Ismailimail is delighted to share this message received from the organizers of “Ismailis for Black Lives Matter” campaign spearheaded by Ismaili youths from USA and Canada.
Updated 7:00 AM (EST), Wed June 10, 2020
In solidarity we stand. As Ismailis, we have been brought up on the values of pluralism,
tolerance, and diversity, and we must apply those values in a practical way to build the cosmopolitan society we want to see. Racism is a complex issue rooted in all levels of our society, from culture to governance. It is an issue that we have suffered from, and to which we contribute. We recognize that there are members of the Ismaili community who identify as Black. For the rest of us, as non-Black people of colour, we may be reminded every day that we are not white, but we cannot understand the systematic oppression of the Black community. It is difficult to recognize our own flaws, but many of us have internalized views about darker skin, which perpetuates anti-blackness in the societies in which we live. In doing so, we are bystanders, contributing to a systemic issue that holds down not only our Black brothers and sisters, but members of the wider POC community as well. Instead, we must re-imagine a society that is equitable, just, inclusive and diverse. As people of colour, as North American citizens, and as human beings, we must be allies. Because if we are not allies, we are complicit.
During his speech at Prince Claus Fund’s Conference on culture and development, His Highness the Aga Khan said, Developing support for pluralism does not occur naturally in human society. It is a concept which must be nurtured every day, in every forum — in large and small government and private institutions; in civil society organisations working in the arts, culture, and public affairs, in the media; in the law, and in justice.
Growing up with these words from Hazar Imam, hearing him emphasize the values of pluralism, we feel an obligation to apply this in our daily life. Although not all of us can be directly involved in the Black Lives Matter movement on the ground, there are steps we can take within our own communities to address internalized anti-blackness that we may perpetuate. Many of us are the children of immigrants, or immigrants ourselves, and though we are people of color, many of us benefit from the stereotype that Asians in the USA or Canada are “high-achieving”, “educated” and “law-abiding” people of color. We are placed in direct comparison, and competition, with the Black community. We hold each other down. And this holds each one of us down. It is our responsibility to take active steps towards dismantling this insidious system.
When we, Shazia Babul, Faris Mecklai and Aliya Babul, started this independent initiative “Ismailis for Black Lives Matter”, a fundraiser for the Black Lives Matter Foundation, we did so as a project of allyship to educate members of our community, to mobilize the financial resources of members of the Ismaili community in accordance with our collective values, and contribute our solidarity to the Black community’s stand for justice. Our small team grew to include fifteen Ismaili students and youths from across Canada and the USA; Insiya Essani, Bijhan Hirani, Adam Chagani, Alyssa Dhalla, Tariq Keshavji, Imaan Kherani, Imaan Shivji, Aleena Ismail, Alyna Dada, Areesa Lalani, Rafique Van Uum, and Zahra Shivji. We are deeply grateful to the members of our team, and to the many generous donors.
After just four days, we raised 20 thousand dollars for the Black Lives Matter Foundation, from over 150 donors from across North America, Europe, and East Africa. We are incredibly grateful for the support shown to this cause by the members of the Ismaili community, by sharing the fundraiser, for words of encouragement, and for donating their resources. We are also grateful to IsmailiMail for giving us a platform for publicity. We are incredibly proud that together, we have been able to contribute to such an important cause.
More than the financial donations, this fundraiser was able to involve Ismailis from around the world in the discussion about systemic racism and black lives. This fundraiser was able to spread awareness, create empathy, and forge connections. We have received publicity from Aysha Khan, a reporter from Religion News Service
Although we have reached our goal, the fundraising will continue for the foreseeable future, to gather donations for the BLM foundation and to emphasize our continued commitment to the cause: gf.me/u/x6n9y2
Shazia Babul, Faris Mecklai and Aliya Babul
Collecting funds is not the only initiative that has been taken by Ismaili youths. We are happy to highlight several other incredible initiatives spearheaded by other Ismaili youths in support of this movement:
Aleena Ismail, Anusha Ebrahim, Arsheen Kanji and Nafisa Ismail have created a guidebook “How to Talk to Your Ismaili Family about Black Lives Matter”:
And curated a further list of resources: https://tinyurl.com/IsmailisforBLM
Insiya Essani, Aman Panjwani and Aleena Ismaili have also created a form for Ismailis to weigh in on community engagement with race and privilege: bit.ly/ismaili-race
Aliya Babul is starting an online arts platform to foster collaborations between ismaili artists and artists from the black community to combat anti-black sentiments and raise up artistic voices in the name of justice: www.unsiyah.com