February 06, 2018

Immigrants Welcome*

But much of this language—our country’s inclusion narrative—is predicated on myth-making. Indeed, if we look to history, we begin to see Trump’s ban not as an aberration but as a continuation of more than two centuries of restrictive immigration policies and several decades of specifically surveilling Arab, African, and Muslim migration.

In December of 1942, for example, a Detroit resident and Yemen native, Ahmed Hassan, petitioned a court for U.S. citizenship. District Court Judge Arthur J. Tuttle’s decision began by acknowledging Hassan’s “origins” from Yemen and the “Arabian Peninsula.” This fact, he elaborated, was significant to Hassan’s petition because, “Apart from the dark skin of the Arabs, it is well known that they are a part of the Mohammedan world and that a wide gulf separates their culture from that of the predominately Christian peoples of Europe.”

Ultimately Tuttle denied Hassan’s petition on the grounds that, “It cannot be expected that as a class they would readily intermarry with our population and be assimilated into our civilization.” In the concluding paragraphs of the decision, he pointed to a legal precedent for citizenship established in 1790:


In other words, U.S. citizenship for Hassan and others like him was predicated upon proving a proximity to whiteness as it was legally constituted in 1790.

We cannot understand Trump’s Muslim ban without this history. Viewed this way, his is simply the latest in a long line of restrictive immigration policies, policies that are steeped in centuries of racism. It is necessary to be honest about this history to dismantle not just the ban, but a racialized system that allows restrictive immigration to consistently re-emerge at different moments in U.S. history.

January 09, 2018

Our Refugees

Meanwhile, there is a broader question that has gotten almost no attention in the press: While the Trump administration continues to single out selected countries to include in his travel bans, the United States has long targeted most of these same countries in ways that intensify the refugee crisis in the first place. To put it bluntly, we’re not just banning, we’re bombing.

March 01, 2017

No Ban, No Walls, No Prison, No Cops: A conversation with Janaya Khan and Maytha Alhassen

Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Dignity and Power Now founder, interviews Maytha and Future to Discuss No Ban No Walls, No Prisons No Cops. This is an exploratory conversation on why our movements, especially the movement to end mass criminalization should center Blackness.

Collective Love Over Collective Fear: Japanese Incarceration, Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab Rhetoric, and Anti-Blackness In The Age Of Trumpism

“Why are you so intent on making the journey to the United States?,” I ask Abdullah, a 21 year-old Palestinian Syrian from Damascus. He responded, “I just want to go to America to change the mindset of Americans. They think all Arabs are terrorists. Here in Europe, they have more nuance. I need to come to America to change their minds about us, so they know that we are not all terrorists, that in fact we are seeking refuge FROM the terrorists.”

Please Reconsider the Term “Arab Spring”

As we come upon more than a year of cascading revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa/Maghreb (MENA), it is worth critically examining the way we in the West have come to describe these revolutions, resistance movements and uprisings in the region. Even esteemed MENA academics and some Arabic press (which has directly translated it from its English form ‘al-rabi’ al-‘arabi’), have disappointingly re-appropriated the term. What many who fail to investigate the majority of Arab people’s more popular nomenclature, as will be discussed, miss by using an empty phrase like “Arab Spring” is that these movements are more than just a “democratic blooming” — they are what democracy is predicated on, a revolutionary demand for recognizing their right to human dignity.

The Writings on the Wall

Re-printed chapter from I Speak For Muslim: American Women on Being Muslim:

Verily He Who ordained the Qur’an for you, will bring you back to the Place of Return. 
Say: My Lord knows best who it is that brings true guidance, and who is in manifest error.
—Surat al-Qasas, 28:851



In certain Arab Muslim cultures, travelers write this verse from Surat al-Qasas on a wall of their home before departing on a trip. This ritual is practiced to ensure the safe return of the traveler. This was the case in my home: regardless of the distance, every single time we took a flight anywhere, my mother insisted my five siblings and I all adhere to this tradition, even those who had not yet learned to write (for them, she held their hands over the pencil as she wrote out the five-line verse).

Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions

Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions brings together essays written by today’s generation of Arab youth who have directly inspired and sparked a revolutionary spirit that toppled governments, unearthing the corruption of decades of dictator dominated countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Their voices are as varied as their individual stories, but their destinies are shared. They are the connected generation.Stories come from the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Palestine. Inspired in part by universal human values and aspirations, each story captures the changes revolutionizing the region and social media’s role in uniting like-minded citizens through civic engagement.

Muslim Youth Cultures

Chapter in The Cambridge Companion to American Islam co-authored with Su'ad Abdul Khabeer: 

The Cambridge Companion to American Islam offers a scholarly overview of the state of research on American Muslims and American Islam. The book presents the reader with a comprehensive discussion of the debates, challenges, and opportunities that American Muslims have faced through centuries of American history. This volume also covers the creative ways in which American Muslims have responded to the myriad serious challenges that they have faced and continue to face in constructing a religious praxis and complex identities that are grounded in both a universal tradition and the particularities of their local contexts. The book introduces the reader to some of the many facets of the lives of American Muslims that can only be understood in their interactions with Islam's entanglement in the American experiment.

Siria y Egipto: la barrera del miedo ha caido

Catástrofe humana en Siria y dictadura militar en Egipto. Tras este panorama, surge la pregunta de si queda alguna esperanza para los objetivos de libertad, derechos y dignidad reivindicados a lo largo y a lo ancho de la ‘primavera árabe’. Las redes no lograron romper los grilletes del totalitarismo, pero sí romper las cadenas del miedo.

The “Three Circles” Construction: Reading Black Atlantic Islam through Malcolm X’s Words and Friendships


Abstract: The discursive tradition of referring to three identities, the Arab, the African, and the Islamic, as cohesive, concentric “circles” began with Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who invoked the trope in his 1955 revolutionary handbook. Nasser’s project, which challenged Western hegemony through a politics of neutrality, inspired Malik Shabazz to understand U.S. domestic coloniality in terms of overlapping diasporas. In exploring Shabazz’s invocation of this trope, I here sketch a sociohistorical and political portrait of Black, Arab, and Islamic leaders who befriended Malcolm X. Shabazz’s relationships with Arab American Muslim community activists, African leaders, Arab Muslim leaders, and the African American Cairo expat community not only represent these circles but also reveal their malleability. Rejecting ossified nation-state boundaries, Shabazz created a vision of a Black Atlantic Islam.

Syria: Much More Than a Geography of Violence

My father was born in Aleppo*, Syria on December 21, 1946, the year that the French occupation of Syria ended. A son of a second generation of urbanized Sahani bedouins, he was the first of his siblings to be born in a hospital, and left Syria three years before the “Corrective Movement” (1971) was ushered in by Hafez al-Assad, a movement, installed by Bashar al Assad’s father, that declared a state emergency still in effect today.

A Zeitouna Diary: Reporting From a School for Syrian Refugee Children in Turkey

She wouldn’t move to join her classmates for recess until I took some chips from her bag of Lay’s potato chips.

The 4th grade girl exiting her class for a 15-minute break at the school for Syrian refugee children, Salam, in the border town of Reyhanli was not unlike most children we encountered that day. We, the team of 30 plus volunteers (also known as “mentors) in the Zeitouna winter program for displaced Syrian children, would come to learn the unparalleled generosity of children that had so little. 

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Love is... ?

Philosopher Krishnamurti defines love as the intense will, resolve and determination for liberation from samsara (the round of births and deaths), and for union with God. And Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, defines love in one instance as “the expansion of the self to include others” in the viral YouTube video “The Revolution is Love” (which I highly recommend viewing in its five-minute entirety below). Tying these two definitions is a love predicated on the dissolution of the self, the me, the I, a “perfect unselfishness” (as Krishnamurti called it) — whether it be in the service of and gifting to others or the will to be one with God.

The Liquor Store Wars

Liquor stores, or more colloquially “corner stores,” in Detroit, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, and other major metropolitan cities located in economically under-served, urban, majority-black neighborhoods have been purchased by Arab American and Arab immigrants over the last two decades. In order to understand the relationship of place to religion and race, I intend to examine the dynamics of the encounter between African-American Muslims and Arab and Arab-American Muslims (mostly Yemeni) at various liquor stores in Oakland, where, according to the US Census (2000), African Americans compose 64 percent of the population. 

U.S. Fear Industry

From prisons to wars, this is about an industry of institutionalized fear that needs a population’s fears, created via political hate speech and TV and film to fuel sectors of privatized profiteering off wars and prisons.

Almost 50 years later after his assassination, Malcolm X's words from his 1965 "After the Bombing" speech, days before his murder, about indictment based on skin color still dishearteningly resonate:

"When you judge a man because of the color of his skin, then you're committing a crime, because that's the worst kind of judgment...the Black man can't hide. When they start indicting us because of our color that means we're indicted before we're born, which is the worst kind of crime that can be committed."

How a ‘Muslim Woodstock’ turns crisis into opportunity

Some have facetiously referred to it as the Muslim Woodstock.

But for all the differences between 1969’s three days of peace and music and Saturday’s Takin' it to the Streets festival in Chicago—a daylong Muslim-led arts and music festival—there is some truth to the comparison.

The differences: high on drugs vs. high on dkihr—a prayer that involves reciting the names of God—and free love vs. free tai chi lessons.

The similarity: As Woodstock defined the hippie generation, so might Takin' it to the Streets 2010, organized by the Chicago-based group Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), define a generation of Muslim Americans.

The biographer who shattered Malcolm X myths

Manning Marable, my academic mentor and a well-respected scholar, died just three days before his decades-long project, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," was released on Monday. It is an exhaustively researched biography that directly challenges the standard narratives surrounding Malcolm X.

Revolutions Take Time: Reading Reactions to Re-ignited Egyptian Protests

On November 21, Donald Trump’s tweet “Egypt is turning into a hot bed of radical Islam. The current protest is another coup attempt. We should never have abandoned Mubarak,” was facetiously re-tweeted by many Arab world observers and even Tahrir square protesters. My

question to Trump is, what revolution are you comparing Egypt’s to? And how is a pied piper dictatorship that robbed its own population daily, pushed the desperate to build shacks on graveyards and in garbage dumps and also embezzle billions in international aid from the U.S., better than a vision for a new political arrangement that will be by the people and for the people? This coming from a gentleman who previously expressed running for the highest office in the nation but yet shortsighted enough to value what its founders vigorously fought against.

Persian Gulf Travel: Beyond Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi

I can’t exactly pinpoint when Dubai became a travel destination for USAmericans, but I remain routinely surprised that travelers from the United States endure the 12 to 15 trip (depending on departure city) to visit a recently constructed Vegas, a desert transformed into a tourist experience. Two decades ago, I made my first trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Dubai of indoor ski resorts, skyscrapers, international intrigue/finance/speculative markets/banking, night clubs, air conditioned mega malls was a mere consumerist waif of its current grandoise global image. The luxury destination branding was in its nascent stages, welcoming the first American-style mall BurJuman just months prior to our visit.

Faces From Ferguson: Ashley ‘Brown Blaze’ Yates

"If they are killing us every 28 hours, what do I have to lose?”

Ashley Yates, also known to the Twitterverse as @brownblaze, was citing a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) report, “Operation Ghetto Storm,” on the extrajudicial killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and vigilante violence. (The report was first issued in 2012, and the most current data adjusted the previous finding of 36 hours to 28 hours.) More than a nod to a deterministic nihilism, this was an accentuated skepticism in a system of domination that routinely devalues Black lives, one that operates on the logic of “state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death” (as CUNY Graduate Center geographer Ruthie Gilmore defines racism) to Black bodies. In doing so, Yates located vitality in righteous resistance to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, because, as Assata Shakur (often quoted by Yates) said, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Remixing Public Diplomacy: American “Hip Hop Jam Sessions” in Post-Revolution Tunisia

After all, it was the Tunisian youth, from a self-immolated 26 year-old street vendor to a jailed rapper to those who are still organizing sit-ins and food-banking for Libyan refugees, who were the architects and infrastructure builders of the thawret al-ahrar (revolution of the free) or thawret al-karama (revolution of dignity) and are demanding political incorporation into its democratic transition. And hip hop (music, break-dancing, graffiti-ing, etc), a shared global language of youth culture, as demonstrated by the inspirational relationship building between RC and Tunisian youth, offers a genuine medium for information exchange and developing transnational solidarity.

This Camp is a Sanctuary for These Children Refugees

For most second generation Syrian Americans, the start of summer used to mark a bisection of the year, the moment when U.S. based Syrians would travelwith their family "back home," their parents' home of Syria. With the onset of brutal, unpredictable violence at the start of March of 2011 by the Assad regime in response to countrywide protests, Syrian American families have discontinued the annual pilgrimage home.

From 9/11 To 8/22: My Arab-American Muslim Father Was A Victim Of American Terrorism

As the nation approaches the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an Arab-American Muslim man, his wife and six kids continue to wrap their brains around a terrorist attack that befell them almost two years after the world’s attention turned to New York City. This time, it was in West Covina, Calif. This time is was at a Hummer dealership. And this time, it was 8/22 instead of 9/11. For all the dissimilarities between the two events, there was one constant: terrorism. The two events, reinforced by the recent Norway bombing, have taught me this: I’m looking forward to a day when the term “terrorism” is not explicitly linked to “Islam” or “Arabs.”

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