Muslims and Mental Health – Islam and the Black American P2
Channel: Sherman Jackson
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Welcome to Muslims and mental health with Sister Heather, a groundbreaking program looking at mental health issues through the bio psychosocial, spiritual paradigm.
Welcome to another episode of Muslims and mental health. Again, today we're looking at part two in our series on looking at Islam and the black American looking toward the third resurrection with Dr. Sherman Jackson. Just a little bit about Dr. Jackson again, if you didn't see the first part of our series, Dr. Jackson is a scholar scholar. He is the publisher of works such as Islamic law in the state the constitutional jurisprudence of she have Adina Qaddafi, on the boundaries of theological tolerance and Islam, Abu Hamid Al Ghazali, Faisal Alta Rica, Islam and the black American looking toward the third resurrection, which we're discussing today, Islam on the black Islam and the
problem of black suffering, as well as the initiative to stop the violence, Sadat's assassins and the renunciation of political violence. So welcome back. Dr. Jackson, thank you. I want to start, you know, back into our conversation around Islam of the black American. And I want to ask you, while the book is not exclusively about black American Muslims, what, if anything, would you say differently today, it's been? Well, 11 years since its publication in 2005.
What would you say differently today than you would have said, when you wrote the book to the black community, and have conditions for
black American Muslims improved or worsened since the writing of this book?
Another excellent question. Um,
I think that I mean, the book was,
in a sense, addressed to at least four audiences. One was black American Muslims. The other was, quote, unquote, immigrant Muslims.
The third was
the black American community at large. And fourthly, the broader American community
at large, and one might even say, a fifth one, which would be the sort of global Muslim community because I think that anytime a Muslim tries to speak in the voice of what is standard golf authentic, he or she always imagines part of his audience to be the global community of Muslims.
I think that with regard to
the black American community of Muslims, alongside the black American community learn the things I probably would have tried to make clear, was that this book was not primarily interested in history in terms of,
you know, personalities, places, dates, sort of a chronology of this happen, then that happened. And because that happened, and this happened, I wasn't I wasn't primarily interested in that. I was primarily interested in the following.
recognize or imagine the fact that something along the lines of 10 times the number of African slaves that came to America went to Brazil alone.
So South America has many, many times the number of African slaves that went there, South and Central America,
then came here.
we don't see Islam in that part of the world in the same way that we see it here in terms of its spread among black Americans. We don't see
anybody else producing a Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or in most depth, or a Muhammad Ali or a Malcolm X.
There's something very black American about this phenomenon of Islam. And in this book,
I was trying to get at the heart of that and
And to understand what that was, and what that has contributed to where we are now. And that's where black religion, communal conversion came in. And that's where the focus on the immigrant community, in terms of how it affected
black American Muslim authority to self define as Muslims and an American space. So I think I would have made that point clear, because I think that, you know, many people read and have read the book,
as a historical Chronicle. It's not, it's not meant to be that it is more of
almost a social historical analysis. And I'm even more interested in the intellectual issues that define the way in which black American and other Muslims think about Islam in the American context. So that's one thing I want to make clear, I think with regard to the immigrant community.
Today, I would point out the following.
I think that in this post 911 world, where I mean even more, most recently, you have people like Donald Trump saying things like, you know, I would not allow Muslims to come to this country.
You know, immigrant Muslims are targeted in a very vicious,
bigoted, dare I say, racist way. And I think that
because of that, many Muslims in America, who are the immigrants themselves, or the children, or perhaps now even the grandchildren of immigrants,
may see in my focus on the category emigrant Islam,
a similar sentiment of of exclusion of targeting
in a very negative sense.
And I would have wanted to make it clear that,
you know, Donald Trump is one thing, my analysis has nothing to do with that.
And I accept immigrant Muslims as my brothers and sisters, and will defend their their right to cover a dignified existence for themselves as Muslims in America as well, as anyone else. Having said that much, however,
there is a historical reality that must be confronted, must be confronted, honestly.
Those who came here from the Muslim world did deploy their religious authority in a way that was also often at the expense of black American Muslims.
They have changed the face of Islam in America, to the point where now, it is far, far, far more likely to be viewed as an alien implant than it was, let's say during the days when Imam WD Mohammed first took over the Nation of Islam, these are realities. And they have come at the expense of the Muslim community in general. Do you think that's something that has only affected African American Muslims? Not at all? And again, I think that I mean, I think we have to put aside some of our sensibilities and look at the situation
Muslims, coming from the Muslim world, to America,
we're coming to the west.
And the West,
was that entity that colonized and dominated them, of course, they would have a certain
difficult predisposition toward the west, trying to find their their firm footing. And here's why. The title of the book is not Islam and the African American. It's entitled Islam and the black American because I believe that black Americans
are to a very, very appreciable extent,
a sort of an American phenomenon.
And that's not to negate or even downplay
the African roots of black Americans, including myself, I celebrate that fact.
But we've been in America almost half a millennium.
I don't know of any people who exist in a place for 400 years
and does not in some appreciable way. Become a new people.
We are black Americans.
To the extent that one has a negative predisposition towards America,
one almost has to have a negative predisposition towards black Americans. Because
James Baldwin said,
and he used the terminology of the time, then negros don't exist anywhere, but America, they are an American product. So my point is that
predisposition towards the West as the former colonized as the former Dominator
affected black American Muslims, and it would affect anyone else who happened to be an American. And I think that part of again, the value of that Islamic tradition is that it affords Muslims, the tools with which to negotiate all this stuff in a balanced manner.
And I think that that's, that that's extremely important.
what would you say today to the black community? Yeah, how do you think the conditions for the black American Muslim have improved or Halvorsen
to the black American
community at large, in some ways, I mean, I was very much obsessed with getting Islamic tradition to speak to the issues that I raised effectively. And I think that in some ways, that may have limited the accessibility of the bulk to black Americans who happen not to be you know, in any way affiliated with that. And so I wish I, I wish I could have
written a book that was more open, that might actually promote broader,
more diffused conversation between black American Muslims and black American non Muslims
in a manner that would perhaps heighten the degree of understanding not of only black American Muslims and black man non Muslims, but of America as as a historical entity.
So that's one thing I wish there with regard to the improvement of the plight of black American Muslims.
You think it's improved or worsened?
I think I wouldn't Klein, well, let me say this. I mean, I'm, I'm, I'm an optimist.
But I think that if we
take as as a standard of judgment,
the ability to self define the ability to be at home in one's own skin,
to have the confidence that one
can live one's life as a Muslim, spontaneously, without always having to try to anticipate what the judgments of someone who does not necessarily understand the backdrop or which one is coming.
look at the degree to which Islam as a whole is indigenized, in American society, I would have to say things have worsened rather than than improved. I think there's a lot of dislocation in the black American community. In fact, if we look at things such as how the broader black American community looks at the black American Muslim community,
the black American Muslim community was held in far higher esteem, I would say 30 years ago,
in the black American community at large than they are today. And part of that has to do with the fact that the image of Islam in America at one time was almost predominated by a black presence. Now, it's predominated by sort of an immigrant,
if not immigrant slash overseas. Not presence, but certainly an image. All right. So when one says Muslim today, one thinks about, you know, someone who, who has immigrated from this country from someplace else. I think that that has done a lot to do a lot to diminish the US.
the black American Muslim community
now enjoys in the broader black community. And I think quite frankly, that's something that's very dangerous for both the black American Muslim community, and the broader immigrant and white American Muslim community. Because I think that
the black American Muslim community, is the community that really, for historical reasons, we're not talking about any superiority or inferiority here, but we're talking about for historical reasons. They are the community that can really indigenize the phenomenon of Islam in America.
No one, in their right mind would ever tell Muhammad on the goal.
He is an authentic Muslim American icon, to have that kind of social capital is critical for the health well being and flourishing of any religion. And so I think that to the extent that we lose that kind of prestige, in the black American community at large, will lose it in America at large. And that, that that can only
come at the expense of the health and well being of muscles.
I mean, it's very interesting, because you see pictures of Donald Trump, some of these other politicians sitting next to Muhammad Ali, or, you know, Kareem Abdul Jabbar some of these very well known American Muslim icons, as you said.
But when it comes to actually talking about American Muslims, they have completely erased that aspect of them. And it's become so commonplace, it's almost like they treat them as an exception, as opposed to the rule. And we've talked about on this program before the Dr. Amnon McLeod talked about the integration of the African American Muslims within everyday society that has become they become so part of the society that,
you know, they basically go unrecognized at this point, as being set apart. But there's a danger in that as well. They've also gone unrecognized and made an exception, it seems like
but I want to pick up on this conversation, I need to take a short break for our sponsor. So we're going to take a short break and we'll be right back.
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Welcome back to Muslims on mental health. Again, we're discussing the book Islam in the black American with Dr. Sherman Jackson. And we're gonna continue our conversation. I want to switch gears just a little bit. But on a similar vein, and ask you specifically targeting black American Muslims and their children, what can be done to stem the tide of apostasy, either socially or theologically? And the black American community?
Wow, these are
these are monster questions. Very good, though.
I forced one to not only think but to to focus on what's really important. I really
do think that the the issue of apostasy and whether people
maintain their identity, as Muslims has a lot more to do with the socio cultural reality of both Muslims or Muslim communities and the broader American community than it does with theological issues per se.
I think that part of the problem that we suffer from now
the Islamic religious tradition has been essentially reduced to the strict
The religious realm
as a result of which Islam has sort of ceased to be a civilization
that carries its own culture, its own cultural genius. Its ability
to provide cultural outlets
for identity formation, that carry the values and the virtues of Islam
through the medium of everyday existence, which is culture.
And I think that many young Muslims,
because Islam has ceased to be culturally productive, all right, have a difficult time, maintaining their ability to identify with Islam, in terms of their everyday existence, not in terms of their theology, but in terms of their everyday existence.
I think that was really the ability to inspire, well, to inspire but also
to be relevant to an everyday existence in a positive way. So for example,
one of the things that movements such as the Nation of Islam and even more science temple and other proto Slavic movements did,
they were a civilization, they were not just theological beliefs, right? They were aware of dressing, a way of talking, a way of walking away of cooking,
a way of relating to each other in public space, they weren't gender relations, they were all these cultural kinds of things,
in a manner that a young person could indulge their religion without having to be sort of exclusively in a religious state of mind.
And I think that
Islam in America has to understand the importance of recapturing that ability to be culturally productive, in such a way that
religion becomes something and especially religion like Islam,
which is different from Protestantism. I mean, we, and that's not a slap of Protestantism. I mean, Protestantism would probably pride itself on that. But Islam is more than just internalized beliefs. Right? It is, it is a public and it publicly communal presence as well.
And I think that without that, cultural production, young Muslims are going to continue to be afflicted
with what WEB DuBois called double consciousness, where they find themselves in a state where they want to be Muslims on the one hand, because theologically, that's where they are. But what not to be Muslims, on the other hand, because culturally, it's not cool, to be a Muslim. It's not popular to be a Muslim, it's not acceptable to be a Muslim. And that dimension cannot be solved, simply by focusing on the theological. There has to be a cultural production that comes along with Islam as a civilization and not simply limiting it to the narrow realm of theology, ritual, and the like.
And so how can black American Muslims build institutions that will be relevant to their particular history, culture and experience as Muslims in America today?
And in some ways, to my mind, I mean, that that's, that's related to the last question, because alongside culture
there has to be material production. I think, quite frankly, that one of the major keys, what do you mean by material production, money.
You know, all of the talk about building institutions
that ignores the necessity of, of, of wealth production, to sustain to establish and sustain those institutions will basically go nowhere. So I think that again,
you know, having the right theology that's important, having the right perspective on Islamic law, all that's important, but how all these things are going to establish themselves in such a manner that they remain relevant, relevant and efficacious in the everyday lives of Muslims, how Muslims then are going to be able to assume their place in society, when they can actually contribute to the shape that society takes. This is going to take cultural production
There's going to take institution building and institution building, all right within the black American community. The key, I think, lacking element is money. I think that this is an area where immigrant Muslims have done an absolutely fantastic job. They have built institutions.
I mean, there's not a, there's not a state in the Union now that doesn't have a mosque, there's barely a city, major city in America that doesn't have a mosque that was built by immigrant Muslims, Muslim schools,
all kinds of professional associations.
But that community is highly educated. And that community has the financial resources, and wherewithal with which to do those things.
Part of what has to happen in the black American community, is that the understanding of Islam has to be expanded. And there have to be practical steps that addressed the issue of wealth production within the black American community, and it won't happen overnight. I think that, you know, we have to, I think, get used to thinking transgenerational Lee. But if we put that, that, that piece of the puzzle in place today, all right, within one or two generations, you start generating the kind of surplus income that can actually sustain institutions, all right, cultural institutions, educational institutions, political institutions, professional institutions, and ways that can really bring back
the civilizational dimension of Islam in such a way that I think right now we're still struggling with.
Okay, so what else would you like people to know about Islam on the black American that we haven't covered?
Um, well, I think two things, I think, one, and this was a dimension that was addressed to the broader black community.
I think that we still have a very weak
conversation between black American Muslims and black America, non Muslims in America, there's not much dialogue or or exchange
in that, between those two communities. And
part of that
has to do with the manner in which
elements within the black American non Muslim community have reacted against Islam. And I think that, in the book, I refer to this as black Orientalism.
I would like to see those conversations
both started and deepened. Because I don't think that that kind of animosity serves either community.
I think the other thing that
comes out of Islam and the black American is that, you know, racism, white supremacy, these are fundamental problems in America,
most direct impact is on black American Muslims. But I think that
what I think it's important to understand is that
white supremacy cannot be defeated, purely through political means.
And let me try and articulate what I mean by that.
Few years ago, or maybe about 10 years ago, Professor Cornel West came to the University of Michigan, and he gave a public address.
And he spoke about an experience he had with a young white lady at Harvard. She came up to him and she said to him, Mr. West, you just Professor West, you're just, you're just said, You're so brilliant. You're such a brilliant thinker. I'm just an all of you.
But I have to say I'm a little bit sort of perplexed and disappointed by the fact that you keep talking about all this white supremacy stuff.
We're in the 19. I don't remember what it was, but the late 20th century, and you know, the days of white supremacy are gone. So I don't understand why someone as brilliant as you continues to harp on this stuff. And Cornell was said to her, he says, well,
thank you very much for your kind words. But
if I still have a little bit of white supremacy in me, I suspect that you probably have some in yourself
as well. And the point that I'm trying to make is that there is
a necessity of addressing that inner self,
of a soul that
is needed if white supremacy is to be defeated. Even if we shut down the institutions that carry white supremacy, if the heart the soul is colonized by it, then we will continue to conduct ourselves in a way that is representative of it. So that's a long way of saying there's a spiritual dimension
that is needed to be brought to bear on the issues that confront black American Muslims and black Americans in general. And the last chapter of Islam and the black American deals with the necessity of addressing the inner self. And that that is not something it's, that's an indispensable part of any struggle to produce a better world. Because no supremacy
white supremacy, male supremacy, Arab supremacy, no supremacy
can function effectively, unless the victims of that supremacy internalize it.
And even when you get rid of all the institutions, all right.
addressing that inner self, to read that in itself,
of that malady, it will continue and probably morph into into something else. So Islam is not simply about, you know, the public domain, it is about that. But it is also very much about the private realm of spirituality, of, of refinement of the self, of psychological well being, all of these things have to be included in terms of what Islam actually is.
And it sounds like, you know, from the beginning of what you're talking about there,
there's a lot of work to do around creating empathy for
both indigenous Muslims and the immigrant Muslims. And there are stories and narratives there where empathy can be created, because whereas, you know, you have the issue of privilege, and dealing with that,
with the indigenous Muslims, you also have the story of living between two worlds with the immigrant Muslims, and all that means to them, and what that has, you know, the sort of
traumatic aspects that have afflicted them, which may have, you know, shown itself as
looking like as bending more towards supremacy or supremacist actions. And so it was great, as you said, to, to deepen that conversation to be able to create spaces where empathy can be created on both sides, and understanding, which will go a long way in terms of the mental health of our community.
So, you know, this is good conversation to have, I know that you're resistant to these types of forums. But I really want to move to that, because you raise a really, really important issue there about, about the mental health of both communities, I think that
I'm not a mental health professional, I'm just speaking to you on a fundamental human level. I think that one of the most damaging aspects to anybody's mental health is to have an existence where they just feel completely misunderstood. They're just not understood. And no matter how much they try and articulate themselves, they're just not understood. And I think on both sides of this conversation, we have a lot of that immigrant Muslims, these these black American Muslims, they just don't understand, like American Muslims. And they don't understand because they're nativist, no, they're reverse. They're involved in reverse racism themselves. Black American Muslims are saying, these
immigrants just don't understand. And probably there's an element of truth on both sides of that, that charge. Both of them have narratives of survival. Well, not only that, but I think both of them. And when you're in a narrative of survival, I would imagine you don't have a whole lot of psychological space for understanding anything that doesn't relate to your own survival.
But here, one of the things that I want to insist upon and I hope that
I'm among those who actually practice what I'm about to preach here, inevitable failings notwithstanding I think the key moving forward as a concept in Islam called Adam. The key is how we have
on these edits, or civility etiquette, how do we have these difficult conversations in a manner that's civil? How can I confront you tell you that I think that you're, you're wrong, or that you've committed this that was injurious or whatever. What out, assassinating your sense of dignity your person. Without making you feel that you cannot concede my point, without running the risk of having me and turn dominate you to a point where you're better off just telling me to go and fly a kite. So I think it's really, really important that we observe etiquette and the manner in which we, we exchange, I don't want to put you in a position where I attack you so viciously, or the presumptions
that are come along that come along with my critique and make you feel that well, he's right, but I can't I can't acknowledge this, because it's just going to
it's just going to put me in too bad a predicament. You know, we want to be able to
improve our ability to communicate and improve our, our, our shared life. And that means that we have to be comfortable and safe enough to create an environment of safety for vulnerability. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that's, I think that's very important. And I think you're right, in that, you know,
empathy is a part of civility.
And I think that that's just a key key key element. Even the Quran tells the Prophet Muhammad, had you been harsh and hard hearted, the people would have just abandoned you. Although you are speaking the truth, the manner in which you speak it is also important. Yeah, emotional intelligence is all through us. So, on that note, though,
I know that
because I know well, I know you're resistant to this forum and of taping and
but I hope I have enough ability to persuade you to come back and talk about Islam and the problem of blacks suffering
on a later day, well, your your your your your your listenership right now? Well, most of your listenership is probably not aware of the fact that you have an inside track. And there's no such thing as my saying, I won't come back. So
yes, I guess I'll have to. So we will transition on to the fun questions. Okay. And I want to ask you, this time, what is your favorite book and why? I don't have a favorite book.
Um, well, one of my favorite books about a slam in English, one that I recommend to people who are interested
in both Islam as religion, but in something that I think that most Americans just want a sense of how these people think, how do how do Muslims think? How do they agonize their way through, you know, the challenges of the modern world? Do they just throw Quranic verses at everything? Or is that a process that's, that's much broader than that? There's a book by a former
Yugoslavian Muslim, by the name of
Alia, is it good, which is called Islam between East and West? Is that still in print? Yes, it is. It's one of my favorite
books in English. On Islam, I still go back today.
And sort of not entertained, but but but I don't know entertain console, enrich myself enjoy myself. With with with parts of that book. It's just a very, very rich,
rich book, I think that it's something that
will make you think,
make you feel and actually put you in a position where you feel that you can have a really meaningful
exchange with this lab. Yeah, remember that?
And what is your favorite genre? And why do genre books?
Well, I'm I'm an academic so
I mean, I mean, I'm, I'm more into
And some ways
I'm not sure how personal I should be on your show, but in some ways, I think that I started college very late. So I
I've always felt in some ways that I'm behind. So, I never felt that I had the luxury to read a whole lot of
I read poetry
I read Arabic literature far less now than than I used to.
the past time to, to to enrich the spirit.
I like I like poetry.
Yeah, I like Arabic poetry, most of all, because Arabic poetry rhymes English poetry tends not often not to rhyme.
And when do you have a favorite author?
Again, I mean, in some ways, it depends on what what mood
one is in
probably two authors that stand out
I like Amiri Baraka.
And in Arabic, if we're talking about moderns
this is going to be unpopular, but I actually like Adonys.
And among the classical poets
probably between Medina B and Abner West.
All right, great. Well, thank you again, very much for coming and discussing your book. If you are not familiar with this book, the book is Islam and the black American. You can find it on amazon.com. You can also contact Dr. Sherman Jackson at doc at agent, Dr. Sherman [email protected], or at the University of Southern California. You can contact us with your comments, feedback and concern at nefs firstname.lastname@example.org. And that's an AF S H E A le ar [email protected].
And please join us again. Thank you