“To promote the intellectual traditions of African, African-American, and Islamic authors, and activists as they relate to contemporary issues of justice and peace”, said Dr. Nadia Mohamed, MCTC professor and co-advisor to Muslim Student Alliance, in her opening welcome to the attendees of the Fifth Annual Malcolm X Peace and Justice Lecture Series.
“We would like to promote pluralism instead of prejudice, by building resilience, and strengthening our community,” Mohamed said.
Matthew Palombo, MCTC professor and co-advisor to MSA, then took the stage and introduced us to the theme of the evening, “Islamophobia and Mass Incarceration”.
“The theme ‘Incarcerating Islam’ challenges us all to think critically about the relationship between how people think about Islam, and how we have used our racist, mass incarceration system to control, imprison, marginalize, and oppress black populations,” says Palombo.
This past November, nine Somali and Oromo former-MCTC students were convicted of conspiracy to materially support terrorist organizations, namely ISIL. Palombo discussed the “mosque to prison pipeline” that mass incarceration and Islamophobia creates to further oppress our Muslim counterparts.
“There is no difference between the unjust banning and deporting of Muslim refugees and immigrants, and incarcerating Muslims inside our prisons because of their faith.” This idea was also discussed by Malcolm X. “The prison systems in this country actually are exploitative and they are not in any way rehabilitative.”
MCTC students Amina Sanchez, Hamud Abdiqadir, and Bale Kader each performed spoken word, offering their experiences struggling against Islamophobia, but more importantly of being proud of their faith and culture.
MSA’s Vice President Elias Ahmed took the stage to introduce the keynote speaker, El Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, a Washington D.C.-based human rights activist, author, lecturer and poet.
Saalakhan spoke on the rhetoric used to promote Islamophobia here in the United States.
“Let me bring something very important to your consciousness: part of the propaganda that comes from the lips, and the writings, and the reports of those who have been behind this madness… part of the propaganda is that everything changed after 9/11, and that 9/11 was the catalyst for what we’re seeing today. Let me assure you, that is not the case at all,” Saalakhan said.
Saalakhan recommends the book “My Life As a Radical Lawyer” by the late-William Kunstler to provide some historical context for Islamophobia today.
“There is a chapter in the book entitled ‘The Despised Muslim’. Now, keep in mind, this book was published a few years before 9/11”. “My Life As a Radical Lawyer” was published in 1996.
During the closing Q&A with the audience, there were questions of how the MCTC and greater Twin Cities community could combat the Islamophobic narrative.
“Most of the people I come in contact with are good people,” says Saalakhan. “But the thing that is holding us back is this belief that’s been ingrained within us for very selfish and self-serving reasons by those who control the affairs of this country, and it’s that individuals cannot make a difference, and that little people cannot make a difference. And we can! And we must.”