In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, and the Fate of America Zaid Shakir reflects on a theme which has frequently appeared here on Planet Grenada; the idea that especially towards the end of his life Martin Luther King Jr. was a much more radical critic of American society and government then is suggested by his sanitized publically-approved image. Imam Zaid goes on to suggest that even today, America is not yet ready to tolerate the "real" King's message, and certainly would not elect him president were he alive today.
Herein lays Dr. King’s legacy, an uncompromising struggle against the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.” That aspect of his work and teachings is unmentioned in the mainstream media. Instead his baritone refraining of “I have a dream” fills the airwaves. After his death, the struggle against those evil “triplets” was not allowed to exist as his enduring legacy. Instead, that legacy has been whitewashed, sanitized and rendered “acceptable” for white middle class sensitivities.
What does all of this have to do with Obama? Obama is a viable African American candidate because he has steadfastly refused to deal with the issues Dr. King was dealing with at the end of his life, even though they are just as relevant today as they were forty years ago. That refusal has seen him distance himself from his activist pastor, Minister Jeremiah Wright. It has seen him avoid any public identification with Rev. Jesse Jackson, a fellow Chicagoan, or similar leaders who are identified with African American civil rights advocacy, and it has seen him ignore issues of relevance to African Americans and the urban and rural poor today.
That he has taken such positions is not an indictment against Obama. It is an indictment against American society which has deemed that an open advocate for such issues is unfit to lead this nation.
In his second article Reflections on Black History Month Zaid Shakir looks at the current situation of Muslims in the United States and suggests that American Muslims (especially African-American Muslims) rather than looking towards violent Third World liberation struggles should look back to the example of enslaved African Muslims in the Americas as role models in the struggles.
The question for us is, “How can we best address the oppressive mechanisms facing us, and those facing our co-religionists in so many redoubts scattered around the globe?” In answering this question, we can gain valuable insight from the lives and struggles of our African Muslim forebears. Superior erudition was the key to the liberation of Job Ben Solomon. Herein is a sign for us. As American Muslims we have been blessed to reside in the most intellectually dynamic society in history. Also, the primal command in our religion is to read. We should enthusiastically pursue the mandate created by these twin facts and push ourselves to become the most educated community on Earth –in religious and worldly knowledge. In so doing, the miracles which were so clearly manifested in the life of Job Ben Solomon will surely bless our lives.