Ilyasah Shabazz is the third daughter of African-American civil rights leader Malcom X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. She is an activist, motivational speaker and author of multiple award winning books. She is currently an adjunct professor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York City. Shabazz attended the TRT World Forum in Istanbul and spoke to Yeni Şafak in an exclusive interview.
Malcolm X is hailed as exemplary for Muslims. How did this aspect of your father impact your life?
My father definitely influenced who I am. My father and my mother, because they instilled the value of primarily self-love and then of compassion and care for others. But in order for you to have compassion and care for others you have to know good things about yourself. So she made sure that I understood who I was as a woman, that many women made great contributions all around the world throughout history, that I understood who I was as a Muslim, that Muslims made significant accomplishments and strides throughout the world throughout history and that I understood who I was as a person of African diaspora that civilization began from the continent. So it is important that children have the opportunity to see good things, good reflections of who they are as Muslims, as wherever they’re from, that they know that they are worthy of goodness. They are worthy of a quality education, that they are worthy of leadership, that they should have compassion and care once they know all of the good things about themselves so that when they see injustice anywhere, they stop it. That they are not those writing bad policies and bad laws that are going to oppress any human being whatsoever.
Would it be correct to describe your father as a defender of human rights as opposed to fighting against racism?
Yes, absolutely [it would be correct to call father a defender of human rights as opposed to fighting against racism] because it was in the late 1950s that in America you had African-Americans who wanted to integrate restaurants. They wanted equality. They asked to go to better schools, for better housing and better healthcare. So it was all about any kind of injustice against any human being. We don’t ask our fellow man to allow us equality because we are already equal. God ordained us human beings all the same. It was important that we understood that. While everyone was fighting for civil rights, my father came along and said “I demand my human rights as your brother. I demand my human rights ordained by God.”
Do you believe that the people in the U.S. are showing enough reaction to purposefully push negative perceptions of Islam?
Just recently there was a protest in Charlottesville. There were people who came from all over to fight against that injustice. When there was the Muslim ban, when the president said Muslims have to go, everyone came and they marched against Muslim bans. They were supporting Muslims, they were supporting women, they were supporting African Americans, they were supporting anyone being oppressed. There are a lot of people who now understand what it is to be oppressed, discriminated against and all of those false targets.
You can no longer say that Muslims are terrorists and have it believed. If you have someone who has just killed hundreds of people at a concert, a white man killed hundreds of people at a concert, he is a terrorist. Now we’re clear that you can’t say if someone shot someone that they’re a terrorist and that it is synonymous with being a Muslim. People are more informed now.
What kind of activities are you doing as an activist and an academician on the subject of Islamic perception?
I’m a professor so I make sure that all of my students understand each person’s identity, each person’s culture. I teach American Cultural Pluralism in the law. How does the law affect those who are being discriminated? Why is it different? So that we understand that we are all the same. The culture that we have, the culture that she has, the culture that I have is something very beautiful.
What do you think of Donald Trump's politics?
I think that there are some who agree with him [Donald Trump], some who share his ideology but there are many who recognize this as an opportunity to come together and have the discussion on our differences.
Do you think Turkey plays an effective role in the Muslim world?
I think Turkey is a model country, it’s just applaudable. It’s so great that they open the door to refugees, they open the door to their brothers and sisters without discrimination or prejudice. I think that this is a very beautiful society, a very beautiful culture. I think it should be mirrored all around the world.