Tennessee Islamic Center delayed on procedural technicality

The sign has been spray-painted with the words "Not Wanted." Photo: CNN

The proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is no stranger to controversy. Since 2010, plans to set up the facility have been constantly thwarted by opponents. Some argued that Islam is not a legitimate religion and thus not protected under the U.S. Constitution. Others protested that the mosque would create traffic problems and lower housing values. Still others decided to take the law into their own hands, spray-painting “Not Welcome” on signs announcing the center, and even setting fire to construction equipment and vehicles.

The center prevailed through a string of lawsuits, so opponents adopted another tactic, this time attacking the planning commission who granted the building permit. Now it seems that construction may be held up on procedural grounds. On May 30, a county judge ruled that plans for the center, which had previously been approved by the planning commission, are now “void, and of no effect.” Continue reading

This Is Where I Need to Be

Amna Ahmad, New York City high school oral historian, This is Where I Need to Be project

The old saying “children should be seen, but not heard” still rings true today. Although the majority of the population in many countries is younger than 25, youth perspectives are rarely, if ever, taken seriously. This is especially true for those under the age of 18 and those who come from minority groups such as people of color or Muslims. This Is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYC attempts to break these barriers by providing a platform for diverse young Muslims of color living in New York City to voice their perspectives. You can watch a video clip of Palestinian-American Amna Ahmad’s reading of Bengali-American Taseen Ferdous’s contribution to the book.

Continue reading

45 American Men on Being Muslim

Coverage of Muslim men in the American media is almost completely limited to three narrow situations: Middle Eastern politics, violent extremist movements, or oppression of women. All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim provides a glimpse into the lives of the other 99% of Muslim men in the U.S. Initiated largely by well-educated, young Muslim Americans, this book is the latest in an intentional strategy to reshape American attitudes about Muslims and Islam through personal stories.
Continue reading

nine/twelve

Filming nine/twelve (Source: huffingtonpost.com)

The attacks of 9/11 changed the course of history and affected many communities. The Muslim American community was particularly impacted by the attacks and have had to face growing Islamophobia. Throughout the Inside Islam project, we have explored some of the central challenges to the Muslim American community, which include questioning their national identity and their place in American society. Some question this group’s loyalty to their country and the possibility of being both Muslim and American. The entire nation was affected by the attacks; yet, 10 years later there is not enough exploration of what Muslim Americans faced in the days after 9/11. In February, a new project was launched to make a film called nine/twelve,  a film that will explore the experience of Muslims right after the attacks. Continue reading

The Muslims Are Coming!

Comedy is one of the many means by which people deal with stereotypes. Muslim Americans have used comedy for some time to break down the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. The idea is that if people can laugh together then barriers break down. In other words, it is a constructive way to have people reflect on what they think about Muslims. We have addressed the topic of Muslim American comedians before here on Inside Islam through both blog posts and radio programs. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming comedic film The Muslims Are Coming! Continue reading

All-Girl Prom Inspired by Islamic Modesty

Over 100 girls attended Hamtramck High School's first ever all-girl prom. Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The dream of one Bengali-American Muslim girl came true last week, when over 100 girls packed a local hall to dance, eat, and pray as part of Hamtramck High School’s first ever all-girl  prom. The story has made the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other international media giants, and has created some interesting discussion around gender in Islam and religion in the public sphere.

Continue reading

Islam and Mental Health

Hadiyah Muhammad

Hadiyah Muhammad is a first-year Health Behavior Health Education student at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on mental health issues in U.S. Muslim communities and identifying the intervention efforts and instructional programs best suited for mosques and Islamic centers of learning.

My parents converted to Islam as young adults in the late 1970s. Choosing to become Muslim changed my parents’ health behaviors immediately. I was born to two people who, in love with their new way of life, no longer consumed pork, alcohol, and tobacco, preferred men and women separated at gatherings, fasted during the month of Ramadan, and joined a community of like-minded converts to sustain their practice and grow religiously. Islam does not separate day-to-day action from belief; therefore the behaviors that my parents immediately accepted as a common daily practice were not simply rituals performed during certain times of the year. My parents’ conversion to Islam was their attempt to create a new and better life for themselves and my family. Interestingly, while the physical health behaviors of my parents changed almost immediately, the mental health challenges remained the same among my uniquely Muslim nuclear family and my non-Muslim extended family.

Continue reading

When does hate become terrorism?

One of the major problems Muslims have had to face around the world, especially since the 9/11 attacks, is that Islam is seen as a violent religion associated with terrorism, even though the vast majority of Muslims do not condone violence, much less carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, in some circles, the term “terrorist” itself has almost become synonymous with “Muslim.” Conversely, there seems to be a reluctance to label as terrorism those times when Muslims are the victims of an act of deep hatred. This is the case with the story of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi-American mother of five who was found beaten in her home in San Diego, California, last Wednesday, March 21st. Alawadi died on Saturday, March 24th. Continue reading

Islam and Sports

Tonight at 7pm at the Union South Marquee Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, join Inside Islam for a free public film screening of Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football. A post-film panel including UW-Madison cross country star and 2012 Canadian Olympic hopeful Mohammed Ahmed will explore perspectives on faith in competitive athletics.

The Fordson football team’s unique demographic makeup of predominately Arab Muslim Americans has been covered by just about every media outlet, from NPR to ESPN. The team initially received attention by holding their late summer pre-season practices from midnight to 4 AM, allowing 95% of their players to observe fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. But they are not alone: Whether it’s Lebanese-Australian Muslim girls playing Aussie rules football (“footy”) or Lebanese-American Muslim boys playing the American version of the game, Muslims are playing Western-style sports and games in increasing numbers. The stereotypes of Muslim female passivity and Muslim males only playing in the field of engineering are being directly challenged by the realities on the ground. In fact, Arab Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab community in the US, have been playing football for generations.

Increasing attention has focused on faith in sports, most recently brought about by the success of NBA star Jeremy Lin and NFL quarterback Tim Teboe. During our panel following the Fordson film, Ahmed, a practicing Muslim, will speak about the role of Islam in his athletic life. If Ahmed is selected for the 2012 Canadian Olympic cross country team for the London Games as expected, he may have to deal with challenges similar to those faced by the Fordson players. In fact, he will likely compete with the greatest runners on the planet without any food or water during daylight hours, as the holy month of Ramadan covers the entirety of the three-week-long Summer Olympics. But Ahmed won’t be alone. Nearly one fourth of the 2012 Summer Olympic athletes are likely to come from Muslim-majority countries and a majority of these participants are expected to fast.

Please join us tonight for the film screening and discussion. If you are not in Madison but would like to participate in the discussion, post your thoughts on the intersection of faith and sports below.

American Paki

Ayesha Kazmi

Ayesha Kazmi is a Muslim American specialist in UK anti-terrorism policy at London-based CageprisonersOriginally from Boston, Massachusetts, Kazmi lived in London, England from 2005-2011. She has written for The Guardian and Privacy Matters and blogs at AmericanPaki. You can follow her on Twitter @AyeshaKazmi.

They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.

Continue reading