Black Muslims from Imam El Hajj Malik El Shabazz(Malcolm X) to Muhammad Ali took unapologetic stances against involvement in U.S imperialistic wars. Muhammad Ali, stated, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.” Ali was informed that his talents would be used to provide entertainment for soldiers and that would not be placed in any actual military combat operations. Still, Ali insisted he would not support U.S wars in any capacity whatsoever.
In a statement that would undoubtedly have him ostracized by the entirety of the mainstream American Muslim establishment if spoken today, Imam Ell Hajj Malik El Shabazz asserted that,”As Muslims, we don’t to go to war. ….Don’t never put me in your airplane and fill it with bombs and tell me to go bomb the enemy. Why, I dont have to far to go to find that enemy.” Black Muslims recognized that U.S. wars were fought for imperialistic purposes, for the monetary gain of white corporate elites, and that U.S wars worked to oppress people globally.
However, during the 2016 presidential election, in a paradox, a “hero” was selected for the Muslim community. U.S. veteran Humayyun Khan, and his parents were asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Undoubtedly, that platform allowed many Muslims in America to know more about Khizr Khan and Humayyun Khan than they do about Black Muslim revolutionaries, such as Sekou Odinga, Safiya Bukhari, and Kamau Sadiki, all who fought structural racism in the United States and who should be true heroes to all Muslims.
Khzir Khan took center stage in an alliance with Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. He stated as Patriotic American Muslims,”We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.” Contrast this with Imam El Hajj Malik El Shabazz who said , “You and I have never seen democracy – all we’ve seen is hypocrisy.” Khan’s statement promotes the myth of the American dream when Malcolm X taught that for black people: there was no American dream, only an American nightmare.
Subsequently, Khan states that regarding Donald Trump,”‘Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” The problem is Khan’s statement presumes Trump’s white supremacy is a deviation from constitutional values rather than a manifestation of them. Unlike Khzir Khan, Imam Ell Hajj Malik Shabazz vocally spoke on the history of the constitution in justifying white supremacy:
The constitution was written by whites for the benefit of whites. It was never written for the benefit of blacks… [It] classifies black people as 3/5th of a man. Subhuman. Less than a human being. It relegates us to the level of cattle, hog, chicken, cows, a commodity that could be bought and sold at the will of the master. It was written by whites for the benefit of whites and to the detriment of blacks. When a black man stands up talking about his constitutional rights, his out of his mind.
Despite the fact that Khan’s speech completely obfuscates the systemic oppression of Black people under U.S democracy in the prison industrial complex and despite his sharing of a public platform with a slave owner, he would subsequently be platformed by CAIR, ICNA, and ISNA.
The question is this: what has happened to the Muslim ummah that we would allow, Hillary Clinton, a woman who casually discussed using Black slave labor as the first lady of Arkansa and who supported despicable social policies that increased the Black mass incarceration rate: the moral authority to appoint Muslim heroes?
The answer is simple. Muslims desperate for good press that appeals to the white gaze welcomed this hook, line and sinker. We’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled by organizations such as CAIR, ICNA, and ISNA who flaunt Muslim U.S war veterans who fought in unjust imperialist wars as heroes.
In a peculiar paradox, the Muslim community was both celebrating Humayyun Khan and Muhammad Ali simultaneously. Yet, how can both be heroes? Muhammad Ali refused to participate in U.S Imperial Wars and Humayyun Khan elected to do so. The two cannot both be heroes or icons for Muslims when their moral stances were opposite to each other.
Muslims must reject this narrative that Muslims only have value if we contribute to the military industrial complex of America. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that he admired the courage of Muhammad Ali for his refusal to participate in the Vietnam war. He subsequently, encouraged all young men to follow in his footsteps and file as contentious objectors. The Iraq War was just as immoral and unjust as the Vietnam War. As Muslims, we should honor those who actively work against the military industrial complex and not those who capitulated to it. Muhammad Ali is a hero, Humayyun Khan is not.