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