I’m a Muslim woman covering the diversity of Brooklyn. Sometimes all people see is my hijab.

By: Zainab IqbalJune 30, 2021  

Below is an excerpt from The Collective, Poynter’s newsletter by journalists of color for journalists of color and our allies. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox the last Wednesday of every month.

When I was covering a protest one day in Brooklyn, an elderly woman came up to me. She was shorter than me, her hair was silver, and she walked with a limp. I can’t remember if she held a cane. I was standing on the side of a crowd that had gathered, with a notepad in one hand, a camera around my shoulder and my press pass around my neck.

Old women at protests are usually sweet and warm. They ask me where I work, what I am covering, where I am from. Sometimes they tell me they like my hijab. And then they ramble on about how they went on their daily walk, saw the protest and just had to join. I always enjoy speaking with old women. So when she approached me, I smiled.

“Did Arabs murder any people today?” she asked. “Did your people burn any pregnant women?”

I was stunned. I couldn’t seem to comprehend what she asked. I stood there, and she stood there, too, staring at me, as if daring me to answer. I think I muttered a “no” until someone approached the woman and told her, “Let’s go walk over there.” She left, but I still stood there.

Later, I would wonder why I hadn’t answered her. I would wonder why I didn’t tell her, “Ma’am, you are racist.” I would wonder why I didn’t educate her. I would wonder why — as a person who encourages others to share with me their truth, as a person who is obsessed with words for a living — no words came out of my own mouth at a time when they should have most.

For the past three and a half years, I have covered everything Brooklyn. From crime, to the opening of a small business, to the pandemic, to lost dogs who later found each other, to politics, to death. Brooklyn is huge and it’s diverse. I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Muslims on one side, Orthodox Jews on the other. Right across from my building is a Roman Catholic church. Brooklyn is the only place I have ever truly known, which is why by default it’s a place that I write about. I try to write stories I never grew up reading, about communities not usually covered by the media. If we don’t share the stories of people in the communities that we belong to, how can we trust anybody else to?

People often write to me online. Sometimes they send an email. They DM me. They comment under my article on Facebook. “Anti-Semite.” “Terrorist.” This is nothing new, and thousands of Muslims experience the same thing. Other Muslim women journalists experience this, too.

FULL ARTICLE FROM POYNTER.ORG

Drawing from two worlds, immigrant dads share their experiences for Father’s Day

or immigrant men, fathering is drawn from two worlds – a mix of their upbringings in their home countries and lives in the United States.

Sharing lessons from their own lives are ways fathers connect with their children. For immigrant dads, that can mean sharing their journey to the U.S. and their earlier experiences back home.

About 1 in 14 Pennsylvania residents was an immigrant as of August, according to American Immigration Council.  And 8.98% of Bucks County residents were born outside the U.S. as of 2018, according to Data USA. 

Immigrant fathers juggle assimilating into American culture while passing along the traditions and values of their home countries to their children.

We spoke to three Bucks County dads about what it means to be an immigrant father in 2021, and to their children about what their dads mean to them.

Passing along ‘nuggets’ of culture

Perkasie resident Fabio Sciarrino was 8 years old when he emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1986. Coming from a lower middle-class background in Sicily, his parents moved for better opportunities for education and employment.

Fabio Sciarrino and his children (from left) Lorenzo, 4, Cristian, 11, Giuliana, 7, and Matteo, 4, in their Perkasie home on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

“The understanding was, we’re all coming here collectively and individually to find better opportunities for ourselves,” Sciarrino said.

His family moved to Montgomery County, where Sciarrino attended school and faced prejudice. His principal at the time suggested he learn English separately from other students because “she was afraid that I would be a negative influence” if students heard his accent.

Sciarrino went on to be the first in his family to graduate from college and become an attorney – a job he didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to do as his parents and siblings worked in blue collar jobs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE COURIER TIMES (BUCKS COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA)

American Airlines CEO Fasts For Ramadan To Honor Muslim Employees

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says he joined in a Ramadan fast in an effort to empathize with the carrier’s Muslim employees.

“The core of fasting is empathy,” Parker wrote Friday, in a LinkedIn post, quoting from an invitation he received from a Muslim employee group.

“Fasting helps us feel others’ pain, suffering, loneliness, poverty and hunger,” the invitation said. “In a way, it connects us as humans. Refrain from eating and drinking to experience what it’s like for Muslims to fast, and also to step into the shoes of impoverished people.”

The post is the latest in a series of actions by major airlines to show support for popular causes including voting rights, LGBTQ rights and carbon neutrality. By Tuesday, Parker’s post on LinkedIn had attracted 13,353 reactions and 536 comments.

Most were positive, and thanked Parker for showing respect. One, from Egypt said, “I find it awesome that you managed to fast all these long hours when you did not have to.”

However, a subset of comments decried a supposed lack of similar attention to Christian employees. One from Fort Worth said “I wish you had the same recognition and praise for Christian believers in the company. Christians fast regularly for the same reasons. I’ve never seen any special mention or recognition along that line.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORBES

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