[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating about Islam and reflects a wide variety of opinions and approaches. It does not reflect the views of the Critical Currents in Islam page or of Jadaliyya.]
“The elusive pragmatist who transformed political Islam in Indonesia” The Interpreter (16 July 2020)
This article chronicles the life of the late Hilmi Aminuddin, a Muslim scholar who established the Indonesian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (1983). While Aminuddin was perceived by the general public as an unremarkable party man, he played an influential role in transforming political Islam in Indonesia by introducing a disciplined socio-political project to Islamise Indonesia through the universities, the democratic process and the state.
“Egypt’s eternal conundrum - reforming religious thought” Qantara (14 July 2020)
Tensions between Al-Azhar University’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and Cairo University’s President Mohamad al-Khosht over the subject of religious reform were apparent in a recent international conference hosted by the former.
“Biden promises to end Trump's 'Muslim ban' on first day in office” Middle East Eye (20 July 2020)
US Presidential hopeful Joe Biden urged Muslim Americans to vote, vowing that if he is elected president instead of Donald Trump, he will end the latter’s ‘Muslim ban’ on his first day in office.
“My journey through 20 years of British terror laws” Middle East Eye (21 July 2020)
Anti-terror laws in Britain have been applied over the past 20 years. Moazzam Begg argues that his own experience of them is living proof.
“Amidst the pandemic, Hezbollah buries fighters killed in Syria” Atlantic Council (Published: 20 July 2020)
As both Lebanon and Syria continue to fight against the spread of the deadly coronavirus, the remains of Hezbollah fighters killed years ago are returning to Lebanon and the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group are burying them one after another.
“US counterterrorism in the Sahel: from indirect to direct intervention” Chatham House (6 July 2020)
An in-depth article addressing the constitutive effects of US indirect military intervention in the Sahel after 9/11, and subsequent more direct military intervention following the outbreak of civil war in Mali. Stephen Tankel argues that the massive expansion and evolution of United States security cooperation under the auspices of the ‘war on terror’ remains overlooked in the counterterrorism and interventions literature.
“Drone imagery in Islamic State propaganda: flying like a state” Chatham House (6 July 2020)
This in-depth article provides an analysis of the Islamic State's use of images taken by drones, drawing on a dataset of ISIS propaganda images from October 2016 to December 2018. Through an analysis of ISIS drone propaganda, the article provides an insight into non-state actors’ perception of drones and the communicative value of drone images.
“Shamima Begum ruling reignites debate over Britons who joined ISIS” The Guardian (16 July 2020)
The latest ruling in the Shamima Begum case has reignited the debate over how a state should deal with so-called foreign fighters and their families, and prompted fears that others who have had their citizenship stripped will attempt similar appeals.
“Killing of Islamic State expert in Baghdad marks critical moment for Iraq” The Guardian (7 July 2020)
Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official murdered outside his home earlier this month, backed action to tackle Iraq’s powerful militias, despite knowing the risks.
“In life and death, Iraq’s Hisham al-Hashimi” Chatham House (14 July 2020)
Renad Mansour pays tribute to his friend and colleague, one of Iraq’s foremost security specialists and an expert on the so-called ‘Islamic State’, killed in Baghdad.
“At least 180 civilians killed in Burkina Faso town, says rights group” The Guardian (9 July 2020)
At least 180 civilians have been killed in recent months in a single town in Burkina Faso, with evidence pointing towards the country’s often-accused security forces, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
‘Yazidi women are strong’: Iraq's female landmine clearance teams” The Guardian (7 July 2020)
Isis planted mines across Sinjar and displaced the Yazidi community. Now a group of women are clearing the way for the return of their people.
“US House Democrats pass what could be the first ‘Muslim civil rights bill’” TRT World (25 July 2020)
The US House of Representatives have just passed legislation that would repeal the Trump administration’s controversial ‘anti-Muslim’ travel ban, in what has been called the first Muslim civil rights bill in US history. This bill would outright prohibit any future president from using religious discrimination as grounds for restricting immigration. As a symbolic victory for Muslim Americans and civil rights groups, this measure is also a way to keep public pressure on for a future rollback of the policy.
“Married Couple Affected by Muslim Travel Ban, Pandemic Constraints” NPR (27 July 2020)
NPR speaks with a married couple, forced into a long-distance relationship because of a Trump administration travel ban on Muslim countries and the recent pandemic travel restrictions.
The Reconversion of Hagia Sophia
“Hagia Sophia: There is nothing Islamic about ideologized opportunism” Arab News (7 July 2020)
While the Turkish President’s decree to reconvert Hagia Sophia to a mosque is clearly motivated by political reasons, this author contends that Erdogan’s decision is also highly un-Islamic. Such behavior exhibited by Erdogan contradicts Islam’s tolerance towards other religions. Moreover, the author posits that Erdogan’s behaviour is deliberately provocative and draws parallels from past events in Islamic history.
“Was Erdogan right to declare the Hagia Sophia a mosque?” Middle East Eye (15 July 2020)
An opinion piece considering Turkey’s President Erdogan’s recent decision to assign Hagia Sophia mosque status - and whether by doing so, Erdogan is a step closer to winning the region’s leaders legitimacy contest.
“Erdogan plays out Islamic ‘Reconquista’ with Hagia Sophia as Backdrop” Al-Monitor (15 July 2020)
President Erdogan’s decree to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque could be perceived as the Turkish Reconquista. While Erdogan’s decision is a political move aimed to reinvigorate his standing domestically, his actions are overall telling of his forceful claim for the global leadership of Muslims.
“Hagia Sophia, Islamism and Secularism in Turkey” Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University (17 July 2020)
For many of Erdogan’s supporters, the Turkish president’s decision to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque is symbolic of Turkey’s re-Islamization or the counter-revolution against the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. While the erosion of Turkey’s secular status leads to more challenges faced by Christians and other non-Muslim citizens, there are still reasons to be optimistic about the future of secularism in Turkey. The rise of populist Islam endorsed by the regime is triggering a reaction: a secularist new generation.
“Why is Hagia Sophia’s Re(Conversion) into a Mosque Bad for Muslims?” Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University (23 July 2020)
Hagia Sophia’s re-conversion is detrimental to Muslims because of the following reasons: firstly, the move undermines Islam’s legacy of tolerance towards minorities, next, this decision will fuel Islamophobia across the world and endanger Muslim minorities, and finally, Ergodan’s decree contributes to religious nationalism.
“In Pictures: Hagia Sophia Opens for Muslim Worship” BBC News (24 July 2020)
This photo essay documents the Friday prayers that were held at the Hagia Sophia for the first time since it was turned into a museum 85 years ago.
“Hagia Sophia Friday prayer: full transcript of the sermon” TRT World (24 July 2020)
This is the full transcript of the first Friday prayer sermon since Hagia Sophia’s reconversion into a mosque.
“Hagia Sophia is still symbolic of Christianity and Islam’s shared history” Middle East Eye (31 July 2020)
This piece provides a brief political history of the Hagia Sophia as well as detailed descriptions of the evolution of the building’s construction since the fourth century.
“COVID-19 Cancels the Islamic Pilgrimage, Grounding a Lifelong Dream for some N.C. Muslims” INDY Week (8th July 2020)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saudi government has cancelled the annual Islamic pilgrimage of hajj. According to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, close to 75% of hajj pilgrims came from abroad and nearly 500 of them were from the United States.
Arts and Popular Culture
“A fight for the soul of Islam” Qantara (17 July 2020)
A new film, Baamum Nafi (Nafi’s Father) by Senagalese filmmaker Mamadou Dia demonstrates how violent Islamist fundamentalism could enter Senegal, just as it has in Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. According to Dia, not only was the film made to undermine the assumption of a singular Muslim identity, but it was also intended to generate a debate about the subject of extremism within Senegal
“The trouble with Ramy: How the award-winning TV show has failed Arab Americans” Middle East Eye (20 July 2020)
Joseph Fahim gives an in-depth review of Ramy Youssef’s comedy series, which has just been renewed by Hulu for a third season.
“Netflix cancels production of Turkish show after LGBT character row” Middle East Eye (21 July 2020)
Staff on the TV show ‘If Only’ say Turkish authorities refused a filming license over the presence of an LGBT character. LGBT representation in TV shows and films has received a mixed reception in Turkey recently.
“Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean” (Podcast interview) New Books Network (13 July 2020)
Dr. Aliya Khan, an assistant professor of English and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has written a new book titled Far From Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean. The book examines the archive of autobiography, literature, music, and public celebrations in Guyana and Trinidad, offering an analysis of the ways Islam became integral to the Caribbean. In this podcast, Dr. Khan speaks about her reasons for writing her book and she also explains how her research reconstructs the academic discourse on slavery in the British West Indies
“The woman forced to flee her country for rapping” BBC News (19 July 2020)
BBC World Service reporter Faranak Amidi speaks to Justina, who faced prison in Iran for rapping and now lives in exile in Georgia. Iran’s Shia Muslim clerics believe that a woman’s singing voice can be erotic, and many have been sentenced to prison for singing in public, or publishing their work on social media.
“Teaching Toddlers an Alternative to Toilet Paper” Forbes (10 July 2020)
In the midst of a global pandemic and a widespread shortage of toilet paper, Yousfa Janjua took this opportunity to teach her children an alternative cleaning process by writing My First Muslim Potty Book. Through her book, Yousfa aims to provide visibility to Muslim experiences that help shape the budding identities of children in the Muslim community. In the process, she hopes to counter the negative imagery that overwhelms mainstream media with the greater truth and Muslim reality.
“Muslim beauty pageant created by Bexley resident touts modesty” The Columbus Dispatch (27 July 2020)
Maghrib Shahid, the owner of Chimiwear, a modest clothing collection, created the Miss Muslimah USA pageant to break down beauty stereotypes and to celebrate modest women who wear hijab.
“Beyond the Burkini: How there’s more to modest swimwear than meets the eye” Middle East Eye (27 July 2020)
This article discusses varying concepts of modesty, personal comfort and the increasing popularity of the burkini through a series of interviews with several Muslim women based within the Middle East and Europe.
“‘Ramy’ is the first Muslim American sitcom to receive an Emmy nomination” CNN (28 July 2020)
Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ was nominated for outstanding lead actor and outstanding comedy directing in a comedy series. ‘Ramy’ becomes the first Muslim American sitcom to recieve an Emmy nomination. Ramy Youssef, the co-creator and star of the sitcom hopes that the show’s success will open doors for others to continue exploring the vast Muslim American experience.
“Couple create interactive Muslim map of Poland to show the many faces of Polish Islam” The First News (2nd August 2020)
A Polish couple have made an interactive map of Poland, marking sites and communities connected with Islam that demonstrate that there is more to the country than Tartars when it comes to the Muslim faith.
Religious Thought and Practice
“Reclaiming the Path of Moderation in Islam” National Review (14 July 2020)
In light of the rising tide of Islamic nationalism threatening the survival of Middle Eastern pluralism, this author argues that a return to sound Quranic principles is the best way to defeat pseudo-religious fundamentalists. Through an analysis of Islamic history as well as the Qur’an, the author posits that the goals of fundamentalists are very much inspired by power as opposed to the teachings of Islam.
“Iftar con arroz y frijoles: Latinos Embracing Islam in the Age of Trump” Chicago Monitor (16 July 2020)
This article focuses on the experiences of several Latino Muslim individuals from Chicago. Between the Muslim Ban, the deportation crisis at the Mexican Border and the xenophobic rhetoric delivered routinely from the White House, Latino Muslims reflect upon the challenges of navigating political debates and stigmas from within both Muslim and Latino communities.
“Scaled-down Hajj pilgrimage to start on July 29: Saudi officials” Al Jazeera (21 July 2020)
This year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia will be scaled back dramatically, as only 1,000 people will be able to take part in the pilgrimage and will need to be quarantined after the event.
“In Pictures: Muslims Around the World Celebrate Eid al-Adha” News 18 (1st August 2020)
A series of images from New Delhi to Kabul and Sarajevo demonstrate how Eid al-Adha is celebrated globally.
“Unable to travel to Mecca, Muslim Community holds Drive-Thru Hajj” NPR (30 July 2020)
Since the coronavirus pandemic has prompted Saudia Arabia to limit access to a small number of Saudis and foreigners living inside the kingdom, Mona Eldadah, the creative director of an Islamic nonprofit (New Muslim Initiative), created a miniature version of the hajj done by car.
Women, Gender, and Sexuality
“What Mainstream Literature Still Needs to Get Right About Muslim Women” Bookriot (14 July 2020)
Through an analysis of the female Muslim characters in Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers and Zoe Ferraris’ Finding Nouf, this writer concludes that authors who write about Muslim women must stop seeing them as a monolithic group with similar interests, morals, and identities. Such stereotypes are harmful to Muslim communities outside the Arab world who may be struggling with maintaining a religious identity within their individual self without falling prey to the concept of Arab dominance.
“The unseen Muslim women of Hindi Cinema” The Indian Express (11 July 2020)
In the history of Hindi cinema, the character of the Muslim woman has made rare appearances. Even in the few instances where Muslim women are shown, they are often portrayed as ruthless co-conspirators or vulnerable and frequently exoticized figures. Although Muslim women across strata have been making their voices heard and defining their own political identity as Indian citizens in the past few months, for a meaningful reflection of this reality in cinema, Muslim women will have to write their own stories on-screen too.
“Through sci-fi and fantasy, Muslim women authors are building new worlds” Religion News Service (RNS) (16 July 2020)
In recent years, Muslim women have quietly taken the speculative fiction publishing industry by storm, earning acclaimed reviews with fantasy and science fiction narratives that upend both the genre’s historic lack of diversity and popular depictions of women and Islam.
“Generations project celebrates diversity of Muslim women in Canada” Salt Wire (21 July 2020)
When Alia Youssef, a freelance photographer based in Toronto struggled to find authentic portrayals of Muslims in the media, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Her latest project, Generations, Youssef handed the microphone over to Muslim families in Canada, and specifically Muslim women only, so they could tell their own stories. In Generations, Youssef took family portraits that included multiple generations of women from each family.
Race Relations and Racial Representation in Muslim Communities
“The Conversation: Islam’s anti-racist message from the seventh century still resonates today” Salt Lake Tribune (6th July 2020)
In the Farewell Address, the Prophet Muhammad spoke of racial equality, a message that reverberated through the early Islamic society that was divided by tribal affiliations and notions of ethnic superiority. In light of the racial tensions and violence occurring in the United States, the Prophet’s message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support anti-racism protest movements.
“At the doorstep of Muslim America: Finding Unity of Purpose Within A Diverse Faith Community” Milwaukee Syndicate (13 July 2020)
Since the killing of George Floyd, Muslim Americans have mostly shown solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Multiple national and regional Muslim civil rights and faith groups have also come to acknowledge that Black people are often marginalized within the broader Muslim community. This article takes a closer look at the proximity and complex relations that different sections of America’s Muslim community have with law enforcement and with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“On White privilege and Islam” The Daily Star (16 July 2020)
In this review of The Invisible Muslim: Journeys through Whiteness and Islam, written by Medina Tenour Whiteman, the reviewer applauds the frankness in Whiteman’s acknowledgment and examination of her privilege. According to the reviewer, The Invisible Muslim is a celebration of diversity in the Muslim world and it offers a topical read to better understand anti-racism conversations that are prevalent in contemporary global discourse.
“Un-Holyland? An Arab Muslim Reckoning with Racism” NPR (22 July 2020)
Majdi Wadi, a Palestinian American and CEO of the Holy Land brand, is facing business problems because his daughter’s unsavory social media posts from 2012 and 2016 have come to light. To make amends, Wadi reached out to Imam Makram El-Amin from Masjid An-Nur, a Black Muslim leader in Minneapolis. NPR speaks with both Wadi and El-Amin about this controversy. To get more context for the dynamic between Arab Muslims and Black Muslims, NPR also speaks to Rami Nashashibi, a Palestinian American Muslim community organizer who has been trying to get corner store owners to be more integrated into the Black neighborhoods that they are running their businesses in.
“Nadirah Pierre’s Instagram Comedy Hails Representation for Black Muslim Women” Teen Vogue (21 July 2020)
Successful comedienne Nadirah Pierre is paving the way for young Muslim women to understand that they are allowed to set unconventional goals and take up space. For Nadirah, she strives to represent a segment of entertainment that shows a Muslim who actually loves their faith and is comfortable with wearing their hijab whether people understand it, like it or not.
“Prevent reinforces stereotypes and leads Muslim students to self-censor: Report" Middle East Eye (15 July 2020)
A new study has revealed that the UK government’s Prevent counterterrorism strategy has reinforced negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and caused students to self-censor on campus.
“Islamophobia: It’s worse than you think” Wisconsin Muslim Journal (7 July 2020)
In this interview, Dr. Nazita Lajervardi, an assistant professor at Michigan State University speaks about her book Outsiders at Home and the pervasiveness of Islamophobia in America.