In this edition: Maajid Nawaz, guns and #BecauseWeveRead.
Hello, hi, salaam! A warm welcome to my new subscribers - and to the rest, thanks for sticking with me. Let’s jump into the latest developments and discussions.
Nesrine Malik catalogs the rise of Islam’s “native informants” – Maajid Nawaz, Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali – who have enabled Islamophobia. Notably, she contrasts such names with reform-minded activists like “Headscarves and Hymens” author Mona Eltahawy, who criticizes Muslims’ patriarchal practices without playing footsie with the right. For further reading, check out Wardah Khalid’s 2016 piece “The Ayaan Hirsi Ali problem: why do anti-Islam Muslims keep getting promoted as ‘experts’?”
Maajid Nawaz wins big over the SPLC. Last year, the radical Islamist-turned-Muslim reformer sued the SPLC for including him in their list of anti-Muslim extremists. Now they’re paying him $3.375 million 💸💸💸 —and a public apology. I’m no fan of Nawaz’s work, but I agree that lumping Maajid Nawaz in with Ayaan Hirsi Ali with so little nuance was a sloppy, dangerously broad move for a research institution. Do you think the apology was warranted?
The U.S. wants to get in on the Islamic reformer business. A leaked memo shows that the White House was advised by the State Department to promote an "Islamic Reformation," using women and youth in Muslim-majority nations to push their agenda. “Focusing on female-empowerment…will allow the United States to maintain a moral component for American power and its liberation narrative,” the memo reads.
“We felt like caged animals.” 14 hijabi women heading to ISNA were pulled off a security line at Newark Liberty International Airport for two humiliating hours of searches and pat-downs.
Not all Muslims are getting the cold shoulder from Trump. Just the U.S. ones. As the New York Times described after Trump’s first iftar, “While he has sought to ally himself with Middle Eastern leaders, in part by at times softening his hostile tone on Islam, at home Mr. Trump has seemingly made little attempt to repair his fractured relationship with Muslim Americans—even those in his own party.”
Hindu nationalists’ anti-Muslim hate spills into the U.S. The show Quantico (starring Priyanka Chopra) recently featured a storyline where Indian nationalists plotted a false flag attack, hoping to frame Pakistan. Real-life Indian nationalists weren’t happy and blamed the episode on one of the show’s Muslim scriptwriters. Except…Sharbari Ahmed hadn’t actually written for Quantico since the show’s first season 🙄 She wrote about what it was like to be attacked online as an “agent of Pakistani propaganda” and an “ISIS sex slave” by Indian anti-Muslim trolls.
Muslims give zakat generously to causes overseas. But, especially as some parts of the media perpetuate “model minority” stereotypes for Muslims and refugees, we continually overlook Muslim American poverty, Khaled Beydoun writes.
Muslims and their guns. I never knew any Muslim gun enthusiasts until I married a Canadian and moved to Colorado. (Some in my husband’s family faced violent persecution in Pakistan and are therefore gun-savvy out of necessity; others have farmland in Alberta and enjoy hunting.) And here in Denver, I’ve met a few who enjoy spending their weekends at shooting ranges, but I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it. This photo essay by Adeel Hassan and Amr Alfiky sheds light on some of the reasons U.S. Muslims own guns.
If you’re sick of reading about Wajahat Ali in this newsletter, you’re in luck. This time I’ve got a very different situation for you: CAIR’s San Francisco director, Zahra Billoo, had an award rescinded by the interfaith group PACT after objections from pro-Israel activists.
What’s in the water in the UK? Muslim Twitter has been lit up with discussions about how extreme British Muslims can seem. A Birmingham imam who once said not to marry women who have profile pictures online, for example, just gave an Eid sermon telling Muslims to “stop talking like we’re black.” I’d love to read more analyses about Muslim youth culture in the U.K. versus U.S. For now, here’s one reading 2015 from The Islamic Monthly and another from the London School of Economics.
The bills redefining religious freedom in America. Over at the Deseret News, Kelsey Dallas looked at 139 pieces (‼️) of proposed legislation on everything from healthcare to campus free speech to see how the battle is shaping up.
Does anyone else still feel weird about eating during the day? Anyway, in case you missed them, I’ll link my RNS stories published this Ramadan here:
👌 Shout out to Because We’ve Read
You might know Iranian American community organizer Hoda Katebi from her political fashion blog JooJoo Azad. You might also know her from a viral video clip of her live interview on Chicago’s WGN-TV. The anchor abruptly pivots from discussing her book “Tehran Streetstyle” to interrogating her about the Iran nuclear deal. When Katebi responds that the U.S. legacy of imperialism doesn’t inspire much confidence in her, the anchor says, “You don’t sound like an American when you say that.”
“That’s because I’ve read!” Katebi replies. It was the line that launched a thousand memes…and, in April, a virtual book club.
Because We’ve Read is a “radical” online reading community that uses Instagram, Google Hangouts and local in-person discussion groups to grow minds. So far they’ve read Assata Shakur’s “Assata: An Autobiography,” Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skins White Masks,” and Omar Barghouti’s “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.” Learn more or join the group 📚
🗣 Talk to me
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, see you in a couple weeks, insha’Allah!