Yesterday, the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King.We must ask whether we have achieved the dream of Dr. King. The Qur’an has its own “I have a dream” passage that can serve as a guide to help improve the race relations and bring social justice. But how many Muslims can honestly claim they don’t have racial biases in their daily lives?
Has our nation made any progress in race relations and combat racism in the past 50 years since the passing of Dr. King? The killing of the young black man by Sacramento police on March 18, 2018 prompted rallies and disruption of the NBA basketball games as reported by ABC news and other news outlets, and an outpouring of support from Black Lives Matter and other community and faith groups.
Jackie Robinson broke the ‘color barrier’ in baseball on April 15, 1947 and since then numerous black athletes have become integral part of American sports. We do see more Blacks in news media, at executive positions and in academia, compared to 50 years ago. Sure, we have TV channels produced by and for the Black Americans.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential women (black or otherwise) in the world. We even had a black president in the White house for 8 years. But have we really made progress in race relations? Has the life of an average black kid in American that much different than it was 50 years ago? Do the blacks have the same opportunities to excel in academics and beyond?
It seems the past two years have neutralized whatever progress we made in the first 48 years after Dr. King’s death.
Black Life Matters (BLM) started in 2013 as #BlackLivesMatter, well before Trump’s presidential election campaign to counter the systemic and widespread racism, triggered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It became even more widespread movement for social justice following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, highlighting the Police brutality and racism.
I do believe the police generally does a great job of protecting the citizens from the criminals. Most of the cops put their lives on the line day in and day out (and at nights too). However there is no denying that racism exists in police force and more work needs to be done to improve its relations with the black communities.
I see opposite reactions from Black communities and at times, hateful rhetoric towards the whites. That seems contrary to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.
“I have a dream”
During the march to Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his iconic speech at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
‘I have a dream’ in the Quran
I don’t know if Dr. King had studied the Qur’an, but his message of racial equality and social justice resonates with the teachings of the Qur’an. Words are not exactly the same, but the message is.
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (the one) best in conduct (most righteous). And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)… The Quran: 49:13
Dr. King fought for, and shared his dream on blacks and whites being equal.
I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream-one day the nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘we hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal. Dr. Martin Luther King during his “I have a dream” speech.
Prophet Muhammad in his famous last sermon after the Hajj reminded his followers that we are equal whether we are black or white, Arab or non Arab.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action.
Color of our skin is a sign of God
In a set of verses reminding us of God’s signs, the Qur’an concludes that our different languages and color of skin are signs of God, not means to discriminate each other.
And among His [God’s] signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge. The Qur’an 30:22
Time for Muslim introspection
So the question to the Muslims is simple: are we really following the teachings of the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad when it comes to race relations and discrimination?
We cite examples of black American Muslims as a sign that all is fine and dandy when it comes to race relations.
For us-the non-black American Muslims we need to ask ourselves serious questions and look for honest answers.
How many blacks do we have as our personal friends? How many black Americans do we mingle with on a regular basis?
For the American Muslims with southeast Asian/Arab background: we seem to be OK when our children marry white Caucasians. Sure we ask first if they are Muslims and sure, we still prefer they would marry “our type”. In the end, we are generally very accepting of their choices.
Do we feel the same way when our children marry (or are planning to) black Americans?
How many of us feel “proud” to be living in “white communities”? Do we feel the same way when someone lives in “black communities”? Do we see the ;black communities” as ghetto?
The soul searching needs to start at a personal level. We then need to make sure we carry the same soul searching to our mosques and other places of social gathering.
We need to remember that following Dr. King’s legacy is very Islamic. You may argue that Dr. King was following Islamic teachings. I would argue that Islamic teachings and Dr. King’s legacy for fighting for social justice and equality are one and the same.
No matter how you put it, we just have to actually walk the talk.
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