‘At the Intersection of Two Criminalized Identities’: Black and Non-Black Muslims Confront a Complicated Relationship With Policing and Anti-Blackness

Before Jacob Blake’s father spoke to media last month about how police gunned down his son in Kenosha, Wis., he took a moment to say a Muslim prayer.

“Our family is very diverse and we don’t represent just one thing, so if you all could give me one second please, this is for my son—Jacob Blake,” Jacob Blake Sr. said shortly before reciting a verse from the beginning of the Qur’an and proceeding to talk about how police shot his son “seven times, seven times, like he didn’t even matter.”

Blake Sr.’s recitation of the prayer moved Iesa Lewis, a Black Muslim graduate student at the University of Chicago and part-time community organizer, evoking for him “just how deeply embedded Islam is within the Black community.” But the moment also encapsulated the complicated relationship that the Black Muslim community has with non-Black Muslims. Lewis says that while many non-Black Muslims would likely embrace Blake Sr.’s decision to recite the Qur’an, many would also continue to perpetuate anti-Blackness in their own lives and communitieseverything from non-Black Muslims not returning greetings, to assuming ignorance about Islam, to not considering Black Muslims worthy of marrying their non-Black children.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is forcing the Muslim community to reckon with its own anti-Blackness and scrutinize its already tense relationship with law enforcement. The police shooting of Blake, as well as the murder of George Floyd—whom Minneapolis police killed after staff at a non-Black Muslim owned store called 911 over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill—has sparked introspection within the non-Black Muslim community about how they may contribute to overpolicing despite also being profiled by law enforcement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME MAGAZINE

Michigan’s Muslims are thinking globally, but running and voting locally

By SARAH PARVINISTAFF WRITER SEP. 8, 2020 DEARBORN, Mich.  —  

The five young Muslim Americans huddled around a table inside the Yemeni coffee shop, pouring adeni chai into curved red and gold glasses. Voice by voice the discussion turned to why they must make their presence felt on Nov. 3, and the need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on issues like immigration, racial justice and foreign policy.

“For a long time, Muslims have felt a lot of bigotry and racism, and just feeling like our contributions in society weren’t looked at or held like other communities’,” Adam Abusalah, 19, told the group from behind his mask.

That era is ending, Abusalah went on, because young Muslims like him are putting traditional career aspirations on hold in favor of getting politically active.

“Trump’s election, that was just the icing on the cake,” he told the gathering, whose members are of Lebanese, Palestinian, Iranian, Yemeni and Iraqi ancestry. “Muslims said, we’re not going to only be doctors and engineers, but journalists and policymakers.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES

To beat Trump, the ‘good Muslim, bad Muslim’ messaging has to end

(RNS) — I spoke this week at the 2020 Democratic National Convention’s Interfaith Council meeting. As refreshing as it was to hear voices encouraging change from the last four years, it felt like some things were still being missed.

Although Muslims were present at the DNC, it definitely seemed like we were being kept on the sidelines.

Anti-Muslim sentiment is unsurprisingly commonplace among Republican politicians in the United States. Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promises of a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims were not a starting point, but just one of many Islamophobic public statements made by a Republican candidate for president that year. 

These days, it would be hard to find a Republican politician who hasn’t said something xenophobic about Muslims, and although the acknowledgment is not where it could be, there is still some acknowledgment of Republican Islamophobia nonetheless.

Yet, for some reason, the role Democrats play in deepening Islamophobia is hardly ever acknowledged or discussed. 

This week, Joe Biden tweeted a note of thanks to Ady Barkan, an Israeli American lawyer and progressive activist who spoke on the main stage of the DNC’s second night of programs: “Thank you, @AdyBarkan for your courage and for all that you do to ensure a more just, more equal America. #DemConvention.”

The day after, Barkan demonstrated this ethic in a tweet that supported Linda Sarsour in response to the Biden campaign’s disavowal of her.


RELATED: Joe Biden’s acceptance speech caps off an unusually faith-filled Democratic National Convention


Sarsour is a Palestinian Muslim woman well-known for her social justice work on behalf of marginalized communities of all backgrounds. She spoke at the DNC as well and, to no one’s surprise, her presence was immediately controversial.

She’s Palestinian.

She’s Muslim.

She speaks out against anti-Blackness, mistreatment of women and so much more.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Muslims in America experience over-policing too

While the nation engages in a long overdue discussion about policing and minorities, catalyzed by yet another innocent Black person ­­— George Floyd — killed by law enforcement, we need to remember another group that has suffered overly zealous policing: Muslims.

Many of the worst dynamics at play now, including the militarization of police, were heightened in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and have made blameless Muslims prime suspects. While we engage in critical changes to the policing of Black Americans, we must work to ensure that Muslim Americans also benefit.Ads by TeadsADVERTISING

The use of law enforcement to subjugate, marginalize and persecute Black Americans is centuries old. In the 20th century, this occasionally intersected with Islamophobia, as when J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation surveilled the Nation of Islam in concert with local police departments. But antagonistic policing of Muslims — Black and non-Black alike — has broadened significantly with the war on terror, which redoubled the militarization of police departments.

The rearmament of the police through federal programs such as the 1033 Program, which has allowed police departments to receive military hardware, emerged initially in the 1990s from the war on drugs. After 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security prominently expanded this program by offering grants to state and local law enforcement agencies, distributing equipment worth $7.4 billion among 8,000 agencies.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE COURANT

July 4th Needs To Include Muslim Identities

With July 4th, Americans all around the country can feel a sense of celebration; however, when you are Muslim and American, there are fewer options to couch both the religious and cultural identity together. For Reem Sayes, her solution has been to create Days of Eid.  She wanted to create a company where the products represent a celebration of who Muslims are regardless of the occasion. Fortunately, Days of Eid has the primary goal “to help embolden the Muslim identity of our children and help them embrace their uniqueness,” Reem explains.  

Using a business model that is direct-to-consumer through their website, Reem designs and creates home and holiday decor products in-house that celebrate and reflect Islamic traditions. 

“We believe that your home should tell your story, who you are, what you love, what your beliefs and values consist of. When people walk in your home they should get a sense of those things. And for me and many other American Muslims that was hard to do and that compelled us to start Days of Eid,” Reem adds. 

When thinking about her childhood, Reem recalls how it was often a struggle to find herself in a sea of negativity and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. She wanted to fill the void of mothers and their children questioning their religious identities and wanted to find a solution as she understood the issues of feeling pride in one’s identity. For quite some time, Reem thought about her own children’s struggle with who they are; consequently, she made it her mission to highlight Muslim Americans through Days of Eid.  

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORBES

Can Muslim college students heal divisions in the US?

Amid rising Islamophobia, Muslim students show greater tendencies towards interfaith goodwill, a recent survey suggests.

by Saba Aziz

Musbah Shaheen left war-torn Syria in 2013 to attend college in the United States.

As the then-19-year-old from Homs settled into student life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, he was often asked about the conflict and life in Syria.

More:

The conversations in hallways, classrooms and cafeteria with professors and fellow classmates also turned into more personal questions about his faith, he said.

“The biggest challenge for me in college was navigating the assumptions that people made about my religion,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera.

Some were surprised that he did not have a beard, others that his sister did not wear a veil or that he ate meat. He felt like an outsider – misunderstood and stereotyped.

US college pluralism story

Musbah Shaheen is currently doing a PhD at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio [Photo courtesy: Musbah Shaheen] 

“I don’t want anyone to feel this way, so I engaged in interfaith dialogue as a student leader, and that shaped my entire work life after college,” the now-26-year-old said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

American Muslims face a lonely Ramadan during lockdown

Families prepare for online prayers and virtual gatherings in a month of fasting typically marked by human connection

Marwa Mohammed attended evening prayer after breaking the fast during Ramadan at Club ICM. Iftar potluck dinner during Ramadan at Club ICM in Fridley on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. There are initiatives taken by different Muslim organizations to ensure minimum wastage of food and minimal trash waste during Ramadan and Iftar get togethers.
 Marwa Mohammed attends evening prayer after breaking the fast during Ramadan last May in Fridley, Minnesota. Photograph: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Shaista Shiraz, 34, doesn’t have many friends in Westchester county, north of Manhattan. She left her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, five years ago after her divorce to settle in New York, the only other place she had family.

Between settling in a new city and raising her two children, Shiraz didn’t have many friends. During Ramadan, the lack of companionship always hit the hardest. This year will be even more difficult for her.

With Ramadan starting on 23 April, Muslims around the world will refrain from food and drink every day from sunrise to sunset during the holiest month in Islam. But this year, Covid-19 will rob millions of Muslims across the US from congregating for prayers, iftar and other Ramadan customs.

Mosques don’t just host daily free iftar (the meal eaten after sunset). They host fundraisers, mixers and lectures, all an integral part of the celebration. Following most iftars, Muslims go to the mosque for a communal prayer that can only be done during Ramadan, tarawih.

This year, Muslims will have to go the virtual route.

‘It is a test from God and we have a lot of lessons to learn’

The Islamic Center of Central Missouri hosts upwards of 1,000 people at its weekly Friday service. Now, only 20 to 40 people are logging in to online events. Mosque leaders hope the turnout will increase as Ramadan starts

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Muslim candidate responds to hateful message with kindness

Stafford, Virginia — When you’re Muslim and running for U.S. Congress, as Qasim Rashid is in Virginia’s first, you expect vitriol.

“Just some of the most grotesque things that you could ever say to anybody,” Qasim said.

Here’s one example: “We do not need you(r) ilk in our nation.  Let alone in any seat of office above street sweeper.”

“I didn’t believe there was a place for them in our government,” said Oz Dillon, who was hoping to rile a response with his comment — and boy, did he get one.

“I stared at the screen just reading it over and over and over,” Oz said. “He reached across that gap and took my hand.” Qasim Rashid et al. posing for the camera: oz-and-qasim-front-lawn-2.jpg © CBS News 

When Qasim looked at Oz’s old Facebook posts, he found lots of offensive comments — but he also learned he had crushing medical debt, to the point where he even set up a GoFundMe account.  And that’s when Qasim knew how he had to respond.

He posted this note to his 400,000 followers: “My faith teaches me to serve all humanity. So I’ve donated $55 to his GoFundMe. Please donate if you can.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MSN NEWS

What U.S. Religious Liberty Means — Especially When It Comes To Islam

RTX3Z4ML-e1572281662504NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Asma Uddin about the state of religious liberty in the United States. Uddin is author of When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

 

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Trump administration has made religious liberty a central theme of this presidency. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now has a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The president has championed judges who have ruled in favor of people seeking religious exemptions to laws. And just last month, the White House strengthened protections for kids who want to pray at school. Asma Uddin is part – Asma Uddin is part of the Inclusive America Project at the Aspen Institute. She is also the author of a book on religious liberty called “When Islam Is Not A Religion.” She told me that President Trump’s focus marks a change from previous administrations.

ASMA UDDIN: There has been just a more pronounced public affirmation of the positive role of religion in American society, the need to protect it. Often, we hear from various government officials – whether it be Mike Pompeo or President Trump or U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr or even Jeff Sessions when he announced a religious liberty task force of the Department of Justice – is this constant refrain about religion is under threat by secularization, threatening forces on the left. So the protection of religion and the protection of our religious freedom – that has become a constant refrain.

CORNISH: What communities have benefited from the administration’s attention to the issue? Are there religious communities that have, essentially, been left out?

UDDIN: Yeah. So, you know, then-candidate Ted Cruz said that it was – he called it the religious liberty election, and he said that it was ultimately about, like, the person who would be able to defend religious liberty the best. And President Trump and Ben Carson and Rick Santorum all got on that bandwagon and said absolutely, this is about religious liberty, and we’re going to protect religious liberty if we’re elected president. But at the same time as they were making these statements, they were also competing with each other to determine who could be the most discriminatory against Muslims, whether it be President Trump’s suggestions about creating a Muslim registry or about banning Muslims from the U.S. – which, as we know, he has moved forward with that as well – or it be Ted Cruz’s suggestion that we surveil Muslim neighborhoods in the aftermath – he brought that up in the aftermath of a terrorist incident – or Rick Santorum saying that Islam absolutely was different from Christianity. He said that it’s not as protected under the First Amendment as Christianity is. And so there was, like, this obvious hypocrisy.

FULL ARTICLE (AND AUDIO CLIP) FROM NPR

How to survive Christmas as a Muslim

L5N5LEVFKQPB7GE4L55NNWOEAII grew up trying to avoid the American Christmas celebrations all around me.

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t allowed in my house. My family is Muslim, the kind that thought saying “Merry Christmas” meant accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. So when we got together as a family during those precious days off from school and work, finding things to do that didn’t involve that fat burglar with the beard was the mission.

My parents had both immigrated from Egypt in the 1970s, where, I should note, Christmas is very much a thing, except Egyptians celebrate it on Jan. 7, as Eastern Orthodox Christians do, with the big trees and everything. But in raising their American kids, they were deathly afraid that they would fail to pass down their own Muslim traditions. They went all out. They enrolled us in an Islamic school where we had days off for the Islamic holidays, too. They enrolled me in Islamic karate classes. And when Christmas time rolled around, they taught me to make the most of my days off by doing absolutely anything except celebrate the reason for them.

It turned into a kind of game. When we watched TV, we’d strategically change channels to avoid Christmas commercials. When we strung lights in the house, back when Ramadan and Eid were around Christmastime, we avoided the green and red combo. When Christmas carolers would show up to our front door … just kidding, there were never carolers in my tough Newark, N.J., neighborhood. But had there been, we’d have shut off the lights and pretended no one was home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DALLAS NEWS