Muslim-American Fencer Rises Above Tough Competition

Photo: Natalie Keyssar/WSJ

Maplewood, New Jersey, fencing star Ibtihaj Muhammad was recently named International Sportswoman of the Year by the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation. In an interview, Muhammad, the third of five children in an athletic family, said that she initially began fencing because it easily allowed her to be fiercely competitive while maintaining her ability to wear hijab and present herself in modest dress. If her upcoming Olympic trial performance matches her world ranking, she’ll be one of two American women to fence in the London Olympic Games this summer. Although it cannot be confirmed, as the U.S. Olympic committee does not survey athletes’ religious backgrounds, Muhammad is probably also the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in any Olympic event.

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The Debate Over Music

Duff/Daff (Source:

One of the controversial topics that Muslim scholars have debated throughout Islam’s history is whether music and singing are halal (permissible) or haraam (forbidden). As I mentioned in an earlier post on the singer and songwriter Maher Zain, Muslims vary in their opinions on music. Since this topic has been extensively discussed and most of the opinions either way can be very lengthy, in this post I will just summarize some of the key points on the contention over the issue of music and singing. Continue reading

Happy 500th, Inside Islam!

The Inside Islam Team

Thanks to your loyal support, Inside Islam has made it to this, our 500th blog post! Inside Islam has been funded since 2008 as part of the Social Science Research Council’s Academia in the Public Sphere program, perfectly in line with the Wisconsin Idea that drives much of the teaching and research here at the UW-Madison. As the only project funded for the duration of the Academia in the Public Sphere initiative, Inside Islam has matched the vision of linking academia, media, and the public. In addition to the blog posts and dozens of articles on our regional pages, over the last 3.5 years we’ve produced over 100 radio shows and hosted a number of events related to environmental activism, Muslim-American identity, and democracy. And thanks to your loyalty and participation, we’ve grown exponentially, nearing 10,000 twitter followers and receiving 25,000 unique readers in the month of March alone.

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Banning Halal Meat?

Muslims in the United Kingdom have a new challenge facing them. Following attempts by other European nations like France, some British politicians have called for a ban on any meat that comes from an animal which has not been stunned before slaughter. Thus, the ban affects halal (sometimes also called dhabiha or zabiha) and kosher meats.

According to supporters of the ban, the manner in which Muslims and Jews traditionally slaughter is more painful to the animal than stunning the animal first and then slaughtering it. As in the Jewish tradition, Muslims have a particular manner in which they must slaughter an animal. The animal’s throat is slit to induce quick bleeding to reduce suffering. In order to do this, Muslims are instructed to make sure that the knife is sharpened. Also, in order to be as humane as possible, the knife should not be sharpened in front of any animals and one animal should not be slaughtered in front of another. Continue reading

Islam in Mexico

In Chiapas, Mexico, portions of the indigenous populations, such as Mayans and Tzotzils, have embraced Islam. Photo: Tumblr: Ihavefaith

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Although traditionally known for its strong Catholic community, Mexico is also home to a small yet diverse community of Muslims. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the country had about 110,000 Muslims in 2009. That’s less than 1 percent of the population of Mexico. But according to Zidane Zeraoui, professor of international relations at the Technological University of Monterrey, the history of Islam in Mexico goes back to its earliest days.

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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.

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Maher Zain: A Muslim Musician

Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading

Adaab in a Time of Allah Hafiz

Children motioning Adaab

Indian children welcome onlookers with "adaab," the traditional and universal South Asian greeting. Photo: Firoze Shakir

Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi, India, with a special interest in media for children. Her films include Two Lives, The House on Gulmohar Avenue and Stories of Girlhood. Her published work for children includes Hina in the Old City, The Magic Key series, and The Goat That Got Away.

Some months ago, I was chastised by a woman for saying “adaab,” instead of “assalamaleikum,” the latter being the “the proper Islamic greeting” in her opinion. I grew up as a Muslim and learned to say “adaab” when I met someone and “khuda hafiz” when we parted ways. Originating from a North Indian Islamicate high culture, “adaab” as a form of greeting was imbued with a certain class hierarchy. It was a familiar greeting even in many elite non-Muslim households in North India. Among many other Muslim populations, the Arabic greeting “assalamaleikum,” meaning “may peace be upon you,” was also used. But there was no formal dictum about the usage while I was growing up and there could be overlaps.

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