Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

By

Muslim
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

This Eid al-Adha, Muslim is celebrating through art. One of the goals of this publication is to create a community of Muslims no matter how you practice. One of the beauties of Islam is that each person has their own path to strengthening their deen. Faith isn’t linear and everyone experiences being muslim differently, so we asked our Graphics team what being Muslim means to them. This showcase is a taste of our loving community – we hope that you enjoy!


Art - Merna Ahmed

My name is Merna Ahmed. I am 20 years old, and a Photography and Design student. In my free time, I like making jewelry and rewatching sitcoms like Parks and Recreation or New Girl!

When I think of being Muslim, I think of the community aspect and how I bond with other Muslims because of our shared experiences. In those moments of bonding, the community feels like a safe and comfortable place, although I think it is important to acknowledge the experiences of my brothers and sisters who experience colorism and racism within our own community. In a religion that is already marginalised and subjected to hate by the masses, we in the Muslim community should not add to that by discriminating and hating amongst ourselves. The main beauty of Islam is that it is not exclusive to one race. Islam does not equal race, which is why it is important we have these conversations about colorism and racism, to be reminded that our community should be a safe and comfortable place for everyone.

IG: @artbymerna

 

Art - Tasneem Sarkez

I’m Tasneem Sarkez and I’m 18. I’m a multimedia artist who will be an incoming student at New York University. 

When thinking about what it means to be Muslim, the first thing I thought about were the family values I was raised with. I think there are ancestral, cultural understandings that are unique to each family, yet all share themes of nurturing a collectivist community in and outside of our family. In this piece I used symbols of strength, weakness, and family photos, to demonstrate how coming to terms with what it means to be family is an up and down process – but eventually you learn the importance of treating everyone, family or not, with respect.

IG: @min3youni/@z3kras

 

My name is Hamza Shahid and I am an incoming Life Sciences student at McMaster University. I love doing calligraphy and taking photos in my spare time!

For this piece, I turned to Islamic art and poetry for inspiration. Islamic art from South Asia frequently employs nature as symbols of paradise. Islamic poetry, in the same way, makes reference to flowers and gardens in connection to Jannat. I chose two lines from the Urdu poem Jawab-e-Shikwa, written by the acclaimed Allama Iqbal (RA), which complements his earlier poem named Shikwa. Jawab-e-Shikwa is written as Allah’s reply in response to the complaints of a disheartened, angry believer (from Shikwa). The lines I chose translate to the following: “The gardener should not be upset seeing the garden’s state. Branches will shine through from amongst the bunches of buds.” I likened the strokes of calligraphy to the branches Iqbal speaks of, the flowers eventually coming into bloom. As a Muslim, Iqbal’s words show me how the beauty and importance of our Imaan make themselves apparent in ways we may not see ourselves. While your proverbial tree may not be laden with flowers yet, there is no tree – nor its flowers, or buds – without its simple, barren branches.

IG: @hamzsha

 

Art - Noor Ali

My name is Noor Ali and I’m a Design Engineering student at Imperial College London.

The beauty of being Muslim is being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a note passed down from our Creator to our beloved Prophet (saw) that we now pass to each other. The Shahadah is a unifying oath; a perfect fit for every hand that reaches for it, no matter how uniquely formed they may be. When we truly believe this message, sent by Allah (swt), it is not only His warmth and love that surrounds us, but that of the entire Muslim ummah too.

IG: @illustratedbynoor

 

My name is Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman and I’m from Malaysia!! I am a Graphic Communication student at the University of Plymouth, with a lot of love for typography and editorial design.

There are over 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. One cannot simply pin point what being a Muslim is, and I find that beautiful and interesting. I wanted to focus on the fact that being a Muslim isn’t just one thing and it can be defined in many ways, depending on your perspective. I took the prompt literally, and illustrated in a way which defines the word ‘Mmuslim’. At the end of the day, all of us Muslims believe that there is only one god and Muhammad (SAW) is his messenger. 

IG: @hedzlynn.mareesya

Art - Umaima Haseeb

My name is Umaima Haseeb. I am 20 years old and am currently a senior at the University of Central Florida, studying to attend medical school, InshAllah. 

The biggest inspirations for this drawing were simple: yellow, my favorite color, and sunflowers, my favorite flower. But, under the surface, the color yellow reminds me of happiness and tranquility, just as Islam does. It’s also a self portrait and represents my relationship with Islam and the hijab. Although I don’t wear it anymore, I always cherish that time in my life as it brought me closer to my religion.

IG: @umaimmaa / @umaimadraws

 

Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

My name is Shayma and I am a 22 year old digital artist based in New York City. I enjoy film and TV as much as I do illustrating and I hope to continue creating art in Muslim spaces. 

My piece is a visual representation of my relationship with my hijab. I’ve worn the hijab for more than a decade and it’s grown with me and taught me many lessons, like how not be afraid to show what I believe in, what loyalty is, and how to protect myself and my spirit. Over the years, I’ve been asked about a million times, “Why do you wear that?” and I always give the same answer: “When was the last time you loved something so much you dedicated yourself to it every day?” 

IG: @shaymaalshiri

 

Art - Tirzah Khan

Salaam! My name is Tirzah Khan and I’m a senior at University of Maryland, Baltimore County studying information systems and psychology. I’m passionate about activism and passion fruit bubble tea.

This piece, titled “فقير / Beggar,” is an illustration of the room in my family’s house where we pray, and I wanted to portray my deep sense of comfort when entering that room and prostrating on the prayer rug, asking for Allah to grant me whatever will fill my life with good. That’s what being Muslim means to me – trusting that Allah knows what is best for me before I can even begin to ask for it myself, and trusting that whatever is good for me will reach me when He wills it to. And if you’re picking up some Animal Crossing vibes, it was unintentional but absolutely not unwelcome!

IG: @bytirzah

 

Art - Ameena Muhammad

Hi! My name is Ameena Muhammad, and I am a Texan graphic design student/wannabe illustrator studying in Toronto. 

Surface level, being Muslim means community, comfort, and faith. But for my personal meaning, I’m still trying to get a grasp who I am, and my religion comes with that. This piece includes me in three styles of dress; each projecting different ideas of who I may be. Physical change is my most tangible route of making some sense of myself, but oftentimes to others is the sole piece of evidence to evaluate how “Muslim” I really am. To me, being Muslim means that regardless of how I grow and change, there is a part of my inner weaving that will always remain the same. Each person’s experience with Islam is distinct and internal, and not something that can be grasped through biased, external judgement.

IG: @uhhhmeena/@ameena__m

 

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

On the night of July 30th, Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday celebrated in the Islamic calendar. Although the celebration will be a little unconventional this year due to the ongoing pandemic, many still hope to give back to their communities, spend time with loved ones while also devoting their time to commemorating the meaning of the holiday.

The Story Behind Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is an Islamic holiday honoring the story of Ibrahim’s (Abraham) act of obedience to Allah’s command of sacrificing his own son, Ismael. Although Ibrahim was hesitant at first, Ismael reassured his father to obey Allah’s request. 

Shaytan (the Devil) made many attempts to stray Ibrahim away from his task, but Ibrahim stayed on track by pelting stones at Shaytan, an action that was adopted into the holy pilgrimage of Hajj. 

Before Ibrahim had the chance to slaughter his son, Allah replaced the body of Ismael with a sheep, pleased with Ibrahim’s devotion and dedication to following his command. 

What happens leading up to Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah. Dhul Hijjah is also the month in which Muslims perform the holy pilgrimage of Hajj.

 

 

Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to complete specific rituals over the course of three days, which include circumambulating the Kaaba, praying together at Mount Arafat, and stoning pillars that symbolize the devil.

This year, due to the pandemic, the Hajj has been scaled down to only around 1,000 pilgrims, compared to the roughly 2.5 million pilgrims of recent years. Reports from Saudi Arabia also state that, in order to minimise any potential health risks, and alongside stricter hygiene protocols, the decision has been made to prevent pilgrims over the age of 65 and foreign nationals to partake in the Hajj – it is understood that these unprecedented steps would be a first in the Kingdom’s history. 

However, Dhul Hijjah isn’t only significant for the Hajj. The first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are also said to be the most important days of the entire year, as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, “there are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than on these 10 days.” Muslims who are not performing Hajj are advised to take advantage of this special time by reading and reciting the Quran, performing dhikr, donating to charity, and most importantly, praying all five daily prayers.

 

 

How is Eid al-Adha Celebrated?

Eid al-Adha is celebrated similarly to Eid Al-Fitr, with families attending prayer together, dressing in new clothes and with the giving of gifts – but what differs between the two celebrations is the act of qurbani.

Qurbani is the symbolic act of slaughtering a goat or sheep in commemoration of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is then divided into three – the first part goes to the needy, the second part is kept for the house, and the third part is given to extended family and close friends.

Due to this year’s social distancing guidelines, many families will be streaming Eid prayers live from their local mosques, but may still have the opportunity to perform qurbani if their area allows.

From the @Muslim family to yours, we wish you a safe and blessed Eid ul-Adha!

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

By

Mohamed Alagteaa
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

If there’s a word that could describe the world right now, it might be “conscious.”
We are living through a cultural shift of how we, as humans collectively, aspire to live and be. This means a reexamination of how we work, travel, communicate, eat and all social pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that builds the picture of the society we aspire to live in. 

As usual, driving these winds of change are millennial and Gen-Z Muslims who are pushing towards a more comprehensively sustainable lifestyle – and one that might include a plant-based diet. 

Debates around changing our food habits are intense, but what’s undeniable are the overall benefits that switching to plant-based can have on our health and wellbeing, as well as for planet Earth – a winning combination of some of the most pressing concerns of young people today

Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, may lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels and help treat chronic diseases. These are just some of the reasons that pushed Sara Zayed, a writer and medical assistant, to change her lifestyle after her father passed away.

“My father passed away several years ago of a heart attack, and as a plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to reverse heart disease, it’s more important to me than ever to prioritize quality nutrition,” she said. 

Zayed uses Instagram to educate her followers on plant-based nutrition and what she calls “lifestyle medicine.” She also emphasizes how abandoning her old eating behaviors is rooted in upholding her commitment to Allah saying, “ Our bodies are an amanah (trust)… It’s our responsibility to take care of our bodies and treat them with respect so that we can live up to our potential as Muslims. I don’t believe it is Islamic to live a lifestyle that encourages the development of chronic disease.”


 

Islam and a plant-based lifestyle

So, what does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? Seemingly, nothing.

There are no apparent mentions in the Quran or Sunnah regarding  a solely plant-based lifestyle. According to many scholars, it is neither forbidden nor advised, and since it does not harm you or others, it is your choice.

However, it is one thing to not eat a specific food because of your preferences, or because you disagree with its production practices, and another to believe it is actually unislamic or haraam (forbidden). 

As societies move forward and people become more vigilant about how and what they eat,  the future of food could drastically change, and legislation would need to adapt. There might be a law that prohibits the production and consumption of meat, on health and environmental grounds. Here, a predicament is presented, because the Quran permits the consumption of meat as Surah al-Naḥl, verse 5 suggest:

 

“And cattle has He created for you, in which there is warmth and [other] uses, and whereof you eat.” – Quran 16:5

 

 

Most might imagine the prospect of a legalized ban on the consumption of meat as  impossible, but it opens a space of discussion on nuanced perspectives regarding our way of living as a Muslim society now and in the future.

Some people maybe conflicted with Islam and its permissibility with eating meat knowing that the Quran and Hadiths reveal many examples that paint a picture of mercy and compassion to animals. 

In a Hadith, Abu Umama said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising.”

It is important to understand that while meat consumption is allowed in Islam, animal welfare is demanded. There are guidelines that must be followed to consider meat halal, which also tend to inflict minimal pain such as the need for the slaughter to be quick and made in one attempt.  The animal must also be fed, watered and comforted as well.

The meat we find in shops and supermarkets is not produced in such a way. We know of the cruel and inhumane practices the food and beverage industry use to provide the demand for meat and animal related products. So, can we as Muslims consciously eat meat and other products with total disregard to their production methods? 


What about Eid?

These types of discussions also involve one of the holiest occasions Muslims celebrate – Eid al-Adha. Each year, Muslims across the globe commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s  willingness to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismael, in obedience to Allah’s command, by sacrificing an animal. Most scholars believe the practice is a Sunnah, a tradition that should be observed by those who are able, while others deem it as obligatory.

Muslim who wish to follow a plant-based or environmentally conscious diet are faced with the challenge of navigateing a special event engraved in the Muslim identity. Some call for abandoning the sacrifice entirely and focusing instead on the festive celebration, giving of charity and spiritual reflection. 

In his essayAn Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice,” Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi describes the purpose of Eid as an inner spiritual state that does not involve animal sacrifice, stressing the need to contextualize the event. Muttaqi argues that the sacrifice was not established by Allah but was adopted by Muslims at that time in an attempt to transform the slaughter of animals for food, which was a survival necessity back then, into a spiritual ceremony. 

Muttaqi believes that since meat is not a necessity for survival for most people in our time, neither is the Eid sacrifice. Others, however, call for a different approach to deal with this problem. Zayed, for example, believes we need to determine what an appropriate equivalent would be for the community, and how to implement it, but “this is not to say to abolish the practice,” she affirms.

 

Not Our Culture

Beyond the religious lens, there is also apprehension towards the change presented by the concept of refraining from certain traditional foods, which is the idea that vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based diets are a western construct that must be fought to uphold our cultural identity.  

Shahed Ezaydi, believes there is some truth to that, saying “I do think the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have definitely been co-opted by the West, so other cultures may be reluctant to buy into it.” 

Ezaydi has been a vegetarian for over a year and didn’t face many difficulties in changing her lifestyle as her friends were supportive of her choice, mainly because of the widely known environmental impact meat production and consumption has on the planet. Just last year, a United Nations report suggested  that adhering to a plant-based diet could help fight global climate change. 

The real challenge for Ezaydi was at home. “My parents straight up laughed at me… I think they thought I was going through some phase.”

Elaf Alsharif,  a 21-year old vegan from Libya, shares a similar experience when facing her family about the decision to remove animal products from her diet. “My mom hated me going vegan, she would tell me every day that I would die of a vitamin deficiency,” she says. The two, however, stayed true to their own convictions and learned to adapt to each other.   When describing her mother’s stance now, Alsharif says, “She’s actually supportive now and has started making vegan meals. She even looks up new recipes and gets excited to try them on me.”

More than ever, our personal choices hold so much power in introducing new ways of living. It is  evident that we are moving towards uncharted territories with unprecedented possibilities. These possibilities demand our examination with new ideas and fresh perspectives, but also with firm beliefs and strong convictions. The balance between the two, and the respect required to have unconventional conversations is the key to exploring new realities where the Muslim identity might reside.

READ MORE: What Celebrating Eid Under Quarantine Looks Like

Black Lives Matter Protests Aren’t Over, And They Won’t Be Anytime Soon

Media may have died down with covering protests, but they're still happening, and they're still relevant.

Black Lives Matter Protests Aren’t Over, And They Won’t Be Anytime Soon

Media may have died down with covering protests, but they’re still happening, and they’re still relevant.

By

Nawal Qadir
Photo of activist Alaa Massri protesting in Florida.

Following George Floyd’s murder in May, cities across America erupted in protests, calling for an end to a system that singles out and brutalizes Black people, indigenous people, and people of color. In the weeks following, these protests garnered multinational media attention, with major news networks constantly reporting on the “dangerous and destructive tactics” of many cities. 

 

 

As the protests continued week after week, however, they fell out of major network news. But even without the constant media attention, protesters are still going, and they’re getting more dangerous for protesters. 

In the recent weeks, videos emerged on social media of protesters in Los Angeles, CA being violently beaten by LAPD, namely one of a man in a wheelchair being thrown to the ground. These types of violent encounters have been shrouding these protests since the beginning, but they’ve increased exponentially since mass media’s attention has been turned in other directions. 

“The LAPD has been rebuked for the same tactics so many times before…that their continued use [of force] ‘indicates an intentional refusal to preserve the constitutional rights’ of protesters,” says a recent LA Times article that investigates the LAPD’s long history of brutality.

But the brutality faced by LA’s protesters pales in comparison to that of Portland, Oregon. 

Portland, like many other American cities, has been protesting every night since May 29, but two weeks ago marked the arrival of federal officers in the city. These officers, sent into the city by The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on order of President Trump, have been dressed in camouflage and tactical gear, armed with tear gas, and arresting protesters nightly. 

Protesters have since reported, and recorded videos of, federal agents throwing protesters into unmarked vans, presumably arresting them. 

Portland’s mayor Ted Wheeler has said that the federal agents aren’t welcome in the city, and was recently tear-gassed alongside protesters in a rally Wednesday night. 

Much like Portland’s own mayor demonstrated, the people aren’t backing down. They’ve continued to take to the streets, night after night, with mother’s forming walls around protesting bodies and chanting the words “Feds stay clear. Moms are here.” 

These are just two examples of the continuing protests, but they’ve been happening all over the country – like New York City, who protested even in the middle of pouring rain. While it may seem pointless, given the lack of attention surrounding them, the continued protests despite the increasing danger towards protesters themselves is the people, very loudly, letting government officials know that they won’t stand for small bills of reformed action. People want systemic change and they won’t stop until they get, regardless of media attention.

READ MORE: Who Is Stealing From Whom? Contextualizing The Protests

7 Of The Most Phenomenal Women In Islamic History

We listed prominent and phenomenal Muslim women from Islamic history that set inspiring examples for young people today.

7 Of The Most Phenomenal Women In Islamic History

We listed prominent and phenomenal Muslim women from Islamic history that set inspiring examples for young people today.

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Art - 1001 Inventions archive

Unlike the general assumptions regarding the status of women in Islam, Muslim women are known to be some of the most powerful and distinguished characters in history. Islam describes women to be integral parts of their fathers, husbands, and children’s faith. However, they are not only referred to as mothers or daughters of some of the most important men in Islam but also as the influential figures that they were. 

Muslim women worked alongside men to leave their marks on different spheres of life and oftentimes changing the course of history. Besides playing a significant part in the emergence of Islam, women in Islamic history made name for themselves as some successful educationists, scholars, and rulers too. 


 

Here are 7 Muslim women who might be forgotten over the centuries but are inspiring examples for young people today:

 

Sumayyah bint Khabbat:

One of the first women to convert to Islam, Sumayyah bint Khabbat was also the first Muslim woman to become a martyr. 

She along with her husband and son started following the message of Islam at the time when Muslims were brutally being slaughtered by those in authoritative positions. Sumayyah was a dark-colored woman and belonged to a social class that was captured to be slaves. Having no tribal protection, she was killed by the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) uncle upon refusing to refute her Muslim identity.

Sumayyah bint Khabbat died before Islam spread. However, she contributed to the community with her utmost courage and became a model of strength for the Muslim men and women to come after her.

 

Rābia al-Adawīyya: 

One of the most influential Sufis (mystics) in the Muslim culture, also known as Rabia Basri, belonged to a very poor family in southern Iraq. She spent a significant part of her early life as a slave before her master set her free so she could practice her devotion to Sufism. 

She is recognized to be the one who introduced the Sufi school of  “Divine Love.” This school focused on loving Allah for His own sake, rather than out of fear of His wrath or hope for reward. Most of Rabia Basri’s life is narrated by others as she did not leave behind any written works of her own. 

 

Fatima al-Fihriyya:

This Muslim woman from the 9th century built the first university in the world.

Fatima al-Firhiyya moved with her family from Tunisia to Fez, Morocco. Growing up in a well-educated household, she studied Islamic law and Hadith. After Fatima and her sister inherited a considerable amount of money from their father, they built a large mosque in their city. That mosque was also a formal madrassa and welcomed students from all over the world to study science, Islam, astrology, languages, mathematics, and a couple more subjects.

Known today as The University of Al Quaraouiyine, it is the oldest running educational institute. It was also the first school to award degrees based on different levels of studies.

 

Arwa al-Sulayhi:

Arwa al-Sulayhi was the longest-reigning queen of Yemen. At first, she co-ruled with her first two husbands but went forward to achieve one of the most unique positions in Islam. 

Arwa al-Sulayhi was known for her great memory and was well-versed in Qur’an, hadith, and poetry. Her reign was characterized by several architectural projects and the advancement of Yemen’s infrastructure, as well as its increased alliance with the rest of the Muslim world. 

She might as well be the greatest example of a completely independent Muslim queen. How powerful is that?

 

Razia Sultana:

Razia Sultana was the only female to sit on the Sultan’s throne in Delhi. She was also possibly one of the most powerful females from the Indian subcontinent. 

Razia’s ascent to the throne was unusual not only due to being a woman but also because it was the general public who supported the idea of her rule. However, her short reign was later overthrown when two of her close officers conspired with Turkic opposition. 

Though her rule was short lived, tales of her brave and resilient personality have inspired people for centuries. An eighteenth-century historian, Farishta writes “…Razia, though a woman, had a man’s head and heart and was better than 20 such sons.”

 

Sayyida al-Hurra:

Sayyida al-Hurra, which is more of a title than a name (somewhat meaning an independent noble lady) was a ruler of Tétouan, Morocco. According to historians, she was also the last one to legitimately hold the title of al-Hurra (queen). After the death of her husband, she married the king of Morocco but refused to leave her city which also makes the first and only time a Morrocan king married away from the capital.

 

Kösem Sultan:

Also known as Mahpeykar Sultan was the wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I and the mother of Sultan Murad IV and Sultan Ibrahim. She is the second most influential female figure from the Ottoman Empire after Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleyman.

According to some contemporary sources Kösem was the most powerful of the Sultan’s advisors. The Sultan never refused anything to her given how deeply both of them were in love. 

She is also known to have contributed a lot towards Islam during the time she was handling the matters of the empire.

READ MORE: Five Influential Muslim Philosophers You Need To Know

#RemoveItForZayn Trends On Twitter After Islamophobic Song Gains Attention

Fans question Spotify after Islamophobic song linking One Direction musician Zayn Malik to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "The song violates the community guidelines of Spotify, why was it published?"

#RemoveItForZayn Trends On Twitter After Islamophobic Song Gains Attention

Fans question Spotify after Islamophobic song linking One Direction musician Zayn Malik to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “The song violates the community guidelines of Spotify, why was it published?”

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Zayn Malik and the Islamophobic song that made #RemoveItForZayn trend globally.

 

Recently, fans of popstar Zayn Malik broke the internet (yet again) when #RemoveItForZayn began trending on Twitter. The hashtag went viral after a couple of fans took notice of a racist song targeting the star that was available for streaming on Spotify, implying that Malik was responsible for 9/11. 

While Muslims remain to be the target of Islamophobia, Muslim celebrities are most susceptible to hate speech and bullying. The singer’s biracial identity just happens to be one of the very incessant victims. This time, to the highly offensive song.

The fandom put together a social media campaign demanding the removal of the song from Spotify. Thousands of fans tweeted the hashtag to express their opposition to the situation and their call to action. This resulted in the song being taken down from the music streaming platform a day later.

The said song titled “Zayn Did 9/11” focuses on the terrible terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon in 2001. Uma Kompton, the artist, unreasonably implies (in a not-so-decent way) that the singer was responsible for the horrific events. Probably referring to his Arabic name and religious affiliation. Lyrics of the song are, however, downright racist and extremely insulting towards not only Malik but to the religion Islam itself. The repeated use of abusive language makes it inappropriate to be put on any public website.

Even though the song was brought to notice recently, it remained available on platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Youtube since 2017. The artist herself is an infamous parodist and a troll whose Twitter account was previously removed in 2016 due to a series of controversial tweets. Kompton is known for her abusive comments and racist remarks and also remained the topic of a couple of other controversies in the past years. 

But hold up! This isn’t the first time something like this targeted Malik. A song with the same name was released back in 2013 by Rucka Rucka Ali, who is known for his dark-humor and parodies. Unsurprisingly, lyrics of the two songs resemble very closely to each other and gave rise to a similar campaign seven years ago too. Directioners took to social media and created petitions to get the song removed. Because, obviously, joking about such sensitive topics does not sit well with everyone.

The artist writes some highly objectionable things in this rap track. He refers to the singer as “Zayn Hussein” the leader of Al Qaedirection and mentions how he planned the attack when he was only 8 or 9. This and his other song “Al Qaedirection(which follows almost the same plot) was all a part of his shot at being humorous. And it gets even more offensive with every line.

The fact that these songs are still available on youtube and a few other platforms adds to the anger of Malik’s fans. It also calls for questioning the holes in the content guidelines of these streaming services. Does this evident verbal assault not fall under the category of hate speech? Why did these services continue to make such songs accessible to the public for all these years?

Acts of outright racism or even such attempts at making fun of situations that are unpleasant for a number of people should not be provided with a platform as famous as Spotify to be promoted on. Artists like Rucka Rucka Ali are unaware of the impact their humor can have and how it can fuel racial injustice. Youtube and Apple Music along with other websites/apps where these songs are available should understand the gravity of the ongoing events and take appropriate measures to settle everything.

READ MORE: Marvel’s Muslim Superhero Gets Her Own TV Show And Video Game

Yuna Wants You To ‘Stay Where You Are’

Malaysian pop icon Yuna talks about going independent, dealing with societal expectations and staying creative during these challenging times.

Yuna Wants You To ‘Stay Where You Are’

Malaysian pop icon Yuna talks about going independent, dealing with societal expectations and staying creative during these challenging times.

By

Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh
Photo - self shot by Yuna / Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

Picture this: it’s 2016. I’m scrolling through my Tumblr dashboard at 2AM on a school night, as usual. Among the photos of inspirational quotes, white models and stylised flowers appears a GIF of Usher with a hijabi. Intrigued, I paused and hit the video link, only to see a woman in a turban taking the lead on the song. The R&B icon was only ‘featuring’. My jaw dropped. 

Her name was Yuna. 

I had never seen a Muslim woman artist that was the lead, ever. Not in movies, not in books, and certainly not in music. The industry was still adjusting to new female rappers. I hadn’t felt a sense of enlightenment in discovering Muslim representation since Janet Jackson’s apparent conversion to Islam was smeared all over headlines earlier that year. I immediately followed Yuna and deep-dived into a melodic journey as she dropped her album Chapters a few months later. 

Crush by Yuna featuring Usher immediately became my anthem as I dealt with the heavy transition into my freshman year of college. It was around that time that new artists began to emerge as mainstream media took a shift in becoming more inclusive. 

Yuna had already established herself in her home country of Malaysia after writing hit EPs in the early 2010s. As she grew in popularity, she went further by signing to major record labels in the US, allowing her to reach international audiences. Most musicians will tell you that their dreams are to dominate the industry and fall into the glamorous world of pop. Yuna, on the other hand, just wants the world to truly recognize her talent.

Photo - self shot by Yuna

Making it onto Billboard’s Top 10 R&B Albums in 2016, among many other achievements, Yuna is more than just the token hijabi in the music industry. Since representation is crucial in deconstructing societal norms, oftentimes Muslim creatives are pigeonholed into being “groundbreakers”, Muslims that dismantle stereotypes and set new standards. However for Yuna, she is more than a category. Her talents exceed her identity as a “Muslim singer.” 

By daring to exist outside of the mold, she reflects an authenticity that is evident in her work, and takes on a new meaning of representation. Being an icon in Malaysia while working with high profile artists like Jhené Aiko, Tyler, the Creator and G-Eazy – she embodies versatility and brings a fresh voice to the scene. 

After recently leaving Los Angeles, Yuna began to shed her skin, leaving her record label behind and going independent. Her latest single “Stay Where You Are” is the first release since her album Rogue dropped last year. 

The music video was shot entirely on an iPhone 11 during quarantine at Yuna’s home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and also features some of her fans’ submissions; friends like the musicians MadeinTYO and Jay Park, and Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad make special appearances throughout. 

Although stationed in Malaysia, Yuna stays on the forefront of pushing for social  justice – she recently sent proceeds of her music video to NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, in an effort to help against racial injustices in the United States. 

Muslim sat down with Yuna for an exclusive interview after leaving her record label, going independent, and moving back to Malaysia with her family. We discussed her relationship with identity, her experiences in the music industry and what it means for her to give something back.

You recently broke out of your contract and became fully independent, congratulations! How is that, do you feel free? What led to this decision?

YUNA: You know, like, it’s actually a really good thing when you get signed to a record label, it means you’re doing something right. Your music is being heard, and people are actually paying attention to you and giving you the opportunity to make the music and for me, Malaysian Muslim girls sometimes don’t come by like that.

This is an exciting moment for me, I have full control. There’s definitely that feeling of being liberated in a way that you know now you don’t have deadlines, or that you can actually earn a huge portion and it’s yours. 

 

As a woman in the industry – as a Malaysian hijab-wearing Muslim woman – do you find yourself facing particular challenges?

YUNA: Regardless, even if you’re like an amazingly talented pop star and look like Dua Lipa – it is gonna be tough. It was tough in the beginning trying to break away from that stereotype. 

Wearing the hijab – I didn’t like the fact that I had a label. I was always the “Muslim singer” and I’m more than that. It’s more than just me being Muslim. I really want you to focus on my music and work. I understand representation is everything these days, but at the same time, you have to recognize the talents and the skills that I’ve worked on. Like, for so long it was really hard to get here. 

In the beginning people wanted me to change the way I look, or change the way I think or the things I sing about. 

I kept hearing “if you want to be a singer, you got to take off the hijab,” and this is before leaving the country and going to the US. This was like, in my country, in my city. I was told that by people from the label, “Oh, you know, this is how you got to look” –  and it’s just ridiculous to me.

 

You have a huge presence and fanbase in Malaysia. As a Malaysian-Muslim do you find yourself feeling under pressure for having to embody a perfect representation for your community?

YUNA: Oh, yeah! In the beginning, I had to deal with a lot of pressure – Malaysia is so close knit as a community.  Everybody knows everybody so people would go to my mother and say, “do you know what your daughter is doing online?” 

As I grow older, I realized that you know what, like, nothing I do is going to please everyone. Someone will find something that’s wrong with you, you know? So I decided to not fall into that feeling of being pressured. Especially not being pressured into being someone that I’m not.

 

You achieved so much with your music, what would you say was your biggest accomplishment?

YUNA: I think my biggest accomplishment is taking that first step going to Los Angeles for myself as a female and that is still my biggest accomplishment.  I think, like, it was the  first real time that I really felt like, “wow, I made it.” No one knew that I could do it. Not even me.

That was the turning point in my life. I think, like, when I got on that plane, flew out to LA I was a different person, the old Yuna was gone.

 

I just have to ask – how was it working with big names like G-Eazy and Usher? We have never seen such a prominent Muslim musician able to reach as far as you have within the music industry, how has your experience been?

YUNA: It’s really cool. Every morning I wake up, I know who I am. I’m a Muslim singer-songwriter who works in the music industry. I pray, fast and partake in Ramadan – that’s a part of me. But at the same time when I go into the studio, I meet people who are huge artists or huge producers that people can’t even dream of working with. They’re awesome people and they don’t treat me differently. I don’t treat them differently either. Like I see them as an artist as well. So, when we work together, it’s amazing. I don’t know how I got here, but I feel like this is meant for me. I don’t know how to explain it. So I just take it day by day and be very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. 

 

How has it been being an artist during this pandemic? Were you able to work?

YUNA: Well, I’ve started teaching music classes. My husband [Adam Sinclair] and I started this online learning platform because we were just like, we need to do something local to inspire people who want to be more creative.

During this time when it’s difficult for someone like me to be creative, I think, to give something back, like just do something for other people, really helps. I feel like that’s a better thing to do right now. Of course, I would love to be able to release more music in the future, but I think now that we’re just at home, it’s a really nice thing to be able to teach every weekend. I’m actually like a teacher – I like all the slides and everything! It’s kind of fun. 

 

So you just released your latest hit, “Stay Where You Are” and by the time this feature is out, your music video will be going live – Can you tell us a little bit about it?

This is my first independent release and we didn’t even plan to release the song! I played it on my piano and decided to post that video in March. So I posted that knowing, these are the kinds of things that independent artists can do now. It’s really exciting for me to just play unreleased songs like that randomly.

So I played it and people reacted to it.They connected to it and really loved the song. I told myself, you know what, I think this is something that more people would want to listen to during this time, we should release the song immediately – so that was it. I just felt that it’s a beautiful song and the message of the song – a lot of people can relate to it right now. Not just like staying where you are as in staying at home, but to stay lovely, stay positive. 

People are going through some really, really difficult moments in their lives and I just want something uplifting that I can share with the world.

 

Tell me about this music video! How was the process creating it? – I noticed it involves people from all over the world holding signs that say “Stay Where You Are” – Where did the idea come from?

YUNA: I work with my husband a lot. We would always brainstorm ideas for music videos. He’s a director, he shot a lot of my music videos and for this one, we were just like, I don’t know what to do. It was my manager who said, “Hey, why don’t you get your fans included in this? It could be a song where everyone joins in and you have a lot of fans who would definitely want to be part of it.” 

I knew straight away, that was it. It’s also a nice way to celebrate my first indie track and get everyone involved. 

 

What are you working on currently? Do you have any exciting news for our readers?

YUNA: I think now I’m just focusing on releasing singles. I’m currently back home in Malaysia. I’ve been writing, working on projects and staying with my family.

I’ve been traveling and working nonstop before. I haven’t had a proper vacation in 10 years. So this is definitely the rest that I needed, so I’m just gonna see this moment as a blessing.

 

Do you have any words of wisdom or messages you’d like to share with our young Muslim audience?

Wow, you know, just please be proud of yourself. I think that’s the most important thing. I always try to tell my Malaysian Muslim girls like… I feel as though they’re very timid. They’re very shy. So, I’m always like, “go slowly. If you have a dream, you’re good enough. You can do it and don’t listen to anything that’s trying to pull you down.” 

Like, don’t let life pull you down and just be proud of who you are. Be proud of your roots, be proud of your identities. 

Sometimes in life, you’re gonna come across people who will make you question your values because of the way you look or the way you do things or what you believe in, what you practice. But no. You know yourself, so just be you. Always believe in yourself. There’s gonna be a lot of people who are going to tell you no – just keep on going.

Yuna’s single “Stay Where You Are” is available to download and stream on all online music services. Watch her video here, and follow her new life and work as an independent artist on Instagram and Twitter.

Marvel’s Muslim Superhero Gets Her Own TV Show And Video Game

Kamala Khan – a.k.a. Ms. Marvel – will headline Disney+’s live-action show Ms. Marvel and will be a playable character in an upcoming video game.

Marvel’s Muslim Superhero Gets Her Own TV Show And Video Game

Kamala Khan – a.k.a. Ms. Marvel – will headline Disney+’s live-action show Ms. Marvel and will be a playable character in an upcoming video game.

By

Sara S. & Wali Ahmad

Kamala Khan, a 16-year old Muslim, Pakistani-American character from Jersey City will be taking over our screens in the upcomings months. Also known as the superhero “Ms. Marvel” in Marvel’s comics, she has the ability to shape shift. 

Marvel Studios revealed that Kamala Khan will get her own live-action television Disney+ series at the D23 convention in California in August 2019. Titled “Ms. Marvel”, the series will be produced by Marvel Studios and written by British writer Bisha K. Ali. It is said to tie directly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films – the show will share continuity with Marvel’s latest films, Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, as well as future feature films. This makes sense, given that Kamala Khan’s superhero name is a tribute to Captain Marvel, who headlined the first female-led superhero film in the MCU. The series is expected to be released in 2022.

 

In anticipation for Khan’s appearance in Disney+ series, a video game featuring the character has also been announced less than two years before her TV appearance.The game’s publisher, Square Enix, announced that the next Marvel Avengers game would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and will make her central to the plot. This received praise from fans and industry insiders. 

Putting Kamala Khan at the forefront of superhero television and gaming comes as a result of Marvel’s push for more diversity and representation in its various outlets. In addition to the successful 2018 feature film Black Panther, which consisted of primarily Black cast and crew, Marvel continues to diversify its production both on and off screen with future films such as The Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings and Blade

Representation remains important in shaping and influencing the cultural identities of children growing up as part of a minority culture. For many adults today, racial, religious and/or cultural representation on any form of media while growing up was generally not readily available. Maria Afsar, a 25 year-old gamer, said that Khan’s video game appearance was something she has been waiting for “her whole life.” She first heard of Ms Marvel a few years ago and thought it was “so cool” that she had a background the same as her, being Pakistani, Muslim, and a girl.

Kamala Khan’s comic character was co-created in 2014 by Marvel editor and director Sana Amanat. As a Muslim-American herself, Sana Amanat wanted to create a character young girls of  a similar background could identify with and look up to. Kamala’s costume also represents her cultural identity.

“I think it’s absolutely insane that Kamala is in one of the biggest Marvel games that we’ve done,” she said during the promotion of the game. “The fact that she’s the entry point character in this game makes so much sense. People from all backgrounds can relate to her.”

READ MORE: What’s With The Islamophobia In Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’?

Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ Renewed For Season Three

What will Season Three focus on?

Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ Renewed For Season Three

What will Season Three focus on?

By

Elizabeth Aziz
Screen grab from Hulu's Ramy Season 2.

Ramy, the hit breakout series on Hulu, has officially been renewed for a third season. The news comes about five weeks after the debut of Season 2, which premiered on Hulu on May 29th.

Co-created by and starring comedian/actor/writer Ramy Youssef, the show follows Ramy Hassan, a millennial, first-generation, Palestinian-Egyptian Jersey boy who’s trying to figure out who he really is and what life means. Set in New Jersey, the second season focused on his dive further into his spiritual journey, finding a new Islamic community and embracing a deeper commitment to his faith.

Of course, the show’s success wouldn’t be possible without its amazing cast of supporting characters. Ramy’s family includes his devoted parents, Farouk (Amr Waked) and Maysa (Hiam Abbass), along with sister Dena (May Calamawy), the infamous Uncle Naseem (Laith Nakli), and cousin Amani (Rosaline Elbay). There’s never a dull moment with his friends, Mo (Mo Amer), Steve (Steve Way), and Ahmed (Dave Merheje), all three of whom are also stand-up comedians off-screen. Last but not least is the incredible Sheikh Malik (Mahershala Ali), who steals the show throughout the second season along with his lovely and poised daughter, Zainab (MaameYaa Boafo). Together, these characters and the incredible actors who play them bring Ramy’s chaotic world to life and help move his story along in unexpected, refreshing, and sometimes strange ways. 

As is the case with most streaming platforms, Hulu doesn’t release viewing figures for its shows. However, Ramy’s received near-universal critical acclaim for both seasons. In January, Youssef made history with a Golden Globe win for his lead performance, and the series as a whole won a Peabody Award alongside other hit shows such as Watchmen (HBO), Fleabag (Amazon) and Stranger Things (Netflix). The first two seasons of the show hold a combined approval rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

In a recent interview with fellow comedian Whitney Cummings on her podcast Good For You, Youssef spoke about the perception of progress and diversity in Hollywood:  

“There’s this idea that Hollywood is pushing social change, but social change pushes Hollywood. No one really wanted to green light a show about an Arab Muslim family until Trump said, ‘Here’s a list of countries that people shouldn’t be allowed to come from.’ That’s really when people who are really on the right side of things were like ‘Eh, actually maybe we need to get to know these people a little bit more.’”

Don’t forget to check out our April cover story on the star here if you haven’t already.

 

READ MORE: Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ Tackles Spirituality And Self-Identity In Its Second Season

Hey Instagram, Taking Down Bella Hadid’s Posts Won’t Make Her Less Palestinian

Instagram Took Down Bella Hadid’s story about Palestine. Her response: a repost with the caption “I am Proud To Be Palestinian <3.”

Hey Instagram, Taking Down Bella Hadid’s Posts Won’t Make Her Less Palestinian

Instagram Took Down Bella Hadid’s story about Palestine. Her response: a repost with the caption “I am Proud To Be Palestinian <3.”

By

Zainab Damji
Photo of Bella Hadid attending a Palestinian rally in 2017.

The Hadids have always been proud of their Palestinian heritage. Whether it’s Gigi sharing her favorite Palestinian food on her Twitter segment of #askgigi or Bella publicizing it in her Instagram bio, they’ve never shied away from embracing their roots. Many suggest that their father, Mohamed Hadid is in large part to thank for that.

Mohamed has been vocal about the importance of his Palestinian identity and sharing that with his children. He was the keynote speaker at the Arab Conference held at Harvard, and shared how significant it is to him that his family remains in touch with their Palestinian culture. “One of my dreams is to have my kids carry the name Palestine with them everywhere they go, because it seems like we are losing that name as we go on,” he shared, according to The National. “We want to make sure my family always carries that on.”

However, as big of a celebrity family as the Hadids may be—they’re still susceptible to attempts at being silenced, and this time it was none other than Instagram taking down Bella’s story. Bella shared a photo of her father’s passport highlighting his motherland as she captioned it, “My Baba and his birthplace of Palestine.”

As the model released what she thought was a little bit of sentimental family history, Instagram was swift to take the story down and cited that it fell under “graphic violence, hate speech, harassment and bullying, or nudity and sexual activity.”

But alas, as seen before in the past — Bella was not about to remain silent and let that slide. She took to her stories again, publicly calling out Instagram titling her post “A message to me from @Instagram…”

Bella expressed her dismay and anger over Instagram taking down her story where she was just being proud of her father’s birthplace. “Are we not allowed to be Palestinain on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying,” she wrote as part of a larger message. “You can’t erase history by silencing people. It doesn’t work like that.”

The model didn’t stop there and reposted the image on her story once again and wrote “I am proud to be Palestinian <3” in large text. She also added that everyone should remind their parents “of how proud you are of where you come from” and encouraged followers to post where their parents were born.

Hadid reposted several accounts who followed her lead and shared photos of their Palestinian parents’ passports on their stories, along with their history.

This isn’t the first time Bella has been vocal about her support and love for Palestine. In December 2017, Bella took to Instagram to speak out against Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Bella etched a long, heartfelt caption in which she said “The TREATMENT of the Palestinian people is unfair, one-sided and should not be tolerated.”

During the same month, Bella also attended a Free Palestine protest in London. According to TeenVogue, Bella was on her way back to her hotel after an event when she saw the protest and decided to join, still dressed in her floor-length deep-red gown and a bold red lip! Pictures of Bella at the protest quickly circulated over social media, with many people showing their support for her.

Bella also frequently reposts informational posts in support of Palestine on her stories, including the most recent topic of discussion: Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank.

With all of that being said, one thing’s for certain—on or off the runway, Bella Hadid is a fierce, powerful woman who’s ready to take on the world.

READ MORE: Muslim Directioners, Rise Up: Gigi Hadid And Zayn Are Having A Child