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Black Muslim Intersectional Invisibility:

Between Anti-Blackness, Racism  & Islamophobia

Psychologist Valerie Purdie Vaughns coined the term 'intersectional invisibility* to describe the phenomenon that occurs within a group in which individuals with intersecting identities (Black AND Muslim, racial and religious minority) are not perceived to be typical members of that group and often erased from the collective imagination. Black Muslims experience intersectional invisibility as they are not perceived as prototypical members of the American Muslim community (with Arab and South Asian Muslims viewed as the norm). Black Muslims also experience discrimination and racism within the community due to anti-Black sentiment. Further, Black Muslims are not seen as prototypical members of the non-Muslim Black community in which Christianity is the dominant religion.

From the Muslim Ban, to #BlackLivesMatter, Ahmed Mohamed ("Clock Boy") and Black Islamophobes, Black Muslim scholars and activists have challenged the erasure of Black Muslims in American Muslim discourse, particularly as it relates to Islamophobia. The articles listed below represent a round-up of current and past articles which provide profound insight and analysis for those seeking to understand the nature and insidious of this 'acute social invisibility' experienced by Black Muslims.

Black Muslim Futures Matter


Miski Noor, HuffingtonPost

Anti-Blackness thrives in every seam of clothing and every particle of air, and faith is not exempt. Anti-Blackness operates by making Blackness a target and flattening human experience into a finite game of winners and losers that we never consented to play, a game in which the rules are written so that in fact losing is the only option. If we claim our Blackness, we lose our other identities, but if we claim our other identities, we lose our Blackness.

I know that the truth is that I can always win, every day, by continuing to say I am Black and I am Muslim, and the Black Muslim experience is real, we matter and the positive futures of Black Muslims will help build a brighter world for everyone. But I need people to hear me out and to commit to doing something to help change the current situation.

To Be Black and Muslim in the Trump Era: The Intersection of Islamophobia and Racism


Jamillah Karim, Race, Gender & Faith Blog

To be black and Muslim in this time means that we are steadfast and constant in the fight against racism, for certainly it is not as though racism just happened to us. Without a doubt, we are alarmed by the current ban on seven Muslim-majority nations. And the old hate is coming at us in new ways; and in blatant forms less familiar to my generation, but commonly felt in the generations before us. (Though what can be more blatant than cops killing unarmed black men in the streets?) And precisely because of those who came before us and our long-standing spiritual and physical resistance to racism, we quickly draw conviction and courage from the legacy of our ancestors and the prophets and women exemplars of our faith. 

BlackMuslimBan | Take Down the Wall in Your Hearts


Umm Zakiyyah,

It’s encouraging to see what happens when, despite our differences, we come together for the greater good. Seeing droves of people around the nation and world stand up with us against the unjust #MuslimBan gives me hope for a better world. However, I can’t help wondering what we as a Muslim community in America are offering our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters once the ban is lifted and they are given the right to live here. Will we invite them to our (non-existent) loving, united Muslim community, which is based on the Islamic teachings of tolerance and inclusion that the #MuslimBan seeks to obliterate? Or will we do what we’ve always done: invite them to support the bans we hold closest to our hearts, the most sacred of which seems to be the #BlackMuslimBan.

In Trump’s America: Still Unapologetically Black & Muslim!


Hakeem Muhammad,

During this tumultuous Trump era in which islamophobia and anti-blackness have overt manifestations emanating from the executive branch of the world’s greatest superpower, Black Muslims, let us stand firmly upon the shoulders of those who came before us and remain unapologetically Black and Muslim.

Though Trump’s advisor on National Security, Michael Flynn sees our beautiful faith as a “malignant cancer,” let us double up our efforts to turn to our faith for freedom, justice, and equality  by continuing  our holy protest against the real cancer wreaking havoc in the world: white supremacy.

Why We Must Stop De-Centering Black Muslims In The Fight Against Islamophobia


Isra Ibrahim,

By understanding Islamophobia to be anti-Black, we can begin to unpack the very real erasure of the Black Muslim. This erasure is evident in the ways progressives and others protest against the “Muslim ban,” as well as in American Muslim discourse intra-communally. The separation of “Muslim” from “Black” is aided by anti-Black sentiment present in liberal spaces, and it is embraced by non-Black Muslims because it allows them to appeal to whiteness.

By embracing this separation, non-Black Muslims are able to place their bodies as an antithesis to Black ones.

Why The Muslim Ban Matters To Black People


Michael Hariott,

When Jaundiced Jesus signed the executive order that restricted entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven countries, his acolytes immediately pounced in front of cameras with two parallel narratives:

  1. The executive order was not a Muslim ban.

  2. This was necessary for national security.

Donald Trump’s all-star alternative-facts team’s efforts to convince the world that his actions had nothing to do with religion rang as true as a man in a white robe and pointed hood telling you that he just likes setting crosses on fire; it has nothing to do with race

5 Black Muslims Speak Out On Trump’s Immigration Ban


Ashantai Hathaway,

Across the country and globally, people are denouncing President Donald Trump’s decision to put an immigration ban in place that has shut borders for refugees and others in seven predominately Muslim countries.

The controversial executive order Trump signed on Friday has prompted protests nationwide and affected thousands of people, including many black Muslims, who say they want to be included in the conversation.

Here are five perspectives from people who identify as black and Muslim, explaining what President Trump’s ban means to them:

Muslim Ban, Anti-Blackness and African American Muslims


Layla Abdullah-Poulos, NbAMuslim

Since the signing of 45’s executive order on immigration, American Muslims from numerous backgrounds engaged in multifaceted forms of resistance. The need to amplify and work against the suppressive measures of the executive order discriminately targeting Muslims is obvious. However, recent calls for resistance stirred some tensions among African American Muslims.

Black Muslims in the US make up 1/3 of the country’s Muslim demographic and comprises a complex subculture that includes Africans, Caribbean, and native-born African American Muslims.

Muslim Ban: What Does It Mean & Impact on Muslim Communities


Kameelah Rashad, Islam Today Radio Show

Host Kameelah Rashad with Special Guests Namira Islam, co-Director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and Asha Noor, Advocacy Specialist at Take On Hate discuss the implications of the Muslim Ban, with a particular attention to the impact on Black Muslim communities.

The (Anti) Black Ass Roots of America’s Islamophobia



Within the current political climate, they operate as if American Islam has two distinct starting points. The first begins with the arrival of enslaved Africans and ends at the point where Islam was assumed to be removed completely. The second, marking the beginning of an American Muslim identity, begins with the arrival of Arab immigrant Muslims. This understanding relies on a simplification of history. Not only is there an assumption of total religious conversion, but it ignores how customs and philosophies of faith influence people’s lives, regardless of whether they are able to practice.

How the Response to Delta Airline's Islamohobia Normalizes Anti-Black Violence in Muslim Spaces


Isra Amin Ibrahim,

It is important to recognize that Caucasians oppressing non-Black Arabs is akin to “white-on-white” crime to the global Black person who recognizes both groups as anti-Black oppressors. How whiteness manifests its violence is important to understand, however. If the white Muslim or Arab, like Adam Saleh, can be evicted for speaking Arabic, I can only imagine the reaction my 15 year old, 5’8” Black brother, Mohamed, would warrant. Would the white passengers have read him as a Muslim boy or just a Black man? Would non-Black Muslims even consider him a legitimate target of Islamophobia given his Blackness?

Bill Maher’s Islamophobia: A Black Muslim Response


Hakeem Muhammad,

In an interview with Keith Ellison, the first African-American Muslim congressman, Bill Maher jokes, “You were not raised in the Islamic religion. You were raised Catholic; I didn’t even know you went to prison.” This microaggression against Keith Ellison plays upon a common social phenomenon in which African-American convicts convert to Islam in prison.

While Maher’s anti-Islamic beliefs stem from his belief that “liberals need to stand up for liberal principles,” what Bill Maher is not cognizant of is that this social phenomenon he jokes about (black convicts  turning to Islam) is actually is an indictment of the very liberalism that Bill Maher extols, and it calls into question the validity of his Islamophobic fears.

Islamophobia and Anti-Blackness: The Historical Connection pt. 1


Hakeem Muhammad,

A world which is anti-Black must be anti-Islam, because Islam in the psyche of white civil society has been a formidable force in catalyzing resistance among Blacks to not acquiesce to the position of the slave.  The historical record of European political theorists gives clear indication that the power of Islam functioned  to them as a menacing impediment to their attempts to secure an unjust racial caste system that marked Blacks as slave flesh to be dominated by whites.​

It’s all “One Ummah” Until a Black Muslim is Murdered



It’s all “One Ummah” until a black Muslim is murdered, then in the main, it’s caveats for solidarity and tumbleweed from Muslims who are not Black.

Why is it that we as non-black Muslims are noticeably muted in our response to the murder of Black Muslims, but will tell anyone who will listen that it’s “One Ummah, stop causing division”?

Why, when Black Muslims point out the institutional anti-blackness in parts of the Muslim community, the response is “There is no racism in Islam” or “I can’t possibly be anti-Black, one of my favourite companions of the Prophet (PBUH) is Bilal (RA) and he was Black.”

Black Muslim Americans: The Minority Within a Minority


Maria Khwaja,

Words in Hindi and Arabic make the idea of blackness ugly, and we all know many of our parents would react with horror if we decided to marry a Black Muslim. This is something that we are reluctant to admit, often trotting out a few token Black Muslims to support our claim that we are colorblind and adamantly not racist. However, the refusal to admit to the prejudice in our own communities means we are hypocritical on two fronts. First, we refuse to confront our own structural issues and become more inclusive as a community. Second, we refuse to align ourselves with a minority while expecting to be recognized and appreciated as a minority.

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‘My Cousin Is a Muslim’: Black Families Against Islamophobia


Jamillah Karim, HuffingtonPost

Yes, I have high expectations when it comes to African Americans and Islamophobia. I do not expect black Americans, who experience hate crimes more than any other group in this country, to turn around and treat with contempt another group that does not look like the white majority. Further, I would hope that African Americans, painfully aware of how the dominant media has historically vilified black people in this country and around the world, would see through the lies, biases, and distortions of the media and of racist individuals when it comes to Islam and Muslims, here in America and abroad. Realistically, however, as we know from Ben Carson’s Islamophobic comments, the high standards to which I hold black Americans do not always hold.

A Black Muslim Voice on Islamophobia


Sajdah Nubree

As a Black-American Muslim who feels deeply connected to both the Black and Muslim communities, there is a perspective that I want to share from my personal experiences that I know are not uniquely mine, but also not widely shared.

Reports of hate crimes against Muslims in America are rising following the horrific Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Islamophobia is real and it is serious. Muslims all over are speaking out in different ways. Muslims are demanding hateful rhetoric from the likes of Trump to be condemned and for it to stop. But let’s be clear, it didn’t begin with Trump; and it didn’t begin with 9/11. Islamophobia is a symptom of a larger problem that exists in America

Islamophobia and Black American Muslims


Margari Hill, HuffingtonPost

Scholars and experts on Islam in America have drawn upon the analytical framework of critical race theory to explore the “othering” and racialization of Muslims since 9/11. The “us versus them” binary that posits Muslims as the foreign “other” ignores the long history of Muslim in North America, which predates the Declaration of Independence. This binary erases Black American Muslims whose Muslim identity is homegrown, with few ties to trans-national ethnic networks. Black Muslims have critiqued National Muslim organizations that tend to privilege the immigrant and first and second generation American Muslim experiences, as well as trans-national issues.

Racial and Religious Identities Collide Leaving Black Muslims Overlooked


Mashaun Simon, NBCNews

Trump's anti-Muslim sentiments also caused Rashad, who is married and also a mother, think of her family - especially her son. She called it her "Momma Bear" mode, adding in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump's anti-Muslim sentiment, she worries about her son's life chances. "We are caught in the middle of the really intense discussion around the value of black life and the value of black Muslim lives," she said.

Jackson suggests Trump's statement creates a shift of sorts.

"It means fundamentally that we have moved from citizenship as a status that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, to some other criterion that does discriminate on that basis. This renders some Americans 'more American' than others, more entitled to Constitutional protections than others, based purely on their religion," he said

Islamophobia Will Never Be The New Black


Hallima Docmanov,

I was raised to believe that being Muslim comes before everything else, and so I never thought much of the anti-Black comments that would come from my non-Black peers at the mosque. I didn’t question why our mosques in Boston were segregated by ethnic and racial backgrounds.  The casual throwing around of the N-word from Desi and Arab teens did not bother me. The stories that my Desi and Arab friends told me when we giggled about future husbands, when they’d casually say, “My family would never allow me to marry a Black person” — none of these experiences really fazed me. I mean, we were all Muslim, right? What does it matter that the only time Black Muslims were ever talked about was either Bilal (RA) or Malcolm X?

Why Some Muslims Don’t Want Ahmed Mohamed’s Blackness To Be Ignored


Abby Phillip, WashingtonPost

And others openly wondered how the world might have reacted to Mohamed’s story if he had been black.

But Mohamed’s racial identity is as complex as the country of his descent. The African nation of Sudan is predominantly Muslim and is comprised of some 600 ethnicities. Arabs and indigenous Africans have intermarried and mixed there for centuries and most speak Arabic.

To wit, the phrase given to the region now inhabited by Islamic people in Africa, which includes modern-day Sudan, is “Bilad al-Sudan” and it means literally “the land of negroes” or “the land of blacks.”

Further complicating the situation is the fact that high-profile praise came from such figures as Indian American comedian Aziz Ansari, who compared his own experience to Mohamed’s.

Mapping the Intersections of Islamophobia & #BlackLivesMatter: Unearthing Black Muslim Life & Activism in the Policing Crisis


Donna Auston,

Parallels can be drawn fairly easily, of course, between Islamophobia and anti-black racism as specific manifestations of a similar impulse, but making the leap to consider them intimate bedfellows may seem like an analytical stretch. In public discourse, we easily link anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discrimination as being nearly one and the same. Yet, in spite of the fact that a full one-third of the U.S. Muslim population is black, we rarely tend to think of issues of anti-black racism, poverty, mass incarceration, or police brutality as legitimate “Muslim” issues. This is because we rarely consider black Muslims.

Towards a Black Muslim Ontology of Resistance


Muna Mire, The New Inquiry

But when you add the identity marker of “Muslim” to that of “Black,” something very different happens: erasure. Black Muslims are invisible to their faith communities and to wider society, for Muslims, unlike Black people, must actively legitimize their identities as Muslims—through practicing faith, maintaining proximity to a community, or a cultural inheritance. The hypervisibility of Blackness makes one’s identity as a Muslim impossible precisely because Blackness precludes Muslimness in the cultural imaginary. 

Black Muslim Leaders Aim To Unite Their Faith Community To Fight Racism


Antonia Blumberg, HuffingtonPost

Many Muslim American activists consider social justice work to be a fundamental tenet of their faith — but the community’s cohesion on this front occasionally breaks down along racial lines.

Things are beginning to change, however, as black Muslim leaders work to raise the issues of racism and police brutality in the broader Muslim community, reminding Muslims of all backgrounds of the moral imperative to speak out against injustice.

Racism has affected the black Muslim community for generations. America’s first Muslims were brought to the country as slaves, as historian Peter Manseau described in a recent HuffPost blog,

Black, British & Muslim; We’re not just a “Complication”


Momtaza Mehri, Media Diversified

It points towards a general attitude within British society generally and within Muslim communities of predominantly South Asian heritage; one is either Black, or Muslim. Never the twain shall meet. There is little to no representation, despite our numbers. Growing up, I have found myself often looking to America to see myself in its mosaic. Which would be paradoxically hilarious, if it wasn’t so sad. From Ibtihaj Muhammed to Malcolm X, Amir Suleiman to Ice Cube, Black American Muslim figures have provided me, and so many others, with the image nourishment we all need to love and value ourselves wholly. I found symbols of Black American racial pride; the dashiki worn with a kufi bearing a crescent. Mos Def becoming Yasiin Bey, Malika Bilal’s astuteness, even Kareem Abdul Jabbar by way of my Canadian, basketball-obsessed cousins. I marvelled at this grounded community. Yet here, Black British Muslim communities are still seen as strange newcomers, shuffling our feet at the welcome rugs of British Islam.

The Peculiar Case of the Black American Islamophobe


Su'ad Abdul-Khabeer, HuffingtonPost

 Now even in my nostalgia about the Brooklyn of my youth, I can recall some hostility toward Islam and Muslims. This came from some black Christians — for perhaps obvious theological reasons—and from certain Afrocentrists who espouse what University of Michigan Professor Sherman Jackson has termed “Black Orientalism,” the reductive ideological position in which Islam is a synonym for Arab and therefore culpable in the East African slave trade and any and all forms of Arab “imperialism.” Yet the anti-Muslim bias found in the statements of Williams and Cain is starkly different from these older hostilities. This is because today’s anti Muslim bias has its roots in America’s history of white supremacy.

Islamophobia and the African American Muslim


Nicole Ballin, NewsOne

Whether it’s vandalizing a Mosque or a hateful taunt, harassment of Muslim Americans post 9/11 is at an all time high. But what about African-American Muslims, who according to the most recent study by the Virginia based Allied Media Corp, make up 24% of 7 million Muslims in America? They can be harder to recognize (they often don’t wear scarves or head dresses) but they are lawmakers, rappers, and even corporate executives.

Debra Mubashshir Majeed, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Beloit College in Beloit, WI and author of Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America (Indiana University Press, 2006), says this is really about the stereotype of what a Muslim looks like. Dress is the cultural aspect of the faith and interestingly, since 9/11, people associate the Arab garb with Islam.


*Intersectional Invisibility: The Distinctive Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiple Subordinate-Group Identities


Valerie Purdie Vaughns & Richard Eibach

Intersectional Invisibility: To explain why people with intersecting identities will tend to be defined as non-prototypical members of their constituent identity groups…. because people with two or more subordinate identities do not fit the prototypes of their constituent subordinate groups, they will experience intersectional invisibility. By intersectional invisibility we mean the general failure to fully recognize people with intersecting identities as members of their constituent groups. Intersectional invisibility also refers to the distortion of the intersectional persons’ characteristics in order to fit them into frameworks defined by prototypes of constituent identity groups... Such individuals tend to be marginal members within marginalized groups. This status relegates them to a position of acute social invisibility.

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