I’m Muslim, yet I find the incessant attention paid to the Palestinian conflict by Muslims off all stripes particularly converts to be overbearing and the current political stalemate over there has turned me off that conflict. There are horrible situations everywhere in the world, many worse that those in Gaza and the West Bank.
It seems that for some converts, attention and emotion and talk of Palestine and identifying with the issues of Palestine becomes a litmus test for one’s Islam. If you are a true believer you should be at the marches, wearing protest clothing, support the evil of suicide bombing and terrorism, dislike like Jews who if you refer to as “yehud” garners bonus points.
To me, Palestine is just one of many conflicts in the world where there is great injustice and suffering, I hope and make dua that there will eventually be a more just and equitable solution, but I don’t hate Jews. I think oppression, injustice, terrorism, and anti-semitism are rank and vile and no one should be given a pass to get away with this kind of stuff.
I changed my birth name to a stereotypical Muslim sounding one because of the incessant questions and pressure of my new found, well-intentioned, and sometimes misinformed brothers and sisters in Islam. I changed it back and reasserted my birth name as a protest and rejection of the forced groupthink/identity politics of conversion. Islam is about understanding that there is one God, the Creator and Sustainer, and that we are to worship him alone, not about the gloss and window dressing of taking Arabicized names.
I wear hijab and jilbab because I believe in it not because others think that I should. I don’t buy into the whole niqab is better or more pious argument. I think a lot of sisters wear niqab for social status and because immodest brothers eyeball them. I support the right of sisters to wear whatever they want and not to be forced into something they do not believe in or find difficult, and to do so without fear, intimidation, or insults. I don’t look down on sisters that do not observe my level of covering and do not look up to those that cover more than I do.
When people ask me about how or why I converted to Islam, I sometimes detect unpleasant undertones which are implicit questions about my Islam and Muslimness. Did you have Muslim friends or a Muslim boyfriend, oh you are from Nigeria (as if all of Nigeria were Muslim) or they ask questions about my life before Islam to see if I led a wild and promiscuous life beforehand, don’t forget that I am black and you know how black people are…
I read and listen to diverse voices. I don’t mark my identity by laying claim to this label or that or in boycotting, bashing, and warning against this or that group of Muslims or Muslim speakers. Anytime someone tells me not to read something or tries to ban a work because they think we are too delicate to handle the issues presented, only increases my desire to find out about it for myself. Although I watched Submission, that film by Theo Van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi and it was simply garbage and a waste of time, certainly not worth murdering anyone over. Rushdie is a skilled writer, I disagree with his political and religious views, but some of his literature is amazing.
I hear from other brothers and sisters about this or that problem in the black American Muslim community and how we should be concerned about this or that issue yet so rarely do I see reflections of my experience in this community. I know there are more like me but we are quiet maybe afraid or tired of having our identities questioned. I am Muslim, I’m a black Muslim with the required caveat “not in the Nation of Islam”, and I no longer feel the need to justify or prove my Islam.
I’m black, dark enough not to be able to pass as anything else, and have been called nigger or any number of names, been followed around in stores, pulled over by police, questioned, and let go for no obvious reason, asked to be the spokesperson or teacher to my white classmates, teachers, colleagues, etc. because they have constructed lives for themselves in which people that look like me do not factor in any serious way, enough times, as if I can speak with any authority about the entirety and complexity of the black experience or African experience (from people who see Africa as a country and not a continent with a diversity that boggles the mind) not to have any illusions about race. Many whites I know, like to say that we have come a long way, and things are getting better with time, and yes, while there may be some truth in that, things are not all rosy and we still have a long way to go in America.
In sha Allah, in November, I will vote for Barack Obama (and hopefully for Hillary Clinton) not because he is black, not because he had some Muslims whatever their level of practice in his family or spent time in Indonesia, not because he went to elite universities and worked as a community activist in poor neighborhoods, not because he is “articulate” as so many whites like to say about blacks as if that is something unexpected, not because he claims to be a candidate of hope and change even though the Jeremiah Wright episode has shown him to be more of a conventional politician than anything else.
I’m going to vote for Obama in sha Allah not only because I don’t want to see a third Bush term with McCain but because he symbolizes a man, an American man of mixed background that has come to terms with himself, his race, his identity, his place in American society. He is not complaining about “the man”, recognizes and acknowledges the imperfections of our society without thinking that whites created AIDS to harm black people, and can serve a as a bridge more than any other candidate to help the country move forward in conversations about race.
Obama grew up as a minorty in several places, has successfully navigated the complex racial milieu in American society, has gone from Barry to Barack, and can stand up and say that he is black without apologies or explanation. Black, is truly beautiful. Some people might say he lacks experience but he has time and again shown himself to be a consummate politician, one not likely to go around with false bravado and empty slogans, one more likely to try diplomacy over ill-planned warmongering and one who inspires me to work harder in my own life focused on my goals knowing that with the grace of Allah, all things are possible.
Barack is a politician that inspires me and he is running for president and he has a chance of winning, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.
From the Storehouse: