Namira Islam, a Bangladeshi-American lawyer living in Detroit, wanted to do something about the many misconceptions about the Black Muslim communities. In 2014, as Black History Month approached, she brought together a group of activists and scholars, launching a new social media hashtag, #BeingBlackAndMuslim. “We wanted to reflect on the erasure of black Muslims in the conversations we were seeing online, as well as in our communities and institutions,” recounts Ms. Islam. “Because those erasures reflect what we’re seeing everywhere else.”
The hashtag trended on Twitter, both domestically and globally, with respondents showcasing their black Muslim pride and joy in their culture and personal experiences. It also brought to light stories of racism and xenophobia within Islam’s own communities
Ms. Islam joined forces with educator Margari Aziza Hill, and together they saw an opportunity to expand into a long-term resource for Muslims, and soon launched the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, now commonly called MuslimARC. The group developed training sessions and consultations, educating fellow Muslims about racial justice and combating Islamophobia. They produced a toolkit to help Muslims understand how to respond to police brutality and become involved with activist groups like Black Lives Matter. They also hosted online courses, webinars and meetups.
Islamic studies professor Kayla Wheeler says that she first became aware of MuslimARC when she found a series of interviews on Twitter which had been conducted by Muslims of different racial backgrounds, and that these interviews have become invaluable in the way she teaches about Latino and Asian Muslims. “For me it’s a space to not only see myself recognized but also to challenge my own assumptions about what Islam is and who is involved in Islam. It does a disservice to graduate students when we teach about Islam in a way that is Arab-centric and ahistorical.”
MuslimARC clients and partners have included the Council on American-Islamic Relations, MPower Change, Faith in Action, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Take On Hate, the Chicago Regional Organizing for Anti-Racism and Pop Culture Collab.