Muslim ban turns 3, Gitmo turns 18, MuslimGirl turns 10

And all the rest of the news about U.S. Muslims in January.

Salaam, friends! 👋 I’m journalist Aysha Khan, and you’re reading my monthly roundup of the latest news stories about Muslims in the U.S.

I dedicated a section of this newsletter to January’s coverage of Iranian American communities. But I hit the email length limit, so I split it into two emails: One for the Iran stuff, one for everything else.

This is the email with everything else.

📌 TOP PICKS

The New Yorker — The Depts. of Justice, State, and Homeland Security have been coopted into a campaign to smear an innocent Iraqi refugee as an ISIS commander, frame him for murder and extradite him to near-certain death, all in order to prove Trump’s racist talking point that America is letting in terrorists posing as refugees.

LA Review of Books — A Chinese student in the U.S—part of the Hui Muslim ethnic group—was detained for months in Xinjiang’s internment camps for showing a “sign of religious extremism” by using a VPN to access sites such as her university Gmail account. When she was released and returned to the U.S., her university asked her to pay tuition for the quarter during which she was detained.

RNS — A decade ago, HEART Women and Girls was the only major Muslim organization openly confronting sexual abuse by Muslim faith leaders. But over the past two to three years, North American Muslim women have boldly risen up in an unprecedented movement to call out sexual and spiritual abuse perpetrated by Muslim leaders.

Newsweek — On the 18th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison’s opening, and as the psychologists behind the CIA “enhanced interrogation” program testify in the trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks., one of 40 inmates still behind bars speaks: “Even though I am a nobody, a taxi driver from Karachi, I am a ‘forever prisoner’ down here in this awful Cuban prison, 17 years into my detention without trial…I am still waiting for an apology.”

⚖️ LAW & POLICY

  • Today the White House quietly announced an expansion of Trump’s Muslim travel ban to six more countries, bringing the total to 13 nations affected by some sort of immigration ban. U.S. officials will stop issuing certain visas to potential immigrants from Nigeria (Africa’s most populous country), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar, and will no longer issue diversity visas to residents of Sudan and Tanzania. Experts say targeting African immigrants will have major implications for universities, particularly HBCUs, and will disrupt millions of dollars of business deals. Already, the ban has caused shortages of imams, doctors and other professions.

  • Meanwhile, as this week marked the three-year anniversary of the Muslim travel ban, a federal appeals court in Richmond heard arguments from civil rights groups continuing to challenge the ban legally. The Supreme Court previously ruled that the travel ban has a “legitimate grounding in national security concerns,” but civil rights organizations remain adamant that the ban is motivated by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bias.

  • During protests held urging the U.S. to close Guantanamo, a former Muslim chaplain at the detention facilities described the prison as "the gulag of our time” and a “legal black hole,” set up to keep inmates in American custody while outside of U.S. law.

  • The psychologist who built the Bush-era interrogation program that tortured prisoners in secret CIA black sites, showed no remorse during his testimony in the 10th pre-trial hearing of the five men accused of plotting 9/11. “It was an extraordinary moment in the slow-moving justice system set up to try foreign prisoners of the war on terror, with American lawyers for defendants who were tortured more than a decade and a half ago flipping the script to question an interrogator from the so-called black sites,” the NYTimes reported.

  • A Muslim couple’s lawsuit over the 2016 hazing death of their son, a Marine recruit, is heading to Supreme Court. The wrongful death suit, dismissed in a court of appeals last year, alleges that he was assaulted, hazed, tortured and discriminated against due to his faith.

  • With no warning, ICE deported an undocumented New Yorker who had lived in the U.S. for two decades and repeatedly checked in with the government. He’s now returning to Yemen, where he fears for his life, Rowaida Abdelaziz reports.

  • Nausheen Hussain reports on the FBI surveillance long occurring in the Arab American community in Bridgeview, Illinois, where local Muslim filmmaker-journalist Assia Boundaoui has been waiting for years to receive more documentation of the surveillance.

  • A federal judge has ordered the U.S. to make changes to its secret terror watchlist, but for now he’s giving the government latitude to propose the changes as it sees fit.

  • Somalis around the world are watching the case of a Minnesota mother whose children were removed by Child Protective Services. The woman and her supporters say she was not told why, describing the removal as “kidnapping,” but officials say one of her daughters told a teacher that she did not feel safe at home.

  • Some county jails in Pennsylvania are selling inmates Qurans at two to three times the price of Bibles.

  • Feminist Malak al-Shehri is once again being pursued by the Saudi government, after fleeing to the U.S. two years ago when she was released from a Saudi jail cell, while she continues to fight for her “forcibly disappeared” husband’s release.

  • A Minnesota man serving a 35-year sentence for attempting to join ISIS is asking a federal judge to vacate or alter his sentence, saying his lawyer did not allow him to plead guilty and failed to negotiate a plea deal.

🗳 POLITICS

  • Mustafa Kassem, a 54-year-old American father who spent more than six years locked up in Egypt, died while in custody and while on a liquids-only hunger strike. U.S. lawmakers called the death a “homicide” caused by the Trump administration’s failure to sufficiently pressure to Egyptian leaders. In the wake of his death, advocates called for the White House to do more to free six other Americans currently detained by Cairo.

  • Some Muslim women skipped the Women’s March this year over concerns that the movement remains tone-deaf to the issues faced by Muslim communities.

  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, just elected the state’s first Muslim mayor.

  • Rep. Ilhan Omar has begun her campaign for re-election, after a turbulent first term. Her long slate of opponents includes a fellow Muslim refugee woman: Dalia al-Aqidi, a Republican and former war journalist from Iraq who pitches herself as the polar opposite of Omar.

  • “What I was told is that nobody runs against a Kennedy, and the oppression that brings, that’s not Democratic.” Here’s why Ihssane Leckey is running for Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy III’s seat.

  • Muslim organizers hope to build on momentum from the past three years, and use grassroots campaigns to advance the community's political agenda in the upcoming election. 💪

  • Columbus’ police chief is reconsidering the division’s ban on hijabs and other head coverings.

🆘 HATE & CRIME

  • After Trump circulated a fake image depicting top Democratic leaders wearing a turban and hijab in front of the Iranian flag, Muslim advocacy groups rebuked him for promoting anti-Muslim tropes. When a White House spokesperson then defended the image by saying it showed that Democrats were siding with terrorists, they “implicitly link[ed] Muslims and their appearance to danger,” wrote Jasmine El-Gamal, a former Middle East adviser at the Dept. of Defense.

  • A federal judge sentenced a New York City woman to 15 years in federal prison for studying how to make bombs for a terrorist attack that prosecutors said would have targeted U.S. law enforcement.

  • Delta Air Lines is being fined $50,000 for ordering three Muslim passengers off planes, though the airline's security officials had already cleared them.

  • Police arrested two men allegedly involved in a robbery that killed a Muslim food delivery worker at a northern Virginia Denny’s restaurant.

  • A Portland woman faces bias crime charges after she allegedly snatched a Saudi exchange student's hijab, attempted to choke the Muslim woman and then rubbed the hijab over her own naked body. Since the attack, the victim says she has begun covering her hair with a knit cap and a scarf to avoid drawing attention.

  • A group of men heckled and shouted abusive language at Muslim school children attending a Muslim Day event outside the Kentucky Capitol, telling them to accept Jesus Christ “or you will go to hell.”

  • A California man was arrested for making threats at the Islamic Center of Riverside and assaulting a security guard, police said.

  • Minnesota Muslim leaders say they’re seeing an “unprecedented” increase in attacks, including an incident of vandalism at a St. Paul mosque.

  • An employee of a Chicken Express restaurant in Texas says a manager sent her home for refusing to take off her hijab. The restaurant since apologized.

  • A former Applebee's supervisor is suing the restaurant chain, claiming she was fired after kicking out a customer who made anti-Muslim comments.

  • A thief tried to drive away with SUV parked a Chicago Domino's. Two Muslim kids inside fought back, hitting him with an iPad and choking him until he bailed.

🕌 COMMUNITY

  • In 2001, Halil Demir founded the Zakat Foundation of America to help aid the poor and destitute around the world. Weeks later, 9/11 happened, leaving Muslim citizens, charities and other groups under a cloud of suspicion. Nearly two decades later, he grew the initiative into a multimillion-dollar worldwide relief organization in 30 countries.

  • At Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., deaf culture and faith mix to create something new.

  • Meet Barbara Harding. A 90-something Episcopal grandmother and preschool teacher, she opened her home to a struggling Muslim school in Virginia.

  • In the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, you might stumble across the small Tulip and the Rose Cafe, a small international food restaurant started by members of the Osmanli Sufi dergah.

  • Four Syrian refugee women created a nonprofit catering company called Break Bread, Break Borders to offer meals, and hope, to North Texas refugees.

  • Muslims are the most likely faith community to report low income, with one third of Muslim households in America at or below the federal poverty level, an Institute for Social Police and Understanding survey found.

  • When he arrived at a juvenile detention center after being swept up in an ISIS-inspired plot to set off a pressure-cooker bomb, he was just 17. Now, he credits the kindness and education he received in custody as the keys to his unexpected transformation.

  • A Twin Cities mosque plagued with flooding issues plans to become an “eco-mosque,” creating rain gardens to solve drainage issues and offer locals a new green space. 🌧

  • When she faced harassment, Fauzia Lala couldn’t find training that would allow her to protect herself with both actions and words, so she founded her own self-defense school. Now, she helps dozens of other women. 

  • When a Muslim teen from Brooklyn saw an Orthodox Jewish woman get punched by a man on the subway, he chased him down and helped police apprehend the suspect.

  • The U.S. Air Force commissioned its first Muslim woman chaplain candidate last month, marking the first female Muslim military chaplain in the U.S.

  • Noor Alexandria Abukaram, the high school junior who was disqualified from a cross-country meet because she ran a 5K race while wearing her hijab, just launched an initiative to show the world that her case was no anomaly.

  • MuslimGirl.com just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

  • NBA player Enes Kanter plans to open a charter school in Oklahoma City to serve low-income minority students and those from immigrant families with limited English-speaking abilities.

  • Simran Jeet Singh interviews Rabia Chaudhry, author and lawyer, about the spiritually-driven urgency she feels to do justice work.

🧠 ARGUMENTS

  • In response to the White House’s newly revealed Israel-Palestine peace plan, created without any Palestinian input, Hanna Alshaikh reacts: “I have lived my entire life dreaming for a just peace in my Palestinian homeland….The attitude behind Trump’s plan assumes that displaced Palestinians living with none of the privileges I had will abandon their rightful demands in exchange for the crumbs this deal will throw at them.”

  • “When Americans see ‘The Report’ or read coverage of Guantanamo’s 18th anniversary, we need to remember that the subjects of the torture program are still deteriorating in an illegal prison, that the full report remains under lock and key, and that we have a right to know the rest of the truth,” writes Alka Pradhan, the attorney representing inmate Ammar al Baluchi.

  • “Once we acknowledge the blatant Islamophobia crucial to sustaining Guantanamo, and develop remedies that recognise Muslim humanity, we may get a little bit closer to justice,” Maha Hilal writes, reminding readers that it’s no coincidence that literally every detainee is Muslim.

  • A controversial new DNA collection program at the Canada-Detroit border should be terminated, Dawud Walid argues, pointing to the border crossing’s particular record of detaining Muslims to ask invasive religious questions. 

  • Trump’s racism and Islamophobia should have been enough to impeach him, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh writes.

  • “[H]ow do I raise my daughter to share my Muslim traditions in this perilous world?” Laleh Ispahani asks in an essay on the travel ban’s anniversary. “How do I reconcile the lessons she learns in school—about America as a country founded on the principle of freedom of religion—when Trump makes a mockery of that tradition with this bigoted ban?”

  • Many evangelicals, both pro- and anti-Trump, seem to agree that Trump has promoted religious freedom in the U.S. But one only needs to look at the way his administration has treated Muslims for that argument to fall apart, Melissa Rogers explains.

🎭 CULTURE

  • Over the past few decades, vacant and underutilized churches have become a familiar sight in American cities. Many are turning into new houses of worship—including mosques.

  • The teen sisters behind Girls of the Crescent, the nonprofit increasing the number of books in libraries and schools with Muslim women characters, just wrote their own book: a biography of 50 inspirational Muslim women. 🧕✨

  • Meet the young Muslim women using TikTok to poke fun at racists.

  • Bryan Fogel’s “The Dissident,” a documentary about the Khashoggi killing, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival with a detailed investigation into the Saudi regime and the companies and governments that do business with it. Also at Sundance was Minhal Baig’s “Hala.”

  • San Francisco 49ers defense coach Robert Saleh’s rise to the Super Bowl began in Dearborn, in a Muslim community where football is king.

  • Comedian Maysoon Zayid explains how she finds the funny side of disability and the political side of comedy.

  • Comic book creators Saladin Ahmed and Sara Alfageeh teamed up to develop Marvel’s Amulet, aka Fadi Falalah, a new Lebanese American superhero who will be featured in “The Magnificent Ms. Marvel.”

  • As Ramy Youssef accepted his Golden Globe, he thanked God for his win, saying, “Allahu akbar.” The actor recently signed a deal to produce two new projects for Apple and Netflix.

  • Model Halima Aden is the first black woman to appear on the cover of Essence magazine wearing a hijab.

  • A new exhibition in Philadelphia by Iranian American artist Behnaz Karjoo features a return to the traditional art of illumination.

👌 SHOUT OUT

This month I’m highlighting two South Asian American women-led initiatives on immigrant narratives. The first is Immigrantly, is a weekly podcast by activist Saadia Khan that “explores the intersectionality of racial identity, culture, and class through the lens of immigrant experiences.” They’ve got some exciting interviews, including Ahmed Ali Akbar, Asad Dandia and Rowaida Abdelaziz.

The second is Foreign Bodies, a fantastic newsletter from journalist Fiza Pirani that focuses on mental health and wellness “for immigrants, refugees and far-out aliens.” You don’t want to miss her recent issue on mistaking mental illness for jinn. 👻

🗣 TALK TO ME

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

- Aysha