We walk in her footsteps

Featured Illustration: Willgom

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Black Lives Matter x Free Palestine

The brutal murders of George Floyd and Eyad Hallaq have been on my heart for a while. Although we are no longer seeing Black Lives Matter or the injustices that Palestinians are facing on traditional media, Black lives still matter and so does the genocide Palestine is going through.

The murders of these men have led to a shift in the wider world, in my opinion, because of two reasons. George Floyd was murdered without a physical weapon — the officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds straight. Now, this broke me. I did not watch the video and refuse to do so because it just dehumanises Black people. In light of the police violence, I was informed through Twitter that the Israeli Defence Force trains U.S. police to use brutal force — the way the Palestinians are killed by the IDF is the same way Black people in the U.S. are being killed by the police.

Hearing about the death of Eyad Hallaq really hurt me, for numerous reasons. Firstly, he was just existing and being himself, like we all do, and going on about his life. Secondly, he was a man with autism and was more vulnerable. This is personal to me because I know what it is like having family members with autism, and it hit home for me. I was upset for days about his murder because I could not actively do anything or make a change other than using my voice. Seeing videos of his poor mother crying about her son was heartbreaking because no mother wants to bury her child and nobody wants to be murdered brutally. May Allah (SWT) grant his mother shifa and grant Eyad Jannatul-Firdaos.

Often when it comes to issues of race within the ummah, I have seen that certain demographics in the ummah are quick to ask, “what about Palestine?” This is incredibly insensitive to the issues that the Black community is facing and undermines the matter. However, I want to emphasise that the systems of oppression inflicted by the U.S. police and the IDF are the same — they are both movements of the same ilk. Therefore, those statements do not tackle the root of all these oppressions.

Supporting Black Lives Matter does not undermine the fight for Palestine or Syria or Kashmir — these are all our fights as an ummah. As an ummah, we cannot be selective or transactional in the lives we choose to support and show solidarity towards. Do we not follow the religion that states if one person has been killed, it’s as if all of mankind has been killed? In a similar vein, fighting for Black liberation is fighting against these institutional structures that inflict terror on Palestinians.

Although George Floyd may not have been Muslim, I have seen ignorant statements about him and I want to remind us about our greatest example, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Islam is also about justice.

In the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) says:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives.” -Surah Nisa [4:135]

“If someone among you sees wrong he must right it by his hand if he can (deed, conduct, action). If he cannot, then by his tongue (speak up, verbally oppose); if he cannot, then by his gaze (silent expression of disapproval); and if he cannot, then in his heart. The last is the minimum expression of his conviction (faith, courage).”

The Prophet (SAW) said: “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. One asked, ‘It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?’ And the Prophet (saw) said ‘By preventing him from oppressing.'”

The erasure of Afro Palestinians and Black Muslims

Are you Black or Muslim? Pick one. Questions like these are harmful because a fellow Muslim is asking to pick between my identities — the identity that Allah (SWT) decreed for me as a Black Muslim woman.

Or, are you Black first or Muslim first? No, I’m Bashirat — my identities come as one and can never be separated. It’s unfortunate that certain demographics aim to alienate the Black Muslim community which phrases like this. You would never ask an Arab or an Asian woman if they were Muslim or get them to separate their identities. Even if they were not wearing their hijab, the assumption would just be made, but it is not the same experience for Black Muslim women because apparently “we don’t look Muslim”.

Allow me to redirect you to Surah Al-Hujurat [49:13]:

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”

This ayah is so important to me and I believe all Muslims should ponder on it before making statements or asking harmful questions about one’s faith due to the colour of their skin.

I have just finished my first year at university and I can’t lie — I had no expectations for my Islamic Society as I already anticipated what to expect when it comes to racial issues. I will never forget this — during freshers week, a speaker came in and was talking about the hardships we face in the dunya and equated it to a mother having a child in Africa and asked how nobody would want that for themselves. As if poverty is just an African thing? My blood was beyond boiling — these ignorant statements are harmful, although it may not seem so on the surface. Personally, I felt as though this speaker already had a perception of Africans and frankly, if a speaker is disrespecting my Blackness or Africanness, no matter their intention, it is disrespectful to Allah (SWT) who made me and gave me my beautiful Black skin.

In particular, this is important when we speak about Palestine. Often, Palestine is used as a rebuttal for Black issues, from what I have seen. The sudden rebuttal marginalises the experiences of Afro-Palestinians who also suffer from the IDF and the racism within their communities. For instance, Maryam Abu Khaled, an Afro-Palestinian actress, spoke out and made a video detailing the casual racism that Black Palestinians endure daily. I just hope when we speak for Palestine that we speak for all Palestinians. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement and the Free Palestine movement are connected. International solidarity is essential.

Angela Davis said that “the encounters between Black liberation struggles in the United States and movements against the occupation of Palestine have a very long history.” What is most upsetting to me is that the causes we support, Syria and Palestine in particular, have been supporting the movement even though they are struggling too. So, why can’t the wider non-Black Muslim community support the movement as well?

Did you know that the first Hijra was to Ethiopia? Islam has been deeply ingrained in the African continent and within the Caribbean islands. Islam has no colour, but I wanted to educate other Muslims and emphasise that before Islam spread to other parts of the world, it was in Africa first. I often hear Muslims reference Bilal (RA) as an example for Islam not being racist, which is amazing. But there is more to Islamic history, not just Bilal (RA).

One of the most significant figures in Islam and by far one of my favourites, was Hajar (RA). Due to Hajar’s (RA) search for water and shelter for Ismail (AS) and running between Safa and Marwa seven times, we follow her footsteps. We all know the significance of performing the Hajj and inshaAllah, we shall all be able to perform it. Historically, Hajar (RA) was noted to be an African woman and it just amazes me about how diverse our deen is.

As Muslims, we regularly follow the footsteps of Hajar (RA), and race aside, Hajar’s trust in Allah (SWT) was admirable. Prior to Ibrahim (AS) leaving Hajar (RA) and Ismail (AS) in Mecca alone, she asked Ibrahim (AS), “did Allah command you to do this?” and once Ibrahim (AS) confirmed so, she responded, “then Allah will not cause us to be lost.” I am highlighting the importance of Hajar (RA) as a figure in Islam — her trust in Allah did not waver. She was a woman with conviction. So, please, when non-Black Muslims mention Bilal (RA), I also want us to be aware of other significant Black figures in Islamic history.

Having space and support

Amaliah hosted a soul session exclusively for Black Muslim women, led by Aliyah Hasinah, and it was so comforting, so heartwarming to be able to reflect on these issues with my fellow Black sisters. It was such an open environment and although I did not know many sisters on the call, I felt seen and felt that my voice was heard. As a Black Muslim woman, I exist much to the detriment of society and I would not have it any other way. This is why networks such as The Black Muslim Girl and Black Muslim Forum are important — personally, it just allows us Black Muslims to exist without our identities being questioned, our Islam being questioned.

Black Muslim Forum highlights that 63% of participants felt that overall, they did not belong to the UK Muslim community. So, we just create our own spaces where we can feel heard and have a sense of community. These spaces remind me that the anti-Blackness that some Muslims have is not my problem because Allah created everything in the best way.

“Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay.” -Surah as Sajdah [32:7]

A sister reminded me that in light of everything that has been going on, Allah (SWT) is always on the side of the just, and it goes to show how in addition to protesting and fighting for justice, dua must always be at the centre of everything. Fear the dua of the oppressed for there is no barrier between it and Allah (SWT).

It is these spaces that prove that the ummah is truly united when all Muslim voices are heard.

We can help support the Black Lives Matter movement by donating, signing petitions, and most importantly, making dua for the oppressed, because it is the strongest tool we have. Remember to help locally in your community first, because charity starts at home.

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Resources:

Black Lives Matter: Ways To Help

10 petitions to sign today that support Black Lives Matter in the UK