The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?

The Carnival goes up this Friday, the 22nd, inshAllah.

The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?* *Them is non-Muslims, Us is the Ummah

Submissions (ideally) Due Wednesday May 20th  but will keep adding as you come along, inshallah. Please leave a link if you put up a post on your blog, thanks.

For a hot minute I was worried that I would never get around to doing this, but I’m glad it did take me this long as I have had a chance to germinate some ideas that I would have otherwise not had time to ponder.

       The idea for taking a closer look at white privilege in the ummah came from a comment discussion with Jamerican Muslimah. At that time, I had mostly only thought about my white privilege in terms of how mine was revoked when I joined a religious minority (in the US) and put a little square of cloth over my head. **(I recognize now that my privilege was not revoked, but it certainly felt that way). I think this experience must be quite shocking for most new Muslimas and especially for white women who had taken so much for granted in western societies.

       I have mostly worked from home since I began covering and so when I did interact with society, as a Muslima, it was mostly fairly superficial, such as running errands and taking the kids to the park–where the other mommies don’t talk to me so much anymore. When I recently went back to school, I was quite shocked at the treatment I perceived that I was getting from my peers and professors to the point where I actually thought I may be getting a little paranoid or developing some kind of social anxiety disorder. Finally, I did an experiment where for the first several meets of my winter courses I fully “hijabed” in a cap and scarf to class, and sure enough it wasn’t me, it was them.

       Anyhoo, I digress. You see, this white privilege carnival could very easily be a giant rantfest about how if feels to have your white privilege card revoked **(or seemingly so), and though that could be very self-satisfying, I think there is a possibility for this endeavor to be much more thought-provoking.

       The White Privilege and The Ummah carnival will be open to all Muslimas—white, passing, woc, converts, indigenous Muslimas, 1.5 generation, etc. ** I was thinking just Muslimas, but will include brothers too. The topic is widely open to your interpretation and even rants about the loss of privilege are welcome. Here are a few starter ideas to get things going:

 Jamerican had made these suggestions:

  •  Something I’d love to see a White Muslim woman blog about-confronting their White privilege in the larger society (suddenly becoming the ‘other’)
  •  And also within the Muslim community (being the sought after White woman)
  •  Using Muslim community White privilege to dictate norms to other- brown- Muslim women

       That bit about “dictating norms to other-brown-Muslim women” immediately raised some eyebrows, and I don’t think I would have been able to see those dynamics prior to her mentioning it, so inshallah I will try to address that somewhat in my post, but hope other folks will give it some good thinking about.

       It is fairly well known how sought after white Muslimas are, but I don’t necessarily think this works out well for many sisters. It would be nice to hear about these sort of experiences from a first-person perspective.

It would also be good to hear about:

  • Being a white Muslima amongst the Muslims in the lands of the Muslims. Is it easier to go abroad? Are we treated better?
  • The Great Equalizer? How does being Muslim affect race relations?
  • Extra-attention/sensitivity doled out to the White shahada.
  • How does class continue to affect white Muslims? What are the differences in experiences between white privilege for upper/middle class white Muslims and working-poor/poor white Muslims?
  • Maintaining or discarding White American cultural norms. Fact Observation: Many white people are not trustworthy and they are arrogant—does that change or remain when we become Muslim?

        When I initially shopped this thing around, I got a wide range of responses including that white privilege doesn’t exist and also that white privilege ceases to exist once a white person becomes Muslim. I don’t agree with either of those positions, but  I would include posts written from those angles as all opinions are valid.

       For those of my siblings who are in doubt that white privilege does exist, I would like to share a couple my experiences with recognizing my privilege from my jilhaliya.

        When I was in my early twenties, myself and another prospective renter where looking at a fabtabulous studio to rent in a not-so-desirable neighborhood (the Tendernob/Upperloin). As we stood in front of the bay windows and the apartment manager gave as all the details, I remember thinking that I “had it.” The other prospect was a middle-aged Asian man with a noticeable accent. Though I suspected he probably made more money than me, he would probably do less damage to the place than me, and he would probably actually pay the last month’s rent rather than use the deposit—I knew I would get the apartment, and I did.

       A few months later I was taking a train trip across the country.  I was awakened to an announcement that we had crossed some state line and law enforcement officials would be randomly checking people’s luggage for contraband. Immediately two officers entered the car and started slowly moving down the isle towards me. In my backpack, stowed at my feet, was a cache of illegal material—to my relief, the officers didn’t even seem to look at me–instead they went straight to the two black men a few seats behind me. I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew right then that I had it.

       Need more explanation? Peggy McIntosh has written an excellent article that illustrates what it is, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Please go read the whole article; here are a few from the list of 26 privileges. I have crossed out those that were revoked when I began wearing hijab:

 1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

51 thoughts on “The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?

  1. oh my goodness I so forgot about this 🙂 And it isn’t like I don’t have a lot to say (as usual). I’ve been on both sides, having my white privilege card revoked in the US, doubly so married to Mr. Man. And than moving to the ME and suddenly I got the card back with extra benefits that i never had in the US.

    making note now to get on this 🙂

    1. Goody, goody. goody. Be sure to be long winded, k? I do appreciate that you are too opinionated for most, got that same cooty myself.

      1. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

        This one from December 2005 (which was a reply to a post Ginny did, which came out of an earlier discussion started by UZ but, of course, that original post entitled White Privilege, White Muslim is now gone).

  2. Thanks for inviting me, not sure I have anything to contribute, not being white but thanks, I look forward to reading the posts.

    1. Mona-lol. I’m running into this problem a lot as I’m not sure “what” many of the bloggers “are.” I thought I saw a pic of you recently and that you “looked” white, though I think I had always thought you were Egyptian/Egyptian American. Anyhoo-thanks!

  3. Hi Brooke, Salam, I am Egyptian/American but I don’t think that’s white. I always thought of white as Anglo as in European decent. Either way I never identified as a white person or felt like I had white privilege because I was always different from everyone else growing up. Interesting topic though.

  4. Walaikum asalam Mona – I saw your recent pictures, masha Allah–it wasn’t you. I’m not sure now who was that white sister blogger in the recent photo in Egypt with kids that is crafty and hates shopping. I am having serious mommy-brain, and I’m sure when I remember I will think “duh!!!” There are several bloggers I occasionally read out of Egypt but I dunno who is what! Thanks for the support and patience 🙂

  5. Salaams Brooke!

    Fact: Many white people are not trustworthy and they are arrogant—does that change or remain when we become Muslim?


    1. Walaikum Salam Sis,
      You don’t agree? The sis that brought up that point is going to do a little convo with me about it and we will post it, inshallah. I agree with her–seen it with my own eyes. Though I am wondering if flakeyness is an American attribute or perhaps a human universal. But I would consider a pattern of flakiness to be untrustworthy.

    1. Yusuf- I mean specifically the behavior of saying you will do something and then not do it. That is “flakiness” and allhualim if it is intentional or unintentional, but it is a behavior pattern I have seen repeatedly in some white sisters. Agian, this may be universal, but I have noticed it from my white sisters and indeed it is problematic.
      I had an interesting convo with a friend about this because there are some cultures where people will say “yes” but really mean “no” or act out similar behavior that is culturally understood between the parties–but that is not the case here.

  6. Salaams Brooke:

    You present the untrustworthiness and arrogance of “many” white people as a “fact.”

    What do you support this “fact” with? Research? Daleel?

    The same can be said of “many” people from all races and backgrounds. That doesn’t make it a fact, Brooke.

    Does a person’s character change as soon as they become Muslim? I think not. Many drag their jahiliyah behavior into the deen with them. No matter what color they are. Ahemm … the prisons are full of Muslims.

    Love you

  7. Safiyyah-That’s exactly what I’m trying to work at in my post for the carny–How WP is jilhaliya behavior that I need to look at and rid myself of, yet WP is very elusive for whites to see and understand. Again, many (most?) whites deny that they have WP, but the behavior rolls into the deen too.
    I would love to be able to support some of this stuff with hard scientific evidence, but I’m really doubting that I would find a whole lot even if I had the hours to dig–so maybe I will change that to “observation” as I’m thinking that is what these posts will be about–personal experiences and observations, inshallah. You know, I did have a little chuckle when I put “fact” because it is again one of these things people (white) don’t want to believe that other people think about them.

  8. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’m not entirely sure what that has to do with white privilege – it’s more a matter of general behaviour, isn’t it? I thought you meant the tendency of some white people to “turn racist” when under pressure (e.g. the “Kramer” incident a few years ago) or when they thought nobody was listening (e.g. the Ron Atkinson affair over here in 2004). It’s not something I’ve noticed much among white converts myself, although I don’t know that many offline (although I presume most of your friends are female, unlike most of mine).

    I do think we have a “what you can get away with” culture, in which people don’t think much of forgetting to hand back their employer’s property as long as it’s something “little”, or finding ways to buck the system (as long as it is “the system” or a large company, rather than an actual person). It’s no surprise that the members of our Parliament have been fiddling their expenses and claiming for things nobody else would have got away with; in any other economic climate, it would not have even been remarked on.

    I have also noticed that some people say things like “five minutes” or “in a minute” when they really mean much more than that (I had a boss once who would do that all the time, keeping me waiting for an hour and telling me “two seconds” when I went to find out what I was going to be doing). But I’m not sure it’s a white problem and these kinds of generalisations aren’t helpful.

  9. Walaikum Asalam- Now you’ve lost me. White privilege is not a tendency to turn racist. It is always present. If you are white, you have it. I’m looking at ways wp shifts in different settings-like in the ummah–and ways it SHOULD shift. Like if you are a flakey white person and used to no-one calling you out on it cuz that’s just how people are (white or otherswise) well that should also shift within the ummah. Let’s save some for the carnival, eh?

  10. Slams Sis, I’d love to do this as the subject is something I’ve definitly noted. BUT sorry AS I jsut saw about it today I can’t possibly get it done in a few days with all my other stuff going on. I guess I’ll have to read about it after then add my own later. Insha’ALlah, but good idea ya’ll cooked up!

    Just be careful about your geralizations because the way these comments are going it’s sounding like you assume all whites are flakey and that is a gross error. White Privilage certainly doesn’t equal flakey in my book. It’s a completely different thing.

    1. Walaikum Asalam AMW, I’m more of a blog reader than blog keeper so I haven’t been so good at promoting this thing. Your welcome to jump in at anytime, the carnival goes up next Friday inshallah. A few people seem to be disagreeing with me on this one point, so I would like to see how different people (like you) think differently of their privilege.
      The observation that many white people are untrustworthy wasn’t originally made by me, it has been repeated to me a few times by PoC. Upon pondering that idea, I did notice a pattern amongst a few of my white sisters to say they would do stuff and then “flake.” But really the untrustworthiness runs much deeper than just hypocritical flaking. Like I said, I will try to address this in my post, inshallah, but the way I see it as related is that white folks just don’t call each other out for it. They “forgive” each other, but are less “forgiving” of people of color. Generalizations based on my observations, that’s all I got.

  11. White privilege and the white convert…

    Sister Brooke (blog here) has called for posts on the topic “White Privilege and the Ummah: what does it mean to you, them and us?” for a blog carnival. The subject of racial divisions within the Muslim community is something……

  12. Assalamu alaikum, I’d like to participate, will you except voice posts? I’ve not been too motivated to write as of lite *smile*.

    1. Walaikum Asalam Ginny- I was thinking about you last night and wondering if I should come by and beg you a bit 🙂 An audio entry would be awesome–it will make it a multimedia event inshallah!
      Walaikum Salam Bin Gregory – I think we can handle some stragglers. I look forward to reading your pov, thanks!

  13. I would love to do it. I wanted to include thoughts from a couple white convert friends of mine, but I don’t think I’ll have the time. Extending the deadline would be a great idea.


    *nudge, nudge*

  14. Safiya – Strunk and White were recently dismissed in the Chronicle of Higher Education–you are totally off the hook!
    Sabiwabi – Done. And thanks.
    Hajar – Submit away! Thanks!

  15. Salaams Brook:

    What? Strunk and White dissed?! Stephen King swears by that book. I still think it’s a standard in the field of writing. What does the Chronicle of Higher Education know anyhow? They better get busy teaching kids how to read before they dis the classics!

  16. Asalaamu aleykom,

    Wow, this is a fascinating thread you have started off. Well done for taking this initiative. I’m writing a PhD thesis on Muslim converts and I’m currently undertaking a chapter about whiteness & conversion to Islam.

    I will hope to finish it within a couple of weeks and when I do I will insha’Allah share the relevant part with you all.

    Keep up this excellent dialouge and if anyone wants to stay in touch about my research either email me on or add me on facebook by searching for me as REZA MOOSAVI.


    Leon (aka Reza)

  17. I would like to participate in this blog project, especially as I plan to start mingling with society again. This winter I will gradually make hijab my habit and will actually be faced with outsider views of my deen rather than just family views. (Family views so far: Mother ignores it completely and sends my daughter a Bible and a Piglet for Christmas, Father misquotes the Quran and expects me to defend it – I gave him a translation for the holidays which he is reading, and Sister tries very hard to be accepting but tends to be dismissive if I try to discuss hijab or treatment of women.) Overall I have had a good experience in that nothing bad or hurtful has happened regarding my conversion. But there are a lot of assumptions shared by strangers and semi-friends alike – that I converted for marriage, that I will eventually come to my senses, that I have been brainwashed, that I was seeking God rather than seeking a lifestyle that fit my beliefs, etc.

    On a side-note, I would like to get in touch with Mona who I met in 2007. I was trying to decide whether or not to marry my husband (who is now my ex if that tells you anything) and nervous about converting to Islam. She teased me about marrying her brother instead and quite often I think that I should have…at least perhaps I would have a husband in my bed and changing our daughters diapers rather than…well, that is what I think in spiteful moments. The rest of the time I accept the path I have been on and am overwhelmed with gratefulness that I married for love, was loved, have a beautiful daughter that came from that marriage, and that we have American citizenship. Misunderstandings can happen even between men and women of the same culture.

    1. Heather – You sound like a convert! 😉 I’m so glad you came by and are welcome to participate at any level you like. If you want to write up an entire post, send it to me and I will post it or you can just comment or whatever.
      Love and Peace and see you soon, like literally, inshallah.

  18. Привет! =) видел новый фильм Идентификация Борна
    вот изображение 🙂 :
    “Общество итальянского рыболовецкого судна находит в водах Средиземного моря тело мужчины. У него два пулевых ранения в спине и имплантированный в бедро микрофильм, помеченный номером швейцарского банка. Если калека незнакомец приходит в сознание, оказывается, что он не помнит кто он, и который с ним случилось, всетаки он может разглагольствовать не нескольких языках и обладает другими экстраординарными способностями. Получив в Цюрихе деньги с указанного банковского счета он узнает свое имя – Джейсон Борн. Только настоящее ли это его прозвище или нет? Борн ничего не помнит. Пытаясь вспомнить свое прошлое, он находит свой адрес в Париже, но нераздельно с этим понимает, что отслеживается убийцей. Борн уговаривает немецкую студентку Мэри отвезти его в Париж, воеже выяснить однако о своем прошлом и понять, кто хочет его убить…”
    Коль сколько вот тогда с хорошим качеством дозволительно посмотреть :)))

    ***Which in English means:
    ” Society of Italian fishing boat found in the waters of the Mediterranean body of a man. He had two gunshot wounds to his back and implanted in the thigh microfilm labeled number of Swiss bank. If you cripple a stranger comes to consciousness, it appears that he does not remember who he is and who it happened всетаки he can not spout several languages and has other extraordinary abilities. Having been in Zurich, said the money from a bank account, he will know his name – Jason Borne. Only now there is egoprozvische or not? Bourn does not remember. Trying to remember his past, he found his address in Paris, but indivisible, it is aware that tracks the killer. Bourn urged German student Mary bring it to Paris, but voezhe to find out about his past and see who wants to kill him”

  19. Salaam.

    I’m just returning to this blog. It was such a good idea and I’m going to go through the different accounts now.

    In my PhD thesis I want to suggest that white Muslim converts do experience white privilege after converting to Islam but in some ways they also lose their privileges.

    I would like to share it with you in detail so please provide me with your email address if you are interested.

    Best wishes,


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