"All Lives Matter" is Spiritual Manipulation
This morning I opened up my Instagram DMs to find the following message from one of my followers:
This is not how we show up.
In no uncertain terms: it is unacceptable for us as believers to use religious quotes and dogma to spread these ignorant, false, and damaging messages.
This kind of response is incredibly alienating to people who are experiencing real suffering and ongoing mistreatment. The oppressed have a right to mobilize against their oppressors, to pursue justice, and to NEVER forgive their oppressors if they choose not to.
As Muslims we have to stop propagating this faulty notion that we only believe in love and forgiveness and mercy. Islam is about justice, too! The prophets forgave some people, but prayed against and punished others.
In 2013, three black women founded the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer. Since then, countless more black people have been harassed, beaten, and killed by law enforcement (and private citizens, too). The movement seeks to mobilize against the systemic oppression of the black community, and to continuously remind us that we should value the lives of black folks just as much as we value the life if anyone else.
The movement is not about belittling you. I haven’t been able to understand why this comes off as offensive to people, unless these people don’t agree with the premise that black lives matter as much as other lives. Are we so fragile that we can't, for a single moment, acknowledge that not everything has to be about US?
Unfortunately, many Muslims claim that the Black Lives Matter movement is exclusionary and unnecessary in the Muslim community because “Islam came to eradicate racism.” To that I say: let’s take ourselves to account in an honest way. Do we engage in anti-black remarks in our families and communities? If we don't engage, do we remain silent when others are spewing their racism in favour of “keeping the peace”? Do we feel as emotionally and spiritually affected when a black person is killed or oppressed in comparison to when a white-skinned person or person of our cultural background is killed or oppressed?
This is not a time to get defensive. This is a time to sit with yourself and really ask these questions.
Responding to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” while attempting to use religious dogma as justification is spiritual manipulation. You're attempting to use someone's dedication to his or her faith to stop them from saying something you personally find unpalatable.
Spiritual manipulation is not new. It has been used by abusers and oppressors for eons to silence people into obedience and into prematurely forgiving abusers in order to “gain the pleasure of God.” Scholars and laypeople alike have lectures upon lectures and posts upon posts about the virtues of patience and forgiveness—and yes, these are beautiful things to apply personally in your life, if you so choose. But they are not beautiful when they are enacted at the expense of the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of the oppressed.
Islam does not advocate for that.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “The believer does not allow himself to be stung twice from the same hole.”
When you have experienced abuse, it is not befitting to knowingly return to a situation where you will be abused a second time (if you possess the power to not return).
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, "O Allah's Messenger! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet (saw) said, "By preventing him from oppressing others."
It’s our job as believers to remove oppression when possible. And if we’re not able to? We speak out against oppression. And if we’re not able to? We hate it with our hearts, and that is the weakest of faith.
Instead of wasting our time trying to piece together flimsy religious justifications to support “all lives matter,” why don’t we educate ourselves and do something that’s actually going to benefit our black community?
Allah (swt) says, "O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives." (4:135)
Stand up for justice—even if it’s against your own self or the people you love the most. If you have found yourself saying, “All lives matter,” or quoting Quran and hadith to prove how not-racist you are instead of actually listening, empathizing, and working hand-in-hand with black POC, then you are not part of the solution.