A few months ago when that amazing 3D image of what Jesus probably really looked like came out, I brought it up at the dinner table with some of my relatives in India. I said “Hey, some scientists found out what Jesus really looked like.” Everyone leaned in. I was mostly high off the thought that, yes, this was going to scientifically prove that white people can go suck it because Jesus wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed – he looked more like me than he did an Abercrombie & Fitch model.
“He was an Arab Jew, and probably had some black African blood,” I revealed, psyched. Black African blood! Science to the rescue! Suck it, white people! Suck it, Indian Christians who have such deep-seated internalised racism that they hang photos of dreamy Ewan McGregor Jesus everywhere! Jesus is ours. Considering the sociopolitical climate in the United States at the time with Black Lives Matter and institutionalised racism against blacks, I revelled in the idea that if everyone realised Jesus was (somewhat) black, then racists would take a second to reflect on the link between religion and anti-black racism. As an Indian, I often align myself more with blacks, and other people of colour than I do with whites. I know this is not the case for many other brown people. Unfortunately, not many in India were aware of what was going on in Ferguson, and not many cared.
The response to my J-Bomb (Jesus bomb) was, umm, confusing. Remember how white people reacted to the black Stormtrooper? Looks of disgust. Incredulity. Internal turmoil. I’m pretty sure someone tore their shirt off like Marlon Brando in Streetcar and screamed “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
Wait, what? This was the reveal all of us have been dreaming about for centuries. Now I realised, not all of us. The Muslim community is kind of racist. The Asian Muslim community is definitely probably kinda racist.
For some inexplicable reason, Asian Muslims think they’re the best at being Muslim. (We’re not.) It might be because we’re brown-skinned which makes us feel a kinship with Arabs (where Islam all began). It might be because some of us, my family included, believe we are direct descendants of Arab/Persian/Turkish Muslims who migrated along trade routes in Asia. Maybe it’s because we’re not first-generation converts and believe in the idiotic fallacy that being born Muslim is superior to converting. Maybe we’re just dicks and think we’re better than everyone else.
I went a step further and – just to start some shit – said that Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses were all black too, because all humans were black in the beginning. We’re all from Africa, which is a supremely cool idea. My audience weren’t having it. The feared the thought that the Prophets they cherished and admired possibly did not look like them. This is the same reasoning behind Italian painters depicting Jesus as a skinny Fabio – people find comfort in praying to someone that looks like them. In Christian history, this turned into fucked up white supremacy. Colonialists used these images of Skinny Fabio Jesus to colonise and tell the brown heathens that, since God was white, white people are superior. Man was created in the image of God, right?
Why do dark-skinned Prophets scare us so? Is it because we actually think that we are superior to blacks? If black people are so inferior to us, then how on earth could we love and respect them as we love and respect our Adam, Abraham, Moses? Were Adam, Abraham and Moses thugs? Were they “street”? Were they drug dealers? How low did they wear their pants? Did they listen to rap music? Cornrows? Locs? Jay-Z?
Will Idris Elba play Musa in the inevitable Ten Commandments reboot? (Um, yes please.)
We dislike the thought of black Prophets because we dislike black people.
But whoa, hey! We’re not racists! There’s a hadith that says something about not being racist or something. And remember Bilal? He was one of the first Muslims – a great man. He was a black man and a slave and was liberated by Islam. By a show of hands how many of you have said these exact words: “Islam actually ended slavery, you know, 1400 years ago. Have you heard of Bilal?”
See, here’s the thing – let’s stop using Bilal as the Islamic mascot for anti-racism. That’s the same as a Men’s Rights Activist saying “We gave women the vote so what more do they want?”
Three vibrant, innocent young black Muslims were gunned down, execution style, in Indiana, USA. Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Kamel Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Adam Tairab, 17. I shared the news story on my Facebook wall twice. I’ve never even been to the United States, yet these boys were my brothers. I find comfort in having an international community. I got 1 share from a Muslim friend. Most of my Facebook friends are Muslim. You do the math.
These same Muslims go into full throttle during Ramadan with the Iftar memes and infographics showing you when the best time is to offer dua. That’s not the important stuff. This is the important stuff. Our brothers and sisters are being gunned down because we pray to a specific God. Would we have cared more if the boys were of Pakistani or Palestinian descent? I don’t know. All I know is our reaction, or lack thereof, was shameful.
Asian and Arab Muslims – you’re not special. Get over yourselves. Islam isn’t post-racial yet, like we want to believe it is. The liberation of Bilal is not the badge of honour that we all wear proudly, stupidly on our chests. Islam must be intersectional. Black Muslim Lives Matter.
May Our Three Brothers rest in peace, and may we keep their names in our mouths.