The Chariots Part II: Immigrants and African-Americans
The Chariots Part I: At the Marathon...
This conclusion has indeed been an arduous task. To bring together the immigrants, especially the Muslims to the Marathon, only on paper, was complicated and difficult. To discuss a touchy matter all around in a useful format is always a challenge. Most of my writings here are in terms of generalizations, and I recognize that exceptions of course exist in every case. So, please do not consider your own example or the example of a few to discount the bigger picture, if that is the case of course. Comments were closed so far, but they will be open after this last chapter. I invite all the readers to feel empowered to correct me, to suggest different outlooks, and to offer ways and means to achieve what is being put forward.
Immigrants at the Marathon
The news was out, and it echoed around the world: the great race was on... and it was happening in the distant land of America. The prize was said to be unparalleled, and opportunities were rife, even at this stage of the race. It was a long marathon, longer than any other, why else would it be called the mother of all marathons? All around the globe, many young souls, some burdened by the inequalities in their own lands, some disillusioned by the lack of political and social empowerment, and some just seeking better life and education, were more so allured to what was billed as a 'life-changing' event. So, these souls prepared, trained and practiced. The cream of the crop from the 'developing' world got in line for the chance of their lifetime. They could run with the best, and both the organizers and these souls knew it.
As the internationals began their journey to the Marathon, the organizers were delighted by the global attention to their event. They were enthused by the international runners. These international runners piled in from around the world, and they marveled at the crowd and at the race. They felt the energy, and they tasted opportunity, and more and more, they felt they had made the right decision. A sense of elation propagated through this international crowd. They weren't disappointed initially, as they were plugged in with the crowd that was farthest ahead in the race. Not all, of course, received this welcome. Some who simple managed to cross the border because of their geographical location, who were not the most gifted of runners, had to sneak their way into the race. Most of these unfortunate souls found themselves with the crowd of the 'left-behinders'.
Among the racers, especially the internationals, there were many who believed in One God and His Messengers. These believers were slightly different than others. For reasons that would form an entire story of its own, they found themselves at the receiving end of inequities. For instance, they always found themselves on the outer curve of the track. While they started their race not too behind the front-runners, they could not help noticing that it was taking significantly greater effort to catch up after each of the track curves. When they shouted out about their indignities, the same patronizing voice that had shouted condescendingly to the 'left-behinders', spoke again, "You should thank us that we even let you join this race, if you don't like it, go back to where you came from. Remember that you brought this on yourself because a few of your 'brethren' cheated, hence, the rest of you have to suffer!" The international believers looked at each other with bewilderment. Some of them wondered why they escaped injustice for another form of it. Others wondered how the rules could be changed when they were set in stone by the founders of the Marathon; why someone would risk impairing and debasing the greatest race on earth? And yet others wondered whether the opportunities were now worth the indignities? Even more bewildered were the 'local' believers. They wondered out loud, "Which land do you want us to go to? We were born and bred here, many of us have ancestors who were on the original boats that arrived to the 'new world'" But their voices were drowned in the din, as the obnoxious voice continued to mock and insult the believers.
As a result of the numerous obstacles and the longer course, some of the believers started waning, but others kept strong, keeping up with the front-runners. The superior training and exceptional talent allowed them to force their own case. Then, out of the blue, the believers heard voices; this time of the courageous voices, calling out for help. Yes, some chariots were coming, and a few of the 'left-behinders' were being helped to get them 'in the race'. But, more help was needed as the chariots had just begun to arrive. The believers looked forward and then looked back. It would only take a bit of their energy to support the courageous voices. The believers were reminded by others amongst them that they were believers only until they were just; justice formed the crux of their beliefs. From being just to the Creator (by worshiping Him alone) to being just to the creation (by supporting the elimination of injustice). The courageous voices had let them know what had transpired with the barrier that caused a whole group of people to become the 'left-behinders'. A great injustice had transpired, and the believers now knew about it. It was up to them now, will they join the courageous voices in retrieving the chariots around them, to turn back the clock on injustice or will they just keep racing, unbothered? How many believers did, and how many believers will? That is for us to ask and for us to answer.
For many Muslims, affirmative action is an afterthought, usually in the negative form. As I discussed in Part II, most immigrants, Muslims included, remember their own usually partly struggles in order to dismiss the case for affirmation action.
I also recognize that many African-Americans have started to distance themselves from affirmative action, finding it humiliating or demeaning. However, you will find that many of these African-Americans 'have it made'; symbolizing those who darted off in the Marathon, and 'caught up' with the 'front-runners' due to extraordinary talent, phenomenal hard-work, good fortune, or some combination of the three.
However, with the Marathon analogy in the backdrop, I hope that the readers who felt or still feel differently, have at least achieved some sense of context on this issue. There are some undeniable facts in America's black history (pun intended). If you don't know it, read up on it here. Many of the blacks bought and brought to America were free men in Africa and many of them indeed were Muslims (similar to the international 'believers').
These slaves were treated as sub-humans, perhaps even worse than animals in terms of indignities. "Historical records indicate that some slaveowners were more cruel to slaves than others. Some slaveowners raped and whipped slaves, and even cut off limbs of slaves who tried to escape, while other slaveowners provided materially for their slaves and were less physically abusive. In many households, treatment of slaves varied with the slave's skin color. Darker-skinned slaves worked in the fields, while lighter-skinned slaves were made to work in the house and had better provisions."[Answers.com]
For hundreds of years, a whole nation was subjugated, based on the color of its skin. A similar situation transpired for the natives (American Indians), but that is another topic for another day. Blacks were swept under the mat for much of this nation's history. The mat was finally taken off a few decades ago, when the rules were changed to be the 'now' same for everyone. Is it fair and just then for anyone to assume that this whole nation will be able to compete immediately? Do we expect these 'left-behinders' to catch up with the 'front-runners' quickly and without any assistance? (Front-runners who are reaping the fruits of their ancestors who fashioned their fortunes on the backs of the slaves).
Everyone know its easy to make money if you already have it to start with. Donald Trump is free to invest his billions in all sorts of elite money-minting ventures, ventures that the average man cannot even touch. Similarly, the vicious cycle of poverty is unfortunately even more so resilient than the cycle of wealth. Rich and educated parents can and will provide opportunities-galore for their children, imparting to them education or wealth or a combination. Most importantly, these folks value the importance of education and its role in a capitalist society. On the other hand, how do we expect the poorest sector, those who just had the 'barrier' removed, to be real 'players' in this race of life? How do we expect them to recognize the value of education that their parents or grand-parents or preceding generations, were not able to receive? Most importantly, is it really just to expect that? Is it just not to do something to make up for the past sins, or to at least help alleviate some of their struggles as they try to catch up? Don't they deserve the chariots to pick them up and drop them at least where would have been had the barrier not been raised?
For Muslims, justice captures the essence of our faith as believers, and equality of all human beings forms the crux of the matter, as we see from the following:
"We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice." [Quran 57:25].
"O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes for you to know one another. Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious.2 Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware." [Quran 49:13]
"O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety." [Hadith, Musnad Ahmed #22978]
"...And act justly. Truly, God loves those who are just." [Quran, 49:9]
To be just with those who we hate, "...And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety." [Quran, 5:8]
If we have adopted this country to be our home, then we cannot separate ourselves from the injustice that has occurred in its history, even if we had no role in it. This is because removing someone from the pangs of injustice, is still a part of a Muslim's responsibility, regardless of his role in causing that injustice. There are other lesser (in importance) reasons, some perhaps self-serving, for the involvement of Muslims in pushing affirmative action:
- Muslims are now facing obstacles as well, small little reminders of what transpired here with African-Americans. We are on the outer curves of the Marathon, and our struggle is becoming harder and harder in achieving the same goals as the 'average' American. If anything, it should help us recognize the struggles of those who are faced a much larger barrier, and have found themselves so far behind.
- Joining hands with the Black minority will join 'our' cause of injustices occurring with Muslims everyday to African-Americans' cause of injustice that is historically rooted, but continues to occur today (in the cycle of poverty).
- By understanding the civil-rights movement, and being part of it, Muslims can learn methods and ways to push their own agenda for equal treatment of Muslims in America and around the world.
- African-Americans, by far, as a 'group', are most receptive to the message of Islam. For one, many of their ancestors were Muslims, so it is a going back to roots of sorts, as in the case of Br. Hakim Ellis. And secondly, the message of truth has historically been most well-received by the less materialistically endowed. Many of the Prophet's (S) first followers were poor and desolate. So, if Muslims show their 'true colors' by being part of this cause, it will be an excellent source of walking dawah.
Note added 2.19: I would be remiss to add that affirmative action is not the only way we can help. We can start or be part of organizations that help inner-city kids, join mentorship programs in schools located in poor neighborhoods, or assist people like Siraj Wahhaj in what he is doing in his community. I hope we will hear from brothers and sisters who can make more suggestions, beyond affirmative action.
I am sure that there are many more reasons why we should be part of this noble cause, and perhaps why we should not, and I hope to read them here in your comments.