It has been a horrific spring for African-Americans and their allies in the struggle for racial justice and equality.
Breonna Taylor, an emergency room tech in Louisville, Kentucky, was shot dead in her apartment when police invaded in the middle of the night looking for a drug suspect. The police were at the wrong address. Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging near his home in South Georgia. The white father and son who pursued him in their truck before the confrontation that ended his life said they thought he was a burglar. A hysterical white woman called police on Christopher Cooper in New York’s Central Park because he asked her to put her dog on a leash. Cooper left before police arrived.
And then came Minneapolis, where George Floyd, suspected of passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill to pay for a pack of cigarettes, was murdered by a policeman who ground his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while the man lay handcuffed on the ground. Video of the killing was recorded by bystanders, who begged the officer to desist. The smile on Derek Chauvin’s face while he killed Floyd was almost as unbearable as the fact of the murder itself. Nationwide protests erupted. While largely peaceful, some, including those in Milwaukee, resulted in rioting and looting. President Trump, whose relentless tweeting had further inflamed the situation, hid in a bunker as a large number of protestors gathered outside the White House.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal asked local Muslim leaders and imams for the proper Islamic response to this string of tragedies. Here are their answers.
Yaseen Domineck, Imam, Masjid Ar-Rahman at the Dawah Center
We cannot be silent. The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said in the Hadith that whoever amongst you sees an evil, let him change it with his hands. Which means, if you have the ability to do so, and you have the authority, you stop it with your hands, and if you don’t have the authority, then stop it with your tongue, then at least speak. The Prophet says Allah does not prohibit you with regard to those who do no harm to be good and kind with them and to be just and equitable to them, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. And he loves those who are just and equitable.
Allah has made the Muslims those who are the protectors and the guardians of the Earth. Whatever exists you take care of to the best of your ability. We are just as responsible for every person in this country because we have a command from Allah.
This is not the first time [police violence] has happened in Minneapolis. It’s happened many times and many places in America. Allah has made and placed us here [because] we have a duty, a responsibility. The store that this happened at was a Muslim-owned store. [On the news], the owner of the store is outside, standing with the people against this injustice. And that’s a very beautiful thing. That’s how every Muslim should be. They’re your neighbors; they help feed your family; you have a duty for these people. We can’t sit back. Even if Floyd was wrong in what he did, what we witness on that video, this is murder. To kill a man unjustly is like killing the whole world. It’s our responsibility as Muslims to do whatever we can.
You have exalted standards of character in the Prophet – how did he deal with people who were enemies to him? He was kind, he was just to them; he softened their hearts. We have to look at all the examples he gave us, and when people violate the rights of others, we have to speak up, to say something. Love your brother like you love yourself. If you want justice for you, then you also have to think about others. Then injustice will shrink. When we start uniting upon goodness, then injustice and oppression will start to shrink.
Brother Will Perry, Milwaukee Islamic Dawah Center
Unfortunately, this is a reality the African-American community has been facing for a long time. This is an issue of white supremacy and racism, a systemic problem. From my point of view, it’s really critical to deal with the legislature and decision-makers from the president on down. If it remains lawful for police to arbitrarily use deadly force, they will continue to do that until the law is changed.
George Floyd’s death was wake-up call, the look on that guy’s face. That badge gave him the opportunity to act out what was inside him in the first place. Police have been told, “We’re gonna back you up.” If they knew their families were in jeopardy and their job safety was an issue, they’d never do something like that.
Brother Will Perry
Right now there are no consequences; a couple of guys might get locked up, but it’s the mentality, the rules and the laws that promote it, that needs to change. We’ll see if the system actually works in this case, and hopefully it will. But there are a lot of others out there.
We in the Muslim community have to show some support as well – to the mayor, police chief, legislators; we’ve got to back them up. Because the opposition has a lot of money.
Sausan Naji, MMWC Board Member
My daughters and I were at the protests in Milwaukee for about seven hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and it was very peaceful. I wear the hijab, so I would get “Salam Alaikum. Welcome, sister!” The protestors were happy to see a diverse group of people supporting them. The only time I saw things start to tense up was when the police officers arrived.
As Muslims, we’re taught not to be racist, that we’re all one. Everyone just wants some kind of change. They want to advocate for change. They want true justice to happen. You know, enough is enough.
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Religious Director, ISM Milwaukee
This an important issue of human rights and social justice, and Muslims who have just done the fasting of Ramadan and committed themselves to the mission of submitting to the moral commandments of God must stand up for the principle of justice and human rights and equality and demand a thorough investigation and justice served to the family of George Floyd.
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah
Hafiz Shafique, Imam, Masjid Al-Qur’an, Milwaukee
First of all, it is a very sad incident, and unfortunately not the first time. Because of this injustice that was done so many times, it is now becoming very disturbing for people of color especially. The people you look to to provide your safety and security, if you start getting scared of them, this is a very scary situation
As Almighty God says, stand with justice even if it goes against you. We want to see justice happening whatever the reaction is. We condemn [rioting and looting], we definitely see no justification for the reaction, but we need to understand the anger. It’s basically, they’ve been seeing this happening again and again, and when they see there’s no justice, people get angry.
Islam has very clear teachings in the Holy Qur’an. You stand with justice. Even if it goes against you, stand with justice.