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Time for Discernment: A Muslim Women Calls on Her Buddhist Cousins in Faith

To read at Tricycle: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/a-time-for-discernment/
The last time I had worn a hijab, a headscarf, on the street was 11 years ago, when I was a practicing public interest attorney in Philadelphia. I’ve worn it for prayers since then, but this time I wore it to go to the grocery store near the small town on the Delaware River where I am raising my two young children. It was several days after our country elected Donald Trump, and I wanted to reassure myself that my world was still full of goodness and light. I wanted to watch others see past what I was wearing on my head. And because my local Trader Joe’s is in true-blue New Jersey, I got what I came for. It’s been important to remember that people are still mostly good and kind.

As with practices in every faith tradition, wearing hijab is meant to clear the excess away, to allow for some surrender of the stuff of this world, and to re-center the essential being-ness that abides in each of us. I have to admit, practice has been difficult for me of late. It’s been hard to find my way to the prayer mat. Everything feels a little off-kilter, and my priorities are not an exception. So while I am far more balanced when I am observing the ritual of prayer for a few minutes five times each day, it’s not been easy to rid myself of the mind chatter or to pull my focus away from the news cycle that always seems more pressing.

But practice is more important than ever. It’s in practice that we, from each of our faith traditions, learn to recognize ourselves in the other and to nourish our own capacities for discernment. And in this era of fake news and a president-elect who contradicts himself with alarming regularity, discernment is critical.

I am an American Muslim, born to Pakistani immigrants. During my childhood, my parents practiced Islam the way that fish swim in water. It was as unstudied as the air they breathed. But I grew up in conflict with the mix of religion and culture that they offered. In time, though, I found the element I had been missing in Sufi Muslim spirituality. I would only later learn that Sufism figured deeply in the original Islamic tradition of my family for generations, as it has for many millions of Muslims around the world. While Sufism is popularly understood to be a mystic branch of Islam, in truth it is not a branch but the very heart of Islam. It is that kernel of light at the heart of faith; the breath of wisdom and understanding without which practice feels empty. It looks like the spinning of the whirling dervish or the sound of zikr (chanting the names of the Divine), but for a devotee, it is ultimately the polishing of the inner self, the spirit.

And so, it is through practice that I am finding a way to both see and survive the ongoing drama of this presidential election. Sometimes, that practice is with the zikr circle to which my family belongs; sometimes it is in the constant test of patience that is parenting my two young children; sometimes it is in the act of prostrating in prayer. And I can see that this spiritual maintenance will be essential in the coming months and years. Before even taking office, Donald Trump has shaped public discourse in America so that it is now acceptable to publicly assert the malevolence of Muslims and the illegitimacy of Islam as a faith.

I once comforted myself that anti-Muslim bigotry was on the margins of our society, along with anti-Semitism and overt racism and misogyny. Both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush were careful to draw a distinction between the tiny minority of violent extremists who claim Islam as their own and Islam’s 1.6 billion peaceful adherents around the world. I, along with the vast majority of American Muslims, found shelter in the space they created to acknowledge us and our faith.

But that space has narrowed painfully, Continue reading → Time for Discernment: A Muslim Women Calls on Her Buddhist Cousins in Faith

What Won’t She Sell Out? The Opportunism of Asra Nomani

“…For some reason, Nomani has chosen this moment to stop walking that thin line, unapologetically aligning herself with President-elect Donald Trump. In this article, she lists her nonsensical reasons for supporting Trump: Obamacare and the president’s loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help her. Rural Americans in her hometown of Morgantown, WV are still struggling to make ends meet.

Nomani does not link a single one of these factors to any credible plan or promise Trump has to resolve these issues. That’s probably because there aren’t any such arguments to be made…” Read More

Anti-Muslim Extremists: The SPLC’s Field Guide

“…You may remember SPLC’s astounding report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nations Schools. It provided the results of an online survey that found widespread anxiety in and increased harassment of Muslim students and other students of color. The report is an important tool for parents, educators, and activists who are on the front lines, arguing that the changes in their children’s school environments must be met with proactive anti-hate messaging, diversity training, and Islam education and awareness.

SPLC has just released their Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, which profiles 15 prominent anti-Muslim extremists….Read More

 

UNDOING TRUMP’S DAMAGE: TALKING TO OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THEIR BODIES

“It’s only a matter of time before what’s on every news channel and on every Facebook feed bleeds into our children’s consciousness, or those of their classmates at school. That makes it a good time to talk to our children about their bodies, boundaries, inappropriate touching, and sexual abuse.

Many of our families and communities enforce strict taboos on speaking about anything involving sexual contact at all, ever. There is a widespread sense that to speak about sexual contact is to encourage it. Let’s be clear: sexual abuse is not sex. It is violence, and, unfortunately it happens in Muslim communities as well as outside them. The goal is to give our children tools so that they can avoid being hurt….”  Keep Reading

When Pakistan is Safer than North Carolina

“Remember the clock kid, Ahmed? He was honored by President Obama for his ingenuity and scholastic achievement after he was put in handcuffs and arrested at his own school for the same. He lives with his family in Qatar now, because of safety concerns after he became a target of Richard Dawkins and other right-wing public figures.

There’s a recent story that is every bit as heartbreaking. In it, a cherub-faced first-grader named Abdul Aziz was beaten, punched in the face, kicked in the stomach and ended up with his arm in a sling. The seven-year-old was attacked by his classmates for being Muslim. They tried to force him to eat non-zabiha food, and when he refused, they made fun of his name and attacked him….  Keep Reading

Dear Neighbor: I Take Your Trump Sign Personally

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“Dear Neighbor:

I want you to know that I take your Trump sign personally. I take it personally because I have a vagina, or as your favored candidate might say, a “p***y.” My daughter has one, too. And I figure if you’re okay with a p***y-grabber for President, you might just be one yourself. I assume you vetted the guy before you put that sign on your lawn, facing my home, in our safe and quiet suburban neighborhood. The latest news, I bet, reaches you before it reaches me, since we don’t have cable television at our house. But your loud, proud sign supporting a sexual predator for President is still out there, right alongside the quiet part of the block, where my kids sometimes practice riding their bikes. I don’t think we’ll be riding our bikes near your place any more. …

To read the rest of the letter, go here.

A Muslim and a Jehovah’s Witness Walk into a School…

This year, as the 2016 election season heats up, I was increasingly worried about sending my young children off to their preschool and elementary schools. I could not imagine sending my children into the care of people I didn’t know in schools that were new to us in a broader national climate of anti-Muslim bigotry. So I did what many Jehovah’s Witness moms do before school starts each year. I emailed my children’s teachers and administrators and asked for fifteen minutes of their time…

Read the full article here:

http://www.altmuslimah.com/2016/09/muslim-jehovahs-witness-walk-school/

Radio Spot on the Experiences of Muslim American Women

Guests: Fariha Khan, Sofia Ali-Khan, Kameelah Mumin Rashad, and Bina Shah

How do Muslim women feel about the way their religion is portrayed in the media, its place in American culture, and the ongoing presidential race? To get some answers, Radio Times producer Elizabeth Fiedler spoke with three Muslim women who live in the Philadelphia area about their lives, the surprising comments they receives about their appearance and religion, and about the term ‘forever foreigner.’ She spoke with FARIHA KHAN, associate director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, Muslim American public interest lawyer and writer SOFIA ALI-KHAN and KAMEELAH MU’MIN RASHAD, the Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the nonprofit Muslim Wellness Foundation. Then Marty speaks with Pakistan-based journalist BINA SHAH about what the West gets wrong about Afghan women.

LISTEN HERE:

http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2016/05/09/exhausting-experiences-of-frustration-surprise-for-muslim-women/

Is Your Passport in Order?

“…I have always known that I would need to prepare my children, as racial and religious minorities, to handle the kind of covert racism and ignorance I experienced with my teachers, and the hypocrisy I experienced with my childhood friend. Those experiences were not easy, but they were not crises. Through them, I developed the ability to speak loudly and clearly, to carry myself with dignity, to listen carefully, and to learn. They were the inevitable challenges of taking part in the great project of pluralism. In that project we are offered the divine opportunity to reach across gender and color, across nation, language and tribe “that we might come to know one another,” as the Qur’an describes.

But today’s Republican rhetoric-turned-platform would deny me, and would deny my children, a place at the table altogether. It drives a fundamental shift in what I have understood to be the ideals of my country. It says that America is not, and should not be, all of ours, together. It subverts the blessed opportunity of pluralism and replaces it with fear, contempt and violence. And so this election is, for me, not simply about choosing a President, but about surveying my countrymen’s vision for the future of America.”

Read more of my latest at altmuslimah.com:  http://www.altmuslimah.com/2016/05/is-your-passport-in-order/