March 07, 2019

In American politics there's only one right way to criticize Israel. Don't. But progressive congresspeople like Ilhan Omar aren't following suit, criticizing occupation and the Israeli lobby and being called antisemitic for it. This time however grassroots pressure is changing the narrative in the Democratic Party, and forcing Congress to have a good long think about its priorities. Francesca is joined by Professor Maytha Alhassen and comedian and organizer Josh Androsky. Plus a "Sext Elect Overthrow" with Kate Beckinsale, Antoni Porowski and his average guac, and Pete Davidson and his not-so-average -- you get it.

December 12, 2018

VIDEO "Love Knows No Borders" migrant justice mobilization at the U.S.-Mexico border

Clergy and community members from across the nation and from different faith backgrounds join in an action to call for migrant justice at the border.

October 22, 2018

VIDEO Will Hollywood ever really understand Islam?

"The angry, but inept, terrorist. The bumbling Sheikh. The sultry belly dancer. The ‘Good’ Muslim vs. the ‘Bad’ Muslim." Stereotypes such as these have dominated US popular culture for decades. And according to a new report, "Haqq and Hollywood: Illuminating 100 years of Muslim Tropes And How to Transform Them", they have fueled anti-Muslim sentiment and can even shape draconian government policies. The authors of the report, though, say there is hope and that things are changing for the better. In recent years, more nuanced stories that better reflect the diversity and complexity of Muslim communities have emerged. Muslim filmmakers, comedians and screen writers are increasingly telling their own stories and pushing back against stereotypical and damaging narratives. Shows such as Jack Ryan, FBI and Brown Girls have won praise for more intelligent portrayals of Muslim communities.

October 15, 2018

Looking Back at a Century of Muslim Representation in Hollywood

By Saloni Gajjar 

Just how much has Muslim representation changed in Hollywood over the last century? A new report attempts to answer that question in great detail.

In “Haqq & Hollywood: Illuminating 100 years of Muslim Tropes and How to Transform Them,” journalist and scholar Maytha Alhassen details the limited presence of Muslim characters in Hollywood over the last 100 years. Alhassen was awarded the Pop Culture Collaborative Senior Fellowship to “lead a project to create and popularize authentic narratives for Muslims in popular culture.”

“Haqq & Hollywood” is a long but noteworthy read. The introduction states its mission eloquently: “This report focuses on the portrayal of Muslims through the racial and ethnic categories of Black Americans, Arabs, Iranians, and South Asians, as well as the ways Muslims are gendered in film and television. To understand and disrupt the use of these tropes is to break a centuries-old narrative choke hold.”

October 10, 2018

REPORT: 100 Years of Hollywood Islamophobia

By Sameer Rao 

A new report from the Pop Culture Collaborative details depictions of Muslims on screen—what the entertainment industry must do to uplift Muslim narratives that don’t damage the community.

Artist and scholar Dr. Maytha Alhassen chronicles the past century of Islamophobic screen depictions of Muslims in “Haqq and Hollywood: Illuminating 100 Years of Muslim Tropes And How to Transform Them,” published by the Pop Culture Collaborative yesterday (October 9).

July 10, 2018

Enchanted Arts Festival Series: on using artistic expression to incite social and political change.

By Jill Van den Brule and Antonia Boorman


Dr. Maytha Alhassen is a Syrian-American journalist, political organizer, poet and scholar. Her work bridges the worlds of social justice, academic research, media engagement and artistic expression. Interview by Antonia Boorman, global citizen.We sat down with Maytha who shared her incredible experiences as a political organizer working on social justice issues -- from ending mass incarceration of youth in the U.S. to shifting mindsets on refugees through storytelling. She intertwines her passion for inciting political change and social activism with her talent for poetry to remind us just what makes us human.

June 14, 2018

VIDEO These women show us what it's like to fast during Ramadan

Watch video on ATTN's video page

June 11, 2018

This Ramadan “Believers Bail Out” Wants Muslims to Address Prison Abolition

by Liz Bucar and Amanda Randone

“Prison abolition had come up in the Q&A for a panel,” Kecia Ali, a scholar of religion, gender, and ethics at Boston University, tells Teen Vogue. “Then, one of the students on the student panel talked about her religion being the basis for her social activism.” These comments led to an impromptu brainstorming session between Ali and two other scholar-activists, Maytha Alhassen and Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, about what an approach to mass incarceration rooted in Islam might look like. Inspired by the National Bail Out movement, BBO was born, a project that advocates for using zakat for bail as part of a broader move toward ending mass incarceration.

May 16, 2018

VIDEO Racist History of Loitering

Speaking to the racist history of what became to be known as "vagrancy laws" and "Black codes." Watch the video (with over 2 million views!) on Splinter's Facebook page

March 02, 2018

VIDEO Maytha Alhassen and Natalia Molebatsi on Afro-Palestinian Solidarity

We sat down with Molebatsi and Syrian-American journalist, poet, and scholar Dr Maytha Alhassen to speak about Malcolm X, Afro-Palestinian solidarity, and the intersection of our identities.


Alhassen spoke on the connection between the struggles that Arabs are facing today and the struggles that African people have been facing. “On behalf of Arabs, I want to remind us that the struggle that we face has always and continues to be faced by African people. Stokely Carmichael used to call the Middle East North East Africa and that’s actually how I see us connected to our African brothers and sisters.”


Both women are poets and spoke of seeing the world through an artist’s lense. “Artists approach an issue and you can see what the truth is unfiltered and uncomplicated by propaganda,” said Alhassen, “and so what we do is we see it and re-narrate it in a way that has an integrated heart, mind, body, spirit influence. That’s the power of poetry – to narrate the political… and speak to every part of ourselves.”

March 01, 2018

Solidarity Between Africans And Palestinians During The Liberation Struggle

South African, Johannesburg-based journalist Iman Rappetti sits down with Maytha Alhassen for a half hour interview on alhassen's research and work on Afro-Arab transnational solidarities, the state of Syria, her work with refugees and years performing and organizing for Hijabi Monologues.

November 16, 2017

Security for Whom? Unpacking the Gendered Impact of EU Securitized Migration

by Zeinab Khalil


As Maytha Alhassen notes, “What this did is create a folklore of safe migration for refugees,” where refugees saw this as an opportunity to flee the violence of their own homes and the violence in transit, while Germany could showcase its benevolence in contrast to the east European states tightening their borders. 


Alhassen notes the psychologically manipulating ethos of the site, which is enclosed through manmade walls on one side but also the sea. “You go in and it’s a barbed wire camp, but then you have the sea at your fingertips.” 


As Alhassen notes, “It is the nation state that is the problem. Not the refugee. The refugee becomes a problem because she disrupts/traverses borders. The refugee is a radical change. It is a state of becoming.”

November 06, 2017

Web Summit 2017: 9 Most Socially Conscious Speakers

These individuals, who adequately address the challenges presented by the modern day world have been hailed visionaries. It is no surprise why.

Since the Web Summit season is upon us, we decided to present you with the most socially conscious speakers you can not afford to miss. These people will provide you with their empathy-driven point of view and a huge amount of inspiration on how to combine technology to create a better global society.



Senior Fellow, Pop Culture Collaborative & Guest Co-host in Al-Jazeera English – Remember to Breathe. Maytha’s area of interests includes social justice (she studies historical encounters between Black internationalism and the Arab diaspora, race & ethnicity, social justice&the arts, travel&global flows, gender, media and narrative healing.


Nov 8th at 11:25 she will take part in conference covering Tech’s responsibility to refugees, where the perspective usage of today’s technology can save the lives of those suffering from oppression, conflict, and danger.

February 24, 2017

The Tailife: Muse of the Day

Where does your daily inspiration come from?

My yoga mat. My daily meditation, My nephews and nieces’ smiles. In locomotion. From Donny Hathaway’s vocals and in the joy of being present. And love’s embrace.

Where does your style inspiration come from?

My commitment to eco-consumerism and supporting companies with ethical labor practices. My wardrobe is limited to vintage clothing, locally made goods, or finds from my mother’s uber chic closet. She lived in the South of France in the mid 70s and accumulated a bevy of stunning French and Italian made pieces.

How does your faith inspire what you do?

My tradition speaks of and prioritizes bearing witness for the cause of justice. Every morning, in my prayer and on my yoga mat, I feel called to deepen my commitment to justice–to be in service to cosmic Oneness, and I pray for signs that make the path towards Oneness clear. My faith practices have also inspired me to start my day with a gratitude tribute. In Sufi traditions (known as tasawwuf), we call this “remembering,” the active countering of the human propensity to “forget” the gifts of connecting to Divine Source. When we are grateful, we practice remembering the truth of the spirit. This is why I called my company “Remember to Breathe,” because each breath is an ecstatic invitation to remember the vitality of that connection.

February 18, 2017

VIDEO Business of Passion: Episode 4 - Dr. Maytha Alhassen

Video from Business of Passion interview

February 18, 2017

VIDEO Business of Passion: Writing and Righting Wrongs

Maytha Alhassen, affectionately called May, is a first generation Syrian American raised in Southern California who humbly identifies as a scholar, journalist and defender of dignity. In our dense hour-long discussion that touched on everything from Malcolm X being her Sheikh (master teacher) to being raised in a cul-de-sac flanked by the homes of most of her extended family including nearly 30 children, May also shared her first inklings of the concept of community which inspires her lifelong passion.

February 02, 2017

Vox: Islam isn’t a race. But it still makes sense to think of Islamophobia as racism.

Orientalism, the ancient brand of hate behind today’s anti-Muslim attitudes, explained.

 by Jenée Desmond-Harris


“When you’re Arab and Muslim, the categories can get conflated,” said Maytha Alhassen, a doctoral candidate in the department of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California who has family roots in Syria and Lebanon. “When I’ve spoken to media, there’s been a distinct interest in looking at Islam as ‘those brown people from over there.’”

She said the many stories of Sikhs — who practice a religion totally separate from Islam — targeted in anti-Muslim attacks seem to provide an additional indication that this brand of hate is not as focused on an understanding of Islam as a religion. Instead, these actions are carried out against those who are perceived as culturally and ethnically “other.”

Alhassen said she’s not even a fan of the term “Islamophobia,” in part because the “neurolinguistic programming” that comes from putting together “Islam” and “phobia,” is part of how people try to defend their sentiments about people who practice Islamic traditions. “Anti-Muslim hate,” and “anti-Muslim rhetoric” are better. But, she said, “I like to be specific ... if we’re talking about that ‘brown other’ that also could be Muslim, I use ‘Orientalist.’”

She said she’d use that term in particular to describe the sentiments in Trump’s executive order, including references to keeping out people who commit “honor killings” or persecute individuals based on sexual orientation and gender. These stereotypes are what she calls “classic Orientalist tropes.”


Alhassen has researched how people from the Middle East and North Africa ended up under the “white” category in the first place. Long story short: The 1790 Naturalization Act gave naturalization to free whites. So the way people argued for citizenship or eligibility for citizenship was to prove their whiteness. Some cases went all the way up to the Supreme Court and set the standard. One argument — known as the “cradle of civilization” argument — was that people who came from the region where Christianity and Western civilization originated should be deemed white. It worked.

But Alhassen has also been involved with a movement to change this categorization. As a result of this movement, the Census Bureau is currently taking into consideration the views of people of Middle Eastern and North African descent who have told the Census Bureau they don't want to be categorized as "white" any longer.

Why don’t they? Because it doesn’t describe their experience. “Federally, we are white, but when you’re from the Middle East and North Africa, one of the few times you realize that is when you’re filling out these fed forms applying for schools. I don’t have the social protection of being white,” Alhassen explained.

It's unclear whether the Census Bureau will get behind these changes and, if so, whether the Office of Management and Budget will approve them in time for the 2020 Census. But if the change takes effect, plenty of people who are considered white right now won't be in three years.

That, according to Alhassen, would make sense because “these communities do not feel like they’re white.” And the perception of experiencing racism — both in individual anti-Muslim attacks and now, in the policies of an administration with close ties to white nationalism — is a big part of that.

January 30, 2017

LA Times: Trump order banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries roils California campuses

By Teresa Watanbe and Rosanna Xia 


Maytha Alhassen, a Syrian American doctoral student in American studies and ethnicity, said her parents, American citizens, are anxious about traveling because their U.S. passports still say they were born in Syria.

“This is all about breaking apart and dividing people,” she said.

Still, Alhassen and other students said they’ve been heartened by the support of many Americans on and off campus. 

Protesting at LAX, Alhassen taught enthusiastic strangers the dabka, a traditional dance from her family’s region, Levant. Together, they danced.

The Intercept: Muslims in Trump's America: Fearful but Defiant

By Murtaza Hussain 


“Americans have to understand that when Muslims were depicted as a national security threat to legislate against, with measures like the Patriot Act and NDAA being passed as a result, everyone lost their civil liberties, not just us,” says Maytha Alhassen, a PhD researcher in American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. “By painting us as an unrelatable community, disconnected from American values, the government made it easy for Americans to vote against their own interests.”

Social Text: An Anti-Racist Movement

By   Robin D. G. Kelley


 Alex LubinSohail DaulatzaiKeith FeldmanHisham AdiTheri Pickens, and Maytha Alhassen, among others, have substantially deepened our understanding of the emergence of modern Black-Arab political solidarity

Vox: 9 devastating, revealing stories of being Muslim in post-9/11 America

by Jenée Desmond-Harris


But the history of political racism toward Arabs was all written before 9/11. My dad said literally every day at [California State Polytechnic University] Pomona, he would walk into the dorms and a group of white kids would call him “camel jockey.” He was working in the school cafeteria, and he was working with some white kids who were pissed he got promoted. A white kid pushed him to the floor and stepped on his back — because this one Arab guy was promoted ahead of him. He was in rehab for six months.

The Intercept: Muslim Americans Grapple with Implications of Donald Trump Victories

“Trump has managed to tap into and legitimize xenophobic sentiments towards Muslims that were already there for a lot of people,” says Maytha Alhassen, a PhD researcher in American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. “We’re all scared of what could happen to Muslim Americans if he’s elected, but we should keep in mind that laws reflective of his beliefs are already being drafted and proposed today.”

May 19, 2015

Happy X Day? The Case Against a Federal Holiday for Malcolm X

By Kirsten West Savali 

“It certainly behooves us to commemorate the legacy of his teachings as they persist in their potent relevance in times of state-sanctioned terror,” Maytha Alhassen, a University of Southern California provost Ph.D. fellow and journalist, said to The Root. “But a Malcolm X federal holiday is about as compatible with his legacy as Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Malcolm was the sharpest at identifying U.S.-sponsored liberal multicultural tokenism for what it was: ‘An integrated cup of coffee isn’t sufficient pay for 400 years of slave labor.’

“How comfortable is the American state with the idea of educating its youth and citizenry why they have a day off of labor and school?” continued Alhassen, who is also a research assistant on the Malcolm X Project and recently co-organized a black social-justice delegation to Palestine. “How far would they sanitize the legacy of Malcolm to fit within the confines of liberal American triumphalism?”


Alhassen echoes Perry’s sentiments, pointing out that “we have collectively remembered Malcolm through our festivals in Oakland[, Calif.], on bus rides from 125th Street in Harlem to his physical resting place in Ferncliff Cemetery, in our [Kendick] Lamar and Tupac joints, and even now on our Instagram postings.”

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