Challenging Institutional Racism – Islamic Perspective, with Hajj Hassanain Rajabali

Report by David Norcott

On the 13th June, the GAA welcomed Hajj Hassanain Rajaballi to address the topical issues of institutional racism and prejudice. The session was packed with so many key points as you would expect and some of these have been summarised below for reference.

Racism as a “core” evil which causes division in community and ultimately comes from Iblis /Satan himself as he was prime exponent of this as he exclaimed his ‘form’ was of a superior degree to that of Prophet Adam (as)

Verse 30:22 (“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge”)

This verse highlights the diversity of language and race being as much a sign of Creation as the Heavens and the Earth itself. This sets the frame for this discussion. All of humanity, and the diversity therein, is Divine. So to use this diversity as a “stick to beat” mankind with is an egregious sin against Creation and God.

Three types of racism were summarised:

  • Individual racism: Perpetrated by one person to another. Should we not love every individual equally, as we are all created with the same divinity and soul?
  • Internalised racism: When the victims themselves begin to adopt or “accept” these racial stereotypes as being “true” or “justified” so they have it perpetuated within them
  • Institutional racism:
    • Public and private companies, education system, NGO’s, multinational corporations etc.
    • where the system itself seems to perpetuate and even incentivise discrimination based on skin colour, ethnicity or creed.
    • Emphasised that a real danger of institutional racism is that a population is likely to “absorb” racism if it is present in the institutions of the society
    • Unequal access to opportunity is a key type of racism

The dangers of community racism were also highlighted and how everyone is to be vigilant of their own internal biases whether in culture, race etc.

Figures such as Christopher Columbus highlighted as a figure who has received international recognition and praise in the educational systems and curriculums of the modern day, despite being a cruel and vicious man who carried out atrocities on the native people he encountered.

This form of racism is “institutional”, when we implant the deeds and stories of men like this into the consciousness of the youth as a tale of pride and human ingenuity, when in reality it’s another example of spreading misery and brutality under the guise of “exploration” or “human advancement”.

Echoes of this can be seen in the modern day, where societies are led falsely into following nation states into illegal occupations and wars across the world today.

Another point highlighted was the nature of “white slaves” vs “black slaves” and how the plantation owners would even separate these two on racial grounds. One can see this example resonate itself in the world today. Where the modern “slave owners” – the “Elite”, the politicians, the media moguls, the heads of corporate and financial industry – do what they can to keep modern society divided and segregated; not only racial grounds, but religious grounds, gender, political orientation (Left vs Right), sexual orientation, ethnicity… Divide and conquer is an age old axiom that is sadly alive and well in our modern societies.

A society weakened by division and hate only serves to perpetuate the Evil of Iblis as we see it today, expressed in these pernicious forms.

If we go along with these forms of racism, even simply by an omission to act or protest these discriminatory practices, we are complicit. Therefore, challenging statements made in public, making it known that these ideas are not correct or in agreement with basic human decency is important

Suggestion to institutionalise “Anti-racism” in education and schooling

  • A focus on Humanity, and the highlighting of the fact that human diversity in all its forms is to be celebrated, not shunned or feared, is one such way forward. There is a danger of falling into a self-perpetuating trap, when we try to “teach” or “politicise” racial and ethnic differences.
  • External physical characteristics such as skin colour have no bearing on the consciousness or heart of a man or woman, and we should be conscious not to lend credence to the “Logic of Iblis”, where these are factors weighed against a man’s character.

The dismissive judgement of others, labelling, classifying etc was similarly highlighted as a danger and to dismiss the atheists, non-Muslim, non-religious as a certain way, is just as harmful at perpetuating dehumanising classification of people.

Manners and introspection were described as ‘Divine Footsteps’ where simple recognition of the importance of humility, respect and a desire to understand others, even if their views seem to be opposing to yours

“The oppressed will become the leaders…”

  • This can be compared to the Biblical message of how “the meek shall inherit the Earth…”
  • Despite the seeming disparity of strength between these forces, the oppressed, the shunned and the discriminated shall in the end prevail.

Q&A Section

  • Incredibly heartbreaking testimony from a Sister who fled Rwanda to Scotland and she discussed her experience with daily racism. On the street, on the bus, in public life. This really provided an insight into how terrible and corrupting the evil of discrimination can be in our society, how it can make a person feel “other” and removed and invalid.  A truly powerful testimony that I’m sure has stayed with everyone who heard it, and is why tackling a topic like this is so important.
  • Highlighted that the only Judge is God. It is not for us to judge others, for in the end we will all be judged.
  • UN mentioned and their time in Rwanda as genocide occurred and they stood by and this should be an example of how we need to maintain vigilance of these multinational organisations that may appear on the surface to be serving a public good, when there is good evidence to suggest that they are not the “peace keeping force” we’ve been led to believe.
  • People have to rise together, regardless of colour or belief, against the evils that assail us today.
  • “Should we give up our Mother Tongues?”
    • No.
    • Cultural diversity should be maintained.
    • In my opinion, the modern “system” (the Beast / Iblis System) is in favour of eradicating individual and cultural identity. This serves to weaken people. “One world government”, one world language, one world currency are end-goals of this system… To celebrate individuality is in itself a form of resistance.
    • As mentioned earlier, language is another aspect of God’s creation. It should not be disregarded in favour of some “monolithic” language. Diversity is part of the beauty of creation.
    • This does not mean that we should not learn other languages or the native tongues of where we live, English is still important to know, but not to exclude or “forget” the mother tongue.
    • Sayed / Non-Sayed issue was asked, is this a form of “superiority” as it is expressed?
    • No, the highlighting of the genealogy was more to protect the legacy and history of the family, not to raise it above others. Was said that they would face greater discrimination than other families, and so there needs to be a recognition and highlighting of them in order to ensure the history survives.

Potential Solutions:

  • Noted that increased reporting of incidents would be a step in the right direction and a positive act
    • If there is no record of these incidents, there is less data to lean on in this fight against discrimination.
  • The importance of activism was highlighted, and the different forms that that can take
    • Being active online, on the streets, marches, demos, banners, signs etc
    • Calling on everyone to unite as one, to rise up and fight against the pernicious tactics of Iblis and the expressions of this in the modern systems we live in, using Quranic verse as a foundation for guidance

Some Audience reflections;

  • Institutional racism / educational racism
    • One must be vigilant of the modern curriculum promoting theories such as ‘darwinism’ whose author was himself a proponent of “racial superiority” of different races, we could be unintentionally setting the stage for this kind of brute “logic” of discrimination. This teaching of “evolutionary” development of humankind is an underpinning for racial and physical discrimination, and has been used as such.
    • The likes of Karl Marx, Stalin, Mao and other “world leaders” known for atrocities, who themselves have all noted their respect for Darwin and his theories; and who have spurred on governmental systems where the Divine nature of humanity is replaced with a pseudo-scientific worldview of racial hierarchy. This is founded on these Darwinian theories that are ingrained in the education systems of the modern day. We need to be vigilant and cognisant of the fundamental teachings that exist in our society and education systems, and how these can subtly be responsible for ideas such as attributing human characteristics and “worth” based on physiology alone.
    • When we remove the role of Divinity in humanity, we enable the agents of Iblis to divide and conquer us.
  • We must be aware of divisive rhetoric masquerading as “Justice”.
    • When we see “champions” for the African American communities coming to the fore, we must be vigilant that we aren’t celebrating figures that these are not the same players in the same system, and delivered to the public by the same media, that convinced nations to support illegal occupations across the world. The ME, Africa and beyond have all been victim to brutal nation-state aggression, supported by these very political and media actors who claim to care for the “Plight” of the minorities… We must be vigilant not to let these nefarious interests co-opt and mislead us into further division. As this is their goal.