(FinalCall.com Editorial) – In 1990–a full five years before the historic Million Man March–the ground-breaking musical group Public Enemy released its third album “Fear of a Black Planet,” selling one million copies its very first week.
Today, some 20 years later, and now nine years after the attacks on Sept., 11, 2001, that fear has increased exponentially, especially for Black people in America who are Muslims. “I live in a nation where I have to worry about driving while Black and flying while Muslim,” is how one member of a new coalition of Black American Muslims described the conundrum at a Washington press conference Sept. 2.
With Barack Hussein Obama now sitting in the White House as President of the United States, and fully one-fifth of the population mistakenly believing that America’s Christian president is in fact a Muslim, that Fear of a Black Planet among White Americans has metastasized into an even more toxic disease–fear of a Black Muslim Planet.
The raging controversy over the Park 51 Project–a proposed Islamic Center in New York City’s Lower Manhattan–is indicative of a general rise in racist bigotry, xenophobia, and Islamophobia towards people of color in this country.
While the issue has its particular and unique local distinctions, it cannot be separated from the rising violence against Black Americans and Latinos, or the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric and exclusionary politics driving the national debate on immigration.
From California, to Florida, to Tennessee, to Michigan, to New York, to Illinois, to many places in between, there has been an outsized, panicked response including arson, beatings, gunplay, and all manner of violence.
“As African-American Muslims, we feel our unique perspective has been missing from an emerging national discussion. We wish to join that discussion by first of all affirming that among our forbears are Muslims who have lived peacefully and productively in this country since its inception,” the African American Muslim Coalition said in its convening call.
“They, and others among our people have sacrificed too much, both in enduring the horrors and brutalities of chattel slavery, and during the long march to freedom, civil and human rights for us to silently accept a return to Jim Crow exclusionary practices and policies that relegate either ourselves or our co-religionists from other ethnic backgrounds to second-class citizenry.”
Indeed, just as “Fear of a Black Planet” was hardly a Black Power manifesto for world domination, but a statement about racial paranoia two decades ago, today’s response from indigenous Muslims in America who are Black and most often descendants of slaves is not a threat from this country’s enemy from within to bury the American republic, but rather it is a plea from the victims of racism and genocide to transform a “great country” into a “good country.”
Muslims in America are not the source of this country’s problems. Muslims offer, in the Words from the Noble Qur’an, and in the example of the life of Islam’s Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the solution to this country’s problems.
But this growing fear persists, prompting mostly White, mostly middle-class Americans to, in many cases, dress up like the 18th Century founders of this country, and to parade with tea bags dangling from their clothes, carrying pre-stars and stripes American flags reading “Don’t Tread on Me,” and vowing to “take their country back.”
From what or from whom would they be taking back the country?
Has the Constitution been abridged or forsaken before now? Or would these jingoists rewrite that sacrosanct text, without its First Amendment which guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and assembly?
Have the objects of this massive White backlash subverted the Constitution, or would they themselves rescind its Fourteenth Amendment which grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized” in the United States?
Indeed, have these zealots even read the document written by the Founding Fathers they claim to admire, which states plainly in Article VI, Section 3 in no uncertain terms: “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Have they read those words? What do they think those words mean? With what words would they replace Article VI, Section 3? The Fourteenth Amendment? The First Amendment?
Or are they simply nostalgic for the simpler times when the Constitution abided slavery, when Islam was a dormant force in the Western Hemisphere, and when Catholics, Irish, Italians, and Jews, were the principal objects of scorn; when a woman’s place was in the home, barefoot and pregnant?
Well, those days will never return, no matter the gnashing of teeth by the White conservatives, whether they call themselves Tea Partyers, or Republicans, or Dixie-crats, or Ku Klux Klansmen.
Islam in America is a force for good. Islam in America is a force to be reckoned with. Islam in America–particularly among the indigenous descendants of slaves who entertain no fear of being returned by immigration authorities to their places of origin, like Birmingham, and Little Rock, Ark., and Greenwood, Miss.–Islam in America is here to stay and Muslims in America have important things to say, and those things, now, must be heard.
Muslims who are Black in America are not new to facing bigotry. Our mosques have been attacked, our innocent Believers have been murdered in cold blood. Before that, our churches were bombed, our leaders were assassinated, and for more than a century, our men were hung until they resembled a “Strange Fruit hanging from the poplar trees…”
Muslims who are Black in America have always been set upon in America, and now Muslims who emigrated to this country with education and expertise, who have become successful pillars of their communities are the objects of these same attacks. Sadly, now this hatred has spilt over onto the President of the United States, a Black man, whose father was a Muslim from Kenya, and whose upbringing, and his free choice to believe and practice Christianity uniquely qualifies him to understand both cultures, and to thereby potentially reach out to the 1.5 billion people throughout the world who are Muslim believers.
But those who are stoking slander and hatred against Muslims in this country, and even against their own President do not understand the effect their unjustified enmity is having on the hearts of Black people in this country, and around the world, and on the Muslim population in this country and throughout the world.
White Americans, all Americans must think about the consequences of their behavior in this hour. They should, they must, heed the warning from the Coalition of African American Muslims and extend to President Obama–who is not a Muslim–as well as to the millions in this country who are Muslims, the same kind of fairness they want for themselves.