If Islam is so against racism, then why is there still racism?

If Islam is so against racism, then why is there still racism?


If Islam is so against racism, why are Muslims so racist even against each other? I’ve seen some really really bad instances of it and it makes me very sad.

Salaam alykum,

You are not the only person who this saddens, but, what Muslims need to realize is that to tie-in our social ills purely towards Islam as a religious structure is never going to solve our problems.

If we see an individual who is an alcoholic, or a society that has problems with alcohol, and we simply looked and said: “Well, Islam says not to drink, so what has Islam done?” This makes no sense.

It also would not make sense to just walk up to the person and be like, “hey, alcohol is prohibited in Islam” and then kick them in the knee and walk away, this does nothing, and it doesn’t help individuals or societies emerge from the ills that prevent them from progressing.

Racism is no different, it is a learned perception, and thus we must make the effort, as Muslims, to underline that racism is disgusting and must be stopped. This requires the use of media, of information, of our leadership and ourselves to stop, because that is our test as Muslims as to whether we commit these sins, whether we recognize them, and most importantly, whether we try to end them, in whatever capacity we are capable of.

In a Hadith narrated by Tariq bin Shihab in Tirmidhi, as well as Muslim, The Prophet is narrated to have said the following:

“Whoever among you sees an evil and changes it with his hand [i.e. actions], then he has done his duty. Whoever is unable to do that, but changes it with his tongue, then he has done his duty. Whoever is unable to do that, but changes it with his heart, then he has done his duty, and that is the weakest of Faith.”

Therefore as Muslims we must strive towards this goal of eliminating racism, as it contravenes the clear guidance of The Qur’an and the clear stance of The Prophet Muhammad.

That being said, we must also give Muslims credit where it is due. To acknowledge our problems without acknowledging our successes makes little sense to me, and makes it seem like Muslims are the worst people in the world, which is why Malcolm X’s words have been so critical in my return to Islam and my love for Muslims.

I recently posted remarks by Malcolm, and most people focused on his comments about hating one’s physical features. That is important, but what is even more damaging, in my opinion, is when Malcolm remarks, “…Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other?”

Do we not see this in how we speak about ourselves? We remove any good that we could possibly have done, we remove anything that we have done that is worthy of praise from being praised, we hate ourselves because we have been convinced that we do not deserve that praise.

Racism is something that is disgusting, something we must eliminate, but we must also realize that there are shining examples among Muslims of removing racism from our laundry list.

Dr. Mahmoud Shawarbi was a Muslim professor who met Malcolm X before he left the Nation of Islam, and as Malcolm left the Nation, he and Dr. Shawarbi discussed The Qur’an and it was Dr. Shawarbi who challenged Malcolm to rethink his views on race, to rethink his, in the words of Manning Marable, “his race-based worldview,” while admitting that “many orthodox Muslims also fell short of the color-blind ideals they professed.”

Yet, while there is undoubtedly problems we face, we must also realize that we have tremendous successes. The transformation of Malcolm benefited his community, it was how Malcolm was able to reach out to other activists, like Dr. King, where he [Malcolm] said “If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man.”

This was a revolutionary change in Malcolm’s thoughts, in his approach to other leaders, and this impact was massive onto the Civil Rights Movements as well as to the future of the African-American Muslim experience.

When Malcolm went to Hajj, he was detained, for the Saudi officials had doubts over him because of views when he was part of the Nation. Malcolm understood why, and despite his frustration, he did not essentialize the problem, he was pragmatic in his approach and understood why he was put in that predicament.

It was at Hajj that Malcolm was able to look at the world differently. In his diary, Malcolm wrote “Islam brings together in unity all colors and classes,” and “everyone shares what he has, those who have share with those who have not, those who know teach those who don’t know.”

It was there that Malcolm confessed “I began to perceive that ‘white man,’ as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily; primarily it describes attitudes and actions.” It was in the Muslim world where Malcolm observed people who would be classified as “white” in America who “were more genuinely brotherly than anyone else had ever been.” Malcolm assigned this to Islam.

There was a letter that Malcolm wrote, that Dr. Marable attempts to stifle, to my dismay, that I think underlines a transformation in Malcolm:

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.

You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We are truly all the same-brothers.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

So, while we do have problems of racism, Islam has also been a tremendous force for good, bringing Muslims of different races together, as well.

To be abundantly clear, I am not saying that Muslims are beyond racism, or that none exists, rather, I am trying to highlight that Islam has brought tremendous peace, eased racial tensions, and has helped millions of Muslims, and to ignore this, is problematic.

It is because of Malcolm’s teachings that I was able to recognize the destruction we have done to ourselves by associating acts of individuals as proof of a larger group’s lack of value. This was done to African-Americans in America, and it is being done to Muslims, and that we inculcate these ideas, accept them, believe them, to me, is outrageous. The point isn’t to excuse our problems, the point is not to assign them to our label, to realize the roots of our problems rather than assign them to vague essentialist factors.

If there is a message from Malcolm, it is to realize that we are good, because if you do not realize that there is good in something, you will never be able to truly save it. Malcolm saw the good in his culture and his people, that was what pushed him to do what he did.

We need to do the same, and until we do, we will never move forward.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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