Out­siders even within Is­lam, black­Mus­lims seek unity

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD - By Jeff Karoub, Sophia Ta­reen and Noreen Nasir Associated Press

DEAR­BORN, Mich. — In her job as a refugee case man­ager, Fatimah Fa­rooq would come to work in a hi­jab and speak with her clients in Ara­bic.

None­the­less, she found her­self be­ing asked whether she­wasMus­lim.

It’s not easy, Fa­rooq says, nav­i­gat­ing her dual iden­ti­ties as black andMus­lim.

“I’m con­stantly try­ing to prove that I be­long,” said Fa­rooq, who now works in pub­lic health. “It’s re­ally hard not to be an out­sider in a com­mu­nity — es­pe­cially today, in the cur­rent times.”

Many Mus­lims are reel­ing from a U.S. pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion that’s cracked down on im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing through the in­tro­duc­tion of a travel ban that sus­pend­snewvisas for peo­ple from­sixMus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries and is nowtied up in court.

But blackU.S.-bornMus­lims say they have been pushed to the edges of the con­ver­sa­tions — even by those who share the same re­li­gion.

They say they of­ten feel dis­crim­i­na­tion on mul­ti­ple fronts: for be­ing black, for be­ingMus­lim and for be­ing black and Mus­lim among a pop­u­la­tion of im­mi­grant Mus­lims.

Fa­rooq, whose Su­danese par­ents came to the U.S. be­fore she was born, said her own fam­ily used to at­tend a largely AfricanAmer­i­can mosque but then moved to a pre­dom­i­nantly Arab one— yet in both cases still felt like “out­siders.”

Kashif Syed, who lives in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area, grew up in a fam­ily of South Asian Mus­lim im­mi­grants around Detroit that was in­su­lated from black Mus­lims. Nowthat he’s part of a young pro­fes­sional Mus­lim com­mu­nity, he’s try­ing to honor the ex­pe­ri­ences of others.

“We’re see­ing in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble threats toMus­lims across the coun­try now — it’s an im­por­tant re­minder of what black com­mu­ni­ties have en­dured for gen­er­a­tions in this coun­try,” saidSyed, who­vol­un­teers at Town­hall Dia­logue, a non­profit fos­ter­ing dis­cus­sions aboutU.S. Mus­lim iden­tity.

“I can’t re­ally think of a bet­ter time for non-black Mus­lims to start ex­am­in­ing how we got here, and what lessons we can learn from the hard-won vic­to­ries of black com­mu­ni­ties from the civil rights move­ment,” he said.

Asha Noor, whose fam­ily fled So­ma­lia’s civil war when she was a baby, helped or­ga­nize a town hall af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced his first travel ban in Fe­bru­ary, which blocked trav­el­ers from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries and put theU.S. refugee pro­gram on hold. Af­ter that ban was blocked by the courts, a re­vised one af­fect­ing trav­el­ers from one fewer Mus­lim coun­try was in­sti­tuted be­fore that, too, was blocked by the courts.

Noor said she feels there’s less at­ten­tion paid to the plight of refugees from her na­tive So­ma­lia and Su­dan, the two African coun­tries in Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der. She sees it as part of a “con­tin­u­ous era­sure of the black­Mus­lim ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Black Mus­lims of­ten face a two-front chal­lenge, both within the com­mu­nity and the larger Amer­i­can so­ci­ety,” said Noor, who worked for Take on Hate, a cam­paign chal­leng­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against Arabs and Mus­lims. “You can never be too sure if as­saults or mi­cro-ag­gres­sions are com­ing be­cause you’re black, Mus­lim, or both.”

Cen­tral to the is­sue, ex­perts say, is that Is­lam is por­trayed as for­eign.

That’s a mis­con­cep­tion Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco pro­fes­sor Aysha Hi­day­at­ul­lah en­coun­ters when teach­ing an “Is­lam in Amer­ica” class where she looks at Is­lam’s pres­ence in Amer­ica from the slave trade to civil rights — some­thing that is a sur­prise to many stu­dents.

“It’s a class that is fo­cused mainly on re­cov­er­ing the black me­mory of Is­lam in this coun­try,” she said.

Com­pared with the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, U.S. Mus­lims are­more di­verse with a larger per­cent­age born abroad.

There’s dis­agree­ment on how­many mil­lions re­side in the United States, but it’s com­monly ac­cepted that blacks rep­re­sent about onethird of Mus­lims in this coun­try.

Many came to the re­li­gion through the Na­tion of Is­lam, which veers from main­stream Is­lam on sev­eral core teach­ings, lead­ing many im­mi­grant Mus­lims to con­sider it too di­ver­gent fromtheir faith.

But Imam W. Deen Mohammed trans­formed the move­ment af­ter tak­ing it over in the 1970s and grad­u­ally moved his thou­sands of fol­low­ers to­ward main­stream Is­lam, while Louis Far­rakhan took lead­er­ship of the black sep­a­ratist Na­tion of Is­lam.

De­spite the his­tory of blacks in the Mus­lim faith, Tariq Toure, a Mary­land writer, saysSouthAsianand Arab nar­ra­tives still dom­i­nate the con­ver­sa­tion.

“It’s dis­heart­en­ing, be­cause black Mus­lims can’t even get aword in as to how they’re nav­i­gat­ing all of this,” said Toure, who’s black.

Ab­dul Rahim Habib, a U.S.-born col­lege stu­dent, said even his close friends as­sumed he con­verted to Is­lam be­cause they didn’t as­so­ciate be­ing black with be­ingMus­lim.

That’s even though 21-year-old’s Nige­rian and grand­par­ents Mus­lim.

While grow­ing up in Chicago, he can re­mem­ber when Arab Mus­lims re­fused to greet him with “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” an Ara­bic sa­lu­ta­tion of peace cus­tom­ary amongMus­lims.

“A lot of our Arab broth­ers and sis­ters didn’t re­ally care about be­ing broth­ers and sis­ters un­til this point when they started hav­ing prob­lems,” he said. the fa­ther are

PAUL SANCYA/AP

Fatimah Fa­rooq nav­i­gates her dual iden­ti­ties as black and Mus­lim in Michi­gan.

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