Oracle Opinions

From George Stanny to George Floyd: What Americans Can Learn From Islam

From George Stanny to George Floyd: What Americans Can Learn From Islam
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

It is an important aspect to understand that this message is not just for Muslims only because God is addressing all of humanity. As Muslims we are taught that we are one brotherhood, which is part of a larger brotherhood of humanity.

MUHAMMAD SHAFI

ATHAR WASEEM

In the year 1944, two white sisters, Betty Binniker age(11) and Emma Thames (age 7) ride their bicycles into the woods of Pinewood, South Carolina USA,  to fetch “Mypops” a local name for passionflowers. Along the way, was George Stinney, a 14-year-old black boy with his sister, perhaps roaming in pinewoods for a similar purpose? A murder case of these two white sisters is reported and George Stinney is found suspect in the crime. George Stinney was made to confess the crime after being subjected to third=degree torture and his conviction was finalized by an all-white jury just in 10 minutes. He was executed the same year, at age 14, by an electric chair.2400 volt electric shock was passed through his body, relieving him from his life. Moreover, the legend has it, Stinny being so young couldn’t adjust himself properly on the chair, thus a Bible was placed under him as a support.

In 2004, the re-examination of this case was sought by several individuals and “North University School of Law’ through a judicial review. A group of lawyers and activists investigated the Stinney case on behalf of his family. In 2013, the family petitioned for a new trial. On December 17, 2014, his conviction was posthumously vacated 70 years after his execution, because the circuit court judge ruled that he had not been given a fair trial; he had no effective defense representation and his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated. The Judgment noted that while Stinney could have committed the crime, the prosecution and trial were fundamentally flawed. Judge Mullen ruled that his confession was likely coerced and thus inadmissible. She also found that the execution of a 14-year-old constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The incident since then has inspired a series of films and novels, all questioning the partisan nature of the conviction and asking whether the decision was an extension of the Jim Crow, the blacks faced. And the incident is seen a blot on the American conscience.

The unjust conviction that Stinney faced had a political background.  Blacks were discriminated all over the America. Sometimes the Black persecution would provide the white ruling elite a political currency and the incidents like this were exploited to gain reelections. So was George Stinney made a scapegoat by the then governor to get himself re-elected.

In just a short span of 23 years, Mohammad (SAW) started from East to West the campaign against this demonic trait in such a way that no white had any superiority over any black. He freed human beings from the bondage of slavery and gave them in the worship of only one God.

The recent George Floyd incident reminds us of GoergeStinney once again. The United States that has put its record straight that George Stinney was falsely convicted, has once again failed itself after George Floyd was murdered by a white supremacist police officer in broad daylight, for a petty amount of counterfeit currency, that too in a time when Coronavirus has made 40 million people jobless throughout the world.

Before understanding this radical shift in race dynamics in today’s world (especially America), we need to understand what racism actually connotes. ‘Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another; that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. It is the belief that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another’.

The ugly sight of this racism has once again shown its head, resulting in continued injustice towards black communities in America and other western nations. The fight against oppression and denial of basic human rights to people of African descent has been an ongoing struggle for centuries, and today it is hard to see when it will end. Yet Islam addressed this issue over 1,400 years ago, categorically forbidding every form of racism, nationalism and tribalism. Such racist attitudes are abhorred and condemned in Islam.

These incidents take us back to the roots of class supremacy that humans have created over one another and a person feels the complex of superiority over another. And in between Islam has a lesson for us.Teachings in Islam overtly reject division and hierarchy based on race or skin color. Passages in the Quran and Hadith offer critical insights into Islamic teachings in this area. From the very beginning, Islam was conceived on the general notion that humans are equal, as one notable passage proclaims, “…We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.” (Qur’an, 49:13).

It is an important aspect to understand that this message is not just for Muslims only because God is addressing all of humanity. As Muslims we are taught that we are one brotherhood, which is part of a larger brotherhood of humanity.

The arrogance of superiority can be taken back to the creation of Iblis (Devil) when he rejected the commandments of God, believing himself superior to humans. This is the first recorded act of racism where ‘Allah says, “O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?” He said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Allah] said, “Then get out of Paradise, for indeed, you are expelled. […].” [38:75-77]. Therefore, Iblees (Satan) believed that due to his being made from fire, he was intrinsically better than Adam, hence racism. It is because of this reason, in Islam,every act of racism is Satanic in origin.

This attribute was spread by the agents of Iblis among the humans and Jins. Then down the history, we witnessed it in almost all parts of the world and presently it prevails in the Muslim world as well.

The universal teachings of Islam came up with its solutions to the problems that world had entangled itself into and divine teachings of Muhammad SAW questioned its roots. In just a short span of 23 years, Mohammad (SAW) started from East to West the campaign against this demonic trait in such a way that no white had any superiority over any black. He freed human beings from the bondage of slavery and gave them in the worship of only one God.

The last sermon of Prophet (SAW), in the following words, made it clear that no one can claim any superiority over the other based on race, color, language or wealth, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.” (Tirmidhi)

But as humanity became alienated from these principles, this social problem took a rebirth once again in the Muslim world. Unfortunate to say but the issue of race, particularly prejudice towards black Muslims is a difficult and problematic one. In many Muslim countries, brothers and sisters from African countries are treated as second-class citizens, kept from good jobs and housing and subjected to other forms of exclusion — even though Islam teaches Muslims to completely disregard race as any sort of consideration. Often Muslim pilgrims from places like Pakistan and India discriminate against other pilgrims who are from African countries.  In one of the worst illustrations of this reality, a television exposé recently revealed markets in Libya where refugees from African countries were being auctioned off as slaves.Islam is a model for a better way of life and its teachings provided a blueprint for a model society, one where piety and good deeds, and not the color of a person’s skin, would be the only basis of stratification.

Dr.Iqbal (RA) sums up this entire Islamic debate on this subject in the following verse:

جو کرے گا امتیاز رنگ و خوں،  مٹ جائے گا۔

ترک خرگاہی ہو یا اعرابی والا گہر۔

Whoever practices discrimination of color and blood will be erased,

Whether he be a tent‐dwelling Turk or an Arab of noble family!

 

While answering a reporter in a press conference, Malcom X recalled, “…I was at Mecca making the pilgrimage, I spoke about the brotherhood that existed at all levels and among all people who were there on that hajj who had accepted the religion of Islam and I pointed out that for what it had done what the religion of Islam had done for those people over there despite their complexion differences that it would probably do America well to study the religion of Islam and perhaps it could drive some of the racism from this society as it has driven racism from the Muslim society.”

Although, Muslims have not fully built the edifice of racial equality but we have a blessed foundation upon which to place the bricks of faith, education, and action.Islamic belief is that on the day of Judgment our skin tone and gender are insignificant as the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, ‘Verily Allah does not look to your outward forms and your wealth but He looks at your hearts and your deeds’.(Muslim).

Authors can be reached at waseemrajaijt@gmail.com and shaheenshafi800@gmail.com

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *