"On Critical Race Studies and What is the Point of Religion?"

Among all the hubris that surrounds our affairs, and a lot of the nonsense that one finds in the world that we live in, there was a curious decision made by the White House and the Office of Management and Budget to ban the teaching of anything related to Critical Race Studies (CRS) in the U.S. government. The government also gets to define what falls under the large category of critical race studies, so any critique of power dynamics inspired by racial relationships, including possible critiques of the history of white privilege, can be defined as part of Critical Race Studies. What followed was another order from the President and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, that critical race studies may no longer be a part of the training that U.S. officers and law enforcement receive. According to a statement published by the Trump Administration, the reason for the ban is that critical race studies teach that the U.S. is inherently racist and that white people are racist and evil.


This is not a minor decision, it is important on many different levels. It is telling us what we should be worried about regarding our future and precisely what is wrong, not with just the larger scale affairs on a national level, but for American Muslims. For one, it is beyond dispute that the way the White House characterized critical race studies is not just wrong, but absolute fantasy. Critical race studies does not teach that the U.S. and white people are evil and racist. The whole point of critical race studies is to analyze the actual role that race has played in creating and perpetuating privilege, as well as deconstructing the very idea of race. According to critical race studies, there is nothing inherently natural about racial categories; racial categories are created by subjective human perceptions to perpetuate privilege and power. The aim of CRS is to find the reasons why racial problems exist and what we need to do to address a racial problem.


Why would the executive branch target a scholarly methodology like critical race studies, and what does that entail for us? This decision mutes critiques of race, and quiets attempts to analyze the power dynamics of race within the American government. The problem with white supremacists (as is the problem with all supremacists and fascists throughout history) is that they have always gravitated away from democratic processes; dictators and tyrants don't like democracy. Instead, they like to jump on power so they can dominate without having to convince. As a result, various law enforcement departments, including border patrol, military, FBI and especially anti-terrorism task forces, have increasingly become magnets for white supremacists and fascists of all types.


When the President of the United States says no to critical race studies, he is sending a signal to white supremacists everywhere, saying, ‘Welcome, law enforcement is your home.’ Instead of attempting to teach our law enforcement to be less racist, he is sending out a message to law enforcement saying, ‘You can hold the most racist views. And not only will you be able to join law enforcement, but we are not even going to trouble you with a counter-narrative or with any type of critical perspective because anyone that talks about white supremacy and the history of racism in the United States will be excluded.’


For many of us Muslims, we or our parents came to this country because in our home countries, dictatorship has made life impossible. A lot of our children who grow up here don't realize that if they had grown up back home, their life would have been dramatically different. They would have grown up in fear. They would have been taught hypocrisy in their schools. They would have been taught to be cowards to survive. For many of us who came to the United States, we have a distinct sense of what it means to be in a country not ruled by tyrants because even with all the flaws of our political system, it is still sufficiently democratic. There's a world of difference between life in the United States and life in the dictatorships that we or our parents came from.


Decisions like this are terrifying because they herald a very alarming future for the U.S. What happens when racists, bigots and supremacists enlist in law enforcement and the military, and the people who should have done something about it never do? Eventually, the day comes where supremacists usurp power, throwing all those who are different or oppose them in prison, and the entire experiment of democracy comes to an end. It is extremely dangerous for the government to target a critical ideology that wants to promote egalitarianism, because the executive branch has appointed itself a censor that only allows ideas that it approves of, and excludes ideas that don't serve its ideological goals. This is precisely how dictatorships are created.


For some time now, we've been hearing Muslims pontificating about critical race studies. When I looked at what these Muslims said about CRS, I was surprised to find that it is identical to what the White House said. It’s not that the White House stole talking points from these Muslims, but the other way around.


These are the same Muslims who, despite the Islamophobia of the Trump Administration, have been telling us that Trump is God’s will. These are also the same Muslims who pop up with the Emirati royal family and the Trump Administration in political appointments and pictures. It is remarkable to find that there are influential Muslims among us who, instead of getting an understanding of intellectual ideas from legitimate sources, are subservient to Islamophobic political powers.


For years, we've been seeing evidence that Muslims of the Egyptian government, the Saudi government, and the Emirati government are actually in bed with Islamophobes. They empower them, legitimize them and even invest money in them. So much so, that Fox News’ perception of Islam has become the official state position in a country like Egypt. Even recently, the fascist of Egypt, Sisi, gave a khutbah in which he says, ‘It's okay for Egyptians to migrate to the West. But if you do, keep your beliefs to yourselves. Don't teach people about Islam. Don't try to convert anyone to Islam.’


For a while now, we’ve seen this bizarre dynamic that hearkens back to the colonial paradigm of the submissive, slave-like Muslims, who are colonized and dominated, who are okay with their colonization and domination. This was a reality that allowed for the destruction of the caliphate, for the colonization of Muslim lands, and for the loss of Palestine. It’s very similar to what the South demanded of African Americans in the pre-Civil War era and even post-Civil War, that servile attitude - if you are dominated and controlled, the only option you have is humility that is, in truth, absolute humiliation.


Recently, after the Emirate and Israel signed their deal, a major Emirati investor decided to invest in an Israeli soccer team, Beitar, who are homed in Jerusalem. Investing in Beitar is a further “Judaization” of Jerusalem. Of all the Israeli soccer teams, Beitar is known as the most racist. In fact, the fans of Beitar during soccer games collectively chant, ‘Burn Arabs burn, we will burn your villages to the ground,’ as well as, ‘Muhammad is dead. Muhammad is dead. You are dead. You are dead,’ referring to the Prophet. Of all the Israeli and Palestinian teams, this Emirati decided to invest in the most racist, Islamophobic team.


When asked why he invested in this racist team, he answered that he’s a longtime friend of Moshe Hogeg, Beitar's owner. Hogeg himself is a well-known Islamophobe and racist. It is impossible for an Emirati investor to invest money in an Israeli team without getting, at a minimum, approval from the Emirati political authorities because the UAE is a totalitarian, tyrannical state. In fact, the likelihood is that the Emirati investor invested in Beitar per the instructions of the political authorities in the Emirate.


In the United States, we have a president that runs on an Islamophobic ticket and introduces the Muslim ban. Meanwhile, Zaytuna tells us, ‘No, Trump is good. He's God’s will.’ We're in the midst of mass demonstrations because of the unlawful killings of African Americans, and we again have Muslims that say, ‘This racial discourse is haram, it's un-Islamic. All lives matter.’ In the midst of this, we get Islamic circles that respond to scholarly insights that scrutinize the abuses of power, that embarrass and expose power, by telling us, ‘No, critical race studies and embarrassing power like that is un-Islamic.’ It just so happens that what they say about these critical methodologies is identical to what the White House says, as if they are stooges implementing what they're told by the White House, the Emirati government and the Saudi government.


As Muslims, we must realize that we are seen as a racialized group. No matter how much you want to be white, we are an ‘other’. Even if you are white biologically, you are not seen as white, you are not seen as part of the club of privilege. As an ‘other’, you are subject to domination. The only time they will like you is when you say, "Yes, sir. Yes, ma'am." Not only that, you have to prove your loyalty by providing the most absurd investments, like the Emirati investment in Beitar. The Emiratis are working very hard to please their white master, who will never consider them as equals. They can give Israel billions of dollars, but Beitar will continue chanting, "Burn the Arabs. Muhammad is dead, you are dead."


One of the most critical things that Islam brought to its followers is summed up in the word, ‘izza. Among the most natural, intuitive things the Prophet taught his followers was to not accept humiliation and degradation. That, as a Muslim, you're entitled to ‘izza, to dignity.


Recently, one of our Muslim sisters, Nusaiba, who wears the hijab, was attending a police commission meeting in Los Angeles. Suddenly, officers surrounded this non-threatening, sweet lady, arresting her and ripping off her hijab. Worse, it turns out that there was no cause for arrest. Like so many of the targeted attacks against Muslims, it was just to harass a woman in a scarf. So, she filed a lawsuit against the LAPD.


What happened to Nusaiba is precisely what happens when you don't train law enforcement in race and religious sensitivity and in what equal protection of the law means. When you allow for law enforcement to be the haven of racists, what happened to Nusaiba will become commonplace. Don't think that the police are going to look at a woman in a hijab and see her as white just because she has light skin. If they see a woman in hijab, they see someone who, for all practical purposes, is either the equal of Black or even less than Black. If a religion doesn't challenge privilege and power and if it does not empower the disempowered, it is not worthy of being called a religion.


Are you with the Muslims who reward Islamophobes by giving them billions of dollars, while their fellow Muslims are perishing in refugee camps and starving to death? Those who won't give any money to Muslims who are suffering, but will give money to Beitar of Israel? Then there are the Muslims of Zaytuna, who look at this and say, "I don't see a problem with the Emirate, they are a government of tolerance."


Or, are you a Muslim with ethics and principles, who understands that if you betray Muslims, if you usurp Jerusalem, if you betray Palestinian rights, it is a point of departure? That you will not look to any Muslim who does that for moral or ethical leadership? That you will refuse to put your hands in theirs because they have betrayed God, the Prophet and Muslims?


 Recently, there was a report that talked about the continuing war crimes committed in Yemen, as well as American responsibility and potential liability for these war crimes. The Obama Administration had undertaken a study in the State Department, which concluded that by continuing to arm Saudi Arabia and the Emirate, U.S. officials were becoming complicit in the war crimes committed in Yemen. Yemen’s situation has been going on for years, but we Muslims don't even bother following anymore. Because the Obama Administration reached the conclusion that American officials could be responsible for war crimes by continuing to arm Saudi and the Emirate, they decided to promptly stop the exportation of the type of arms used in Yemen.


When the Trump Administration came, they not only canceled this decision but accelerated arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Under international law, it is possible to go after certain American officials for war crimes committed in Yemen. The Trump Administration attempted to hide American responsibility by classifying much of the information that connects the U.S. to the war crimes in Yemen. As this is happening, the United States decided to cut aid to Yemen by nearly 50%. As a result, Yemen’s children are dying at an unprecedented rate of starvation, disease, and Covid. There is so much death that Yemeni officials have stopped counting how many children are dying. This is all documented in the report titled, “The Hardest Part Is When We Lose a Child: Aid Cuts by Trump and some U.S. Allies are Costing Lives in Yemen,” published September 15.


We sell more arms to use against civilians in Yemen, while cutting aid that brings food and medicine to Yemen. We insist on wasting money on a border wall with Mexico, while also instituting policies that make the rich richer. We insist on peace between Arab nations and Israel, but we are not concerned when it is Muslims dying. So many are indifferent to Sisi killing thousands of Egyptians every year. So many don’t care that MBS has killed Khashoggi and our President bragged about how he protected MBS after Khashoggi's assassination. So many don't care that Yemenis are dying left and right. Why? Because the victims are Muslim, not white people.


Section 207 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act allows the President to grant refugee status and asylum status to people from overseas when they are of special humanitarian concern to America. Special humanitarian concern only applies to people we actually care about. We don’t care about Yemenis, Somalis, or anyone that is not the right skin color or of the right religion. Even our laws empower this racism. Then we’re told that we don’t need critical race studies. Critical Race Studies is not a philosophy or an ideology, it is a critical methodology.


Kushner, who is only somebody because he happens to be married to Trump's daughter, is shaping the future of the Middle East. In an interview with the Times of Israel, Kushner says about the recent treaties between Israel, the Emirate and Bahrain, "The accords allow Arab states now to separate their own interests from Palestinians. Now, you Arabs, look after yourselves." In every paradigm of colonization and domination, this is precisely what the colonizer does. Any paradigm of colonization doesn't work unless you first teach those who are colonized to worry about themselves and not worry about their family, their tribe, their nation or their people. This is the first step of colonization.


Imagine if Israel was under attack and someone told America, ‘Look after your own interests. Don't worry about Israel.’ The American government would be outraged, who is this person to tell them what their loyalties and fidelities should be? Yet, Kushner is telling Arabs, ‘Finally, you realized to look after yourselves. Don't worry about fidelity, loyalty, truth, any of these values and ethics.’ Critical Race Studies provides exactly the type of critical insight that documents the history of colonization, and what supremacists do to dominate. Kushner’s comments show a thoroughly genocidal outlook, the same that tells us to not worry about any Muslims suffering throughout the world.


Recently, it came out that Disney’s live-action film Mulan was filmed in part in the Xinjiang province, where a genocide against Muslims is taking place. Disney worked with a genocidal government. The response of Muslims must be clear, precise and vigorous: boycotting the movie, as well as boycotting Disney because they worked with a fascist, genocidal government. The same people that teach submission and servitude, who don't see a problem with the Muslim ban, who have no issue with any injustice going on in the Muslim world, have no issue with Disney’s actions. The same Muslims will try to divert your attention and keep you busy with things like nail polish and stories of myth.


Finally, some people tell me these khutbahs are depressing, so people won’t listen to them because they don’t want to be depressed. I do not talk about these issues to induce an emotional state, I simply want to induce action. I want to induce change. I want to get across that if you are an Islamophobe who bashes Muslims, Muslims will remember, react, rebel and stand up for their own dignity. If you ban Muslims, Muslims are not going to apologetically excuse and philosophize it. Instead, Muslims will retaliate by voting Islamophobes out of office.  I want us to care about Muslims that are dying, but I want you to care not just by giving money, but by speaking through your votes and through who you support.


This is precisely why I talk about these topics, because ideally, Muslims would be outraged at the president of a Muslim country who has destroyed more than a thousand mosques in less than a year. We would be outraged at the Islamic Center of Southern California for exercising censorship in support of a fascist dictator. We would tell every Islamic organization that takes a stand with tyrants, ‘We are not going to support you until you change and reform yourself.’ This is why I talk about these issues. Not to make you sad, but because we will meet God on the Final day and God will ask us, ‘What have you done?" What have you done about racism? What have you done about injustice? What have you done about oppression? What have you done about human suffering?’



Were you selfish and self-centered? You don’t need Islam for that. The whole point of religion is to resist selfishness and self-centeredness. If it doesn’t do that, what is the point of religion? If religion really has anything to contribute, it would be precisely that.


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