The mainstream narrative around Muslims in Britain after the Second World War has been very South Asian-centric. This is of course because of historical post-war mass immigration patterns, but it completely ignores how Black Muslims can point to a much longer history with the isles from the Moors of North Africa in Elizabethan times to the seamen who settled in port cities in Victorian times.
According to the Muslim Council of Britain, around 70% of today’s British Muslims are of South Asian backgrounds. But this also means that around 30% - a sizeable minority – are not, and approximately 10% of British Muslims are of African or Caribbean backgrounds, so it is shameful that when people think of prominent British Muslims, there is a notable erasure of Black Muslims.
South Asian normativity pervades discussions on British Muslims across policy, academia and the media. This erasure and exclusion has led to a lot of ignorance. I have personally heard well intentioned people who are not of the faith say nonsensical things like, "It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or Muslim…" (as if they're mutually exclusive categories!) and many Black Muslims speak of the continuous assumption from fellow Muslims that they have recently converted to the faith, despite the fact that Islam has been a part of the African continent since Prophet Muhammad was still alive.
Attitudes like this, combined with rampant anti-blackness in various parts of British Muslim communities, is why New Horizons is so proud to support important initiatives like Black and Muslim in Britain for the second year running.
The groundbreaking project centres the voices of Black Muslims in Britain. Whilst it addresses Islamophobia and anti-black racism, that is not the be-all and end-all of the conversation. It showcases the diverse experiences of Black Muslims on a variety of themes from love to spirituality, from gender to growing up, from identity to role models.