• Expert By Experience

#blacklivesmatter – South Asians are complicit in the f*ckery and this needs to stop

Written by Arooj Khan

It is our own personal duty to recalibrate, to shed our cultural baggage and make room for the voices, needs, wellbeing and overall existence of our Black brothers, sisters and contemporaries.

As a South Asian Muslim woman, I am calling on the entire South Asian diaspora to actively show unwavering commitment in undoing the anti-Black racism that underpins the western society that we reside in.

Equally, we also need to urgently dismantle the legacy of colonialism within our cultures by actively undoing anti-Blackness within our own communities.

Anti-Black racism is a toxic force that exists in almost every area of South Asian cultures - it’s something we encounter on a daily bases. Anti-Black racism comes in many forms, sometimes it’s overt such as the time a cousin was describing why she didn’t like London, her first reason was that there were too many Black people.

Other times it’s hidden and insidious, such as the time when I told my dad that my university lecturer was Caribbean – despite residing in London for the best part of fifty years, his face was painted in complete astonishment.

It makes me feel uncomfortable recalling these memories, however, it’s a privilege to recall these memories without being the subject to such comments and reactions.

Looking back I wish I had done more to confront such attitudes (like many other South Asians), while I cannot go back in time, I can now raise my voice to be a true ally to Black communities across the globe.

Anti-Black Racism perpetuated by the South Asian Muslim communities is insidious, toxic and dangerous. Let’s be real about that.

One of the most common examples of anti-Black racism amongst South Asian Muslims is the assumption that a Black Muslim is a revert. In Islam, we proudly proclaim that a Black man is no greater than a white man and a white man is no greater than a Black man, and we tell anybody who will listen that Bilal Ibn Rabah, a Black slave freed by the Prophet (pbuh), was the first person to make the call to prayer.

However, if this constant rhetoric is not accompanied by action such as creating legitimate space for our Black brothers and sisters within the mosque, then we simply begin to adopt a saviour complex of our own. All of which does nothing to address the anti-Blackness within our community.

As a Muslim, I truly believe Islam is powerful, however, there needs to be greater education and awareness about Islam and its historic relationship with Black people and the African continent. Take for example the racist Ottoman slave trade where white, predominantly Balkan slaves were more financially valuable than Black Nubian slaves.

I struggle to find a solid religious justification for such inhumane behaviour let alone practices.

While raising awareness around how Islam has been manipulated by historic empires, there also needs to be a greater push to highlight and platform invaluable contributions by Black Muslims so that they are not historically erased. One such figure includes Sumayyah bint Khayyat, the mother of one of the prophet’s earliest companions and one of the first converts to Islam.

We also need to educate South Asian Muslims who practice Islam from an Arab-centric lens that Islam reached East Africa before it even left Mecca, and that Timbuktu was an intellectual powerhouse, containing manuscripts that paved the way in astronomy, mathematics and philosophy at that time.

Outside of religion, specific to the South Asian experience in the UK, we also need to educate our communities on how Black liberation has helped pave the way for South Asian liberation against racism. Especially in the context that we were the second people of colour to enter en masse to the UK in the 20th Century post-Windrush.

The achievements by Black liberation which have directly benefitted South Asians range from inquiries into police brutality, challenging the Colour Bar and even Notting Hill Carnival - a space that was the first regular public display of black or brown culture.

So the next time our aunties, uncles or whoever decides to make an anti-Black comment, remind them that their relatively privileged position in society exists largely due to the anti-racist achievements by Black people.

Now is the time we need to speak - up because prejudices need to be questioned and quashed. Even if they result in uncomfortable conversations.

So remember the next time our cousins pass round the pot of Jolene, we need to throw it away because brown women bleaching their skins in order to increase their proximity to whiteness upholds notions of white beauty and denigrates Black beauty.

We need to silence shadeism and the ritual adoration of whiteness, white skin and white success.

We need to normalise the existence of Black bodies in spaces of power in order to counteract the brutalism enacted against Black bodies.

We need to platform Black knowledge and call out the systemic epistemicide within our educational institutions. We need to create spaces where Black intellect can reach its true potential without having to justify its existence in a space reserved for the white elite.

This is not to homogenise our experiences or to make the crass assumption that all people of colour “sHaRe RaCiSt ExPeRiEnCes”.

Rather this is a reminder that Black Lives Matter and our silence and adoption of white western racist tropes about our Black brothers and sisters makes us complicit and guilty in upholding the endemic white supremacy that underpins our society.

With all of this mind in I would urge you to continue taking action by supporting the many causes below:

Sign the following petitions

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Justice for Belly Mujinga

Justice for Breonna Taylor

Justice for Shukri Abdi

Donate to one of the following organisations

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund organized by Philonise Floyd Support Minnesota Freedom Fund on GiveMN Black Lives Matter Black Lives Matter UK Stephen Lawrence Foundation Stand Up To Racism The Red Card The Network for Police Monitoring