Islam Is A Foreign Locale

To paraphrase the title of Zareena Grewal’s Islam Is A Foreign Country, the title of this post reflects the observation I made of a recent video which has us following actor Morgan Freeman traveling about the world asking, Who Is God? My observations come ironically on the heels (ok, twenty-five years ago, but close enough) of Freeman’s (comical/abysmal) portrayal of the Moorish Azeem, in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

So … Morgan Freeman wants to know about Islam, huh? I know everyone wants to celebrate and feel good about themselves these days given Donald Trump’s apparent “victory” but there’s all kinds of wrong with this “encounter”.

  1. Morgan Freeman, an American, in order to find out about Islam, has to enlist National Geographic! and traipse off to some foreign country to encounter “real Islam”, as if the millions of Muslims living in America could not assist him with this project.
  2. Equally amazing in this project is that in order for Mr. Freeman to “understand who God is”, he has to go through a translator! As if the scrolls and secrets to Islam are only capable of being expressed through an ancient and inaccessible tongue. His encounter also emphatically, if subtly, suggests that he has now gone to the “real Muslims”, an imam from Egypt as if he couldn’t find plenty of imams right here in America (black, white, Asian, etc.), who are just as capable—if maybe not more so!—to explain what or who God is in Islam. And they might just look and talk like Mr. Freeman, too!

Which brings me to this: there is a concerted effort, on the part of certain non-Muslims (well intending and not), in partnership with elements of the non-indigenous American Muslim community (yes, immigrant Muslims and their progeny) to exclude those whom they do not deem to be real, authentic, knowledgeable, and capable (indigenous) Muslims.
For me, this is a sad day when one of America’s most celebrated actors has to journey off into the unknown—in favor of the familiar!—to know what Islam is and who Muslims are. If we do not come to see this as fundamentally undermining our existence here then there’s little hope that Islam will ever be able to sufficiently take root in this country, and will be successfully labeled as a foreign, hostile, enterprise.

Ironically, even my non-Muslim family (my brother) gets this while many non-indigenous Muslims argue against it
Ironically, even my non-Muslim family (my brother) gets this while many non-indigenous Muslims argue against it

Non-Black Muslims and Malcolm X

After participating in a recent panel discussing the life and legacy of Malcolm X, I was given over to contemplating Malcolm’s appropriation, image, and rhetoric by non-black Muslims. I have found a couple of curious observations.

First, it seems that most non-black Muslims take, what I will term, the Morgan Freeman approach to racism:

“How are we going to get rid of racism? Stop talking about it!”

The above comment, taken from a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace, partially sums up what I’m talking about. Please, oh please!, would y’all black Muslims just stop talking about that damned race thing!…

…Unless of course you want to talk about Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, or any other place on the earth that’s been colonized, brutalized, or terrorized by whites. And yet for all of its obviousness, many if not most non-Black Muslims refuse to look white supremacy squarely in the eye. Is it because non-black Muslims do not want to insult whites as a whole, painting them with the same broad brush many whites paint them with? Is it further complicated because some of them see themselves as (or long to be) white? Further investigation may be necessary to divulge the answer.

What I do know, personally, after careful observation, is that non-black (and a few black!) Muslims are going to have to make an important decision: either Malcolm — the real Malcolm — was opposed to white supremacy (which is not concomitant to being opposed to white people!), a.k.a., racism, meaning that they too should be equally committed to combating white supremacy (the true villain we all have been battling these long centuries including white people!) or find another cultural figure to appropriate because we’d like our brother back. For without a doubt, one cannot have Malcolm Little, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — رحمه الله تعالى — without talking about white supremacy.