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Proudly Muslim and Black Report 2022

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By Sanna Hamid, BA History and International Relations.

The report has been described as ‘just the beginning’ of efforts to dismantle anti-blackness, create effective policy change, and develop a more equitable Muslim community.

Recently, the Muslim Council of Britain and Everyday Muslim Archive launched a report detailing the experiences of African and Caribbean Muslims in the UK. For over three years, alongside several other partner organisations, including SOAS, they have brought together academics, industry professionals and everyday people to explore this intersection of identities. For too long, Black Muslims, who make up 10% of British Muslims, have had their achievements and challenges side-lined, not really making it to mainstream media. The underlying issue being that Black Muslims face a combination of racism and Islamophobia, within Muslim communities and wider society. The aim of this report is to highlight the experiences of Black Muslims and bridge the gap between the communities.

When I was at the launch event for the report, at a trendy apartment block in Battersea, I was greeted warmly by one of the aunties featured in the report as soon as I entered the room. An impressive number of people have been involved in the creation of the report, including Lord Simon Wooley, who travelled for two hours from Cambridge to London to talk for 10 minutes! In his brief reflection with the audience, he mentioned the thing that stood out to him was the optimism of the contributors.

As the evening went on, the floor opened up for questions, and people from the audience started sharing personal stories. As they connected over shared experiences, the celebratory tone started shifting to one of expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. A comment was made by a panellist that there were “not enough Asians in the audience” for his liking. There were a few, but you could count them on one hand. I felt slightly uncomfortable for a second, but I quickly brushed the feeling because I knew he was right. Largely, the target audience for the report is British Muslims, of which the majority are South Asian. I wanted to ask, ‘But what are the solutions?!’ Yet for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to. So, I went home and read the hard copy gifted to me.

A few things stood out to me. Firstly, the impact of hostile immigration policy on Black Muslims. There were anonymous cases of people arriving on temporary visas, getting married and having children in the UK, to then be deported. There are growing concerns that the 2014 Immigration Act will enable what happened with the Windrush generation to happen again. With British citizenship itself being something to fight for, discrimination in other areas is not surprising.

Colourism in Arab and Asian communities has meant that it is not uncommon for Black Muslims to face racism in Islamic educational institutions. This means Black children face racism at every angle of the educational development, from within religious madrassas as well as British schools. In North London, the Nana Asmou supplementary school is an example of what is being done to combat this structural miseducation. Soukenya Osei-Bonsu, the founder of the Black Muslim Forum, believes that education is ‘the prevention and cure’. She is passionate about restoring the historical dignity of Black children, whose histories are so often reduced to conquest and enslavement. For religious institutions, proactively engaging with members of the Afro-Caribbean community for leadership opportunities, curriculum development and general vacancies is cited as a key takeaway.

Pregnancy mortality rates in the UK are five times higher amongst Black women than white women. These shocking stats were unpicked by six Black British Muslim women reporting on how the intersectionality of their faith and race created a unique discrimination. Insensitivity to privacy, dismissal of symptoms and delaying of treatment are common within all their stories.

Interestingly it is not just a UK problem. Across the pond in Toronto, a young Somali healthcare professional shared similar stories of racism in the workplace on the Digital Sisterhoodpodcast. Instances of being assumed to be a cleaner or not being trusted to carry out tasks she was qualified to do were commonplace.

For a while now, the media industry has struggled with diversity in the newsroom. AmandlaThomspson Johnson shared his experiences being one of the only Black journalists working for the Islam channel. Even though the channel’s largest audience was in Nigeria, there were few stories about Africa. He took the opportunity to pitch original content and from then on he has been writing without placing Europe at the centre. Visibility in the media for Black Muslims is one of the recommendations made at the end of the report.

The report has been described as ‘just the beginning’ of efforts to dismantle anti-blackness, create effective policy change and develop a more equitable Muslim community. Many contributors quoted the verse from the Quran, ‘O mankind! We created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. The most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is most righteous amongst you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things.’ 49:47. Just in time for Black History month in the UK, you can have a look at the full report too by searching for the ‘Proudly Muslim and Black’ report from the Muslim Council of Britain’s website.

Credits: Muslim Council of Britain

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