Google Search Is Doing Irreparable Harm To Muslims

Omar Suleiman, a Muslim American imam from Dallas and founder of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, is taking on the world’s largest search engine to stop it from spreading hate.

Suleiman and his team have been publishing reports on controversial topics in Islam ― like jihad ― in the hopes of influencing the search algorithm. His goal is to flood the search results with accurate information on Islam.  Basic searches for words like “Muslim” and “Islam” return reasonable results with links to reputable sites. But more specific terms, like “sharia,” “jihad” or “taqiyya” ― often co-opted by white supremacists ― return links to Islamophobic sites filled with misinformation.

The same thing happens with the autofill function. If a user types in “does islam,” the first suggestion that pops up to complete the query is “does islam permit terrorism.” Another egregious example occurs when a user inputs “do muslim.” The autofill results include “do muslim women need saving.”

 

Trump Effect: Jewish and Muslim Organizations Form New Alliance

A new Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council will work to protect religious minorities’ rights as well as other ‘issues of common concern.’

Less than a week after an election that left many minority and religious groups in the United States feeling disenfranchised, two important organizations – one Jewish and the other Muslim – announced an unusual alliance on Monday.

The American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America have teamed up to form a new national group of leading Jewish and Muslim Americans: The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council.

In a press release, the AJC said that the new group “brings together recognized business, political and religious leaders in the Jewish and Muslim American communities to jointly advocate on issues of common concern.”

Aziz Ansari: Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.
Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but hestands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

‘Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity’ by Shabana Mir

March 7, 2014

 

It should come as no surprise that being a Muslim American woman on an American college campus, surrounded by social pressures involving drinking and dating, makes for a complex young-adult experience. What’s surprising is that these conflicts are not much discussed.

Shabana Mir, who teaches global studies and anthropology at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., spent 10 months in Washington during 2002-03. She interviewed 26 Muslim American women at Georgetown and George Washington universities about how their choices concerning dating, alcohol and clothing made them feel around their non-Muslim peers. Each woman had her own way of melding her two modifiers into a “third space” that is “neither stereotypically American, nor stereotypically Muslim.”

One theme of the book is a subtle current of dismay on the part of non-Muslim students, who tended to be misinformed at best and fearful at worst about interacting with Mir’s subjects. Here is the author’s summation of what one young woman experienced after deciding to go to parties where there was drinking but not indulge in it herself: “Though Fatima optimistically assumed that her peers would respond to her compromise and ‘just accept’ her teetotalism, the tolerance proffered by her peers was far shallower than the acceptance they received from Fatima because of the cultural power differential.”

The book may leave readers feeling confused about what it is young Muslim American women are seeking or needing from those peers. In any case, the reticence Mir found on both campuses is unfortunate in a university setting, where dialogue and mutual understanding should be the norm.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2014/03/07/6c3058b4-844c-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html

Mighty, Muslim and Leaping Off the Page – Marvel Comics Introducing a Muslim Girl Superhero

With most superheroes, when you take away the colorful costume, mask and cape, what you find underneath is a white man. But not always. In February, as part of a continuing effort to diversify its offerings, Marvel Comics will begin a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City.

No exploding planet, death of a relative or irradiated spider led to Kamala’s creation. Her genesis began more mundanely, in a conversation between Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, two editors at Marvel. “I was telling him some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim-American,” Ms. Amanat said. “He found it hilarious.” Ms. Amanat and Mr. Wacker noted the dearth of female superhero series and, even more so, of comics with cultural specificity.

When they told G. Willow Wilson, an author, comic book writer and convert to Islam, about their idea, she was eager to come on board as the series’ writer. “Any time you do something like this, it is a bit of a risk,” Ms. Wilson said. “You’re trying to bring the audience on board and they are used to seeing something else in the pages of a comic book.”

Kamala, whose family is from Pakistan, has devotedly followed the career of the blond, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, who now goes by Captain Marvel, a name she inherited from a male hero. When Kamala discovers her powers, including the ability to change shape, she takes on the code name Ms. Marvel — what Carol called herself when she began her superhero career.

“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson said. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”

As for Kamala, Ms. Wilson said the series was “about the universal experience of all American teenagers, feeling kind of isolated and finding what they are.” Though here, she adds, that happens “through the lens of being a Muslim-American” with superpowers.

 

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/books/marvel-comics-introducing-a-muslim-girl-superhero.html?_r=0

Will Islamic Stand-Up Play in Peoria? ‘The Muslims are Coming!,’ a Docu-comedy

“Every single solitary Butterball turkey in the United States of America has been sacrificed to Allah,” a conservative commentator says of halal meat in the montage that opens “The Muslims Are Coming!” Directed by the comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, the documentary begins strongly with this collection of absurd hatemongering, cobbled from television clips. Unfortunately, the film peaks in those first few minutes.

The movie follows a group of Muslim-American comedians (who include Ms. Farsad and Mr. Obeidallah, documenting themselves) on a peace tour across the country to promote awareness. They travel in two cars to small towns and large cities to perform stand-up and also to stage goofy stunts — for instance, setting up an “Ask a Muslim” booth or holding a “Hug a Muslim” sign. Interspersed are interviews with the comedians and with better-known figures like Jon Stewart, David Cross and Rachel Maddow.

US media helped anti-Muslim bodies gain influence, distort Islam

A study published by a sociologist has revealed that fear-mongering non-governmental anti-Muslim organisations have been heavily influencing US media since 9/11, their messages seeping into news articles and television reporting and drawing their ethos from the fringes, straight into the mainstream.

 

What’s perhaps most troubling about the results is how these minor groups, which would ordinarily receive little or no air time, have gained an element of respect that has led to them receiving more funding and coupling with influential bodies. Their influence is such that they have even been able to paint mainstream Muslim organisations as radical, says the study.

“The vast majority of organisations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream,” the paper’s author, University of North Carolina assistant professor of sociology Christopher Bail, told Wired.co.uk

 

“Anti-Muslim fringe organisations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger. Institutional amplification of this emotional energy, I argue, created a gravitational pull or ‘fringe effect’ that realigned inter-organisational networks and altered the contours of mainstream discourse itself.”

“The only major US Muslim organisation that has achieved a high level of media influence is the Council on American Islamic Relations, which is now working to rebuff the recent rise in anti-Muslim messages within the American public sphere,” said Bail.

 

Today, more than a decade since 9/11, evidence of that anti-Muslim influence still seeping into government habits is highly concerning.

 

“Muslim-American organisations have not been adequately represented within our policy process. For example, only one large Muslim-American organisation was invited to participate in recent Senate and Congressional hearings about the threat of radicalisation within the Muslim-American community.”

Judge finds District’s rules for hanging political posters unconstitutional

A federal judge on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional the District’s regulations for hanging political signs on the city’s lampposts.

U.S. District Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s opinion finds that the rules governing how long signs can be posted in the District violate the First Amendment, and it prevents the city from enforcing the regulations.

In his 58-page decision, Lamberth “lauds the District for opening its lampposts to political messages” but writes that “once the District opens up public property to political speech, it has a responsibility to be fair, even and precise in its regulations.”

At issue is a long-standing battle between the District and a grass-roots organization that was fined tens of thousands of dollars by the city for failing to promptly remove its posters from lampposts and electrical boxes after an anti-war march it advertised in 2007.

Two groups — the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation — argued that the city’s rules unfairly distinguished between different types of speech and initially favored signs promoting the election of individual candidates for public office.

In response to the lawsuit, the District has rewritten its regulations at least four times. City attorneys in the case said the regulations were designed to promote aesthetics and reduce litter, according to court documents.

But Lamberth wrote that the revised regulations still failed to apply a consistent, constitutional standard, in part because of the discretion the language gives to individual city inspectors.

Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation

Within the span of about a week recently, Haris Tarin spoke at a Washington panel on how the next U.S. president can combat violent Islamic extremism, delivered a guest sermon for Eid in Alexandria, launched an ad campaign on District buses calling for religious tolerance, and hosted an election night party and discussion in Great Falls.

Tarin, the full-time Washington representative of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), seems to be everywhere at once. Yet he also walks a tightrope between American critics who see his group as a diplomatic front for radical Islamists and conservative fellow Muslims who fear it is going too far to accommodate American values, security needs or misperceptions about their faith.

Tarin, 34, describes himself as a “ passionate moderate” who speaks for others of his generation – hundreds of thousands of young Muslim Americans who are trying to find a balance between the enveloping faith of their foreign-born parents and the freewheeling, participatory nature of Western society.

“ We want to ensure that American Muslims are seen as an integral part of the American fabric, that they feel comfortable with both their faith and their American identity,” he said. “ We want to be seen as partners, not suspects.”

Muslim Americans lead in social entrepreneurship

“Social entrepreneurship” has become a buzzword in the international development community and in activist culture in the United States and beyond.

It is a matter of pride for me, a Muslim American blogger, to highlight two models of social entrepreneurship – solving a social problem through innovative solutions – that have received national attention in the U.S. and are the brainchildren of Muslim Americans. Their innovation has created new spaces for community engagement that can help expand ideas of what it means to be a community activist.

Meet two social entrepreneurial models that connect non-Muslim and Muslim Americans, and others: Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago. They are not ventures geared toward interfaith understanding. Instead, they are focused on community building – but in doing so they have created spaces where people of different faiths and backgrounds can interact.

As American leaders encourage other countries’ budding entrepreneurs to take ownership of problems within their communities, it is important to highlight what is already happening in the United States.

Local leaders in other American cities, such as Denver and New York, have approached these Muslim Americans and asked them to expand their operations and open a Busboys and Poets or IMAN there. If they do so, they will be sharing more than just the spirit of American activism, but also a dynamic, inclusive Muslim approach to activism.