NYT Opinion: White Muslims Must Face their Anti-Black Racism

“I’ll be honest, some of the worst micro and macro forms of racism I’ve experienced as a black Muslim have not been at the hands of white people but white Arabs/desis.”

(Remaz Khalaleyal, Sudanese-American activist)

Who knew!

Here is a further discussion about how the death of George Floyd is producing much soul-searching within the American Muslim community about the fact that Arab Muslims are often racists.

I told you about the issue here last week, but was surprised this morning to see an opinion piece published at none other than the New York Times exposing the hard truth.

Why Did Cup Foods Call the Cops on George Floyd?

Nuisance abatement laws force stores in low-income neighborhoods to operate almost as an arm of law enforcement.

Don’t be deterred by the subheading, it is interesting, but almost seems to me to be a way to turn off readers to the juicy part of this piece by Moustafa Bayoumi.


Ever since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 after a grocery store reported that he had used a counterfeit $20 there, Muslim Americans have been asking why the store’s workers called the cops in the first place.

Palestinian immigrant-owned Cup Foods where it all began!

Like many grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods, Cup Foods is owned and largely staffed by an immigrant Muslim family, and the police call has prompted some to see racist motives.

Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the Palestinian-American owner of Cup Foods, the grocery store, was away when a 17-year-old worker made the call.

A statement from the store referred to a “state policy that requires stores” to notify the police about counterfeit bills and Mr. Abumayyaleh described the practice as “standard protocol” for businesses. He vowed that his store will no longer do so “until the police stop killing innocent people.”

For many small-business owners in low-income neighborhoods, the decision to not call the cops is not so easy. The problem isn’t that you will subject yourself to more crime without the police. It’s that the authorities often force the business owners to operate almost as an arm of the police. If they refuse, they risk being shut down by the city through nuisance abatement laws.

After a discussion about the stores that were once owned by Jews:

Today, many of these stores in major cities around the country are run by Arab-American and South-Asian-American merchants, but the justifiable resentments remain the same. [Resentments about how the owners go home to better neighborhoods at night.—ed]

Okay, enough of the nuisance laws etc. Here, fifteen paragraphs in, comes the admission that Arabs and South Asian Muslims are racist.

The facts of third-party policing do not take away from the need for conversations about anti-black racism within Muslim American communities. Although Muslim Americans routinely have to deal with the bigotry of Islamophobia, many have been in denial for far too long about the anti-black racism among the believers.

Remaz Khalaleyal

About a third of American Muslims are African-American and the history of Islam in the United States is deeply connected to the African-American story. Yet research by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, which studies American Muslims, shows that African-American Muslims still often feel unwelcome in South Asian and Arab Muslim circles.

In a powerful Instagram post, Remaz Khalaleyal, a Sudanese-American activist, addressed the owner of Cup Foods. “I’ll be honest, some of the worst micro and macro forms of racism I’ve experienced as a black Muslim have not been at the hands of white people but white Arabs/desis,” she wrote. (“Desi” refers to people from South Asia.)

She is right. Nonblack Muslims have a lot of anti-racist work to do.

And even if our current system of policing didn’t use crime and crime prevention as a way to pit stores and customers against one another, nonblack Muslims would still find ways to buy into anti-blackness. Racism isn’t limited to store owners, after all.

The death of George Floyd ought to show nonblack Muslim Americans two important things. As Americans, we must strive for better public safety for everyone. And as Muslims, we must find better versions of ourselves.

Read it all here. How great is that to know that white ethnic Europeans are off the hook for a change.