Prayer rugs on the border, Latino converts, conspiracy theories

And is CVE really all that different from China's crackdown on Uighurs?

Salaam! Where to begin?

I’m up to my ears in fantastic storytelling about Muslims these days. I just pre-ordered a few upcoming YA and sci-fi novels by Muslim authors. There’s a new season of The Secret Life of Muslims out (and I’m told there will be a video called “Creeping Sharia” out soon!) And I’m slowly working my way through reading all the finalists’ submissions for the Goldziher Prize. I’m amazed by the quality of the journalism we’ve received, from both seasoned reporters and students alike, and once judging is completed I’m thinking of sharing some of my judge’s picks in a special edition of this newsletter.

Oh, and since last edition of this newsletter, we’ve surpassed 300 subscribers. *insert gif of someone yelling “takbeer!”* This is entirely a little side project for me, and I try not to pay too much attention to the numbers. But it does make me so very happy that you all share my excitement about these stories.

Before we get to the links, though, I wanted to say a few words about my journalism crush, who was a victim of the recent media layoffs bloodbath. Hannah Allam consistently produces next-level journalism that provokes fascinating discussions about American Muslim life and has elevated the quality of reporting on this beat. Read her stories. If you’re in a position to hire someone in a newsroom, fight to bring her onto your team. Because I really, really want to keep reading her work.

  • Another foiled plot to attack Islamberg has left the small, predominantly African American Muslim homesteading community in upstate New York reeling—and seeking justice. The NYT looked at how online conspiracy theories have roiled the community, and I wrote about how Islamberg’s leaders are calling for tangible action. (Further reading: “White Fright,” a Guardian documentary asking why the community’s safety has been ignored.)

  • “We ran away from terrorism to find another kind of terrorism here." The mother of Shaimaa Zada, the 14-year-old Syrian refugee who was attacked at her Pittsburgh high school, never expected the bullying and harassment her children have faced in the U.S. This month, Post Industrial published the first interview with Shaimaa and her family since the video of the attack went viral.

  • Black Muslims make up a fifth of U.S. Muslims, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of black Muslim demographics based upon existing survey data. The article also includes some interesting details about areas like immigration and race relations, including this tidbit that boggles my Pakistani-American mind: 94 percent of black Muslims say there's a lot of anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S., versus 84 percent of black Christians and 71 percent of non-black Muslims. 😶

  • “Abeed [slave] is…the one Arabic word that all black people in Detroit know.” For The Guardian, Zahir Janmohamed explores tensions between Detroit’s African Americans and Arab Americans and how these communities (which, of course, include significant overlap) are slowly coming together.

  • “It’s much more difficult to hate up close and personal.” Filmmaker Deeyah Khan sat down with several white supremacists and jihadists for her two new documentaries, “White Right: Meeting the Enemy” and “Jihad: A Story of the Others.” (Both are on Netflix.) She talked to Vox about what these two forms of extremism have in common, engaging the enemy, and the power and limits of empathy.

  • Why are so many Latinos joining Islam? Vice’s Minority Reports went to Houston’s IslamInSpanish center to examine the question. Host Lee Adams then spoke to Houston Public Radio about what he learned. “It's a really interesting time to discover” that Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic of U.S. Muslims, he noted. “And through that shared trauma, this very welcoming, warm and accepting community is growing.”

  • Let’s talk about the prayer rug tweet. Earlier this month Trump tweeted about prayer rugs supposedly found on the U.S.-Mexico border, an obvious attempt at fear-mongering about ~terrorist Muslims~ entering the country. His source? A Washington Examiner article that featured an unsubstantiated claim from a single anonymous rancher. (A White House inquiry later found no evidence of the claim.) WaPo outlined the history of the far-right conspiracy theory and examined the long legacy of Arabs in Mexico; The Conversation laid out the sacred and mundane meanings of Islamic prayer rugs, explaining that no Muslim would leave one behind. And The Atlantic asked the sensible question: So what if there are prayer rugs? (Further reading: An exhibition of prayer rugs aims to protest the travel ban.)

  • Viewing Islam as an abnormality and the cause of extremism isn't exclusive to China, Mobashra Tazamal explained. Western CVE programs see expressions of Muslim identity and faith as uniquely associated with "extremism" and "radicalization," and cause stigmatization and criminalization of Muslims.

  • You can now read Omar ibn Said’s 1831 Arabic memoir online, thanks to the Library of Congress. WaPo looked at the history of the one-of-a-kind autobiography written by an enslaved African Muslim, and Voice of America examined the erasure of black Muslim identity among the enslaved.

  • Meet the Muslim lawyer running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Two years ago, Hassan Ahmad marched on Dulles International Airport to protest the travel ban. He spoke to Mother Jones about how the airport protests rerouted his career to an advocacy track.

  • U.S. Muslims often hit a roadblock when it comes to writing their wills. One estimate suggests that just 10 percent prepare their wills, which are considered mandatory in Islam. The Houston Chronicle examined the solutions emerging to help Muslims, especially immigrants, live out their faith in the American legal system. By the way, is it just me or is anyone else noticing that Texas publications are doing a lot of great, interesting stories on Muslims recently? Like this fun little feature from the Dallas Morning News on Muslims in the Girl Scouts, and all the coverage of the Tarrant County GOP’s recent Islamophobic dramas.

  • The costs of the “cultural mainstreaming of Muslims.” In a review of Eboo Patel’s book “Out of Many Faiths,” Shadi Hamid considered the possible secularizing effects of the ways in which Muslims are increasingly being embraced by the political left. “The distinctive theological commitments that practicing Muslims bring to public life will be diluted,” he noted. “They already are.”

  • Once again, journalist Noor Tagouri was misidentified by a publication. Tagouri’s reaction to being identified as Pakistani actress Noor Bukhari in Vogue was caught on video. I should note that while Tagouri said she’s “never seen” a woman in hijab in Vogue before, model Halima Aden, blogger-activist Hoda Katebi and blogger Dina Torkia have all been featured in the magazine. Tagouri also built her career on being known as the first hijab-wearing news anchor on U.S. television—a title that’s debatable, at best.

  • Mahershala Ali talks “Green Book” and being Muslim in America. Ali, the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, spoke to The Guardian and Metro about the housing and banking discrimination he’s faced because of his family’s faith.

Shout out to IMAN 👌

Since 1997, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) has leaned into Islamic ideals to help heal and transform urban communities in Chicago and in Atlanta, . They provide community health care, assist formerly incarcerated men and high-risk youth, offer arts programming and advocate for criminal justice, housing access, immigration reform and healthy food access. Executive director Rami Nashashibi was also named a MacArthur Genius Grant winner in 2017 for his work with IMAN.

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

- Aysha