For religious American Muslims, hostility from the right and disdain from the left

Contributor, PostEverything

July 25

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World” and the co-editor of “Rethinking Political Islam.”

End Of Ramadan Is Celebrated In Brooklyn With The Eid Al-Fitr FestivalIt is an odd time to be a Muslim in America, in part because it depends on which America you happen to live in. Here, too, there are two Americas.

On the one hand, this is a sort of golden age for American Muslims and their place in public life. Sometimes it seems like Muslims are everywhere, even though they’re not. They star in their own television shows; they headline the White House correspondents’ dinner ; they win Academy Awards; they become Snapchat sensations. Some of it is more subtle but striking nonetheless: If you live in a semi-hip urban setting, it’s not unusual to see a headscarf-wearing woman in an ad flanked by a rainbow coalition of other diverse Americans.

This can make it easy to forget the other reality that exists alongside the liberal pop-culture embrace of Muslims. The increase in anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of discrimination against Muslims is well documented. But even if you don’t experience it or see it, you know Islamophobia exists, because it is there on social media. It is also in our president’s rhetoric. It is inescapable.

Islam and Hip-Hop: Muslims in America

maxresdefaultThough it’s one of the most diverse religious groups in America, the U.S. Muslim population has been subject to narrow interpretation and unfavorable stereotypes. The misconceptions about the “dangers” of the religion became much more prevalent post-9/11, resulting in a surge of Islamophobia and faith-based discrimination in the nation.

“Anti-Muslim sentiment is just systematic of a deeply entrenched anti-blackness that the country is built off of,” Imam Khalid Latif, executive director of the Islamic Center at NYU, told Complex. “And if people have to understand anything, and they’re trying to understand how to break this down, they got to know where it’s coming from.”

In an effort to shed more light on American-Muslim culture, we’re presenting Islam and Hip-Hop: Muslims in America—the latest installment of our docuseries, Complex News Presents. Speedy Mormon sat down with several members of the religion to discuss everything from representation in the media to institutionalized discrimination to the common thread between Islam and hip-hop.

FULL STORY AND VIDEO FROM COMPLEX

At Muslim Sunday school, learning about Islam — and correcting misconceptions

muslim_sunday_school-2-mansoorOff a highway in central Connecticut is the mosque with a 400-student Muslim Sunday school.

More guards are on patrol these days. And for the older students in the transition class, talking about Islamophobia is not only welcomed, but encouraged. The teenagers are in their final years of high school and will be heading off to college soon.

So before they head out into the “real world,” they aren’t just learning the tenets of Islam, said Dr. Reza Mansoor, their teacher on a recent Sunday. He’s coaching them on how to defend their faith from misconceptions.

“By the way, As-Salaam-Alaikum,” Mansoor greeted them. “If you use an Arabic term and you don’t translate, dinged one point, OK? So As-Salaam-Alaikum means God’s peace be with you all.”

Mansoor is president of the mosque, called Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, and he is big on translating Islamic phrases and words. Take jihad, for instance. It means a struggle — usually a personal, spiritual one — but if you hear jihad in the media, he said, it’s almost always associated with extremists who commit violence in the name of Islam, like the 9/11 terrorists.

“If you use jihadist for terrorist, you unfortunately give the terrorists… a position much higher than what they are,” Mansoor told his students.

People tend to fear what they don’t know. And when Islam is viewed as a threat, that makes Muslims a target.

“Just imagine someone calling you a terrorist and telling you to go home,” Aissa Bensalem, 17, said during the class. “I had one of my friends say that they were scared to come to the masjid because they were afraid that they were going to be shot on.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CTMIRROR.ORG

9th Circuit revives Muslims’ lawsuit charging FBI with spying at mosques

la-1551386386-xctei62fw0-snap-imageA federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday to revive much of a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by Southern California Muslims against the FBI that claims they were subjected to surveillance because of their religion.

The decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will return the case to a district court for further review.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Southern California, alleges that for at least 14 months in 2006 and 2007, the FBI paid a confidential informant to spy on Muslims in Southern California’s mosques and elsewhere.

A federal judge dismissed the bulk of the lawsuit in 2012 after the government argued it could not defend itself without disclosing state secrets.

In a 103-page decision, the 9th Circuit said the district court should not have dismissed claims without more careful review and consideration of ways to continue the case without jeopardizing national security.

In other cases, that has included redacted documents, prepared summaries of the evidence and limited disclosure to lawyers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Arkansas High School Students Use Art to Learn Islamic Faith

191102170_WC-FHS-ISLAM-003_ORIG_t800BY DAVE PEROZEK, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A high school art project helped students gain a new perspective by connecting them with people of the Islamic faith.

 

Fayetteville High School students in Ashley Grisso’s advanced placement world history classes worked in groups of two or three. They interviewed Muslims in the community, then told their stories through art.

The students’ work was on display recently at the University of Arkansas‘ Kittrell Art Gallery. Each piece of the “Putting a Face on Islam” exhibit was accompanied by a one-page artist statement about the work. Students and their subjects gathered one evening for a reception at the gallery.

 

“It’s really great to be able to understand a person from a different culture, because you might see stuff on the news and read about stuff, but there’s like, a person right there,” Peter Herman, a Fayetteville High School junior, said to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Herman worked with classmates Robert Benafield and Grady Cape. They interviewed a man identified in the statement as only Amel. He was born and raised in the Comoro Islands, off the east coast of Africa. Amel is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the university.

 

The boys’ piece of art is a collage on paper, divided in halves. The left half, with a purple background, depicts some of the negativity Muslims feel from America. A quote from Amel — “I was so scared to show my religion to America” — is at the center of that half.

The other half, with a white background, was meant to showcase Amel’s jolly personality. It includes a picture of him with a broad smile standing on the university campus.

The high school students met their subjects during an event arranged by Cynthia Smith, assistant director of outreach programs in the university’s department of International Students and Scholars.

Religious freedom is for Muslims too

133623_w_700Religious freedom must be for everyone, or we all suffer.

Last week, a Muslim on death row requested the presence of an imam at his execution. The state of Alabama denied this request even though it had allowed it for executed inmates who requested a Christian pastor. We add our voice to the Christian leaders who have condemned this act.

Domineque Ray was executed Feb. 7 for murdering a teen girl after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his request for a religious accommodation. The court’s conservatives, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, who ostensibly were nominated partly due to their support for religious freedom, denied the request, while the court’s liberals, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in Oregon v. Smith against a member of the Native American Church who sought a religious accommodation regarding his use of peyote, a banned hallucinogenic, as part of a religious ritual. A law that is neutral with regard to religion — banned people of all religions, not just the Native American Church, from using peyote — didn’t violate the free exercise of religion, the Court reasoned at the time.

Both conservatives and liberals united in opposition to that court’s “neutrality principle” and passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They recognized that all of us were in danger of losing our religious freedom if the state could infringe upon our religious practice as long as its actions applied to all religious groups.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN POST 

Enslaved African Muslims Helped Build America

8cd605f0-814b-4ca7-92ba-d6f9fd9b5856_cx0_cy19_cw0_w1023_r1_sIn the year 1807, a wealthy scholar was captured in West Africa, brought to the United States and sold into slavery. His name was Omar Ibn Said. He was 37 years old at the time, and he spent the rest of his life enslaved.

Said was one of many enslaved Muslims in early U.S. history. Up to 40 percent of Africans captured and brought to the U.S. were from mostly Muslim countries in West Africa.

Said’s story might have been forgotten, but he wrote about it in a book called The Life of Omar Ibn Said. The U.S. Library of Congress recently received the book, which was written in Arabic.

The book is one of only a few personal stories written by a slave in America. It is also one of the first intimate reports of the early history of Muslims in the United States.

The book challenges the idea that the U.S. is a Christian nation, says Zaheer Ali. He is a historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society in New York. Ali adds: the book “opens us up to the understanding” that people who were not Christian helped build the United States.

What records did enslaved Muslims leave?

Most enslaved African Muslims did not leave written records. But we can learn about their lives from public evidence and the memories of their families.

How long Muslim slaves practiced their faith is unknown. Some became Christians. Others acted as if they did to better deal with their captors.

But there is evidence that some remained Muslim.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA