2020 will go down in history with distinction – so far, for all the wrong reasons.
The latest spark came from America following unjust police brutality towards black Americans. The Black Lives Matter movement has gained traction and people are voicing their concerns against the racism society breeds.
Uproar against continuous racial discrimination of ethnic minorities is now echoed across the world. Unfortunately, some protests quickly evolved into violence and strengthened the narrative of “us and them”.
#AllLivesMatter – criticised for being an anti-movement to Black Lives Matter – was also given a second wind and has created a whole lot of confusion and debate to the voices against racism.
World leadership hasn’t been a means of solace either. Divisive politics continue despite people demanding for change and absolute justice.
In Europe, anti-racism demonstrations have re-earthed the horrific history of institutional slavery harboured by Western colonialism. The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue – a slave owner and trader – sparked debate about why such figures of history were lauded in British society in the first place and why they deserve a monument of praise.
This has led to other statues of slave traders being removed across London and the UK.
In Belgium, the same outrage led to authorities taking down the statue of King Leopold II, “whose forces seized Congo in the late 19th Century and ran an exploitative regime that led to the death of millions.” (nytimes.com, 9 June 2020)
“History is not being erased by those seeking to topple the statues of slavers and murderous white supremacists; it is being remembered”, a piece in The Guardian argued.
Democratically voicing opinions and pressuring for change without resorting to violence and economic damage is the only effective way to see (some) real justice – an opinion also voiced by prominent black figures.
Political pressure, evaluating values and democratic processes can certainly bring change – after all, statues of slavers have now been taken down through democratic processes. But to witness true change – a change in the beliefs of society – the statues of the world’s nihilistic and materialistic culture need to be toppled.
If moral and spiritual values are ignored, how is the intrinsic motivation of every individual going to change toward good? This is why Islam was so effective in stamping out racism and slavery, which was part and parcel of Arab society during Prophet Muhammad’ssa time. He preached to a society that glorified slavery and saw itself as the “superior” race and culture, with all non-Arabs labelled as ajmi, literally meaning the “one who cannot speak clearly”.
Over 1,400 hundred years ago, the internal statues of racism and discrimination were toppled by the force of Islam’s moral revolution. Prophet Muhammadsa, through Quranic teachings, cemented the understanding that no race is superior – or inferior – to another.
The arrogance of Arab superiority was shattered and within 23 years, Muslims had abandoned their ancient prejudices. Ex-slaves who had been abused and degraded prior to Islam were now leaders, commanders, imams and models for the generations of Muslims who were to come. The care, love and attention Prophet Muhammadsa genuinely expressed towards ethnic minorities and freed slaves embedded a culture that loved and appreciated diversity amongst human beings – that we are one nation created by the One God.
When some ignorant Muslims, due to their ancient views, complained as to why freed slaves such as Hazrat Zaidra bin Haritha and later, his son, Hazrat Usamara were appointed as commanders over an army, Prophet Muhammadsa strongly dismissed such complaints and reminded them that Hazrat Zaidra and Hazrat Usamara were appointed based on the merits of their leadership qualities.
In this way, Prophet Muhammadsa made it clear that ethnicity or social background should not play a part in holding office. The change in the psychology of Muslim Arabs created a harmonious and diverse society; Islam was quickly accepted across the world due to its teachings of racial equality and acceptance.
Prophet Muhammad’ssa last sermon resonated in the generations to come, in which he emphatically reminded Muslims that “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; A white person has no superiority over black person, nor does a black have any superiority over white, except by piety and good actions.”
For the voices of anti-racism protests and calls for absolute justice to be effective, the statues of immorality must be toppled. We need to evaluate, deeply, the morals we live by.