Muslims in the US join demand for police reforms

Dozens of American Muslim organisations release joint statement calling for changes to policing

BERLIN, GERMANY  - MAY 31: A Muslim woman wears a face mask that reads: "Black lives matter more than white feelings" at a protest rally against racism following the recent death of George Floyd in the USA on May 31, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. The death of Floyd, an African-American man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis has struck a cord with many people of color who live in Germany. Demonstrators also gathered in front of the American Embassy in Berlin yesterday and today. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

After George Floyd’s death in police custody, dozens of American Muslim organisations have united to call for reform to policing and to support black-led organisations.

“The victimisation of unarmed black Muslims has a long and troubling history,” said a statement signed by more than 90 civil rights, advocacy, community and faith organisations.

“As American Muslims, we will draw on our diversity, our strength and our resilience to demand these reforms because black lives matter.”

Proposed changes include bans on racial discrimination and manoeuvres that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, such as choke holds.

Other reforms include making it easier for prosecutors to hold police accountable, and redirecting their funding “into community health, education, employment and housing programmes".

The coalition calls for “a federal standard that use of force be reserved as a last resort, only when absolutely necessary” and after exhausting all reasonable options.

“These demands are a floor for our groups and not a ceiling,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, one of the statement’s signatories. "Some would call for much more.

"We’re also urging all American Muslims to call their members of Congress right now and to demand a stronger response from them.”

Like members of other faith groups, many Muslims in America joined in the outrage unleashed when George Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for up to nine minutes.

Groups from across faiths have publicly called for action against racism and aligned with the goals of peaceful demonstrators.

In street protests, statements, sermons and online seminars, US Muslims have rallied against racism and discussed reforms.

“Muslim American organisations are committed to advocating at all levels to put an end to excessive use of force that has led to the murders of countless black Americans,” said Iman Awad, director of Emgage Action, another of the signatories.

“Our message is that we will continue to fight but most importantly, uplift the work being done by our black leaders.”

Mr Floyd’s death has also reinvigorated conversations about the treatment and representation of black Muslims in their own faith communities.

“Black people are often marginalised within the broader Muslim community," the statement said.

"And when they fall victim to police violence, non-Black Muslims are too often silent, which leads to complicity.”

Kameelah Rashad, president of Muslim Wellness Foundation, said: “I’m hopeful and heartened by the number and diversity of groups that have signed on.

“That says to me that there’s at least recognition that we as a whole can no longer separate Islamophobia, anti-black racism, surveillance and violence.

"People are reconciling with the notion that means our struggles are intertwined.”

Ms Rashad said that now was the time for action.

“It’s vital that non-Black Muslims develop a respect for the resilience and resistance of black people,” she said.

American Muslim communities must make space for black-led organisations, Ms Awad said.

“We must commit to having leadership positions that reflect the diversity of our faith community,” she said.

“We cannot be successful until we have all voices represented at all levels within our organisational structures and our communities must do better.”

The statement said the demands were only a “downpayment” on needed reforms.

“If this deep-seated discrimination cannot be done away with through reform, then these systems will need to be abolished and reimagined entirely,” it said.

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