Photos of George Floyd displayed on the side of a building at Fells point in Baltimore City. PHOTO CREDIT: FATIHA BELFAKIR
The Islamic Community in Maryland (ICM) is coming up with series of educational programs and seminars to both promote justice and solidarity with the African American community and to condemn the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Imam Chad Earl, ICM Director of Religious and Youth Affairs, told the Baltimore Times that George Floyd wasn’t killed in a vacuum, and it is the duty of the Muslim community to understand whether or not it is making any sort of difference or just benefiting from status quo. As he Black community leads this movement, Earl stated that the Muslim community must be willing to listen and learn how it can best help out as allies for justice.
“Calling for justice is at the core of our faith, whether we as Muslims understand it or not. We are taught, “Help your brother whether he is oppressed or the oppressor.” When asked how one helps an oppressor, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Stop him from oppressing.” Justice is a goal of Islam,” said Earl. “Even if at some level we understand that only true and complete Justice will happen in the Afterlife, we must work together, amongst ourselves, and with other likeminded people to stand up for those who need our help to the best of our abilities.”
In the aftermath of the most recent assault on black lives, the United States of America finds itself confronted with a devastating global pandemic and by persistent legacy of racism. Police violence against African Americans has once again become the subject of national debate as millions of devastated Americans gathered throughout the States to denounce police brutality and racial bias after the death of George Floyd. Many people have been outraged by the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others who had their potential stolen.
According to Mapping Police Violence, one of the few organizations that track information on police violence and use of force, more than 1,000 unarmed people died as a result of police harm between 2013 and 2019. About the third of them were black.
ICM is working on a series of educational programs for the community in the coming weeks and months such as workshops, lectures, khutbas, which will be held in an effort to better connect with and support local Masaajid which are predominantly African Americans.
Earl stated that the ICM is also studying its own demographics inside and will be looking at the causes and cures for any lack of participation from minority segments of the community, both African-American and others, so that it can build and maintain a community which lives up to the Prophetic model of uplifted and honoring humanity and its diversity.
“Given the fact that we’re physically unable to gather in our houses of worship and elsewhere, we aren’t able to measure the community’s reaction as well as we normally would. Yet, our community is very diverse, and that
diversity manifests itself in a variety of responses,” said Earl.
Earl explained that there is a large portion of the Muslim community, especially African-American Muslims and second and third-generation America Muslims from immigrant backgrounds who are very aware of the history and reality of Black life in America, and who are excited to be part of a movement of people from all across the country calling for real, systemic change.
“There are others in our community who understand some of that history, but are not particularly involved in calling for change, either due to a sense of the problem being bigger than they are able to tackle, inexperience in such movements, or even due to fear for themselves or their families if they get involved in protests or rallies or other activities,” said Earl. “There is also a segment of the community, although much smaller, which really doesn’t
understand the depth of the problem and who read race relations in America through the lens of their own experiences as immigrants,” added Earl.
Nawal Karsha, a Somali Muslim immigrant residing in Maryland for over twenty years, said that she is horrified and beyond angry of what’s happened to George Floyd and to what the African American community had to go through.
“One president after another promises the African American people that justice and equality would be his way and nothing would comprise his mission and
vision from becoming a reality, but all this leads to more of same oppressive
attitudes and system,” said karsha. “This country is brutal to the African American people, equality to [the] African American is just a myth.”