refute the fact that white supremacy in white settler colonies organizes distribution of wealth along racial lines.  African-Americans have such minimal wealth that at current trends even two whole centuries from now they will continue to lag behind in terms of household wealth in comparison to whites.

Why Muslims Need Critical Race Theory

Muslim public speakers who are opposed to critical race theory have not offered any meaningful critique of critical race theory that demonstrates that have even studied it. Critical race theory is a very meaningful political tradition for it demonstrates an effort of African-American legal scholars to conceptualize how structural racism could maintain itself even absent a formal legalistic mechanism mandating racial segregation.

Far from being “liberal” or “western”, critical race theorists have criticized the ways in which liberal strategies to resolve structural racism have been ineffective. Critical race theorists have critiqued the founders of liberalism for upholding white supremacy.  Critical race theory is not liberal or western. It is a Black criticism of being subjugated in a liberal-western state in an era in which Black people were told that the end of de’jure racial discrimination would resolve structural racism.

I am open to the possibility of valid criticisms of critical race theory. Unfortunately, the aforementioned criticisms by Muslim public figures of critical race theory which amounts to painting critical race theory as some “liberal social justice warrior nonsense” is not a valid criticism.  It is intellectually lazy and disrespectful to the Black political tradition and Black political thought.

 Such aforementioned criticisms of critical race theory will only result in Muslims being oblivious and complicit in oppression. Muslims have been obligated to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Muslims are obligated to oppose oppression and tyranny whenever it is found. In order to achieve this, Muslims would benefit from the political insights of Derrick Bell and Dr. Charles Mills who have thoroughly dissected how structural racism continues to manifest itself in a post jim-crow era.

In the same way we need Muslim doctors, scientists, mathematicians..etc, we need Muslim critical race theorists. We need Muslims who study how structural racism impacts societies and the world.

How Chicago Violated The Constitutional Rights of Black Men

 

 

Chicago has implemented several laws in a systemic effort to quell gang violence.  One of these laws passed in 1992 was a “gang congregation” ordinance that prohibited loitering together in any public place by two or more people, of whom at least one was a “criminal street gang member.”[1]

The ordinance defined “loitering” as remaining in any one place with no apparent purpose.[2] A police officer who observed a person whom the officer reasonably believed to be a criminal street gang member loitering in a public place with one or more persons was required to order all of the persons to disperse, and any person, regardless of whether the person was a gang member, who disobeyed such a dispersal order was guilty of violating the ordinance.[3] The city cited several justifications for the law: gangs intimidating many law abiding citizens from going out in public and members of gangs establishing control over identifiable areas.

Gangs created a justifiable fear for the safety of persons and property in the area and that “[a]ggressive action is necessary to preserve the city’s streets and other public places so that the public may use such places without fear.”[4] During the years that the laws were implemented, the Chicago Police Department issued 89,000 dispersal orders and arrested over 42,000 people for violating the ordinance.[5]

The law also had several negative impacts as it prevented social workers or family from public interactions with anyone who might be a member of a gang.[6] Another negative impact was that the police were given the discretion to make decisions about who to arrest or convict based on who they thought could be a gang member.[7]

Additionally, gang-related homicides increased during the first two years but decreased during the third year.[8] Furthermore, no causal connection could be drawn that these laws prevented decreased gang violence.[9] Cook County Public Defender, Rita Fry stated regarding Chicago’s Gang Ordinance “thousands of innocents with a police record, a record that can make it more difficult to seek employment, to obtain credit or to access certain benefits.”[10]

Continuing, she adds “the enforcement policy endorsed by the ordinance enhanced the sense of hostility and mistrust between police and young men of color.”[11] This law, which was disproportionately enforced in Chicago’s Black communities and later ruled to be in violation of the constitution, only furthered hindered opportunities for Black social advancement.

The law was viewed as too vague because it prevented law-abiding citizens from being unable to know what conduct the law prohibits and the law gave police “absolute discretion” to decide a loiterer. [12]

 

—————————————————————————————————–

[1] CHI., ILL., MUN. CODE § 8-4-015 (June 17, 1992), invalidated by City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999) (plurality opinion)

[2] Id

[3] Id

[4] Robert Johnson, Race, Law, And Public Policy, 390, (1990).

[5] Petitioner’s Brief at 10, City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999) (No. 97-1121)

[6] . City of Chicago v. Morales, 687 N.E.2d 53, 57 (Ill. 1997).

[7]  Id

[8] ACLU, Amicus Brief in Chicago V. Morales, Et. Al., (Oct, 1997).

[9] Id

[10] Id

[11] Id

[12]    

Examining the Constitutional Issues of Chicago’s Gang Congregation Ordinance,http://www.crf-usa.org/images/pdf/challenge/Chicago-Gang-Congregation-Ordinance.pdf

Why Chicago’s Gang Problem is White

 

In a recent op-ed about Chicago’s epidemic of gang-violence, former Fox News conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly wrote, “the criminals causing the destruction are largely comprised of Black street gang members who sell narcotics in poor, minority neighborhoods.” He describes Black youth caught up in Chicago’s gang warfares as, “callous, violent individuals who have no regard for human life.”   O’Reilly advocates prison as the only solution, “Those gang members killing innocents are evil and no social program will change that. They should be locked away for decades.”  

When many think of Chicago’s “gang problem”, they think of the Gangsta Disciples, Black Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Vice Lords, Black Stones and other street organizations that run Chicago’s impoverished Black communities. But anyone who really wants to solve a problem knows you have to get to the root of the matter to really solve a problem.  The roots of Chicago’s gang problem are deep, decades deep, almost a century deep. Long before Black street organizations ascended to prominence, Chicago’s streets were made bloody by white gangs who massacred the city’s Black population. Indeed, it is the white gang-violence inflicted on Chicago’s Black populations that laid the foundation for the socio economic conditions for the contemporary violence seen in the Black community.

As my people began migrating to north from the South, the Chicago Tribune began running sensationalist headlines, “Half a million darkies from Dixie swarm to the north to better themselves” suggesting that Blacks were ‘infecting” the city.  In response, white gangs began to bomb Black households in an effort to systematically drive them out of Chicago .

In 1917, Mrs. S. P. Motley’s house was bombed, the next year 25 more houses were bombed, whites would also send threatening messages to Black homes in other areas, “Look out; you’re next” and “We are going to blow these flats to hell and if you don’t want to go with them you had better move out.” Tragically,  in 1919, a six year old girl was killed in a bombing.

These bombings, shootings, and arsons of Black communities were ultimately linked to Irish gangs.  In Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919, historian William M. Tuttle writes “These gangs, composed of white teenagers and young men in their twenties, many of the roughest of whom were of Irish descent, had terrorized Black people for years.”

What is particularly troubling is that not only were these individuals who carried out massacres of black neighborhoods not prosecuted for their crimes, but they would later be actively recruited into Chicago’s Police Department.  Criminal Justice Professor, John M. Hagedorn writes that the very same Irish gang which was a “violent racist tool to enforce segregation,” would be “reinvented as the Chicago Police Department.”

Thus from its earliest days, Chicago’s police department had members with the blood of innocent Black people on their hands and they recruited from white gangs who terrorized Black communities.  The decision of the Chicago Police Department to recruit from among white racist gangs would instill an anti-black culture in the entire institution.

As someone of Irish heritage himself, O’reilly would do well to reflect on the differing reactions of the city in responses Irish gang violence and that of Black gang violence.

The Chicago Housing Authority as an Anti-Black Gang

A Gang is defined broadly as an organized body of criminals who engaged in criminal activities. When one considers the rampant structural violence that has sentenced Black chicagoans to slow deaths, the Chicago Housing Authority fits fairly within this definition of a gang.  In the 1950’s, the Chicago Housing Authority established a segregated residential area for Black people. They built the community on a landfill in a toxic area surrounded with chemical waste incinerators and abandoned dumps with poisonous waste.

According to Environmental Justice Atlas, “Altgeld gardens had the highest concentration of hazardous waste sites in the nation.”  As a result of these environmental conditions,  residents of this area have an extremely high rate of children born with brain tumor, rare birth defects, asthma, and  large number of fetuses of mothers in the area were aborted because of brains developing outside of the skull.

Though Altgeld Garden was originally built as amo segregated community, the passage of civil rights legislation did nothing to remove or enable black  people from this community to escape the segregated conditions they had been placed within.

In a study of the impact of the Fair Housing Act passed in Chicago to outlaw racial discrimination, sociologist Douglass S. Massey notes that, due to practices such as redlining, racial steering, and blockbusting that developed in the Post-Jim Crow era, “the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.” In fact, if current trends continue, blacks in Chicago’s south and westside neighborhoods will still be de facto segregated groups for decades into the future.

Thus, contrary to the assertions of Bill  O’reilly, historically speaking the real criminals of Chicago have been of white ancestry. They have used their power to terrorize black people, inhibit their social mobility, and force them in neighborhoods unfit for human habitability. It is the wretched conditions that Blacks have been forced to live within that has forced so many oppressed black youth into gangs and the drug economy for pure survival. While one may look at Chicago’s gang problem as a black phenonoman, the reality is  its origins are white.