Article Op-Ed

Atlanta to Ferguson

Atlanta to Ferguson

Author Ruwa Romman by

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Photo Credit: Shawn Semmler

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Two weeks ago, a grand jury ruled against indicting Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. This means that a grand jury did not believe there was enough evidence to merit a trial. Protests broke out all across the country. A few weeks later, another grand jury chose not to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner. To this day, protests continue in major cities across the United States. Both decisions represented a pattern of police brutality and the lack of laws against such brutality.

I attended the protests in downtown Atlanta the day after the Ferguson announcement. There were almost 2000 people there, all of them peaceful protestors. At the top of every hour, protesters would take four and a half minutes of silence to symbolize the fact that Mike Brown’s body lay in the street for four and a half hours. Yes, hours.

The media, unfortunately, chose to sensationalize the protesters. In press conference held by Mayor Kasim Reed, he stated that only 23 protesters were arrested for rioting and 13 of them were not even from Atlanta. Of the almost 2000 protesters, only 150 marched away to obstruct traffic on the connector. The peaceful protesters tried to stop the rioters who showed up late and were not part of the larger movement.

This disconnect in narratives is extremely troubling. It gives the impression that instead of channeling justified anger into peaceful and constructive movements, protesters are choosing violence and destruction. That is not the case. I saw it firsthand.

Aside from the disconnect in the narrative of the media versus on the ground facts, the lack of Muslim representation among protesters truly troubled me, specifically representation from Arab and south Asian Muslim populations. The issue of institutionalized racism is one that affects all of us. From racial profiling in airports to curbing religious freedom, Muslims experience discrimination in the United States as well. We should ally ourselves with people of color because their fight for civil rights is our fight too. We need to take these issues personally even if they are not directly ours. At the end of the day, they affect us. There is no place for racism in our faith and we need to actively speak out against it. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim.”

- The Last Sermon of Muhammad delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H (c. 630 AD)

Our faith demands that we at least speak out against injustice. It is time we did so. This is why I continue to write about the importance of voting. Local elections determine who sits as police commissioner, which is something that directly affects the way the police treat minorities. Since elections are over, you can still read up on this issue. If you would like to know when demonstrations are happening, follow @ShutItDownATL or follow hashtags like #WeCantBreathe, #MikeBrown, #EricGarner, #TamirRice, and #blacklivesmatter. At the end of the day, all lives matter. Oppression will not end until we demand justice for everyone, not only ourselves.

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