GEMS IN THE BIBLE BELT: THE FREEDOM RIDERS AND DIVERSITY IN MUSLIMS

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May 28, 1961 nine freedom riders who were protesting segregation throughout the south arrived here at the Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson MS and the rest is history…..

In Jackson Mississippi the battles of integration have been going on for a long time. While many have been won at the level of the mind but it is not clear how many hearts have been won over.

While these battles are primarily at the racial front, I see one at the Islamic front too.

In the Halls of the Masajeds in Jackson Mississippi and all over the USA the battles for and against integration are being fought at the level of the heart. While quoting Allah’s words that he made us into tribes so that we may recognize each other and thank him for diversity, since homogeneity can be boring and result in mental stagnation, I see some hearts of the Muslims battling to seek superiority based on ethnicity rather than taqwa.

Even in those who are devout muslims, sometimes the ethnic/color bias leaks through. It is most rampant in the Indo-Pakistani community where all folks darker than their own skin are suspect and makes them resistant to integration.

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How is racial segregation different than racial and or religious profiling?

In this milieu it is beautiful to see and meet individuals who have consciously and deliberately sought diversity in their mosques and homes.

The stretch to accept integration is sometimes painful. However we immigrants from other countries left home to seek diversity and in all fairness must at least attempt to walk in the shoes of the indigent Americans. We must envision how they feel about us and how much they have to stretch to even tolerate the blaze of color in our clothes, the loudness of our talk, the twisted sounds of our accents of broken English, our unpunctual behavior and our strange manners.

In my humble opinion the crux of resistance to diversity stems from Kibr: “ I am better than him” the words of Iblis on being commanded to bow before Adam (AS) who was made of humble dirt.

Each one of us must examine our hearts for kibr whenever we feel resistance in accepting a brother or sister of different color or culture in totality. For in all sincerity if we do find even an iota of kibr in our hearts we will be banned from the Gardens of Jannah (hadith)

While the battle for integration of race still wages in the people of Jackson MI an equal if not greater battle wages in the hearts of the Muslims of Mississippi who are striving to engage diversity in their mosques such that no one color supersedes another, and reminding themselves and occasionally forgetting that the best in the eyes of Allah (Subhanawataala) is one who is striving for taqwa.

The final outcome is yet to be seen. Some of the survivors of the Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement who embraced Islam have now joined hands to bring Freedom to Muslims and release them from the bondage of their past prejudices, so help them Allah.

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