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.

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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

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

Anti-Muslim bigotry fueled by Trump has a ripple effect that hurts all Americans

Reflecting on the damage done to our country during the Trump presidency, the worst of them was the division he caused through his hateful rhetoric against minorities, including his extensive anti-Muslim diatribes.

– In 2011 and 2012, Donald Trump suggested that President Obama was secretly Muslim. It wasn’t true, but what if he were? Was this an insult?

– At a rally in 2015, Trump nodded along when a supporter told him, “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. When can we get rid of them?” Trump replied, “We need this question — we’re going to be looking at a lot of things”

– In 2015, Trump falsely claimed that thousands of Muslims cheered the 9/11 attacks.

– In 2015, Trump makes his infamous call to ban all Muslims from the United States. A few days later, he tweeted the United Kingdom was “trying to disguise their massive Muslim problem”

In 2016, Trump claims, “Islam hates us.”

After taking office, he appointed many Islamophobes to his team and inspired many others to come out and show their bigotry openly. One of them did so here in South Florida, declaring herself a “proud Islamophobe” and, sadly, was nominated by local Republicans to represent a South Florida district in Congress. She lost, but, tellingly, more than 150,000 people voted for this “proud Islamophobe”.

Taking inspiration from Trump’s hateful rhetoric, a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 51 people at two mosques last year. The killer cited Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity.” Sadly, the White House failed to describe these attacks as the acts of terror that they were.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MIAMI HERALD

‘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)

Muslim voters want more than ‘just a seat’ at the table from President-elect Joe Biden

By SARAH PARVINISTAFF WRITER NOV. 8, 20205 AM

In the lead-up to the midterm election two years ago, Sara Deen noticed that many fellow Muslims in her South Bay community weren’t voters. Some didn’t understand the process. More lacked faith that their voice would matter, or had trouble navigating a ballot.

She decided to prepare a voter guide and hand it out to friends and members of her mosque during Friday prayers. This year, she’s seen an increase in engagement from Muslim voters — friends and acquaintances alike. They‘ve asked for her help explaining state propositions, pored over her recommendations and debated their merits over WhatsApp and Zoom.

“I love it, and it means people are coming into their voice in my community,” said Deen, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident. “But what’s been disappointing is how often it feels like other politicians want to co-opt our voice, but are not super interested in what we have to say.”

In an election year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, calls for social justice and economic uncertainty, a record number of Muslims have mailed in their ballots and headed to the polls, continuing a surge in voter registration and political engagement seen after President Trump took office in 2016, according to Emgage, a national get-out-the-vote group that focuses on Muslims. Emgage Action, an arm of Emgage, endorsed and supported President-elect Joe Biden.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES

Poll reveals record Muslim vote in US election

LONDON: More than one million American Muslims participated in the 2020 US election, with nearly 70 percent voting for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, an exit poll has showed.

The poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said US Muslim voters turned out in “record-breaking numbers” in Tuesday’s election.

It said of 844 registered Muslim voter households, 84 percent reported that they voted in the election. “CAIR would like to thank the more than one million American Muslim voters who turned out in record-breaking numbers this election cycle,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

The poll said 69 percent of their registered Muslim voters voted for Biden and 17 percent for President Donald Trump.

It noted that Trump received 4 percent more support of the Muslim vote, compared to the 2016 election, in which then he received a 13 percent.

CAIR said the poll was conducted using an independent automated call survey provider and asked two questions to the registered voters: Did you vote in the Presidential election? and Which presidential candidate did you vote for?

Muslim voters were expected to play an important role in the election, particularly with the large Arab Muslim population in Michigan, a key battleground state.

Arab News reported this week this week how Arab Americans in particular have consistently had some of the highest turnouts at polls among ethnic communities.

An Arab American Institute (AAI) survey before the election revealed that 59 percent of Arab Americans supported Biden while 35 percent backed Trump.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS