I have marched in many Black Lives Matter protests, but the anger and the crowd size I saw on Saturday in Chicago I have never seen before. (I maintained the same COVID physical distancing recommendations that are now being implemented to allow Masjids to reopen as I participated). It was a very peaceful but highly emotional protest, although images of violence are the ones which you probably saw in the news.
Muslims are a part of the peaceful protests across the country. A Muslim restaurant was a base for treating the injured in Minneapolis. We are learning the lessons of intersectionality. That is absolutely critical.
Now, some voices are asking Muslims to stay away from joining the protests, because a few violent incidents have occurred in certain places. And the media, naturally, is covering that violence much more than the peaceful protests.
We must not stop now. It is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, to stand up for justice. As God Almighty has told us in the Quran, He sent all Prophets and Messengers to help people establish justice (57:25).
Peaceful protest is winning. Even major businesses like Citigroup, Netflix, Nike, Twitter, HBO, and Nordstrom have aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement. Even President Trump found some time to call the brother of George Floyd. Even Billie Eilish sent a powerful refutation of the “All Lives Matter” logic to her 58 million followers.
It is important that this movement continue to gain momentum until Democrats and Republicans both come out with clear plans to transform our criminal justice system, ones that understand that Black Lives Matter.
What you can do personally:
- Join the peaceful protests
- Call journalists and editors to ensure they focus on the peaceful protests instead of the violent fringe
- Don’t let the narrative shift from the police murder of George Floyd to something else. The media has largely obscured the fact that many of the violent protests have been instigated by white neo-Nazis and nationalist extremists so as to discredit the legitimate outrage of African-Americans and their allies
- Keep using hashtags #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter
- Offer water and other supplies to those marching
- Provide legal and medical assistance if needed
Here are reasons why Muslim organizations must take this movement seriously:
- Because this is THE Prophetic duty to stand up for justice. The Prophet assigned this responsibility to us in his last sermon, peace be upon him. This is the call we respond to when we say “labbaik Allahumma labbaik” (Here I am Oh God, at Your service, Here I am) during Hajj
- We cannot be good Muslims unless we feel others’ humanity in our own hearts
- We must also participate because our community is impacted: at least 25% of all Muslims in America are black - they suffer twice, once for being Black and once for being Muslim
- We must stand with those who stand with us
Action Items for the Muslim community
We encourage all Muslim organizations to take the following steps to continue the Prophetic call:
- Dedicate Khutbas this Friday to Black Lives Matter & the struggle for justice in America
- Establish Juneteenth as a major milestone for education
- Join anti-racism coalitions in your city. If you cannot find one, establish one and invite your interfaith partners to join
- Hundreds of protestors and non-participants are being imprisoned. Muslim lawyers should come forward to offer legal assistance
- Identify what local goals can help your city become better in terms of accepting racial diversity and respecting Black lives
- Educate others so that people don’t fall into the trap of the thinking of those who say “All Lives Matter” when the Black Lives Matter movement is brought up. The reality is that when Black lives don’t matter, all lives don’t matter. Remember that God has told us killing even one innocent human being is like killing the whole of humanity (Quran 5:32)
There are many theories about the violence that we are seeing highlighted.
America has a well-documented history of “agent provocateurs” during the civil rights movement, who provoke violence to make peaceful marchers look bad; we have a history of the police planting drugs and arms on innocent victims; there has been a rise of right-wing militias and white supremacy. Any and all of these factors might be involved in the violence being highlighted in relation to the protests.
For example, in Minneapolis, peaceful marchers documented on video a white man breaking shop windows for several blocks, asking him why he was committing violence.
Unfortunately, the police violence which started the protest also continues and is also being documented
- A video depicts the Minneapolis police sweeping residential streets, shooting paint canisters at front porches, and yelling “light ‘em up”
- Videos posted on social media yesterday captured New York Police Department officers driving into a crowd of protestors, reminiscent of the tragic images from Charlottesville in 2017, when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of people demonstrating against racial violence and killed Heather Heyer
- The head of the Minneapolis Police Union, Lieutenant Bob Kroll, spoke at a rally for President Donald Trump last year, where he celebrated the permission the president gave to cops to be brutal
- Are the police aiming to stop “urban warfare” or are they the ones continuing to wage it against people they are supposed to serve and protect?
- The government must allow and facilitate peaceful protest by genuine protestors, differentiating between them and the criminal elements
- If Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is indeed designated a terrorist organization as President Trump has announced, any protester can be designated as Antifa and treated as a terrorist - a term which we Muslims we know has been thoroughly abused
Goals of the Peace & Justice Movement
- Thorough legal action against all four officers involved in the murder of George Floyd
- America needs concrete changes in police departments to stop systemic violence against Black people
- Police departments must have powerful civilian oversight boards
- Not all emergencies need to be handled by militarized police. A Muslim mental health patient was recently murdered by police in Georgia. Social workers and mental health experts should have been dispatched instead of militarized police officers
- Police departments need to follow the examples set by other departments in which officers have empathized with protesters, resulting in a peaceful protest
- Republicans and Democrats must develop clear plans about police reform, and criminal justice reforms must be part of their agendas for the coming presidential election
We hope and pray that peaceful organizers can strategize to keep the marches peaceful, which will result in good public policy as opposed to a chaotic situation which allows “law and order” hawks to turn this into a pretext for military violence against Black citizens and their allies engaging in legitimate and legal protests.
God Almighty has told us in the Quran that He sent all Prophets to establish Al-Qist, that is justice, fairness and equity (57:25). After the Prophets, it is the duty of the believers.
Believers like you and me.