Every Time I Hear a Mass Shooter Wasn’t Muslim, I Feel Relief

171004_POL_Relief-ShooterNotMuslim.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2The first thing I felt Monday morning was grief. The slow trickle of news about another mass shooting can feel like just the next chapter in a long national assault on helpless victims, but it’s important we focus our energy on the victims whose experience in Las Vegas on Sunday night is new. Right now, I’m thinking about them and everyone else who has experienced this horror. My heart is broken.

The second thing I felt Monday was relief. That’s what I always feel when I learn a mass shooter wasn’t Muslim.

I wish, like many other Muslims I know, that my mind didn’t immediately arrive at “Oh God, was it a Muslim terrorist?” That’s a terrible way to think. But I don’t just feel that way because I don’t want my community to be forced to confront false associations. I’ve learned Americans have more pointed, sobering conversations about the root causes of this violence when they’re forced to confront a perpetrator they can’t so easily separate from themselves.

I know what will happen as soon as I hear a Muslim-sounding name connected to a shooting on the news. There’s question of accountability: Why didn’t “moderate Muslims” do more to stop it? What could I have done in New York to stop the Muslim shooter in Florida? Or California? If the shooter was born in America, the question then turns to the parents: Should they ever have been allowed to come here?

That’s how it went down after Omar Mateen was identified as the shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in June 2016, until Sunday the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Within hours, reports chased down his immigration status and his connections with foreign terror groups, and a New York Times writer declared it the worst act of terrorism on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. By the following Monday, then-candidate Donald Trump had also seized on Mateen’s religion and national origin, bragging on Twitter “for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” He added, in an angry, rambling speech, “The only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE

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A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis

01homecoming1-superJumboThe conversion took place on Honky-Tonk Row, my baptism a glaze of midsummer Tennessee sweat anointing my forehead. Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon is a tabernacle for line-dancing disciples, and I was in communion with the gyrating congregation.

“Shuffle, shuffle, turn to your left.”

“Right, left, right — there ya go!”

I have a strong respect for choreographed mass dancing; I grew up with the understanding that seminal moments in Bollywood films must be commemorated with synchronized hip shaking. The Wildhorse was a divine revelation — white people, they’re just like us!

There I was, a Yankee of Indian extraction who had always dismissed country music without a second listen, tearing through Nashville’s Lower Broadway — swaying along to cover bands at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World and perusing star-spangled cowboy gear at Boot Country.

My visit to the South was long overdue. I’ve lived in five countries on three continents, but the United States has always been the unifying thread; my America is diverse and dynamic and molded by immigrants. But how well did I really know it? Last fall, when I returned from a four-year stint as an expat in South Africa, I deplaned into unfamiliar territory. There was an acrid, unseen fog looming: two weeks later came Election Day.

President Trump began his term with a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries; this week he’s expanding that diktat, and in what’s become the hallmark of a turbulent presidency, no one has any clue what’s next. As a Muslim American immigrant, am I just a few 140-character proclamations away from having my citizenship revoked? But fear also sparked curiosity. To me, “Wyoming” sounds foreign and peculiar, spilling lazily off the tongue like a yawn and evoking in my mind the wild terrain someone else might associate with a Zimbabwe or Mozambique. What’s exotic to me isn’t food gilded with turmeric and six-day weddings — it’s grits and rodeos. How much time did I have left to experience them?

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Lower Broadway, Nashville. CreditRobert Rausch for The New York Times

I wondered if, given Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, I would feel like a foreigner in my own home. So I hit the road over the Fourth of July to see how much of an outsider I really was.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Two Muslim Teens On Navigating Girlhood And Islamophobia In Their America

5994935f1400001f002c31b7Welcome to ”The Story We Share,” a series of Q&As that profile two people with similar identities ― but who live in very different places. As part of HuffPost’s Listen To Americatour, we’re exploring how people’s lived experiences overlap and diverge depending on their zip codes. What is the “American Experience?” It depends where you look. 

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Along with the growing pains that typically mark the transition from girlhood to adulthood, American Muslim teen girls also face the challenge of dealing with discrimination because of their religion.

This added layer of vulnerability became apparent during Ramadan this June, when a 17-year-old teen girl named Nabra Hassanen was abducted and killed while walking near her Virginia mosque. The tragedy hit close to home for many young Muslim girls. Like their peers around the country, Hassanen and her friends had left their mosque to eat suhoor, a pre-dawn Ramadan meal, at a fast food restaurant. The joyful nature of that treasured Ramadan ritual was shattered that Sunday morning in Virginia ― and the effects were felt across the country.

Hundreds of miles away, in Florissant, Missouri, 17-year-old Salsabel Fares learned about Hassanen’s death through her friends and from her parents ― and not through social media, where she typically gets her news.

The murder stunned her. She told HuffPost she nearly broke out in tears when she heard about it.

“I was so incredibly upset,” she said. “It just scared me reading it. Because of my religion, I fear for my safety and I fear for my life.”

MOHAMMAD FARES
Salsabel Fares is a 17-year-old from Florissant, Missouri.

In Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Arshia Hussain, another 17-year-old Muslim girl, echoed Fares’ words.

“That could have happened to any of us, to any Muslim girl,” Arshia told HuffPost. “There are so many Muslim girls thinking that it could have happened to them.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Two Muslims walk into the Emmys…

riz-ahmed-on-how-to-wear-the-suit-at-the-emmys-2017-740x400-1-1505729327Two Muslim men, on prime-time television, clutching shiny metal objects close to their black garments amid an unsuspecting crowd.

No, this wasn’t an episode of “Homeland,” and those weren’t weapons.

It was the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, where actor Riz Ahmed and actor-writer Aziz Ansari won two top categories for shows that exploded stereotypes and made history in front of an audience too dazzled by all the other history-breaking moments that evening to notice.

 

There were so many firsts in L.A.’s Microsoft Theater on Sunday night that the oversight was understandable. The evening’s swag bags should have included tally sheets to keep track of the multiple barriers being broken.

 

Donald Glover, creator of FX’s “Atlanta,” became the first African American comedy director to be so honored; “Master of None’s” Lena Waithe the first black woman to win the prize for writing on a comedy series. Streaming service Hulu broke network and cable TV’s monopoly on the top Emmy, outstanding drama series, when it won for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES 

How Muslim Americans are fighting Islamophobia and securing their civil rights

58cc424b2c00003b00fef053The past year has been a difficult one for American Muslims.

According to a July 2017 Pew survey, 48 percent of Muslims report experiencing at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim advocacy organizations found these trends were particularly intense during the 2016 campaigns and the early months of the Trump presidency.

And while the survey shows that Americans report warmer feelings toward Muslims today than they did in 2014, Muslims continue to be the most negatively rated religious group – followed closely by atheists. In fact, about half of Americans (49 percent) believe that at least “some” Muslim Americans are anti-American.

As a scholar of religion and politics, I’ve studied how U.S. Muslim advocacy organizations have advanced their community’s integration in America. Their work reminds us that minorities in the U.S. are still struggling for civil rights.

Spikes in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes appear to correlate with elections cycles. This is not a coincidence. In recent years, politicians have increasingly relied on anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize voters. What was once considered unacceptable discourse by members of both parties has gradually been normalized, particularly among Republican candidates.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Ben Carson claimed that Islam was incompatible with the Constitution. And former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned that some immigrants were trying to “change our fundamental culture and values and set up their own.”

Muslim Americans are responding through organizations that represent their interests, and are increasingly visible, engaged and assertive. At the grassroots level, their presence is seen through the work of activists like Linda Sarsour, a co-sponsor of the 2017 Women’s March. At the policy level, Muslim advocacy organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations also work to advance the community’s legislative agenda.

There are an estimated 3.35 million Muslims in the U.S. A majority of them, 58 percent, are first-generation Americans who arrived in the U.S. after the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. As these immigrants began to settle in the U.S., they established institutions. In fact, most Muslim advocacy groups were founded in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but gained prominence in the post-9/11 era.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE 

U.S. Muslims are religiously observant, but open to multiple interpretations of Islam

FT_17.08.23_islam_interpret_ledeFor American Muslims, being highly religious does not necessarily translate into acceptance of traditional notions of Islam. While many U.S. Muslims say they attend mosque and pray regularly, sizable shares also say that there is more than one way to interpret their religion and that traditional understandings of Islam need to be reinterpreted to address the issues of today.

By some conventional measures, U.S. Muslims are as religious as – or more religious than – many Americans who belong to other faith groups. Four-in-ten (43%) Muslim Americans say they attend mosque at least once a week, including 18% who say they attend more than once a week, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. An additional 32% say they attend once or twice a month, or a few times a year. These attendance levels are comparable to those of U.S. Christians, 47% of whom say they attend services weekly or more, and greater than the 14% of American Jews who say the same.

A majority also say that they pray at least some or all of the salah, or ritual prayers required of Muslims five times per day. Among all U.S. Muslims, fully 42% say they pray all five salah daily, while 17% pray at least some of the salah every day. A quarter say they pray less often, and just 15% say they never pray.

And nearly two-thirds of U.S. Muslims (65%) say that religion is very important in their lives, similar to the share of U.S. Christians who say the same (68%), and higher than the share of U.S. Jews who say this (31%). An additional 22% of Muslims say that religion is somewhat important in their lives, while fewer say that religion is not too or not at all important to them.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

At an Arkansas Mosque a Vandal Spreads Hate and Finds Mercy

Abraham Davis was sitting on a thin blue pad on the concrete floor of Cell 3 in a jail in western Arkansas when a guard came around with stamped envelopes and writing paper.

The first person he wrote to was his mother. Abraham, just shy of 21, had barely spoken to her since his arrest a few days before, and he had a lot to explain.

It all began on a night last October when he borrowed her white minivan and drove to the home of a friend. They’d gotten drunk on cheap whiskey. Kentucky Deluxe. Abraham agreed to drive his friend to a mosque in town. His friend drew swastikas and curses on the mosque’s windows and doors while Abraham stood watch in the driveway.

The next day, the vandalism was all over the news. Abraham watched the reports over and over on his phone, his stomach curdling with regret.

Even now, as he was facing up to six years in prison for the act, Abraham could not explain why he had done it.

He had grown up in Fort Smith, a city of tall oak trees and brick churches that has the look of a faded Polaroid. His father, charismatic but violent, died when Abraham was 5, leaving him with a feeling of powerlessness so intense that he has been trying to conquer it ever since. “Most of my life I’ve spent trying to train myself to become something that’s too strong to be broken through,” he said. Life has teed him up for a fight, and he walks tilted slightly forward, as if someone is pulling him with an invisible wire.

As a poor student in the high school on the wealthier side of town, Abraham often felt like an outsider. He walked, not drove, hung out on playgrounds, not in restaurants. He got into a lot of fights. He did poorly in school, but he doesn’t remember his teachers seeming surprised. Expectations were low, and he bent to fit them. He slept a lot in class. At 18, he dropped out.

Fort Smith has two country clubs, several golf courses, a Talbots and a symphony orchestra. But a proliferation of pawnshops and a circuit court crowded with indigent defendants are reminders of the grinding poverty all around, in the rural areas of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

For years, those divisions had been etched into the city’s geography. Poorer families lived on the north side of town and wealthier families on the south. Race followed the same pattern, with the south predominantly white and much of the city’s black population in the north.

But time has scrambled those old lines. Latinos came here to work in the poultry industry. Pho shops dot the city’s main drag, property of Vietnamese who began arriving as refugees after the fall of Saigon. R & R’s Curry Express serves deliciously spicy North Indian food at a Finish Line gas station.

Abraham Davis drove his mother’s white minivan to the mosque last October.
Pho shops dot the city’s main drag, started by Vietnamese who began arriving as refugees after the fall of Saigon. Other nationalities also call Fort Smith home now.
The tombstone of Hud Davis, Abraham’s and Noah’s biological father, in Fort Smith. Noah often visits; Abraham does not.
Hisham Yasin in the office of his used-car business.

Muslims from different countries came, too — some to study, some to work in the city’s growing medical industry. Many had money. Hisham Yasin did not.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES