Every year, black Muslim twitter brings back the magic that is #BlackMuslimRamadan. Admittedly, when I first clicked on the hashtag I was looking out for the humorous tweets about bean pies and Christian family members who inquired about “Ramadaning” from my brothers and sisters around the world. While those were present (and as accurate as ever), the more serious aspects of fasting while black were a source of deep reflection for me.
There is certainly racial tension within the Muslim community year round. For me, Ramadan amplifies these issues in three ways. 1, a mind disciplined by fasting can focus more clearly on the issues facing their nafs (soul) and community. 2, the Muslim community spends a lot more time together, often with newcomers to the mosque during Ramadan, increasing the chances of negative racial interactions. 3, while the shaytan is locked up, we are forced to face the bitter reality that these prejudiced views are embedded in the hearts and actions of our brothers and sisters in Islam.
The subtle ways that our masjids promote an agenda of anti blackness is a plague on the Muslim community, especially during the month of Ramadan. As a child, I remember hearing my masjid playmates say things like “Americans hate Muslims” as if there was no such thing as an American Muslim. The emphasis on ethnicity and implied religious meaning behind such frivolous things disenfranchises African Americans who may know nothing of where they came but have had an American identity imposed upon them as a result of slavery.
This assumed religious superiority of immigrants, or the children of immigrants, over their black counterparts in the Muslim community is reinforced at an institutional level. The way that masjids respond to black suffering, both globally and domestically is just one example of this. In the summer of 2014, the Gaza strip was under attack as black America was in Ferguson, Missouri and other parts of the world. While children in Palestine held up signs of solidarity, many American masjids failed to acknowledge that the African Americans in their prayer lines were threatened by the same white supremacy that killed Michael Brown on that hot August day.
There is no shortage of duas and fundraising efforts that our community can take on. Yet, there is a failure to center communities of color in these efforts.
At a time when we proclaim that Black Lives Matter, black Muslims are becoming more conscious of the space we occupy and are allotted in all of our communities, including our religious ones. This is evidenced pointedly every year when #BlackMuslimRamadan and #BlackOutEid punctuate our social media posts in a demand to be seen.
We know that there is nothing that elevates a person over another in the eyes of Allah besides piety and good deeds. The same must become true of our communities. Until then, #BlackMuslimRamadan will live on, a tradition stubborn just like it’s people, to center voices otherwise left on the margin.