“Flying While Muslim”

flying-while-muslim2There have been many times that I have gone on trips and was “Flying While Muslim.” What does that mean? Well, this expression has come to describe the reality of travel for all Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs, and anyone who looks like they could be from the Middle East or any other region of the world perceived as predominantly Muslim. After 9/11, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians became the target of racial and religious profiling that has resulted in longer waits in security and in some cases being removed from flights. Continue reading

“The 99”: Muslim Superheroes?

cover-of-the-first-issue-0011In July 2006, Naif al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti clinical psychologist, launched the first Islamically themed superhero comics. Al-Mutawa began the series “The 99” to provide Muslim children with superheroes with whom they could identify. Perhaps surprisingly, half of the heroes are females. The name of the series stems from the 99 attributes of God outlined in the Qur’an, the holy text of Islam. Each of the 99 heroes embodies one of the attributes and represents some aspect of the core Islamic values. All the characters also come from different countries from around the world and thus represent the diversity of the worldwide Muslim community. Continue reading

When Poetry Meets Twitter

Baghestani

Parham

When hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the street to protest against the presidential election results last month, many of them also flooded to Twitter, a popular social networking tool, to distribute information and voice their opinions. In the torrent of tweets from Iran, one voice stands out with its Persian prose and poetic power. That voice belongs to Parham Baghestani,  a 26-year-old engineering student and web developer from Isfahan. “My love has gone underground. The taste of night is nothing but awareness.” His tweets like this one caught the attention of NPR and landed him an interview on the Weekend Edition program. When poetry meets Twitter, readers are just one click away from the poet, but more importantly, the poet knows exactly who is following his words. He’s not alone, he’s within a network of readers, a network of support.

Parham's tweet

Parham's tweet

“Poets are the refuge of every wounded nation,” Roger Cohen of The New York Times wrote. When their voices are silenced in official media during political turmoils, poets with a will to speak will find another outlet. In China, the country where I grew up, underground poets posted their poems on a wall along a busy street in Beijing during the democracy movement in the winter of 1978. Twitter is much harder to close down than a brick wall. A network of readers in cyberspace is much harder to dispel than a crowd on a street. Poets in Iran, one tweet at a time, shall always have their voices heard.

Have you come across any poetry in Twitter? Do you know any other creative use of Twitter during the protests in Iran? What other technologies are useful in getting around information censorship? Please share with us by commenting on this entry.

Islamic Society of North America Conference

This past July 4th weekend, in the miacpc11dst of all the Independence Day celebrations, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its 46th annual convention in the U.S. capital. The four-day conference with the theme “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” attracted an estimated 40,000 Muslims from the U.S., Canada, and other countries. ISNA’s annual conference, considered to be the largest gathering of Muslim Americans, typically takes place on Labor Day weekend; however, with the start of Ramadan in August this year, the conference was moved to an earlier date.

Anyone attending ISNA knows that it is four days of non-stop activity with lectures, interactive sessions, an art exhibit, a film festival, an entertainment event which brings together all different talents of the Muslim communities, and of course the bazaar where you can find anything from books about all aspects of Islam to information on matrimonial sites. Each year’s conference also has special events and this year’s conference featured several, including the Interfaith Unity Reception with the theme “Common Word between Us and You” which aimed to make connections between the three Abrahamic faiths and included a panel discussion between representatives of each faith, in the spirit of President Obama’s June 4th speech in Cairo and Valerie Jarett’s (Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Obama’s Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs) keynote address on the contributions of Muslim Americans. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, even made an appearance at the conference. Continue reading

“Meet the Taqwacores” on MSNBC

A couple of weeks ago, Inside Islam aired a radio show on “The Taqwacores” and we posted a series of blog entries on the punk movement in the US. You can listen to the broadcast and browse all of the posts about Taqwacores on Inside Islam by clicking here.

The following video from NBC Nightly News features our guests from that radio show — author of The Taqwacores Michael Muhammad Knight and drummer for the Kominas Imran Malik. The video highlights other individuals and bands who are also struggling to articulate this new Muslim punk genre of music and what it means to a mainstream audience.

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Altmuslimah and Prom

Photo by Jean Pieri of The Pioneer Press.

Photo by Jean Pieri / The Pioneer Press.

Altmuslimah is a branch of altmuslim, a blog we’ve written about before on Inside Islam that has critical, independent thought on Islam today. Altmuslimah, on the other hand, focuses on the gender divide within Islam and opens up discussion about important issues like the women’s movement for equality in Islam recently launched as The Musawah Movement. Here in this post on Inside Islam, we outlined the emerging debates and global significance of such a movement and invite readers to leave their own thoughts as well.

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Reza Aslan: Losing the ‘war on terror’

Reza Aslan

Dr. Reza Aslan joins us today on Inside Islam.

Today’s guest post is from Daily Beast blogger and author of How to Win A Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the War on Terror Reza Aslan. If you’d like to learn more about his new book, see the interview posted today by Editor-and-Chief of  altmuslim Shahed Amanullah. Later this month, Dr. Aslan will return as a guest on Inside Islam’s radio series to be interviewed by host Jean Feraca. Feel free to comment at the end of today’s guest post, or send us an email with your thoughts for Reza before the radio broadcast on May 13 (3 pm CT). Jean may read your comments on the air.

Dr. Aslan’s earlier appearances on Inside Islam are available through the links below, followed by his guest post.

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Hip-Hop Documentaries

An emerging trend is the appearance of films about Muslim hip-hop. Today on Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates, we quickly outline three of them and include their trailers below. First, the upcoming Deen Tight is a film about how hip-hop has influenced the lives of Muslims around the world, starting in the United States. Second, Slingshot Hip-Hop follows Palestinian rappers as they examine their experiences of being discriminated in the region and their Arab roots. Rather than follow a group of musicians, the last documentary New Muslim Cool, focuses on the story of Puerto Rican American rapper Hamza Perez who stopped using drugs twelve years ago, converted to Islam, and now is part of the rap duo M-team.

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Digital Islam

In an earlier post here on Inside Islam, we discussed “Understanding Islam Through Virtual Worlds,” a documentary in the online world of Second Life. The term we used to describe the project — “digital Islam” — is actually a popular term. In fact, a research project under the same name follows similar developments more broadly. As the tagline for Digital Islam says, the site follows “research on the Middle East, Islam, and digital media.”

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Sofia Baig: Spoken Word Artist and Activist

Daughter of the Sand Album Cover

Daughter of the Sand Album Cover

Sofia Baig, a twenty one year old Canadian spoken word artist of Pakistani, Chinese and Spanish descent uses her poetry to speak out against discrimination, prejudice, and her personal struggles. What makes Baig fascinating is that her own personal journey represents the struggle of many Muslim youth growing up in Western countries. Although Baig grew up in a Muslim family, she did not practice the rituals of the faith as a child but definitely identified herself as Muslim.

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