Relearning Western history, deadly Islamophobia, hijab controversies

Better late than never, right?

Salaam, folks!

Apparently I decided to celebrate one year of writing Creeping Sharia by skipping a full month of this newsletter for the first time. Oops 😳 Anyways, back with another edition. The sheer quantity of news that was published last month—even just between the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and Muslim Women’s Day—is pretty overwhelming. So here’s what stood out to me.

  • This Florida man has spent the past four years trying to rescue his kids from ISIS. Bashirul Shikder was in Mecca on pilgrimage when his wife flew to Syria—kidnapping their two young children to join ISIS. His children’s mother was killed in an airstrike, but the terrorist group refuses to hand over his 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, who are among the last children trapped in the last city held by ISIS in Syria. Read more in the NYT, The Guardian or NPR.

  • A blind Muslim couple produced a braille rendering of an English translation of the Quran—and is making copies available for free. I talked to a Texas Muslim convert who told me the first time she was able to read the Quran for herself was when she was proofreading her own braille rendering.

  • It’s time to relearn Western history, Edward Curtis wrote at Religion Dispatches—starting with 711 CE, when Muslims established a state in Andalusia. “Naive comments about the ‘newness’ of Muslims in the West need to stop…It’s a matter of life and death,” he said. Over at Inkstick, Laila Ujayli agreed: “Bringing Islam into American history curriculums won’t solve anti-Muslim hatred, but it could help shatter the Orientalist myth of ‘otherness’ surrounding Islam in mainstream discourse.”

  • The Christchurch shooting inspired an attack on a California mosque. The Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido was set ablaze in an apparent act of arson, and police say the suspect left behind graffiti that clearly referenced the New Zealand shooting. “The connection was chilling. It was a clear homage to what happened in New Zealand,” a mosque organizer said.

  • How a hijab united one country and divided another 🧕🏽 Slate’s podcast Hi-Phi Nation compared what happened when non-Muslim women in New Zealand decided to don the hijab in solidarity with Muslims, versus what happened when former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins tried to do the same in 2015, days after the San Bernardino shooting.

  • A Muslim soldier says her command sergeant major forced her to remove her hijab in order to check if she was wearing her hair out of regulations beneath it, the Army Times reported. “To me, it was the same thing as if they had asked someone to take their top off,” Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos said.

  • After Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said that wearing hijab is “antithetical” to the U.S. Constitution, Fox condemned her comments and took her off air temporarily. At HuffPost, Rowaida Abdelaziz collected dozens of examples of anti-Muslim comments made on the channel without repercussion. Over at the L.A. Times, Lorraine Ali noted the stark contrast between U.S. TV hosts who engage in anti-Muslim tropes and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s grace and empathy.

  • Massachusetts just got its first women-only salon designed for hijabis who do not believe in exposing their hair in front of men outside their own families. 💇🏾‍♀️ For Muslim women who wear hijabs, it’s often difficult to find a place to get their hair cut or styled in private, PRI noted. Boston’s Shamso Hair Studio and Spa is one of few women-only hair salons nationwide, the Washington Post reported.

  • For nearly three years, this boxer has fought to compete while wearing her hijab 🥊 Two years ago, when USA Boxing decided to allow boxers to file for a religious waiver before a bout, 15-year-old Amaiya Zafar became the first U.S. woman to compete in a boxing match wearing a hijab. Last month, the International Boxing Association ruled that hijabs and “full body form fitting uniforms” are permissible if required for religious reasons.

  • How did media coverage of anti-Semitic comments made by three GOP Congressmen compare to comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar? ThinkProgress crunched the numbers on the outsized attention she faced. Omar has also been the target of a poster at a GOP event linking her to 9/11, as well as a graffiti death threat and, apparently, a bomb threat. For HuffPost, Akbar Shahid Ahmed noted that the ‘dual loyalty’ accusation lobbed at Omar is one that Muslims in politics face constantly, an observation confirmed by a new survey of Muslims who ran for office in the midterms. At The Intercept, Vanessa Taylor explained how the backlash against Omar is linked to colonial anxieties surrounding black Muslims. The firestorm over Omar shows that Democrats lack “the tools to smoothly negotiate competing claims of marginalization,” Emma Green wrote at The Atlantic.

  • “Violence does not exist in a vacuum.” So said The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, who traced the connections between Christchurch shooter’s manifesto and mainstream rhetoric in U.S. politics and media. The attack was one of many dangerous consequences of the normalization of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Sarah Hagi wrote at GQ. “There are obvious signs to anyone paying attention that right here at home, Muslims could suffer the same fate as those in New Zealand. But it is more important to realize that, on a smaller scale, Muslims have already suffered that fate,” Talal Ansari wrote at The Atlantic. You can see this unfold on social media, as Mother Jones and BuzzFeed both reported, but also in politics. The White House didn’t recognize the faith of the Christchurch victims, with Trump instead going on the offensive; the Washington Post explained how that’s just part of Trump’s long combative history with Muslims. WaPo also traced that history more thoroughly here, and noted the difference in Trump’s responses to attacks in which the perpetrators were Muslim versus those in which the victims were Muslim.

  • “Islamophobia kills. It kills literally, with the tiny casket I stood over this weekend. It kills by spooling out its trauma, to people like the 12-year-old who nearly fell into his brother’s grave. It kills by a society that isn’t urgently addressing the hate that allows my elementary schoolchildren to have to watch armed white supremacists stand in front of their place of worship...” Read more in this emotional Washington Post essay by Imam Omar Suleiman, who traveled to New Zealand to help bury the dead.

  • “This could have been their 9/11 moment.” Read more about increased mosque security and other effects of the Christchurch shooting on U.S. Muslim communities at The Atlantic, CNN, RNS and NBC. Muslim organizations are also now struggling to help young Muslims process the grief, trauma and fear, NPR reported. Over at the Detroit Free Press, Niraj Warikoo looked at the history of Launchgood, the Muslim-led crowdfunding site that has raised about $1.8 million for Christchurch victims.

  • The shooting also united Jewish and Muslim Americans in mourning 👭 Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life congregation, for example, is mirroring Muslim support for its families by raising funds for the Christchurch victims. But the shows of interfaith solidarity must be matched by political action for any change to happen, Wardah Khalid wrote for Bustle. Indeed, a coalition of faith and civil rights leaders have joined Muslims in pushing the FBI to take white nationalism seriously, Leila Fadel reported for NPR.

  • How U.S. Muslims are changing the conversation on women’s spaces. 🕌 I wrote about how Hind Makki’s blog Side Entrance, started seven years ago, has helped discussions about women’s inclusion in mosques penetrate the mainstream. (Of course, she’s not the first to tackle such issues—just take scholar Amina Wadud, for example.) Some women have found their answer in mosques created specifically for women, like Asma Uddin wrote about for Teen Vogue. Others have found it in inclusive mosques, like this Chicago one I visited.

  • These Muslim kids started a project to donate books with strong Muslim women protagonists to libraries. "The goal is to get books with Muslim girls into libraries all over the country," 14-year-old Mena Nasiri, who co-founded Girls of the Crescent with her sister, told Elle. "Then, all over the world."

  • Representation of black Muslim women is magical, but it’s also a trap. “Muslim Cool” author Su'ad Abdul Khabeer wrote. What’s wrong with it? Because mainstream media recognition happens “on someone else’s terms and to preserve someone else’s power [it] results in a lot of policing and gatekeeping, internal and external.”

Shout out to Rushan Abbas 👌

Rushan Abbas, a D.C.-based Uighur and longtime Uighur rights advocate, is the founder and director of the Campaign for Uyghurs. Last year, just six days after she publicly spoke up about the disappearance of dozens of her in-laws in Xinjiang, her sister and aunt vanished—both on the same day. They were “abducted as a tactic by Beijing to silence me and stop my lawful activism in the United States which is backed by my constitutional rights,” she said in a speech on Capitol Hill this week. “I have been a proud citizen of the U.S. for 25 years, yet the long arm of the Chinese communist regime has extended its reach across borders to ravage my heart by jailing the only close family I have.” Read more about her experiences here.

🗣 Talk to me

With Ramadan a month away (‼️), I’m looking for stories on interesting ways Muslim communities are marking the holy month. If you’ll be taking a step back from social media and technology as you fast, I’d like to talk to you about that, too.

Over the next few months, I’m also hunting for story ideas on ways that Muslims are gathering and building faith-based communities outside the mosque.

And, as always, send me your comments, questions and corrections! Otherwise, we’ll chat again in a few weeks, inshaAllah. 👋🏽

- Aysha