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Home > Articles > Muslims in the Mirror - Prejudice in the Muslim community

Muslims in the Mirror - Prejudice in the Muslim community

Posted on: 16 July 2012

Muslims in the Mirror - Prejudice in the Muslim community


‘I never considered a non-Arab equal to me,’ a sister once remarked. ‘I

know it’s wrong, but in the place I grew up in, that was how we grew up

thinking.’ She had grown up in a country considered "Islamic".

Islam is the most anti-racist and anti-prejudicial way of life. Islamic

history testifies to the openness Muslims have shown towards people of

different cultures and religions. Within their own ranks, sincere and

practicing Muslims have always kept their hearts and minds open to 


brethren, no matter what their background.

Yet, there is a problem in the Ummah today. Prejudices are not the 


of others. They have become the very sad reality amongst a number of

Muslims as well.

This is not just on the level of small minority Muslim communities in

non-Muslim lands. It is also a problem in "Islamic" countries as well.

Years of nationalism in theory and practice have diminished the 


universality Muslims cherished in their societies.

First the bad news

Laws and customs

There are a number of countries in the Muslim world, in which racism 


prejudice are in full swing and justified by laws or social customs. 


seek to exclude and shun on the basis of ethnicity and in some cases, 


For instance, in certain countries, it is not permissible for children 


study at a post-secondary level, even if their parents have been living 


working in the country for a number of years. This is usually because 


their national origin.

In other countries, discrimination is used to exclude those who are not 


original inhabitants of the land from citizenship.

Discrimination extends to the field of employment as well. In some

"Islamic" countries, workers of one national origin are paid less than

others although they may excel in their skills, education, and 


It has been noted that a white or black person carrying an American

passport gets better pay than a person of Asian origin carrying the 



Written and unwritten laws in some Arab countries prohibit Arab women 


marrying a non-Arab.

Attitudes and words

The discrimination is not reserved to laws though. It’s not difficult 


hear an uncommon racial epithet used among some Muslims, ignorant or

negligent of the Quran and Sunnah’s condemnation of backbiting, slander 




We know the Prophet married women across ethnic lines, and therefore, 


Islam, there is no ethnic bar to marriage. He also made it very clear, 


his last Khutba, that superiority in Islam is not based on blackness,

whiteness, Arabness or the lack of it.

Contrast this with, for instance, the Hindu caste system, under which

inter-caste marriage is prohibited.

Sadly, such Hindu notions still influence a number of ignorant Muslims 


South Asia who will not, for instance, marry outside if they are Syed

(claim lineage to the Prophet), Shaikh (a business community) or across

tribal lines if they come from the "Khans," "Moghuls" or "Jats".

While some Muslims may justify this as simply a measure to ensure

compatibility between husband and wife, it is Islamically incorrect to

discriminate upright Muslims on this basis.

The Masjid or Islamic center

There have been some isolated cases in which Muslims who have felt so

excluded at specific mosques called anti-discrimination hotlines to 


Alhamdu lillah, all Masjids are open to all people and no Masjid has 


policies. However, racially divided neighborhoods result in an 


dominant Masjid type. Usually, negative attitudes of some and language

specific Masjid programs cause miscommunication. This is because some

people want to make sure their mother tongue survives in America.

...and the good news

The prayer: a lesson in Muslim unity

Five times a day, every day, Muslims of every cultural and ethnic

background stand shoulder to shoulder. There is no issue of who stands

where based on their color or ethnicity.

On a larger level, to remember that millions of Muslims, everywhere of 


shapes, colors, sizes, countries, etc. all face the same place to pray,

five times a day, is incredible. Yet this lesson not just in Muslim 


but in ethno-national harmony, is usually overlooked.

The mosque: open to all despite problems

Alhamdu lillah, one problem Muslims do not have is membership-exclusive

mosques. Any Muslim can pray in any mosque. While those individual 


with racism and prejudice in their hearts and minds may not treat them

well, they will not exclude them physically from attending or praying 


any mosque, anywhere.

A brother from the United Kingdom who converted to Islam once mentioned 


on a trip to apartheid-era South Africa, while he found black and white

churches, he did not encounter black and non-black mosques. That made 


start thinking about this curious phenomenon, and he eventually 



Muslims united in pain

With the latest headlines focused on Chechnya, Muslims in America and

abroad have generously donated to help their oppressed brothers and 



There is a keen understanding amongst many Muslims that when it comes 


oppression, it doesn’t matter if you’re a black Muslim, a white Muslim, 


Kosovar Muslim, a Chechen Muslim, a Kashmiri Muslim or a Somali Muslim, 


are suffering.

Imams often make Dua for oppressed Muslims they have never met, no 


what their skin color. Muslims pray along in sympathy and support.

Here is another clear example of Muslim unity. All we need to do is now

pray and help all human beings who are suffering whether Muslim or not.

Muslim American leaders are diverse

Can you name the top four speakers and leaders amongst Muslims in 



If you can, you’ll realize that all four are of different racial and

linguistic backgrounds. They are invited to Muslim gatherings 

regularly, no

matter what the ethnic background of the audience.

These four leaders are: Imam Siraj Wahhaj, an African American Muslim; 


Jamal Badawi, an Egyptian Muslim; Dr. Abdalla Idris Ali, a Sudanese 


and Imam Hamza Yusuf, a Caucasian American Muslim.

This shows that a Muslim leader is respected for his knowledge and

commitment to the Deen by most Muslims, not his background.

Marriage: the litmus test

All that said though, the real test of openness to other cultures is

marriage. Islam and a growing number of Muslims pass there with flying 


As mentioned above, we know the Prophet married women across ethnic 


Muslims, whether in the Muslim world or in North America, are following 


example more often today.

So you’ll find an African or Caucasian-American convert married to an 


Indo-Pakistani or Malaysian; you’ll find an Indian married to a

Palestinian; you’ll find a Kashmiri married to an Arab-American, and on 



There is a keen and growing understanding amongst a number of Muslims, 


line with Islam, that what unites hearts and people is Islam, not skin

color, ethnicity or territory.

Sincerity, knowledge, forgiveness are the cure

Curing the disease of racism takes time. It also takes humility, 


and requires seeking out the right guidance. It means admitting we were 


are wrong, sincerely repenting and making a concrete effort to change.

While the planet's approximately 1.2 billion Muslims do have their 

share of

problems with each other, Alhamdu lillah, we still have the tools to

eradicate the cancer of racism and prejudice in our midst. Let’s begin 


process with ourselves, and then help them Ummah do the same.
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