Dr. Aneesah Nadir –
In the last days of Ramadan, I was stunned by the bombing in Jeddah and the Prophet’s Mosque and the tragedy in Istanbul, Iraq and Syria. Before that it was Orlando and San Bernardino and South Carolina. Today I shake my head in disbelief as yet two more young black men have been killed as a result of deadly force by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. And then innocent police officers are killed at the end of a peaceful protest against these killings in Dallas.
Peace. I pray for peace. I pray for an end to war abroad, mass shootings at home, domestic and foreign terror, senseless violence. I pray for an end to police killings of young black people. Justice.
I am Muslim and African American. I am the parent of four young adults. Historical memories of the lynching of black people and the torture of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 are being relived over and over. Their names ring out – Trayvon Martin in 2012 , Michael Brown and Tamir Rice in 2014, Freddie Gray in 2015, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this July 2016. And there are many more whose names are not so well-known. Who will be next?
Most police officers are committed to upholding the law and protecting the community but police brutality exists and is wrong. We just want the justice system to hold the officers who are wrong accountable for their wrong actions. It’s especially wrong when you’re taught to obey the law and then you’re killed by the law, said the mother of Philando Castile. It makes it difficult to trust police officers.
The Guardian.com reported that young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015. Despite making up only 2 percent of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15 percent of all deaths due to deadly force. The rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher for African Americans as it was for white men of the same age. Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and Native Americans. About 25 percent of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17 percent of white people.
As a mother I pray for the safety of my family. I teach them survival skills when dealing with the police. I do all I can to prevent them from facing an encounter with the police. I provide them with 24/7 emergency access to an attorney who by phone can assess the situation, advise them, and who will peak with the police in the hopes of averting a tragic incident.
As a Muslim I call on imams and community leaders to recognize that police brutality is an injustice that we must stand against and find a solution to. You must speak about it from the minbar. We must recognize that it impacts our neighbors and our relatives, our coworkers and classmates of all faiths. Police brutality also impacts our diverse Muslim community.
As a community member, it is time to become part of the solution by participating in coalitions such as the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and many more that are working toward a solution to this violence and injustice. It is time to call for community policing where the police come from the community and see themselves as part of it. It is time we stand up firmly for justice!