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Spiritual Outlook: An Islamic perspective on critical race theory

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“Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various colors. And in the mountains are tracts white and red, of various shades of color, and black intense in hue. And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colors. Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” Qur’an Chapter 35, verses 27-28

The dictionary offers various shades of definitions to the term “theory.” As regards to critical race theory (CRT), the following is probably the most applicable definition for “theory”: “the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another.”

As relates to the social illness of entrenched racism and racial strife in our collective American history and psyche (soul and self), some 40 years ago members of academia thought it appropriate — long overdue — to apply critical thinking to how race and racism affected the laws in our land. Furthermore, CRT is a deep analytical study into a race-based social construct (ideas that have been created and accepted by the people in a society) that created an “oppressor-victim” caste system that still exists in our society today. CRT is a study designed specifically for bringing to the forefront of America’s conscious solutions for addressing and eradicating the unnatural and divisive race-based social construct.

In his May 18, 2021, Education Week article, Stephen Sawchuk described CRT as, “An academic concept … the core idea (of CRT) is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

So how does CRT go from being an academic approach to identifying racism in American laws to becoming a divisive political football game for changing K-12 curriculums? Around America we see state legislatures with Republican strongholds creating laws to stop CRT from being taught in K-12 grades in public schools, but guess what — no K-12 schools in those states even teach CRT. Critical race theory is an academic, collegiate level discussion, not an elementary level subject. So why the rush to stop CRT before it affects our K-12 students?

CRT has the potential to bring us closer to the realities and promises given to us in scripture. The above verse from the Qur’an concludes by stating, “Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” Isn’t that the goal of CRT, an in-depth analytical study that seeks for everyone to have more critical knowledge about the role of race in lawmaking? Power in America is in the hands of those who make the laws of the land. The honorable Frederick Douglass shared a universal truth that is unbound by time: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will …”

Actually, CRT is not a 20th century novelty that began in the 1970s. CRT in America began quietly within the minds and hearts of the first enslaved Africans who suffered injustice simply because of their skin color. From 1619 until today there has been a constant stream, drip by drip, of sweat from Africans in America toiling on plantations; drips of their tears from souls crying to G_d for mercy; and drips of their blood from the wounds of uncountable lashes from the slave whip; yes all of these drips were the beginning of critical theories that questioned why my race — the color of my skin — was such an issue for people who claimed on paper that “all men are created free.” The same people, who while declaring their freedom, enshrined the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness …”

That’s all that CRT in academia is designed to do — the demanding from those abusing power to deconstruct all abusive race-based social constructs. Yes, this deconstruction obligates the privileged folks to look into the mirrors of an ugly past of America’s treatment of many sectors of our society, and that, it seems, is the crux (crossroads) of the problem.

Many conservative-minded Americans are afraid, maybe even distrustful of the universal claims of the U.S. Constitution that, just maybe, it is for all people. Most conservatives want to conserve things just the way they are even if it means conserving false historical narratives taught in our society, namely, taught in our schools. What are they afraid of? A loss of perceived power and control?

Allah in the Bible and the Qur’an levels the playing field for all of His human creatures. “Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various colors.” The Qur’an says the same about the various colors of mankind. We all come from the same source, and we’re all going back to the one and same source. We hear a similar message from Paul the Apostle, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If all people recognized the common human essence in everyone, then there would be no racism, thus no need for CRT.

For those opposing CRT, often they throw out a red herring; the false notion that CRT is about making Caucasian children feel bad or guilty about America’s racist past. But as with any problem in life, you can’t solve a problem until you properly identify exactly what is the problem. That is what CRT is doing, trying to properly identify the race problem in whatever formats it is presented. If we trust the ability of our children to learn and handle historical truths of the past, would not that make them greater leaders for tomorrow?

Muslim American spokesman, the late Imam W. Deen Mohammed, explained that the mountain mentioned in chapter 37, verse 27, represents the government order: the leaders in society. It reads, “tracts white and red, of various shades of color, and black intense in hue.” This huge, massive leadership (mountain) should be a collective that is representative of all the races in our human family where each is respected as an equal in the government and in lawmaking.

As America continues to strive toward a “more perfect union,” it is imperative that we recognize that slavery is America’s “original sin,” and that CRT is an important factor in our striving toward achieving the status of, “One nation, under G_d, with liberty and justice for all!” America needs a theoretical idea that allows for a serious critique of the deep reaching and negative effects that racism has had (and still has) on our collective nation.

No matter what our skin color may be, as the Qur’an says, “Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various colors.” Yes, one rain, one humanity, One G_d!

Michael “Mikal” Saahir is the resident Imam of Nur-Allah Islamic Center. He can be reached at nur-allah@att.net or at 317-753-3754.

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