It is tragically ironic that in the midst of a pandemic caused by a respiratory disease– in other words, a disease that affects one’s ability to breath– George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breath!” brought the world’s attention to a deadlier disease that has taken the life from generations of African American men, women and children: Racism.
George Floyd’s murder is shamefully only the latest in a long string of gross injustices waged against African Americans for centuries. Indeed, since the inception of this country, racial injustice against African Americans has been officially sanctioned by the government and institutionalized.
It is long overdue that we individually and collectively commit to fight against racism.
We at the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) unequivocally reject the perpetuation of racial injustice in this country. We stand in solidarity with African Americans who have for too long suffered injustices without public acknowledgement or outrage.
As an organization that supports over three hundred full time Islamic schools in the United States and abroad, ISLA also acknowledges that Islamic schools must recognize their own role in perpetuating racism and commit to fight against it. This letter is therefore a commitment and a call.
The commitment is ours: The Islamic Schools League of America commits to providing a platform for dialogue and training to equip our Islamic schools with the knowledge and skills to work against individual and structural racism through their work as school leaders and teachers.
This is also a call: Islamic schools in the United States must commit to fighting racism and strive towards racial equity by investing the time, money and resources to:
- Honestly reflect on one’s own personal prejudices
- Understand the history of racial injustice in America
- Understand the rich history and legacy of people of African descent in Islam and throughout all of humanity
- Systematically analyze racial inequities in our own institutions
- Uncover implicit biases that affect the school’s recruitment and hiring practices, student enrollment, disciplinary practices and other elements of school culture
- Examine the school’s curriculum to ensure that race and racism are discussed explicitly and that historical and contemporary figures of African or African American descent are included year-round in every grade
- Consciously seek to diversify its school boards, leadership, staff and student body, not just to fulfill superficial quotas, but to achieve greater equity and ensure accountability
ISLA believes that the fight for equity and justice is one that is obligatory upon all Muslims and people of conscience. ISLA does not pretend to have all of the answers to solve racism. We know that it is complex and nuanced. We also know that we must look to African American leadership to guide us in this matter.
As we continue to engage in dialogue, education and training, we plan to expand our action items and commitments, formulating more strategic methods for working towards the goal of eradicating racism from our hearts, homes, schools and communities.
In solidarity and support,
Shaza Khan, PhD, Executive Director
Seema Imam, EdD, Board Chair
Patricia Salahuddin, EdD, Vice Chair
Fawzia May Tung, MBBS, Secretary
Sergil Naviwala, Treasurer
Matthew Moes, Board Member
Mussarut Jabeen, Board Member
Rasha El-Haggan, Board Member