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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.

 

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?

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.

 

In Honor of Safiya Bukhari

Jay Electronica: Back to the Roots!

The roots of hip-hop trace back to impoverished African-American communities in New-York; economic deprivation, social ostracism, as well as jay344
police brutality directly influenced the hip-hop scene.  The golden age of Hip-Hop was replete with Islamic themes and imagery, perhaps, best highlight ed in the profound lyricism of Rakim, the militant spits of public enemy, and the Afrocentric themes of Brand Nubian. As Hip-Hop began to transition to more Mafia-oriented ‘gangsta-rap’ consisting of materialistic melodies, the socially conscious nature of hip-hop with provocative political commentary would began to fade.   However, we may be entering a new era of conscious rap signified by black consciousness and Islam, and revival initiated by an incredibly talented Jay Electronica!

 

electornicaJay Electronica describes himself as growing up in a crime ridden, drug infested, New Orleans Community that consisted of “fighting, shootin’ dice, smoking weed on the corners trying to find the meaning of life in a Corona.” Finding this alcohol-oriented life empty, along his journey of life, he turned to Islam. Now at the top of the Rap game with his sharp unrivaled lyricism, Electronica can only relented “Alhamdulillah, it’s strictly by faith that we made it this far,” using the Arabic phrase to express his praise to God for having overcome so much adversities.

 

Islam in Black America has always led to social discipline, righteousness, and improving ones life.  The leader of the Nation of Islam, The fruitofislam43Honorable Elijah Muhammad instructed black men concerning their wives,” “Stop them from using unclean language in public (and at home), from smoking and drug addiction habits.” Malcolm X, a once  drug-dealer to clean Muslim, proclaimed,”Gambling! You don’t find it around Muslims. Profanity!  You don’t find it around Muslims.”  It is due to this, that many criticized Electronica  for misrepresenting the Fruit of Islam by his performance which included frequent swear words.  This led to  the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, issuing a letter  in which he ask,” Has any of us who have accepted Islam and its required high degree of moral excellence and civilization ever said or done anything that is less than representative of what we believe?”  He calls for mercy and compassion over the ordeal  and for brothers to reconcile with each other to recognize that all humans have shortcomings.

 

naselecontricaIt was one profound  influence of Electronica’s,  Nas, who on the controversially titled,”Nigger Album” proclaimed,”They did not have the power to stop Louis Farrakhan.”  Rather than using the profanity by Electronica as a point of attack, one should heed Louis Farrakhan’s emphasis on compassion, indeed Electronica’s performance  and other Islamically theme raps, conveys much about the state of Black America. On Nas’ most recent album, “Life Is Good,” the socially conscious rapper Nas spits:“New-York Is Like and Island, The cops be out wilding, all I hear is sirens. It’s all about surviving. Try to stay alive when they be out robbing. I been out rhyming since born knowledge. Like prophet Muhammad said the ink from a scholar. Worth more than the blood of a martyr. So I’mma, keep it on ’til I see a billion dollars.”

 

nasprojecctwidowsIn the ghettoes of America, the situation is chaotic and characterized by a lack of stability. The mentality that it breeds is one of pure survival. Dead Prez once stated, “Cops shot you just because you black, that’s war.” In the government sanctioned police war on black youth, many Afro-Americans from Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, to Eric Garner die as martyrs in the continuous police occupation of black ghetto neighborhoods. As a hip-hop artist then, Nas is significantly influenced by Prophetic Traditions emphasizing the importance of knowledge and scholarship.  For the hood, the hip-hop artists  are the organic intellectual who must convey the social plight of Black America.   As for Nas, since the Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him) taught that the ink of a scholar is worth more than the blood of a matyr, he would rather write socially conscious lyrics than die as a martyr in the continuous war against black youth.

 

naskingtutOn the Stillmatic Mixtape, Nas’ song, “H-To the HOMO,” a diss at his then rival Jay-Z who released the song ”H to the IZZO,” Nas tells a story in which he must prepare himself for war: “Loaded up shells, one by one, you smelled blunts from my room door.”  Nas is furious and prepared unleash his rage through the barrel of the gun: “Little Nasir was at war, Crew deep with a few heat, now it’s time we settle the score.” His lifestyle is marked by vengeance and violence, but just as Nas is about to carry a hit, an astonishing event occurs: “But in the projects, I envision Muhammad, in linen garments. Preaching Man, Woman, and Child, the living Prophet.” Nas has a vision of the Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon him) who calls him to a higher level of existence beyond drugs, black on black crime, and senseless violence.

 

 

elcotnrica2222In contrast, Jay-Z, a once rival to Nas, stated, “Never read the Qur’an or Islamic scriptures. Only Psalms I read was on the arms of my niggas.” Growing up in the hood, Shawn Carter in the midst of drug dealing, gang violence, and other social mayhem that accompanies inner city life, was never able to read the divine scriptures. This is in contrast to Nas who is not only named after a verse in the Qur’an, but also frequently invokes Qur’anic themes in his socially conscious songs. Yet Jay-Z takes a stab at Nas, stating, “Cause the nigga wear a kufi, it don’t mean that he bright.” Kufis are worn by West African scholars of Islam; Nas often wears this attire when performing some of his socially conscious music; Jay-Z does not want fans to be fooled by his attire and seeks to cast Nas as inauthentic, raising the rhetorical question?

Is it “Oochie Wally Wally” or is it “One Mic” Is it “Black Girl Lost” or shorty owe you for ice?

nasgaveyoupowerJay-Z points out the multiple contradictions of Nas’ career highlighted in his music. In “Black Girl Lost,” Nas seeks to uplift black women who are involved in the street life, but in ‘Shorty Owe You” he objectifies black women. The selective quoting of Nas’ lyrics enabled Bill O’Reilly and Fox News to label Nas as an ignorant “gangsta rapper” responsible for violence in the black community, despite the fact that many of his tracks are uplifting. This theme of contradictions can also be found on the theological views promoted in his music. On the Illmatic album, Nas states: “God I don’t believe in none of that shit, your facts are backwards. Nas is a rebel of the street corner, Pulling a Tec out the dresser, police got me under pressure,” clearly expressing anti-religious views while running the streets. Yet, on another track, Nas tells a story of a song in which he is engaged in the midst of a shootout and states, “Started praying to Allah, Muhammad, the most beneficial through you all things as possible, I know your listening,” clearly calling upon God, and invoking the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be Upon Him)  during this troublesome moment of his life.

In “Black Zombies,” Nas states, “Bismillah al rahman al Rahim” and “ Islam’s a beautiful thing … helps us to bring peace against the darkness, whichfe871-nas2b22b32bhero5b15d is ungodly.” The beginning of this bar is the opening line of the first Surah in the Qur’an. Nas also begins his Stillmatic “Smokin’” song with the opening of the Qur’an but then proceeds to discuss smoking blunts and getting high with his friends.  How does one make sense of the blatant contradictions of Nas’ music? Sometimes commercial, other times politically conscious, sometimes anti-religious and other times Islamic themes? Political conscious rapper Immortal Technique sheds answers in his song which expresses solidarity with the third world,”I’m from where they lost the true meaning of the Qur’an cause heroin is not compatible with Islam. And niggas know that, but grow that poppy seed anyway cause that food drop parachute does not come every day.”  Immortal Technique notes that in many Muslim countries, poor inhabitants often sell narcotics despite the blatant contradiction with Islam.

immortaltechniqueIn “Black Zombies,” Nas states, “Bismillah al rahman al Rahim” and “ Islam’s a beautiful thing … helps us to bring peace against the darkness, which is ungodly.” The beginning of this bar is the opening line of the first Surah in the Qur’an. Nas also begins his Stillmatic “Smokin’” song with the opening of the Qur’an but then proceeds to discuss smoking blunts and getting high with his friends.  How does one make sense of the blatant contradictions of Nas’ music? Sometimes commercial, other times politically conscious, sometimes anti-religious and other times Islamic themes? Political conscious rapper Immortal Technique sheds answers in his song which expresses solidarity with the third world,”I’m from where they lost the true meaning of the Qur’an cause heroin is not compatible with Islam. And niggas know that, but grow that poppy seed anyway cause that food drop parachute does not come every day.”  Immortal Technique highlights that in many Muslim countries, poor inhabitants often sell narcotics despite the blatant contradiction with Islam.This is because their countries are so impoverished that narcotic selling is done from desperation.

Similarly for Nas and Electronica, they highlight a reality in the inner-city of black America, that the damage is even worse. Black people werejayz5percent separated from the Qur’anic revelation for so many years that Jay-Z in the streets has been unable to read it; despite Islam’s re-emergence demonstrated in the hip-hop scene, the prescribed way of life has not developed and often people struggle to live up to the Islamic way of life.  In his,”My World(Nas Salute),   track with Electronica, Jay-Z states,”Now I’m banging on Rumsfeld and bells ringing Him and Dick’ll be in hell singing.  Woe to the hypocrites and infidels screaming niggas can’t handle.”

Jay-Z, calls out Dick Cheney and Ronald Rumsfeld for their neglected of the black community borrowing a rhetorical device from the Qu’ran which in the English translation says,”Woe to every fault-finding, back biter..who sees himself above others because he has amassed wealth and counts it fruitthein greedy love for it.” This is a clear jab at U.S Politicians, who have longed neglected the black community and pursued imperialistic wars for wealth. Then,  the Brooklyn rapper demonstrates that since his The Dynasty: Roc La Familia days, he has now read the Qu’ran,”  “I can make a true believer outta curious dyke. She’ll be wearing hijab singing ahmaduillah”, bragging about his profound Dawah  skills.  Thus, despite struggles highlighted by the contradictory nature of Nas; criticism of Electronica for using profanity in a FOI uniform;, nonetheless,  the frequent Islamic themes in their songs, as well as even Jay-Z’s devotion to dawah  indicates that we may be entering a new era of hip-hop, in which, Hip-Hop revives   its Islamic roots.

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“Indeed the human being is lost, except those who have faith, do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth, patience, and constancy. “ (Al-Asr)

Killadelphia: Even Though What We Do is Wrong! (Hood Series)

kill

Fed up with taxation without representation, America’s founding fathers signed the declaration of independence in Philadelphia. As a result, Philadelphia became known as the city of brotherly love. Yet, Black people in Philadelphia have never experienced this liberty.  Philadelphia was a prime target for African-Americans during the great migration, and it quickly became a white on black killing field. In one incident, a large horde of angry whites who were upset about potential “race-mixing” violently attacked the black community. In addition to violent attacks, the Philadelphia Housing Authority created segregated housing, placing blacks in the most decrepit areas.

In Lower North Philadelphia, the majority of black homes lacked not only heating, but also plumbing; undernourishment among children was also common.

Thus, whites were able to accumulate capital and pass estate to their future generations, while blacks in these segregated communities were denied such opportunities. As a result of racist city-planning, African-Americans in the Moayamensin Slums lived life below the poverty line with an infant mortality rate double that of whites.

Today, Philadelphia is an epicenter for black-on-black crime; despite African-Americans making up only 43% of the population, roughly 80% of all murder victims in the city were black. From 2007 to 2010, over 90% of homicide victims below the age of 18, were black males, and roughly all the murderers were fellow young black men.

This franticide in the black community led journalist Palash Ghosh to comment, “As the drug trade remains highly active and the economy remains depressed, Philadelphia will likely stay a killing field for young black men.”

Philadelphia is  known as the city of liberty, and is home to Fairmount Park – the largest landscape park in the  world – and a variety of profitable Fortune 500 companies.  Yet, there is another area of Philadelphia devoid of such attractions. Barry Adrian Reese, who goes by the moniker Cassidy, describes his community as, “Killadelphia, Pistolvania”. True to the description, this “other” Philadelphia is notorious for its crackheads and crack babies, high levels of urban crime, and an ever-pervasive drug economy.

phillly435Despite being known as the city of brotherly love, there is no love for blacks who face oppression in the 21st century – oppression which is considerably more tyrannical than the founding fathers faced: the deprivation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is carried out in the form of redlining to maintain segregated housing, discriminations in employment to maintain impoverished housing, segregated school to maintain an uneducated population, and an inequitable judicial system to funnel this population into the prison-industrial complex.

The poverty that breeds drug economies impacts black communities the most; in Philadelphia, blacks are exposed to poverty rates at three times the rates of whites. Sociologist John Logan states in his study that “Philadelphia’s black population, and particularly its affluent black population, lives in much poorer neighborhoods than comparable whites because they are so highly segregated by race.”

The study entitled “The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides” found that merely being black increased the probability of being given the death sentence more than smoking increased the probability of developing cancer.

Thomas Jefferson was outraged over taxation without representation, but significantly more atrocious is the daily plight of black Americans.

Thomas Jefferson was able to list the grievances that Americans endured from the British Empire, such as a lack of access to a fair trial and taxation without representation. If a group of black intellectuals came together, seeking to list every black grievance against the U.S. government from redlining, gentrification, discriminatory employment practices, blockbusting, economic deprivation, and an imposed drug economy, etc., it would far surpass the grievances noted by the founding fathers. This reality raises an interesting question: “Is it time for black people to call for freedom and independence?”

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Sources Used:  The encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Great Depression,

http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/category/roger-d-simon/ Realtors and Racism in Working-Class Philadelphia, 1945-1970 Study,

Philly, 9th Most Segregated Metro In U.S.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Study-Phillys-9th-most-segregated-metro-in-US.html#hZGL0ZiMwPJb21he.99

Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: Now You See It, Now You Don’t By Robert Charles Smith

Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy

Malcolm X To Lupe: Speaking Truth to Power

Malcolm X to Lupe, Islam & the U.S. Empire

Malcolm Little was born in the belly of the beast – a white supremacist American society. He was disenfranchised and exploited, and was living in an internal colony. His father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and subsequently his mother was placed in an asylum home for the mentally ill. Though he received better grades than his white peers in school, when he told the school staff he wanted to be a lawyer, his white teacher scoffed at him and told him that as a negro he would be better off working with his hands. Eventually, Malcolm Little would earn the nickname Detroit Red as he involved himself in gambling, robbery, prostitution and other vices, and he soon became a victim of the prison-industrial complex. While in prison, Detroit Red became Malcolm X, converting to Islam and he began devoting himself to knowledge by studying U.S. history, philosophy, and even memorizing the dictionary. Malcolm X came out of prison an incredibly learned man and became a vocal advocate for oppressed black people in the United States. Malcolm X was assassinated, but his legacy has influenced African-American culture greatly.

 

The hip-hop artist Nas once stated, ”Rap became a version of Malcolm ” Hip-hop is an art form which emerged in the ghetto and gave disenfranchised youth a voice to express their politics and their beliefs  or ‘speak truth to power’- something they were denied in mainstream American society. Thus, hip-hop was an extension of the tradition of black political defiance of Malcolm X. As Malcolm X was getting out of jail, another influential thinker visited America. Sayyid Qutb visited the U.S. and critiqued American society for its materialism and what he essentially saw as a hedonist lifestyle lived by members of the west. Qutb would eventually become the leader of the still influential organization in Egypt: the Muslim Brotherhood. What’s often ignored is the anti-blackness which exists Sayyid Qutb’s critique of American culture. He would write:
The American is primitive in his artistic taste, both in what he enjoys as art and in his own artistic works. “Jazz” music is his music of choice. This is that music that the Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations, as well as their desire to be noisy on the one hand and to excite bestial tendencies on the other.

Sayyid Qutb, one of the most influential Islamic thinkers, believed that jazz was invited by negroes due to their primitiveness and beast-like nature. To hip-hop artist Nas, whose father is an African-American Muslim jazz musician, jazz music was a part of a black oratory tradition for political expression for those who were given no voice. He states, ”Bridging the gap from the blues, to jazz, to rap. The history of music on this track.”  Muslims in the Middle East have been utterly silent on the anti-blackness in their societies, such as the frequent occurrence of calling of blacks abeed (meaning slave) at Hajj, as well as the anti-black prejudice among one of the most influential “Islamist” thinkers, Sayyid Qutb. These individuals will evoke Bilal and Malcolm X’s letter after going to Hajj to selectively to demonstrate how racially inclusive Islam is, while being silent on the racial injustices in their societies today.  Dabashai Notes:

Islam for Malcolm X was an equally combative occasion, but as an infinitely more liberating, progressive, alive, and living organism. In more than 200 years of encounter with colonial modernity, and literary hundreds of radical Muslim thinkers, no Muslim revolutionary comes even close to Malcolm X in the liberating, global, and visionary grasp of his faith and its place in facing the barefaced barbarity of economic and military world domination…. If Islam does not have anything to say or to offer to these disenfranchised communities…   without asking them to convert to Islam, then it is nothing but the fatuous  faith of the Khaliji, Kuwaiti, and Saudi sheikhs having difficulty bending their overfed bellies when pretending to prostrate to pray, or else the rambling gibberish of Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar when replicating the American neocons in their advocacy of terror. There is another Islam unknown to those crooked bodies… the Islam of Malcolm X.”

In the  tradition of Malcolm X and an anti-racist and anti-imperialist tradition that has emerged in the African-American tradition. Lupe Fiasco, whose real name is Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, was s a rapper who grew up in Chicago and has arguably been the most politically vocal artists since Tupac Shakur. The son of a Black Panther, his lyrics blend together critiques of U.S. state racism, American foreign policy, and Muslim extremism. Lupe writes, ”I grew up in the hood around prostitutes, drug dealers, killers, and gangbangers, but I also grew up juxtaposed. On the doorknob outside of our apartment, there was blood from some guy who got shot; but inside, there was National Geographic magazines and encyclopedias and a little library bookshelf situation. And we didn’t have cable, so we didn’t have the luxury of having our brains washed by MTV.” Lupe Fiasco states he was influenced to rap after listening to Nas’ “It Was Written,” who was also  influenced by  Malcolm X .

“G’s up along with Muhammad and Jesus
In the Quran they call him Isa
Don’t think Osama and sadaam are is our leader.”

This makes it clear that, as a Muslim, Osama is not his leader. In another song, Lupe states, “Jihad is not holy war. Where’s that in the worship? Murdering is not Islam! And you are not observant. And you are not a Muslim.” This is a message to all extremist vigilante groups who misuse Islam to carry out violent attacks against innocent lives. Yet, Lupe does not stop there – his lyrics also condemn U.S. foreign policy and the military industrial complex, stating, ”I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullsh*t. Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets.”  Lupe Fiasco then argues that:

 

“Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say sh*t
That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either
I’ma part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful”

Lupe Fiasco criticizes right-wring television cast while also condemning Obama for allowing Muslims in lupefiascioPalestine to be bombed. Interestingly enough, Lupe Fiasco condemns Osama for not being “observant,” and the reality is that Muslim vigilante groups are not fundamental to Islamic text – rather, they are reformists who break Islam’s clear prohibitions to justify war tactics that Islam finds despicable.  Through Lupe Fiasco, the revolutionary politics of Malcolm X is alive and well.

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Islamic Liberation Theology: Resisting the Empire: Hamid Dabashi