Like most young Muslim children, I attended Islamic weekend school. Islamic weekend school taught me how to speak and write Arabic and the Quran. An unofficial lesson I learned during my time in weekend school was the culture of Islam. It is much deeper than a religion. It is truly a way of life. I was shown the beauty and grace of Islam. Still, unfortunately, this article isn’t about how much I love my religion and culture. I’m here to tell y’all my first friendly reminder that I am a Black Muslimah.
One of the important lessons that my teachers wanted to convey was; we are Muslims first, before our ethnicities and race, we are Muslim. Let’s keep in my mind at this point, I am going to weekend school with the majority of Somalians, so in my mind, I considered us all black. I remember always being questioned and needing to prove how Muslim I was. I was quickly informed by my peers that I was mistaken.
I never felt comfortable, and they constantly reminded me of our differences. I was about 9 or 10 years old and wore my hair in either 2 giant afro puffs or 2 jumbo cornrows. I remember the girls would always make mention of my hair and insist it was fake. They would pull on my breaths and tell me that natural hair doesn’t go up or curl that way, and black girl’s hair doesn’t grow that long. I was always confused because these girls looked just like me, and some even had the same hair texture as me. I never understood why I was so different.
I finally asked a few of the girls, why do y’all treat me differently and feel the need to critique everything about me? I was informed because I was black, not African, but black American. They elaborated that because my ancestors were part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I do not have any culture. I need to realize how I am different from the rest of the girls in a weekend school. Although I was raised in an Islamic and East African cultural home and had similar experiences and cultures, I was different. To add insult to injury, they made an ignorant assumption that Black Americans do not have any culture. To be honest, Black Americans influence American culture here, and African immigrants benefit from the Black American culture and advances we made for equal rights.
I digress; unfortunately, I didn’t develop my smart mouth yet, so I just listened. I assume I had an upset look because the girls tried to make me feel better. One of the girls said, “you should be grateful; you’re not like other black girls. You’re pretty and actually have hair, Mash’Allah. You also have a beautiful complexion, not too dark, with mild black features”. I was beyond insulted and didn’t know how to feel or react.
As a result of the negativity I received from the Somalian girls, I developed a bias and dislike for them. They were Gremlins. To the rest of my family, they were sweet and adorable little creatures; but their true evil and ugliness showed to me.
I wish I could say that was my only encounter with negativity about Black Muslims from other Muslims, but that would be a lie. Racism in Islam is accurate and a conversation that needs to be had!
Wow.. As a new shahada as people call it, I truly can relate. Im a 40yr old woman got married at a predominantly Somalian masjid and yes, I most admit it that there is definitely some discrimination there. Not saying all Somalian masjid are like that, that was just my experience. I think the final comment was when one of the sisters said, “you’re a revert not a born Muslim, so Islam is different for you”, my mouth just dropped. I cried to my husband and needless to say I haven’t been back. We are all one ummah!! Just one. We need to start acting like it.
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Thank you so much for sharing your experience! We are one ummah, and we all need to realize that!
I am older and I am not abiding people, Muslim or not, who criticise, ridicule and scrutinize on the basis of anything about me, that has nothing to do with my character. Consequently, I don’t attend masjids and absolutely do not touch my person, in any manner, it is disrespectful and I take it as an assault.
Being Muslim and of a different culture does not give you the right to be mean to me nor does it mean I have to subject myself. As an adult I would ask if there are other masjids to attend why go to the one’s where people are not nice to you.
Masha Allah, to the younger sister, I pray Allah that you have found your fully cultured voice, your own voice such that you will remove yourself physically, mentally and emotionally from the company of anyone that so blatantly disrespects you. Ameen.
Racism certainly is a pretty serious problem among Muslims and the discussion needs to be had, no ifs or buts about it. Let’s start by stating categorically that racism isn’t sanctioned by Islam, Infact the Qur’an specifically says that Arabs aren’t better than non Arabs, and that we were made into nations and tribes so we may get to know each other. Make your culture known, and take pride in it, for your benefit and theirs! All Khair to you inshallah!
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Shukran!! That was beautifully said!
woh I am happy to find this website through google.
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Informative article, totally what I wanted to find.
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