Creeping Sharia: Muslim Caucus, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Muslim health care

Tacko, Mahershala and more.

Salaam, all! Keeping this one short as I’m about to hop on a plane. In fact, I’m also skipping my usual editing process in order to send this to you before the month closes, so I apologize in advance for any misspellings and half-finished sentences.

But before I go, I do want to note that this edition is pretty heavy with stories related to politics, discrimination and protests. If you’re a bit sick of that, as I admittedly am, then feel free to skip right along to the next thing in your inbox. I promise I won’t take offense. 💛

📌 TOP PICKS

HuffPost – Ahead of last week’s Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy conference, Rowaida Abdelaziz looked at how the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are ignoring Muslim voters. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was the only presidential candidate to appear in person at the event, billed as the first national gathering of Muslim Americans in politics.

NPR – A mosque in the United States was built on a North Dakota prairie in the 1920s. Today the descendants of those families share that history with new American Muslims, Leila Fadel reports.

Religion & Politics – Once a fringe argument, the idea that Islam is not actually a religion, and therefore doesn’t qualify for religious liberty protections, has rapidly gained salience in mainstream public discourse. I wrote about that idea and lawyer Asma Uddin’s new book on the topic.

🆘 DISCRIMINATION & HATE

  • Elijah Al-Amin was about to turn 18. Then a white man killed him because the boy was playing rap music.

  • In Minnesota, a group of white residents driven by open xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment are pressuring their city to stop accepting Somali refugees: “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible.” (Personally I do think this story could have stood to give some more space to local refugees and to examining America’s gutted refugee program.)

  • A man accused of sending a Twitter threat to lynch a Muslim candidate for Virginia state senate has now been charged with a felony.

  • The U.S. may not have a burkini ban, but many Muslim women say they’re criticized or denied admittance to local pools because of their modest swimwear. Rowaida Abdelaziz spoke to the women who are successfully pushing back.

  • How did a man who murdered three Muslims receive a presumption of racial innocence? Mother Jones looks at how police, media commentators and more tried to complicate the narrative of the Chapel Hill murder with “false conditionals.”

  • Two new investigations, one from a group of lawyers and another from reporters at Reveal, have identified thousands of Facebook posts and comments by current and former police officers that display racist and Islamophobic hate.

🗳 POLITICS

  • Muslim organizations predict that anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks will likely intensify as Trump and the GOP leverage smear campaigns and bigotry as a 2020 election strategy, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports. Still, the Muslim women predominantly being targeted say they won’t back down.

  • Nashville council candidate Zulfat Suara—who might become the city's first Muslim elected official—didn't make her faith part of her platform because she values church-state separation. But an online hate campaign sees her candidacy as an "infiltration."

  • NBA player Enes Kanter says the Islamic Center of Long Island canceled his free basketball camp after threats by the Turkish Consulate in New York City. Kanter is a vocal critic of Turkish leader Erdoğan and has been a frequent target of the regime.

  • The Daily Beast traces how the conspiracy theory that Rep. Omar ‘married her brother’ went from an anonymous forum post to the White House.

  • Muslim activists are unimpressed by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s willingness to join the State Department’s controversial new Commission on Unalienable Rights. The most well-known Muslim leader in the West and co-founder of Zaytuna College, Yusuf appears “quite comfortable rubber-stamping the violent actions of oppressive governments,” Maha Hilal notes. Human rights activists and other religious leaders are also calling for the commission to be dismantled.

  • As more Muslims run for office in Illinois and around the country, Muslim activists are pushing youth ‘to take center stage’ in an era of immigration raids and racist tweets, Nausheen Husain reports.

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • What does the idea that Islam isn’t a religion mean for the future of religious freedom? Kelsey Dallas reports.

  • A comprehensive new report finds that there are a disproportionately high number of Muslims in state prisons (the vast majority of which converted while in prison) and notes the inconsistent and burdensome policies around religious accommodations for these prisoners. New research also finds that “Muslim-perceived” defendants tend to receive harsher charges, longer prison sentences, and less generous plea deals than non-Muslim counterparts.

  • Trump’s travel ban exempted Iranians seeking student and exchange-visitor visas, but it turns out many of those applicants have been blocked as well.

  • For three years, this husband has fought to be with his wife. But the Muslim ban keeps the Syrian couple apart, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports.

  • These Somali Muslim women are leading the labor activism around Amazon in the U.S.

  • This Palestinian activist got swept up in the war on terror. Decades later, ICE tried to secretly deport him to Israel on Eid al-Fitr, per a new report.

  • Through Karamah, these Muslim women lawyers have made it their life’s goal to empower women by fighting for human rights. (I’ll note that this article bizarrely refers to a mosque as “the most unlikely of places” for female empowerment 🤔.)

🤲 LIFE & FAITH

  • Some 70 Muslim-led free clinics across the U.S. serve more than 50,000 patients – nearly half of which are non-Muslim annually, and virtually all are low-income and uninsured or underinsured.

  • A Muslim doctor explains why he left his leadership position at a successful hospital to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area in small-town, white America.

  • Six years ago at the University of Texas at Dallas, a group of Muslim men formed Alpha Lamda Mu, one of the country’s “Muslim-interest” fraternities, Amina Khan writes.

  • “Not many people know about Uighur in this area,” says Adila Sadir, co-owner of the only Uighur restaurant in Massachusetts. “We want to present our culture and our cuisine here.” Sadir’s father was detained in China’s expansive network of detention camps last June.

  • Minneapolis just got its first Muslim-focused addiction treatment center, and a new initiative to boost the ranks of certified Muslim chaplains.

  • “Moving out on my own was among one of the most disgraceful things I could’ve done as a daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant parents,” Jennifer Chowdhury reflects.

  • Highlighting the rich legacy of South Asian organizing in America, Iman Sultan explores the activists and organizers emerging in a new leftist movement.

  • Trailblazing journalist Malika Bilal discusses being a black Muslim woman on camera and in the newsroom.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • Understanding the Muslim ban requires grappling with how the politics of religion is embedded in U.S. political and legal institutions, Elizabeth Hurd says.

  • “If the Democratic candidates hope to actually achieve the vision that many of them are outlining—of a more equal, equitable and just United States—then they need to address anti-Muslim racism head-on,” attorney Reem Subei writes.

  • “Rather than perpetuating Islamophobia, presidential candidates need to recognize Muslim Americans as an essential part of American society and recognize their importance in the political sphere,” Ghazala Salam writes.

  • “The Trump administration has claimed that the waiver process ensures that the ban is flexibly and humanely applied,” researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice note. “But this is sophistry.”

🍿 POP CULTURE

  • The hit show Homeland is ending soon, after many years casting Islam as the enemy. But in its place has come a wave of thrillers portraying Muslims as heroes, writes Mohammad Zaheer.

  • Two-time Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali was just cast as the new Blade— and he’s got a guest spot on season two of Hulu’s Ramy.

  • “We want Tacko!” In less than two weeks, this Senegalese Muslim went from an undrafted rookie to the most beloved player in the NBA.

  • “I think lives are quite literally at stake here,” actor Riz Ahmed said of nuanced Muslim representation onscreen. Ahmed’s appearance at a Star Wars convention was recently canceled because federal agents stopped him from boarding his flight.

  • Hasan Minhaj discusses deciding that he didn’t want to be another Indian Seth Myers.

👌 SHOUT OUT

The After Malcolm Digital Archive, created through the George Mason University's Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, documents African American Muslim contributions to the struggle for justice in the U.S. It digitizes original documents and oral histories that can be used for scholarly research and public education.

🗣 TALK TO ME

Over the next few months, I’m hunting for story ideas on ways that Muslims are gathering and building faith-based communities outside the mosque. And do you know of any interesting stories involving Muslims in L.A. or Vegas?

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

- Aysha

Creeping Sharia: Our Three Winners, social media visa, Blue Tin Production

“What does it do to us spiritually if our hijabs are made in a sweatshop?”

Salaam, all! Jummah mubarak, shabbat shalom, and TGIF!

Hope you guys are doing well. I’m preparing to head out to Provo, Utah, next week, where I’ll be speaking on a panel at the BYU Religious Freedom Annual Review. Message me if you’ll be there, too.

It seems like you all prefer the updated format, so we’ll roll with that for now. Let’s jump right in.

📌 TOP PICKS

WaPo — "We live at the cusp of both unprecedented Muslim visibility and heightened anti-Muslim racism,” community organizer Hoda Katebi writes. “If we are not careful, these new modes of representation may contribute to the rise of anti-Muslim racism, rather than combat it."

TIME — After Beijing’s fierce crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square decades ago, many Chinese students studying in the U.S. feared returning home. But the U.S. moved to protect them. Now, 30 years later, Uighurs students are asking the U.S. to do the same for them.

NYT — "You can breathe in fresh air. You can feel the respect for another life.” Priya Krishna takes us to the small, family-owned Hira Halal Meat, one of the Houston area's only halal slaughterhouses, to learn about humane alternatives to conventional meat producers.

🆘 DISCRIMINATION & HATE

  • This week, a man was sentenced to three back-to-back life terms in prison for the 2015 murders of three young Muslim students in North Carolina. The students, Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, are popularly known as Our Three Winners among U.S. Muslims.

  • Authorities initially framed the triple murder of Our Three Winners as a parking dispute, despite the shooter’s anti-Muslim social media posts. And while records show that none of the three Muslims had parked in the shooter’s assigned spot (and newly-public cellphone video of the shooting confirmed that the students showed no belligerence), media ran with that narrative even this week. Just see the NYTimes’ headline and lede for its report, “He Killed 3 Muslim Students. But Did He Commit a Hate Crime?” Local police have now also apologized for characterizing the crime as a parking dispute, saying the shooter had a “hateful heart.”

  • Muslim comedian and radio host Dean Obeidallah just won a $4.1 million ruling against neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, which falsely accused him of masterminding the Manchester bombing. “If I end up collecting any money…I'm going to donate it to organizations that fight hate and bigotry, the very groups these Nazis despise,” Obeidallah wrote.

  • A Muslim woman was robbed, beaten and had her hijab pulled off by a group of young people last month. When local authorities failed to properly investigate, she dug up the surveillance footage herself. “I told myself I wasn’t going to be one of those cases that got abandoned,” she told HuffPost.

  • Imam Omar Suleiman and the Yaqeen Research Institute are taking on Google to stop the search engine from spreading anti-Muslim propaganda, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports.

  • Recycled claims about Muslims wanting to ban dogs in public keep going viral online in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s why.

  • Days after the New Zealand mosque shooting, Muslims launched a self-funded private patrol service to protect mosques and Islamic schools in New York. The additional security has proved controversial.

  • A Muslim school board candidate in Virginia was pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop. She called it police brutality; police say she resisted arrest.

🗳 POLITICS

  • Despite Trump’s Guantánamo threats during his campaign, Americans who joined ISIS are quietly returning home through court trials. Some have even be released or resettled.

  • She came to America from a refugee camp in East Africa. Now she's at the forefront of a new wave of U.S. politicians challenging Donald Trump. The Middle East Eye traces the rise of Rep. Ilhan Omar.

  • A Tennessee mayoral candidate once wrote an op-ed saying Islam “poses an absolute danger to us and our children.” Now, she’s attempting to make amends by visiting a local mosque—and her fans aren’t having it.

  • Two Yemeni American women organizers just founded a political firm to boost candidates committed to the issues most important to Arab Americans.

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • How did a new immigrant with a spouse visa end up imprisoned and separated from his wife, a U.S. citizen, and his two daughters—one of whom was born while he was in jail? Hannan Adely reports on how the Muslim ban is hurting one Somali immigrant family.

  • Nearly all visa applicants hoping to travel or immigrate to the U.S. are now required to list five years’ worth of social media identities in their applications. Civil rights and legal advocates told me the policy will leave Muslim communities, both in the U.S. and abroad, particularly vulnerable. Read more on the policy’s impact in The Atlantic.

  • In Minnesota, Muslim workers at a Jennie-O Turkey processing plant have gone on strike over restrictions on prayer times and other claims of racist and anti-Muslim discrimination.

🤲 LIFE & FAITH

  • “Is your career worth a spot in hell?” Many Muslims believe is interest is forbidden in Islam. Tasmiha Khan reports on the Muslims struggling to afford higher education while trying to abstain from interest-bearing student loans.

  • American Muslims are becoming more accepting of homosexuality in society. Their mosques are another story. CNN’s Dan Burke looks at the story behind a survey that found that 0% of American Muslims identified as lesbian or gay.

  • “You are the next generation of Muslims to be able to show that Islamic values and American values are completely compatible.” At a Muslim Sunday school in Connecticut, young Muslims are learning to be ambassadors for their faith.

  • After playing cricket at night for years in parking lots during Ramadan, carrying on a tradition from the motherland, L.A.’s South Asian Muslims just organized their first cricket tournament at a local ballpark this Ramadan.

  • Ramadan is rife with majesty and spiritual cleansing, yet requires facing one's body. How does one navigate Ramadan with a history of body dysmorphia? Fariha Róisín writes (paywall).

  • “Do not make your stomach a graveyard of animals.” For the Guardian, Remona Aly looks at how vegan Muslims experience Ramadan and Eid. Read more about Muslims and vegetarianism at Religion News Service.

  • During Ramadan in Detroit, Bangladeshi restaurants assemble and sell thousands of iftar boxes filled with things like biryani and fried eggplant.

  • “As opposed to holidays centered around indulgence, Ramadan strips you down and humbles you,” writes comedian Ahamed Weinberg, who was raised Muslim by an ex-Catholic and a former Jew who found Sufism.

  • In Houston, Muslim convert and former hip-hop artist becomes a voice for Islam.

  • This Ramadan, Muslim students navigated the holy month on campuses that accommodate them with iftars and prayer rooms.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • We can learn a lot about the nature of the modern attacks on Muslims by examining previous attacks on Mormons, Catholics and other religious minorities in America, “Sacred Liberty” author Steven Waldman writes.

  • While bans on hijabs and niqabs are typically seen as infringements on religious freedom, they also implicate international women’s rights, Engy Abdelkader writes at Sojourners.

  • Advocates of facial recognition technology could use a lesson on America’s long history of politicized and racially-biased state surveillance, says Veena Dubal, a law professor who’s spent years advocating for Muslims’ civil rights post-9/11.

  • From crusaders to colonialists to cartoonists: TRT explores Islamophobia in the Western world, where Muslim minorities are feeling the pinch of prejudice.

🍿 POP CULTURE

  • With her podcast “Tell Them, I Am,” host and producer Misha Euceph interviewed 22 Muslims about the defining moments of their lives. Here’s why.

  • Children’s books with Muslim characters can help open minds and provide kids with role models that have stories like theirs, Nesima Aberra writes.

  • With her Women's Running magazine cover, Rahaf Khatib just became the first hijabi runner featured on the cover of a fitness, nutrition & lifestyle mag in the U.S.

  • Queer Muslims are rare on TV. Writer-actor Fawzia Mirza wants to change that.

  • Pop culture got Islam wrong for years. “Ramy” made getting it right look easy, Zainab Mudallal writes.

  • In “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” actress Zoha Rahman plays Peter Parker's hijab-wearing Muslim friend.

  • Actor Zeeko Zaki talks about his role in crime procedural “FBI”: “It was the first Arab American Muslim playing an Arab American Muslim as the hero on network.”

👌 SHOUT OUT

Chicago-based activist Hoda Katebi has a bone to pick with her fellow American Muslims. Why don’t they seem to care about the spiritual implications of wearing clothes produced through the exploitation of predominantly-Muslim women?

“What does it do to us spiritually if our hijabs are made in a sweatshop?” she asked me when I met her in her studio. “Muslims care so deeply that our food is halal, that our investments are halal. And I don’t think anyone asked that question about our clothes.”

With Blue Tin Production, her new refugee-run clothing manufacturing co-op named after the blue cookie tins many immigrant women use to store sewing supplies, Katebi says she hopes U.S.-based Muslim fashion designers will invest in their own morality. Read more.

🗣 TALK TO ME

Over the next few months, I’m hunting for story ideas on ways that Muslims are gathering and building faith-based communities outside the mosque. And do you know of any interesting stories involving Muslims in L.A., Amsterdam or Vegas?

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

- Aysha

Creeping Sharia: Remembering Nabra, New Haven mosque, census 2020

A belated Ramadan mubarak to all.

Salaam, guys!

Hope this Ramadan’s final and holiest ashra—or 10-day period—finds you all well. Now that we’re a year and 500+ subscribers into this newsletter, I figured I’d try a slightly different format this month. It made production a bit easier, as I waded through nearly 200 links (!!!) to put this hefty edition together, but I’d love to hear your feedback. What is and isn’t working for you? Would you prefer I just send a few must-read stories at more frequent intervals? Do you want more commentary or less?

We’ve got a lot of stories to get to, so let’s jump right in with the cream of the crop.

📌 TOP PICKS

Texas Monthly — A Pakistani foreign exchange student. An evangelical girl from Texas. A school shooting. On the anniversary of the deadly attack in Santa Fe, a heartbreaking look at a beautiful friendship and a young life that ended too early.

Aeon — Muslims came to America more than a century before Protestants, and in great numbers. How was their history forgotten?

NYT — Many Muslim women facing domestic violence are reluctant to use public services due to Muslim and immigrant communities’ tenuous relationship with law enforcement. In Brooklyn, the Muslim-managed Asiyah Women’s Shelter is helping fill the gap.

WAMU — Two years after Nabra Hassanen’s brutal murder during Ramadan, young Muslims in Northern Virginia are still coping with “so many layers of survivor’s guilt, of blaming, of trauma.”

The Juggernaut — After Mamnun Ahmed survived the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, his parents, Bangladeshi immigrants in Connecticut, first felt relief, and then paranoia. What if the shooter was Muslim?

🌙 RAMADAN

  • Fariha Roisin reflects on the importance of deprivation and confronting one's own mortality during Ramadan. “In ritual, we focus not on the lack, but the abundance of the world, and how lucky we are to live in this time, in this space, to honor its transience, and make use of the vital years that we are here.”

  • The Houston Chronicle looks at what the holy month of fasting is like for kids experiencing one of their first Ramadans.

  • When Muslims can’t fast during Ramadan for health reasons, they find other means of connection, Shabnaj Chowdhury writes. And at the Chicago Tribune, Nausheen Husain looks at how disabled Muslims participate in Ramadan rituals.

  • Black Muslims in the Americas have a long history of seeing Ramadan as a time to push for justice and liberation, Vanessa Taylor writes.

  • After an arson attack left Connecticut’s Diyanet Mosque of New Haven uninhabitable, hundreds came out to show their solidarity. But local Muslims are struggling to return to normalcy this Ramadan. “Normally we have 200 people every night at our iftars,” a teacher mosque told RNS. “Our people did not come today.”

  • Mosques’ moves to heighten security for Ramadan—armed guards, training drills, cameras—are provoking disagreement over how to collaborate with law enforcement, with whom Muslims have a historically tense relationship. “This idea that police equals protection is something that we should interrogate,” one Muslim told Al Jazeera.

🆘 DISCRIMINATION & HATE

  • “A mosque was intentionally set on fire in the U.S. Why didn’t anyone hear about it?” Imam Omar Suleiman asks in WaPo.

  • An Ohio Muslim family put up festive lights celebrating Ramadan outside their house. The same night, someone shot at their home.

  • CAIR has lodged more than 500 potentially anti-Muslim incidents this year already.

  • Reports of law enforcement removing incarcerated black Muslim womens’ hijabs date back at least 14 years. But the violation of their religious rights goes deeper than policy, Vanessa Taylor writes. Related: A black Muslim woman claims the Georgia Department of Corrections won’t let her wear a hijab—to her work as a corrections officer.

  • In at least two Virginia state prisons, Muslim inmates are being deprived of timely meals during Ramadan, civil rights advocates report. Related: An ‘Overlooked’ NYT obituary for Martin Sostre, who successfully sued for the right to practice Islam while incarcerated.

  • A Muslim man says he was fired from UnitedHealth Group after a decade of work when he spoke up about his new boss harassing him for his faith, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports. Muslim employees in Detroit also say they increasingly face bias in the workplace, Niraj Warikoo reports.

  • A group of Somali women working for Amazon near Minneapolis have accused the company of discriminating against Muslim workers and of retaliating against them for protesting work conditions.

  • After a Muslim standup comedian joked at a show that "it only takes one of us," an audience member called the police.

🗳 POLITICS

  • Muslim voter turnout in four battleground states jumped 25 percentage points from the 2014 to the 2018 midterm elections, per a new report from Emgage.

  • After their efforts to oust a Texas Muslim elected to county party vice-chair divided their party, the GOP fights to keep The Lone Star State red.

  • At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes and white nationalism last month, Mohammad Abu-Salha—a Muslim father who testified about the killings of his daughters in the 2015 Chapel Hill shootings—was asked to defend his faith from questions by politicians about whether Islam taught hate and anti-Semitism. Muslim activists say the hearing’s framing proved “the unwillingness or inability to understand the word terrorism as not inherently connected to Muslims.”

  • For American Muslims in the public eye, what Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing—the threats, outsized scrutiny and unending demands to prove one’s patriotism—are all too familiar, Leila Fadel reports. (Read more on the “Muslim Inquisition” at The Guardian.) Muslim constituents say the unchecked hate Omar faces is not just discouraging, but a “calculated ploy” to divide the Democratic party and incite hatred.

  • And while that hate is part of a long pattern of anti-Muslim prejudice on the right, it also highlights the left’s complicity. And Muslim voters say they’ll remember which Democrats had Omar’s back, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports.

  • Just like last year, Trump snubbed U.S. Muslim leaders by only inviting diplomats from Muslim-majority countries to the annual White House iftar. Not to worry, though, because Reps. Omar, Rashida Tlaib and André Carson hosted their own much-talked about iftar on Capitol Hill. Despite what some media reports suggested, it wasn’t the first iftar on the Hill. It was the first one organized by three Muslim members of Congress, and the first attended by party leaders.

  • Omar and Tlaib, who just became the first Muslim woman to preside over House floor, challenge the trope of modest Muslim women, Nora Boustany writes at WaPo.

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • For the third time, a federal judge has blocked an Israel boycott ban, this time in Texas, on First Amendment grounds.

  • The Trump administration says it’s planning to designate the Muslim Brotherhood political movement a foreign terrorist organization. Experts say doing so would be a diplomacy disaster that fuels extremism—but domestically, it would also lead to a crackdown on U.S. Muslim civic groups, and could, in effect, be a “backdoor Muslim registry.”

  • A new lawsuit, involving a Muslim prisoner in Alabama seeking access to an imam in the execution chamber, could resolve conflict over the religious freedom rights of death row inmates after two seemingly contradictory Supreme Court rulings.

  • A new report shows how Countering Violent Extremism programming disproportionately targets Illinois’ Muslim and Arab youth.

  • After a hearing in April, a federal judge says he will soon decide on the constitutionality of the government’s terrorist watchlist.

  • The Trump administration has renewed fear and distrust of government questions, meaning Muslim immigrants now face a 2020 census undercount. A group of Muslims and Japanese American activists, including survivors of WWII-era internment, have united to challenge a proposed citizenship question in the census.

🍿 POP CULTURE

  • Halima Aden just became the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. But Muslims aren’t all happy about this: “Does our form of modest dress lose its power and purpose as it becomes more of a marketing tool?” Alia Salem asks. One professor called the photoshoot a Rorschach test that shows Americans’ own politics in their interpretations of the images.

  • Ramy, the semi-autobiographical TV series by comedian Ramy Youssef, has gotten rave reviews, but it’s also got Muslim folks seriously torn. I haven’t seen the show myself, but I love Ramy’s standup and I’m on board with his aims of creating a show that doesn’t use religion as a punchline or as a marketing ploy, a show that is honest about his adherence to and struggles with Islam. “The difference between ‘Ramy’ and ‘The Big Sick’ is that [Kumail] Nanjiani spent much of that story trying to run away from his faith, whereas Youssef fully welcomes religious aspects of Islam,” The New York Times notes. Here’s a sampling of responses from critics: The Atlantic said it “missed the mark” in depicting Muslim women’s experiences; Paste Mag called it one of the year’s best new shows; Vulture reflected on the show’s depiction of wudu (ablution) and pointed to a scene “lifted, word for word, out of the lives of all Muslims”; Vulture also called it “so much more than just a mirror held up to one man’s life”; Fast Company said it shows Muslims have reached the point that they can “showcase our humanity, our pride, our flaws, and our contradictions in the context of telling our stories”; and The New Yorker said it’s “likely to make some Egyptians and Muslims angry, not because it misrepresents them but because, for once, it’s too honest.”

  • The new Aladdin remake depicts Agrabah as a pan-Arabian and South Asian culture, cutting out any specificity or reference to Islam. The reviews I’ve seen suggest it’s pretty boring and sluggish as a film, so I shan’t subject you to a list of them. But Vox also published a primer on the film’s complicated, Orientalist history, and The Ringer took a deep dive into the history of Arab actors in Hollywood and the ugly tropes they struggled with.

  • Looking for new beach reads? Niqabi author Hafsah Faizal just published “We Hunt The Flame,” a fantasy novel set in a fictional ancient Arabia. And G. Willow Wilson’s latest book reimagines the final days of Moorish Spain.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • In both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution abroad has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long, Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept.

  • The American right is systematically trying to cover up far-right crimes by focusing attention on the Muslim community, Huma Yasin writes for Al Jazeera.

  • Rep. Omar’s now-infamous comments about 9/11 actually carried a deeply American message, Peter Beinart writes at The Atlantic.

  • Anti-Muslim attacks aren’t just senseless acts of violence. They actually make “perfect sense” in the context of U.S. history, anthropologist Nadia Kazi explains in an interview with Sojourners.

  • A Muslim-focused Instagram page held a giveaway to meet the families of those killed in Christchurch. That’s the latest example of why ‘celebrity Muslims’ are the least qualified people to lead activist efforts, Vanessa Taylor argues for Al Jazeera

👋 MEET THE MUSLIMS

  • These cab drivers have turned a construction trailer in a remote lot at Philadelphia International Airport into a makeshift mosque—"a place of spiritual refuge amid the most prosaic of surroundings, a crumbling slab of asphalt where they park while waiting for fares from arriving flights."

  • Enes Kanter has fasted for Ramadan while playing basketball for the past decade. But this year is his first time fasting while in the NBA playoffs. Read more about Kanter at The Ringer.

  • The Pillars Fund seeks to strengthen a network of Muslim support groups with philanthropy while countering negative stereotypes.

  • Hoda Muthana wants to come home. In an extensive feature, BuzzFeed News catalogs four years of reporting on the Alabama girl who ran away to join ISIS.

  • Myisha McGahee-Wooten is black, female, Muslim, covered, and licensed to carry.

  • Shariq Siddiqui is the inaugural director of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at Indiana University.

  • These Latino Americans are part of a wave of conversion to Islam across the country, including in Texas and Philadelphia.

👌 SHOUT OUT

Mapping Islamophobia is a project led by Caleb Elfenbein, an associate professor of history and religious studies at Grinnell College, and his students. By looking through national and local media coverage, the project collects decade’s worth of data on anti-Muslim activity across the U.S. as well as Muslims’ efforts to counter Islamophobia and offers a stunning visual representation loaded with data.

All the data collected—including gender of victims and verified location information, down to the block—is available for download and use via a Creative Commons license. Definitely a fantastic resource for academics, activists and journalists alike.

🗣 TALK TO ME

Over the next few months, I’m hunting for story ideas on ways that Muslims are gathering and building faith-based communities outside the mosque.

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

- Aysha

Creeping Sharia: Relearning Western history, deadly Islamophobia, hijab controversies

Better late than never, right?

Salaam, folks!

Apparently I decided to celebrate one year of writing Creeping Sharia by skipping a full month of this newsletter for the first time. Oops 😳 Anyways, back with another edition. The sheer quantity of news that was published last month—even just between the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and Muslim Women’s Day—is pretty overwhelming. So here’s what stood out to me.

  • This Florida man has spent the past four years trying to rescue his kids from ISIS. Bashirul Shikder was in Mecca on pilgrimage when his wife flew to Syria—kidnapping their two young children to join ISIS. His children’s mother was killed in an airstrike, but the terrorist group refuses to hand over his 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, who are among the last children trapped in the last city held by ISIS in Syria. Read more in the NYT, The Guardian or NPR.

  • A blind Muslim couple produced a braille rendering of an English translation of the Quran—and is making copies available for free. I talked to a Texas Muslim convert who told me the first time she was able to read the Quran for herself was when she was proofreading her own braille rendering.

  • It’s time to relearn Western history, Edward Curtis wrote at Religion Dispatches—starting with 711 CE, when Muslims established a state in Andalusia. “Naive comments about the ‘newness’ of Muslims in the West need to stop…It’s a matter of life and death,” he said. Over at Inkstick, Laila Ujayli agreed: “Bringing Islam into American history curriculums won’t solve anti-Muslim hatred, but it could help shatter the Orientalist myth of ‘otherness’ surrounding Islam in mainstream discourse.”

  • The Christchurch shooting inspired an attack on a California mosque. The Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido was set ablaze in an apparent act of arson, and police say the suspect left behind graffiti that clearly referenced the New Zealand shooting. “The connection was chilling. It was a clear homage to what happened in New Zealand,” a mosque organizer said.

  • How a hijab united one country and divided another 🧕🏽 Slate’s podcast Hi-Phi Nation compared what happened when non-Muslim women in New Zealand decided to don the hijab in solidarity with Muslims, versus what happened when former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins tried to do the same in 2015, days after the San Bernardino shooting.

  • A Muslim soldier says her command sergeant major forced her to remove her hijab in order to check if she was wearing her hair out of regulations beneath it, the Army Times reported. “To me, it was the same thing as if they had asked someone to take their top off,” Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos said.

  • After Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said that wearing hijab is “antithetical” to the U.S. Constitution, Fox condemned her comments and took her off air temporarily. At HuffPost, Rowaida Abdelaziz collected dozens of examples of anti-Muslim comments made on the channel without repercussion. Over at the L.A. Times, Lorraine Ali noted the stark contrast between U.S. TV hosts who engage in anti-Muslim tropes and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s grace and empathy.

  • Massachusetts just got its first women-only salon designed for hijabis who do not believe in exposing their hair in front of men outside their own families. 💇🏾‍♀️ For Muslim women who wear hijabs, it’s often difficult to find a place to get their hair cut or styled in private, PRI noted. Boston’s Shamso Hair Studio and Spa is one of few women-only hair salons nationwide, the Washington Post reported.

  • For nearly three years, this boxer has fought to compete while wearing her hijab 🥊 Two years ago, when USA Boxing decided to allow boxers to file for a religious waiver before a bout, 15-year-old Amaiya Zafar became the first U.S. woman to compete in a boxing match wearing a hijab. Last month, the International Boxing Association ruled that hijabs and “full body form fitting uniforms” are permissible if required for religious reasons.

  • How did media coverage of anti-Semitic comments made by three GOP Congressmen compare to comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar? ThinkProgress crunched the numbers on the outsized attention she faced. Omar has also been the target of a poster at a GOP event linking her to 9/11, as well as a graffiti death threat and, apparently, a bomb threat. For HuffPost, Akbar Shahid Ahmed noted that the ‘dual loyalty’ accusation lobbed at Omar is one that Muslims in politics face constantly, an observation confirmed by a new survey of Muslims who ran for office in the midterms. At The Intercept, Vanessa Taylor explained how the backlash against Omar is linked to colonial anxieties surrounding black Muslims. The firestorm over Omar shows that Democrats lack “the tools to smoothly negotiate competing claims of marginalization,” Emma Green wrote at The Atlantic.

  • “Violence does not exist in a vacuum.” So said The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, who traced the connections between Christchurch shooter’s manifesto and mainstream rhetoric in U.S. politics and media. The attack was one of many dangerous consequences of the normalization of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Sarah Hagi wrote at GQ. “There are obvious signs to anyone paying attention that right here at home, Muslims could suffer the same fate as those in New Zealand. But it is more important to realize that, on a smaller scale, Muslims have already suffered that fate,” Talal Ansari wrote at The Atlantic. You can see this unfold on social media, as Mother Jones and BuzzFeed both reported, but also in politics. The White House didn’t recognize the faith of the Christchurch victims, with Trump instead going on the offensive; the Washington Post explained how that’s just part of Trump’s long combative history with Muslims. WaPo also traced that history more thoroughly here, and noted the difference in Trump’s responses to attacks in which the perpetrators were Muslim versus those in which the victims were Muslim.

  • “Islamophobia kills. It kills literally, with the tiny casket I stood over this weekend. It kills by spooling out its trauma, to people like the 12-year-old who nearly fell into his brother’s grave. It kills by a society that isn’t urgently addressing the hate that allows my elementary schoolchildren to have to watch armed white supremacists stand in front of their place of worship...” Read more in this emotional Washington Post essay by Imam Omar Suleiman, who traveled to New Zealand to help bury the dead.

  • “This could have been their 9/11 moment.” Read more about increased mosque security and other effects of the Christchurch shooting on U.S. Muslim communities at The Atlantic, CNN, RNS and NBC. Muslim organizations are also now struggling to help young Muslims process the grief, trauma and fear, NPR reported. Over at the Detroit Free Press, Niraj Warikoo looked at the history of Launchgood, the Muslim-led crowdfunding site that has raised about $1.8 million for Christchurch victims.

  • The shooting also united Jewish and Muslim Americans in mourning 👭 Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life congregation, for example, is mirroring Muslim support for its families by raising funds for the Christchurch victims. But the shows of interfaith solidarity must be matched by political action for any change to happen, Wardah Khalid wrote for Bustle. Indeed, a coalition of faith and civil rights leaders have joined Muslims in pushing the FBI to take white nationalism seriously, Leila Fadel reported for NPR.

  • How U.S. Muslims are changing the conversation on women’s spaces. 🕌 I wrote about how Hind Makki’s blog Side Entrance, started seven years ago, has helped discussions about women’s inclusion in mosques penetrate the mainstream. (Of course, she’s not the first to tackle such issues—just take scholar Amina Wadud, for example.) Some women have found their answer in mosques created specifically for women, like Asma Uddin wrote about for Teen Vogue. Others have found it in inclusive mosques, like this Chicago one I visited.

  • These Muslim kids started a project to donate books with strong Muslim women protagonists to libraries. "The goal is to get books with Muslim girls into libraries all over the country," 14-year-old Mena Nasiri, who co-founded Girls of the Crescent with her sister, told Elle. "Then, all over the world."

  • Representation of black Muslim women is magical, but it’s also a trap. “Muslim Cool” author Su'ad Abdul Khabeer wrote. What’s wrong with it? Because mainstream media recognition happens “on someone else’s terms and to preserve someone else’s power [it] results in a lot of policing and gatekeeping, internal and external.”

Shout out to Rushan Abbas 👌

Rushan Abbas, a D.C.-based Uighur and longtime Uighur rights advocate, is the founder and director of the Campaign for Uyghurs. Last year, just six days after she publicly spoke up about the disappearance of dozens of her in-laws in Xinjiang, her sister and aunt vanished—both on the same day. They were “abducted as a tactic by Beijing to silence me and stop my lawful activism in the United States which is backed by my constitutional rights,” she said in a speech on Capitol Hill this week. “I have been a proud citizen of the U.S. for 25 years, yet the long arm of the Chinese communist regime has extended its reach across borders to ravage my heart by jailing the only close family I have.” Read more about her experiences here.

🗣 Talk to me

With Ramadan a month away (‼️), I’m looking for stories on interesting ways Muslim communities are marking the holy month. If you’ll be taking a step back from social media and technology as you fast, I’d like to talk to you about that, too.

Over the next few months, I’m also hunting for story ideas on ways that Muslims are gathering and building faith-based communities outside the mosque.

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

- Aysha

Creeping Sharia: Islam in the West; the Muslim Inquisition; Shia mayor

I regret to inform you that this is now a newsletter exclusively about Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Salaam!

Right now I’m packing for The Muslim Women and the Media Training Institute, which will be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago this weekend. If you’re in the area, shoot me a message—I might be able to make some time to meet up, especially if you’re a journalist or you have a story idea for me.

Anyways, onto this month’s stories…

  • With the Supreme Court’s blessing, Alabama executed a Muslim inmate without allowing his imam to be present. The state typically allows a prison-employed Christian chaplain to remain in the execution chamber, but the state said it would not let his imam in for security reasons. His imam, Yusef Maisonet, said his final words were the shahadah, or Islamic declaration of faith, and that he was able to read the Quran and pray before he received the lethal injection. “Constitutionally protected freedoms and concerns for religious liberties now frequently take a back seat to specious security concerns and fearmongering,” Wajahat Ali noted at The Atlantic. The decision, the NYT Editorial Board wrote, compounded the “moral failure” of the Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling and further diminished the rights of Muslims.

  • Mustafa Akyol identifies a creeping sociopolitical liberalism among young American Muslims, a trend we’ve seen featured in a number of pieces curated in this newsletter. Obviously, evolving interpretations of Islam are nothing new. But it’s an interesting dynamic within U.S. Muslim communities as they try to negotiate a space for themselves and respond to rising Islamophobia—and one he says deeply concerns conservative imams. Further reading: Eboo Patel’s “Out of Many Faiths,” Justine Howe’s “Suburban Islam,” Muftah’s series on American Islam.

  • Islam in the West 🌎 The Economist just published a seven-piece special series on the 30 million Muslims in Europe and America, featuring explainers on everything Western governments’ efforts to limit Islam in the West, Muslim-majority countries’ efforts to influence Islam in the West, and Western Muslims’ efforts to shift Islam. It’s a great companion series to Akyol’s piece above.

  • An Indiana man was shot and killed in an apparent act of road rage. The alleged shooter, who’s been charged with murder, apparently called the Prophet Muhammad a pedophile and told Mustafa Ayoubi to go back to his country before he shot him and killed him. “We don’t believe it was road rage. He meant to kill Mustafa,” Ayoubi’s sister told HuffPost’s Rowaida Abdelaziz. “…He was a victim of a hate crime.” But Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law.

  • The travel ban, two years later. Abdelaziz reports that 37,000 visa applications were rejected by the State Department last year due to the travel ban. Abdelaziz also spoke to Yemeni woman Shaima Swileh, the mother who was just barely able to meet her 2-year-old son before he died in a U.S. hospital. “If I had received the visa the first time around, maybe [my son] would have been cured and he wouldn’t have died,” she said.

  • Florida Muslims immigrants sue ICE. The Intercept’s Maryam Saleh broke the story of a lawsuit by five detained Somali refugees alleging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied them religious accommodations: halal meals, ability to perform daily prayers, access to prayer rugs, etc. They’ve also reported physical and verbal abuse. Related: HuffPost reports that a Muslim man detained by Border Patrol for six days in Texas says the only food he received was a pork sandwich every eight hours.

  • What do we do about the ‘ISIS brides’? The U.K.’s Shamima Begum and Alabama’s Hoda Muthana both traveled to join the Islamic State as young women and helped recruit for Islamic State and promote its violent ideologies abroad. They’ve since disavowed ISIS and are now being held captive by Kurdish forces—and are begging to return home with their babies and go through the justice system. But both the U.S. and U.K. are trying to wash their hands of them: the U.K. has revoked Begum’s citizenship and the U.S. is arguing that Muthana never had U.S. citizenship. Muthana’s family has launched a legal campaign for her right to return. Should the government treat them differently because they’re women? Does the government have any sort of responsibility to them? “We never consider stripping citizenship from serial rapists or mass murderers,” H.A. Hellyer notes at WaPo. “Indeed, the wife of the man most responsible for the most bloodshed in Syria, Assad, is a British national — and she hasn’t had her citizenship removed.” And over at the Atlantic, Graeme Wood writes says Begum and Muthana are our responsibility: “We inflicted them on the world. They are our responsibility, and we have to punish them, rather than force others to punish them on our behalf.”

  • Going traditional 👰🏽 I talked to a bunch of young Muslim women about why they’re leaning into the idea of arranged marriages, sometimes even after having dated for years. I also profiled a new business that’s crafting beautifully-designed marriage contracts for Muslim couples’ nikkah ceremonies.

  • With the Muslim Inquisition, the only winning move is not to play. The Guardian’s Nesrine Malik argued that persistent questioning of Rep. Ilhan Omar shows that Muslims will forever be expected to prove their liberal credentials. “What Omar is being subjected to is only a subgenre of a wider smell-test for interlopers,” Malik wrote. “…The questions will never stop, even when they are answered.”

  • When it comes to Rep. Omar and Israel, everyone has an opinion 🗣 The latest kerfuffle, over her tweets saying that U.S. politicians’ support of Israel is based on money from lobbying groups like AIPAC, culminated in both Trump and Pence calling for Omar’s resignation. Vox said the tweets show left-wing anti-Semitism, as did NYT; the Daily Caller said anti-Semitism is a typical symptom of Islamism; the Socialist Worker said she’s being targeted as a black Muslim challenge to white supremacy; Marc Lamont Hill said her faith and race are clearly affecting analyses of her tweets; The Guardian and The Nation said she was right about the pro-Israel lobby’s influence; The Daily Beast wants to move on and focus on the Palestinian plight; and on and on. One interesting take to me is the observation that it took two Muslim Congresswomen for the Democratic Party to confront its internal divide on Israel. “It’s about...thinking through what it looks like to build a strong family that is able to withstand anti-Semitism, withstand Islamophobia, all the hate that we’ve collectively been fighting against,” Omar told the Star-Tribune in her first interview since the fateful tweet.

  • Omar is just the latest example of the multiple forms of bigotry black Muslim women face, Abdelaziz wrote in a piece that also quotes Margari Hill, co-founder of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. I also featured MuslimARC in a story this month about the organization’s fifth anniversary.

  • Don’t miss these magazine profiles. Rolling Stone interviewed Omar about finding her way in Washington; Paper talked to model Halima Aden about encouraging girls to aim high; WaPo spoke to activist Linda Sarsour about her work for the Women’s March. Speaking of which…

  • Meet the Muslim activists at last month’s Women’s March. “By having this march and all coming together, maybe we can work these issues out. We have to at least speak to each other,” one woman told Religion & Politics magazine.

  • This Harvard-educated scholar of Islamic studies just became the mayor of Montgomery, N.J. "Growing up as a Shia Muslim, I always had this sense that we should fight injustice wherever we find it," Jaffer said in an interview about her journey to becoming America's first Muslim woman mayor.

  • Craving a halal burrito? 🌯 The Wall Street Journal looked at the increasing number of halal Mexican restaurants in the U.S.

  • Good reads 📚 Vanessa Taylor curated 10 books (well, eight books and two articles) about black Muslim history for Teen Vogue. Oh, and Ibtihaj Muhammad just wrote a children’s book! The history-making Olympic fencer talked to Bustle about “The Proudest Blue,” releasing in October, about two Muslim sisters and their faith.

  • Building better metrics 📈 Over the weekend, this newsletter earned a mention in a Columbia Journalism Review article by Amal Ahmed about how the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding—with whom this newsletter has collaborated—is working to provide higher quality data on American Muslims.

Shout out to the Our Three Winners Foundation 👌

This month marked the fourth anniversary of the killing of three young Muslims—Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha—by a neighbor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s campus.

After the attack, Deah’s sister, Suzanne Barakat, created the Our Three Winners Foundation to honor the victims’ lives and to help prevent hate crimes by combatting implicit biases.

🗣 Talk to me

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

- Aysha

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