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Tensions between Black American and immigrant Muslims

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 03:53 pm
One of the fascinating things about this ever more diverse, layered society, where niche after niche creates its own identity and perspective, is the unexpected ways in which communities get embroiled, antagonised or joined up in ways that conform to no standard left/right, black/white axis ... take this story, for example:

Quote:
Ethnic tensions heighten between Black American and immigrant Muslims

3 January 2006

By Justin M. Morton, AP

OAKLAND, California (AP) - They weren't your average thugs. Dressed in bow ties and dark suits, the group of nearly a dozen men entered a corner store and smashed bottles of liquor, wine and beer with metal pipes, shattering refrigerator cases and leaving behind a terrified clerk along with piles of broken glass.

No one was held up. Nothing was stolen. The vandals just wanted to leave a message: Stop selling alcohol to fellow Muslims.

Followed by an identical attack at another West Oakland store the same evening, the episode highlighted tensions - and different interpretations of doctrine - between black Muslims hoping to reclaim troubled parts of the city and Middle Eastern shop owners, many of them also of Muslim faith.

"Any Muslim is forbidden to sell alcohol but that doesn't give you the right to vandalize by force and try to impose your view," said Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemeni American Grocers Association, which represents 250 to 300 Oakland merchants. "That's not acceptable in any religion."

In urban America, friction between poor residents and the immigrant merchants who sell cigarettes, bread and alcoholic beverages from neighborhood markets is nothing new. But the recent attack at San Pablo Liquor has injected religion into the old debate over whether a glut of such stores contributes to violent crime, vagrancy and other social ills.

Four men connected to a bakery founded by a prominent black Muslim family were arrested in the Nov. 23 attacks and the images of seven others were caught on store security cameras. In both instances, the vandals asked store clerks why they were selling alcohol when it was against the Muslim faith.

At the center of the vandalism is Your Black Muslim Bakery, a community institution founded by Yusuf Bey, a prominent black Muslim leader who died of cancer in 2003. Bey's 19-year-old son, Yusuf Bey IV, is one of the four men facing felony charges that include hate crimes, vandalism and false imprisonment. The bakery sells books by the late black Muslim leader Malcolm X along with baked goods, and has been lauded for providing jobs to young men from poor communities.

Bakery employees declined to discuss the late November incidents at the two stores. But defense lawyer Lorna Brown said the vandalism has prompted discussions throughout the black community.

"I think it's pretty clear that the number of these stores in low-income communities is not good for people," she said.

While black and Middle Eastern Muslims may pray at the same mosques on weekends, their worlds do not tend to overlap much beyond that, said Hatem Bazian, professor of Near East and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Muslim store owners tend to live in the suburbs away from the concerns of black Muslims, who disproportionately live in cities, Bazian said. The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to justify selling alcohol.

"They open businesses regardless because of economic opportunities," Bazian said. "The question becomes would they open a liquor store back home? The answer is, they wouldn't be able to do it."

As police continue the search for suspects, community leaders have targeted the glut of corner markets selling cheap alcohol as one of Oakland's most pressing problems.

West Oakland, where the twin vandalisms took place, has 69 stores supplying liquor or beer and wine. That's 28 more than the maximum number acceptable by state standards for the population, according to Urban Strategies Council, an advocacy group working to reduce poverty.

Mohamed of the Yemeni merchants group said critics fail to note that corner markets have improved in recent decades. Before Middle Eastern immigrants started buying corner stores in the early 1980s, he said they offered nothing but alcohol. The merchants expanded and remodeled the stores and began to sell more food and produce, he said.

"We're the easiest targets for community blame," he said.

Although no one in Oakland said they condoned violence against the markets, it was not easily quelled after the initial disturbance. The New York Market, the second store hit by bow tie-wearing vandals, was struck by arson five days after the vandalism.

A shop keeper was kidnapped and spent more than 12 hours in the trunk of a car until he was found unharmed, but police haven't determined if those incidents are connected to the vandalism.

In December, meanwhile, well-dressed men entered the Happy Times Market in Oakland and asked the clerk about his Muslim faith. The clerk wasn't threatened.

But progress might be in the works. City officials are cracking down on nuisance liquor stores, and recently forced a store to sign a strict compliance plan to end complaints of drug activity on the property.

San Pablo market owner Saleh, who has kept his store open following the attacks, said his decision to sell alcohol is "between me and God."

"We're just coming here to make a living like anyone else," he said.

Reproduced on The Muslim News, http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/news.php?article=10425
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 04:03 pm
The Sharia Law enforcers at work.
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 04:07 pm
Arrest those enforcers and give them the message that Sharia Law is unenforcible and is a crime to force other Muslims to follow it. Sharia Law is not the law of the land.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 04:11 pm
talk72000 wrote:
The Sharia Law enforcers at work.

Interesting, isn't it, how "The Sharia Law enforcers" in casu are Black Muslims - US citizens to the xth generation - whereas it's the immigrants from the Middle East who, in this story, are their victims? Kinda turns one's expectations upside down, no?

(I love it when that happens)
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 04:17 pm
Now, that's what I call literally forcing someone's belief down your throat.

Sad.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 06:26 pm
Oy!

Complex stuff indeed.

What is not uncommon is for marginalized groups to get angry with each other.


Eg: It is often the last wave of migrants who are most prejudiced against the current wave.
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 07:26 pm
Quote:
The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to justify selling alcohol.


Therein is the problem, since the Qur'an explicity forbids alcohol consumption by a Muslim. Why do only observant Black Muslims wish to obey the Qur'an?

Is money that important to Muslim immigrants, that they will violate the dictates of the Quran?

Perhaps the immigrant Muslims have something to learn about Islam from their Black counterparts.


Confused
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 07:49 pm
Black Muslim Bakery has had a long and checkered history
- Meredith May, Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 30, 2005


An Oakland bakery with a cheery red sign out front -- "Your Black Muslim Bakery" -- was thrust into the criminal spotlight again Tuesday when police arrested one of founder Yusuf Bey's sons in connection with vandalism to two liquor stores.

Bey created the bakery in 1968 and built a powerful enterprise based on baked goods, Muslim faith, local politics and, police say, strong-arm tactics.

For decades, members of Bey's religious sect have been suspected of using violence and intimidation to secure their business interests, which include four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building across from the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue in northwest Oakland where many of Bey's relatives and bakery workers live.

Bey died of colon cancer in October 2003 while awaiting trial on charges of raping a minor. A year earlier he had been charged with 27 counts in the alleged rapes of four girls under the age of 14. Prosecutors said they had DNA evidence to prove that Bey fathered five children with his victims, two of whom gave birth when they were 13. His followers have claimed he fathered more than 40 children.

Born J.H. Stephens in Greenville, Texas, Bey moved to Oakland with his family when he was 5, according to his biography.

He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 and was honorably discharged four years later. He worked in warehouses, enrolled in cosmetology schools and opened beauty salons in Santa Barbara and Berkeley. In the early 1960s, he began following the Islamic studies of the late Elijah Muhammad.

He moved back to Oakland, set up a bakery like his father before him and began spreading his religious beliefs. Bey formed his own Black Muslim group, though it never was affiliated with the Nation of Islam or its mosque in East Oakland, said mosque spokesman David Muhammad.

Over the years, Bey and his followers had a love-hate relationship with the city: providing work and housing for convicts and running for political office while allegedly entangling themselves in some notorious crimes.

Bey's followers have been accused of assaulting people with whom they had religious or business differences, and such stories have circulated in Oakland for decades.

In 1994, members of the organization allegedly beat an Oakland man with a police officer's heavy-duty flashlight and threatened to kill the white police officers who came to investigate.

The same year, Bey ran for mayor and received 5 percent of the vote, and his 21-year-old son Akbar was shot and killed outside an Oakland nightclub. At the time, his father said the death was over "nothing important."

Bey was not afraid to espouse unpopular opinions. In the 1990s, he criticized Alameda County social workers for placing too many black children with white foster parents who live outside Oakland and vowed to recruit black parents to take troubled children.

He riled gays and prompted the Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco to pull his bakery products when he said on his weekly cable TV show that he didn't want gay teachers to school his children.

He claimed that in the Middle East, homosexuals were beheaded, but later he said he was not advocating violence against gays.

When Oakland's homicide rate surged in 2002, Bey helped formed a grassroots outreach team called "Black Men First," which sent pastors and activists and Muslims to the streets at night for one-on-one conversations with black men entangled in criminal street life. His efforts brought national attention, but soon after he was forced out of the group.

Bey turned himself in to police later that year after he was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl two decades earlier. The victim, then 34, told police she had had sex with Bey in 1981 and had given birth to his child the next year. DNA evidence confirmed that Bey was the father of the woman's child.

Barely four months after Bey died of colon cancer, his hand-picked successor to run the bakery chain and other businesses disappeared. Six months later, authorities found Waajid Aljawwaad's decomposing body near a trail in the city's foothills.

Last month, another of his sons, Antar Bey, 23, was shot and killed as he filled his car's gas tank in North Oakland.


Source

------------------------------------------------------------

There's a lot more - including a string of murders in the early 70's around San Francisco - I'm pretty sure at least one of the convicted worked for this "bakery". Ha! This Bey guy sounds like a real sweetheart.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 06:34 am
dlowan wrote:
Oy!

Complex stuff indeed.

What is not uncommon is for marginalized groups to get angry with each other.

The news story reminded me a lot of how Koreans etc were the target of violence of black rioters in LA in '91 ('92?)...

There was an understandable enough resentment at the bottom of that: resentment of the only shopkeepers (the only ones making money of the population) in poor, black neighbourhoods being people of another group, who themselves often live outside the neighbourhood, and in any case don't hire local folk, being seen as taking the profit out with them instead of reinvesting it in the community (Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing dealt with that).

The American answer, common sensical sounding enough, is, well, start your own bloody shops then finally, but then there are counterarguments again of why this is supposed to never work. (I dunno what to think, really).

In any case it was sad to see immigrants leading hardscrabble businesses themselves becoming the target of such ghetto violence, tragic how poor violence always ends up destroying infrastructure within their own neighbourhoods, rather than that of the wealthy or big business outside, which at least would have had some class war logic. Same happened again last year in France, where the rioters basically destroyed their own neighbourhoods, schools, shops, etc.

The story is as old as poverty tho: think of how the downtrodden of pre-war Eastern Europe would vent their agression on the small Jewish shopkeepers in their neighbourhood/village, seen as the only representative of 'outside capital' even tho they were usually poor themselves too.

But what makes this story all the more complex is that not just is religion suddenly entered into the equation, but it's one and the same religion that's contested / claimed by both fighting groups! Very interesting / odd.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 06:37 am
Or Chinese being slaughtered in Malaysia and Indonesia....as happens from time to time to this day in Indonesia...
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 07:36 am
nimh wrote:
In any case it was sad to see immigrants leading hardscrabble businesses themselves becoming the target of such ghetto violence, tragic how poor violence always ends up destroying infrastructure within their own neighbourhoods, rather than that of the wealthy or big business outside, which at least would have had some class war logic. Same happened again last year in France, where the rioters basically destroyed their own neighbourhoods, schools, shops, etc.


Except the perpetrators in this case had only one message:

Quote:
Stop selling alcohol to fellow Muslims.


I didn't get the impression that they were necessarily "poor, uneducated, ghettoized people" at all.

Quote:
For decades, members of Bey's religious sect have been suspected of using violence and intimidation to secure their business interests, which include four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building across from the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue in northwest Oakland where many of Bey's relatives and bakery workers live.


nimh - I've seen others post as you have that the French rioters basically were just destroying their own property. Are you saying that all those thousands of cars that were burned belonged to those rioting?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 09:02 am
JustWonders wrote:
I didn't get the impression that they were necessarily "poor, uneducated, ghettoized people" at all.

Quote:
For decades, members of Bey's religious sect have been suspected of using violence and intimidation to secure their business interests, which include four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building across from the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue in northwest Oakland where many of Bey's relatives and bakery workers live.

Fair enough - I usually associate Black Muslims with US ghettoes, ergo, poor areas. But it may well be that they are, in fact, the relatively privileged within those ghettoes.

Thats actually quite common, historically too: that it's those who already are a step up on the ladder who take it upon themselves (rightly or misguidedly) to act on behalf of the population of the poor community they feel part of. (Socialist revolutionary leaders of yore were often head teachers and the like).

JustWonders wrote:
nimh - I've seen others post as you have that the French rioters basically were just destroying their own property. Are you saying that all those thousands of cars that were burned belonged to those rioting?

Emphasis added: thats not what I said.

What I said was: "destroying infrastructure within their own neighbourhoods" and "destroyed their own neighbourhoods, schools, shops, etc."

OK, you got me on the "shops" bit: it wasnt, obviously, the shops they owned themselves. But the rest of that sentence should make it clear enough what the point was, I'd a thought: they destroyed their own neighbourhoods. And in so doing they either hit out at their very own infrastructure (such as schools, cultural centres) - or at small businesses that may represent "capital" (or "mainstream society", "the man", whatever) to them, but in effect are, as I put it just now, often run by "immigrants leading hardscrabble businesses themselves".

Classic case of mistargeted ire.
0 Replies
 
snood
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 09:19 am
Miller wrote:
Quote:
The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to justify selling alcohol.


Therein is the problem, since the Qur'an explicity forbids alcohol consumption by a Muslim. Why do only observant Black Muslims wish to obey the Qur'an?

Is money that important to Muslim immigrants, that they will violate the dictates of the Quran?

Perhaps the immigrant Muslims have something to learn about Islam from their Black counterparts.


Confused


Or perhaps they've just taken their lead from all the faux Christians who worship both God and Mammon.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 08:50 pm
nimh wrote:
OK, you got me on the "shops" bit: it wasnt, obviously, the shops they owned themselves. But the rest of that sentence should make it clear enough what the point was, I'd a thought: they destroyed their own neighbourhoods. And in so doing they either hit out at their very own infrastructure (such as schools, cultural centres) - or at small businesses that may represent "capital" (or "mainstream society", "the man", whatever) to them, but in effect are, as I put it just now, often run by "immigrants leading hardscrabble businesses themselves".


These thugs in Oakland, though, with their long history of crime (including rape and murder) weren't "hitting out at their own infrastructure". They sent only one message - stop selling alcohol to Muslims. It wouldn't have mattered if those doing the selling had been immigrants, black, white, Asian or whatever. The police have used the label "hate crimes".

The Mormons up the street don't believe in drinking alcohol either. Neither do Baptists. They probably realize, though, that it's against the law to destroy the property of others to enforce their views.

The issue of the number of liquor stores in that area or the drug use on those properties is entirely separate from the crimes in which Bey's followers are engaging.

It's not as "complex" as you're making it out to be.
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jan, 2006 11:43 pm
JustWonders wrote:
They sent only one message - stop selling alcohol to Muslims. It wouldn't have mattered if those doing the selling had been immigrants, black, white, Asian or whatever. The police have used the label "hate crimes".


The perpetrators didn't hit at just any immigrants, black, white, Asian or whatever doing the selling, though. They hit specifically at Muslim owned neighborhood stores.

That it's a crime to destroy other's private property goes without saying. That is not complex at all. I'm pretty sure even the perpetrators understand that.

Beyond that, it is a pretty complex situation whereby "homegrown" Muslims who have gone to the extreme as to forgo the law of the land to impose the law of their religion on others of the same who aren't extreme adherents, and who have migrated from places where these religions have much older traditions. Not to speak for NIMH, but I think that is the gist of the complexity to which NIMH was referring.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 12:30 am
Miller wrote:
Quote:
The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to justify selling alcohol.


Therein is the problem, since the Qur'an explicity forbids alcohol consumption by a Muslim. Why do only observant Black Muslims wish to obey the Qur'an?


if they observed the ban on alcohol consumption, there wouldn't be any need to vandalize liquor stores; the stores would close from lack of business.
0 Replies
 
DontTreadOnMe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 04:40 am
yitwail wrote:
Miller wrote:
Quote:
The immigrant shopkeepers also interpret Islam to justify selling alcohol.


Therein is the problem, since the Qur'an explicity forbids alcohol consumption by a Muslim. Why do only observant Black Muslims wish to obey the Qur'an?


if they observed the ban on alcohol consumption, there wouldn't be any need to vandalize liquor stores; the stores would close from lack of business.


oh no. that's far too logical.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 08:53 am
InfraBlue wrote:
That it's a crime to destroy other's private property goes without saying. That is not complex at all. I'm pretty sure even the perpetrators understand that.

Beyond that, it is a pretty complex situation whereby "homegrown" Muslims who have gone to the extreme as to forgo the law of the land to impose the law of their religion on others of the same who aren't extreme adherents, and who have migrated from places where these religions have much older traditions. Not to speak for NIMH, but I think that is the gist of the complexity to which NIMH was referring.

Of course. I had thought that was obvious - wrongly, apparently, so thank you for explaining it again.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 08:59 am
Ie, "complex" doesnt necessarily mean "morally ambiguous".

I thought the complexity of (ethnic/religious/community) relations in this news story was very interesting. Thats why I posted it. That doesnt mean that I think the moral (or legal) question of whether what the Black Muslims in this story did was wrong is complicated: it isn't. What they did was wrong.

I guess some people are only interested in the guilt aspect of a story, and thus don't pick up on the interest of anything that goes beyond that.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 10:28 am
I suppose if you really believe that Bey and his group of criminals are true followers of Islam you could make a case for complexity.

I don't think they are. They purport to be part of the Nation of Islam, but even this group has chosen to distance themselves, claiming there's no affiliation. Just because the impostors use the same mode of dress doesn't make them legitimate.

They're shakedown artists - pure and simple. Common street thrugs. There was no economic or social inequality factors driving their actions. They're using their "religion" to commit their hate crimes.

What perplexes me most, I suppose, is the statement Miller made on p.1:

Quote:
Perhaps the immigrant Muslims have something to learn about Islam from their Black counterparts.


Call me crazy, but I cannot imagine worse teachers. These are brutal and violent criminals who rape and murder for their own gain - not for that of the community.

For decades, Bey and his followers used assault to settle their business and religious differences. What a lesson.

I suppose you can make any scenario as complex as you wish it to be. I somehow doubt the victims of these crimes share your views.
0 Replies
 
 

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