In the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, questions around structural and systemic racism in the United States have spread in many other parts of the world. The protests in support of Black Lives Matter have taken different forms, while some denounced racism in general and reflected a little on their country’s history with it. Very few questioned what racism is in their own contexts.
The topic of racism is often a cause of ‘discomfort’ and has over the past thirty years, developed to be one of those things people say that we have collectively moved on from. A worse response is that it is an American problem, and we do not have a history of it. While in fact, the United States is not the only country that had slavery up until the twentieth century or structural legal discrimination that continues until today.
In North Africa, the issue of racism remains untouched, unexplored, and unacknowledged. There is a sore lack of acknowledgment of the history of the region with slavery and the continued racist cultural practices. Many Muslims in the regions would use Islam as a proof that racism does not exist in their lives, some would go as far as saying that this is another imported issue from Western civilisation and ideologies west. In many countries the term ‘Slave’ in Arabic is still used to describe a Black person, African migrants working in the region are subjected to dehumanizing laws that are openly racist and undiscussed in the day to day lives of many Muslims. There is an erasure of the Islamic wars and slavery across the African continent and the Islamic communities globally
Decolonisation of all of Africa is still an on-going process, the hegemony and dominance of previous colonisers not entirely rooted out. While the work of equalising power relations and resolving conflicts that are residues of colonial divisions is vital. It is also important to decolonise racism and anti-blackness as concepts and practices. African Muslims are far from being a homogenous group, their diversity is rooted in their cultural backgrounds which often determines their religious affiliations. This makes the task of acknowledging and decolonising racism is quite challenging.
This is where the African Muslim diaspora could play a huge role in fostering conversations of solidarity and acknowledgment, from a place of reflection of a shared issue that has various perspectives. To end the politics of divide and conquer which has plagued us for so long, because while the issue has many facets and challenges. The end goal is quite clear, and that is to end all racial hierarchy that harms all people of colour.
The topic is under-researched and that can be one of the avenues in which many writing projects can be planned. There is also an unspoken tension between the diaspora of various political views, campaigns organized in collaboration with civil society organizations of their respective countries can foster relationships and introduce fresh ideas and perspectives into the issue. The diaspora in many instances has access to channels of advocacy, applying pressure to change or abolish laws and policies that continue to discriminate against people of colour.
The anti-racist liberation movements across history have been inspirational in their creativity, continuity but mostly interdependence and coalition building. And that is a part that is now needed more than ever, to rally together around Black lives through our politics, work, and families. To build coalitions around awareness, support of the various projects and campaigns, and to have support groups in facing the issue at hand which will undoubtedly receive backlash and threats from White Supremacists.
Photo credit: Alexis Tsegba