A newsletter about Muslims in America. The latest journalism, debates, resources and more, collected by Aysha Khan.

Swearing in, marketing modesty, Brooklyn Muslims

And a little expletive explosive from your favorite Palestinian congresswoman.

Salaam, everyone! Hope your 2019 is off to a good start, inshaAllah.

As I was collecting links for this newsletter over the past few weeks, I came across so! many!! articles!!! about Islam and Christmas. But for all of our sakes, I decided to take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book and just…delete them all. You’re welcome.

  • The secret history of Muslims in the U.S. Minutes after I sent the last edition of this newsletter, The New York Times published this lovely video by The Secret Life of Muslims, featuring a conversation between comedian Negin Farsad and scholar Hussein Rashid with a dizzying array of little-known factoids from Muslim American history. (Oh, and that reminds me: The Atlantic published this video on the plight of U.S. Uighurs immediately after I out sent an edition recently featuring a story on Uighur Americans.)

  • Marketing modesty. 💸 The Intercept’s Rashmee Kumar takes a fascinating deep dive into marketing around modest fashion and the hijab in a world dominated by capitalism and Trump. “That increased representation is meaningful to some Muslim women cannot be ignored,” Kumar notes. “However, who gets to be seen and how exposes the underlying logics of capitalism that flatten visibility into which Muslim women are the most marketable.”

  • Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were sworn in as America’s first Muslim congresswomen on a day that reporter Hannah Allam noted “felt like a national holiday for Muslim America.” And while Tlaib decided not to use Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of the Quran during the ceremony—as had been widely reported and as Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress, did—it’s still worth taking a few minutes to read about the complicated history of his Quran. (Further reading: Denise A. Spellberg’s “Thomas Jefferson’s Qu'ran: Islam and the Founders” and this writeup on the Quran’s popularity in 18th century America.)

  • Speaking of swearing in. 🤬 MuslimGirl founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh responds to the controversy over Tlaib’s f-bomb: “…using language to defy ‘political correctness’ is not an option for members of marginalized groups.”

  • Oh, and about the hijab ban. In the last edition, I mentioned a widely-reported ban on religious headwear in the Capitol’s House chamber. Liz Bucar, author of “Pious Fashion,” takes issue with that characterization of a rule that’s actually against hats. A hijab “has literally nothing in common with a hat other than it is on top of her head” and should be automatically protected by the First Amendment, she argues.

  • Meet America’s highest-ranking Muslim judge. 👨🏾‍⚖️ Halim Dhanidina, an Ismaili Muslim, became California’s first-ever Muslim judge in 2012. Now that he’s joined the state Court of Appeal, PBS reports that there is no other Muslim in the same or a more senior position in the country’s judiciary.

  • Ahmadi Muslim youth are cleaning up national parks as the federal government shutdown stretches on with no end in sight. They’re organizing cleanups around the country, including Philly’s Independence Hall as well as Everglades, Joshua Tree and Cuyahoga Valley national parks. Slate’s Aymann Ismail published a response to such behavior (actually, in response to Ahmadis’ efforts to clean the street post-New Years) that questioned the motives of such public-facing service.

  • Who is Fethullah Gulen? Claire Sadar, a fellow Boston-based journalist whom I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few weeks ago, explains the controversy over Gulen, a Turkish cleric in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. Turkey wants him extradited back to his homeland for supposedly masterminding a deadly 2016 coup attempt, but America has refused because of a lack of evidence. That could change soon, Sadar reports.

  • A pilgrimage for Muslim brothers in the NFL. 🏈 The Undefeated profiles Hamza and Husain Abdullah, who in 2012 took a season off from playing in the NFL to perform hajj. That time off was a chance to focus on their mental health and on being better fathers, Muslims and community members. But the journey put their football careers at risk, too.

  • “All you have to do is look up into the sky.” 🔭 Looking for a sense of belonging in an era when Muslims often face suspicion and prejudice, young Muslims are finding meaning and inspiration in writing and reading sci-fi. My former colleague Kimberly Winston reports for USA Today.

  • Publishing queen to writers of color and founder of Jack Jones Literary Arts, Kima Jones just earned a glowing profile in the New York Times. What’s not mentioned: she’s Muslim.

  • A Muslim NYPD cop went viral for fighting off five guys on the subway—without even considering drawing his gun. Syed Ali is also a citizen and an Army veteran who was detained at JFK Airport in the early days of the Trump administration, and was the subject of a previous NYT profile for that reason.

  • Ferguson protesters are dying. The latest was a Palestinian Muslim man who aimed to “[unite] the fight for black liberation and Palestinian liberation,” according to his cousin. (Further reading: Angela Davis’ “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” and Moment Magazine on solidarity between the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for Palestinian rights.)

  • A new oral history project highlights Brooklyn Muslims’ history. I talked to the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Zaheer Ali about the launch of his new project and why it’s so important. Related: Zuha Siddiqui just published an in-depth look at North America’s oldest surviving mosque, founded in New York City by Tatars who emigrated from Lithuania in the early 20th century. And while we’re talking about NYC, Brooklyn Daily just reported on the city’s new shelter – its first ever – aimed at Muslim women and children fleeing abuse.

  • The first-ever Muslim superhero returns – just in time to take down some Nazis. I sat down with Boston-based Muslim writer A. David Lewis to discuss his comic book reboot of Kismet, an Algerian superhero who fought fascists in France.

  • "A lot of people think Muslim girls don't know how to play." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at the Salam Stars, which may be the state's only all-Muslim girls varsity basketball team.

  • Black Muslims are reinvigorating poetry in the U.S. On Al Jazeera’s The Stream, three young spoken word artists from Maryland discuss how they amplify the voices of the marginalized through verse.

  • Iconic posts from 2018 Muslim Twitter. Please enjoy these 65 tweets carefully curated by the folks at BuzzFeed.

Shout out to the Ashab Network 👌

After Husain Abdullah ended his NFL career, his friend Imam Omar Suleiman suggested he and his brothers start the non-profit organization Ashab Network, which provides a space for Muslim athletes and entertainers to support one another in their faith through annual retreats, workshops and more. Members include basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Abdullah’s journey was highlighted in The Undefeated piece linked above; writer Amina Khan has also chronicled Ashab Network’s efforts in this D Magazine piece.

🗣 Talk to me

As always, send me your comments, questions and corrections!

- Aysha

God Pod, Saudi freakout, Christmas Mubarak

Salaam! Hope you all are staying warm and toasty today.

Heads up to my subscribers who are journalists or journalism students: You have two weeks left to submit your stories on Muslim American communities for the Goldziher Prize, which I’m judging this year! I’ll be curating a special edition of this newsletter to feature some of my personal favorite pieces after we announce the winners ✨ And while we’re at it, if you’re a Muslim currently studying humanities, social sciences, liberal arts or law, apply to the Islamic Scholarship Fund by March 21. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Now on to the news.

  • Why don’t more Muslims donate their organs? 🧠 Uncertain of Islam's stance on organ donation, Muslims often err on the side of caution. So Philadelphia non-profit Gift of Life has launched a public seminar series to answer local Muslims' questions about Islamic texts and offer scholarly interpretations on transplants. (And speaking of Philly – this nice little piece on the opening of the city’s first mosque built from the ground up, which I attended this fall, includes great details about Baitul Aafiyat’s lovely architectural details.)

  • A Texas Muslim runs for office – in her mosque 🕌 Sarah Alikhan is the first woman to ever run for the shura board of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, one of America’s largest Muslim organizations, the Houston Chronicle reports in a piece that explores the history of Muslim women in Texas and the U.S. Her campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to see this piece cover her loss as though it were any other political office. And it’s also interesting to consider how the rise in Muslim women running for political office will impact Muslim communities’ own leadership.

  • A battle rages in Texas’s Tarrant County Republican Party. A faction of Republican leaders in one of the state’s most populous counties want to remove newly appointed party vice chairman Shahid Shafi – because he’s Muslim. They’re also targeting a few other leaders, including a GOP precinct chairwoman who is married to a Muslim veteran. A vote on whether to oust Shafi is scheduled for Jan. 10. His opponents say it’s not about his faith but whether he is loyal to Islam and Islamic law or connected “to Islamic terror groups.” But both state and national GOP leaders are affirming their support for religious freedom and rebuking Tarrant County party members for their bigotry.

  • The Saudi state-controlled media seems to be in panic mode. They’re now attacking the Muslim women who have just been elected to Congress, Foreign Policy reports. The most common accusation: that Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and even Abdul El-Sayed (who lost his bid for the Michigan governor’s seat) are secret Muslim Brotherhood members who stand against the KSA and UAE.

  • Rashida Tlaib is heading to Palestine. The first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress told The Intercept that she’s planning to lead a congressional delegation to the Israel-occupied West Bank. It’s a rebuke to the tradition of the Israel trip for freshman members of Congress sponsored by pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC. (And while she’s sworn into office next month, she’ll be wearing a Palestinian gown.)

  • Did Muslim groups keep money raised for Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims? Spoiler alert: Nope. A crowdfunding effort by CelebrateMercy and MPower Change raised $238,634 for victims of the deadly Tree of Life synagogue. An Israeli activist and right-wing websites have falsely accused them of pocketing all but $10,000 of those funds. Snopes has all the receipts 📜

  • A Virginia prison is accused of discriminating against non-Muslim inmates. CAIR has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that inmates who agree to study and live in accordance with the Bible can live in a segregated unit in Virginia’s Riverside Regional Jail, known as the “God Pod.” Muslim prisoners, meanwhile, say they were starved during Ramadan and were denied access to religious materials and spiritual counseling.

  • “He fought with every cell of his being for the people he left behind.” The New York Times published a stirring obituary on Mujahid Farid, a former prisoner who founded the advocacy group Release Aging People in Prison and who died late last month. “If the risk is low, let them go,” Farid, who converted to Islam in prison, said often of the increasingly graying national prison population.

  • Speaking of the elderly… A new non-profit in Maryland called the American Muslim Senior Society aims to help older Muslims access services provided by the Muslim community and local government.

  • Backlash after a play called “Christmas Mubarak.” 🎭 A few weeks back I suggested that my RNS colleague Emily Miller, who’s based in Chicago, check out the local production for a light, feel-good story. She delivered with this great piece on the interfaith effort to teach Christians about the Quranic versions of Mary and Jesus’ lives. Then, just days later, we followed it up with this depressing op-ed: “I produced an interfaith play. Then all hell broke loose.”

  • What’s life like two years post-Muslim ban? HuffPost’s Rowaida Abdelaziz spoke to Brian Lehrer about the state of Islamophobia and civil rights issues facing Muslim women in the U.S. after the midterms.

  • Muslim workers are protesting Amazon work conditions. On Friday, many East African employees, as well as politicians like Ilhan Omar, will rally outside of a Minneapolis warehouse. This will come as no surprise to those of you who have been subscribed for a while, but for the uninitiated, Vox just put out a new primer on the issue.

  • A Muslim woman refused to sign an anti-BDS pledge, so she lost her job. A children’s speech pathologist who spent nine years working for a Texas public school district did not want to sign a contract saying she “does not” or “will not boycott Israel,” and that she shall refrain from any action “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.” As The Intercept reports, forms of the loyalty oath are mandatory in 26 states. CAIR is also filing a First Amendment challenge to the Texas law.

  • The Women’s March and the long shadow of Farrakhan. March founders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory have long drawn controversy for their association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his anti-Semitism. Jezebel offers an interesting analysis on a very complicated situation, suggesting that it’s a double standard to assume that one can't "both denounce Farrakhan and his bigotry while attempting to understand the myriad reasons why black Americans might be loathe to condemn him.”

👌 Shout out to the Muslim Youth Voices Project 

The non-profit Center for Asian American Media just partnered with PBS and WorldChannel to publish 32 short films created by budding Muslim filmmakers as part of its Muslim Youth Voices Project incubator. Professional Muslim filmmakers taught 44 newbies about script writing and video production through a series of free workshops in six cities since 2015. Watch their creations here 🎬

🗣 Talk to me

As always, send me your comments, questions and corrections!

- Aysha

Goldziher Prize, Ilhan Omar, American Uighurs

Trying to shove a month in a half of news into one newsletter edition.

Salaam! Hope you all had a great holiday weekend.

Since I sent out the last issue, I (finally) moved away from my social media/newsletter role at RNS to focus exclusively on reporting. So send me all the tips! 📬 I also participated in the Solutions Journalism Summit in Utah and have been thinking more and more about ways to take a solutions-oriented approach to reporting rigorously on U.S. Muslims’ efforts to correct social issues, even if it means dumping traditional journalism constructs.

Oh, and I also moved back to the East Coast, from Denver to Boston, so I’d love to meet up with you if you’re in the area. ☕️

  • Opportunity for journalists! 🚨 The second annual Goldziher Prize for journalists covering American Muslims is open until Dec. 31. We’ve got $50K in prize money to give top-notch journalists and journalism students producing written, audio and visual storytelling projects. Yours truly will be a judge, and I really want some Muslim winners this year. Apply!

  • “Wallahi, he has a gun!” A 55-year-old white man has been arrested for pulling a gun on a group of black Muslim teens at a McDonald’s in Minnesota. The manager also tried to kick the youth outside after the armed man, who also made racist remarks to the teens, left the McDonald’s, they told MuslimGirl and HuffPost. Watch videos from the incident here.

  • Midterm post-mortem 🔎 Islamophobia abounded on the campaign trail, but Congress ended up getting Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, its two first Muslim women. Tlaib is also the first Palestinian member; Omar is the first Somali member, plus the first refugee, black Muslim and hijabi. 🎉 Some reactions: Naaz Modan points out that many anti-Muslim legislators won this election, too; Jennifer Chowdhury writes that it’s a “confusing time” to be a Muslim woman in the U.S.; Imam Omar Suleiman says the midterms offer Muslims a new sense of belonging; Mona Eltahawy notes that Tlaib and Omar complicate perceptions of Muslim women; Rafia Zakaria predicts a battle for a new feminism as they speak their mind; Samira Sadeque offers a puzzling critique of Omar’s use of the Arabic greeting “Assalamo alaikum” in her acceptance speech; and Aymann Ismail reflects on the power of that same phrase.

  • Already, Ilhan Omar is in hot water for her support of the BDS movement. Omar said she supports the aims of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, but is skeptical that it’s the most effective way to reach the two-state solution she envisions. Critics, particularly her Jewish supporters, say she tweaked her position since campaigning. (Omar says her stance has remained consistent.) Over at The Forward, Peter Beinart dissects the claims that Omar and BDS broadly are anti-Semitic. And if that’s not enough, Omar is also fighting a fake news campaign and a ban on religious headwear on the House floor.

  • But do most Americans think more Muslims in office is a good thing? A study conducted pre-midterms found that two in five Americans say Islam is “incompatible with U.S. values,” and about 30 percent disagree that the influx of Muslims running for public office is good for the country. On the flip side, another study published last month found that Americans’ feelings toward the broader American Muslim population aren’t negatively affected by terrorist attacks by Muslims. 🤷🏽‍♀️

  • Khashoggi and hajj 🕋 Aymann Ismail wondered “why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends.” On the other side, Dilshad Ali wrote about the dangers of allowing politics to hurt our personal relationships with God. In D.C. this month, mourners and supporters prayed salat al-ghaib (funeral prayer in absentia) for slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • A Muslim job candidate's interview at Samsung took a strange turn when his interviewer skipped over questions about his work experiences and technical capabilities. Instead, he told HuffPost’s Rowaida Abdelaziz, he was quizzed about his attitude on alcohol and how his faith might impact the team’s “cohesiveness.”

  • American Salafis. The Economist looks at three forms of Salafism — apolitical, activist and jihadist — who have flourished in the U.S. over the past few decades and introduces us to examples of each.

  • Update on the Somali workers organizing at Amazon warehouses in Minnesota: they seem to be the first U.S. group to actually have forced Amazon management to the negotiating table. Despite two unprecedented meetings with Amazon, workers there are still pushing for better working conditions.

  • Democrats aren’t progressive enough for U.S. Muslims. At WaPo, Josh Rogin wonders if Dems would swoop in and take advantage of the Muslim population the GOP has largely alienated (with some major exceptions). But at The New Republic, Farah Ajmad notes that such a union is also an uneasy fit. “The Republican Party’s Islamophobia has turned Democrats and Muslims into strange bedfellows, while also masking differences that have emerged since the 2016 election,” she writes. The depth of that alliance hinges on how progressive Dems are willing to get.

  • Museums exploring Islam’s rich U.S. history are popping up across the country, from America’s Islamic Heritage Museum in D.C. to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Mississippi.

  • Speaking of America’s Muslim history…how much do you know about Ahmadi Muslims and their foundational contributions to the U.S. Muslim landscape? Not much? Then read this piece I just published at Religion & Politics magazine. Please. I worked really hard on it 😅

  • American Uighurs are speaking out as China continues its brutal campaign against Uighur Muslims. But their families are being targeted for persecution by China. My colleague Yonat Shimron also talked to the president of Duke University’s MSA, a young Uighur woman who’s spent her life as an activist for Uighur rights and independence. “How are you not standing up to this genocide of your brothers and sisters?” she asked Muslims around the world.

  • In Hollywood, Muslims are suddenly cool. More Muslim characters than ever before are showing up on TV, and those characters are more complicated than ever, Leila Fadel reports for NPR. One such role will soon include disabled Palestinian American comic Maysoon Zayid, who’s working on a new semiautobiographical sitcom with ABC.

  • How Cat Stevens helped build Nashville’s Muslim community. Half a century ago, there were only a few Muslim families in Nashville. Then musician Yusuf Islam donated $17,000 to help them buy a mosque, OZY reports.

  • “No more safe spaces for perpetrators and violators.” It’s rare for Muslim women to publicly accuse faith leaders of misconduct, but suing is pretty much unheard of, reporter Hannah Allam notes. And yet a young woman in Texas has filed a lawsuit and a police report accusing an imam of sexual misconduct and predatory grooming.

  • Newspapers actually cover Muslim devotion positively. Researchers found that 78 percent of articles mentioning Muslims or Islam have a negative tone (the average Muslim-related article was more negative than over 82 percent of articles overall). But most of these articles related to Islamic devotion and religious practice discussed faith in a neutral or positive manner, they found.

  • Catch you later 👋🏽 Over the past few weeks, we saw the final episodes of Ahmed Ali Akbar’s podcast with BuzzFeed, “See Something, Say Something,” and Slate’s video series “Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?” Ahmed is looking for a new home for “See Something” and his own work; Aymann is doing a lot more writing and says he’s working on a new podcast at Slate. Really looking forward to seeing what they do next.

  • To fill the “See Something”-shaped hole in your heart, comedian Hasan Minhaj just became America’s first Muslim talk show host with his new Netflix series, “Patriot Act.” Minhaj’s spoke about one of the moment at the DNC that inspired him to create Patriot Act: when Bill Clinton suggested that Muslims’ only value to Americans was to help hunt down terrorists.

👌 Shout out to Re-Sight Islam

Re-Sight Islam, which began in the fall and quickly became iTunes’ top podcast on Islam, just launched its second season. The name both invokes the word “recite”—the first word of the Quran that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him—and asks listeners to take another look at the religion that so many have dismissed as backwards.

A project of the Religion News Foundation (which, full disclosure, I’m affiliated with as a journalist with RNS), the podcast is hosted by friends and lawyers Qasim Rashid and Salaam Bhatti. You might know Rashid as viral Twitter person @MuslimIQ, but he’s also a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and the author of three books, including “The Wrong Kind of Muslim.”

🗣 Talk to me

As always, send me your comments, questions and corrections!

- Aysha

Tracking anti-Muslim legislation with ISPU

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding offers a look at new data tracking anti-sharia legislation and how the same lawmakers behind these also push for restrictive policies against other marginalized communities.

Jummah Mubarak! In this special collaborative edition of Creeping Sharia, I’ve invited the team at the ISPU to curate a small reading list to help you get a deeper understanding of the past, present and future of anti-sharia legislation in the U.S. To be clear, this is not sponsored; no money has changed hands with this collaboration. As a journalist, I’ve followed their work closely and consider it critical to understanding American Muslims. Now, over to Dalia!

I’m Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a non-partisan research institution focused on publishing solution-seeking research on issues impacting American Muslim communities. One of our ongoing projects corresponds neatly with something only days away: the election of a whole new batch of legislators across the country. Our Islamophobia: A Threat To All project looks at seven years of anti-Muslim bigotry by comparing the actions of legislators seeking to restrict the rights of Muslims, women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and other marginalized communities in the form of proposed legislation in all 50 states.  

Our analysis found that 97 percent of anti-sharia bills are sponsored or co-sponsored by Republican lawmakers, and that legislators who sponsor anti-sharia legislation also often sponsor anti-abortion, anti-immigration and voter ID legislation. Since 2011, there’s been a sharp decline in the number of Republican lawmakers sponsoring anti-sharia bills, from 563 legislators in 2011 to just 119 in 2017.

We know that anti-sharia legislation is harmful to American Muslims because it unfairly limits American Muslim legal rights and feeds a narrative of fear. But this analysis reveals that anti-sharia legislation is something all Americans should be concerned about – because more than 80 percent of the lawmakers behind anti-sharia legislation are also pushing to restrict the rights of other Americans, especially women and people of color.

View the Restrictive Measures Map.

Sharia Law in an American Context Reading List:

  • “Are you concerned by sharia law?”: Trump canvasses supporters for 2020. This Guardian report outlines a survey of Trump supporters gauging their fear of sharia law in America, along with questions on English as an official language; their concerns (or lack thereof) about Russia; and on the negative impacts of illegal immigration on the survey-taker’s community. This survey polls attitudes in many of the intersecting issue areas our legislative mapping project investigates.

  • Meet the man behind the anti-sharia movement. This 2011 deep dive by Andrea Elliott for the New York Times shows that the rise of anti-sharia law measures is no organic, grassroots movement. In fact, it’s “the product of an orchestrated drive” that began in the offices of a Brooklyn lawyer, David Yerushalmi. He’s a Hasidic Jew with a “history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.” In 2011, he was listed by the SPLC as one of 10 people in America’s anti-Muslim “inner circle" and featured in the Center for American Progress report “Fear Inc.” on the funding behind Islamophobia.

  • Anti-sharia laws proliferate as Trump strikes hostile tone toward Muslims. A piece in The Guardian highlights 23 anti-sharia measures proposed in 2017, of which two became law, as well as tracing the trajectory of some Trump administration officials who left the White House after facing questions about Islamophobic statements.

  • Five myths about sharia, debunked. Asifa Quraishi-Landes is an ISPU scholar and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. As a constitutional and Islamic law scholar, her pieces about sharia in an American context are particularly illuminating. This list for the Washington Post busts a handful of commons myths about sharia, and not just the obvious ones that Islamophobes believe. Did you know, for example, that sharia isn’t actually just Islamic law?

  • Tracking anti-Muslim legislation across the U.S. New from the Southern Poverty Law Center last week, here’s another anti-Muslim legislation tracking tool includes tracking of “Andy’s Law” legislation. (As the SPLC explains, “Andy’s Law” could pull Muslim businesses and mosques into potential lawsuits by allowing civil cause of action against people and organizations even indirectly involved in terrorist activity.)

👌 Shout out to ISPU’s new journalist toolkit

ISPU wants to help make journalists’ jobs easier – and we’ve got a brand new toolkit we’re hoping can do just that. Our digital reporting toolkit includes current demographic stats, checklists, video lectures from experts on issues like plurality, ideologically motivated violence and – yes – sharia. We’re committed to working with media professionals to increase confidence and accuracy in reporting on American Muslim issues.

If you’re a news media professional based in the Chicago/Midwest area, we invite you to join us for an in-person training in March. You can get more details from ISPU’s communications department at kcoplen@ispu.org.

🗣 Talk to me

…And back to me, your faithful newsletter writer! A big thank you to Dalia, Kat Coplen and the rest of the ISPU team for working with me on this, as well as to all of you for helping me make this possible. I hope you all enjoyed this little departure from our usual fare. I have two more collaborations planned for the next few months and I want to make them as helpful and interesting to you all as possible. So, as always, send me your feedback, questions and corrections!

- Aysha

Keith Ellison, Enes Kanter, #JusticeforDullahBeard

Also, justice for all beards.

Salaam! I’m writing this from the foothills of Mt. Hood, Oregon, where I spent the past few days attending my first Journalism and Women Symposium conference. As an emerging journalism fellow there, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Muslim women journalists Nesima Aberra (Center for Public Integrity), Sana Malik (soon to be BBC) and Jennifer Chowdhury (freelancer who will soon be in Bangladesh to cover the Rohingya crisis).

Anyways, hire them all! And then read all these stories 👇🏽

  • Imams discrediting and ignoring #MeToo are flubbing an opportunity to live out Islam’s stance on women’s rights (they’re good) and gender violence (it’s bad), Roqayah Chamseddine writes at Sojourners.

  • “Are you one of those camel jockeys?” For Muslim women drivers, road rage can take on a different, more racist tone. Rowaida Abdelaziz at HuffPost writes about the attacks they face and how they deal with them.

  • Learning a lesson. After a Hyatt hotel in Virginia hosted anti-Muslim group ACT for America’s annual conference—and then defended their decision—the company’s CEO now says they’re drawing a line when it comes to hate groups.

  • What’s going on with Keith Ellison? Here’s a quick rundown of the abuse allegations surrounding Rep. Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim in Congress and the leading candidate for Minnesota Attorney General. His former girlfriend Karen Monahan alleges that he tried to drag her off a bed during a fight in 2016, and claims she has video evidence but has not released it. Ellison has denied the accusations and requested a U.S. House Ethics Committee investigation. Far-right critics are using the allegations to fuel Islamophobic attacks on him; his fellow Democrats have largely stayed quiet. The Root also took a hard look at why Ellison, who’s the deputy chair of the DNC, hasn’t been cancelled in this #MeToo moment. A report by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s found Monahan’s claims “unsubstantiated,” and a Minnesota Public Radio review of 100+ private messages shared by Monahan found no evidence of the alleged physical abuse. The whole affair reminds me of that of popular Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who has been accused of rape by several women and lambasted as part of the global #MeToo moment – though his supporters say he’s been denied the usual due process and is the victim of Islamophobic smears. Some progressives who acknowledge Islamophobia and are aboard the “Believe Women” train are caught in a quandary.

  • Double standards on religious liberty. Saying Islam is a political ideology rather than a religion was once a fringe argument. But now state legislators, lawyers, pundits and commentators are increasingly latching onto that idea to argue that Muslims aren’t protected by the First Amendment. Over at the New York Times, Asma Uddin wrote about the troubling new line of attack gaining political traction. (Recommended reading: Back in December, I asked Asma Uddin what changes she predicted the religion landscape will see in 2018. Read her answer.)

  • “A Place For Us” author Fatima Farheen Mirza talked to Electric Literature and The Dallas Morning News about her debut novel, the first book published with actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint. The book focuses on the California-based family of two Indian Shia Muslim immigrants and their children.

  • Trump’s suspicion that Muslim immigrants are a Trojan horse has changed the U.S. Muslim population. Juan Cole, author of a new book on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), explains how in The Nation.

  • Muslim haute couture catapults into the mainstream 👗 I wrote about a San Francisco museum’s new exhibition on global contemporary Islamic fashions, and what that recognition means for an industry that Western institutions have looked down upon for decades. And here’s my friend Jennifer’s piece on the exhibition in Elle.

  • For black Muslim Americans, the War on Terror began in 1492. “The brutal treatment of Muslims in Afghanistan, the US and beyond has its roots in America's historic abuse of indigenous people,” Documenting Afghanistan founder Mohammed Harun Arsalai writes.

  • Beard bans pose barriers for men of color 👨🏿‍💼 That’s particularly the case for black men, as well as Muslim, Jewish and Sikh men. I was surprised to see that this Vox story didn’t mention Jews or Muslims—many Muslim men keep beards in following with prophetic tradition. This photo essay from the Holy City shows that awesome diversity of beards.

  • A “coordinated plot” by an armed white supremacist militia. Leaked chats offer a graphic picture of how violent the Texas Patriot Network planned to get at the Islamic Society of North America’s conference in Houston.

  • A 180-degree turn. A South Carolina mayor came under fire for posting anti-Muslim memes. Then he met a Muslim for the first time. The next thing he knew, he was attending the local mosque for Eid al-Fitr and helping arrange a town hall event called “Demystifying Islam,” Hannah Alani reports for the Post and Courier.

  • #JusticeforDullahBeard. Michigan police are investigating a Detroit officer’s fatal shooting of Detric Driver, aka Abdullah Abdul Muhaimin or Dullah Beard, during a raid last month. Turns out police got the wrong man, but local Muslims think there’s something else going on: nearly a decade ago, Imam Luqman Abdullah, whom Abdul Muhaimin followed, was killed by FBI agents in a Dearborn during a sting operation. Abdul Muhaimin was one of several followers who’d been arrested by feds during the raids. The FBI depicted the group of African American Muslims as radicals, which the group denies.

  • Didn’t expect Fethullah Gulen to appear in a profile on an NBA athlete, but here we are ⛹🏻 I know nothing about basketball, so I’ll just quote the subhead of The Ringer’s piece on Enes Kanter. “The 26-year-old is many things: New York Knicks center, devout Muslim, star of #NBATwitter, and enemy of the Turkish state. To Kanter, basketball is…a pathway to something he’s lost: family.” 

👌 Shout out to Pop Culture Collaborative

A new report on Islamophobia on-screen identifies racist narratives in pop culture and then flips them around to offer healthier, more nuanced alternatives. Maytha Alhassen, a senior fellow at the Pop Culture Collaborative, just published a new solutions-oriented report “Haqq and Hollywood.”

The Pop Culture Collaborative was established two years ago as a philanthropic resource that aims “to transform the narrative landscape around people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and indigenous people.”

Want to read more about this issue? At the L.A. Times, Lorraine Ali debunks the idea of a liberal Hollywood when it comes to depictions of Muslims; on The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast, Riz Ahmed, first Muslim actor to win an Emmy, talks about being brown in Hollywood. But also take a look at the report, which mentions plenty of actors, filmmakers, movies and web series that are doing it better. One of those is “Jinn,” a new raved-about film about a young black woman whose mother converts to Islam, that won big at SXSW. FaceTime watch party, anyone?

🗣 Talk to me

As always, send me your comments, questions and corrections!

- Aysha

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