Believers Bail Out is committed to building communities that are healthy, safe and allow everyone the opportunity to flourish. We are proud to march along the path of those who have called us to reimagine a world far different from our current carceral system; we believe our Islamic tradition compels us to do so. There are many ways to imagine justice, freedom and liberation, but there is no way to achieve it within the framework that exists today. We must be brave enough and bold enough to demand better for each other and from each other.
“And do you realize what is the steep road? It is the freeing of a human being from bondage.” (The Holy Qur’an 90:12-13)
As a Muslim collective of abolitionists, we believe that our faith calls us to free our brothers, our sisters, our kin from bondage. The history of policing in the United States is directly tied to the legacy of chattel slavery – there are no reforms to be made because the system is working exactly as it has been designed. Approximately 182 billion tax-funded dollars are spent annually on a system that surveils, criminalizes, polices and, ultimately, cages millions of Black people. We echo the call to defund police departments across the country and instead redistribute those funds into community-based forms of care, safety and justice. We acknowledge that the road to decarceration is steep, but we believe it is possible. We will make mistakes. We will disagree. We readily accept these as part of the process of community building. We will not, however, allow our demands to be co-opted or diluted by those simply seeking to reform the discriminatory targeting and systemic violence of the prison-industrial complex.
Mariame Kaba teaches us that measures to reform policing have failed to reduce harm and that community safety needs to be entirely reimagined. As she has demonstrated in her writings, police reforms have been enacted multiple times since 1894; at every instance police were given more funding for more training, better equipment and personnel expansion – at the expense of communities. American policing has historically been used to protect the wealth, property and political power of the elite at the expense of laborers and the working class. This problem is not new. Our demands are not new. We follow the calls of Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Mariame Kaba and countless others. As we learn, we make it our mission to share knowledge and put these analyses and visions into practice.
So to our fellow Muslims who would support police reform we say this – petitions, campaigns and community programs that support police reform and normalize police presence in sacred spaces do not make any of us safer. They will not stop state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against Black and brown communities. They will alienate and further marginalize portions of our communities and move us farther away from the spirit of Islam, which calls us to stand firm against oppression wherever we find it, even if it be against our own selves. It is not enough to say “Black Lives Matter,” our actions must prove that they do.
For the last few weeks, the Believers Bail Out community has joined the hundreds of thousands of people marching through the streets to demand change. We have prayed in these same streets and called others to join us. We have been in virtual community with the hundreds of thousands of people who have organized from home and made phone calls and donated to bail funds like ours to support protestors. And we continue to do the urgent work of bailing out our Muslim kin from pre-trial and immigration incarceration. In periods of upheaval, it is easy to lose focus and be swayed by appeals that would placate some of us, but we are committed to abolition and justice for all us, and we are here to hold the line.
We support the demands outlined by #8toAbolition, and we echo their statement that, “the end goal of these reforms is not to create a better, friendlier, or more community-oriented police or prisons. Instead, we hope to build toward a society without police or prisons, where communities are equipped to provide for their safety and well-being.” If you believe in this cause, if you see yourself as part of this struggle, we invite you to join us. If you have questions or concerns, we have resources. This work is much bigger than any one person or organization; it requires the creativity and commitment of all who believe a better world is possible. We are not allies to this struggle, we are part of it.