Back to the Black: Are Black Muslims the new (old) face of Islam?

If you passed the magazine section at your local newsstand or grocery store this month you might have seen two Muslims, actor Mahershala Ali and model Halima Aden, gracing the covers of this month’s GQ and Allure magazines, respectively. This inclusion is notable in light of the Muslim Ban but also because the Muslims featured in these issues, which are dedicated to celebrating American diversity, are not “Brown“ but Black.

When it comes to Muslims in the media, the images are both plentiful and one-dimensional. Typically speaking, Muslims who make appearances in US media share two fundamental characteristics–they are “originally” from somewhere else and they are “brown” – in this case, either South Asian, Arab, or Middle Eastern.  In a country where people who are anything other than white male Christians still have to prove their loyalty to flag and country, if Muslims are always non-white and not “originally” American then there is always the chance to tell them to “go home!”

Muhammad Ali’s Muslim Faith Is Being Scrubbed From His Legacy

Muhammad Ali is remembered as a boxing legend, an Olympian, a civil rights warrior, a humanitarian, and a trailblazer for Parkinson’s disease awareness.

But one central part of his identity is missing from the official Ali Instagram and Twitter feeds: the proud, unapologetic Muslim.

Islam is conspicuously absent from the Ali brand, which is owned and managed by a New York–based licensing company ABG.

Sherman Jackson, a Muslim professor at the University of Southern California who’s written extensively about Islam and black America, said Ali’s religion is an inconvenient fact for companies looking to profit by putting his image on T-shirts, hats, and posters. Jackson, who delivered a eulogy at Ali’s funeral in Kentucky, said the duty now falls to American Muslims to ensure that a central part of his legacy isn’t lost to revisionism and commercialization.

“It’s up to Muslims to really understand his legacy, to really preserve it, and to put it where it ought to be in terms of the pantheon,” Jackson said.

Ali’s family has emphasized six core principles as key to his legacy: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. In public aspects of the Ali legacy, all those values are reflected except spirituality.