By Isra Ibrahim
On January 27, President Trump instituted his promised “Muslim ban,” an executive order prohibiting all non-citizens from 7 majority Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria—from entering the United States. It is important to note that this list was based off of President Obama’s 2015 Visa Waiver Improvement Program and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which limited Visa waivers for anyone coming from the aforementioned countries, designated as “areas of concern.”
This Islamophobia was able to so easily evolve from liberal to conservative president because it is integral to the anti-Black structure of this society that both maintained. The equivalence between “Muslim,” “Brown,” and “terrorist” allows for imperialist wars abroad, but it also constructs a false reality disqualifying the black body from being a target of Islamophobic policies. The American empire benefits from this racial definition as it further justifies both its “War on Terror” while at the same time reinforcing that Black lives do not matter, even within Muslim spaces.
By understanding Islamophobia to be anti-Black, we can begin to unpack the very real erasure of the Black Muslim. This erasure is evident in the ways progressives and others protest against the “Muslim ban,” as well as in American Muslim discourse intra-communally. The separation of “Muslim” from “Black” is aided by anti-Black sentiment present in liberal spaces, and it is embraced by non-Black Muslims because it allows them to appeal to whiteness.
By embracing this separation, non-Black Muslims are able to place their bodies as an antithesis to Black ones. In returning to the mosques tomorrow, Black Muslims will be abused and patronized for this very reason. Muslim issues will be separated from Black issues and Black Muslims will be called upon for our undying solidarity and labor. Any attempt to combat Islamophobia without combating this separation not only means Black Muslims will still be in an abusive relationship with our white, Arab and Asian coreligionists, but also that Islamophobic violence will continue to build upon the separation between “Muslim” and “Black.”
Black people disappear from this discourse at the same point that “Muslim” becomes “terrorist.” This asserts the very critical need for Black Muslims to be the foremost faces in conversations about Islamophobia. Our very presence and leadership challenges anti-Black notions justifying a supposed synonymy between “Muslim,” “terrorist,” and “Brown,” helping to disrupt imperialist justifications for war abroad.
To fully combat Islamophobic violence, we must reject anti-Black imperialism altogether. While this “Muslim ban” is fought, we must acknowledge that all of this is done in an anti-Black land overlooked by a white colonizing power. Though it demands a rejection of non-Black Muslims’ claims to white society, Black organizing is in the interest of any true fight against Islamophobia.
To the Black Muslim: Your Muslim labor is Black labor. I write for you and my Black Sudanese and Somalian immigrant family who exist between the genocidal structures of anti-Black racism, Islamophobic violence, and xenophobic tactics. I write to the Black Muslim who must outperform their coreligionists on a “Muslimness scale” to combat an anti-Black order that has infested their own religious community. Fighting Islamophobia is a battle that can never be authentically won without us.
Isra Amin Ibrahim is a Sudanese-American and a junior on a pre-medical track at FIU. An active participant in the FIU community, she works to create interfaith events at FIU. She co-founded FIU’s first Muslim Chaplain Office of Multi-Faith and serves as a council member for Students for Justice in Palestine at FIU. Ibrahim aims to foster in her peers a greater awareness of the diversity of Muslim people and an understanding of how intersectionality is pivotal in promoting social change. She is also a member the Quantifying Biology in the Classroom (QBIC) program.