Being Muslim While White Privileged

For Brooke’s White Privilege and the Ummah carnival.

Oh, where to start, because this is a very thorny issue indeed.
Firstly, an acknowledgment. Appearing visibly Muslim (wearing hijab, Sunnah beard, thobe, e.t.c) will indeed open you up to anti-Muslim prejudice even if you are white.

However,

The majority of white converts are aware that all we need to do is take off the aforementioned accoutrements and we will blend right back into whiteness again.

Muslims of colour, whether convert or born, do not have that option. They never have access to White privilege.

Privilege is not just about appearance, although it does play a key part.

Carrying our invisible knapsacks has other effects too. The concept that White is the standard, the norm and that white majority countries are the ones to aspire to can be deeply ingrained.

When a white Muslim communicates with a Muslim of colour, this may be the first communication they have had with any person of colour, where the white person is not communicating as a member of the numerically dominant group, for while white people may be the majority in Western countries, in Islam, they are very much the minority.

Such demographics may lead the white Muslim to feel at a disadvantage, one they have not been socialised with and this leads to many white converts furiously attacking the born Muslims, usually for their lack of “Good Muslimness”, when the real issue is the white convert’s lack of power, compared to that they enjoy being part of a majority in mainstream society.

But wait. Aren’t white Muslims, the prized pets, the conversion stories everyone wants to hear, the ones who get far more marriage proposals and attention then their convert brethren of colour?

Yes, but there are two factors for this.

The first is that White is seen to equal Western in a way that a person of colour rarely is, especially by those living outside the West. This is supported by the White dominated media exported by the West, which usually transmits tropes of White privilege both openly and subliminally.

As the West asserts itself as being superior economically, educationally, socially, so white people are viewed as being superior and therefore better to have in the religion as converts. Why else does the urban myth about Bill Gates converting to Islam surface so frequently?

For various reasons, political and otherwise, Muslims feel themselves at a disadvantage, hence the idea that the best way of getting more power for the Muslims, is to get people viewed as having more power to convert. Then, once those powerful people convert, ensure they are front and centre whenever possible to attract more of the same.

It is often mentioned that the area where whites are most privileged in the Muslim community is that of marriage, especially white Muslimahs.

This is linked to the issues of perceived superiority, as I described above. However it usually manifests itself as colourism, namely the view that appearing white, especially white skinned, is desirable.

Note that while the white skin may be desirable, white culture in a spouse, usually isn’t. White people may be viewed as being promiscuous, not interested in supporting their in laws, not good house keepers, selfish, cold and generally likely to go back to their pre conversion ways.

This explains why, in cultures like the Arab or Desi cultures, where the husband is often viewed as the dominant personality, white women are viewed as acceptable marriage partners, but not white men.
If you marry a white women you get the perceived benefits of white skin and lighter offspring, without the risk of losing your culture.

A convert of colour is not viewed as having any of these benefits, which explains why they may find it very difficult to find a Muslim spouse.

The concept of White superiority is alien to Islam, in fact it’s haraam and so it is one that White Muslims must work very hard to shed, without seeking any reward, head patting or cookies for doing so.

The first step in unpacking your invisible knapsack, is to recognise that you are wearing one.

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36 Responses

  1. Salaams Dear:

    “The first step in unpacking your invisible knapsack, is to recognise that you are wearing one.”

    That is the truth! And I think that many realize how full the knapsack is when we start interacting with Muslims of color.

  2. white muslims shouldn’t be trying to shed white superiority…it’s the other muslims who need to stop being so racist, self-hating, and sexist, obviously.

  3. Assalamu alaikum wr wb

    I think Muslims in general has to stop generalizing other people based on the color of their skin, or ethnicity. One group shouldn’t try to compete with one another, nor try to belittle them nor think they are better than them.

    There’s a hadith and even a verse in the Qur’an that states that no arab is better than a non-arab, and this also has to do with the color of our skins. I think, it’s the whole mentality.

    People are raised to think that the “whites” in general, converted, reverted are generally “good” whereas anyone else that converts to Islam, be they black, blue, or polka dot that it’s not as much acknowledged, or appreciated as much as the “whites.” which is a real unfortunate because you lose your sense of identity, your sense of feeling that sense of comfortableness.

    I disagree with the above statement of whites that shouldn’t shed their white superiority, they should shed it off completely. If people are looking up to them, and praising them they need to have a good reputation, a good sense of telling them, that they are not better than another person just on their skin color.
    It’s just color. It’s the person’s intention, the heart, their sense of well-being that matters in the end to Allah swt.

    I do not think other muslims have to stop being racist or self-hating, and sexist. They should stop these things, but it shouldn’t only be targeted towards the non-whites, it should be targeted to everyone.

    People have to stop living in their boxes as Dawud Wharnsby said in his song, “The People of the Boxes.” despite they’re comfy, because the world is not a box.
    We need to realize there are more people out there, from all different backgrounds, colors, and shapes and sizes.
    We need to accept that, have tolerance, and have some sense of sensibility to understand, and stop trying to be “I’m better than you.” attitude, basing it on your color, ethnicity, language, and opportunities.

    I too, though coming from an Indian background married out of my culture thinking it would be better for me having to grow up here in the western that a convert would be able to easily relate to me than a non-convert. BOY, was I ever wrong!
    And you all end up learning the hard way.
    Allah knows best.

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      Thank you for such a thorough response.

      Btw, I’ve read your blog and I think you’re really brave. May Allah grant you peace and happiness, you truly deserve it.

  4. Asalamu Walikum Sis – Bill Gates converted to Islam!? Is that why he’s giving all his money to Afghanistan?
    “leads to many white converts furiously attacking the born Muslim” oh yeah. I’m trying to touch on that in my post though I hadn’t thought of the power dynamic, but yes I can see that too!
    “white culture in a spouse, usually isn’t” Also very common problem, and I have seen sisters of color face the same difficulty; they don’t supress their “Americaness.”
    I’m going to want a lot of cookies by the time this gig is up. Wish I had some right now :(
    Love and Peace

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      Chocolate chip,. double chocolate or white chocolate chip?

      I know you’ve gotten so much heat for this, but I still think it was really good idea.

  5. Forsoothsayer~wagging my figure at you~ We, The Muslims, have recently forfeited our sense of humor–don’t tempt us!

  6. Very good!

  7. Salaams,

    This is a fascinating topic.

    I’m a Pak-American woman married to a white male convert and it is really odd the way he is treated both as someone who doesn’t know much about Islam (simply because he is a convert, though he knows far more about fiqh, etc., than most born Muslims) and simultaneously showcased as a way of showing how desirable Islam is (because a white non-Muslim would choose it, thus elevating the faith in the eyes of born Muslims).

    I also have a friend who is a female white convert who began wearing the hijab and said she “suddenly realized what it is like to be non-white” because of her loss of white-based privileges. Other whites began assuming she was foreign, didn’t speak English, is oppressed, etc.

    Thought-provoking post – thank you.

    Warmly,
    Baraka

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      Many Muslims, particuarly of the hijab wearing variety feel they’ve lost their W.P, but I think it goes much deeper than that. The way some white Muslims have a finger wagging attitude to the Muslim community is an example of that.

  8. [...] so it is one that White Muslims must work very hard to shed, without seeking any reward.” Being Muslim While White Privileged also, check out her carnival: Celebrating Muslim [...]

  9. well I agree :) and well said about a white wife is desirable but white culture isn’t. Which is why I think so many white Muslim women who marry outside of their culture tend to have so many issues finding out who they are. Sounds like a whole other blog entry there lol

  10. “But wait. Aren’t white Muslims, the prized pets, the conversion stories everyone wants to hear, the ones who get far more marriage proposals and attention then their convert brethren of colour?”

    White muslima’s are not sought after for marriage, I DON’T BELIEVE that is true. Where did you get this information from.

    • Salaam Aalikum,

      Probably from MY OWN EXPERIENCES and that of others (sorry about the caps, just imitating you).

    • Safiya – awesome blog.

      Jamal – I’m not even a Muslim and I hear so often both this myth and people strongly disputing it. I don’t know which side is more widely believed or in what circles, but it’s not like she just made this up from nowhere.

      • Hello,

        Thanks for coming over from Racialicious.

        Btw, I would be interested in hearing more about your experiences growing up Jewish in N.I. It can’t have been easy.

  11. “But wait. Aren’t white Muslims, the prized pets, the conversion stories everyone wants to hear, the ones who get far more marriage proposals and attention then their convert brethren of colour?”

    White muslimah’s are not sought after for marriage , i dont know where you got this information from. Unless their goodlooking and have good islamic characteristic, i dont think anyone would want to marry them. unless they want a green card to be able to stay in this country legally.

  12. Northerm European white are seen to be far too pale and undesirable to most people. I DONT KNOW WHERE YOU GOT THIS INFORMATION. Ghostly white, pig skin was was very common terms that used to be used in the environment i grew up in.

    to become brown is very common in white people thats why the tan business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Ghostly white is inherently ugly to most people.

    • Salaam Aalikum,

      Did some white girl knock you back once? I’m sensing there’s something else going on here.

      Sadly you’ll find the skin lightening industry is far bigger and more profitable then the tanning industry, but don’t let that deter you from your point of view.

  13. Your speak of recognizing the invisible backpack. As a white girl, I truly struggle with the white sister who within hours of conversion and wearing hijab is opining about the discrimination she faces as a minority. While we have all had people cuss, spit, or try to run us over I dread the victim mentality in any group. Off topic?, likely

  14. To my knowledge skin lightening industry makes less than 5 million pounds a year, which is way below the money the tanning industry makes. Dark skin people might want a lighter shade of black but that doesn’t mean they find extremely white to be attractive

  15. If any of my statements sounds racist then please let me know. This type of discussion always goes into fitna

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      You’re actually the only person who is causing any fitna thus far. So you think white people are ugly, that’s fine, but repeating it ad nauseum isn’t.

      I won’t change my post just to please your sensibilities. Any further comments you have to make in a similar vein will be deleted as per my comments policy.

  16. Well this one is off topic – I like the Related Posts feature at the bottom of your posts that directs off-site as well as on-. What plugin is that?

  17. [...] why I focused on the aspect I did, rather than delve into the worthwhile topic of the mechanics of white privilege that was the primary focus of this Carnival. I encourage more white and poc converts to take part. [...]

  18. I’m blocking his comments. He has started takfiring and name-calling, dunzo.

  19. Every human being is beautiful. Takbir! Allahu Akbar.

  20. I am not saying very pale skin even with european standard to be unattractive. wastagfirullah. No! every human being is beautiful in the eyes of Allah. (metaphorically speaking). As muslims we should guard our tongue from saying things which is completely haram.
    May Allah guard our tongue from committing munkar(evil). Ameeeeeeeen

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