Stephon Clark is another Black male in the news, after so many others, like Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Gary King, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, to name but a few. A young Black man, age 22, was shot 20 times in the yard of his grandmother’s house with nothing else than a white iPhone in his hand. This cruel act, which happened in Sacramento, was also widely covered by European media. A live stream offered by ABC10 was watched more than 840,000 times. And amongst the sharers of the story are many Muslims, who live in Europe, people of color, who have been systematically otherized since the war on terror was started.
The death of Clark, who happened to be Muslim, caused a meeting by Sacramento-area Muslims with other community leaders, the NAACP, and members of Clark’s family to discuss the impact of Clark’s death on the city. The funeral gathering was co-sponsored by the local branch of the Council of American Islamic Relations, Sacramento NAACP, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, and a coalition of 10 mosques from throughout the Sacramento region.
This latest incident in a series of struggles that triggered movements such as Black Lives Matter, again re-connects Europe’s Muslims with the plight of people of color in the U.S., like so many decades ago. As Hisham Aidi has shown in his Rebel Music. Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture, for Europe’s Muslims, the Afro-American experience plays a crucial role in the struggle over identity and place in today’s world.
When Spike Lee’s movie on the iconic figure Malcolm X, the symbol of Afro-American Muslim struggle, was released in 1992, the X-Factor was born and caused a wave of interest. But while in the early 1990s, the times of Malcolm seemed far away for many, the latest events reaffirm the ongoing relevance of the struggle of Malcolm, Martin, and the Black Panthers. Not only is it police brutality, but also the feeling of empowerment that White supremacist groups such as the KKK feel after the election of the 45th president, which create a potential to revive this genuine political moment that Malcolm X stood for: Building alliances with all diverse groups to fight the injustice of racism. It is also the structural racism Muslims in Europe and beyond are experiencing in the age of Islamophobia. While many separate groups, from Trotskyists to Black nationalists to Muslim sects, claim Malcolm for their own cause, it seems obvious that the late Malcolm came to several conclusions in his late years. Amongst them are that the struggle against racism is an international struggle, and that this struggle was a political rather than a religious struggle, which implies the necessity of coalition building across different lines of racial, religious, and political divides.
This message today spreads again throughout the world. And it is exactly this insight that echoes, when one sees the community organization in Sacramento these days.
Farid Hafez is a Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative. His study on the impact of Malcolm X through Hip Hop-music was just published in the Journal of Austrian-American History, a peer-reviewed journal of the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies