The Message International Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine published by ICNA. What you find in ‘The Message magazine’ is a universal publication for the whole of Muslim community. Echoing the concerns and ideas pertaining to Muslims in America, this non-profit publication is a forum for the youth searching their Islamic identity in a western land.

Mahbubur Rahman

Published on December 31st, 2014 | by Dr. Mahbubur Rahman


Racism After Ferguson: Where Do We Go From Here?

Following the fatal shooting in Ferguson on August 2014 of an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, by white police officer Darren Wilson, protests were sparked in Ferguson. The protests spread nationwide in November when a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Wilson and then the soon-to-follow decision not to indict the Staten Island police officer who put a chokehold on Eric Garner, resulting in his death. The killing of Michael Brown, along with other similar incidents throughout the country, has heated up a debate about racism, excessive force by police officers, and the targeting of young black men. Some Americans are asking the hard questions: Where do we go from here? How can we stop this heinous extrajudicial killing of African American males by law enforcement in the streets of our cities? More fundamentally, how can we as a nation address racism and improve race relations in America?

Many Americans now recognize what African Americans have been  saying for a long time –  that there is institutional  racism and there is  still much work to do…”

A Guardian columnist, Isabel Wilkerson, has recently noted, “Not terribly long ago in a country that many people misremember, if they knew it at all, a black person was killed in public every four days for often the most mundane of infractions, or rather accusation of infractions – for taking a hog, making boastful remarks, for stealing 75 cents. For the most banal of missteps, the penalty could be an hours-long spectacle of torture and lynching. No trial, no jury, no judge, no appeal. ” While America has come a long way from that horrific stage in its history, one wonders if we are regressing. How is it possible that coming well into the new century, the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynching during a time when blacks were denied due process and whites discriminated against and victimized them with impunity?

Isabel Wilkerson has also said, “ Even though white Americans outnumber black Americans fivefold, black people are three times more likely than white people to be killed when they encounter the police in the US, and black teenagers are far likelier to be killed by police than white teenagers.” Imam Khalid Griggs has rightly observed: “Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri are, unfortunately, not aberrations, but social barometers of the relationship of the law enforcement community to African American males nationwide. Urban enclaves have too often been reduced to being incubators for the Prison/Industrial Complex and its voracious appetite to incarcerate Black males.”

The tragedy in Ferguson makes it imperative that Americans of all races and backgrounds call for national action to address the issues of systemic racism and police profiling – issues that the shooting of Michael Brown brought to the surface. That these issues have been simmering for a long time is without question, and we must be willing to confront racism, whether overt or hidden away under the cover of political correctness. A position paper on racism put out by the Australian Psychological Society describes the challenge: “Modern racism still involves a rejection of minority groups and discrimination, but is now framed in terms of values and ideology rather than a straightforward dislike. Research has demonstrated that the modern variant of racism is more insidious, entrenched, resilient and difficult to counteract.”

If there is any good to have come out of the heartbreaking Ferguson incident is that many Americans now recognize what African Americans have been saying for a long time – that there is institutional racism and there is still much work to do to create a society in which people ‘’will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’’ It is encouraging that President Obama has issued an executive order to establish oversight of the increasing militarization of police departments; it also calls for funding for body cameras for officers.

We urge all Americans to contact their elected officials to support passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) and any similar legislation that addresses unconstitutional actions by law enforcement. We also call upon the Department of Justice to complete its independent investigation of the killing of Michael Brown in a transparent and thorough manner. We strongly feel that people of conscience in all walks of life must work together to seek an end to racial profiling and the injustices perpetrated against racial, ethnic, or religious minorities.

Last but not least, we would like to remind everyone that racism is primarily a moral and spiritual problem. The pathology of racism therefore requires a spiritual remedy at both the individual and the collective levels. We pray that our fellow citizens recognize this. Then we might all open our minds and hearts to the spiritual cure Islam freely offers. The Qur’an declares: “O Mankind, We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you” (Qur’an 49:13). This is indeed divine wisdom that can break the vice grip of racism. The quicker we recognize this and submit ourselves to it, the better for all of us.


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About the Author

Dr. Mahbubur Rahman is the Editor of The Message magazine.

  • IftikharA

    Against European Muslims

    A new report from Amnesty
    International has found that some European Muslims are regularly denied
    employment and educational opportunities because of widespread cultural and
    religious stereotypes that lead to discrimination against them.

    report, “Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe,”
    examines the lives of Muslims in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Spain, and the

    It found that individuals who wear specific forms of dress,
    like a head scarf, or other symbols associated with Islam, do worse with jobs
    and schooling because of prejudicial attitudes and legal impunity in these
    European states.

    The report documents several cases of discrimination and
    takes issue with the legal environments that allow such practices to go
    unchecked. It found problems caused by a lack of laws, such as in Switzerland,
    as well as laws that Amnesty International says help institutionalize
    stereotypes, like bans on certain forms of Islamic dress.

    The European
    Union’s Employment Framework Directive, which applies to member states, holds
    that different treatment on the grounds of religion or belief amounts to
    discrimination. Domestic legislation in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and
    Spain mirrors that stance.

    But Marco Perolini, Amnesty’s expert on
    discrimination and the report’s author, says the rights group found lax
    implementation of those laws and some places where no laws exist at

    “What we found is that in some countries, such as France, the
    Netherlands, and Belgium, this existing legislation is not appropriately
    implemented, and this is actually of course a concern,” Perolini

    “On the other hand, there are other countries — specifically,
    Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union — where there is not
    comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation,” he adds. “In Switzerland, there
    is no specific legislation prohibiting discrimination on the ground of religion
    or belief in the area of employment.”

    Amnesty says employers are allowed
    to discriminate on the basis that religious or cultural symbols could upset
    their clients or contradict their company’s corporate

    ‘Muslims OK If Not Too Visible’

    The report
    profiles Amel, from Paris, an experienced social worker who wears a head scarf
    and has had difficulty finding work.

    In an interview to become a counsellor to
    victims of domestic violence, the employer told her that she couldn’t wear her
    head scarf because, “How would you be able to convince a female Muslim victim of
    domestic violence that she needs to remove her head scarf in order to find
    employment and be financially independent?”

    That attitude has been
    reinforced by the debate in several European countries — Austria, Belgium,
    Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland,
    and the United Kingdom — over whether to prohibit full-face veils in public.
    France and Belgium have already done so.

    Perolini says such laws “violate
    the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion or
    belief for Muslims in Europe.”

    “What we are putting into question is the
    compliance of general bans with international human rights standards,” he

    The report also looks at European public schools and concluded that
    here, too, laws against Islamic dress are hurting Muslims.

    Girls denied
    the right to wear the head scarf will leave school rather than comply with the
    ban, the report suggests.

    Amnesty International is calling on European
    governments to more strongly enforce existing laws and find ways to counter
    negative Muslim stereotypes and prevailing attitudes — what Perolini describes
    as “a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is all right
    and Muslims are OK so long as they are not too visible.”


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