A newsletter about Muslims in America. We'll bring you quality links, resources and occasional commentary.

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

Muslims in the GOP, no-fly list, sci-fi recs

Also, if you're Shia, I'd appreciate if you read the last bullet point and give me your honest feedback.

Salaam! Last weekend I was in Columbus, Ohio, where I joined religion reporters around the country for the annual Religion News Association conference. There, I got to meet fellow Muslim journalists Aymann Ismail (Slate), Hannah Allam (BuzzFeed News), Amber Khan (Interfaith Voices), Jaweed Kaleem (L.A. Times), Dalia Hatuqa (freelance) and Dilshad Ali (AltMuslim). Seriously, how exciting is this photo?When I went to RNA in D.C. for the first time two years ago, Dilshad, Dina Zingaro (60 Minutes), Ruth Nasrullah (freelance) and I were probably the only Muslim journos there. Last year, in Nashville, I think there were even fewer of us. But this year we were actually able to pray Jummah together in the hotel. Just surreal. Next RNA will take place September 2019 in Vegas, and there are scholarships to help get you there! 💸

But for now, the headlines.

  • Purveyors of hate. So Hyatt Hotels went ahead and hosted anti-Muslim group ACT for America’s conference this month near D.C., despite vocal outcry. There, director Brigitte Gabriel apparently boasted about her group’s level of access to Trump: “I actually want you to know we have a standing meeting at the White House once a week. We have a president that likes us.” Concerning but, as The Atlantic reported last year, also nothing new.

  • A hipster halaqah in Virginia. TIME Mag photographed a informal Quran study group where millennial Muslim women draw on Drake, Pinterest and local museums.

  • The (grand old) party is over for Muslims. Hannah Allam profiles Anwar Khalifa, one of a dying breed of Republican Muslims who’s now navigating what it means to be in a political party – and sometimes a mosque – where they no longer feel welcome. Khalifa, like many other Republican Muslims, says the trust and cachet he’s built in his conservative circles is worth the price of staying.

  • A mosque, minus the male gaze. Over at Jezebel, Sheena Raza Faisal writes about going to a women-led Sufi dergah in New York. “In rejecting the progressive versus regressive binary, the women at the dergah refuse to be turned into evidence. They decide how open, free, and equal their own community is,” she writes. “The conversation belongs to them, just as the room does.”

  • Michigan becomes a CVE battleground once again. Niraj Warikoo reports on how the National Governors Association is funding Michigan and three more states to create "policy academies" to monitor and counter violent extremism. But because of Michigan’s high concentration of Arab-Americans and Muslims, local civil rights advocate fear the money will be used to surveil and target those communities.

  • A no-fly list case is back on ✈️ A federal appeals court just ruled that a Muslim man’s due process rights didn’t become moot when he was removed from the list without explanation three years after he sued. If the government places you on the no-fly list, which was created post-9/11, you’re barred from flying aboard commercial aircraft in into and out of the U.S. – and stigmatized as a suspected or potential terrorist. Yonas Fikre, an Eritrean-born American citizen, claims the FBI told him he could be removed from the list and paid big bucks if he became an informant. (Recommended reading: ProPublica on a no-fly list nightmare.)

  • This VICE headline caught a lot of flak: “The Photos Challenging What a Muslim Woman Should Look Like.” But the photo project the story is actually about, Alia Youssef’s “The Sisters Project,” aims to show the world how Canadian Muslim women see themselves.

  • His beard or his boxing career? 🥊 A Detroit teen says he’s being forced to choose between his passion and his Muslim faith. USA Boxing banned him from taking part in the Golden Gloves Tournament because he needs a religious waiver filed seven days before each fight. But he can’t file so far in advance for fights he doesn’t yet qualify for.

  • Inmates and imams. Muslim prison chaplains say they need more resources to be able to support inmates. “The overwhelming majority of Muslim inmates who I worked with saw their religion as perhaps the most important part of their own transformation, or a major part of their correctional program,” one Canadian chaplain said. And other Muslim inmates need chaplain support to deal with Islamophobic discrimination at the hands of fellow inmates or even guards: earlier this month, a Muslim woman imprisoned in Kansas said her hijab was confiscated as contraband, and that she was told she would be put in solitary if she didn’t remove the “rag” before leaving her cell.

  • Another invasive TSA search of a hijabi woman, this time at Boston’s Logan airport. The woman says an agent’s wand went so far up her dress that it touched her genitals. Last month, another hijabi reported an unnecessarily intrusive and humiliating airport security search – she had to show agents her menstrual pad.

  • What is Ashura? I wrote a quick explainer for RNS on the solemn occasion, and I’d appreciate feedback. Since I’m not Shia I want to make sure I was accurate, but I’m also disappointed with how I framed the piece. I originally planned to highlight Ashura blood drives as an interesting, lesser-known way of mourning, but because I got sick and didn’t get a chance to do some planned interviews, I settled for a broad explainer instead. In doing so, I think I ended up feeding into Sunni-normative tropes and fell into the ‘explaining to white people’ type of Islam journalism I dislike. I also focused too much on the bloody imagery as opposed to Ashura’s social justice narrative, as I had intended. So there’s that.

👌 Shout out to author Farah Rishi

If you’re looking for good Muslim sci-fi, keep an eye out for Farah Rishi. A former lawyer based in Philly, she was featured on an excellent RNA panel about the role of religion in science fiction (naturally, it was called “Close Encounters of the God Kind,” and there’s a livestream saved here). There, she explained some of the theological and scriptural reasons that Islam jibes with sci-fic, and she described writing science fiction as a Muslim woman as an act of self-care. 🔮 You can read more about that in a fantastic personal essay she wrote for VICE in 2016: “Dreaming of space exploration feels like an attractive alternative to, well, everything. …The stuff of science fiction sprinkled with reality, writing stories about Muslims exploring the fringes of the galaxy, far from a hateful political climate. To do so would be to take our present and place it on an imagined futuristic stage, providing a new perspective and ultimately clarify what we define as the status quo.

Everyone walked away from that panel a little bit in love with her. Her debut novel is coming out with Glassworks Entertainment soon 😩 but if you can’t wait, like me, peep her fiction chops in this short story. And check out the work of authors like G. Willow Wilson, S.A. Chakraborty and Saladin Ahmed in the meantime. (Edit: Also just read about a new Moroccan space fantasy novel called “Mirage” from Somaiya Daud.)

🗣 Talk to me

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

- Aysha

Green hajj, NYC walking tour, TSA horror stories

This is very late and I'm sorry.

Phew - just managed to squeeze in an eleventh-hour August edition. For those of you in the U.S., hope you have a great Labor Day weekend planned. While you’re sitting on your plane/bus/kayak/porch swing, I hope you’ll also take a few minutes to ponder how Islam is linked to the labor movement and worker justice 👩🏾‍🏭

This time, let’s start with a few Eid al-Adha and hajj-related links, before they become completely stale. (Speaking of which, hope you had a blessed Eid!)

  • A greener hajj is a sweeter hajj 🕋 Imam Saffet Abid Catovic talks about his efforts to follow in the Prophet Muhammad’s footsteps by engaging in “eco-conscious practices” during his pilgrimage to Mecca. Catovic is a big name in Islamic environmentalism: back in 2016, he successfully campaigned the Islamic Society of North America to divest from fossil fuels.

  • A new project to help women make hajj. “Putting off things for themselves is just part of being a woman…I wanted to do something that would inspire and educate women to want to make hajj a higher priority in their lives,” Krishna Najieb told RNS. So she created the Hajjah Project to encourage women in L.A. to perform hajj and reduce the barriers in their way – including finances.

  • On Eid, caught between the law and faith. What happens when your local Muslim slaughterhouse is denied the permit it needs to serve hundreds of customers on Eid al-Adha? Abigail Hauslohner looks at how local zoning ordinances affected the Muslim communities of Warrenton, Virginia, on the holiday. (If you need it, I’ve got a quick backgrounder on the Islamic holiday.)

  • Muslim veterans and the “Good Muslim” narrative. In 2015, the Pentagon reported that over 5,000 Muslims serve the U.S. military. But many Americans don’t know that. That’s why Mansoor Shams stands on street corners around the country with the sign, “I'm a Muslim and U.S. Marine. Ask anything!” He talked to Slate about how he uses his all-American status to open minds – even though he wishes he didn’t need that military pass to be heard. (Full disclosure: I did freelance web/design work for Shams while in j-school.)

  • A win for civil rights advocates in the City of Angels. Last month, we talked about the debate over accepting $425K in federal Countering Violent Extremism funds in L.A. A few weeks ago, the mayor’s office turned down the grant after civil rights groups argued that the program would vilify and surveil Muslims.

  • When he started stabbing, we ran as fast as we could.” Teenaged Portland train attack survivors Destinee Mangum and Walia Mohamed spoke to Lithub about their experiences. “I’m a Somali immigrant and I decided to take off my hijab a few months ago because I don’t feel safe. I feel like I’m going to get attacked again,” Mohamed said. “I’m still Muslim, but I just don’t follow certain traditions because I feel unsafe. It’s really hard for me right now.”

  • How Ahmadi Muslims are making unlikely allies. Trump evangelical advisor and USCIRF commissioner Johnnie Moore spoke at Ahmadis’ global convention this month; Trump-appointed international religious freedom Sam Brownback spoke at an Ahmadi convention last month; Ahmadis spoke at Brownback's controversial International Religious Freedom Ministerial. Turns out Western Ahmadis have a history of building bridges with folks many mainstream Muslims shun, from Rep. Peter King to Stephen Harper. Why? Because of their commitment to the twin causes of religious freedom and anti-extremism.

  • Next time you’re in NYC: Katherine Merriman, an Islamic studies Ph.D. student, gives Muslim history tours of Harlem ~five times a year. She covers everything from the city’s first mosques to the Five Percenters to FBI surveillance of Muslims. “Muslim history is New York City history,” she told the Times.

  • The forgotten history of Sapelo Island. "The community’s unique origin story – slaves turned landowners who preserved African and Islamic traditions on a forgotten island – is overshadowed by the modern-day fight to survive." Hannah Allam looks at a lawsuit accusing the government of pushing out enslaved black Muslims’ descendents to make way for white vacationers.

  • A homeless shelter serving Muslims is in danger of closing. The Texas shelter Khadijah’s House was originally opened for Muslim women, but it’s since become an interfaith shelter in order to stay afloat. Hanaa’ Tameez explores homelessness among American Muslims and what Baquee Sabur needs to keep his shelter going. (Further reading: In 2007, WashPo looked at challenges facing Muslim women experiencing homelessness.)

  • Meet the Muslim women becoming civic leaders. We’ve read about the wave of Muslim women candidates for office around the country, and their incredible successesIlhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are really out here doing the Lord’s work. And on Tuesday, we’ll find out if Tahirah Amatul-Wadud will join them as the third Muslim woman in Congress. This month, Religion & Politics zooms in on several Muslim women in New York City who are leading local and national political engagement.

  • Can you beat this TSA horror story? Zainab Merchant, a hijabi Harvard grad student, says TSA agents made her pull down her pants and underwear to show them her bloody menstrual pad. In a complaint filed on her behalf, the ACLU said officials have previously asked her about her beliefs, her thoughts on ISIS, whether she’s Sunni or Shia, and why she criticizes U.S. policies in her writing.

  • A homage to the chapli kebab burger 🍔 I realize not all Muslims are Pakistani. But this really is the best way to make a burger and it would be criminal not to share this information. So here you go, enjoy your Labor Day barbecue.

👌 Shout out to Poligon

Poligon Education Fund was founded by Wardah Khalid as a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to amplifying and increasing Muslim American voices on Capitol Hill. To do that, they offer congressional advocacy trainings and workshops to Muslim groups around the nation. They point to a Quranic verse, “Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God," as inspiration for their work.

I’ll also add that, from personal experience, Khalid is a great source for journalists writing stories on refugees, U.S. foreign policy and Muslim Americans in politics. She’ll be leading a workshop on faith-based advocacy at ISNA this weekend along with members of the Poligon team, if you’re planning to attend.

🗣 Talk to me

I'm looking to collaborate with Muslim journalists, activists and academics to curate special editions on niche topics (CVE, immigration, sects, etc). Message me if you’re interested!

As always, send me your comments, questions, corrections and airport security nightmares.

- Aysha

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