Tag Archives: muslim

Five Not-Impossible Things Before Breakfast

by Latoya Peterson

As I wrote last week, my inbox was filled with so many tips I didn’t have time to tackle them before the week was out. So, here are a few of the ones we can get done quickly:

Rachel Ray and the Paisely “Islamic Jihad” Scarf

Rachel Ray is wearing a scarf. She is not sending a message for Islamic Jihad!

Will someone please tell that to Dunkin’ Donuts and Michelle Malkin?


Jehanzeb says:

This is nothing but shameless racism. I really hope more people speak out about this because it is not only outrageous, it also reflects the ridiculous amount of paranoia and xenophobia that’s tarnishing our society. Yesterday morning, I heard about Rachael Ray’s new commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts getting pulled because of complaints from the right-wing blogosphere, specifically from the notoriously anti-Islamic and xenophobe Michelle Malkin. What were the complaints about? Well, according to Malkin, the black-and-white colored scarf worn by Rachael Ray in the commercial heavily resembled the keffiyeh, which she defined as the “traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.”

Are you kidding me? The commercial was yanked because of a black-and-white patterned scarf with paisley designs? The bigots from the right-wing were so offended and worried that Dunkin’ Donuts was “promoting terrorism” or “Palestinian jihad” because their sponsor wore a scarf?

Continue reading

Manga Mania: Muslim Manga’s Reach

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Asia Alfasi is a talented manga artist in the U.K. The BBC covered a talent competition she’d won (barikallah!), but managed to irritate me through mislabeling Ms. Alfasi’s drawings and misuse of the word “Arabian.”

Ms. Alfasi won a competition given by the International Manga and Anime Festival for her character “Monir,” who, according to the BBC, is a “feisty young Arabian from the Muslim Abyssinian times who draws strength from his faith to fight injustice and battle for his family’s survival.”

Does the BBC follow AP guidelines? Even if they don’t, I’d assume they’d know that an Arabian is a horse, not a person. Hmph!

Ms. Alfasi’s characters are beautifully drawn, but I’m tired of the “exotic” angle. She says, “I wanted to introduce some Arabian mysticism to the market.” A Muslim character from the Abyssinian times would be interesting enough, considering the fact that there is no such thing in Islamic history as the “Abyssinian Era” (unless they’re talking about when the Prophet and his followers went to Abyssinia…? Confusing!) Perhaps they meant Abbasid?

Anyway, a Muslim character from the Abbasid era would be interesting enough without exoticizing him. You could learn history and ancient culture…the nerd in me screams for more! What’s so mystical about him? What’s with the Aladdin outfit? Too close to Disney for comfort, personally. Continue reading

Jerusalem Cries for Peace

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

I was worried that I was not going to have time to blog about this, but as I waited in rush hour traffic and enjoyed the gentle breeze and pleasant weather, I was reminded of how grateful I should be. Grateful that I am not living under the extremely violent, horrific, and turbulent conditions that others endure on a daily basis. With this realization comes purpose and meaning. In Islam, we are taught that everything has meaning, even the smallest details that we tend to overlook. No leaf falls without God’s knowledge, as the Qur’an says (6:59). For those of us in the west, we typically do not think reflect on the hardships and struggles that people on the other side of the globe are battling (look at what’s happening in China today). Many times, I believe that one of my purposes in this life is to help people in all possible manners. Not just through words, but more through action.

For most of the west, May 15th of 2008 is the 60th birthday for the state of Israel, but for the Muslim world, it is Youm al-Nakba — “The Day of Catastrophe”. I have seen other people decorate their blogs and Facebook profile pages with Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” slogans. I’ve seen people change their profile pictures to images of themselves wearing a Palestinian scarf, or keffiyah. I have no intention to generalize about people, but from the certain individuals that I know, they display such patriotism for Palestine and yet they hardly know anything about the current events, the history, or even about the politicians. I remember when I was directing my short film, “A Flower from the East,” my main characters were Palestinian, and my film professor asked, “what is the significance of the Palestinian scarf? Does it serve any religious significance?” This question made me reflect on what the Palestinian cause means to me personally, and I believe this is a question we all should ask ourselves. What do the flags, scarves, and slogans mean and symbolize? We have to avoid chanting slogans emptily. It’s like the young and proud Pakistanis who shout “Pakistan Zinadabaad!” (Long Live Pakistan) just for the sake of showing off their Pakistani pride, but not really understanding what they’re saying.

The Palestinian people have suffered a great deal and their story is still neglected by the mainstream media, which is what frustrates Muslims around the world, myself included. A common mistake that many anti-Islamic and even well-intentioned conservatives make is that they think anti-Zionism equates anti-Jewish (yes, I’m one of those people who refuse to say anti-Semitism, since Arabs are Semites too, not just Jews). This is absolutely false. Another mistake is that they think Islam teaches Muslims to hate and kill Jews. Again, this is false. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has nothing to do with Judaism and Islam; this conflict needs to be understood in light of historical context. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were brutally and systematically evicted from their homes by the terrorist organizations known as Irgun, Stern Gang, and the Haganah, “the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces.” Examples of where these groups evicted Arabs can be found in the villages of Deir Yassin and Duwayma. According to Dan Freeman-Maloy of ZMag, the Zionist forces controlled 78% of mandatory Palestine by 1949. They declared the State of Israel after razing “some 400 Palestinian villages to the ground.” As mentioned earlier, to this day, the creation of Israel is infamously known around the Muslim world as a great historic injustice and/or the Nakba (Catastrophe). In the years that followed, the Israeli military occupation (or the Israel Defense Force) patrolled the Palestinian settlements for “security” purposes. This is not to insult or stereotype the Israreli Defense Force, but just to point out that so many horrific crimes against innocent Palestinians have been committed by countless Israeli soldiers, who are not branded “terrorists” or charged with war crimes. In 1982, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, ordered the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps. He formed an alliance with a Lebanese Christian militia-men, who were permitted to enter two Palestinian refugee camps (Sabra and Shatila) in an area controlled by the Israeli military. They massacred thousands of Palestinian civilians — something that the Palestinians and the Muslim world will never forget.

And the west ponders why the Muslim world is so antagonistic towards them and Israel. Extremist televangelists like John Hagee claim that this is a “religious war,” which sounds very medieval if you ask me. It reminds me of the Crusades, when the Pope Urban II called for a holy war against the Muslims. The truth of the matter is that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have coexisted for centuries. Contrary to the “Islam-spread-by-the-sword” myth, Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their religion, pray in churches and synagogues, and hold honorable positions in the government (for example, the Christians would translate the Greek philosophical texts into Arabic). When the Muslim leader, Salah Al-Din, captured Jerusalem in 1187, he did not slaughter a single Christian civilian. He established peace and coexistence among the Christians, Muslims, and Jews. To read more about Salah Al-Din, read my entry on the Crusades here.

Why do I mention history? Because if we really care about the Palestinians and peace among human beings, we must learn from our history. Salah Al-Din and the Christian King Baldin IV were not afraid of negotiating with one another. Right now, President Bush is heavily criticizing Barack Obama for wanting to negotiate with “terrorists.” Notice the terminology: “terrorists.” In the mind of right-wing extremists, the Palestinian leaders, along with the Iraqi and Iranian leaders, are nothing less than “evil.” According to tonight’s CNN report, there are many Jewish-Americans are concerned about Obama’s wanting to negotiate with the aforementioned leaders, particularly with Hamas. My question is: what’s the alternative? Violence? War? Salah Al-Din and Baldwin IV negotiated to prevent bloodshed and slaughter. Salah Al-Din and Balian of Ibelin negotiated for the same reasons. What happens when there’s no communication and understanding? People start to fear one another, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to suffering (I learned that from “Star Wars”). Continue reading

Black and Tan Fantasy*: A Review of “The Visitor”

by Guest Contributor Nadra Kareem, originally published at The Whirliest Girl

Is it possible to exoticize a member of your own racial group? After catching a screening of “The Visitor” recently, I found myself wondering if this were possible. The Tom McCarthy film is about a dispirited academic who returns to the apartment he shared with his late wife to find a couple living there made up of a Senegalese woman, played by Danai Gurira, and a Syrian man, played by Haaz Sleiman.

At its core, the movie is about how the professor, who is white and nearing retirement, is rejuvenated by his encounter with the young, immigrant couple. But the professor’s personal growth was not at all my focus as I watched “The Visitor.” I was too taken with Gurira, with watching the beautiful, intricate jewelry that hung from her ears and the colorful garments that made her Snickers-colored skin look all the richer, to make the professor’s metamorphosis my first priority.

Watching “The Visitor” I was reminded of a scene from Toni Morrison’s novel Tar Baby. A light-skinned black model named Jadine is stunned by an African woman she sees while grocery shopping. She thinks:

“The vision itself was a woman much too tall. Under her long canary yellow dress Jadine knew there was too much hip, too much bust…, so why was she and everybody else in the store transfixed? The height? The skin like tar against the canary yellow dress…? She would deny it now, but along with everybody else in the market, Jadine gasped…Just a quick snatch of breath before that woman’s woman—that mother/sister/she; that unphotographable beauty—took it all away.”

Unlike Jadine, I’m not going to deny that I was mesmerized by “the vision” of a beautiful African woman, despite being African myself (I have a Nigerian father and an African American mother). After watching “The Visitor,” I’m still trying to process exactly why I had this reaction, and so far I’m pretty sure it’s due to a combination of factors. Firstly, I was struck by the simple appearance of an African woman in a film set in the West. It’s rare to see Africans on the silver screen in a setting outside of Africa, let alone see them not play characters who are victimized by war, AIDS or another atrocity. And even in films set in Africa, the women are usually relegated to the role of wife and, thus, never allowed full character development.

“The Visitor” turns this dynamic on its head to a degree. Continue reading

NY Times Op-Ed: Obama is “President Apostate”

by Latoya Peterson

There is never a dull moment, is there?

I am already behind on posts for this week when reader Orientalista alerted us in the comments to the existence of this New York Times Op-Ed that argues that Obama is a Muslim.

Again.

Post-Reverend Wright.

Edward N. Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes:

One danger of such charisma, however, is that it can evoke unrealistic hopes of what a candidate could actually accomplish in office regardless of his own personal abilities. Case in point is the oft-made claim that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world.

This idea often goes hand in hand with the altogether more plausible argument that Mr. Obama’s election would raise America’s esteem in Africa — indeed, he already arouses much enthusiasm in his father’s native Kenya and to a degree elsewhere on the continent.

But it is a mistake to conflate his African identity with his Muslim heritage. Senator Obama is half African by birth and Africans can understandably identify with him. In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith.

As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.

Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.

His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).

Allah, take the wheel!

Where do we even start on this one?

Let’s all take a quick moment to visit Aaminah’s post on What Makes a Muslim, and this post on Dunner’s. Five Pillars, Six Articles of Faith. Got it! Let’s move on. Continue reading

Intraracial Dating: Women Vs. Men, Men vs. Women

by Guest Contributor Margari, originally published at Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman?

Latoya’s Note: Margari is a Black American Muslim woman currently living in the Middle East. I often enjoy Margari’s musings on life in the middle east, but this entry was of particular interest as it discusses black dating in the Muslim community. As a non-Muslim, I was struck dumb by the similarities in the conversations in the black community and the conversations in the black Muslim community. I also liked Margari’s piece as it thoughtfully examines some of the core arguments surrounding dating within a specific community, and chooses to focus on the actions of both women and men in creating certain situations. With that being said, please be aware that this is not a stand-in for a discussion of Muslim dating and practices. Margari is coming from a very specific background and is discussing a specific set of experiences with strong parallels to existing conversations within the black community. Hopefully, she will also find the time to pen a companion piece on interracial dating in Egypt. Until then, Margari’s thoughts are below.

No nation, culture, or community has found a truly peaceful resolution to the battle of the sexes. For the most part, it is a cold war that is fought on many fronts. We’re talking about urban, rural, and suburban warfare because for the most part the battles take place in the home. But the battle ground can be more public, like in political debates broadcast in every home in America or think pieces published in esteemed press. In some cultures men have always had the upper hand, so women must use indirect tactics in asymmetric warfare. In other societies women are gaining more ground and they are able to make gains in in the workforce, political office, and even demand that their husbands–shudder–help with the laundry. The strategies vary as much as the millions of individuals who deploy tactics to undermine, overpower, or demand recognition of their grievances from their adversary.

It is my opinion that nowhere on Earth is the battle of the sexes fought with as much ferocity as in the Black American community. We’re talking family, children, and lives have been ruined in the collateral damage. At worst, the violence of these battles have led to tragedies and human loss. At minimum, the warring parties and innocent bystanders, have been traumatized by psychological warfare. I have first hand experiences in the trenches of what I’d like to call asymmetric warfare.

The sad thing is, that the most vulnerable (in my opinion this would be women) are often left with few allies. You’d think that in what seems to be an all out war, that there’d be some sort of solidarity. My first hand knowledge comes from the female front, so I can tell you little about what happens from the male perspective. But what I can tell you is that in the Black American Muslim (BAM) community, there is little female solidarity. Basically, women have fragile bonds meaning that there is a lack of sisterhood. Instead, we seem to be tearing each other apart, all the while finding the weak spots of our adversaries of the opposite gender. I’m not saying that BAM women want to defeat their male counterparts. But basically, they want to have their grievances heard and have their rights recognized. Above all, they want BAM and the Muslim community as a whole to help rectify the problems that have led to some serious social problems and instability.

One of the major problems I have seen is gendered racism in the BAM community. This had led to some serious demographic problems, such as the shortage of viable BAM. BAM women are finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable life partners. For the most part, people have written thoughtful posts on issues surrounding gender relations. However some of the opinions espoused by bloggers and commentators have been downright reprehensible. I, myself, felt alienated by some of the views held by some American Muslims during a lengthy discussion about the growing trend for BAM men marrying overseas. One that especially got under my skin was the tendency to criticize educated Black Muslim women for being nothing else than educated Black Muslim women. I am sure that many of responsible, hardworking, conscientious, and ethical Black men have felt alienated by some of the critiques BAM women have had of BAM men. For example there is the constant mantra, “There are no good Black Muslim men!” “Black men are trifling!” etc…

This constant mantra is something that I wanted to address. Continue reading

Funny Faces: PBS Documentary on Muslim American Comedians

by Fatemeh Fakhraie

This Sunday, May 11, PBS will air a documentary at 10 pm EST entitled Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age. It explores five prominent Muslim American stand-up comedians (Ahmed Ahmed, Azhar Usman, Dean Obeidallah, Maysoon Zayid, and Tissa Hami) as they perform their sets, draw inspiration from their life events, and look back at what shapes their perceptions.

September 11th was a galvanizing factor for many of the comedians, and the special starts off by contextualizing the comedy in the face of continuing backlash against Muslim and Middle Eastern/South Asian communities. The attacks inspired Dean Obeidallah to reconnect with his Arab roots, leave his career as a lawyer, and start the Arab American Comedy Festival with Maysoon Zayid. It inspired Tissa Hami to leave her Wall Street job and do comedy. It roused Azhar Usman into the realization that the hijackers didn’t just seize the planes; they seized Islam, too. Continue reading

The Muslim Women of Hip-Hop

by Guest Contributor Duniya, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Although still a male-dominated realm, women have been an important part of the hip hop world both as artists and consumers. Anaya McMurray, in her journal article* Hotep and Hip-Hop: Can Black Muslim Women Be Down with Hip-Hop? explores the relation of Black Muslim women to hip hop music and asks the question, “Can Black Muslim women be a part of hip hop and Islam?”**

McCurray says that unique spaces in the discourses surrounding Islam are often ignored, consequently ignoring certain groups of Muslims, including Black Muslim women. Black Muslim women have become “agents in negotiating Islamic faith and hip-hop culture.” She aims to examine the ways in which Black Muslim women create unique spaces and negotiate Islam and hip hop in their music, as well as ways in which society represents Islam and hip hop which marginalize Black Muslim women. She does so by discussing the works of Erykah Badu, Eve, and herself as Black Muslim women hip hop artists.

When speaking of Erykah Badu we find out that the Islam McMurray tells us Badu follows is that of the Nation of Gods and Earths, or Five Percenters. Five Percenters are those who follow the teachings of Clarence 13x, a former member of the Nation of Islam. Five Percenters do consider themselves Muslims but not in the religious sense – in the political sense. Therefore, many mainstream Muslims do not consider them Muslims. And in reality their beliefs have very little in common with Sunni or Shia Islam. McMurray tells us how Badu does create a space for Muslim women in her songs by rapping about Five Percenter practices – practices which encourage men and women to remain within their respective, traditional roles. Beliefs which seem quite sexist but ones which Badu says are quite flexible, in her music. However, as Five Percenters have so little in common with mainstream Islam, and in fact consider themselves a part of a political movement rather than a religious one, using Badu to represent Muslim women in hip hop struck me as false advertising. She does not, from my understanding, represent the religion but rather the political movement.

The situation of Eve is not so clear. She has been quoted as saying that she finds Sunni Islam beautiful but cannot follow it properly. McMurray argues that, according to her calculations, Eve is a Muslim woman, though even McMurray admits she cannot be sure. McMurray reads Eve as a Muslim woman. Eve refers to Allah in her work as well as thanks Allah on her CD credits. Additionally, McMurray tells us that her own personal communications indicate that she is Muslim. McMurray makes an interesting observation about people’s assumptions about Eve and her religion. In one song Eve says “I thank Allah every night and pray there’s no turning back.” In many online lyrics sources this line is written as “I thank the Lord every night and pray there’s no turning back.” McMurray tells us that people, on all sides (within and without) just cannot fathom Eve as a Muslim so would never assume that she would use “Allah.” She tells us that people have never even asked the question of her being Muslim despite her use of “Allah”. Continue reading