An American Muslim speaks on Ferguson


I’m glad to see that some in the Muslim community in America are engaged with what’s going on in Ferguson and have been since day one.  One prominent Muslim American who lives in the Ferguson, Missouri area has been writing and chronicling what’s going on there since the days after Mike Brown was gunned down.  You can read what he has written on his blog, here. There is also a facebook page “Muslims for Ferguson” where you can catch some snippets on Ferguson and its daily struggles.

The one item that caught my eye was this piece from American Muslim, Linda Sarsour who speaks very poignantly about the responsibility of people of Deen to what goes on around them.

I do not come as a preacher. I come to you as a mother of a 16 year old boy. I come to you as a Muslim. As a New Yorker. More importantly I come to you as a human. I also come angry and frustrated. I went to Ferguson. Ferguson taught me that it is OKAY to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are working against injustice. Injustice, sisters and brothers is supposed to make us angry. It reminds us of our humanity. And that anger can be translated into systemic change. I was PROUD to be angry — which is something we are told not to be. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry and we were alongside people who were angry but showed us so much LOVE. It was something I never felt before in my life.

Sisters and brothers, I ask of you today to focus on the real injustices. Don’t condemn and chastise those that chose to channel their anger in ways you deem unproductive. Pray for them. Love them. We may not condone their actions but I am not ready to discard them, disassociate with them — society has already done that to them. Ask more questions, what must happen to a human being for them to behave in certain ways?

Malcolm-KingWhat examples of Black American non-violent heroes has our country produced for them? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Reverend George Lee, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X in his later years — what do they all have in common — MURDERED.

They called for non-violence, they marched, they organized their people and they were SHOT. Understand history — Black American history is your history. American History is YOUR history and it hasn’t always been a history you can be proud of. Pastor Willie from First Corinthian Baptist Church broke it down. He said America was born with a birth defect. We have never truly dealt with it so it continues to be there. I will add that because we haven’t dealt with it we have exported this birth defect to other lands where we kill innocent people in the thousands through unjust wars or target civilians some of whom are Americans, through our drone policies. ‪#‎WAKEUP‬

This sisters and brothers is not just about #MikeBrown

This is about black men/boys/women/girls across the country including right here in our own backyard. Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Tim Stansbury, Mohamed Bah, Nicholas Heyward, Jr, and the list goes on and on and on. This is about police officers who walk free as if the people they murdered were cattle in the street. This is not just about police violence. This is about an education system that is set up to fail children of color. An education system that has been called a monopoly. An education system in which it’s quality is based on the neighborhood you live in. It’s about a justice system that takes you in as a young person, follows you around as an adult — stunts your progress. You can’t get away from it. Its about lack of opportunity. Its about a system that doesn’t believe in your potential and operates that way.

Let us come to a place where we recognize that there is structural racism in our country AND that we all do not have to experience it to believe it exists. IT EXISTS. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, prominent Black American Imam and a mentor said yesterday that immigrant Muslims generally speaking had it good in America benefitting from artificial white privilege prior to 9/11, but on 9/11 and the subsequent years after they realized they were just another n*gger. This may be a hard statement for folks to swallow. Reflect. Breathe.

We have Muslim brothers and sisters withering away in Communication Management Units in places like Indiana — many of whom convicted on “secret evidence” (no one knows why they were convicted, not them, not their lawyers) or under the ambiguous “material support” laws stripped of every right they have, some have never had trouble with the law up until that dreaded day, never were a harm to our society — no access to family, media, television — they languish in small cells for 23 hours a day. Muslims make up over 85% of the CMUs and we are less than 1% of the population. Who marches for them? Is the system working for them and their families?

Don’t tell me about a justice system that doesn’t work in the same way for everyone. A justice system that protects celebrities and law enforcement and too often turns its back on the ordinary person.

Racism is REAL. It doesn’t have to be REAL for you for it to be REAL.

Don’t treat everything as an isolated incident or case. Use your intellect. Analyze. Ask questions. The justice system isn’t a robot or a calculator that always gives the right answers. The justice system is made up of people. People sometimes make mistakes. Humans make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

For some of you its a story of one unarmed Black boy shot on the streets of Ferguson. For others its one small drop in an ocean of dehumanization, discrimination, demoralization that has been passed on from one generation to the next. For some — this is what it is. Some have given up.

I am exhausted hearing people say we are all playing the race card

Sisters and brothers these are the cards the system has dealt. Trust me, deal a new set, a set with equality, justice, liberty and pursuit for happiness FOR ALL, a set that values all human life the same, a set that sees the potential in ALL of our children and we’ll gladly accept it and play those cards.

Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press

Clergy Protest in Ferguson leading to 20 arrests — October, 2014 — Photo Credit Associated Press

I am not asking you to feel sympathy for Black and brown people, they definitely don’t want your sympathy, I just want you to believe in your hearts that ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and stop expecting for Black and brown people to prove their humanity to you. They are EXHAUSTED. Reverend Chloe Breyer, a White Episcopalian priest said what makes her aware of her white privilege is that she doesn’t feel exhausted, she sleeps well at night. That sisters and brothers is courage and honesty. Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help uplift others.

By no means should anyone feel guilty about their privilege — I have plenty but I can not in good conscience walk around in this world with the fallacy that we live in an equitable and just world just because that’s how its working out for me. I ask for some selflessness for a moment. Just imagine for ONE MINUTE that #MikeBrown was your son in all his complexities yet all his simplicities and the SYSTEM didn’t think your child was worth a trial. It was never about guilty or innocent for Darren Wilson — it was about his day in court. The system didn’t think it was worth their time. Would you have sat back with the memory of your slain child and took it? Unless you experience the murder of your child in this same vain — you again are speaking from a place of privilege and I will continue to say CHECK IT.

If we do not see ourselves in each other — if we do not believe that we each deserve freedom, equality — if we do not believe that we are brothers and sisters and ALL the children of GOD — then it is we that are failing our children, our future, humanity.

I have been saddened by the responses I have been seeing from “friends”. Diverting from the true injustices once again. This is not about Black and White. This is not about us vs. law enforcement. I am not anti-law enforcement, I am anti-law enforcement misconduct and so should everyone else. We should be against misconduct where ever it is happening.

What’s interesting is that people will support the plight of Palestinians or Syrians or Egyptians to resist by any means necessary but won’t afford that right to others. Not taking a side either way just asking for some consistency for your own credibility.

Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests

Linda Sarsour Marches in Ferguson, Missouri as a part of the #FergusonOctober protests

For me, I recommit to working for justice for ALL. I am keeping my eyes on Ferguson, my heart in the movement and my feet on the streets of New York City because Ferguson is everywhere. I hope you join me.

These remarks are adapted from a speech Linda Sarsour gave at an interfaith gathering on November 25th at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.

Out of the ashes of Ferguson comes hope


A great story on civic responsibility and communion days after the disastrous and comical decision of a grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson for anything.  Of course there was anger; it was anticipated and most likely hoped for because there are far too many people who want to point to the manifestation of that anger to justify Wilson’s own murderous rage.  However, people of all sizes and colors live in Ferguson and theirs is a response worth noting too!

Cleanup has begun in Ferguson, Missouri, after a night of unrest following a grand jury’s decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Hundreds of people, including university students and local nuns, gathered Tuesday to help those affected along South Florissant Road, according to St. Louis Today. Bricks were thrown through windows and shops were destroyed, but the arrival of good Samaritans offered a glimmer of hope.

This is the Ferguson community,” Maria Flores, 66, whose El Palenque restaurant was damaged Monday night, told St. Louis Today. “When something happens, everyone is there helping each other.”

Terrence Williams, a 23-year-old St. Louis native, headed out Tuesday morning to help repair his broken community.

“I just watched last night from my television and this morning I was like, ‘You know what? While they’re out there bringing negativity, I’m [gonna] come out and try to breed at least some kind of positivity, let them know that everybody in St. Louis is not negative,'” he told The Huffington Post. “If that means that I have to be out here every single day after they loot, after they vandalize, then I will do that simply to let people know that I love St. Louis, this is where I was born and raised, and no one will come here and tear it down.”

@ryanjreilly tweeted-Terrence Williams, 23, has been out here cleaning up since 7 a.m. #Ferguson

@ryanjreilly tweeted-Terrence Williams, 23, has been out here cleaning up since 7 a.m. #Ferguson

@MbasuCNN tweetted-Volunteers sweep broken glass at Snappy's Bar & Grill in #Ferguson.

@MbasuCNN tweetted-Volunteers sweep broken glass at Snappy’s Bar & Grill in #Ferguson.

Ferguson was hit with looting and arson after St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that Wilson would not be indicted for the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Brown, who was unarmed at the time of his death.

The St. Louis County Police posted about Monday night’s protests on Facebook, writing: “What we saw tonight was much worse than what we saw any night in August. Bricks were thrown at police officers, two St. Louis County police cars were set on fire and police seized an automatic weapon.”

Missouri Highway Patrol Chief Ron Johnson condemned the looting and violenceduring a press conference Tuesday morning.

“Those are dreams. Those are small business owners. We’ve torn those dreams away,” he said. “Our community has to take responsibility for what happened tonight. We definitely have done something here that is gonna impact our community for a long time. That’s not how we create change.”

The Verdict is in


stop killing us

This is why African-Americans in Ferguson are upset


The video below shows how a white suspect is dealt with during a potentially life threatening situation as opposed to what would have happened had he been black.  The police didn’t just tase this man once, they tased him four times, fought with him and called for back up and fought with him some more outside before he was subdued.  He died in the hospital, but not because he was shot six times…in fact he wasn’t shot at all. I kept asking myself during this video why wasn’t the man shot? 

The KKK- at it again


kkkThey never go away…they are always lurking somewhere on America’s landscape and they’re back again with some uniquely #whiteprivilege notions of defense and Ferguson, Missouri.  Seems they’re spreading pamphlets threatening lethal force against terrorists who are or will be protesting in Ferguson.  Claiming their threats of force are self-defense in nature I’m led to ask when was any member of the KKK threatened with imminent harm during the demonstrations this past summer that took place in Ferguson? We all know the answer to that is none but what was threatened was white people’s notions of a docile, complacent black community that was willing to accept anything that happened to it or the people who lived in it. Seems the people of Ferguson were woken from their slumber with the murder of Mike Brown.

As is usually the case with rioting and mob rage, the victims of the more extreme acts of protest were the African-American citizens of the community where Michael Brown lived and was killed.  The KKK hasn’t had any publicity in some time, so perhaps their emergence in the public spotlight is an attempt to get some of that much needed fame to keep themselves relevant on the social scene but their rationale is totally irrational.

Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014. (credit: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014. (credit: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

The police have done a better job than even the KKK given free rein in the streets of Ferguson could ever do in suppressing and intimidating the African-American citizens of Ferguson.  Indeed, they’ve even publicly executed one of them and are about to go unscathed for it; what the KKK is angry about is that black people are upset about their oppression and have chosen to express that anger which let’s be clear peaceful expressions of anger and discontent with government are protected speech.  In these days of politicians claiming their right to bear arms as a way of protecting government assault on their freedoms or everyday citizens exercising open carry as a form of free speech, the demonstrations of Ferguson are no less a part of this social phenomenon; in fact they precede it because they belong to the civil rights era of more than half a century ago.

The KKK is a joke that needs to be taken seriously.  Citizens can change the composition of municipal government and by extension its constabulary with the vote. Just as it swung one way several weeks ago, it can decidedly swing in the opposite direction if people use it and Ferguson citizens should use it to make a full makeover of  the system there.  As for the KKK they should people in Ferguson have a right to protect themselves from KKK terror and I hope they exercise that 2nd amendment right.

Cutting off their noses to spite their faces


BOETableLogo20140715That’s what members of the Montgomery County Board of Education did by a vote of 7-1 when they decided to remove all references to all religious holidays from the school calendar instead of acknowledge two Islamic holiday references on their calendar.

It seems the school system of that county in Maryland allows its schools to be closed on the religious holidays of Jews and Christians because observant students of those faiths as well as faculty members stay home during their holidays and the high absenteeism in schools makes it pointless to have class. Sounds like the school board is giving in to mob rule by closing schools because students aren’t present thereby making it possible for students and their parents to dictate when schools open or close….of course that’s not the case because when Muslims tried to keep their children home from school during the Islamic holidays after the month of fasting or in celebration of Hajj classes continued as usual. Officials say the number of absent students/staff didn’t meet the threshold….not enough in the “mob” stayed home.

The Muslims sensing an inequality in the way they are treated made repeated demands on the Board to at least acknowledge their holidays on the school calendar….simply typing on the calendar “eid al-fitr” or “eid al-adha” would most likely have been enough to ameliorate their concerns……….for now but Montgomery’s school board went whole hog and got rid of any reference to ANY religion on their calendar while will no doubt still continuing to close on days where people other than Muslims celebrate their holidays.

Michael A. Durso District 5 Montgomery County Board of Education

Michael A. Durso
District 5
Montgomery County Board of Education

There’s so much wrong with this story that I don’t know where to begin, but I want to take time to celebrate the Montgomery School Board’s one member of clarity, Michael Durso who voted against that insane proposal to not acknowledge Islamic holidays and instead remove all references to ANY religion.  His was the only voice of reason among a board of “education” when he noted that Montgomery brags about its diversity and its embrace of different cultures but takes actions that come off as insensitive to Muslim families.

This is not the time of year for this type of story.  It won’t be long before the conservative pundits all over will label Muslims as the ‘grinch who stole Christmas’…..their war on Christmas stories are a perennial stable, and that will only increase the already heightened xenophobic racist reaction to Muslims.  Why the School board didn’t make such a simple addition to their calendar is an indication of their close and narrow minded approach to the citizens of that county.  I hope they, with the exception of Mr. Durso are all removed when their time comes up for reelection.  Are you listening citizens of Montgomery county?

Modesty, Islam and the streets of NYC


Much has been said about the woman who walked around in the streets of New York city for ten hours while men of all descriptions made unwanted advances to her.  Of course it shows how uncivilized men’s desires can become but it also shows a degree of acclimation and expectation people have when confronted with their notions of beauty and attraction in today’s America. The link to the Hollaback video for your viewing pleasure is here.

However, there is another video in two parts that shows both the predictable reaction of men to women regular wearing regular attire walking for several hours and the same woman wearing a black abaya and hijab walking with vastly different results.  In the case of the woman with the “Islamic” clothes there are no recorded interactions between the veiled woman and men she passes on the streets.  In fact they seem not to even notice her as she walks mere inches away in some cases.  Perhaps the reason is because of the clothes…..Muslim women are told in their sacred scripture, The Quran, one of the reasons for the covering is to be easily identified as women of modesty and faith yet perhaps another reason is because men know that interacting with women like that will result in no reaction at all.  Operating on the principle that if one randomly approaches scores of women solicitously they may get one to accept their advances they have come to realize through interaction with Muslims that no matter how many times they make similar advances with Muslim women they will get no response at all.  If that’s the case, it is a praiseworthy on the part of the Muslim woman not to advance such societal norms with interaction.  Take a look at the video and decide for yourself what is the reason for the difference in how men react to the two examples…..

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