A long-time family friend of mine started a video production company a while back called Zujaja Creative. It’s really, really well-made stuff with a surprisingly diverse group of Muslims in all their videos. Check out a teaser from their DUNYA series on fashion, art, and relationships above, and watch the full-length videos they’ve released so far here.

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my-precious-heart said: Selam, I stumbled upon your entry about Muslim events and am confused. You can kindly ignore me if you like, I was just wondering (probably bc of my lack of English vocabulary) what exactly made you so mad about it?

Wa alaikum assalam. I was simply saying that the way we approach many issues comes with this baggage of assumptions. When we discuss hijab, for example, some people talk about it as an obligation for a woman to cover by framing it in terms of covering for men, so as not to tempt them, etc. The reality is that Islam does not specifically teach this reasoning; women who choose to cover do it for a diverse range of reasons: to protest a society that aims to objectify them, to ensure that they will be viewed positively by others because of their character rather than their looks, to represent their idea of a pious Muslim woman, or simply because they think God commands them to. When we talk about women’s issues with assumptions about why Islam teaches certain things, especially by talking about women’s issues in terms of men, we do ourselves a disservice by abandoning critical thinking, and we essentialize the image of a “good” Muslim woman.

(The flip side of this is that by obsessing over the specifics of women’s dress, people often forget Islam’s emphasis on modesty for both genders. There is a reason people obsess over women’s supposed “shortcomings” and gloss over men’s).

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I make an effort to avoid Muslim events on campus that rely on sensationalized/exotifying/otherizing narratives to draw a crowd, but I’m in this stupid scholars program at my university that requires me to attend a certain number of events per semester and the MSA had one that counted for credit …called “Behind the Veil” (ugh) so I attended.

And it was everything you’d expect it to be. Patriarchal ideas about saving yourself for your husband, framing the discussion in terms of the male gaze rather than a woman’s choice for herself, completely ignoring Muslim men’s parallel religious obligations for modesty, etc. And I should be used to it by now — it’s like this stupid cycle where you become dismayed with the state of mainstream discourse in your community, and then you start distancing yourself from said community so you really don’t have anyone to blame but yourself, and then you give them another chance because you’ve been interacting with really cool individuals that get your hopes up, and then you’re brought back to the ugly reality by the state of things. (Repeat for a million different “”“controversial”“” issues). If our own ideas as a religious community about why we do certain things are so skewed/distorted, how the hell do we expect others to be able to understand them?

"Plainly, air travel safety is not what any of this is about. It is about inventing ways to punish US Muslims and deprive them of the most basic rights without so much as providing any notice, let alone any due process that would enable the secret, unknown accusations to be discovered and rebutted. And it is a very common weapon."

US Air Force veteran, finally allowed to fly into US, is now banned from flying back home

Some of you probably remember this story from November. Saadiq Long, an American citizen, had been living with his wife and two children for several years in Qatar teaching English. Despite never having been charged with a crime, Long was barred from reentering his own country when attempting to visit his seriously ill mother. After a several-month-long battle, he was removed from the no-fly list without explanation. 

His lawyers informed the FBI of when Long planned to fly back to Qatar to ensure there would be no problems, but sure enough, he was still denied a boarding pass on the day of his departure. The airline and the FBI are refusing to comment, once again leaving him with no way to know why he is on the list or how he can work towards getting back to Qatar, his job, and his family. Full story over here.

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Click to Donate: 'Talk Back To Hate' Campaign Targets Anti-Muslim Subway Ads

Akiva Freidlin has launched a project, currently raising funds on indiegogo, to buy subway ad space that will counter those of Pamela Geller. […]

Freidlin, like many other New Yorkers, wasn’t too keen on Geller’s latest ad, which features a photo of the World Trade Center exploding in flames next to a quote from the Quran that reads, “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.”

He writes on his indiegogo page:

These ads attack our most basic communal values: they try to exploit the city’s grief and anger over 9/11, and they demonize and intimidate members of a particular religious group. That’s not how we roll. Everyone has a right to feel at home in this city, and that includes our Muslim neighbors.

Freidlin, who describes himself as a “thirty-year-old white guy who lives in Manhattan,” says he’s the “grandchild of Holocaust survivors who came to the United States looking for freedom, tolerance, and prosperity—and found it in New York.”

The “Talk Back To Hate" campaign hopes to raise $7,500 to design and buy 10 subway ads. Contributors are invited to submit ideas for the ads, and will be able to vote on the message. As of this writing, "Talk Back To Hate" has raised $2,480. (Update: it’s now over $6,000). Want to donate? Go here.

This is important. Last month, Sunando Sen was pushed in front of a subway train to his death by a woman who admitted to having attacked him because she thought he was Muslim. Pamela Geller’s ads went up that same week.

Study: US media helped anti-Muslim bodies gain influence, distort Islam

A study published by a sociologist has revealed that fear-mongering non-governmental anti-Muslim organisations have been heavily influencing US media since 9/11, their messages seeping into news articles and television reporting and drawing their ethos from the fringes, straight into the mainstream. What’s perhaps most troubling about the results is how these minor groups, which would ordinarily receive little or no air time, have gained an element of respect that has led to them receiving more funding and coupling with influential bodies. Their influence is such that they have even been able to paint mainstream Muslim organisations as radical, says the study.

"The vast majority of organisations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream," the paper’s author, University of North Carolina assistant professor of sociology Christopher Bail, told Wired.co.uk.

"Anti-Muslim fringe organisations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger. Institutional amplification of this emotional energy, I argue, created a gravitational pull or ‘fringe effect’ that realigned inter-organisational networks and altered the contours of mainstream discourse itself." […]

"We learned the American media almost completely ignored public condemnations of terrorist events by prominent Muslim organisations in the United States," Bail told Wired.co.uk. "Inattention to these condemnations, combined with the emotional warnings of anti-fringe organisations, has created a very distorted representation of the community of advocacy organisations, think tanks, and religious groups competing to shape the representation of Islam in the American public sphere."

There’s a good amount of other interesting information in the article; read the rest here. Bail’s study adds to a long line of research on the subject coming out of the University of North Carolina. For more on Islamophobia and its effects on homeland security and the perception of American Muslims post-9/11, see the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

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On Ex-Muslims

There are so many obsessively redundant stories about Muslims and Islam. They are too familiar: stories about the veil, Jihad, the status of women, minorities and apostasy. Western reporters love to search and find a Muslim in the West who tells a story of persecution by Muslims. These stories are sexiest when the person elaborates on his new freedoms in the West and how he/she was not able to breathe until their arrival in the West. […] 

The Economist is sometimes reasonable, but other times indistinguishable in its resort to lazy clichés about Muslims. The new issue of the Economist has a long article about “Atheists and Islam.” In the article, all the familiar clichés are squeezed in to draw a most dramatic picture that is worthy of movies about medieval Europe. It operates under the classical premise: that one story about one Muslim suffices to tell the story about all Muslims. And in singling out a story or two about Muslims in the West, the writers don’t know that they often fall victim to deception.

It talks about how only in Turkey and Lebanon atheists can live safely, but only quietly. Where do they get this information from? This doesn’t seem to be from someone who know people in the region. I, for one, became an atheist in my teens. My friends and comrades in Lebanon (Lebanese and Palestinians) were also vocal atheists, and none of us faced persecution or even harassment for our views. There is no evidence for any such persecution. […]

The Economist says that eight states in the region have apostasy punishment on the books, but does not say that no one can find one case of implementation of the law in this case, even if you go back decades in time. There is a clear concoction of a dramatic alarmist sensationalism that does not conform to the facts. (continued)

As’ad AbuKhalil calling The Economist out on its bullshit. It’s a quick read and nothing all that well-written, but nice to see nonetheless. Western media gets away with this shit far too often, and it just doesn’t hold up to the slightest questioning of logic. 

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Another informant confesses that the NYPD paid him to bait Muslims

NEW YORK — A paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit was under orders to “bait” Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.

Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bengali descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.

"We need you to pretend to be one of them," Rahman recalled the police telling him. "It’s street theater." […]

Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.

He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. He said wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.

"I was trying to get money," Rahman said. "I was playing the game."

Every time another one of these stories comes out, it creeps me the fuck out. The article outlines some of the tactics regularly used by informants, most of which have already been seen before in other cases. Here, the NYPD sent three informants to ISNA in 2008 (a yearly Islamic conference widely attend by Muslims), kept watch on the Muslim American Society, and regularly attended Muslim Student Association meetings. At one event, the informant took pictures of a sign-up sheet for a class at a mosque and sent people’s cell phone numbers to the NYPD.

All it takes is for you to maintain any sort of contact with Muslim groups at your university, and there’s a good chance you’re under surveillance.

Right-Wingers Would Be Shocked to Learn That Islam Has Been Part of American History Since Its Founding

It would undoubtedly shock Geller and her Islamophobic buddies to know that Muslims have been in America for so long they could almost have formed a welcoming committee to the Daughters of the Revolution.

Consider this: Anthony “The Turk” Janszoon van Salee , son of the president of the Republic of Salé in Morocco, was among the earliest and richest settlers of Manhattan island, a devout Muslim, and the ancestor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Whitneys, Humphrey Bogart, and, according to family lore, Jacqueline Bouvier. That’s right: the Lady of Camelot apparently had a mixed-race Muslim as an ancestor! One of van Salee’s first properties was a farm in lower Manhattan acquired in 1638 located on the north side of the stockade along present-day Wall Street, just blocks from the Park Place Islamic center characterized by Geller as a foreign presence on sacred American soil. A defender of minorities, van Salee became the first settler of Brooklyn. Coney Island, which abutted his property, was known as “Turk’s Island” until the 19th century.

Some really interesting pieces of history I wasn’t aware of… Full article at the link above

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Eight examples of the ‘uncivilized savages’ Pamela Geller is talking about

A virulently Islamophobic advertisement campaign referring to Muslims as “savage” went live this week in ten New York City subway stations. The advertisements, created and funded by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

These are the ‘uncivilized savages’ Geller is talking about.

The eight people profiled: A teen whose project was among two chosen to be carried out live by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, Egyptians who acted as human shields for Coptic Christians to protect them throughout the country during Christmas, A Pakistani student researcher and NYPD cadet who perished as a first responder on 9/11, three 14-year-old Palestinian refugees who are inventing for the blind, an anti-violence and street crime activist who has braved countless near-death experiences in disadvantaged neighborhoods, The Einstein of structural engineering whose innovations have driven the designs of most skyscrapers since the 1960s, a cabdriver and his daughter who are battling xenophobia to build strong communities and promote equal rights for Muslims in America, and an international music icon from Malaysia. 

This is brilliantRead their stories here.

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It is understandable that the senseless killing of an ambassador is bigger news than the senseless killing of an unknown, obscure Yemeni or Pakistani child. But it’s anything but understandable to regard the former as more tragic than the latter. Yet there’s no denying that the same people today most vocally condemning the Benghazi killings are quick and eager to find justification when the killing of innocents is done by their government, rather than aimed at it.

It’s as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans. The way in which that latter phrase is so often invoked, with such intensity, emotion and scorn, reveals that it is viewed as the supreme crime: this is not just the tragic deaths of individuals, but a blow against the Empire; it therefore sparks particular offense. It is redolent of those in conquered lands being told they will be severely punished because they have raised their hand against a citizen of Rome.

Just compare the way in which the deaths of Americans on 9/11, even more than a decade later, are commemorated with borderline religious solemnity, as opposed to the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of foreign Muslims caused by the US, which are barely ever acknowledged. There is a clear hierarchy of human life being constantly reinforced by this mentality, and it is deeply consequential.


Glenn Greenwald speaks the truth

"American Muslims bear no collective guilt or blame for the crime of 9/11. We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of, including our loyalty and hard-earned livelihoods. We are not guest citizens, we are not second-rate citizens; we reject marginalization and require no validation. We are equal citizens living and worshipping in our country."

Ahmed Rehab in 2010 (via)

(Incomplete) List of Muslim victims of 9/11

1. Samad Afridi
2. Ashraf Ahmad
3. Shabbir Ahmad (45 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and 3 children)
4. Umar Ahmad
5. Azam Ahsan
6. Ahmed Ali
7. Tariq Amanullah (40 years old; Fiduciary Trust Co.; ICNA website team member; leaves wife and 2 children)
8. Touri Bolourchi (69 years old; United Airlines #175; a retired nurse from Tehran)
9. Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury
10. Abdul K. Chowdhury (30 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
11. Mohammad S. Chowdhury (39 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and child born 2 days after the attack)
12. Jamal Legesse Desantis
13. Ramzi Attallah Douani (35 years old; Marsh & McLennan)
14. SaleemUllah Farooqi
15. Syed Fatha (54 years old; Pitney Bowes)
16. Osman Gani
17. Mohammad Hamdani (50 years old)
18. Salman Hamdani (NYPD Cadet)
19. Aisha Harris (21 years old; General Telecom)
20. Shakila Hoque (Marsh & McLennan)
21. Nabid Hossain
22. Shahzad Hussain
23. Talat Hussain
24. Mohammad Shah Jahan (Marsh & McLennan)
25. Yasmeen Jamal
26. Mohammed Jawarta (MAS security)
27. Arslan Khan Khakwani
28. Asim Khan
29. Ataullah Khan
30. Ayub Khan
31. Qasim Ali Khan
32. Sarah Khan (32 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
33. Taimour Khan (29 years old; Karr Futures)
34. Yasmeen Khan
35. Zahida Khan
36. Badruddin Lakhani
37. Omar Malick
38. Nurul Hoque Miah (36 years old)
39. Mubarak Mohammad (23 years old)
40. Boyie Mohammed (Carr Futures)
41. Raza Mujtaba
42. Omar Namoos
43. Mujeb Qazi
44. Tarranum Rahim
45. Ehtesham U. Raja (28 years old)
46. Ameenia Rasool (33 years old)
47. Naveed Rehman
48. Yusuf Saad
49 and 50. Rahma Salie & unborn child (28 years old; American Airlines #11; wife of Michael Theodoridis; 7 months pregnant)
51. Shoman Samad
52. Asad Samir
53. Khalid Shahid (25 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald; engaged to be married in November)
54. Mohammed Shajahan (44 years old; Marsh & McLennan)
55. Naseema Simjee (Franklin Resources Inc.’s Fiduciary Trust)
56. Jamil Swaati
57. Sanober Syed
58. Michael Theodoridis (32 years old; American Airlines #11; husband of Rahma Salie)
59. W. Wahid

Full list of 9/11 victims

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Not In My Name: Islam, Pakistan and the Blasphemy Laws

Personally, I’ve never quite understood why so many of my co-religionists are so keen to kill or maim those who ‘insult’ Islam, Prophet Muhammad or the Quran. What is behind such rage and, dare I add, insecurity? Is their God so weak, so sensitive, so precious, that He cannot withstand any rejection?

Mine, for the record, isn’t. 

ugh this guy is just so damn basic.

You know, this piece has a lot of really good stuff in it, including a forceful condemnation of the recent detention under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws of an 11-year-old girl who allegedly has down-syndrome. The case is horrifying, and the overall treatment of minorities in some parts of Pakistan is even worse. But I’m so sick of Muslims who write these pieces that cater to a Western-apologist mindset.

I mean, congratulations Mr. Orientalist special-sunflower on your inability to understand why “so many” Muslims are “keen to kill” everyone who insults their religion. You must be the odd one out.

What is behind such rage and insecurity you ask? Perhaps it’s centuries of colonialism and imperialism that resulted in a crippled education system and stunted economic, political, and social infrastructures, the remains of which are still being seen today. Maybe it’s the continued reaction to all of these things and the perceived (and/or real) threat of Western aggression. Or perhaps, in the case of Pakistan, it might help to point out that Zia-ul-Haq, the Pakistani dictator who instated the blasphemy laws in the first place, was a political puppet of the United States whose promotion of Islamic law in Pakistan was directly inspired by American conservatism. 

But no, of course it’s much easier to write a self-serving piece about how backwards, how barbarichow simple-minded those Pakistanis are.

Shades Of The Old Punjab

The Ghuman family of Sarwarpur, near Ludhiana, cannot understand what the fuss is about. Ever since Sajjan Singh Ghuman, an NRI Sikh living in England, rebuilt a mosque in his native village that was damaged during Partition, the shrine, as well as his family back home, have attracted the curiosity of  outsiders. “We never imagined we would be on a Punjabi TV channel just because my elder brother rebuilt this small mosque for the poor Muslim families of our village. For him, it was just a gesture towards restoring the collective heritage of our village,” says Sajjan’s brother, Joga Singh, who manages the family’s lands in Sarwarpur. Sure. But what Joga and his family, or even the TV channel, do not know is that the sentiment that inspired his brother’s act is being manifested in scores of villages across Punjab, with Sikhs and Hindus joining hands to either rebuild old and damaged mosques or build new ones. Odd? Perhaps. But Punjab, as admirers of its unique religious synthesis say, has always defied stereotypes to do its own thing.

Beautiful. Read the rest

Shades Of The Old Punjab

The Ghuman family of Sarwarpur, near Ludhiana, cannot understand what the fuss is about. Ever since Sajjan Singh Ghuman, an NRI Sikh living in England, rebuilt a mosque in his native village that was damaged during Partition, the shrine, as well as his family back home, have attracted the curiosity of  outsiders. “We never imagined we would be on a Punjabi TV channel just because my elder brother rebuilt this small mosque for the poor Muslim families of our village. For him, it was just a gesture towards restoring the collective heritage of our village,” says Sajjan’s brother, Joga Singh, who manages the family’s lands in Sarwarpur. Sure. But what Joga and his family, or even the TV channel, do not know is that the sentiment that inspired his brother’s act is being manifested in scores of villages across Punjab, with Sikhs and Hindus joining hands to either rebuild old and damaged mosques or build new ones. Odd? Perhaps. But Punjab, as admirers of its unique religious synthesis say, has always defied stereotypes to do its own thing.

Beautiful. Read the rest

A Muslim Community, Tarred Again

[…] I do not worry about Abedin. A person of her intelligence and clout can withstand these attacks. I worry about Muslim high school and college students who wonder why they should even enter politics if they will, like Abedin, be constantly scrutinized because of their faith.

In 1999, I was an intern in Washington, DC, when I heard Abedin and Suhail Khan, a Muslim Republican himself accused of being an extremist, speak to the Muslim Public Service Network. It was Abedin and Khan who convinced me that there was—and is—space for Muslims in politics. […]

But even as I rose through the ranks of Washington, DC, I continued to face constant scrutiny over my faith. When I interviewed at a human-rights organization, I was asked more than once if I am willing to condemn suicide bombing and if I am comfortable supporting gay marriage. I told the interviewer that no self-respecting human rights advocate supports suicide bombing and opposes gay marriage. The answer did not suffice. To get the job, I had to spell it out: I am against suicide bombing; I am for gay marriage.

This happened in government agencies as well. In an interview for a research position on South Asian affairs at a US bureau, I was asked to state my views on Israel. And I have, sadly, taken it as a given that in interviews I will be asked what kind of Arab I am. When I say that I am the “Indian kind of Arab,” few understand—or appreciate—the joke.

In my most recent job interview, the head of an NGO asked how devout I am in my Islamic faith. Later that night, I pulled out of the interview process, packed up the rest of my belongings, and moved across the country to Oakland.

Zahir Janmohamed writes about prejudice against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in political and NGO circles. This one’s a must read — check out the full article at the source.

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