A Muslim American group in the Detroit area is trying to combat racism in their community with a campaign urging them to stop using a derogatory Arabic word for African-Americans.

“Drop the A-Word” is asking Arab-Americans to stop using the slur “abed” which means slave or servant, or its plural form “abeed,” when referring to African-Americans. The word has been described in the local media as being used as a sort of Arabic equivalent for the N-word.

“Abed” is not always a negative term. Many Muslim men are named “Abed” which also means servant of God; however, when used as a reference to African-Americans, the positive context is not generally the intent, Muslim civil rights activists have noted.

The Middle East news site Al Arabiya quoted Majed Moughni of Dearborn, MI who supports the new initiative.

“We should stop using ‘abeed’ to describe or reference people of African descent,” Moughni said. “It’s being used in a racial sense, and that’s derogatory,” Moughni added.

Supporters of the campaign voiced their experiences on Twitter, including some who pointed out the sensitivities of African-American Muslims.

All societies have prejudice. That is not the point.The point is, do you perpetuate it? Or do you fight it?#DropTheAWord#StopTheHate
Drop the A Word Campaign Urges Arab Americans to Stop Using Anti Black Slur
@kamalfizazi
Kamal Fizazi
Muslim Arabs forget that black Muslims exist. Or that it's a mutually exclusive relationship to be black, Arab and Muslim. #DropTheAWord
Drop the A Word Campaign Urges Arab Americans to Stop Using Anti Black Slur
@nsabrinem
Naila Missous

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan chapter (CAIR-MI) called out fellow Muslims on the practice last September.

Walid wrote in The Arab American News about how he was struck during a Facebook discussion when the term “abeed” was used in a thread in reference to a news story about an African American woman.

“Calling a black person a ‘abed’ (abeed in plural) is offensive.  The term has been used for so long in certain segments of the Arab World that many people have become desensitized to its meaning,” Walid wrote.  “I know that all people do not use the term with overtly malicious intent; however, the word is disturbing, nonetheless.”

“It is disingenuous to say that it is a good word, because excellent worshippers of God are ‘abeed.’  When people use that term, it is not because they are saying that black people are the best worshippers, nor do they call lighter skin persons, or their own pious family members, ‘abeed,’” Walid explained. “The term has ugly roots and is derogatory; therefore, its usage should cease, instead of explaining it off to the offended and telling them not to be so sensitive, because it’s a compliment.”

Here’s a video report about the campaign from WXYZ in Detroit:

(H/T: Al Arabiya)