Hakeem Muhammad from the U.S.-based Black Dawah Network, says the United States has exported the kind of brutality it afflicts on Black Americans to its military activities in the Muslim world.
Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are the names of the most recent Blacks who have tragically been killed by racism and police brutality.
So what African-Americans are responding to in protests that have taken the nation by the storm is a police force that occupies Black communities similar to how a foreign army occupies its colony.
And there is an inextricable connection between the domestic police brutality perpetrated against Black Americans and the U.S military violence perpetrated against the Ummah overseas.
If one has any doubt about the veracity of this proclamation then they should consider how the U.S government has exported racist police officers initially assigned to patrol Black people to later lead the torture and abuse of Muslim detainees in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay.
The images that emerged from the Abu Gharib prison torture camp showed naked Iraqi Muslims having leashes attached to them as though they were animals; Iraqis being stacked upon each other; and Iraqi Muslims being subjected to severe torture including waterboarding and sodomy.
These images are only from the camps we know of and which have been leaked to the public. Muslims can imagine dehumanising torture and agony in other off-the-grid sites that have not been revealed to the public.
Charles Graner, a war criminal and former member of the U.S. Army reserve was convicted of prisoner abuse in connection with the 2003–2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Prior to becoming a U.S army officer in Iraq, he was a correctional officer in Green County, Pennsylvania where the majority of the inmates were Black. They complained he was a dehumanising corrections officer.
In one revealing case, a Black man alleged he was beaten up and began bleeding. Somehow the letters “KKK had been written in his blood. Another Black inmate, Horatio Nimley, filed a lawsuit stating Charles Graner placed a razor blade in his mashed potatoes. When Horatio Nimley took a bite of the mashed potatoes, the hidden razor blade cut his mouth. Correctional officer Charles Graner began laughing at him.
When Horatio Nimley began bleeding profusely and pleading for help, Charles Graner punched and kicked him. Then he said Graner told him: “Shut up, nigger, before we kill you.” Other Black inmates stated they were the victims of forcible sodomy and physical assaults at this prison.
This is the background of Charles Graner who would later oversee the Abu Gharib prisoner camp in Iraq.
Richard Zuley was commissioned by the National Secretary of Defense to interrogate Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Zuley became known for forcing detainees into high-stress positions for extended periods of time and even threatening their family members. In particular, Zuley oversaw the interrogation of Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
The interrogation tactics of Richard Zuley’s interrogation included informing Slahi that his mother would be brought to Guantanamo Bay where she would be raped. Later, a German Shepard would be brought into Salahi’s cell where he would be blindfolded, punched in the face, ribs, before being thrown into the back of a truck.
Prior to Richard Zuley overseeing the torture of Muslims in Guantanamo Bay, he worked as a detective in the Chicago Police Department for nearly 40 years where he oversaw an enhanced interrogation centre. Many African-Americans in Chicago who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes alleged they had been tortured by Zuley into confessing to crimes that they did not commit.
Lathierial Boyd was one of these people. He was a successful African-American businessman who was arrested and framed by Zuley for a homicide. When Zuley searched the house of Boyd, he told him: “No nigger is supposed to live like this.”
Zuley put Boyd in a stress position for several hours and Boyd stated that Zuley planted evidence on him. “What do you think he would do to a nigger in a Chicago police station? I didn’t have a chance, man. Somebody that sick,” Boyd said. Only after 23 years in prison, would Latherial Boyd be exonerated.
The Chicago Police Department’s torture of Blacks included applying an electric shock to genitals to coerce confessions, using cigarettes to burn the skin, suffocations, sexual, assaults, and mock executions.
The reality of police brutality
Malcolm X, the great African-American Muslim icon, was an outspoken critic of police brutality facing African-Americans.
In one speech, Malcolm X stated: “The controlled press inflames the white public against Negroes” resulting in “Gestapo tactics, stopping any black man who is on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent… the white public thinks the white policeman is justified in going in there and trampling on that man’s civil rights and on that man’s human rights.”
And let us not forget that many police forces that occupy Black neighborhoods train under the Israeli Defence Force.
What does it say that Charles Graner (before overseeing the torture of Muslims in Abu Gharib) was a correctional officer in a majority African-American prison? What does it say that one of those African-American prisoners stated that he was called a “Nigger” by Zuley and another African-American prisoner stated that he was beaten up in the facility with “KKK” written in his blood?
What does it say that Richard Zuley (who was commissioned by National Secretary of Defense to oversee the torture of Muslims in Guantanamo Bay) served as a Chicago police detective for over 40 years in which countless African-Americans stated they were subjected to torture?
The fact that active racists are recruited as ring-leaders of the most notorious torture sites of Muslims raises the question as to whether their prior careers policing Black Americans gave them a certain appeal to their hirers.
If Muslims can acknowledge the inhumanity of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, then what do you think Blacks experienced when those individuals started their careers policing Black people and were chosen for their roles in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib with a resume that consisted of policing Black communities?
Let us not forget the plight of African-Americans. Many were brought here as captured Muslims. And it was the police who were the first commissioned in the United States to recapture enslaved Africans who ran away from slavery and who plotted slave rebellions.
The historian Joa Jose Reis writes that “Slave religions were illegal. They were police business rather than a matter of constitutional law.” It was the police that were commissioned to fight enslaved African Muslims who launched a monumental slave revolt in Bahia, Brazil. It was due to white supremacy that enslaved African Muslims were unable to pass their religion to their descendants due to racist laws that mandated enslaved African Muslims to be forcibly Christianised.
Given this history, Muslims should not surprised if the police officers who brutalise Blacks are later recruited to torture Muslims here and abroad.
How can Muslims support the Black community?
As African-Americans are galvanising to take a stance against police brutality, we should remember the words that Malcolm X gave in the last interview of his life where he said: “Much to my dismay, until now, the Muslim world has seemed to ignore the problem of the Black American, and most Muslims who come here from the Muslim world have concentrated more effort in trying to convert white Americans than Black Americans.”
As Muslims, we are supposed to be one body for whom when one part of the body aches then the entire body must ache. All Muslims here and abroad should stand in solidarity with the African-American community as they protest police brutality through tangible means. The Muslim world can no longer afford to turn their backs on the problems facing Black Americans when our struggles are linked.
Malcolm X stated that “the Muslim world would realise that the most fertile area for Islam in the West is the Black American,” showing his belief that Islam would play a monumental role in the liberation struggle of African-Americans.
The Black Dawah Network is an Islamic organisation that promotes Islamic values and ethics in inner-city Black America. It is following in the tradition of Malcolm X who went up and down Detroit’s ghettos inviting all of the Black community to Islam.
The vision of the Black Dawah Network is to produce the next generation of Muslims who will stand firmly upon the rope of Allah to give da’wah to a people in desperate need of what Islam offers, justice and who do not fear, conveying the message that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, received from God.
The Black Dawah Network is following the tradition of Malcolm X, who responded to Said Ramadan in 1965 after he expressed concerns that Malcolm X still sounded like a nationalist in his speeches. He told Ramadan “that being an African American, he felt his ‘first responsibility’ was to ‘my 22 million fellow Black Americans who suffer the same indignities because of their colour as I do.’”
You can donate to Black Dawah Network via: www.gofundme.com/f/support-the-black-dawah-network
Hakeem Muhammad is a Public Interest Law Scholar, has assisted litigation to combat police brutality in the African-American community, and has embarked on a variety of litigation to combat institutional racism in the criminal legal system. Mr Muhammad has taught Critical Race Theory and African-American Legal Studies and is the founder of Black Dawah Network, an African-American Muslim organisation that promotes Islamic values in inner-city Black communities.