01 Jan Belal Muhammad focused on ‘bigger picture’ in the wake of his father’s store being looted
When Belal Muhammad found out that his father’s store in Chicago had been damaged and looted during the protests happening in Chicago, his immediate reaction was anger.
As he initially posted on social media, his father’s cell phone store provided for his family and put a roof over their heads growing up. To see the store smashed up and destroyed after a person ran a car through the entrance, left the veteran UFC welterweight seething with animosity.
15 years my dad supported our family with this shop pic.twitter.com/cUf6tca9sN
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) June 2, 2020
A short while later, Muhammad spoke to his father about the incident and it completely changed his perspective.
“My dad, they smashed his store, they had to run a car through the front door because we have like steel cages and everything up and my dad said we’re going to put up wood on the broken windows so nobody gets cut,” Muhammad explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I was like ‘what do you mean so nobody gets cut? They’re the ones who did it!’. [He said] yeah, but I don’t want kids getting cut or hurt or older people walking by and getting cut on the glass.
“Once I heard that, it just changed my view completely. It made me change my mentality because when it first happens, you’re angry. I’m mad, and if I see somebody loot, I’m going to hurt them. You have to see it from other people’s points of view. Even though the looters are not the protesters, they’re not fighting for anything but it’s all based on a bigger story. A bigger reason that change needs to happen. For me and for my family, if we have to sacrifice a couple of things for bigger change, I’m happy with it.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic murder, protests have sprung up in all 50 states and while the majority of them have been peaceful, there have been sporadic incidents of violence.
Sadly, Muhammad’s family business got caught in the middle of that but he believes what people are protesting right now is far more important than the physical damage done to a store front.
“Obviously, it was an awful thing seeing that video,” Muhammad said about watching Floyd die after he was pinned down by Minneapolis police with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. “If anybody watched that video and you’re not angry about it and you’re not heartbroken about it and you don’t see that there’s a problem, then obviously there’s something wrong with you.
“For me, if we have to go through that with my family’s store, it got rioted, it’s for a bigger purpose. I feel what these people are feeling, the hurt they’re feeling.”
As a Palestinian, Muhammad has seen and heard plenty of atrocities happen in his native country to people he knows and loves.
Witnessing a similar kind of brutality where a man lost his life while pleading with police that he couldn’t breathe as the life was literally choked out of him really struck a chord with the 31-year-old mixed martial artist.
“I feel what these people are feeling, the hurt they’re feeling,” Muhammad explained. “Because Palestine, those people are going through it their whole lives, we’ve been going through it our whole lives. I’ve seen it. I’ve got family. The things that goes on in Palestine are the worst things that happen in the world but these people are going through it here. It’s crazy that you have to go through it here.
“For these people nothing’s really changed as you can see. People are still dying on camera, getting killed on camera, getting hurt on camera. There has to be change. There has to be a higher power, the president has to come in and make huge changes or literally give them the death penalty because that’s what happened to [George Floyd]. He literally got killed.”
When thinking about Floyd’s murder, and the ripple effect it had on his family and loved ones, Muhammad couldn’t help but realize as much as he hated to see his father’s store destroyed, there were more important issues facing the world right now.
“Our store is materialistic but what’s the price of someone’s life?” Muhammad said. “It’s not worth it for me when people say ‘oh how do you support that movement now that they did that to your store.’ I don’t really care about my store. I care about saving lives. It’s about changing lives.
“George Floyd’s kids have to grow up without a father. They have to grow up seeing their father died on such a big platform and it’s just a crazy thing. You don’t know how it changes their life. For me, you can’t put a price on somebody’s life. So if we have to go through this to get the message out, for my dad’s store to get smashed, if it makes a change then beautiful. I’m happy with it. It all happens for a reason. God puts us here for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. It doesn’t make me angry. It makes me feel for them even more.”
Muhammad absolutely appreciated the outpouring of support he received after posting the photo of his father’s store but ultimately his biggest hope is that the focus remains on the underlying causes that led to Floyd’s death and the reason why hundreds of thousands of people are protesting in the streets every day and night.
“I didn’t post it as a sob story, let me go get a GoFundMe and let me make this about me,” Muhammad said. “That’s why I didn’t do a GoFundMe. That’s not the issue. The issue is still racism and it’s still a man lost his life that didn’t have to. He lost his life. There’s a bigger picture out there. It’s not poor me, poor my store, please help me out, donate to me.
“No, you want to help out, donate to George Floyd’s family. Donate to his kids that lost their father, that need a better life. I want them to grow up not thinking that everyone in this world is either dangerous or crazy. Cause if they’re growing up with hate and anger in their life, it’s going to be a never ending process. Cause their kids are going to grow up to hate. This calls for racism to change. For chains to be broken. For bigger things to happen. If that happens, it will be an amazing thing and God willing it does.”