Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, first African American woman on New York’s top court, found dead in Hudson River

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found dead in the Hudson River on April 12, police said. She was 65.

It is not yet known how Abdus-Salaam, who lived in Harlem, ended up in the river, or how long her body had been there. Her death shook the New York legal community, prompting responses from colleagues, judges, and state and local political leaders.

 

I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.

Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.

A lot is being said now about the “silent secret Trump supporters.”

This is my confession — and explanation: I — a 51-year-old, a Muslim, an immigrant woman “of color” — am one of those silent voters for Donald Trump. And I’m not a “bigot,” “racist,” “chauvinist” or “white supremacist,” as Trump voters are being called, nor part of some “whitelash.”

In the winter of 2008, as a lifelong liberal and proud daughter of West Virginia, a state born on the correct side of history on slavery, I moved to historically conservative Virginia only because the state had helped elect Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States.

Tuesday evening, just minutes before the polls closed at Forestville Elementary School in mostly Democratic Fairfax County, I slipped between the cardboard partitions in the polling booth, a pen balanced carefully between my fingers, to mark my ballot for president, coloring in the circle beside the names of Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence.

CAIR Asks Imams to Devote Sermons to Racial Equality in Response to Missouri Police Shooting

August 14, 2014

CAIR today called on imams (prayer leaders) nationwide to devote at least a portion of their khutbas (sermons) for tomorrow’s weekly congregational prayers (jummah) to the issues of racial equality and social justice.

That request comes in the wake of racial turmoil resulting from the fatal police shooting on Saturday of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri. Police claim the unarmed Brown had struggled for an officer’s gun in a patrol car before he was killed, but witnesses said Brown, who is African-American, had his hands up when he was shot. Brown’s death triggered angry demonstrations, as well as vandalism and looting.

CAIR’s St. Louis chapter joined calls for a federal investigation into the shooting.

“Despite progress in race relations over the past decades, our nation still has a long way to go to live up to the true American values of equality and justice for all,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We need a serious and deep national conversation about how to heal these wounds, starting with all of us as individuals, family members and community leaders.”

CAIR-CT, NAACP Seek Investigation of Hate Graffiti

October 25, 2013

 

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CT) and the New London Chapter of the NAACP today called on local and national law enforcement authorities to investigate hate graffiti scrawled on a New London sidewalk.

CAIR said a local resident discovered the graffiti as she was walking to work early Friday morning. The phrase “Get a job blacks” and a Nazi swastika were spray-painted on the side walk facing a house where an African-American family lives.

Later today, CAIR-CT, NAACP New London, City and faith leaders will hold a press conference to address this disturbing incident.

 

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12226-cair-ct-naacp-seek-investigation-of-hate-graffiti.html

50th anniversary of the March on Washington is a reminder of black-Jewish relations at their best

For many Americans, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was a time of broad themes, of big-picture talks about race and economic justice. But for some, the events of the past week stirred specific memories — some good and others not — concerning relations between African Americans and Jews.

Jews were extremely active in the civil rights movement, and they played a role that was especially remarkable in light of their making up such a small part of the nation’s population. Prominent rabbis marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and several were involved in the founding of the NAACP.

Historians have noted that, starting in the early part of the 20th century, the two communities found common cause in fighting their exclusion from largely white, largely Christian mainstream society and in overcoming prejudice that would deny them entry to residential neighborhoods, universities and athletic clubs.

By the 1980s and 1990s, however, the relationship had frayed, strained by such points of contention as the opposition of some Jewish leaders to affirmative action and anti-Jewish comments made by black leaders Jesse L. Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.

Although many African Americans and Jews continue to work together on shared, largely liberal, interests — including civil liberties, public education and voting rights — younger generations have drifted apart over such issues as national economic policy and Israel.

Thomas Hart, 57, an African American lawyer, lobbyist and documentary filmmaker in the District. Hart has long partnered with Jewish leaders on such causes at securing voting rights and expanding black-owned media, and he is making a film about black-Jewish relations.

He said the “dire” economic conditions that many black Americans face have contributed to a gap with the Jewish community, as has the growth of the nation’s Muslim community (a quarter of which is African American) and resulting tensions over Middle East policy.

 

Reza Aslan, researching while Muslim

It’s about time.

A real conversation about religion has begun in this country. In fact, it has gone viral. Up until now, public religion has too-often been about name-calling, confessionals, politics and cartoon versions of “the other.”

Thanks to a shockingly insensitive interview with religious scholar Reza Aslan, the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and a man who just happens to be Muslim, the Internet has lit up like a Christmas tree. Lauren Green of Fox News began her questioning with this: “You are a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Once wasn’t enough. She kept asking the clearly dumbfounded Aslan the same question as he tried to explain that he is a scholar of religion. Given her insistence, one might have wondered why an African American Christian woman would be interviewing a white Persian male Muslim.

Aslan is not upset about the interview. In fact, he has reason to be pleased. It has given his book wide media exposure.

“I am so glad people are having this conversation,” Aslan says. “I was surprised how it captured the zeitgeist. This is a topic usually discussed by academics in stuffy libraries.”

What’s so outrageous about the book? He calls Jesus a zealot, for one thing. But as he explains, “in Jesus’s world, ‘zealot’ referred to those Jews who adhered to a widely biblical doctrine called zeal.” They were against Roman authorities and their collaborators, wealthy temple priests and aristocratic Jews. The fact that Jesus was a revolutionary — a rabble-rouser — is not exactly news in the world of theology. He wasn’t running around passing out Easter eggs.

What’s interesting here is the backlash from what he calls “the anti-Muslim fringe, the rabid Islamophobes, who have been attacking me for a decade and calling me vile and racist names.” He wasn’t surprised by what happened on Fox News and has no hard feelings toward Green. “I have nothing but compassion for her. I understand where she is coming from. I used to be like her. I used to be a fundamentalist evangelical Christian. It’s a fear in the world of being confronted with questioning the most basic tenets of your faith.”

NJ mosque uses NYPD surveillance to emphasize in an ad campaign that it has nothing to hide

NEWARK, N.J. — The leader of a New Jersey mosque that was listed in a secret NYPD surveillance report is using the incident to try and recruit new members and promote a more positive view of Muslims.

Imam Mustafa El-Amin of Masjid Ibrahim in Newark ran an advertisement Thursday in The Star-Ledger newspaper urging people to read the Quran, denouncing terrorism and emphasizing that his mosque has an “open door” policy.

Under a bold-letter headline that reads: “NYPD Surveillance of Muslim Community,” the ad says there’s no need for the NYPD or any other agency to conduct secret surveillance of the mosque, because: “We have nothing to hide. Our doors are open.”

El-Amin says he came up with the idea after reflecting on a phrase in the Quran — “With every difficulty, there is relief” — and realizing that finding a positive, teachable moment out of a negative experience is a concept deeply rooted in Islam.

“We’ve heard a lot about the negative effects, but once you get this level of exposure, one of the best things about it is, if you’re positive, than the positive will win out,” he said.

Attendance at El-Amin’s largely African-American mosque, housed in a converted storefront along a gritty commercial strip in Newark, has not waned in light of the NYPD revelations, he said. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to run the ad for a variety of reasons: to attract new people to the mosque — potential Muslim converts, law enforcement officials or people of any faith wanting to learn more about Islam — to emphasize the mosque’s long-running stance against terrorism, and to set non-Muslims at ease, especially those who were once friendly to the mosque but are now wary of visiting Muslim businesses or mosques that were listed in the NYPD report.

‘Tayyibah Taylor on Muslim Women’ – The Daily Show, RTE ONE, 7 March 2011

Tayyibah Taylor, African-American convert to Islam, women’s rights activist and editor of Azizah Magazine, appeared on The Daily Show to talk about Muslim perspectives on women’s rights and the status of women in Islam in general. Tayyibah Taylor visited Ireland to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2011.

African-Americans still attracted and converting to Islam

Despite the string of recent terror arrests in the US, the Muslim faith continues to convert many average African-Americans, who say they are attracted by Islam’s emphasis on equality, discipline and family.

But American black Muslim Sekou Jackson admits the life is not without its challenges. “It’s kind of a double whammy to be African-American and Muslim,” said Jackson, who studies the Navy at the National Academy of Science in Washington. “You’re going to be judged.”

“The unique history African-Americans have faced, we’re primed for accepting Islam,” said Jackson. “When someone comes to you with a message that everyone is equal, that the only difference is the deeds that they do, of course people who have been oppressed will embrace that message…it’s a message of fairness.”

A Pew survey estimated that 35 percent of all American Muslims are African-Americans, mostly orthodox Sunnis.

At the Quba Institute in Philadelphia, a black Sunni mosque, the worshippers are a mix of blue-collar workers, young college graduates, professors, law enforcement officers, and “regular people who are just trying to worship God and live a decent life,” said the imam, Anwar Muhaimin.

Marc Manley, a local black Muslim, said that many blacks who have struggled with crime, drugs or alcohol are drawn to Islam’s regimented lifestyle, which includes prayers five times a day.

“Especially in the urban context, it provides a vehicle for African-Americans to deal with those ills,” he said. “It provides a buffer or a barrier.”

American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender within the Ummah

African American Muslims and South Asian Muslim immigrants are two of the largest ethnic Muslim groups in the U.S. Yet there are few sites in which African Americans and South Asian immigrants come together, and South Asians are often held up as a “model minority” against African Americans. However, the American ummah, or American Muslim community, stands as a unique site for interethnic solidarity in a time of increased tensions between native-born Americans and immigrants.

American Muslim Women explores the relationships and sometimes alliances between African Americans and South Asian immigrants, drawing on interviews with a diverse group of women from these two communities. Karim investigates what it means to negotiate religious sisterhood against America’s race and class hierarchies, and how those in the American Muslim community both construct and cross ethnic boundaries.

This ethnographic study of African American and South Asian immigrant Muslims in Chicago and Atlanta explores how Islamic ideals of racial harmony and equality create hopeful possibilities in an American society that remains challenged by race and class inequalities. The volume focuses on women who, due to gender inequalities, are sometimes more likely to move outside of their ethnic Muslim spaces and interact with other Muslim ethnic groups in search of gender justice.

American Muslim Women reveals the ways in which multiple forms of identity frame the American Muslim experience, in some moments reinforcing ethnic boundaries, and at other times, resisting them.

Jamillah Karim is Assistant Professor in religious studies at Spelman College.