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American Muslim

Black History Month

February is the Black History Month which is celebrated every year to honor the contributions of black Americans to country and community. American Muslim Voice urges all to join the Black History Month celebrations to learn and appreciate the civil rights struggle of African Americans. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard scholar and the son of former slaves, began the tradition in 1926 and chose February because it marks the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglas.Within the African American community, especially, oral histories fill in gaps left by often scant or inaccurate written records.

Reflections on Black History Month

By Imam Zaid Shakir,
Hayward, California

Black History Month (February) should be of interest to every Muslim – especially here in America.

At this critical time in the history of our country, it is important for Muslims, whose legitimate existence in this country is being challenged in some quarters, to connect to our American Muslim roots. As Muslims, our story in this country did not begin with the coming of Syrians, Lebanese, Albanians, or Yemenis at the turn of the 20th Century and later. It began with those courageous African Muslim slaves whose blood, sweat, and tears were instrumental in building this country.

In identifying with those African Muslims, we must not allow ourselves to forget that they were part of a greater community, a community which has evolved to almost fifty million African Americans. The struggle of that community, its pain, perseverance, triumphs, and defeats, cannot be separated from the struggle of its Muslim members. If we as Muslims are moved by the suffering of our coreligionists who were exposed to the dehumanizing cruelties of a vicious system, we should similarly be moved by the plight of their non-Muslim African brothers and sisters who suffered the same injustices……

In conclusion, Islam is calling us to be bigger than what the world has made us. If the world has made us members of a “disadvantaged” race, class, ethnicity, or gender, the world wants us to be dehumanized by the ensuing rage, sense of victimization, and a quest for vengeance. Perhaps the greatest manifestation of that dehumanization is the loss of hope. For our African Muslim ancestors enslaved in this land, Islam was always a source of hope, dignity, and for many, as we have mentioned, the key to their liberation. For those who never escaped the shackles of physical bondage, Islam provided the basis for their rising above the dehumanization of the chattel system.

February 2004