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An Interview with author Yasmin Egala: On Jannah and growing up as a Black Muslim girl

How do you identify? 
I identify as British with African heritage, specifically Ghanaian heritage.
What was your experience growing up as a black Muslim girl?
I was born in a Muslim family but I didn’t practice Islam until I was in my twenties. Growing up, my experiences were more centred around being a Black girl, Islam didn’t form a big part of my identity.  My experience within the Muslim community where I attended Islamic classes at the mosque was that I was discriminated against because I didn’t come from an Arab background. There was preferential treatment towards students from Arab backgrounds and those of us who were non- Arab were looked down on.
Do you think there are issues of Arab and Asian supremacy within the Muslim community?
From a young age, I became very aware that there were issues of Arab and Asian supremacy within the Muslim community. Arab and Asian cultural practices seem to be more acceptable as Islamic than products of Black culture which are automatically sometimes labelled as un-Islamic. I am constantly asked by non-Black Muslims when I converted to Islam because there is an assumption that as a Black Muslim, I must have converted to Islam and could not have being raised as a Muslim.
What can the average black person do to elevate and empower the black community within and outside of the ummah?
I believe education plays a vital role in empowering the Black community in general. Being aware of the positive contributions, culture and achievements of Black people will help create a positive self image.
Black Muslims would benefit from learning to distinguish between religious obligations which are clearly defined and cultural practices. Islam in it’s purest form is flexible, accommodating and adaptable to people from different backgrounds. As Black Muslims, we should celebrate our cultures, traditions and customs that do not contradict Islam and not feel we have to replace them with products of other cultures.
The wider Muslim community also needs to be educated on the heritage and the diverse cultures that Black Muslims belong to which reflects many positive things encouraged in Islam such as; the important of family ties, resilience, respect for elders and pride. This may help eliminate discrimination against Black Muslims within the wider Muslim community.
Why is ‘Treasures of Jannah’ an important initiative for all but especially black children?
Treasures of Jannah is an important initiative for all but especially black children as it creates diversity in the Islamic children’s book industry. I find children’s books in general have few representations of Black characters. I wanted my children and other Black, Muslim Children to see characters that look like them which I think is important for their self confidence. It can also serve as an educational tool for the wider Muslim community and help normalise diversity of ethnic backgrounds in Islam.
I chose to write about Jannah (paradise or heaven) in particular as it’s a topic I’m very passionate about. Often there is an emphasis on the consequences of doing bad things and not enough about the rewards that await us when we are good Muslims. I want Muslim children to think positively about the afterlife and experience Jannah through my book as a ‘Muslim fairytale’ where they can use their imaginations to wonder about
the beauty of Jannah.
Yasmin Egala is a British Ghanaian Author of the children’s book ‘Treasures of Jannah’ available on Amazon and co-founder of Tiny Mu’mins.

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