Leaders of the Muslim and Christian sectors of the African community have joined forces with International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) to defend the rights of African people to practice our religions of choice – especially when those religions teach us to resist our own oppression.
The call to action is in anticipation of InPDUM’s upcoming national convention (February 19-21, 2011; Philadelphia, PA).
The second day of the Convention will feature a special workshop entitled "the Role of Religion and Revolution" which will feature presentations from each of the above mentioned leaders as well as Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People's Socialist Party.
Leaders include Imam Suetwedien of Masjid Muhammad, Imam Mikael Shabazz of Masjidullah, Pastor Nzinga Themba of the African Redemption Church and Pastor Donna Jones of Cookman United Methodist Church.
Both Christian and Muslim Africans are coming under increasing fire for their determination to inspire other Africans to fight oppression, via the call for those from their religious faiths to hold true to the principles of their faiths and stand against the oppression we are all held under.
As the crisis of imperialism deepens, it has become increasingly difficult for African churches that have attempted to forge productive relationships with the people in their communities to maintain their existence.
The issue of survival is particularly true for those African churches that exist within structures controlled and funded directly by the white ruling class or by the US government itself.
Just as the US government has imposed budget cuts on essential services for African communities across the country, so have grassroots African churches experienced funding cuts.
The US Department of Health and Human Services’s faith-based initiative, a product of the first Bush regime, is a colonial pittance fund established with the stated purpose to help organizations doing work in oppressed communities, and churches were the primary recipients of these dollars.
In recent years, even those meager resources have been shifted away from the these churches and into an expanding prison and police system.
Additionally, major capitalist church bodies, like the National United Methodist Church, are shutting down churches that have historically been located in African and Latino communities, liquidating the buildings as real estate or repurposing them as outposts for rigid, anti-African purposes.
At the same time, these capitalist churches are developing new congregations in the resource-rich white suburbs.
There was a time when the teachings of Christianity were used to inspire Africans to resist oppression. Stories of Moses leading his people to the promised land inspired generations of Africans to develop community leadership that would lead us to freedom.
Just as the US government, however, militarily crushed our Black Power movement during the 1960s, so has the church been stripped of its role as a center for African resistance.
The neocolonial church of white power has replace the African church of struggle, where opportunists today make billions of dollars each year off of the hard-earned resources of black people but do nothing that would lead us toward freedom.
Meanwhile, genuine grassroots community church organizers, anyone who is at all reminiscent of the church of resistance that we once knew, are persecuted.
Their funding has been cut and buildings been seized for their attempts to embody the example set by Jesus, himself a freedom fighter and an organizer of programs to meet his people’s needs.
This reality represents an attack on the right of African people to practice their religion of our choice.
if that religion calls for the development and liberation of African people.
Attacks on Muslims escalate
At the same time, African Muslims are suffering blatant persecution at the hands of the US government, not only for being African, but for their practice of a religion that the US has determined is a threat to its ability to dominate lives and resources in various parts of the world.
The US government’s wars of aggression throughout the Middle East are being fought under the pretense of a war against terror and threats at the hands of “Islamic extremists.”
However, what US and European imperialists call "terrorism" is simply resistance amongst oppressed people against U.S. imperialism, the real terrorist..
These imperialists have a 500-year-long history of inflicting colonialism, slavery and genocide against the majority of the world’s population.
Inside US borders, the US government maintains its reign of terror in the form of prisons, gentrification and police containment of the black community.
The democratic rights of Africans are routinely assaulted, as in cities like Philadelphia and its “stop and frisk” policy.
More than 210,000 black people were violated in this way in Philly in 2009 alone.
In November 2010 Naima Jones Shabazz, a Muslim who is also the daughter of Imam Mikael Shabazz, recently was attacked by Philadelphia police when she attempted to defend her children from harassment by a police detective.
Sister Naima was viciously beaten and tasered five times in front of her children.
These types of attacks, and the church’s refusal to respond to or criticize them, have led millions of Africans in the US and around the world to abandon the neocolonial church.
These Africans are instead participating in solidarity struggles with other oppressed peoples throughout Asia and the Middle East against “the West,” through their practice of Islam.
Masses of black people, particularly during the 1960s, converted to Islam as a form of resistance against the oppression we experienced at the hands of the US government and negro preachers’ general refusal to act against our oppression.
InPDUM believes it is right for oppressed people to resist their oppression.
Neither Islam nor Christianity is the enemy of the African community.
The enemy is US imperialism and its neocolonial minions who wage a relentless war against African and other oppressed peoples around the world.
The end to US terror must begin with an end to the attacks on the democratic rights of African people right here in the US.
We demand the right to practice the religion of our choice, especially when the religion of our choice promotes resistance and an end to our oppression.
Cross-religion unity a step toward revolutionary democratic African unity
The united front developed by InPDUM and these religious leaders are an expression of the recognition that, as Malcolm X taught us, we are African people before we are Muslims or Christians.
As Africans we experience a universal relationship and experience with the United States that undeniably includes 500 years of terror, brutality and powerlessness.
InPDUM, however, believes that in the final analysis, African people are under attack not because of our particular religious beliefs, but because of our relationship to an economic and political system that was built from Europe’s attack on Africa.
Further, InPDUM believes that Africans who practice the Islam and Christianity of resistance are victims of persecution by the US, not because of their religious beliefs but because Africans are colonial subjects of the US government - just as the Hebrews were colonized by the Roman government.
As a colonized people, we have been robbed of the ability to be self-determining and self-governing.
If we were free as a people we would have the right to practice the religion of our choice.
This same lack of freedom is found in the collective denial of basic democratic rights of the broadest sectors of our oppressed community.
African youth are criminalized under the guise of a war on drugs and gangs and are locked up due to violation of laws designed by white power for the purpose of mass incarceration of Africans.
The US government makes it “illegal” to do what African youth do, despite any relationship to its impact on the community.
Wearing baggy pants, hanging out in, or even passing through a particular neighborhood—as is shown in the recently passed “anti-gang initiative”—are enforced by the US government to maintain colonialism, not because there is something innately criminal or evil about us.
The only solution to the continued erosion of our freedoms—religious and otherwise—is for the entire African community to unite in resistance against US colonialism.
The upcoming InPDUM National Convention is designed to unite the broadest sectors of the poor and oppressed African community under one strategy of resistance toward freedom and reparations.
All lovers of freedom and social justice are encouraged to attend this important event. To register, go to www.inpdum.org