American Muslim Project is a weekly podcast featuring Muslims shaping America. For nearly 500 years, Muslims have had a presence in North America and have made lasting contributions to American life, culture, and history.
In each episode, our podcast elevates unique Muslim voices and explores how they are currently influencing the American experience. American Muslim Project is produced by Rifelion Media.
- The Racial Muslim with Sahar AzizSeason 2 of American Muslim Project kicks off with Sahar Aziz, Professor of Law and Chancellor's Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers University Law School. She is also the founding director of the interdisciplinary Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights.Sahar joins AMP to talk about her new book, "The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom."About the Book:"Why does a country with religious liberty enmeshed in its legal and social structures produce such overt prejudice and discrimination against Muslims? Sahar Aziz’s groundbreaking book demonstrates how race and religion intersect to create what she calls the Racial Muslim. Comparing discrimination against immigrant Muslims with the prejudicial treatment of Jews, Catholics, Mormons, and African American Muslims during the twentieth century, Aziz explores the gap between America’s aspiration for and fulfillment of religious freedom. With America’s demographics rapidly changing from a majority white Protestant nation to a multiracial, multireligious society, this book is an in dispensable read for understanding how our past continues to shape our present—to the detriment of our nation’s future."Visit the Center for Security, Race, and Rights: https://csrr.rutgers.edu/Buy the book at the University of California Press: https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520382299/the-racial-muslimOr at Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-racial-muslim-sahar-f-aziz/1139114859
- Campaigning to End the Uyghur Genocide with Babur IlchiThis week we’re joined by Babur Ilchi, program director at Campaign for Uyghurs, which works to promote and advocate for the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan. Born in Hotan, China, and now living in Canada, Babur is unable to visit the grave of his grandfather, who died shortly after being released from an internment camp, or even talk to family there. He hasn’t been to his hometown since 2015.Babur defines the region in question for us, including its recent history, geography, proper pronunciation, and people, who are predominantly Muslim. We learn that since 2016/2017, the Chinese Communist Party has detained upward of 3 million Uyghurs, under the guise of what the state is calling reeducation camps providing vocational training and ensuring protection against Islamic terrorism. Starting with the replacement of Islamic symbols by communist propaganda and the rounding up of imams, this appalling humanitarian crisis initially began as religious and ethnic persecution. People were forced to renounce their identity, faith, and language while praising the Chinese President. The government then began systemically placing people in labor camps and prisons, where further abuses like brainwashing, torture, rape, forced abortions, and the sterilization of women are occurring. Even outside these camps there is heavy surveillance, checkpoints, the gathering of biometric date, and more sterilization.We ask why it’s taken so long for this crisis to be made public, and how we know what we know now, given the shroud of secrecy the government has enforced. We ask if the United States’ declaration of the abuse as genocide has set any relief in motion, and why certain other countries likely aren’t following suit (spoiler alert: it involves the economy, and possibly some of your favorite brands). Babur answers all of these questions and more about this horrific situation first-hand, while providing resources and things we can do to help, including calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2022. Please educate yourself, whether here or elsewhere, and spread the word.Follow Babur and his nonprofit on Twitter @BaburIlchi and @CUyghurs and Instagram @baburilchi and
- Mommying and Podcasting with Uzma JafriThis week we chat with Uzma Jafri, unapologetically Muslim podcaster, physician, and mother of four. Hosted by Uzma and her "second-generation friend," Zaiba, with the fellow first-born problem of having a lot to say, Mommying While Muslim is a weekly podcast about the challenges and opportunities encountered by Muslims raising kids in the United States. Started after Zaiba’s 14 year old was detained by airport security and online resources for advice were scarce, the moms address “the good, the bad, and the ugly of [Muslims] growing up pre-9/11, and then the good, the bad, and the really ugly that happened post-9/11.” They also cover bullying, prejudice, and feeling safe despite anti-Muslim hatred and negative portrayals of Islam, to inform the continual influx of American Muslim immigrants, among others.Naturally, we discuss podcasting—especially as it pertains to American Muslims—and their means of generating social change. The lack of realistic looks at religious and cultural practices like fasting and resources for non-religious Muslims is lamented. While her podcast resonates with other moms, it has also attracted a huge contingent of evangelical men, evidently; Uzma points to that universal attention that being a mom commands.Despite the fact that she proudly grew up in Houston and lives with her four American-born kids in Phoenix, Uzma didn’t realize she was American until age 35. She reveals her dad’s insistence that she was only Pakistani Muslim growing up, and Asad and her swap stories of “regular” things they weren’t allowed to do as kids. This leads to a discussion of experiences with sexual abuse, how no profession or attire is safe, and the threat it poses to her sons as much as her daughter. Discursions entail how everything we learned in the '80s was probably wrong and what to convey when your identity attracts attention.Check out the Mommying While Muslim podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts, and follow along on Instagram @mommyingwhilemuslimpodcast and Twitter @MWMPodcasting. Also find Uzma’s quips on culture, medicine, and politics on Twitter @ujafri24.
- Creating Nuanced Muslim Film Characters with Iram Parveen BilalThis week we’re joined by filmmaker and activist Iram Parveen Bilal.Her first feature film, a mystery thriller called Josh: Independence Through Unity, was Pakistan's first movie to be on Netflix. Her latest, I'll Meet You There, is a drama set in Chicago that covers intergenerational family conflict, the post-9/11 American Muslim experience, and disparately minded people trying to meet in the middle. Premiering digitally at SXSW last year (with no shortage of COVID snafus), the script is actually a decade-old project that was adapted as challenges were broached and her own reflections on life and society changed. Iram's currently working on a project about media influencers and women claiming space in both the physical and online worlds.Whether watching her films or interviewing her for a podcast, it’s clear that Iram is a natural storyteller. She draws us in with equal-parts compelling and disturbing anecdotes of a beautiful moment at a Muslim Ban protest, Patriot Act abuses, and real-life objections to scripts, such as the world can’t accept Muslim protagonists, this mosque seems too safe, and the FBI wouldn’t do that. We relate to the powerful perspectives that world travel can provide, recent moments of the American public making us proud—unlike those in power—and leaving a promising career to pursue a passion and fulfill a responsibility. Trump’s impact on the American Muslim community and growing Muslim representation in film are broached, as are investments for independent filmmakers, powerful biases in media and politics, and the cycle of centering white stories and actors. We can’t help but savor her assertion that it’s even hip to be Muslim now, while lamenting the fact that it’s taken this long for POC to feel seen.You can watch I'll Meet You There now from home (released in the Middle East as of tomorrow) and see the latest news @illmeetyoutherethefilm. Follow Iram on Instagram @irampbilalofficial, Facebook @iramparveenbilal, and Twitter @irampbilal for all her thoughts, nuanced characters, and
- Changing the Disability Narrative with Sara MinkaraSara Minkara shares her remarkable journey a champion for disability inclusion.Imagine that the first time you meet someone, you’re in total darkness. Would you be more comfortable expressing yourself? Now turn the lights back on and think of a moment you’ve disempowered someone, intentionally or not. Learn why by asking yourself what identities you focus on when interacting and how you see your own self. These are the types of scenarios we discuss this week with Sara.A troublemaker intentionally disrupting the status quo, Sara is an advocate, entrepreneur, and educator who went blind at age seven. She is also a Muslim woman, meaning the assumptions people make about her are triple-fold—that she’s oppressed, suffering, and uneducated, for instance, when in reality she is bold, proud, and resilient. Sara has reached the point where she is candidly bringing her main identities forward to start a dialogue and decrease misunderstandings. She notes the blessing in not seeing people judging her that’s made her completely comfortable in her own skin.Thanks to her her faith, smarts, chutzpah, and the confidence instilled by her parents, Sara has founded two organizations. Her global nonprofit Empowerment Through Integration provides critical life-skills training to children with disabilities, who are often shunned and assumed to have no value. What started as an inclusive summer camp in Lebanon evolved into a mission to change the disability narrative on all fronts, taking the burden off parents and kids alone. The second, Sara Minkara, LLC, is a consultancy firm offering courses, workshops in the dark, and executive coaching to promote authentic leadership/culture by embracing disability and inclusion, the idea being that our true selves breed greater benefits for all.Sara states the startling statistic that one in five Americans has a disability (visible and invisible). We talk Lebanon versus U.S. stigmas, and how it’s not just ignorance but a mindset; examples involve COVID and apps. Treating those with disabilities as an afterthought means businesses here often miss out on 20% more potential customers, while society loses 20% more valuable contributing members. We consider how inclusion should merely be the baseline, and how to define value.Follow Sara and her companies on Twitter @sarasminkara
- A Muslim-Specific Streaming Service with Mir AliThis week we are joined by Executive Vice President Mir Ali of USHUB TV, a forthcoming streaming service explicitly for Muslim content in the United States.Growing up in the bubble of Southern California, Mir interacted with his predominantly non-Muslim community the only way he knew how—by showing that he was a friendly, typical, hard-working American first, then revealing his full identity once he’d been accepted. Like most all of our guests, it took effort to maintain his identit(ies) in these disparate circles. Though his passive approach may have successfully changed people’s mindsets about Muslims at the time, he’s now much more proactive.Tired of our mainstream media “really just messing up Muslim narratives,” Mir decided to take on a side hustle. What started as an idea for an American-based Muslim news station has now morphed into a full-fledged streaming channel delivering the varied, rich, and diverse stories that exist within the Muslim world. Not only will the channel, named USHUB TV, broach Muslim-centered topics; it will also feature work by Muslim directors, producers, and writers across the world. Mir explains the name, which is from the Arabic word aishab meaning friends and companions, and says it’s often butchered; Asad and Rifelion relate. Launching this fall, USHUB will stream Islamic news, TV series, documentaries, and even original content, by and large in English and from a culturally Muslim standpoint over religious. His goal, Mir says, is to provide really relatable and accurate portrayals, something he didn’t grow up with.Started by Gen Z and millennial founders, USHUB now comprises a team with unique talents, from tech to business to content creation, and a shared commitment to setting the record straight. We learn how Mir channeled his finance and real estate backgrounds into this new venture, and he provides advice about relationship building and how to create a phenomenal team. The motivation behind the project and the impetus for starting it now are discussed. He touches on the gravity of Muslims being favorably regarded in our country. And explains why he didn’t make a fellow Muslim friend until age 25.Subscribe to USHUB this fall to see their full line of content, including the films Valley of Saints, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero,
- Navigating Entrepreneurship and the Blood-Brain Barrier with Afreen AllamThis week we invite founder and CEO of SiNON Therapeutics, Afreen Allam, to discuss the business world and her biotech start-up that's designing one pivotal particle.At 17, Afreen found herself publishing her first DNA sequence, and at 20, applying for her first patent—no big deal. We talk about how her passion was rooted in her 7.5-year stint as a Duke Cancer Center volunteer, which was alternately depressing and motivating. Her father permitted her to study abroad as a premed undergrad with three very specific conditions, and it was then that the nanoparticle for drug delivery was developed.While she loved the field of medicine, she felt she could make a bigger impact going into research, and thus ditched her (parents’) med school plans for business school. And that’s how her company SiNON got started. Currently they’re continuing the work on the nanoparticle that began when she studied abroad. She fills us in on a little stat—that only 2% of currently available drugs can pass through the blood-brain barrier (and schools us on just what the blood-brain barrier is). Meaning a targeted delivery tool to carry drugs from point A to B would be game-changing for neurological diseases. This could reduce dosing and side effects while improving efficacy, and be less damaging and more targeted than chemo for brain tumors, etc. The technology is in preclinical testing as SiNON raises money, hoping to license their technology to other pharmaceutical companies perhaps in late 2022.Asad and Afreen swap start-up stories. We touch on what it’s like being a double minority in the business and biotech worlds, and how it’s especially difficult to prove your point when you can’t raise the money to prove your point. She mentions the importance of connections, and how the Muslim community is lacking. Anecdotes of fellow students who’d “never seen a Muslim in their life other than Fox News,” a reproachful campus preacher, and a legit inquiry about her making bombs are shared. We end with inspiration for future female entrepreneurs and the source of her own.Learn more about SiNON Therapeutics' patented nanoparticle, the Carbon Dot, which looks to change the face of neurological diseases profoundly. And keep up with the latest news from Afreen @Afreen_Allam and the company @SiNONTP or
- Evolution, Aliens, and Ancient Horoscopes with Salman HameedSalman Hameed, teacher, host, gung ho astronomer, founder, and contagiously curious intellectual, is the type of refreshing science professor we wish we’d had in undergrad. He joins AMP to talk about religion versus science, astrology, and aliens.As a Hampshire College professor of integrated science and humanities and director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies, Salman has taught classes ranging from "History and Philosophy of Science and Religion” to "Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind.” It all started with a surreptitious viewing of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage—which he mistook for science fiction at the time—and a prompt rejection of the traditional Pakistani path into medicine or engineering. (Admittedly we, too, were hooked by his description of how Cosmos compressed the history of the universe into one calendar year.)We delve into Salman’s recent four-year National Science Foundation study on the reception of biological evolution in different Muslim communities. Just as Muslims are not a monolith, their responses were not monolithic. He explains how political, cultural, and social factors all influence one’s stance, which surprisingly does not necessarily correlate to religiosity; sometimes a belief in evolution is even based on the Quran.Salman regales us with anecdotes about his American education, including his initial astonishment at how many students believed in UFOs and alien abductions (and just as alarming, creationism). Throughout his career he’s been most interested in why people believe what they do rather than debunking theories. He speculates about the attraction to astrology and we learn of ancient cities having horoscopes based on their founding date. This leads to a take on psychics, how they get into your head, and what role they play in society. Naturally we revisit aliens; Asad asks for, and receives, an emphatic answer about whether there are advanced life forms out there (with a three-part clarification)! Salman also states his opinion of the life forms behind the recent Pentagon and New York Times reports on UFOs. We end with a starkly un-unique American Muslim experience, then a superbly unique one involving the chaotic calculation of the new moon to determine when Eid would fall in Long Island.Salman is also the founder of Kainaat Studios, a nonprofit sharing the
- Drawing the Blueprint For Muslim Inclusion with Kashif ShaikhThis week we speak with Kashif Shaikh, co-founder and president of Pillars Fund, a nonprofit investing in American Muslim organizations, leaders, and artists to advance equity and inclusion.Pillars, founded in 2010, aims to take tangible actions to benefit American Muslim initiatives. But rather than supporting, say, mosques or overseas work, their projects often nurture local communities, well-being, and culture. Case in point, their recent pivotal study with the Ford Foundation and University of Southern California Annenberg, Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies. Kashif breaks down the unsurprising but nonetheless disheartening data from 200 top contemporary films across Western countries, revealing the erasure and demeaning portrayals of Muslims. Unlike former studies, which tend to be anecdotal, this project provides current hard statistics on the lack of female or African Americans, animated characters, or nonviolence in Muslim roles. A study on television characters will be next.Always working to be proactive rather than reactive, according to Kashif, Pillars has already begun communicating the findings to Hollywood studios, agencies, festivals, unions, and philanthropists, to name a few. We chat about the underlying meaning—the seeming unawareness even in progressive American communities that Muslims constitute one-quarter of the world’s population, or that Black Muslims helped shape Islam in this country (not to mention the country itself). Along with the data, Pillars has released The Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, a concrete plan to remedy the inaccurate portrayal of Muslims in film and a fellowship to build a pipeline of Muslims in the industry. We segue into the root of Kashif’s own activism, which stems from not fitting into the traditional Muslim mold nor his predominantly white community, not to mention his deep affection for his “weird artist dad,” who emigrated from Pakistan to study art. Shout-outs for English majors, Brown rockers, and Muslim wrestlers ensue.Finally, we cover how terrorist tropes are not just tired but also have harmful real-life implications, and how money b
- RecommendationsThis week’s special episode includes recommendations (and previously unreleased audio) from six past guests about who and what you should be following, listening to, watching, and reading.From episode 13’s Dr. Shaista Khilji, Pakistani-born George Washington University professor, prolific writer, and cofounder of the Humanizing InitiativeShaista’s recommended books:A Place for UsCasteEducatedFrom episode 20’s Qasim Rashid, Pakistani American human rights lawyer, writer, political candidate, human rights activist, and author of the recent Hannah and the Ramadan GiftQasim’s recommended Twitter accounts:Salaam Bhatti/@salaamSimran Jeet Singh/@simranLexi Alexander/@LexialexFrom episode 17’s Serena Rasoul, Palestinian American actress, writer, and founder of Muslim American CastingSerena’s recommended books:Mornings in JeninThe Woman from Tantoura: A Novel of Palestine The Butterfly's Burden (poetry)Films: The Present Projects/series: American Muslims: A History RevealedFrom epi
- Demystifying Sharia with Sumbul Ali-KaramaliThis week we are joined by author, former lawyer, and expert on Islamic law, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, to discuss the decidedly unscary Sharia law.Sharia is essentially a mass of religious guidelines, meaning the path to the watering place literally and the path to righteousness religiously. Essentially, early Muslims interpreted their holy text, the Quran, to determine rules for how to live, called fatwas. The collection of fatwas (fiqh) along with the Quran and Sunnah (practices of Muhammad) equal Sharia. Like many religious texts it is ancient, up to interpretation, and complex, even to our dear host and many other Muslims. Given that scholars interpreting the texts were not governing the people, it was never rigid top-down rules from those in power. (Wager a guess at how often Islamic legal scholars have reached a consensus on the interpretation of religious text as it relates to law.)Sumbul, who recently published her third book, Demystifying Shari’ah, shares the inspiration for the book (with a cameo by Rush Limbaugh) and the co-occurring explosion of anti-Sharia sentiment in public discourse. She breaks down the key facts in a digestible manner, including the fluidity of Sharia, the five pillars, the immutable goals that every Islamic law has to comply with—which closely resemble our far subsequent Bill of Rights—and the important revelation that no religious law can ever take over the United States because of our Constitution.We touch on Sharia as it relates to modesty/dress, the colonization of Muslim lands, and behaviors like prayer, divorce, and murder, which are actually ranked by levels of allowance. Asad and Sumbul share the common ground of their parents effectively being the ones to lay down the law when growing up, something most children can relate to. We are surprised to learn that even nonfiction authors can get heckled at public readings. We are not surprised to hear about Fear, Inc., the extreme right-wing lawyer responsible for anti-Sharia legislation in 14 states, and the co-opting of Islamic terms by the mainstream media. Naturally, there’s an aside on Star Trek (check out our mos
- Building a World without Hate with Rais BhuiyanRais Bhuiyan is a Bangladeshi American who was shot by a white supremacist as retaliation for the attacks of September 11th, four months after arriving in the United States. He joins us on this episode of American Muslim Project to share his remarkable story and mission to promote empathy and compassion.Rais was thrilled to start his own American dream in Dallas after being granted a visa from the State Department’s lottery. He relays how his life instead became an “American nightmare” as Mark Anthony Stroman went on a killing spree, murdering two other South Asian men and nearly killing Rais in an attempt to hunt Arabs. We talk about that horrific day and how he called out for his mother, like George Floyd. Miraculously Rais lived, but the incident cost him his home, fiancé, job, sense of security, and the sight in his right eye. We learn of the hospital discharging him after he regained consciousness because of insurance and the Red Cross only allotting him a week’s worth of groceries.Instead of campaigning for personal justice, however, Rais engaged in a fight for clemency for his attacker. Joined by a team backed by Amnesty International, Rais describes why and how he petitioned to save Stroman’s life, going all the way to the Supreme Court and also taking on the lethal injection manufacturer in Denmark. Discover how his request for mediation with his attacker played out and both of their transitions after the crime. At the same time, Rais founded World Without Hate, a nonprofit working to prevent and disrupt the cycles of hate and violence through storytelling and empathy. He shares the promise he made to Allah for letting him live and the Quran verse that inspired him.Find out how the campaign played out and about the mentorship Rais now has with Stroman’s son. Check out his website and follow World Without Hate @worldwithouthate and @WWHforgive as they work toward a 9/11 hate crime resolution, among other projects. If nothing else examine your own ability to forgive, then spread the ultimate story of compassion to better this country—ours and Rais’s—that he still somehow manages to love.American Muslim Project is a production of
- Fighting State-Sponsored Spying and Discrimination with Amira Al-SubaeyDuring the Obama administration (or was it in 1984?), a campaign known as countering violent extremism (CVE, and a profusion of other acronyms since) was initiated by intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and dissuade those prone to radicalization. The Muslim Justice League was founded in 2014 by Muslim women of one CVE pilot city to defund and dismantle that massive increase in state-sponsored surveillance. The league’s deputy director, Amira Al-Subaey, joins us on AMP to discuss the facts and fiction surrounding still-active CVE policy.According to the government, CVE would put an end to aggressive law enforcement policies by instead recruiting regular citizens like doctors, imams, and teachers to engage in the “soft policing” of their community. What are some of the risks indicating to informants that a person is likely to become a violent extremist, you ask? Things such as, Amira says, growing a beard, political activism, stated feelings of alienation, or increasing your mosque attendance. The surveillance—no surprise—targets Muslims and other immigrant and POC populations deemed a threat. We talk about CVE’s failures (lack of violence prevention, legitimization of anti-Muslim discrimination, disproportionate spying on and incarceration of Black and Brown people) and successes (this parenthetical intentionally left blank).Amira enlightens us on the sad reasoning behind surveillants and institutions cooperating with these counterterrorism measures and the lengths those facing the worse consequences have gone to to avoid false suspicion. Asad and Amira both ponder the likelihood that they’ve been put on the FBI or DHS’s radar. We cover the repercussions of fighting the movement and social justice groups like AJL that are doing it anyway. Our government’s historical use of the terms “terrorist” and “extremist” and the lack of scientific evidence for “the indicators” leading to extremism are broached, and better ways to keep society safe are posited. The episode transitions to record-breaking ways Amira challenges herself personally, which produces a fitting metaphor for navigating life. She introduces us to abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba's recommendation of practicing hope as a discipline.America
- A Focus on Palestinians with Dr. Maha NassarDr. Maha Nassar, a Palestinian American professor and expert on Arab cultural and intellectual history, shares her insights on Palestinians.Naturally, we ask her to address the horrific situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks. She enlightens us on several key points, including how the conflict is truly an anti-colonialist struggle, how the youngest Palestinians in Israel identify themselves, and how Palestinians have been covered by major U.S. news outlets the last several decades. [Spoiler alert: Very few articles written about Palestinians are actually by a Palestinian.] Find out why bias in major news outlets may matter less now.Maha shares the impetus behind her award-winning book, Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World, as well as details from her 2007 trip to Palestine that turned “really icky.” After learning of the de facto segregation in neighborhoods and schools in Israel, we dive into a fascinating if not disturbing comparison to Jim Crow laws. You may also be surprised to hear about Black Lives Matter leaders studying structural suppression and institutional violence in Palestine, and American police forces attending trainings in Israel. How murals of George Floyd can be found across Palestine, where they too hope to translate the present online momentum into real change. Naturally, we finish with Maha’s predictions on how this all ends.Follow Maha on Twitter @mtnassar and read her unsettling article documenting how opinion pieces about Palestinians in the US mainstream media are overwhelmingly written by non-Palestinians. Check out her first book, Brothers Apart, and upcoming book, The Palestinians: A Global History, on the construction of Palestinian identity under statelessness and transnational dispersal.American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.Writer and Researcher: Lindsy GambleShow Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad ButtMusic by Simon HutchinsonHosted by Asad Butt
- Improving Your COVID IQ with Dr. Mohammed RezaThis week we spoke with Dr. Mohammed Reza, a Bangladeshi-American infectious disease doctor in north Florida, where COVID variants and vaccine reluctance both run rampant.During this pandemic, Dr. Mo (as his patients call him) has been thrust into the local limelight as an unwitting community educator. Despite his schooling, credibility, and experience, he was a bit surprised to become the trusted face of coronavirus intel in his hometown, performing over 100 interviews. Perhaps because the day after Trump took office he was ordered to go back to his country while buying his staff donuts.Regardless, an authority he is, and he breaks down mutations of the virus, the reason India is currently in crisis, and what we know we don’t know. Myths about vaccines are dispelled. Our government is given a letter grade for their COVID response.Along with a psychologist and a tech friend, Dr. Mo co-founded CovidIQ early last year—a free tracking system that identified potential hot spots quicker than tests could. Despite the number of physicians involved and time and money they volunteered, politics and cost curtailed the project. Many states didn’t want to know the rate of infection or be told when to wear (or not wear) masks, it turns out.We speak about minorities having the highest rates of disease and the worst access to care in this country, along with some appalling stats. On the flip side, Dr. Mo shares his approach to patients and bedside manner (will you be our doctor?). Furthermore, we cover poignant anecdotes of his family’s humble beginnings and the reason he decided to go into medicine: a harrowing story about traveling from Bangladesh to Singapore at 18 to try to save his father’s life, which dwarves every challenge we’ve ever faced. Finally, we offer you the lessons his multicultural family preaches: Be good to others, regardless of their background. And celebrate every holiday.American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.Writer and Researcher: Lindsy GambleShow Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad ButtMusic by Simon HutchinsonHosted by Asad Butt
- Telling Our Own Story with Qasim RashidQasim Rashid has held many roles—human rights lawyer, prolific writer, media consultant, political candidate, volunteer prison chaplain, avid Tweeter—one of which his wife convinced him to pursue. He joins us on American Muslim Project to discuss his newest book, how he got to where he is today, and advocating for a more compassionate tomorrow.We dive in with Ramadan 2021, a remarkable one given COVID and the current state of Palestinians and Uyghurs. Shared IHOP reminiscences make an appearance. Qasim outlines the theology behind Ahmadi Muslims, the minority faith he is an active member of. We discuss the motivations behind his long-rejected debut children's book, Hannah and the Ramadan Gift, and the moment his four-year-old daughter saw herself on the cover. Are we any closer to normalizing Islam in the United States?Qasim touches on other varied topics he’s well-informed on, all with eloquence and humility. How the reality of American Muslims building this country and fighting in every war needs to be more deliberately communicated; the potential positives of being trolled, which he calls collateral education; helping our nation become a more perfect union and making the American Dream accessible to all; the number of times he was pulled over by police post-9/11.… We’re moved by his embodiment of humanity, present in his many, many actions, constantly asserted beliefs, and showing compassion just for compassion’s sake.Follow Qasim on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @qasimrashid. Pick up his recent children’s book, Hannah and the Ramadan Gift, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel. Or check out his numerous articles on https://qasimrashid.com and nonfiction books, The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance, EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere, and
- Food and Finding the Spice of Life with Saba Wahid DuffyThis week we are joined by Saba Wahid Duffy: chef, media personality, culinary educator, and very recent *Chopped* champion. As an American Muslim raised in a suburb of Boston, she grew up eating Pakistani food nearly exclusively, which left her hankering for any cuisine but.Despite her strong interest in cooking from a young age, Saba’s traditional Desi parents had other thoughts on their daughter wanting to pursue a culinary career. We discover the idea that truly kicked off her career in food much later in life: a television pilot bridging the gap between her Eastern roots and Western upbringing (which coincidentally our host helped film). The shoot—despite the fact that she forbids anyone to watch it now—landed her a position as a tv host with Dubai One. Saba paints a picture of the food scene in Dubai, where she subsequently lived for four years, as well as the current culinary evolution in the States.Naturally we quizzed her on her Chopped experience. Hear what it’s like to have Martha Stewart hovering over you while breaking down flounder, and how to sugarcoat the situation with a little light conversation. How might one prepare for such a high-stress competition against three male chefs with impressive industry experience? Try timed test runs in a kitchen under construction with a toddler in tow and a proper-meat-and-potatoes husband critiquing your plating.We learn about her signature style, an amalgamation of healthy Mediterranean cuisine with the pungent spices of her heritage as well as the global influence of living in the UAE. She enlightens our listeners as well as, ahem, our Pakistani-American host on the differences between Pakistani and Indian food. We talk about wrapping your head around Christmas as adults and her multicultural family creating their own unique traditions. Finally, find out the one thing she won’t ever do foodwise.Read more about Saba and her unique recipes on her website, take advice from her food blog, Culinary Delights, or follow her on Facebook. And catch her appearances on Food Network’s Chopped: Martha Rules in Round 4 and the Grand Finale (originally aired 5/4 an
- Bringing People Together through Art with Salma ArastuThis week we speak with Salma Arastu, an artist born in Rajasthan, India, to Sindhi Hindu Pakistani refugees. Introduced to Arabic calligraphy in Iran, she found herself mesmerized before able to even read it. By the 1980s, the merging of traditional calligraphy and modern art that she’d embarked upon had a name: the Hurufiyya Movement. It was only after September 11th that she began to share her calligraphy publicly, to spread the beauty of the Quran and bring people closer to Islam.She walks us through the popularity of calligraphy in Islam, and her passion for the concept of conveying a story through a beautiful, continuous line. She details her very physical process (often involving three pieces at a time), influences, and reception amongst different communities. In addition to her calligraphy, Salma’s found success with mixed media, paintings, laser-cut metal sculptures, and poetry. Regardless of the medium she works from the heart, letting the energy take control and trying to convey joy, peace, and human connection. Not wanting to be labeled a specific kind of artist, or religion for that matter, she believes the message and appeal of her works are universal.Listening to Salma speak, we’re not surprised that she makes art to uplift others. One gets the feeling when listening to her that she has a lot to teach about life, gratitude, and humility. She speaks of challenges she’s faced—such as being born without fingers on her left hand or her family’s resistance to her conversion to Islam—as if they are blessings. Frankly she makes us miss our grandma.You can find out more about Salma on her site or follow her here. Check out her new book of paintings inspired by the themes of ecological consciousness and interspecies dependence found in the Quran. Learn more about some of her favorite artists, Shahzia Sikander, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky. Last but not least, take her advice to draw—even doodle—to open your mind and heart.American Muslim Project is a production of
- Shedding Stereotypes in Hollywood with Serena RasoulSerena Rasoul’s humble upbringing in rural Virginia left her feeling like a leper to both white neighbors and other Arab Americans from afar. Her childhood defense mechanism? Resorting to funny accents and impressions. Serena joins AMP to discuss her diverse career, founding the first casting agency focused on Muslim talent, and the real story of Hollywood.The daughter of Palestinian immigrants with a Mayberry vision of America, her family landed on a Southern horse ranch to run a corner store and gas station—“the only Muslims for hours.” With no mosque around, she would often accompany friends to churches, synagogues, and temples. The only common ground in town was that everyone struggled to get by. While it could be lonely and isolating, she says she also felt empowered, eventually forming dear, accepting friendships.“Just like any child of immigrants,” Serena was supposed to be the doctor. Despite her love of stand-up and performing, her heavy sense of responsibility and keen awareness of her parents’ sacrifices led her to study public health. Asad and her exchange banter about parental expectations of success. She spent many years working for the government while pursuing acting gigs on the side (including House of Cards and Veep) and dabbling in stand-up. After checking all the obligatory boxes, however, she finally left her job to pursue her passion full-time.What she discovered was inexperienced studios portraying BIPOC talent as stereotypes. With no home in the industry, she decided to create one. Enter Muslim American Casting, launched 1/20/21, the day after the Muslim Ban was repealed. Her agency casts Muslim and SWANA talent in the TV, film, and commercial industries and provides consulting services to ensure accurate representation. Despite her parents not quite understanding what she does now, they are supportive. Regardless she still loves doing impressions of them (which she graces us with).She enlightens us on Hollywood’s ignorance about the diversity of the American Muslim population. We become aware of a report on 100 years of Muslim tropes that unearths Muslim stereotypes in the silent-film era and explores the wildly evolving caricatures over time. She provides her take on where Hollywood is headed.Check out MuslimAmericanCasting.com, an
- Changing the Dialogue around Women and Business with Tasneem DohadwalaAs a first-generation American Muslim businesswoman, Tasneem Dohadwala has lived a life of being a threefold minority: in race, gender, and career. She experienced a traditional South Asian Muslim upbringing, short one pivotal detail—her mom worked, and loved it. Tasneem speaks to being a woman in the world of investments on this episode of AMP.Currently Founding Partner at global investment firm Excelestar Ventures and a Managing Director at early-stage investment firm Golden Seeds, which focuses on women-led businesses, Tasneem has come a long way. Her ambition likely stems from her mother instilling a sense of pride (rather than guilt) in work and her family’s belief that there is no glass ceiling. She credits her success to their support, especially throughout business school when she was one of only nine mothers out of 1800 students.Tasneem defines what any investor does in layman’s terms and outlines the less-defined roles of a good one—guiding, understanding, and being a sounding board for your CEO. We ask her to enlighten us on how investment differs from the picture painted on Shark Tank. She likens her entrepreneurship approach to reading a thriller, learning new players and plot points with every page.She shares anecdotes from her early career: about the support of bosses on the trading floor for both her work and family; about a male VP’s unseemly comment regarding women that stuck with her and how, as her kids say, that’s clearly a him problem, not a me problem; about how even she had to come to the realization that ignoring color is dismissive of people’s varied experiences, which can make society and companies richer. Not until business school did she start to own her differences rather than suppressing them.We chat about how the world has changed (or has it?). Asad cites some depressing investment stats from 2020; Tasneem adds her own. Nonetheless, it’s becoming more universally accepted that racially- and gender-diverse teams produce a better return on equity, among other benefits. This past year CEOs have started demanding that their companies and cap tables be inclusive, but still need to make it a mandate. Values and actions may finally be catching up with each other, but there is far less access to resources for women, despite the capital existing. And if the framework doesn’t change, and firms