Where do I fit in a world where all the Muslims are Arab and all the Blacks are Christian? I am a Black American Muslim woman, one of many. I don’t say this to negate the experiences of Arab Muslims or first/second generation immigrants but I am the descendant of enslaved people brought here from Africa, many of whom brought with them the religion I would one day call my own – Islam.
A more urgent national conversation has been happening about Islam and Muslims since the presidential election season. With an attempted and unconstitutional anti-Muslim travel ban, anti-Sharia protests, and everyday reports of hate crimes and violence against Muslim people, our country has become more and more hostile and less and less informed. Calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States, to proclamations that Muslims should leave as an issue of national security is missing the historical fact that Muslims, specifically Black Muslims have always been here. We too are American, we too are Muslim, we too are Black and it is in those intersections that we experience hypervisibility and simultaneous invisibility.
I feel hypervisible as a Black Muslim who is, more often than not, the only one in any given space outside of the Mosque. Growing up in the Hartford area, I spent most my time around other Black people, most who identified as Christian and all who tossed confusing side eyes towards my refusal to eat pork at their cookouts. I, looking at them with confusion as to why they would identify with the religion of the oppressor, they felt superior to me and I to them.
You see, Black Muslims have always had a place in this country and yet fall to the margins when talking about blackness and when talking about Islam. We see it in the erasure of Islam as a religion during enslavement and the erasure of Muslim leadership during the Civil Rights Movement. We exist on the margins of the margins, that is to say, we are on the fringe of society, both existing within and outside of the America we all have come to know.
Because of our intersections, we are at risk two-fold – both as Black people and as Muslims. It is up to our Muslims siblings, our Christian brethren, our friends in the resistance, to stand with us as we fight injustice, dehumanization, and Islamophobia in the U.S. and beyond. You must see us, stand with us, fight alongside us for freedom, justice, and visibility.
The more invisible we are, the easier it is to look away when we are being harmed. I urge you not to look away. I urge us all to be invisible no more.