Why the Black Conservatism of Abdullah bin Hamid Ali Has No Place In The Black Muslim Tradition!

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 in 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.

 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.

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.

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 cannot teach Islam to Black people in an empowering way to confront their political realities.