NBC’s ‘Transplant’ Makes Audiences Reevaluate Muslims in Lead Roles

TRANSPLANT — “The Only Way Out Is Through” Episode 113 — Pictured: Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed — (Photo by: Yan Turcotte/Sphere Media/CTV/NBC)

hmad Meree didn’t feel represented onscreen, especially in North America. The Syrian actor and playwright is one of several changing the game with NBC and Sphere Media’s medical drama, “Transplant.” The series, which originally aired on Canada’s CTV, follows Syrian refugee Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq) who comes to Canada and becomes an emergency room doctor.

“Transplant,” the recent honoree at the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Media Awards, has been a labor of love for its cast, series showrunner Joseph Kay, and production company Sphere Media. For executive producer Tara Woodbury, the series held a personal connection for her; her brother-in-law is a refugee who’d relocated to a new country. “I shared with him [Kay] a bit of my brother-in-law’s story and, at the same time, Canada was going through the process of trying to figure out how to help 40,000 Syrian refugees in a short amount of time,” Woodbury told IndieWire.

RELATED

For both Woodbury and Meree, there was a desire to change the perceptions of how Muslims, specifically Muslim men, were portrayed. Each mentioned that the depictions they had seen before tended to emphasize Muslim men as terrorists or religious zealots. The discussion of prayer, and how Bashir looks at religion, was a particular discussion topic for Meree when he was brought onto the show as a cultural consultant.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INDIE WIRE

Blatant Racism Against Muslims is Still With Us

By Nadine Naber | March 3, 2021

Sarah Ijaz joins the “Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders” to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder – RTSXY60

Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden reversed former President’s Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, stating those actions are a stain on our national conscience.” This stance aligns with that of the tens of thousands of protesters who, at the time the first Muslim Travel Ban was enacted in January 2017, took to the streets and to airports across the country with slogans such as, “We are all Immigrants,” “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia,” and “Stop Hatred against Muslims.” To be sure, the Muslim Travel Ban is a racist policy. It seeks to keep out or deport people perceived to be Muslim based upon the racist assumption that “they” are violent potential terrorist enemies of the U.S. nation. The ban was an executive order that prevented individuals from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from many African countries, from entering the United States.

Yet ending the Muslim Ban only scratches the surface of a much larger problem. If progressives really want to end anti-Muslim racism, we are going to need a more radical approach, that requires, as Angela Davis reminds us, “grasping things at the root.” The root cause of the Muslim Ban is anti-Muslim racism, which has many roots. Europeans perceived Islam and Muslims as a barbaric threat ever since its arrival in the 7th century. White Christian supremacist thought perceived “Islam” as a threat when Black people found within it liberatory possibilities in the context of the transatlantic slave trade and far beyond.  Contemporary anti-Muslim racism grew especially out of the post-Cold War period when the U.S. began launching its imperialist wars in the Arab region and growing its unconditional support for Israeli settler-colonialism. Out of this context, anti-Muslim racism, based on the idea that all Palestinians and Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are potential terrorists, was institutionalized through domestic and global policies and the U.S. corporate media’s rhetoric. 

After the U.S. first confirmed its alliance with Israel in 1967,  U.S. government and media rhetoric portrayed Palestinians Arabs and Muslims as terrorist enemies.  At this time, the FBI began harassing and stifling the voices of Arab students and activists based upon this racist logic. In the 1980s, seven Palestinians and one Kenyan were placed into deportation proceedings for enacting free speech rights. Their case, referred to as the L.A. 8, revealed a secret plan to intern Arab Americans. The period of the first Iraq war brought President Bill  Clinton’s Omnibus Counterterrorism Bill, introduced by then-Sen. Joe Biden, granting the U.S. government the power to deport individuals based upon secret evidence. A form of racial profiling, the U.S. used this bill to target primarily Arab Muslim men. The post-9-11 era consolidated the racial profiling of people perceived to be Muslim in the U.S. through airport profilingsurveillance of Muslim communities, detention, deportations, special registration of immigrants, and much more. All along, the racist idea of the “Muslim terrorist enemy” has justified the war on terror abroad and legitimized the racial profiling of Muslims in the U.S. as an extension of this war. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO REPORTER

Muslims in America: A forgotten history

For more than 300 years, Muslims have influenced the story of the US – from the ‘founding fathers’ to blues music today.

By Sylviane A Diouf10 Feb 2021

In the summer of 1863, newspapers in North Carolina announced the death of “a venerable African”, referred to, in a paternalistic manner, as “Uncle Moreau”.

Omar ibn Said, a Muslim, was born in 1770 in Senegal and by the time of his death, he had been enslaved for 56 years. In 2021, Omar, an opera about his life, will premiere at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.KEEP READING‘Fascist storm troopers’: Racist police violence in 1940s AmericaKnow your history: Understanding racism in the USAnalysis: Toppling racist statues makes space for radical change

Muslims are usually thought of as 20th-century immigrants to the US, yet for well over three centuries, African Muslims like Omar were a familiar presence. They had grown up in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria where Islam was known since the 8th century and spread in the early 1000s.

Estimates vary, but they were at least 900,000 out of the 12.5 million Africans taken to the Americas. Among the 400,000 Africans who spent their lives enslaved in the United States, tens of thousands were Muslims.

Though they were a minority among the enslaved population, Muslims were acknowledged like no other community. Slaveholders, travellers, journalists, scholars, diplomats, writers, priests and missionaries wrote about them. Founder of Georgia James Oglethorpe, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State Henry Clay, author of the US national anthem Francis Scott Key, and portraitist of the Founding Fathers Charles W Peale were acquainted with some of them.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Legacy Of Travel Ban Will Be Hard For Biden To Erase

President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly end the Trump administration’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries. But immigrant advocates say the lasting effects of policy will be harder to undo.

NOEL KING, HOST:

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign a bunch of executive orders when he takes office tomorrow, including one rolling back the so-called travel ban on immigrants from majority-Muslim countries. But that policy’s legacy won’t be easy to erase. Here’s NPR’s Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: After fleeing civil war in Syria, Haitham Dalati and his wife made it to the U.S. in early 2017. They hoped their daughter and her family would soon follow. But when I talked to Haitham Dalati a year later, the rest of the family was still stuck in Lebanon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HAITHAM DALATI: This is so horrible for us. So I don’t know now whether America is good or bad.

ROSE: Dalati and his wife got into the U.S. during a brief window when the first version of President Trump’s travel ban was put on hold. In the months that followed, legal battles raged until the Supreme Court ultimately upheld a slimmed-down version of the ban. It wasn’t until November of last year, though, that Dalati’s daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren were finally allowed in as refugees.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

ROSE: The family hugged and wept at the airport gate in Pennsylvania. When we spoke again this month, Dalati said he sees America with new eyes.

DALATI: Much better than before when my daughter is with me with her children and husband. Really, it’s another America.

FULL TRANSCRIPT AND AUDIO INTERVIEW FROM NPR FOUND HERE

Supreme Court says Muslims placed on no-fly list can sue FBI agents for damages

  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of three Muslim men who said they were placed or kept on the government’s no-fly list in retaliation for refusing to serve as terrorism informants for the FBI.
  • The court wrote in a unanimous opinion that the men may sue individual FBI agents for money damages under a federal law protecting religious exercise.
  • Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “permits litigants, when appropriate, to obtain money damages against federal officials in their individual capacities.”

The SupremeCourt ruled Thursday in favor of three Muslim men who say they were placed or kept on the government’s no-fly list in retaliation for refusing to serve as terrorism informants for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The court wrote in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas that Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah and Naveed Shinwari may sue individual FBI agents for money damages under a federal law protecting religious exercise.

Thomas wrote in the brief opinion that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “permits litigants, when appropriate, to obtain money damages against federal officials in their individual capacities.” Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the newest member of the court, did not participate in the case.

The case was one of four decided on Thursday morning, among the first decisions in the current term, which will end over the summer. All of the cases were decided unanimously. The court did not take any action on two Republican challenges before it concerning the 2020 election, including Texas’ effort to overturn President Donald Trump’s loss in four battleground states.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNBC.COM

The Power of Storytelling: Creating a New Future for American Muslims

By Wajahat Ali

In 7th-century Arabia, the storyteller was valued more than the swordsman. The audience sat on the floor surrounding the gifted orator as he captivated the eager listeners with beautiful poetry narrating their history. In the 21st century, the art form may have evolved to include motion pictures, TV shows, theater productions, novels, and standup comedy, but they all serve the same function: storytelling.

Ideas and principles are most effectively communicated and transmitted when they are couched in a narrative. Stories, whether they concern the etiquette and biography of prophets or the trials and tribulations of America’s founding fathers, inform and influence a cultural citizenry of its values and identity.

Stories of the Prophet Muhammad most effectively communicate the Quran’s eloquent exhortation to tolerate and embrace diversity: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise [each other])” (49:13).  The Prophet’s cordial diplomacy and communication with the Christian, Abyssinian King yielded one of the first alliances of the young Muslim community. Furthermore, the Prophet displayed unconditional love for his diverse companions, who comprised the gamut of Arab society including former slaves, orphans, widows, wealthy dignitaries, and non-Arabs. 

Similarly, the story of a biracial man with an Arabic name and a Kenyan father elected to the highest office in the land reminds the world that indeed America can live up to its cherished principles of freedom and racial equality, and her citizens are capable of reflecting a magnanimous and egalitarian spirit bereft of prejudice.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

Muslim Women don’t need saving

Gendered Islamophobia in Europe

Upon declaring a Global War on Terror in 2001, the US administration claimed that the “fight against terrorism was also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”. In the years that followed, western political discourse regularly referred to the need to “free” apparently oppressed Muslim women from the shackles of their religion and way of life, reviving political and societal debates about head coverings, integration, gender equality, secularism, and neutrality.

Relying on Islamophobic stereotypes, and with no regard for the rights to freedom of expression or freedom of religion, laws and policies were introduced in a number of European countries, which banned the hijab and/ or niqab. In perhaps the most flagrent example of just how entrenched Islamophobia has become, European states, in effect, began legislating on Muslim women’s bodies, dictating which clothes they could or could not wear.

Download the full report here.

In the post 9/11 era, political discourse increasingly pointed towards an apparent incompatibility between what it is to be European and what it is to be Muslim; it seemed impossible to be both. Although anti-Muslim rhetoric has implications for all Muslims, much of the legislation rolled out and the policies implemented either specifically target, or disproportionately affect, Muslim women.

Much can be said about the increased policing of Muslims collectively and the systematic targeting of Islamic places of worship, but Muslim women, in particular, have borne the brunt of state led, racist laws and policies. Those who wear head coverings and Islamic attire are easily identifiable and have thus become easy targets. Following bans on Islamic dress, Muslim women have found themselves increasingly vulnerable and exposed to gendered Islamophobic attacks, while their rights to religious freedom, freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination have been sidelined or ignored. Attacks motivated predominantly by religion and gender have largely been normalised.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TNI.ORG

Supreme Court Says Muslim Men Can Sue FBI Agents In No-Fly List Case

FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo the sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court seemed concerned Tuesday, Dec. 1, about the impact of siding with food giants Nestle and Cargill and ending a lawsuit that claims they knowingly bought cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labor. The court was hearing arguments in the case by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, ruled Thursday that Muslims put on the no-fly list after refusing to act as informants can sue federal officials for money damages under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The case – Tanzin v Tanvir — involved three Muslim men who said their religious-freedom rights were violated when FBI agents tried to use the no-fly list to force them into becoming informants. None of the men was suspected of illegal activity themselves, and indeed, the Trump administration tried to head-off the suit by removing their names from the no-fly list just days before the case first went to court. It didn’t work. The men refused to drop their case, and on Thursday the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor.

“I feel extremely happy and content. All praise belongs to Allah. This is a great victory for every voiceless Muslim and non-Muslim against hate and oppression and … I hope that this is a warning to FBI and other agencies that they will be held responsible for … traumatizing people and ruining their lives,” said Naveed Shinwari, one of the three men involved in the case.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR NEWS

PHOTOS: North Side Muslims give back by feeding nearly 40 families affected by COVID-19

SAN ANTONIO – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several of our friends and neighbors.

And with the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Bexar County, local Muslims on the North Side, Stone Oak area hoped to assure residents they were there to help by hosting a food giveaway on Saturday.

According to Abdul Hakim Hamid, the Imam and Resident Scholar at the Northside Islamic Center of San Antonio (NICSA) the purpose was to ensure families during the holidays were taken care of.

“The purpose was to give back to the community and help out families during these difficult times particularly as Thanksgiving approaches,” Hakim said. “Due to the Pandemic, not only have many people lost their jobs and are having difficulty providing for their families but also due to social distancing, we expect that many families may not be able to gather together this year and we felt that by doing this, it may provide some level comfort and ease.”

Hakim noted the added stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the religious rites to support those in need encouraged this event.

“During this period of difficulty, we firmly believe that it is our responsibility to reach out and help out. Our faith teaches us to look out for one another and to always be of benefit,” he explained. “We have been taught through the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad that ‘the best people are those who are the most beneficial to others’ and this is what prompts and drives us to host events like this.”

NEWS 4 SAN ANTONIO (TEXAS)

‘We should be thankful to him’: why some Muslim voters stood by Trump

Despite the president’s anti-Muslim policies, the margin between Trump and Biden among Muslim voters was closer than experts predicted.

Dr Khalid Khan is an internal medicine physician in Houston, Texas. Even in the face of a pandemic that has cost almost a quarter of a million American lives, and an administration that often seemed to demonize Islam, the doctor and self-proclaimed devout Muslim cast his ballot for Donald Trump.

“When you eat a dish, you might not like every ingredient. But you like the whole dish. We should take the good and leave the bad,” Khan said, comparing the US president to a mediocre meal.

‘Corrosive to democracy’: what do Trump’s baseless claims really mean?

 Read more

Trump spent much of his presidency pushing anti-Muslim policies. Trump’s travel ban that targeted mainly Muslim countries in 2017 sparked outrage not just from American Muslims but from Senator Bernie Sanders; the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer; and the then US senator for California and now the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.

“Make no mistake – this is a Muslim ban. Broad-brush discrimination against refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, most of whom are women and children runs counter to our national security interests, and will likely be used as a terrorist recruitment tool,” Harris said at the time.

But despite Trump’s policies against the religious group, some Muslims like Khan, still voted for him. In fact, the margin between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden among Muslims was closer than experts predicted, revealing Muslim voters are not a monolithic bloc and can be courted by Republicans, even when apparently targeted by their policies.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)