Domestic abuse, Shiite seminaries and deathcare

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Salaam, friends! 👋 I’m journalist Aysha Khan, and you’re reading my monthly roundup of the latest news stories about Muslims in the U.S.

📌 TOP PICKS

WaPo — Not many Uighurs escape the checkpoints and cameras. Fewer still make it all the way to the U.S. But Zumrat Dawut, her husband and their three kids got out. She survived internment and an unwanted sterilization, then fled to Pakistan. Now that she’s reached Virginia, will the U.S. let her stay?

HuffPost — Rowaida Abdelaziz spoke to more than a dozen Muslim survivors of domestic violence, who told her how they have to face anti-Muslim sentiment, stigma within their own community, imams who are unequipped to deal with abuse, a lack of culturally-appropriate services, and increasingly anti-Muslim policies.

Yale Daily News — “You were born into this world naked and you will go to the grave naked.” An in-depth look at Muslim deathcare in New England, from the women who perform the ritual ghusl washing to the legal and financial quandaries Muslim families face when their loved ones pass.

Wired — Amazon, the second-­largest private employer in the country, has shown a knack for dictating its own terms. Now a group of Somali immigrants at one Minnesota warehouse are leading the fight to change the tech behemoth with historic organizing feats.

🗳 POLITICS

  • The Trump administration is considering including more countries in its Muslim travel ban, per reports. It’s all part of the president’s election-year calculus, some critics say.

  • Muslim advocacy group Emgage called on the U.S. to boycott the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing over country’s mass detention of Uighurs.

  • Around the country, an estimated 34 Muslim candidates won local elections out of more than 80 who ran. In Virginia, Ghazala Hashmi helped Democrats take full control of the statehouse for the first time in more than two decades by becoming one of the two first-ever Muslim woman elected to the state senate. After Hashmi’s election, racist comments flooded Facebook, with social media users linking her to terrorism and saying it was a “sad day.” She also joined new Virginia school board member Abrar Omeish, the youngest person elected to office in the state and the first Libyan American elected to any office nationwide, as one of four Muslim women just elected to office in Virginia. Washington state also apparently elected its first two Muslim women to office.

  • Safiya Khalid, who became the first Somali American and the youngest candidate to ever win a seat on the city council of Lewiston, Maine, also faced racist troll campaigns and death threats. A local news outlet offered an alarming look inside the private Facebook groups where users shared Khalid’s home address and advocated “killing as many Muslims as possible.”

  • “Trolling is now mainstream political discourse.” A new study detailing the hatred directed at 166 U.S. Muslim candidates during the 2018 midterm elections found that the hate is more prevalent online than offline, and that much of the “manufactured outrage” came from small fringe groups amplified by bots. The Detroit Free Press explored how that played out in Michigan, where 29 Muslim candidates ran for office. The study also outlines the extreme levels of online hate Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have faced since they began campaigning.

  • Reps. Omar and Tlaib have also been subjected to such hate offline as well: a New York man just pleaded guilty to threatening to shoot Omar. The congresswoman has asked that he be treated with “compassion” in sentencing. Omar’s Republican challenger was also suspended from Twitter for posting that Omar should be hanged over a contspiracy theory that Omar gave sensitive information to Iran.

  • A federal watchdog found that Trump’s political appointees retaliated against a State Department staffer in part because of her Iranian background and her perceived political views.

  • Three congressmen have asked the State Department to investigate possible terror financing links within two American Muslim organizations, Islamic Circle of North America and Helping Hands for Relief and Development.

🕌 COMMUNITY

  • As Islamic scholars experience more and more difficulty entering the U.S. from the Middle East, American mosques say the need to produce domestically-trained imams is ramping up. Increasingly, Shiite seminaries are launching in North America to tackle the shortage of leaders.

  • When prison chaplains are volunteers, Jewish and Muslim faiths are underrepresented. In L.A. jails, chaplains from the minority groups report a shortage of volunteers and institutional support from their communities, which limits the services they can provide.

  • A group of Latina Muslims in San Diego is raising money to build a shelter across the border in Tijuana. Their aim is not only to assist the surge of migrants there, but also to help deportees from the U.S.

  • In Chicago’s South Side, a struggling neighborhood is making its way back—thanks to faith-based community organizations like the Inner City Muslim Action Network. (Learn more about IMAN’s work with Muslim prisoner re-entry in this recent interview I did.)

  • Chicagoans with Middle Eastern and North African roots feel erased by the U.S. Census. But advocacy groups say participating in the census is essential even if they don’t see a category on the form that fits them.

  • In Dearborn, Michigan, shame and secrecy around addiction is causing some Muslim and Arab opioid addicts and their families to forgo treatment. In the Twin Cities, young East African advocates are pushing the problem of drug addiction—“a monster…raging in our community”—into the light in the hope of saving lives.

  • A Twin Cities hospital just became the first in the country to carry hijabs in its gift shop, after a Somali Muslim hospital worker noticed patients struggling with makeshift hijabs to cover their heads.

  • More and more Latinos are leaving the Catholic Church for Islam. Here’s why.

  • Long Beach, California is mourning the loss of a young Muslim couple and their 3-year-old, who were killed by a suspected drunk driver.

  • The Islamic Center of Tennessee is bringing a traveling exhibit on Jesus to Nashville to help inform locals about Muslims’ perspective on Jesus as a prophet.

  • The College Board has expanded its testing options to avoid conflicts with Eid al-Fitr next year, after requests from Maryland school and Muslim community leaders.

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a challenge involving Muslim men who claim they were wrongfully placed on the U.S. no-fly list in retaliation for refusing to act as government informants, which they say violates their religious beliefs. The legal question at hand: Can individual federal employees be sued for money damages for religious freedom violations? And could allowing such claims gut anti-discrimination protections, as some leftist writers suggest?

  • A federal court has ruled that searches of travelers’ electronic devices without suspicion by federal agents at airports and other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional. The ACLU and EFF had filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful resident whose devices were searched without a warrant, several of whom were Muslim.

  • “Citizenship is permanently conditional for many people who were not born here.” A New York Muslim who became a U.S. citizen as a child is suddenly facing deportation, along with four green card-holding relatives, after his brother was arrested for terrorist activity.

  • In 1996, Bill Clinton signed two bills into law. “Here We Are” author Aarti Shahani explains how they’ve impacted her family—and created the legal architecture for today’s border crisis. The laws, which created a mass deportation pipeline and widened use of secret evidence in deportation proceedings against legal residents accused of terrorism, were weaponized largely against Arabs and Muslims.

  • A New Jersey Muslim police officer filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he was harassed and reprimanded for his beard being “too manicured.”

  • “I wanted to leave my home in Washington, take the first flight to Tehran and bring him back with me. But I am unable to travel to Iran.” Mehrnaz Samimi writes about the human cost of Iran-U.S. conflict.

🆘 DISCRIMINATION & HATE

  • Authorities have ruled the death of Ola Salem – the young hijab-wearing woman found dead at a Staten Island park this fall – a homicide. Salem was an “unapologetic” advocate for Muslim women and children fleeing abuse.

  • A Muslim couple in Ohio filed a federal lawsuit after their 10-year-old son said he was questioned by teacher about his patriotism and religious beliefs and was told to undress to determine if he had been abused at home.

  • A student at the Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan filed a complaint against a professor for an “Islamophobic rant” against the student that questioned his loyalty to America and accused him of being radicalized.

  • An elderly Somali man in Minneapolis was beaten to death after he boarded a bus to return home from prayer; a Staten Island man was charged with a hate crime for threatening a Muslim woman and child with knife; a San Diego man brutally beat a Syrian refugee teen for speaking Arabic on a train; a Minnesota food delivery worker says he was assaulted by a customer who shouted racist and anti-Muslim slurs at him; and a Wisconsin woman says she’s struggling to keep her new chocolate shop open partly because of discrimination since she converted to Islam.

  • A Muslim woman was told to remove her hijab when she attended an NBA game in Denver. Also in Denver, a man was charged with felony menacing for allegedly pointing a gun at people outside a mosque, but as it seems to have been a drunken local he will not prosecuted for a hate crime.

  • Four months after winning the visa lottery and moving to the U.S., and days after the 9/11 attacks, Rais Bhuiyan was shot in the face while working at a convenience store. Years later, after performing hajj in Mecca, he’s dedicated his life to ridding the world of hate.

  • Muslim students in a Chicago-area high school say a fight broke out after a classmate desecrated a Quran. School officials deny the incident, instead saying the fight was prompted by students AirDropping images showing blackface and using the n-word to others’ phones.

🎭 CULTURE

  • A grassroots movement of Muslims is pushing for halal meat production to emphasize sustainable and humane animal husbandry in addition to halal slaughter.

  • Muslim filmmaker Minhal Baig’s “Hala” has been raked over the coals for featuring yet another protagonist with a fraught relationship with Islam and who sees her white love interest as key to self-actualization. But as Hannah Georgis notes, the film is sharpest when viewed on its own terms—the way coming-of-age films about white teens are. 

  • For WaPo, NBA player Enes Kanter wrote about what he thinks Trump should have said to Erdogan when they met at the White House. The Boston Celtics’ center also sat down with WGBH to discuss what it means to eat Turkish food in Boston, chatted with Boston Magazine about his relationship with Turkey, Erdogan and Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, and spoke to The Athletic about why he’s fighting for his country.

  • Former NHL player Nail Yakopov has been said to be Muslim, as has retired player Tie Domi. But with Colorado Avalanche’s new center Nazem Kadri, who told the Denver Post he might be the only Muslim currently in the NHL, it’s matter-of-fact.

  • Tank Magazine interviewed the fantastic Hoda Katebi, the fashion blogger-activist-abolitionist behind an ethical clothing manufacturing co-op.

  • Iranian American artist Ardeshir Tabrizi’s work shows a fractured sense of identity.

  • Muslim teens are using the social video app Tik Tok to raise awareness about the plight of Uighur Muslims in China—and facing censorship as a result.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • Soon after former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his bid for the presidency, Bloomberg stood before a black church and apologized for the New York police’s stop-and-frisk policy. But where, Albert Fox Cahn and Dean Obeidallah ask, is his apology for his role in the NYPD’s massive surveillance of the city’s Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities?

  • After Rep. Peter King resigned, the Senate’s top Democrat Chuck Schumer offered a tribute to the Long Island Republican as a “principled” lawmaker. Several left-wing writers immediately objected to the rewriting of King’s problematic legacy. “No legislator did more to demonize American Muslims than he did,” The Daily Beast wrote. BuzzFeed called him “the United States’ leading anti-Muslim fearmonger.” The Intercept railed against his “deep-seated and long-standing Islamophobia.” Critics homed in on his role in urging police to surveil mosques and investigate Muslims; his claims that the U.S. has too many mosques; his role in fanning the flames of the Ground Zero Mosque non-scandal; and most importantly, the infamous 2011 hearings he spearheaded on U.S. Muslim radicalization, during which King suggested that “80% of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.” (It’s worth noting that some Muslims have cultivated a positive relationship with King, who co-chaired the bipartisan Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus.)

  • The waiver process for permission to wear a hijab during a race is part of the problem, not a solution, one runner explains after another young Muslim was disqualified from a race: “Every time I compete, I am at the mercy of race directors as to whether my results will count.” (Don’t miss this article on what it means to be a hijabi runner, either—all prompted by Rowaida Abdelaziz’s reporting earlier this fall.)

  • Though compelling arguments have been made that Countering Violent Extremism programs contribute to the marginalization and alienation of the very communities they’re meant to engage, they continue to receive funding from major institutions, Northwestern professors Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Brannon Ingram write.

  • The new film “The Report” dramatizes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But its audience, as Maha Hilal argues, “seems to be those looking for a white savior movie that takes US torture after 9/11 as an exception, not a rule, in the history of the United States. To this end, the US’s brutal history of state violence, whether by the CIA or other institutions, is left unquestioned while the film de-centers the US’s many victims—who in this case, are all Muslim.”

  • "As a white-passing Muslim—the daughter of a Jordanian-Syrian immigrant of both Circassian and Western Asian descent, I've been privy to Islamophobia my entire life," writes Nadine Jolie Courtney, author of the new young adult novel “All-American Muslim Girl.”

👌 SHOUT OUT

Regular readers of this newsletter have probably noticed a frequent new news source popping up. Founded by Mukhtar Ibrahim, Sahan Journal is a new independent, nonprofit newsroom based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, aiming to chronicle the stories of the state’s immigrant and refugee communities. Ibrahim, who serves as the newsroom’s editor and executive director, previously reported for the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News. Read their articles here.

This week Sahan was chosen to receive funding from Report for America, which will allow the newsroom to add two new reporters and a photographer. Sahan has also been selected for the national NewsMatch campaign, which means all your donations through the end of this month will be matched. Donate here.

🗣 TALK TO ME

As always, please send me your comments, questions and corrections! Otherwise, we’ll chat again in a few weeks, inshaAllah. 👋

- Aysha

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