NAACP President and Muslim Pioneer

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Imam Kashif Abdul Karim met with Imam Muhammad Ansari First Muslim President of the NAACP Hartford Chapter {Senior Muslim Pioneer Historian} to chat briefly about Islam in Hartford and the NAACP.

Kashif: How long have you been president of NAACP?

Ansari:  2010

Kashif: How long have you been a Muslim associated with the African American Community.

Ansari: 1960

Kashif: During this time period have you found similarities between African American Muslim and the NAACP.?

Ansari: Yes. Both organizations were built on addressing the civil rights of people of color. In Islam all people are equal and should be treated as such. We are all the children of Adam, from a single soul. We’re taught there’s no superiority of one race over another. That’s what the NAACP advocates also.

Kashif: How did Islam start in Hartford?

Ansari:   It began in Hartford with Malcolm x, with the Nation of Islam with a civil rights focus. So many people work seeking solutions to deal with the abuses facing African Americans. The Nation also addressed the lack of good paying jobs and other inequalities. When Malcolm X came to address the Moorish Science Temple many people invited him back to their homes to discuss these concerns and solutions. He emphasized we should unify and be dependent of ourselves and not of others. This appealed to us especially with Malcolm X leading the charge.  This resulted in eventually the start of temple #14.

Kashif: So we see Although there is a faith base in our origin as Muslim African Americans the Civil rights struggle played a major part in our origin. Is this true for the NAACP. It seems similar

Ansari: NAACP was founded in 1909 due to the oppression of African Americans. We were dealing with lynching across America especially in the south. 50, 60 a year. A white social worker, Mary White Operton, WEB Dubois and others met to discuss the need to do something to stop this and the NAACP was born. You’re right, it started in a way, in the same way, a way to fight oppression.

The Nation of Islam however advocated separation at the time. If we can’t get along we should separate and get our own. This was before the civil right movement.

Overtime. We began a transition towards orthodox islam with imam WD Mohammad. We made a move toward Inclusivity of of all humanity, and a focus on religious rights, civil right issues and human right.

We also saw the NAACP transitioning too. The organization that was making Laws was now trying to enforce laws. We made laws against discrimination on the books but that doesn’t mean discrimination didn’t exist.

Kashif: We find discrimination in the media as well, especially among African Muslims not being able to address our opinions, can you address that.

Ansari: That bothers me. We find in our stories more truth. No favoritism towards one side or the other. You would find the opinions not often against America, because this is our home. The media tends to want to solicit the input from the foreign Muslims. Some immigrants who come to America from other countries have their feelings about this country that are not the same as Muslims who have been living here their whole life or of African Americans. Some foreign Muslims align first with their country before ours. It depends whom the media selects. If you pick a person to interview from the country that was just devastated his story is going to be very different from mine. You will therefore get a picture if islam with sentimental attachments. The representation of islam is short-sided when the African American side is left out. It does a dis-service to everyone.