Response to Responses on Thoughts

I will begin in, with and by the name of Allah. We praise Him and pray that the best benedictions and peace be upon our master, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). And then we proceed:

This post is a reply I wrote to some comments on my last post, along with a couple additions. I want to first express a sincere thanks to Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali (may Allah preserve him) for both sharing the last post as well as encouraging the discussion that followed. After that, this is my response to responses on my thoughts.

I saw many different types of responses to the post entitled “Thoughts on the Current Discussion on Race”, and I appreciate all of those which were thoughtful and I think it best to address most of the points raised in a single post. I will begin by addressing some of the points regarding my blog first, and I will begin by saying, it isn’t anonymous. Not only is my bio. mentioned here on the blog and in several works here on the blog, there is also a sketch photo of me on the mission statement. I do not accept “anonymous” and would not expect others to accept it of me. As for the previous article, I mentioned in it that I usually don’t use this blog to share personal thoughts or information and I don’t ever share such private information, normally. However, it was heavy on personal anecdotes while being light on statistics or discussion of structural issues – My blog is small as is my online presence; I’m simply not very active online as there is too much work to do with my own family and in the community. Due to this, what I write is generally not meant to be academic in nature but more motivational. It is meant to encourage indigenous Muslims in their own identity and voice as confident Muslims capable of affecting change. With that said, I do believe that the theoretical content found in the last third of the previous post was the driving force behind the work; it was the aim for which it was written.

Also regarding the blog it general and the specific post under discussion, it certainly is not meant to be revisionist in nature. I look at what was said and build off of that. I can only look at the black and white of recorded words and share them…how these particular men thought or felt is not my area of expertise. I can only say what we have from their personal letters to friends or contemporaries regarding these issues. What I put in the post was not meant to revise what happened or to sugar coat any atrocities of history. Instead, I share classic American voices for a specific reason. In that post, however, I used their words to express the reality that what we find from history and what these men said in private is not always the same thing. Perhaps they acted according to perceived social standards while they were internally opposed to them. Or more often what is likely, perhaps it is the case that, much like today, we perceive to much power in an individual or position while failing to realize the monstrosity they are but a limb of.

There is certainly, as it was mentioned, much need for open and honest discussion of American history. However, as it was also mentioned, many such discussions are inherently loaded with emotions and must be entered upon, not dispassionately, but sincerely. We need to understand that there are many facets of the discussion and for every facet there are different points of view, and for every point of view there are individuals will different experiences, perspectives and emotions related to it. One reality that I sought to point out is that America is not just one thing and there always have been different realities for different people in different areas. We have to recognize that there are those designated as white or non-white who came very recently and were not seen as or treated in the way we would assume. Even for those whose lineage may be traced for many generations, there are many issues such as North and South, East and West, upper, lower and middle classes, as well as education levels which certainly made major differences in the experiences of communities, not just individuals. Any honest discussion should respect this. For better or worse, Facebook (and even blogs such as this) is not the medium for such in-depth discussions.

As for the issue of white privilege, I agree that this is a matter of semantics and experience. I like the idea presented that it is not an inherent birthright but a matter of “potential”. In fact, I appreciate much that was said regarding the topic of white privilege. I think there was a misunderstanding that I deny the existence of white privilege and that is not the case. If I was making any case about privilege it was that it is not universal. Often we see it globally throughout the nation but we forget that many of us live in our own communities, in our own neighborhoods, in our own cities. Understanding this well, privilege is not always “white”. If we want to look at that which occurs in the greater country – I must say that given the definitions, white privilege is a reality. If however we want to look at where we live (speaking for myself) the privilege for employment, education, upward mobility and even respectability for the most part is not “white”. I would go further and say privilege can be seen in the way people are spoken to, trusted, and treated in public establishments, it can be how they are treated by law-enforcement and medical personnel, and it can even be experienced as simply actually being safe walking down the street and again, in all of these regards I would say privilege is not always “white”. I’m in Baltimore and I want to be clear, I don’t claim my statement is universal even in my own city! And that is my point. There are areas where you find this, and areas where you find that. I do not deny white privilege, I do deny that there are not other forms of privilege as well.

However, the reason for my personal anecdotes as well as speaking on the matter of privilege itself was to point out that a person should not be silenced simply due to the color of their skin. Just because a person does not share skin tone or points of view does not give us the right to other them, let alone silence them. My point was, as I stated, I will not be silenced because of the color of my skin…something I had no control over. The same way we want to be listened to, we must be willing to step outside our normal frames and listen to what others have to say.

Along with this, I really appreciate the point that regarding preconceived notions that “white” means “such and such” and “black” means “such and such” and if you sway from those preconceived notions or object, you are somehow a bigot. There is no doubt that prejudice has been used to divide and oppress but there should also be no doubt that there are whites who have shared the same experiences as those stereotyped for blacks and there are blacks who have shared the same experiences as those stereotyped for whites. The color of one’s skin should never define a person…or our perspectives of them. It is by definition prejudice to prejudge how you expect a person to be simply based on the way their Lord has created them.

After all of that, some of what was said seemed like simple personal attacks based on emotion. I think some of it comes from what was mentioned above, unwillingness to listen due to our prejudging the individual based on whatever notions we hold. My anecdotes were not to claim oppression for myself. I know my situation, I know how I arrived there, I know the choices which were made that ended up, by my Lord’s decree, with me being born into the situation I was born into. It wasn’t oppression, it was circumstances of fate, for lack of better terms. Was there racism towards me? If one refuses to accept that term, perhaps bigotry or prejudice is more acceptable. It happened and I mentioned whatever I mentioned in a specific context, not to whine about white folk feeling attacked when non-whites speak out. In fact, it was said, “what is the overall message to be taken” and I had hoped that I made it clear enough, we need to be consistent. If it is good for one party to be allowed to speak, all parties should be allowed to speak. (Doesn’t mean we have to listen much less accept it!) Also, if it is wrong for one party to threaten or use violence, it is wrong for every group. We can not just justify or censure words and deeds based on who we are “with” or who’s side we take at the moment. We can justify and defend and censure arguments and positions! This is another matter. Understanding this, the overall take away was I think dead to be – we need to be consistent.

On a different frequency, the post was accused of being tone deaf and unintelligent. I think that those brothers who made such statements should reread it with a wider perspective of fairness. Read it as though your friend wrote it and asked for your opinion. That would be better than judging it based on your preconceived notions of me. As for the brother who said that he supposes that by my saying “people need to see themselves as humans” I meant “black people” – Sidi, you seem to have missed my point completely.

I was also asked, “So are you saying that the current system and dominate culture is not based on white supremacy?” To this, I replied and reply along the lines of, I would first say – I did not said that. I would add, however, that though the system of governance in this country is founded by a dominant culture of white supremacy, the system itself is a lifeless, changeable system. (Think of it like a garbage bag filled with trash. Its lifeless in itself – but if a couple flies get in and lay larvae it appears to come to life because of the grotesqueness occurring within it. Still, the bag itself and the garbage within is lifeless. To continue on, if the larvae which appear to give it life are substituted for something else, it may still seem have life but the bag of trash itself remains a lifeless environment manipulated by that which is operating within it.) Also, as a final remark to that question, I would say that the current “dominant culture” today is a misnomer. This country spreads across an entire continent spanning several cultures. In my small area there is certainly NOT a dominant culture of white supremacy – across town, or perhaps where you live, there may be. If you want my opinion on the overriding “dominant culture” throughout the U.S. it is one of hedonism, materialism, greed and corporate culture…not racial supremacy of any kind. That seems a tool continued to be brandied about to spread fear and anger, to divide and manipulate, to control and oppress.

That suffices as a general response to all the responses I was privy to. However, before closing, despite the redundancy, I want to share a general outline to help dissect the post under discussion and then re-post the main point:

~ Opening

~ quick review of what occurred

~ disclaimer (don’t usually espouse personal views or information on this blog) and intent (the big issue is consistency)

~ personal anecdotes used to say, “I have a voice and a right to share perspective”

~ more anecdotes to say, “I will not be pigeon holed or silenced.”

~ a call for consideration in consistency.

~ racism (just another form of bigotry – and no one people has a larger share than another) is a disease and discussion on race gets murky quick.

~ the system is not a racial entity, we must identify it for what it is if we wish to be a means for change.

~ founding fathers are seen in one light but interestingly, the private correspondences of several of them shed another light by which to see. Not changing the realities of what occurred, but rather, perhaps this offers a wider window to look through.

~ despite my background and my skin, I speak as a Muslim! From an Islamic viewpoint.

~If we want to move forward as healthy individuals, as good families, and as strong communities we must be honest and consistent. Our ego (individual and communal) is addicted to whatever strengthens it and the two things that fuel it the most is being praised and “othering”. …Any time the ego can make an enemy it becomes stronger so it always seeks to use others, either to feed it with praises or to feed it with negativity by emphasizing the “otherness” as it gives it something to complain about. Understanding this, the way forward is to come to the realization that all of mankind are the children of Adam.

~ Unfortunately, so often when we interact with others we project onto them from our own hearts. We project who we expect them to be, who we want them to be, and even the way we want them to view us. This is the cause of so much conflict! Instead, we should struggle and strive to commit ourselves to Relate to others according to what is, according to who they really are and respond to them according to their current state in the present. If we did this it would ensure that we always responded appropriately in a given situation. It would also then be the case that they would become a mirror to our own reality and nature instead of a fictitious creation of our own devices.

~ Everyone – your family and friends, believers and disbelievers reflect back to you your states – even those you interact with on the street or in a shop – so we should strive to meet everyone with love, mercy, kindness and compassion. We have to get to a point where we are able to acknowledge that we are all humans and we all fall on our faces sometimes, it happens. But in order to arrive at this state of acceptance we must be willing to let go of our pride. We must be willing to be wrong, to be weak, to be vulnerable, even to be hurt…Suffering is real, It happens! but can not allow ourselves to get stuck in that moment.

~ Realizing this, we should Treat every encounter with every human being as though we are encountering humanity itself. We must learn to manifest our compassion for our fellow man. It is there in our hearts already, though for many it is buried by so many veils. But we must strive and learn to manifest it, seeing our fellow human being as our fellow human being. …Understanding this, our commitment to our fellow man – to humanity – should only ever have one condition – the condition of an absolute commitment to our Lord, ourselves and our fellow man that we will strive to exist in the truth. That is, to manifest Allah’s guidance, as found in the Qur’an and the prophetic sunnah, in every aspect of our lives.

~ The prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him made it clear that racism, tribalism and nationalism are all from the beliefs and perspectives of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance. He (peace and blessings be upon him) made it clear that there is no room for this in Islam. He made it very clear that the non-Arab is not superior to the Arab nor the Arab to the Non-Arab and that the Black is not superior to the white nor is the white superior to the black. He taught and made it clear that Allah does not look at outward forms but rather He looks at our hearts and deeds. He (peace and blessings be upon him) also made it every so clear that if one’s heart is corrupted their limbs would be corrupt, meaning that if one has diseases in their hearts you are sure to see wrong actions from them. The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), by his example, manifested the words of Allah that it was Allah that created us upon our nations and tribes but our nobility, honor and dignity – our right to be truly respected – is according to what is manifested upon our limbs, from our hearts, for Allah.

~ As human beings we need to stop clinging to rhetoric, propaganda and slogans and take ourselves to account for our own actions. As Americans, if we don’t like the current situation in OUR nation, do not love it or leave it – change it – with your hands, your tongues and your hearts! And as Muslims, there is room to know yourself, your lineage and your heritage but there is no room for judging others due to theirs.

~ and then we ended emphasizing our intent again:

“We are a people who enjoin the good, forbid the evil, stand out for justice, defend the oppressed, and speak the truth, even if it be against ourselves. We must be true to this and, as is the theme of this, we must be consistent across the board.”

This was and remains my message. I pray it is made clearer.. May Allah bless all of you and increase all of us in understanding and uprightness….ameen.

And with Him alone is every success.

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About hvsmrspct

Brother Wm. Halim Breiannis was born and raised in Baltimore, Md.. He accepted Islam in 1996 and has continued studying Islam since that time. Brother Halim has studied with various scholars being a direct student of Sheikh Khalil Majdalawi for ten years and has been a student with the Cordoba Academy since 2011. He is called upon to lecture, teach and act as the khateeb at masajid and universities in the Baltimore area where he continues to reside with his wife and children.
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