The Mis-Education of the Black Muslim

On my mind

The Black Muslim Psychology Conference was such a special gathering I was fortunate enough to attend a few weeks ago. The annual conference is a project of the Muslim Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia. This year’s theme was on The Mis-Education of the Black Muslim, exploring internalized oppression, knowledge of self, health, history and the development of Black/African Muslims in the United States. Overall, I was extremely impressed by the organization, direction and energy from everyone who was a part of this event. I’ve never been a part of a space like this where I could bring my full self and talk critically and honestly with other people about so many relevant issues. You can see the full agenda here for all the workshops and sessions. Next year’s theme and dates have already been announced, so don’t miss out!

Here are some of my takeaways from the weekend (which by no means does the conference justice):

  • The gap between imams and their communities is real: The first session I went to was a roundtable of a dozen or so black imams (American born and foreign born) from around the U.S. who talked about their background and journey into religious leadership. The point of this session was to create a conversation that doesn’t happen very often between leaders and the community and to challenge them to think about what issues matter to their community members. Unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising to hear some pretty narrow-minded views shared, particularly when it came to gender, sexuality, and politics, and they often stuck to answering questions from a strictly textual perspective instead of handling such delicate topics with grace and nuance. There wasn’t enough time to get everyone’s questions heard and with so many participants at the table, people couldn’t express themselves to the full extent or certain imams dominated the conversation. I hope there will be a continuation of this dialogue, so there will be opportunities for imams to connect on a meaningful level with the realities of being Muslim in the United States.

  • Love and intimacy in Islam: This was one of my favorite sessions held by Angelica Lindsey-Ali aka The Village Auntie and Quaiser Abdullah, that tackled the complacent Muslim courtship model and what needs to be done to build vulnerability, real intimacy and healthy relationships. For a lot of Muslims (and people in general), the basis for marriage is social, cultural and religious pressure, which is just a set up for failure. To reach a point of real intimacy in a relationship, they advised starting with psychological readiness (the ability to navigate or help someone get to where they need to be), then moving towards intellectual, experiential, emotional, and then the physical. There was so much more discussed, but I could write an entire newsletter on that. Email me if you want to chat more on this and please follow The Village Auntie.

  • Black Muslims need more support on college campuses: I heard from students who were frustrated with their experiences in Muslim Students Associations as a black Muslim and their Black Student Union/African Student Associations as a Muslim. Being at that lonely intersection of being marginalized and not having their struggles validated by either group pushed these amazing students to create their own affinity spaces at universities like Columbia, UPenn and Smith College. The students had to fight to get funding and support for their clubs and prove that it was necessary for their well-being and development and I’m so proud of them.

  • How to unlearn internalized anti-blackness: In one session we talked about how we learned to hate ourselves and how we learned to love ourselves. The ways in which we learned to hate ourselves were the expected: media, school, peers, history, racist people etc. but I loved hearing everyone share where they learned to love themselves and how they pass that on: self-affirmations, affirmations towards their children, the energy and positivity around Eid (#blackouteid), family and friends, learning about your history, creating supportive spaces like this conference, ceremonies like funerals and marriages, seeing black Muslims love on each other online and in person (we talked about how many of us don’t get salaams from other Muslims in public), and strengthening your relationship with God.

  • How concerned U.S. Muslims are about their place in society: The Pew Research Center released findings from their 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims. Check out the report for info on demographics and attitudes about politics, religion, identity, discrimination and more. Not surprisingly, there was a sharp difference between how U.S. black Muslims felt compared to U.S. Muslims of other races and how U.S. born versus foreign born Muslims felt about discrimination, identity and the direction of the country.


    What I’m noting

  • How Australia's "Most Publicly Hated Muslim” turned to YA fiction to heal // I remember coming across a clip of Yassmin Abdel-Magid debating an Australian politician about Islam, feminism and sharia on a live tv show. It was a viral Twitter moment and put Yassmin on a larger platform as an activist and speaker, but all of that fame made her a huge target of ugly hatred. Reading about her healing journey was incredibly inspiring.

  • How can we be responsible international travelers // Before you book that flight, check out this list of tips my friend Nashwah on how to be a more responsible and sustainable traveler.

  • The Crane Wife // I loved this story of finding happiness and validating one’s needs after a broken engagement with an emotionally abuse person. “There are worse things than not receiving love. There are sadder stories than this. There are species going extinct, and a planet warming. I told myself: who are you to complain, you with these frivolous extracurricular needs?”

  • American Wealth is Broken // “As an adult, I am thankful every day for how much my family sacrificed for my freedom. But I also know that, as a whole, black wealth is delicate, because for generations lawmakers and power wielders attempted to prevent African Americans from building it.” Set aside some time to read this compelling and personal exploration of the wealth gap in the United States.

  • The Issue With Meghan Markle’s Vogue Issue // I’m not a fan of monarchies, but I’m fascinated by Meghan Markle and how she’s navigating her new role as a “Woke Duchess.” This was a great critique of her guest editor role for Vogue’s September issue and the limits of her “radical” social justice, feminist activism.

  • Is Your Journalism a Luxury or Necessity // On what level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would you put the journalism you consume or produce? This piece was a great reminder of what journalists should think about when deciding what stories to cover and prioritize in order to serve a community’s needs.  

  • A media impact reading list // If you’re looking to learn more about what impact media can have on social change and community building, here are some reads to get you started. 

What you’re noting

  • Palestine + 100  // “It's an anthology of Palestinian science fiction writers! The theme is 100 years after Nakba, and it was published earlier this month. I just got it on Kindle to start reading (it's a little weird to order because you have to switch your Amazon country settings to UK first to be able to order either the hard copy or kindle version), but it seemed like an amazing initiative.” — Seher K.

That’s it for me. Mercury retrograde is officially over. How are you all feeling?? I for one am ready for some peace and quiet the rest of my summer. Also, keep sharing your links and favorite things!

Have a good weekend!

— Nesima