- Imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood
- Opposes the U.S. War on Terror
- Views America as a nation infested with white racism
Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid has been the imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, a Sunni house of worship in Harlem, New York, since 1989. The mosque’s congregation was founded in the 1960s by followers of Malcolm X.
Born a Baptist in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1951, Abdur-Rashid was raised in the South Bronx during the social tumult and racial tensions of the 1960s. “I was heavily influenced by pan-Africanism, by black nationalism, by the antiwar movement, all of it,” he says. “And then, I became a Muslim at age 20. And it played a great role in my grasp of the social-justice dimension of Islam.”
In addition to his work with the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Abdur-Rashid is also the Amir (leader) of the Harlem Shura, a coalition of seven Harlem mosques; he serves as a chaplain to incarcerated Muslims in the city and state prisons of New York; and he works as a counselor to Muslims living with AIDS and to Islamic victims of domestic violence.
Abdur-Rashid is a board member or advisor to several interfaith organizations in New York City: A Partnership of Faith; the Bertram Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty; the Chancellors Interfaith Advisory Committee of the New York City Board of Education; Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement; the Interfaith Center of New York; and the Temple of Understanding.
Strongly opposed to America’s post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, Abdur-Rashid helped organize a September 22, 2001 anti-war demonstration in Times Square. On several other occasions, he galvanized members of his congregation for anti-war rallies against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as well, coordinating his protests with Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Condemning what he calls the recent “anti-Muslim backlash” in the United States, Abdur-Rashid is a member of the National Committee to Free Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (the former 1960s radical, H. Rap Brown).
Abdur-Rashid is the host of a monthly Harlem-based radio program titled “Prophetic Echoes.” He is also the author of the forthcoming books, Social Justice According to the Prophetic Paradigm, and Reclaimed Legacy: Muslim Indigenous and Immigrant Peoples and The History of Al-Islam in America.
On December 1, 2005, Abdur-Rashid penned an article titled “The Pre-Columbian Presence of Muslim Africans in America Is No Myth,” where he wrote: “[T]here is such a constantly growing, extensive body of … evidence of Western and Northern African Muslim pre-Columbian American (and Caribbean) presence, that those who study the evidence and continue to deny the obvious, reveal themselves to be rooted in old, racist, European renditions of American history.” Abdur-Rashid depicts these “Muslim explorers” as people who “came to the land of the Original Americans, met them, peacefully interacted with them, traded with them, inter-married with them, and perhaps even gave another relative handful of them da’wa” [invitation to the faith]. He contrasts their purportedly peaceful actions in North America with those of white Europeans who “stole” from the continent’s “indigenous inhabitants” their “God-given custodial land — the land of the ‘Red Man.’” Whites, adds Abdur-Rashid, “committed genocide against [the continent’s] true people, stole the ‘Black Man’ from Africa and brought him to the stolen land against his will, and … populated the land from Europe.”
Charging further that America has robbed native Africans and Muslims of their heritage, Abdur-Rashid writes: “Many of the people kidnapped to this country and sold into slavery were already Muslims. And then, we suffered psychic and blunt-force trauma to the head, and forgot everything, including who we are and what we are. We were told, ‘Your name is not Ahmed, your name is Charlie. You don’t worship Allah. You worship Jesus.’ … Not only were there African Muslims who were here in America as explorers before Christopher Columbus, but a third of the African slaves who were brought here during the slave trade were Muslims.”
Because he views the United States as a nation infested with all manner of injustice, Abdur-Rashid derides Americans’ annual celebration of “so-called Thanksgiving.” “When we look at the prosperity abundant in America for the past several years,” he elaborates, “we realize that for one out of nine people, to be poor is not just a shame, it is also a sin. When we see the effects of unrepentant violence against poor people of color …”