Tough Questions on Veterans Day

Today is Veteran’s Day. I should be feeling proud and patriotic, but I’m not. Does that make me a bad American? Perhaps I should “go back to my own country” as someone calmly told me the other day. Except, I’m already in my own country, I’m proud and happy to be American, and my identity as American-Muslim is all the more stronger and faithful because of the hyphen. So what gives? Why can’t I explain Veteran’s Day to my children without feeling a bit uncomfortable?

ISIS Halloween Costumes: Bad Taste or Psychologically Cathartic?

Tonight, when Americans open their doors at the sound of “Trick or Treat!” they may be in for a big surprise: a little boy dressed up in a jihadi fighter costume! That’s right, while our planes drop bombs on the real bad guys, our neighborhood children may be dressing up like them. I know that many, Muslim or not, are offended, but I see this Halloween as especially important from a sociological perspective.

Youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner – yes she’s female, and yes she’s Muslim!

I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things.

9/11: Never Forget

9/11 became much more important than just a terrorist attack. It became an impetus for change within ourselves. Each anniversary brings us closer to healing, but never to forgetting the lessons learned. When I say “never forget”, I don’t mean it in a vindictive way, but to remind myself never to forget the resilience of my society, the things I learned, and the ways I improved myself. Never forget.

Fasting for Peace

Interfaith Iftar events are a dime a dozen nowadays. So this year I’m doing something different; a tiny step that may end up being the biggest step of them all, at least for me. Tonight I plan to attend a break fast event at a Jewish home, a small affair that will bring a few Muslims and Jews together on the intersection of Tzom Tamuzz and Ramadan. I’m ashamed that I know so little about the fasting traditions of the Jews, and I want to change that. Tonight we will talk about why our two faith traditions fast, and what we gain out of it, but more importantly we will talk about the elephant in the room: Israel and Palestine. We will think about how we can be friends when so many expect us, even need us, to be enemies.

Happy Birthday America!

Many people, especially the talking heads on certain cable news networks, think that the scarf on my head diminishes in me the ability to feel loyalty and pride, but they are wrong. I can wear whatever I want, pray however I wish, and still wave the American flag high on the fourth of July. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I am American Muslim I have a deep appreciation of what those two things mean in that combination.

Bergdahl and the Broader Conversation

To many, Bob Bergdahl himself is a traitor, learning about the enemy in a way that many just don’t understand. The controversy surrounding him is almost as big as that surrounding his son Bowie. Yet that is all politics, and we must recognize it as such. Muslims are not evil, Islam is not evil, and understanding the enemy is not the same as being a traitor. Let’s focus on the real – humanitarian – issues, not the political ones.

Remembering 9/11: Is There a Right Way?

Last week, the famed 9/11 memorial museum opened with a host of items salvaged from that fateful day in American history. About the same time, Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative burst onto our collective consciousness by once again using the image of the burning twin towers on Washington, D.C. buses to malign an entire religion. It seems that almost thirteen years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we still have an antagonistic, feral response to this defining moment in modern history. Both events have spurred protests, but thankfully not just by Muslims. Although the 9/11 memorial museum itself has remained out of controversy’s way, the accompanying seven-minute film called “The Rise of Al-Qaeda” is fast becoming a cause for concern for many New Yorkers regardless of religion. Rather than Muslims screaming themselves hoarse about Islamophobia to no avail, the film is being protested by an interfaith group as one that used specifically Islamic terminology in a way that many viewers may associate Islam with terrorism. While no-one is disputing the religion of the terrorists involved in 9/11, many feel that more should be done to differentiate between Islam as an ideology and the extremist interpretations of some Muslim groups.

When One of Us is Hurt, We All Feel Pain

Make no mistake, the attack on the Jewish Community Center was an attack on all of us, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs – people of every religion and no religion. The perpetrator, apparently a former KKK member with ties to Nazism, is not just a person, but an embodiment of the hate culture rising around us.

Is There Finally Hope for Challenging Orientalism in Hollywood?

Last week the world of American Muslim social media (if there is such a thing) was rocked by an unexpected victory. A proposed ABCFamily show provocatively entitled Alice in Arabia was cancelled after a protest by American Muslims. The reason: this tale of an American girl kidnapped by Saudi relatives and held, veiled against her will in Saudi Arabia was all too familiar as stereotypical orientalism. The question then becomes, with films and television shows preceding it rife with the racist prejudices of our American consciousness, why was Alice in Arabia different?