That Token Black Guy

//That Token Black Guy

by Abubakar, a fourth year chemical engineer


Navigating the intersection of being both Black and Muslim in the UK is more difficult than it may appear. The black community in the UK predominantly identifies as Christian and most Muslims are of south Asian/Arab descent. It’s therefore not that hard to imagine that a Black Muslim may experience some sort of identity crisis.

It doesn’t help that both communities experience some sort of racism from wider society, whether it be institutional or explicit. Reports of islamophobic incidents have worse than doubled since Brexit and black people faced the worst levels of oppression known to mankind for centuries. Now imagine navigating both of those extremes, where you’re subjected to an unnecessary ‘random’ search by police when trying to buy some flapjacks 😉, or being asked questions by airport security because of your muslamic name. It genuinely starts to get frustrating and I pray that God gives patience and strength to everyone subjected to any form of racism.

Over time you just learn to deal with it, convincing yourself that people are ignorant and one day society will learn (we hope). But for me, racism is most jarring when it comes from the Muslim community itself. Having had this conversation a million times with people, I’m always told that Islam isn’t racist, and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s not Islam that’s the problem, it’s (some) Muslims.

I was probably most shocked when a friend told me a story he was told at madrassah (Islamic school) concerning the origin of the ‘black’ skin colour. His teacher told the story of the Curse of Ham, originating from Genesis 9 of the bible. The Curse of Ham refers to the curse that Ham’s father, Noah, placed upon Ham’s youngest son, Canaan, after Ham “saw his father’s nakedness” because of drunkenness in Noah’s tent. Early misconceptions racialised this curse to justify the racism and enslavement of black people, by suggesting that they were descendants of Ham. These misconceptions originated in Jewish and Christian communities, but were adopted by some Muslims in the 7th century.

What shocked me and to be honest still shocks me to this day is the clear contradictions to the teachings of the Quran and the prophet pbuh. Did he completely forget the words of the prophet during his last sermon??

‘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 black nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.’

I wish I could say these thoughts were unique to this incident. Unfortunately, I’ve been asking myself these questions for a while now. Every so often an incident makes me question whether some Muslims have genuinely understood that Islam is a religion of complete and total equality, or whether it just goes in one ear and out the other. I’m sometimes told that it’s a pretty insignificant issue or that only a minority of Muslims are like this, but when it happens as often as it does you have to ask whether it’s an intrinsic issue that we’re just choosing to ignore. And if you’re one of those people that think that this issue only exists with the uneducated, then I’m genuinely sorry to say that you’re mistaken. Imagine I was letting a Cambridge ISoc alumnus into the prayer room and he said, ‘you must be ISoc’s token black guy’. That actually happened. There have been conversations where people have legitimately told me that Asian community values are far better than those in black communities and this is why Asians are more successful and stable, and a couple of Muslims in Cambridge still agree with Eugenics (Lord given me strength), they seem to think that Allah has gifted difference races with different abilities and intelligence wasn’t gifted to the black community – again, Lord give me strength.

I could go on and on about past experiences with Muslims being racist but I’d rather not. Whether it be a passing comment intended as a joke, or genuine discussion that’s just explicitly racist, these experiences add up and begin to culminate into an anti-black iceberg, of which each comment is only a tip.

The take home message from this rant: anti-blackness is a genuine issue within our community that we need to address. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Muslim community around me, it’s just I feel like we need to be doing more. I’ll finish with this last message that’s pertinent to any kind of injustice: be the change you wish to see. If every individual thinks that they’re too insignificant to make a change, literally nothing will happen. Raise awareness, engage in dialogue, fight misconceptions – but for the love of everything good, don’t do nothing. We shouldn’t forget that issues within the black community are not separate to issues within the Muslim community. We must always remember the black Muslim contribution to our religion, and remember to stand in solidarity with the hardships our black brothers and sisters face at the hands of various racist institutions and people.

By |2018-11-25T19:19:02+00:00November 25th, 2018|Blog|