Like most young Muslim children, I attended Islamic weekend school. Islamic weekend school is where I learned how to speak and write Arabic, as well as the Quran. An unofficial lesson I learned during my time in weekend school, was the culture of Islam, how it is much deeper than a religion, it is truly a way of life. I was shown the beauty and grace of Islam, but 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 get across 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 majority Somalians, so in my mind I considered us all black. I was quickly informed by my peers, that I was mistaken. I remember distinctly always being questioned and feeling the need to prove how Muslim I was.
I never fully felt comfortable and they constantly reminded me of the differences between us. I was about 9 or 10 years old, and wore my hair in either 2 huge afro puffs, or 2 jumbo cornrows. I remember the girls would always make mention of my hair, and insisted it was fake. They would pull on my puffs, and tell me how real hair doesn’t go up or curl like in 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 myself. 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 went on to elaborate, because my ancestors were part of the trans Atlantic slave trade, I do not have any culture, and need to realize how I am different from the rest of the girls in weekend school. Although, I was raised in an Islamic and East African cultural home, and pretty much had similar experiences and culture as them; I was different. To add insult to injury, they made an ignorant assumption, that Black Americans do not have any culture. To be real here Black Americans influence American culture, and African immigrants benefits off of 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 on my face, because they 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. In my opinion they were Gremlins, to the rest of my family sweet and adorable little creatures; but to me their true evil and ugliness showed.
I wish I could I say, that was my only encounter with negativity about Black Muslims from other Muslims; but that would be a lie. Racism in Islam is real, and it is conversation that needs to be had!