Remembering Nabra, New Haven mosque, census 2020

A belated Ramadan mubarak to all.

Salaam, guys!

Hope this Ramadan’s final and holiest ashra—or 10-day period—finds you all well. Now that we’re a year and 500+ subscribers into this newsletter, I figured I’d try a slightly different format this month. It made production a bit easier, as I waded through nearly 200 links (!!!) to put this hefty edition together, but I’d love to hear your feedback. What is and isn’t working for you? Would you prefer I just send a few must-read stories at more frequent intervals? Do you want more commentary or less?

We’ve got a lot of stories to get to, so let’s jump right in with the cream of the crop.

📌 TOP PICKS

Texas Monthly — A Pakistani foreign exchange student. An evangelical girl from Texas. A school shooting. On the anniversary of the deadly attack in Santa Fe, a heartbreaking look at a beautiful friendship and a young life that ended too early.

Aeon — Muslims came to America more than a century before Protestants, and in great numbers. How was their history forgotten?

NYT — Many Muslim women facing domestic violence are reluctant to use public services due to Muslim and immigrant communities’ tenuous relationship with law enforcement. In Brooklyn, the Muslim-managed Asiyah Women’s Shelter is helping fill the gap.

WAMU — Two years after Nabra Hassanen’s brutal murder during Ramadan, young Muslims in Northern Virginia are still coping with “so many layers of survivor’s guilt, of blaming, of trauma.”

The Juggernaut — After Mamnun Ahmed survived the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, his parents, Bangladeshi immigrants in Connecticut, first felt relief, and then paranoia. What if the shooter was Muslim?

🌙 RAMADAN

  • Fariha Roisin reflects on the importance of deprivation and confronting one's own mortality during Ramadan. “In ritual, we focus not on the lack, but the abundance of the world, and how lucky we are to live in this time, in this space, to honor its transience, and make use of the vital years that we are here.”

  • The Houston Chronicle looks at what the holy month of fasting is like for kids experiencing one of their first Ramadans.

  • When Muslims can’t fast during Ramadan for health reasons, they find other means of connection, Shabnaj Chowdhury writes. And at the Chicago Tribune, Nausheen Husain looks at how disabled Muslims participate in Ramadan rituals.

  • Black Muslims in the Americas have a long history of seeing Ramadan as a time to push for justice and liberation, Vanessa Taylor writes.

  • After an arson attack left Connecticut’s Diyanet Mosque of New Haven uninhabitable, hundreds came out to show their solidarity. But local Muslims are struggling to return to normalcy this Ramadan. “Normally we have 200 people every night at our iftars,” a teacher mosque told RNS. “Our people did not come today.”

  • Mosques’ moves to heighten security for Ramadan—armed guards, training drills, cameras—are provoking disagreement over how to collaborate with law enforcement, with whom Muslims have a historically tense relationship. “This idea that police equals protection is something that we should interrogate,” one Muslim told Al Jazeera.

🆘 DISCRIMINATION & HATE

  • “A mosque was intentionally set on fire in the U.S. Why didn’t anyone hear about it?” Imam Omar Suleiman asks in WaPo.

  • An Ohio Muslim family put up festive lights celebrating Ramadan outside their house. The same night, someone shot at their home.

  • CAIR has lodged more than 500 potentially anti-Muslim incidents this year already.

  • Reports of law enforcement removing incarcerated black Muslim womens’ hijabs date back at least 14 years. But the violation of their religious rights goes deeper than policy, Vanessa Taylor writes. Related: A black Muslim woman claims the Georgia Department of Corrections won’t let her wear a hijab—to her work as a corrections officer.

  • In at least two Virginia state prisons, Muslim inmates are being deprived of timely meals during Ramadan, civil rights advocates report. Related: An ‘Overlooked’ NYT obituary for Martin Sostre, who successfully sued for the right to practice Islam while incarcerated.

  • A Muslim man says he was fired from UnitedHealth Group after a decade of work when he spoke up about his new boss harassing him for his faith, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports. Muslim employees in Detroit also say they increasingly face bias in the workplace, Niraj Warikoo reports.

  • A group of Somali women working for Amazon near Minneapolis have accused the company of discriminating against Muslim workers and of retaliating against them for protesting work conditions.

  • After a Muslim standup comedian joked at a show that "it only takes one of us," an audience member called the police.

🗳 POLITICS

  • Muslim voter turnout in four battleground states jumped 25 percentage points from the 2014 to the 2018 midterm elections, per a new report from Emgage.

  • After their efforts to oust a Texas Muslim elected to county party vice-chair divided their party, the GOP fights to keep The Lone Star State red.

  • At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes and white nationalism last month, Mohammad Abu-Salha—a Muslim father who testified about the killings of his daughters in the 2015 Chapel Hill shootings—was asked to defend his faith from questions by politicians about whether Islam taught hate and anti-Semitism. Muslim activists say the hearing’s framing proved “the unwillingness or inability to understand the word terrorism as not inherently connected to Muslims.”

  • For American Muslims in the public eye, what Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing—the threats, outsized scrutiny and unending demands to prove one’s patriotism—are all too familiar, Leila Fadel reports. (Read more on the “Muslim Inquisition” at The Guardian.) Muslim constituents say the unchecked hate Omar faces is not just discouraging, but a “calculated ploy” to divide the Democratic party and incite hatred.

  • And while that hate is part of a long pattern of anti-Muslim prejudice on the right, it also highlights the left’s complicity. And Muslim voters say they’ll remember which Democrats had Omar’s back, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports.

  • Just like last year, Trump snubbed U.S. Muslim leaders by only inviting diplomats from Muslim-majority countries to the annual White House iftar. Not to worry, though, because Reps. Omar, Rashida Tlaib and André Carson hosted their own much-talked about iftar on Capitol Hill. Despite what some media reports suggested, it wasn’t the first iftar on the Hill. It was the first one organized by three Muslim members of Congress, and the first attended by party leaders.

  • Omar and Tlaib, who just became the first Muslim woman to preside over House floor, challenge the trope of modest Muslim women, Nora Boustany writes at WaPo.

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • For the third time, a federal judge has blocked an Israel boycott ban, this time in Texas, on First Amendment grounds.

  • The Trump administration says it’s planning to designate the Muslim Brotherhood political movement a foreign terrorist organization. Experts say doing so would be a diplomacy disaster that fuels extremism—but domestically, it would also lead to a crackdown on U.S. Muslim civic groups, and could, in effect, be a “backdoor Muslim registry.”

  • A new lawsuit, involving a Muslim prisoner in Alabama seeking access to an imam in the execution chamber, could resolve conflict over the religious freedom rights of death row inmates after two seemingly contradictory Supreme Court rulings.

  • A new report shows how Countering Violent Extremism programming disproportionately targets Illinois’ Muslim and Arab youth.

  • After a hearing in April, a federal judge says he will soon decide on the constitutionality of the government’s terrorist watchlist.

  • The Trump administration has renewed fear and distrust of government questions, meaning Muslim immigrants now face a 2020 census undercount. A group of Muslims and Japanese American activists, including survivors of WWII-era internment, have united to challenge a proposed citizenship question in the census.

🍿 POP CULTURE

  • Halima Aden just became the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. But Muslims aren’t all happy about this: “Does our form of modest dress lose its power and purpose as it becomes more of a marketing tool?” Alia Salem asks. One professor called the photoshoot a Rorschach test that shows Americans’ own politics in their interpretations of the images.

  • Ramy, the semi-autobiographical TV series by comedian Ramy Youssef, has gotten rave reviews, but it’s also got Muslim folks seriously torn. I haven’t seen the show myself, but I love Ramy’s standup and I’m on board with his aims of creating a show that doesn’t use religion as a punchline or as a marketing ploy, a show that is honest about his adherence to and struggles with Islam. “The difference between ‘Ramy’ and ‘The Big Sick’ is that [Kumail] Nanjiani spent much of that story trying to run away from his faith, whereas Youssef fully welcomes religious aspects of Islam,” The New York Times notes. Here’s a sampling of responses from critics: The Atlantic said it “missed the mark” in depicting Muslim women’s experiences; Paste Mag called it one of the year’s best new shows; Vulture reflected on the show’s depiction of wudu (ablution) and pointed to a scene “lifted, word for word, out of the lives of all Muslims”; Vulture also called it “so much more than just a mirror held up to one man’s life”; Fast Company said it shows Muslims have reached the point that they can “showcase our humanity, our pride, our flaws, and our contradictions in the context of telling our stories”; and The New Yorker said it’s “likely to make some Egyptians and Muslims angry, not because it misrepresents them but because, for once, it’s too honest.”

  • The new Aladdin remake depicts Agrabah as a pan-Arabian and South Asian culture, cutting out any specificity or reference to Islam. The reviews I’ve seen suggest it’s pretty boring and sluggish as a film, so I shan’t subject you to a list of them. But Vox also published a primer on the film’s complicated, Orientalist history, and The Ringer took a deep dive into the history of Arab actors in Hollywood and the ugly tropes they struggled with.

  • Looking for new beach reads? Niqabi author Hafsah Faizal just published “We Hunt The Flame,” a fantasy novel set in a fictional ancient Arabia. And G. Willow Wilson’s latest book reimagines the final days of Moorish Spain.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • In both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution abroad has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long, Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept.

  • The American right is systematically trying to cover up far-right crimes by focusing attention on the Muslim community, Huma Yasin writes for Al Jazeera.

  • Rep. Omar’s now-infamous comments about 9/11 actually carried a deeply American message, Peter Beinart writes at The Atlantic.

  • Anti-Muslim attacks aren’t just senseless acts of violence. They actually make “perfect sense” in the context of U.S. history, anthropologist Nadia Kazi explains in an interview with Sojourners.

  • A Muslim-focused Instagram page held a giveaway to meet the families of those killed in Christchurch. That’s the latest example of why ‘celebrity Muslims’ are the least qualified people to lead activist efforts, Vanessa Taylor argues for Al Jazeera

👋 MEET THE MUSLIMS

  • These cab drivers have turned a construction trailer in a remote lot at Philadelphia International Airport into a makeshift mosque—"a place of spiritual refuge amid the most prosaic of surroundings, a crumbling slab of asphalt where they park while waiting for fares from arriving flights."

  • Enes Kanter has fasted for Ramadan while playing basketball for the past decade. But this year is his first time fasting while in the NBA playoffs. Read more about Kanter at The Ringer.

  • The Pillars Fund seeks to strengthen a network of Muslim support groups with philanthropy while countering negative stereotypes.

  • Hoda Muthana wants to come home. In an extensive feature, BuzzFeed News catalogs four years of reporting on the Alabama girl who ran away to join ISIS.

  • Myisha McGahee-Wooten is black, female, Muslim, covered, and licensed to carry.

  • Shariq Siddiqui is the inaugural director of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at Indiana University.

  • These Latino Americans are part of a wave of conversion to Islam across the country, including in Texas and Philadelphia.

👌 SHOUT OUT

Mapping Islamophobia is a project led by Caleb Elfenbein, an associate professor of history and religious studies at Grinnell College, and his students. By looking through national and local media coverage, the project collects decade’s worth of data on anti-Muslim activity across the U.S. as well as Muslims’ efforts to counter Islamophobia and offers a stunning visual representation loaded with data.

All the data collected—including gender of victims and verified location information, down to the block—is available for download and use via a Creative Commons license. Definitely a fantastic resource for academics, activists and journalists alike.

🗣 TALK TO ME

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

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

- Aysha