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Islamophobia & Safety: Passive or Revolutionary

The definition of ‘passive’ and ‘revolutionary’ are distinctly different. Organizations are made up of organic creatures of unchecked intellect. As I interviewed individuals who are active members of the St. Cloud community, I realized money & politics were the obstacles which got in the way of an individual following in the footsteps of Dr. King, Malcolm X, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, or Angela Davis. While funds and monetary value may help the cause and improve one’s agenda of social change, it is not and should not be the sole piece of foundation one concentrates on.
An organization or individual who accepts or allows what happens or what others do, without actively responding or resisting should be called out as being passive. On the other-hand, an organization or individual who is involved in or causes a complete or dramatic change (often political) should be labelled as a revolutionary. My interview of one of the lieutenants of Public Safety, the Special Adviser to the President of St. Cloud State University, and Haji Yussuf of UniteCloud were all very informative. They explained how they as well as those who they represent or are employed by are trying to protect and serve Muslims who live in Saint Cloud and/or attend Saint Cloud State University.

My first interview was one of the lieutenants of Public Safety who I will refer to as Officer A thought highly of himself, his colleagues, and the department he worked for. When I asked him about hate crimes and if the political atmosphere impacts what he observes on campus, his reply was that Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) hasn’t seen too much of hate crimes or an increase of them. For me this was astounding, not only because it contradicts what news networks at night are showing, or what newspapers are reporting, but it does not support what Muslim students on campus are reporting (including Muslim students attending high school). Several years ago Muslim students attending Saint Cloud Technical High School walked out of school due Islamophobia. Students reported head coverings being ripped off their heads and being called terrorists. Similarly, after the attack at Crossroads Mall (one Somali man holding a box cutter and being shot by an off-duty police officer) several Muslim students from Saint Cloud State University had been followed by strangers while walking to their car at night. Mosques in Saint Cloud (at least two of the four) have been vandalized year after year as well as car windows belonging to Somali’s have been smashed in.

It is from my understanding that Public Safety has a limited number of officers which patrol and protect 17,000 students. Yet, this should not stop them from being honest about Islamophobia. The few times when they were involved was either after an unfortunate event took place such as a terrorist attack or when a situation arose and it would of caused bad publicity if they had not. Officer A informed me that Saint Cloud State University has three CAP officers which are police officers from the Saint Cloud department who are specifically assigned to the Saint Cloud State University campus. Individuals who wish to be escorted to their car or dorm can call Public Safety and request to be picked up from a specific location and dropped off. The lieutenant believes that because of the perception that Public Safety officer’s only job is to give parking tickets along with students not being aware of the services they provide this has led to an unfavorable view of Public Safety. Instead of taking responsibility, the department of Public Safety has taken a passive approach to Islamophobia by citing that it isn’t a big issue or that the incidences are not occurring at such a high frequency. Such a passive attitude of only taking initiative when a terrible event happens is one of the worst decisions an individual or organization can make. One of the fundamental pillars that I would have in regards to my own agenda for social change is to not wait for an event or incident of Islamophobia to occur but to try to stop it from happening before it happens.

If monetary funds were the problem for Public Safety, how about for an institution which has the money to spend on the well-being of students, what excuse would they use to defend their actions? One of the first signs of pointing blame or trying to deflect a question is by suggesting that resources are scarce. The special adviser to the president of SCSU stated less funds are available so priorities must be assigned properly. I asked if spending money on a new food service provider, renovating Atwood Memorial Center, building a new hockey center, science lab, as well as destroying a residence hall was the cause of the decrease in funds. Her answer was not adequate.

One reason why an institution or an individual chooses to act passively is because they had made mistakes previously and either is afraid to amend them or to take another chance for redemption. One of the easiest things to do if this is the case or the position of an institution such as SCSU would be to just talk (followed by no action). After the Muslim Ban was signed by President Donald J. Trump, the president of SCSU met with students. He asked for students talk about what they perceived as going to happen, the dangers they and their families believed they were in, as well as what the president and SCSU could do to help them feel safe. Around 30 or so students showed up along with the president of the Somali Student Association. People’s fears were talked about, the risks recognized, as well the policies that Saint Cloud State University has in place.

My problem with this is that it is only talk. Thousands of individuals were stranded and stopped from entering the United States. Professors, students, and loved ones were separated from each other and their respective employers. Muhammad Ali’s son Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother were stopped by immigration and interrogated for two hours. Now imagine what immigrants families who had no money nor respective fame attached to their name went through. If the first individual and/or organization had an excuse it would be that they are stretched thin (not enough bodies) but SCSU’s excuse is that they don’t have the funds.

The last interview that I conducted was of Haji Yussuf of UniteCloud. This particular organization has a website which can be found at http://www.unitecloud.org, I wanted to find out if not having enough men to cover the campus along with monetary fund’s was an issue. Are they acting passively or can they be labelled as revolutionary? On UniteCloud’s homepage, their mission statement is as such,

TENSIONS ARE HIGH IN THE CENTRAL MINNESOTA

So what can we do about it? Well, that’s why we are here! We believe that by working together we can make a difference. Through education, facts, stories from the community, and action steps, we can be the change that can bring our community closer together. Often we allow misinformation and dehumanizing stereotypes to make untrue assumptions of our neighbors. By telling our stories, YOUR story, we can give a face to the disenfranchised and show others that there is more to each issue than meets the eye.

From a glace, I thought this was a wonderful statement. It even had the word ‘action’ in it. So they must believe in revolutionary ideas, hold events, and strive to not only to talk but back it up with protests, a free breakfast program for children, and an ambulance service for those living in poverty, the homeless, or immigrants who can’t speak English? Instead, UniteCloud talks about who is your neighbor. This is fine, if one wants to be passive and just talk. A white family who wants to learn another culture and eat sambusa and drink tea with a Somali family is a good thing. Yet, this does not help change the fact nor educate others about what is white privilege. That same family will walk away and inform the rest of their kin that they ate sambusa with Somalis. They might even think that by them stating Somalis are regular folk and not terrorists that this would mean they are ‘liberal’ or freedom fighters. In hindsight, it means the opposite. UniteCloud has made it easier for white families to use the phrase ‘all lives matter’ and made it possible for them to believe that white privilege doesn’t exist since Saint Cloud is united now that we are all eating sambusa together.

UniteCloud’s vision statement talks about all of us holding bias and this bias influencing us in regards to how we treat each other. My question is has this ‘bias’ ever influenced an African country to enslave white people, forcibly remove them from their land, torture them, hang them, and force them to build a city from the ground up? No this has never happened. The term humanness is used in their mission statement. In order for social change to occur, or even for Islamophobia to be defeated, we as a people or a community of white skinned individuals must admit that the crusades against Muslims, enslaving west African Muslims, holding Muslims in Guantanamo Bay, and that the 90 percent of Stearns county and the surrounding area which voted for Donald J. Trump are Islamophobic, borderline genocidal actions (intentional or not).

Trying to find common interests is the same type of thinking that individuals told and still tell immigrants when they want them to assimilate. Instead of finding common interests, how about we learn about our differences? UniteCloud is as an organization no matter what excuse they give are passive. While they ‘seek’ to foster well-being of community members they fail to accept that it was not differences which caused Islamophobia or even racism to exist, rather it was the White Christian Superiority Complex. That is what they should be fighting against not the differences which reside in a community.

How would I construct and conduct my own agenda of fighting Islamophobia? Well for starters, I would use the same type of Ten-Point program that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense adopted in 1967 but with a few minor changes.

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Muslim Community.
2. We want full employment for our people.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Muslim Community.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
6. We want all Muslim men to be exempt from military service.
7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Muslim people.
8. We want freedom for all Muslim men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
9. We want all Muslim people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Muslim Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

We need to start portraying Muslim women as revolutionaries. Such examples of Kathleen Cleaver and Erika Huggins were seen as political and intellectual women during the time of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. This same attitude needs to be conducted and established within the Muslim community. Not only does passiveness lead to death, murders, and the killing of Muslim Americans (as well as immigrants), but we must think about what if we were armed and practiced self-defense? Black Panther Party for Self Defense women participants were armed and often pictured with their children and guns. They were seen as protectors of the home, family, and the community. If this same methodology was practiced by the Muslim community in Saint Cloud, an increase in activism and membership of such an organization would increase. Take for example the membership of the Black Panther for Self-Defense in 1970, close to 40% to 70% of the members were women as well as several chapters (Des Moines and New Haven) were headed by women.

UniteCloud in my opinion is just a talking head. If we want to combat Islamophobia several programs and services must be started. These programs must be established by Muslim community members and if funding is available it must come from St. Cloud Muslim community members or other immigrants and minorities (not white community members). History has proven whenever white community members donate money or become stakeholders their only goal is to control the organization or community. Take for example Chicago during the 60’s and 70’s, the African American population earned, bought, and distributed more than 50 to 60 million dollars between each other yet none of that went towards the well-being of the community. Instead white community members pretended to care about and gave the persona that the money they invested in black communities was for the well-being of blacks, instead it was meant as a tool to control the black community. This same situation would occur if white people were allowed to become stakeholders of such an organization that I am speaking of.

Childcare centers must be established by Muslim women within their own households instead of relying on Stearns County. This would promote participation in the organization being discussed as well as would help establish multiple headquarters. Furthermore, a free breakfast program must be established in St. Cloud for all Muslim children and minority children. Due to white privilege and the economic system being more aligned with white interests we would only focus on Muslim children (and other non-Muslim minority children). These children would participate in larger group activities and be raised collectively during the week. This is important because part of African culture is a commitment to collectivism.

Most importantly, the organization that I would create would serve the people, protect the people, and establish what Huey Newton called ‘survival programs’. The fact is that African Americans and other minorities (which either are descendants of Muslims or are themselves) are being killed off at high rate by law enforcement or the United States government. Imagine a free breakfast program established by Muslims and only for Muslims and other non-Muslim minority children, it would serve as a space for educating youth about the condition of the Muslim community and what actions they as well as their parents should take.

True liberation is based on understanding and being educated about Islamic history and the distorted history of the United States. The ability to influence young minds and strengthen the community ties within St. Cloud through understanding and accepting are differences is detrimental. Free services such clothing distribution centers, education classes about politics, economics, free medical clinics, and self-defense and first aid classes would be of the most importance. Orchestrating transportation to prisons for family members of inmates would be a top concern. These are all services that need to be established if an organization is truly going to be ‘revolutionary’. In essence, my agenda to combat Islamophobia would be an agenda that attacks and educations the masses about the corrupt system we call ‘democracy’ as well as ‘capitalism’. Trust should be earned instead of given, meaning the Muslim community should not trust outsiders until they prove themselves trustworthy.

References

Davis, Angela Yvonne. 1990. Women, culture & politics. New York: Vintage Books.

Gregory, Dick and Robert Lipsyte. 1999. Nigger: an autobiography. Cutchogue, NY: Buccaneer
Books.

Haas, Jeffrey. 2011. The assassination of Fred Hampton: how the FBI and the Chicago police
Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books.

Newton, Huey P. and J. Herman. Blake. 2009. Revolutionary Suicide. New York: Penguin
Books.

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