The day after 14 people were murdered in San Bernardino by a radicalized husband and wife, Shazi, a Muslim college student in Texas whose parents migrated to the United States from Pakistan, woke up shaking.
“Now the US won’t just profile young Muslim men,” she later told a friend. “They’ll profile women as well.”
Less than a week later, a sixth-grade girl in hijab was beaten by a schoolmate who called her a member of the Islamic State. Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “ban on Muslims entering the United States.”
However, in the aftermath of the attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, fault lines of fear began to appear under that banner, most clearly between young Muslim and black women. Earlier this month, Sihem, a Muslim and an active organizer for Black Lives Matter, found herself in a Michigan university classroom discussion about Syrian refugees. She was enraged that many of her classmates were in favor of hindering or preventing asylum seekers from entering the US — and she was shocked that among those classmates were several black women whom she viewed as allies.
‘We saw violence against the black community as something we should all fight against. We expected the black women activists would feel the same in the fight against Islamophobia, but I’m not sure yet that they do.’
“We need better protection from people who use terrorist tactics,” one female black activist sitting beside Sihem said of the Syrian refugees. Was an activist against police brutality in the black community arguing for increased policing of the Muslim community? Sihem wondered.
As a Muslim student activist named Zuleha recently told me, “We saw the violence against the black community as something we should all fight against, that our parents should understand, something that affects all of us…. We expected the black women activists would feel the same in the fight against Islamophobia, but I’m not sure yet that they do.”
As suspicion on one side and disappointment on the other threatens the ties between these two groups of women, one problem may be that, for this generation, solidarity was created only through sit-ins and social media. Though both powerful platforms for imagery and statements of resistance, they can’t replace the deeper work required to build strong ties and identify a common enemy.
Analysts continually point to a growing “youth culture” for radicalization as they seek to explain why young Muslim women join and engage in violence with groups like the Islamic State. If young, disaffected Muslim women are, in fact, increasingly moving toward extremism, then the disengagement of young women from nonviolent activism and their confusion over which direction their anger should be facing is particularly worrying.
By doing so, they will find their way past connections that are only skin-deep and find strength in political ties that bind them. After all, they are all at risk of surveillance and police brutality — whether they cover their heads with a hijab or a hoodie.
The full piece appeared on Vice News: https://news.vice.com/article/amid-us-terrorism-fears-signs-appear-of-a-rift-between-young-muslim-and-black-women