Hey! Thanks for joining me for the debut issue of Creeping Sharia. Have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the warm response my lil project has already gotten. Appreciate the many offers to help out and guest edit, as well as the space you’re letting me take up in your inbox.
Let’s start with the latest.
Muslims are hustling for a blue wave. Back in 2016, I wrote about how Trump drove Muslims to the polls to vote against him. We all know how that went. But was 2016 enough of a wakeup call? Will this be the beginning of a movement? Maybe: the Washington Post reports that at least 90 Muslims, virtually all Dems, are running for office across America this year. And in related news: Hindus are increasingly winning as Dems, as per this Religion Dispatches piece.
Journalist Assia Boundaoui uncovered the FBI’s “Operation Vulgar Betrayal,” one of America’s biggest counterterrorism investigations ever. And she caught the whole thing on film. “The Feeling of Being Watched” premiered this month at the Tribeca Film Festival, and I am desperate to watch it. This review from the NY Review of Books looks amazing. Have you seen it? Any thoughts?
What is Islamophobia and where does it come from? In his new book, law professor Khaled Beydoun points to the roots of American Islamophobia in both Orientalism and anti-blackness – not just culturally, but in our country’s legal structures. You can learn more in my interview with Beydoun for RNS. He also sat down with WNYC and Vox for some fascinating discussions on everything from Black Lives Matter to CVE.
The travel ban is just the tip of the iceberg that is systemic discrimination against Muslims. “It’s just a small piece of a much larger campaign under Trump to demonize and stigmatize the Muslim community,” Johnathan Smith, Muslim Advocates legal director, told The Intercept. Also, Islam is apparently a country? Please let that inspire you donate a book about Islam, written by a Muslim or a scholar you trust, to your local public library 😫.
Why is the Religious Liberty Industrial Complex silent on the Muslim ban? These well-funded conservative legal advocacy groups, who litigate over wedding cake and contraception cases day in and day out, are declining to say Trump's Muslim ban is unconstitutional, the Washington Post reports. Does this inconsistent support for religious freedom undercut their cause? I think so.
Speaking of bans, FIFA’s hijab ban. For The Guardian, sports activist Shireen Ahmed (aka Footybedsheets) wrote about how women battled to right a serious injustice in the world of football. Obviously, by football I mean soccer.
Ramadan is right around the corner. And Party City’s new Ramadan decoration line is already selling out. (Somehow this is first such decor line from a major retailer? Like I don’t get it, do companies not want money ???) I’m also curious: do you think this is a money-grubbing gimmick like some previous Ramadan-branded lines, or is it a genuine effort to cater to Party City’s customers? Some of my friends have said they dislike this commercialization and commodification of Islam’s holiest month. But I tend to think this is a genuinely useful product. 🤷🏽♀️ And if you do need to grab some banners and cake toppers for your iftar party, I’d highly recommend supporting a small Muslim entrepreneur on Etsy.
Snaps for Leila Fadel. The NPR reporter spent a year working in collaboration with the National Geographic to put together an incredible package of radio and digital stories that hand the mic to diverse young Muslims around America. Literally and figuratively. Here’s the NatGeo piece; here are the NPR stories.
Doth the Sharia creepeth? I’m always here for some good public radio. So I have to include Radio Interfaith’s new episode on how Sharia became the big bad wolf. Host Amber Khan actually DM’d me the link when she saw the name of my newsletter 😂.
👌 Shout out to Sapelo Square
Back when I was an editor at The Tempest, I published a poignant photo essay by the young writer and filmmaker Kandace Siobhan Walker. In it, Kandace traveled to Sapelo Island, just off the coast of Georgia, where her biological father’s family has lived since her ancestors were brought there as slaves in the 1800s. That was the first time I’d heard of one of America’s first communities of African Muslims.
But really, all of that was to introduce you to Sapelo Square. If you’re subscribed to this newsletter and ~into this sort of thing~, chances are you’ve already heard of it. But for the uninitiated, it’s a blog and digital humanities project that documents and centers black American Muslims. It’s headed by artist Nsenga Knight and scholar Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, whose 2016 book “Muslim Cool” digs into the rich connections between Islam, race, hip-hop culture and state power. (Check out her interview with The Atlantic’s Emma Green here.)
If you’re new to Sapelo Square’s work, I recommend checking out history co-editor Rasul Miller popular 2017 article “Is Islam an Anti-Black Religion?” (tl;dr - no.) And now, with the tragic killing of Shukri Ali Said, a mentally ill Somali Muslim refugee, at the hands of Georgia police, I’d also recommend looking back at their post on how black Muslims are particularly vulnerable to state-sanctioned murder. It was written just after Stephan Clark was killed in his own backyard by Sacramento police – which happened earlier this month. Yeah. Forgot about that, did you?
Anyway, the reason I wanted to include Sapelo Square in this end-of-April newsletter edition is the annual Ramadan Reflections. For thirty days, contributors contemplate the Quran, one part per day, through a black Muslim lens. Add it to your bookmarks.
👀 Source requests
While I’ve got your attention, I’m going to drop in some quick source requests for a few upcoming articles. Here’s what I’m looking for:
Muslims who suffer from sleeping disorders: insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea or any other sort of sleep disturbance.
Muslims, mosques and Islamic organizations that are making a conscious effort to reduce their food waste during Ramadan.
Muslim chefs in the U.S.
If you’ve got ideas on any of the above, get at me. I’m also just looking for fun, fresh, atypical Ramadan stories to write about in general.
🗣 Talk to me
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, see you again in May, insha’Allah. Until then, take care!