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Phoenix: “OH NO, Shariah Is Coming!” Cry Protesters Without A Cause

Phoenix_Mosque_Black_Lives_Matter

Top: “Peaceful protesters” Bottom: “Rioters”

Original guest article

By Hakeem Muhammad

Of the numerous protests that have been taking place across America the most notable has been the Black Lives Matter movement, which originated as a response to the systemic police brutality directed towards Black Americans. Of course, this serious social issue was completely ignored in a recent protest outside of a mosque in Phoenix, Arizona; wearing shirts that stated, “F*ck Islam,” armed protesters gathered outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

In the manifesto of the protest, the organizers stated, “Our enemy, that we are taking a stance against, is the precepts of sharia law and all it entails.” The protests in Phoenix included a contest in which participants drew derogatory and inflammatory pictures of the Prophet Muhammad. During a CNN interview with host Anderson Cooper, the protest organizer, Jon Ritzheimmer stated that he was motivated by not wanting to live in fear for his life, and that his children deserved a future.

​Yet what was the source of this man’s fear? Was he worried that police officers would mistake his children for criminals and shoot them? Was he concerned about living in a ghetto created by a history of racist housing policies? Or was he worried about being pulled over while driving because of his skin color? No, racial profiling and being pulled over without probable cause were not the source of his fear; he was concerned about the spread of “Sharia law” from Muslims, and believed it was time to take a stand against Islam and Muslims.

​Who should really be afraid—Blacks, who are still battling the continued legacy of racist laws (Black code and Jim Crow laws), which cause tangible problems in many areas of their lives and threaten their safety, or a protestor who is worried about Sharia being instated? The man was protesting something that hadn’t even happened!

​It has become common in Islamophobic discourse for individuals to express fear over the possibility of Sharia being imposed upon them, as if it is some sort of imminent existential threat to the so-called “free, enlightened world.” Yet history shows that African Muslim slaves—many of whom were scholars of Islamic law—were the ones harmed by dangerous laws (which were Eurocentric).

​In her book, “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas,” Sylviane A. Diouf notes that enslaved African Muslims entered into “a White Christian world determined to wipe out any trace of ‘paganism’ or ‘Muhammadanism.’” At the time, corporal punishment was a possible consequence of the open expression of the Islamic faith, resulting in Muslims keeping their faith as secretive as possible.

Diouf concludes, “All the conditions were thus present for a rapid disappearance of Islam in America, or even for its non-emergence.” Due to the strong persecution of Islam, its African adherents were robbed of the ability to pass their faith on to their descendants.

​Despite this, African Muslims attempted to preserve the core tenets of their faith. The first texts produced in America on Islamic law were created by an enslaved African, Bilali Muhammad, in Sapelo Island, Georgia. The Bilali document simply informed other enslaved Muslims of their various religious duties, such as purifying themselves before prayer, how and when to pray, and when to fast. Bilali Muhammad never had a hidden agenda to impose Sharia, not even when he fought in the War of 1812 on America’s side against the UK.

​The narrative of the slave Omar ibn Said recounts the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. He was forced to obey a cruel master, who punished him harshly for open expressions of his Islamic faith, including merely kneeling to pray. This persecution led to a newspaper boasting that a “Mohammedan” had converted to Christianity; yet contemporary research suggests that his conversion to Christianity was merely a survival strategy.

Later, when Omar ibn Said was much older, he wrote that he had largely forgotten his native tongue, as well as how to write Arabic in a grammatically correct manner, which was most likely due to lack of use. A fundamental part of his heritage had been robbed from him due to the imposition of Eurocentric law, which prevented him from using his own language and freely worshiping as he chose.

​It is ironic that, having such a history as the foundation of the United States, descendants of those who created such a cruel social system are now expressing fear regarding the possibility of Muslims imposing Sharia. Enslaved African Muslims had Eurocentric law violently imposed upon them, and have never imposed Sharia law upon non-Muslims.

The Global Imposition of Eurocentric Law

​Continuing with the theme of laws being imposed on peoples, take another actual instance of imposition: post-Enlightenment France actually colonized a Muslim society in Senegal while massacring local Islamic scholars. The French passed laws forbidding Muslims from making Hajj, which is a fundamental tenet of the faith. Contradicting the modern perceptions of Muslims as “violent terrorists,” the Senegalese Islamic scholar Ahmadou Bamba urged Muslims to engage in a pacifist struggle that included fasting and praying. Yet this was threatening enough to the French that they exiled Ahmadou Bamba. Today, he has over 3 million followers, far surpassing the devotees of various violent movements in the Muslim world.

​As with other law systems, Sharia is open to atrocious misuse and abuse as has been manifested in its application by modern extremist groups. Islamophobes associate Sharia with the Taliban, although their ranks consist of war refugees who are largely uneducated in Islamic law.

Women’s Rights

​Rather than denying women the right to an education, in Sokoto (a pre-Colonial West African society), a female scholar of Islamic law named Nana Asmau initiated a mass-education campaign for women. She cited Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, as an influence. Nana Asmau was a scholar of Islamic law and issued fatwas, such as one that declared the usage of tobacco as Haram (forbidden).

​Historian Jean Boyd declares that within Sokoto, “To deny women equal opportunity to develop their God-given talents was to challenge God’s will.” Nana Asmau is lauded even by non-Muslim African feminists, and is considered to be the precursor of modern feminism in Africa—even though she was a Muslim woman with an Islamic worldview.

​How did this society in which women had freedom to pursue knowledge end? By the colonialism of the British Empire, which imposed Eurocentric laws upon the indigenous people. While Islamic law in West Africa permitted women to have property rights, the British Empire’s law denied women this right, despite supposedly being a more “advanced” society!

A Big Distraction

​Throughout West Africa, Muslims were ruthlessly subjugated by a variety of repressive Eurocentric laws that forbade them from openly practicing their faith. In America, enslaved Africans had even stricter laws—they were denied the right to read or write, and as the women were considered property, the slave masters were free to rape them at will without penalty—and were systemically prohibited from passing Islamic teachings to their descendants.

​After slavery was abolished, Black code laws and the subsequent Jim Crow laws solidified White Americans’ place at the top of the social hierarchy. Even now, the legacy of years of discrimination remains. This is demonstrated by the fact that Black Americans are more likely to be victims of police brutality and racial profiling, and are more likely to live in impoverished neighborhoods.

​Protesters who have the time to organize themselves and protest outside of a mosque to express a fear about a foolish belief that Sharia is going to take away their rights need to learn about the very real problems of the world, including the systemic, structural racism that exist as a legacy of Jim Crow laws.

​These White men who protested about something that has not happened and enjoy White privilege have no idea what it’s like to be discriminated against based on race. Perhaps this supposed fear of Sharia is really a big distraction to prevent people from addressing the real serious issues: the legacy of Black code Jim Crow laws, which are interfering with citizens’ lives even today.

About the Author: Hakeem Muhammad is a 20-year old African-American Muslim who currently studies political science at West Georgia University. God willing, in the future he plans to study Islamic theology and be a positive force for social change. You can find him at his website www.hakeemmuhammad.com and on twitter at @hakeemtheroots.

Sources for further reading:

-Bilali Muhammad: Muslim Jurisprudist in Antebellum Georgia,

-Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, by Sylviane A. Diouf, award-winning historian.

-A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said(Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)

-Five Classic Muslim Slave Narratives by Muhammad A Al-Ahari

-Law as a Eurocentric Enterprise by Kenneth B. Nunn

-One Woman’s Jihad, Nana Asma, by Jean Boyd.

-Boyd, Jean (Editor); Mack, Beverly (Editor). African Historical Sources, Volume 9: Collected Works of Nana Asma’u: Daughter of Usman Dan Fodiyo, (1793-1864). East Lansing, MI, USA: Michigan State University Press, 1997. p 282

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  • Ilisha

    I was just talking to friends living in Egypt, and they were telling me about the chaos. It seems, in their view, about 1/3 of the Egyptians support Islamic parties, or what the West calls “Islamists.” About a quarter of the population supports Western secular liberal democracy. The remainder are common people who are inclined to believe whatever propaganda they hear.

    This kind of make up doesn’t bode well for democracy. Not to mention the incessant meddling from the West and the puppets in the Gulf. The West is NOT going to allow democracy in Egypt because that would mean losing control, right on Israel’s border. And if might give other Arabs funny ideas, seeing this large Muslim-majority country establishing genuine democracy.

    Also at this point, the Egyptians generally lack the necessary level of education and discipline. I would say in many ways, the West is successful because of the commitment to education and discipline, especially the British and the French. If you compare Egypt to Tunisia, Tunisia seems more organized and disciplined. The culture has been ravaged by the French, who also drained the wealth. But at least, it seems, the Tunisians took some of the good, in terms of establishing some order. We don’t really see that in Egypt. Not to mention there is a kind of “every man for himself” attitude, even in the marketplace.

    It seems many of the people who initially supported Sisi are having second thoughts. His popularity, according to my friends anyway, is past its zenith. It’s amazing how he’s ruling with an iron fist, like a petty dictator, and the West still backs him, having nothing much to say. So much for “human rights” and “freedom and democracy.” What matters is he keeps the status quo. If “Islamists” did the very same thing, smashing opponents with an iron fist–prison, harassment, even gunning people down–there would be outcries. But since it serves Western, Israeli, and Gulf interests, people just look the other way.

    There were people who said when Morsi came to power that if he managed to establish an “Islamist” government, it would cause people to turn to secularism. I’m not sure now the opposite isn’t true. Once again, a secular government is responsible for the tyranny and repression. With at least half the population leaning pro-Islamic parties, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

    I think even in Tunisia, the “progress” (from a Western viewpoint) is fragile. Not that I’m terribly familiar with the situation in Northern Africa. My visit to Tunisia was brief and I mostly depend on analysis from people I know who are living there. But this is what I’m hearing. I was especially interested in understanding why broad swaths of the Egyptian population seemed to be in love with Sisi. I’m still not clear on that, except he did (with a bit of help from his friends) bring some stability. The Gulf states mess with the economy to advance their interest. I heard oil prices spiked on the eve of the uprising that brought Sisi to power. Pinch the people economically, and regardless of their ideological leanings, they will tend to turn on the government. No one wants poverty, instability and chaos, obviously–so a strongman that can give you bread and security sounds like the best worst option, I think.

    But aside from economic interests–and disruption by militants–there is a general culture war raging. I don’t know anyone in Tunisia to even estimate the ratio of those supporting Islamic parties vs. secularist Western-leaning liberals vs. the mostly clueless. Without that information, it’s hard to assess. Meanwhile more and more people I talk to are disgusted by Western culture and decadence, which in the US seems be unraveling. I think less and less, the Western model is embraced. People see the social decay and think twice about tossing in their lot. But that may just be the bias of the people I’m talking to, as unfortunately, I don’t have the opportunity to explore the landscape in any meaningful way myself. I just know if you have substantial factions lining up on opposite sides, with somewhat incompatible notions of social engineering, you’re set up for a struggle. Add to the mix foreign meddling, and you have Egypt.

  • Mehdi

    This gesture is also beautiful, raising money to help rebuild the burnt black churches
    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/7/us-muslim-groups-launch-fundraiser-to-rebuild-burned-black-churche.html

  • The greenmantle

    No I think they are deluded and frankly sad . like you .
    As for your suggestion that you follow the the understanding and practice of the companions of the Prophet (SAW), Have you read Peshawar Nights by Sultanul-Waizin Shirazi most enlightening

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    You assume you follow Allahs way ? Then why havent you killed yourself yet . Or are you just one of those whoes job it is to encourage other suckers while you bask in refected glory

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle
  • The greenmantle

    I am amused at the lack of trolls in this discussion :-)

    Sir David

  • Mehdi

    To a certain extent you have a point, even if I think ISIS is much closer to the bloody nature of the khmer rouge, the sendero luminoso (lightened path in Peru), or the Lord’s liberation army. There is indeed a double objective of destabilizing Tunisia in light of its recent achievements (new consitution, Al Nahda islamic party participating in coalitions and openly accepting to leave government following democratic elections), this is why attacked Tunisia’s tourism twice to hit its economy. They also hope for a backlash reaction as you rightly said.
    Beyond all of that, back to when I wrote about the Arab spring, I had hopes that nothing would ever be the same and that the politization of the youth would provide enough momentum for change. Now I have to admit I’m horrified and worried, the current chaos in the middle East, the sectarian escalation in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Yemen is slowly destroying any prospects or hopes for a positive change. When hope fades, when there is chaos, violence becomes an attractive alternative, this is one of the lessons of Cambodia, and this is why I’m worried.
    How to stop that? Well it’s about understanding how to bring back hope to youth and giving them the sense that their life matters and that they have a future.

  • The greenmantle

    The more I think about it the more and more I am struck by the similarity beween Isis and the Red Brigades . The attack in Tunisia has two purposes it seems to me
    Firstly an attack on the economy of Tunisia leading to poverty and anarchy to be exploited by local cardres
    Secondly an attack on western tourists leading to “revenge” attacks on Muslims in the West and Western Govt ” crack downs” leading to further recruits of disenchanted muslims on line by grooming ( similar to child sex grooming ). Resulting in new cannon fodder / humvee drivers and brood mares/ slave girls/ wives for the new never neverland Caliphate .
    As for how to stop it ? The only way is respect and saying no to hate it doesn’t matter if its Pam Geller or the Caliph both need to be challenged and shown to be the evil manipulators they are .

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    Bravery too is often found and should be celibrated more . I hope the UK govt hands out some awards to recognise those folks .

    Sir David

  • Mehdi

    I don’t think it’s about religion in here, it’s about the person’s heart and mind, and I think you have similar values with them. Kindness is universal, unfortunately, hatred too.

  • The greenmantle

    If I ever become a muslim its that sort of muslim I would like to be :-)

    Sir David

  • Mehdi

    I saw that, God bless them, it doesn’t reduce the extent of the tragedy and the outrage against that murderer, but wonderful people indeed.

  • The greenmantle
  • The greenmantle

    Those who live by the sword die by the sword .
    Lessons from History 101

    Sir David

  • Hamza Smith-Marshall

    Ahh. so you are also now handing down permission to people as to who “understands” and who doesn’t. Tell me who gave you this authority to interpret anything for the rest of the world and to ridicule and insult those who don’t agree with you.

    Or is it just your self-proclaimed “superiority” in understanding everything.

  • Reynardine

    And little pin heads.

  • The greenmantle

    Inability to understand religion and belief that the gun will solve everything .

    Sir David

  • moraka

    Anders Gravers (head of SIAD (stop the islamization of Denmark)) ran a money scheme. Tommy Robinson founder of EDL ran a money scheme. Quilliam Foundation leaders ran a money scheme. Jon Ritzheimmer runs a money scheme. I am starting to see a pattern!

  • jkings

    I don’t really understand the mentioning of Black Lives Matter protest in conjunction with the anti-Islam protest. Are you saying that the Black Lives Matter movement is what people should only be concentrating on? The reason I ask this is because my entire country has been focused on these issues and protest in some way or another for a very long time now. Every day on the news these protest and different cases of Police abuse have been heavily discussed and went through in every way possible. I understand that you do not share the views of the anti-Islam protestors, this makes perfect sense to me. However, if you are in the “now” with America, we have been force feeding ourselves at least once a day and sometimes several times a day regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. I have listened to some of these protestors and some of them are saying that, they are concerned about Sharia Law because there was an attempt to implement it in Texas recently by 2 individuals after a cartoon was drawn. They also said they are aware of the threat by ISIS saying that they will bring Sharia Law to the United States. Being as we have a betrayer president who may as well be on the wrong side, anything is possible for ISIS at this point. I do not stand among the protestors and I do not support their approach to this. I do want people to stand up to individuals who are brainwashed into wanting to kill people over a cartoon, but that is because anyone in their mom could decide to be a brat and draw Muhammad. Enough people in the West view Muhammad as a gang leader who brainwashed billions of people into obeying him and his companions. Some people in the West believe that if Muhammad never showed his face to the world we would all be holding hands and having picnics. Personally I feel that even without Muhammad’s “adventures” the world would still have things to fight about, it just wouldn’t stand on the verge of collapse so soon. I apologize on the behalf of these Americans for not having class though. We can discuss our differences and even stand up to the views of radicals without saying cuss words and being tasteful. This is very difficult to do for some with regard to Islam because to some the punishment of drawing Muhammad is death, (which to some is considered extreme), and all this interrupted their NASCAR afternoon you know.

  • jkings

    What do they have in common again?

  • Dr.S

    ‘F*** Islam’ protester now thinks the religion is ‘beautiful’ after he was invited into a Mosque and ‘took a second to listen’

    A protester who stood against Muslims at a ‘Draw Mohammed’ demonstration last week has had a change of heart – and now says the religion is ‘beautiful’.
    Jason Leger from Phoenix, Arizona, wore a t-shirt with ‘F*** Islam’ written across the front as armed activists created an ugly scene outside a mosque on Friday.
    But when he was invited inside the Islamic Community Center, he admitted it was a ‘beautiful thing’ after talking to worshipers and watching them in prayer.

    He now insists he would never offend them again

    ‘When I took a second to actually sit down and listen to them, and actually enter their mosque, and go in and watch some of their prayers, it is a beautiful thing, and they answered some of the questions that I had

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3110396/Protester-wore-F-Islam-T-shirt-armed-anti-Muslim-Draw-Mohammed-demonstration-thinks-religion-beautiful-invited-Mosque.html#ixzz3cB7ojnbt

  • cmyfe .

    EA is launching MulSims 5 soon.

  • HerrSkolly

    I believe you may be speaking of radical muslins – those crazy cotton fabrics (so radical)!!!!!68!!!!!!!

  • Reynardine

    I believe mulsim is a lightweight cotton fabric commonly used for summer curtains.

  • JD

    You mean these guys …

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