The Malcolm Code: Tackling anti-black prejudice in university Islamic societies

An initiative named after legendary activist Malcolm X is looking to address inclusivity and anti-black prejudice at university Islamic Societies (ISOCs) in the UK.

The Malcolm Code is a set of policy points aimed to help ISOCs become more inclusive of black Muslims. It has been created by the Black Muslim Forum (BMF) after the advocacy group undertook a survey last year, which threw up some stark figures.

The survey found 84% of black Muslims did not feel welcome in their university’s ISOC. And 63% of participants felt they did not belong to the UK Muslim community.

“We didn’t want it just to be statistics,” says Soukeyna Osei-Bonsu, the founder and managing director of BMF. “We wanted to act on it and that’s how The Malcolm Code came about.”

Soukeyna says the black people surveyed said they were made to feel not Muslim because of their culture and heritage.

“Everything about their culture was seen as not legitimately Muslim and you have to abandon it, and relinquish it to adopt a Muslim identity. Whereas Asians and Arabs, their culture is seen as synonymously Muslim,” says Soukeyna.

“They’d be told their names aren’t Muslim. For example, Assietou which is Africanised version of Assiyah — they’d be told that name isn’t Muslim, or Mamadou, which is the Africanised version of the name Muhammad.

“Also, people mentioned in the report, just their upbringing within the Muslim community in madrasahs etc. it was very abusive with a lot of racist incidents.”

The Malcolm Code

The Malcolm code is named after Malcolm X, “who died fighting for racial equality and with the belief that Sunni Islam would bring racial harmony and peace in the world,” BMF says on its website.

It hopes the code will be adopted globally by Islamic societies starting with the UK.

Signatories need to attend mandatory anti-racism training, establish a welfare position and black Muslim representative within the leadership, have a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-black racism and celebrate Black History Month in October and throughout the year.

This year, ISOCs from Bristol and The London School of Economics attended the training and signed up to The Malcolm Code.

“There’s been a positive response from Islamic societies, especially London School of Economics, they’ve been really active,” says Soukeyna.
“I feel like it’s everyone’s duty to do something because when we talk about anti-black racism it’s actually life or death for a lot of people. For example, in Mauritania there is still a system of slavery that exists, and bondage that exists with a lot of black Mauritanians towards their Arab Mauritanian masters.

“For a lot of people, it’s actually not a joke. It’s not just microaggressions or that kind of thing. It’s actually life and death. So when we’re running these projects, it’s because we’re trying to raise awareness at how severe the issue is for a lot of people.”

More than Black History Month

The BMF wants the discussion around anti-black prejudice in ISOCs to go beyond the customary throng of activities that occurs around Black History Month but quickly fizzles out thereafter.

“That seems to be the main way of tackling anti-black racism in the community. And that seems to be enough,” says Soukeyna.

“That isn’t enough, that’s a stepping stone, but it isn’t enough. And there needs to be a lot more that is initiated structurally within the ISOC.”

The BMF hope to get more UK ISOCs to sign up to the code and eventually move to the US and get Muslim Students Associations to take it up. It also wants to expand the initiative to faith bodies and masjids too.

The group wants all Muslim institutions to become actively anti-racist and fight racism just like Islam teaches and our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached.  

“That is the main driver for the organisation Black Muslim Forum,” says Soukeyna. “It’s reviving the Sunnah of anti racism, basically.”


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