I was born and raised in London but I’m from Greater Somalia. I identify as black when in the UK and the western world, however when I go abroad to neighbouring African countries, ‘Somali’ has its own identity that overrules the collective black identity.
I didn’t face racism growing up in the UK Muslim community as I was usually surrounded by other Somalis at the Mosque and such. However I did face colourism from other people as I was called ‘blick’ a few times. Historically speaking, there wasn’t any colourism within the Somali community but the post-colonial era with the onslaught of globalisation means a lot of Somalis have become colourist. I don’t have issues surrounding race in my family however they are against me marrying out of my race- speaking for myself I would rather marry a Somali too.
I think people believing lighter skin is better comes from slavery and colonisation. For example during the transatlantic slave trade, the light skinned slaves who were usually related to the slave master, were made house slaves which meant they got better treatment from the slaves on plantations. Also Indo-Aryans from northern India were seen as superior to those from South India. The northern Indians were lighter whereas the South Indians were darker. This resulted in a caste system which purports that Southern Indians are inferior, creating colourist ideology in India. I have observed through this caste system and the slave trade that all countries who are considered ‘coloured’ are generally colourists.
Somalis generally have a superiority complex over the majority of other races. For example in Kenya – Somalis believe they are superior to the native Kenyans but likewise in the UAE – Somalis think they are better than the Asians there. However, Somalis have more derogatory terms for people with stereotypical black features compared to the derogatory terms they have for stereotypical Arab looking people. Historically speaking, Somalia was a strong country during the pan-African movement, for example helping remove the apartheid government in South Africa. However, when Somalia and Ethiopia (traditional enemies) were fighting, many Somalis believe that majority of African countries sided with Ethiopia and would never help Somalia over Ethiopia. This resulted in my parent’s generation becoming anti-African.
I don’t think Asian supremacy exists within the wider ummah. For example in many countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, south Asians are looked down upon. However, the dominant Muslim communities in the UK are usually Pakistani or Bangladeshi so consequently they are given more power within the UK ummah.
I do believe that Arab supremacy exists within the ummah. For example when Israel kills Palestinians on a mass scale, everyone starts protesting against Israel and everyone posts ‘free Palestine’ messages. However when this happens to the Rohingya in Myanmar, there is a lesser reaction. Similarly when it happens to the Muslims in the Central Africa Republic, there’s almost no reaction. Many Muslims I’ve met do not even know there are Muslims in the Central Africa republic.
Another way Arab supremacy can be observed in the ummah is through what’s taught in Islamic history. For example, the Moors who conquered Spain and created a Muslim state there, were black Muslims, not Arabs.
One way we can tackle racism and colourism in the Muslim community is by following Islamic teachings rather than racist, white supremacist centred cultures. There are many Sahih Hadiths that condemn racism and the belief in racial superiority.
Iqbaal Abdi: Somalia, Colourism and Arab supremacyTweet
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