In the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody, dozens of Muslim organisations in the United States have come together to call for reform to policing practices and to support Black-led organisations.
“The victimization of unarmed Black Muslims has a long and troubling history,” said a coalition statement signed by more than 90 civil rights, advocacy, community and faith organisations and released on Monday. “As American Muslims, we will draw on our diversity, our strength, and our resilience to demand these reforms because Black lives matter.”
Proposed changes include prohibiting racial profiling and manoeuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, such as chokeholds; making it legally easier for prosecutors to hold law enforcement accountable; and redirecting police funding “into community health, education, employment and housing programs”.
The statement also calls for the establishment of “a federal standard that use of force be reserved as a last resort, only when absolutely necessary” and after exhausting all reasonable options.
“These demands are a floor for our groups and not a ceiling. Some would call for much more,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, one of the statement’s co-conveners.
“We’re also urging all American Muslims to call their members of Congress right now and to demand a stronger response from them.”
— Muslim Advocates (@MuslimAdvocates) June 15, 2020
Like members of other faith groups, many Muslims in the US have joined in the outrage unleashed after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck.
Groups from multiple denominations across faiths have publicly called for action against racism and aligned with the goals of peaceful demonstrators.
In street protests, statements, sermons and webinars, US Muslims have rallied against racism and discussed reforms.
“Muslim American organizations are committed to advocating at all levels to put an end to excessive use of force which has led to the murders of countless Black Americans,” said Iman Awad, legislative director of Emgage Action, one of the statement’s signatories. “Our message is that we will continue to fight but most importantly uplift the work being done by our Black leaders.”
Muslims in America are ethnically and racially diverse and Floyd’s death has also reinvigorated conversations about the treatment and representation of Black Muslims in their own faith communities.
“I’m hopeful and heartened by the number and diversity of groups that have signed on,” said Kameelah Rashad, president of Muslim Wellness Foundation, also a co-convener. “That says to me that there’s at least recognition that we as a whole can no longer separate Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, surveillance, and violence. People are reconciling with the notion that means our struggles are intertwined.”
Now, she said, is the time for action.
“It’s vital that non-Black Muslims develop a respect for the resilience and resistance of Black people.”
The statement said: “Black people are often marginalized within the broader Muslim community. And when they fall victim to police violence, non-Black Muslims are too often silent, which leads to complicity.”
Moving forward, American Muslim communities must make space for Black-led organisations, Awad said.
Also, “we must commit to having leadership positions which reflect the diversity of our faith community,” she said. “We cannot be successful until we have all voices represented at all levels within our organizational structures and our communities must do better.”
The statement said the demands represent only a “down payment” on needed reforms.
“If this deep-seated discrimination cannot be done away with through reform, then these systems will need to be abolished and re-imagined entirely,” the statement said.