And definitely check out Muftah's "American Islam" series.
Jummah mubarak! Hope you all are having a great July.
Wanted to address something briefly―a few readers have mentioned to me that I neglected to mention a certain anti-Muslim hate crime, act of harassment or statement. But, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not interested in listing all that out. The very thought is exhausting. CAIR’s Islamophobia Watch keeps tabs on such articles, and the Documenting Hate project does great work in this arena. I’d prefer to instead keep highlighting pieces that show you about communities you didn’t know about, that expose you to interesting debates and movements, that serve up some food for thought. Starting with bean pie! 🍽
Bean pie is the only legitimate Muslim American food. "The pie would have been impossible without the advent of Islam in the African American community," historian Zaheer Ali told Slate’s Aymann Ismail. The navy bean pie was created by Elijah Muhammad’s daughter to replace the sweet potato pie, regarded as part of the slave diet―much in the same way that many Nation of Islam members replaced their "slaveholder name" with an X. Muhammad, who in his treatise “How to Eat to Live” wrote that beans are a blessed food, encouraged his followers to eschew traditional, rich soul food. The pie quickly became critical to NOI fundraising efforts.
When Kendrick rhymed "Allah" with "wifi." Genius explains the history of Islamic invocations in hip hop, from Big Daddy Kane to A$AP Ferg. (Further reading: Su’ad Abdul Khabeer’s “Muslim Cool.” Also: Sam Kestenbaum’s exploration of Hebrew Israelites and rap.)
Suicide is hard to talk about―but it’s especially difficult for Muslims. The Quran contains explicit guidance against self-harm and suicide, and the Prophet Muhammad reportedly refused to lead the janazah, or Islamic funeral prayer, for those who died by suicide or died in debt, as a deterrent to others. Hannah Allam at BuzzFeed News published a thoughtful look at the spiritual, emotional and logistical crises Muslim families and communities face as a result. A favorite quote: “…if mosques promoted good mental health, maybe they wouldn’t be forced to weigh in on burial protocol for young Muslims.” (Further reading: RNS’s writeup on U.S. mosques working to address mental health.)
“I’m probably the only person here whose grandfather taught them to tie a noose.” In the short film “Redneck Muslim,” we meet Shane Atkinson, founder of the Society of Islamic Rednecks and the first Muslim chaplain in-training at a North Carolina hospital. Growing up in rural Mississippi, hiphop and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” were his entryway to Islam. Now, seeking to create a new “redneck” culture―one centered on Southern hospitality, and cleansed of racism and sexism―Atkinson travels to the African American Islamic Summit. I did laugh when I saw that the film’s subtitles replaced two Arabic words, taubah/repentance and deen/faith with “(mumbles),” 😂 but it’s an interesting film.
Speaking of Malcolm X…“The Negro,” a rumored unpublished chapter of his autobiography, has been sold. Zaheer Ali told NYT the manuscripts could shed light on the way Malcolm X’s purpose for the autobiography evolved, as his ideas and relationship with the Nation of Islam changed.
Twitter came hard for illMuslims. “This is what Muslim America looks like,” the group’s cofounder said in a video about the social club, which is aimed at the ~creative millennial Muslim~ who enjoys mocktails and dancing. But the footage shows virtually no black or Latinx participants, and the organizers frequently referenced an Arab/south Asian immigrant culture. And former participants say the group marginalizes Muslims who observe gender separation and daily prayer. (Further reading: Sana Saeed’s 2013 critique of Mipsterz.)
The Europe ➡ North America anti-Muslim propaganda pipeline. Websites that translate sensationalized European news into English spread anti-Muslim propaganda in America―via critical nodes like Breitbart and Trump’s Twitter account, BuzzFeed News reports.
Mabrook! 🎊 17-year-old hafiz Ahmed Burhan Mohamed is the first American to win the UAE's prestigious Dubai International Holy Quran Award.
Why did we ignore this plot to massacre U.S. Muslims? In 2015, a Tennessee minister was caught planning an attack on Muslims in Islamberg, New York. The attack would have been the deadliest in America since 9/11. But no terrorism charges were brought against him. The media barely covered his arrest. You’ve probably never heard of him. And a month after he was taken into custody, a judge released him on bail. The Guardian’s film “White Fright” explores why. (Further reading: Terrorist attacks committed by Muslims receive 357% more U.S. press attention than those committed by non-Muslims. Also: a brief history of far-right conspiracy theories centered on Islamberg.)
How does MLI fit into trends within U.S. Muslims’ political engagement? Hafsa Kanjwal explains at Muftah: for one thing, the Muslim Leadership Initiative “enables an emerging group of professional Muslims to enter the American liberal political mainstream.” But it also “showcases how this group of ‘professional Muslims’ utilizes vague adaptations of ‘Islamic ethics’ to justify their participation, leading to a liberalization of Islam in America.”
How American hijabis secularized the hijab. In a thoughtful piece for Muftah, Butheina Hamdah looks at U.S. liberals and U.S. Muslims’ frequent assertion that hijab is just a piece of cloth. Many well-known Muslim personalities are now "discussing hijab almost exclusively…in cultural language, and have justified it through the lens of ‘individualism,’” she says. “Why is this reductive perspective now so pervasive, especially among American Muslims?”
👌 Shout out to Zaheer Ali + Muftah
Zaheer Ali is the oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society, where he records and curates “the lived histories, testimonies, memoirs and narrations of Brooklynites from all walks of life.” A leading researcher on black Muslim American history and Malcolm X, he was featured in both the bean pie and the Malcolm X stories above. He lead Columbia University’s Malcolm X project and is the project director of Muslims in Brooklyn, a public history project through 2019 aiming to highlight the stories of Brooklyn’s Muslim communities.
I’ll also mention Muftah, a volunteer-run media outlet that provides commentary and analysis on the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This month they published a special collection of essays on American Islam. I couldn’t include all five here, but each one is worth a read.
🗣 Talk to me
I'm looking to collaborate with Muslim journalists, activists and academics to develop special editions of Creeping Sharia. I'm working with experts to curate reading guides on niche topics (CVE, immigration law, Muslim sects and offshoots, etc). Message me if you’re interested!
A heads up: I’m doing a lot of traveling over the next few months and will try my best to meet my twice-a-month posting schedule. Forgive me if I drop the ball!