On February 16, Egyptian-born Imam Ahmed Shehata delivered a Friday sermon at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Fairfax County, Virginia, in which he criticized the Arab community in the U.S. for racism toward the Muslim African-American community. "If not for them, America would not have accepted me and you with open arms and would not have granted us freedom of worship," he said. "It begins and ends with this freedom, the price of which was paid by people... from whom we are isolating ourselves," said Imam Shehata. The Friday sermon was posted on Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center's YouTube channel.
Following is a transcript:
Ahmed Shehata: "No matter how long we have lived in America, we are still isolated from American society in general, and unfortunately, we are still isolated from our brothers in the Muslim African-American community. Many of us, especially among the Arab immigrants, still use the word "slave". In the religious sense, we are all slaves to Allah. Apart from that, we are all equal. If one can talk about debt – we are indebted to them. If not for them, America would not have accepted me and you with open arms, and would not have granted us freedom of worship. There are more than 2,017 Islamic centers in America, and it was the Muslim African-American community that started it all in the mid-1960s. Then the Muslim and Arab immigrants came here from their countries, and encountered a foundation upon which to build. If not for that foundation, it would have been impossible to build anything. You and me, as immigrants, know the value of the blue passport. We have come from countries where human lives and freedom are worthless. Those concepts are not even mentioned in the Indian subcontinent – our Indian, Pakistani, and Bengali brothers – or in the various Arab countries. We have come to America to enjoy these things. Many of us who travel to our countries of origin for the summer vacations breathe a sigh of relief when they return, and say: In America, we are free to practice our religion. This freedom continues to grow despite all the pressure, while it diminishes in the Islamic countries. Let me tell you, it all begins and ends with this freedom, the price of which was paid by people who are still isolated by our community, or rather, from whom we are isolating ourselves. This is the truth, and no honest man can deny it.
"Do you have five African-American brothers in your phone book? You call them, you hang around with them?
"Like it or not, our children are Americans in culture, education, and knowledge, and they have an [Islamic] religious identity. They view their immigrant parents as racists."