The challenge of racism

Living by Moral and Spiritual values can save humanity from the scourge of racism

We can’t tackle this enemy (racism) without the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) of moral values and spiritual ideals taught by religion. Racism is a product of moral vices of arrogance, a sense of superiority and jealousy of the other, and a lack of belief of our common humanity.

We watch with horror American cities in flames, rioters venting their anger against the police and the authorities who they see complicit in the murder of George Floyd. It’s a sad commentary on our humanity at a time when America has already lost more than 100,000 lives to the invisible foe – Covid-19. Movements like ‘Black lives matter’ have legitimately taken to the streets to condemn and put an end to racism. Racism is behaviour that blights the whole world but American racism against the black community has perpetrated unimaginable atrocities. That’s why it’s time to demand an end to it. For Muslims, it’s a time of self-reflection, since hidden and subtle racism is rampant among us. We must be kidding ourselves if we believe otherwise. Racism is a scourge that comes from a lack of moral values of kindness, patience and openness. It’s a demonstration of a broken relationship with the Creator of black, white, brown and yellow humans.

I believe the most powerful weapon against it is to understand its various forms and learn to avoid them. How often are we judgemental about others to such an extent that we discriminate, we have a terrible sense of ‘othering’ and subconscious biases. If you don’t believe me read on…

What is racism?

Racism covers individual and group prejudices and acts of discrimination that result in material and cultural advantages the dominant social group or the majority group. It’s the belief that some human groups because of their physical appearance/colour possess different behavioural traits, therefore, can be called superior over another, an example is “white racism”, where white populations are the majority. White racism is an aggregate of material and cultural advantages. Racism is a relatively modern concept, arising in Europe during the colonial period. It grew with capitalism and the Atlantic slave trade. It was the major force behind racial segregation in USA and apartheid of South Africa.

Why is racism dangerous and evil?

Racism isn’t just another human condition to be taken lightly, its consequences are devastating for humanity. Racism rests on two assumptions; that a correlation exists between physical characteristics and behaviours, and that mankind is divisible into superior and inferior stocks. Most genocides in history were due to this wicked ideology; the Holocaust; the Rwandan massacre; the massacre of Bosnian Muslims; the colonial European projects of occupying of Africa, Asia, Americas, as well as the Soviet deportations of indigenous minorities. More recently “racist hatred” was the chief motivation behind the violence against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The Nazi party under Hitler seized power in 1933, they believed the Germans to be part of an Aryan Master race, who had the right to expand their territory and enslave or kill members of other races deemed inferior. The Nazis graded humans on a scale of pure Aryan as the best humans to non-Aryan as subhuman. The English, the Italians and the French were nearly okay since they had Germanic blood. The result we only know too well.

Forms of racism

Institutional racism is racial discrimination by governments, corporations, religions, or educational institutions or other large organisations with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. Consequently, the organisation fails to serve all people adequately because of their colour, creed or race.

‘Othering’ a term used to describe a system of discrimination whereby the characteristics of a group are used to distinguish them as separate from the normal. Othering plays a role in the continuation of racism. To categorise another culture as something different and underdeveloped is to say it is not like ‘our normal’ society. In the past Europe’s colonial attitude towards the Africans and Asians exemplifies this as it was thought that they were weak and backward. By doing so Europe was calling herself ‘the normal’, further widening the gap. These imagined differences are based on prejudice and ignorance.

Subconscious biases are prevalent, even though some consciously claim to reject racism may still exhibit race-based subconscious biases in their decision-making processes. While such “subconscious racial biases” do not fully fit the definition of racism, their impact can be similar, though typically less pronounced, not being explicit, conscious or deliberate

Islam rejects racism

The Quran rejects racism and teaches the equality among all people of the world: “People, We created you from a male and female; then made you into different races and tribes so you may know each other. The most honourable in the sight of Allah is the most mindful of Allah, the Knower, the Aware” (Al-Hujjarat: 13). The same honour is bestowed on entire humanity irrespective of race or colour or country of origin.

In another place, it says: “We honoured the children of Adam and enabled them to travel across land and sea, to seek healthy sustenance and favoured them above all Our creation” (Surat al-Isra: 70).

The idea of tribal or racial superiority was rejected by the Messenger ﷺ in his famous farewell sermon, where he said: “people, you are all from Adam and came from dust. No Arab is preferred over a non-Arab except by his piety.” He practically demonstrated this equality and unity of humans by surrounding himself with Bilal the African, Suhaib the Roman, Salman the Persian, Abdus-Salam the Israelite etc. The messenger ﷺ once heard that one of his companions had called Bilal ‘son of a black woman’, so he ﷺ reprimanded him by saying “this is a sign of your ignorance.” The disciple felt so much remorse that he laid on ground and asked Bilal to put his foot over his face.

Statement from the Trust Building Forum (Nottingham)

As a founder of the Trust Building Forum, I want to make our stand against racism clear and stress the need for uniting against this scourge. At the heart of our work is fostering good community relations, standing together for justice and truth, for our security and peace rests on this. We must challenge the injustices against everyone. We believe that racism in all its ugly forms is violence against humanity and human dignity. We stand in solidarity with those who protest peacefully against racism. We ask all peace-loving people to pray for a calm, considered response to end the blight of racism from our global village.