With panelists psychologist Samira Abdul-Karim, author/journalist Moustafa Bayoumi, writer/actor Aizzah Fatima, visual artist Zhang Hongtu, and Executive Director of CAIR-NY Afaf Nasher, this panel, moderated by policy analyst/community organizer Ayisha Irfan, explored the sweeping political and cultural change in America and asks what will be different?
The question has urgent meaning for Muslim Americans. While many of their fellow U.S. citizens believe Muslims, like people of other faiths, make immeasurable contributions to this country, numerous Americans blame Islam for terror attacks here and abroad. The accusation has consequences. Annual FBI statistics show hate crimes against Muslim Americans spiked 67% in 2015, their highest levels since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The trend seems unabated since the election, with the Southern Poverty Law Center collecting reports on 1,094 bias incidents against Jews, immigrants, blacks, Muslims, and other minority groups in recent weeks.
The animosity toward Muslims in particular corresponds with a stubborn belief held by some that Islam is at war with the West. Although this sentiment was amplified and branded during the 2016 presidential campaign, it pre-dates that contest. It is also building momentum: in today’s political and media environment, such opinions could soon drive legislation.
What will be different for Muslim Americans as policy changes loom and the culture around us shifts? What will change for voters who see their neighbors as potential or actual security threats? And what will be different for those non-Muslim U.S. citizens who believe civil rights and religious freedom for all Americans are essential to America itself?
Samira Abdul-Karim is a Harlem-born New York native with deep roots in the City’s African American and Muslim communities. She is an organizational psychologist who works to develop people so that they can build effective high functioning institutions and thriving service-oriented communities. She consults, facilitates conversations, leads workshops, develops programs and produces writings related to inclusion, group dynamics, change, and cultural competence. She holds a Master’s degree in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Wesleyan University.
Moustafa Bayoumi is author of the critically acclaimed How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin). His latest book This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (NYU Press) won the 2016 Nonfiction Arab American Book Award. An accomplished journalist, Bayoumi is a columnist for The Guardian, and has written for numerous media outlets. He is co-editor of The Edward Said Reader (Vintage) and co-editor of a special issue of The Nation on Islamophobia (July 2012). Oh, and he tweeted the most re-tweeted tweet of the 2016 U.S. presidential debates. moustafabayoumi.com
Aizzah Fatima is a NYC-based writer/actor. Her comedy solo play Dirty Paki Lingerie has been staged in NYC, London, Toronto, Turkmenistan, and the U.K., on numerous campuses, and a four-city tour of Pakistan sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. The Wall Street Journal says the play “breaks down stereotypes of Muslim women in America.” She was nominated for an Outstanding Solo Performance Award (NYIT 2014), and a Broadway World Award for Best Play (2016). She is now working on a film based on characters from Dirty Paki Lingerie with Emmy-winning director Iman Zawahry. aizzah.wixsite.com/aizzahfatima
Ayisha Irfan is co-founder of the Muslim Writers Collective, a national program that reclaims Muslim narratives through storytelling. She is also a Policy Analyst at the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. In 2011, her life as a biology undergrad turned when news broke of the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program. As a first-time organizer at the Arab American Association of NY, Irfan rallied Brooklyn youth around a campaign to curtail the unconstitutional practice. Since then she has helped build and lead successful legislative advocacy campaigns inside and outside of government. muslimwriterscollective.com
Omar Jadwat is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project (IRP), which he joined as a Skadden Fellow in 2002. He is IRP’s primary counsel in numerous challenges to state and local anti-immigrant initiatives, including Arizona SB 1070 and the Hazleton, PA ordinance. His litigation and advocacy also addresses a number of other due process and enforcement issues. Jadwat graduated from NYU Law School and was a law clerk for Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York. He is an adjunct professor at Cardozo Law School. aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights
For more than 20 years, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has fought for the civil rights of American Muslims. The NY chapter is one of the busiest of CAIR’s 30 nationwide affiliates. Executive Director Afaf Nasher graduated St. John’s University School of Law in 2005. After practicing corporate litigation for several years, she shifted focus to family and community. She now volunteers with several religious and secular organizations. Her work with CAIR-NY reflects a goal to foster understanding of the Muslim American identity, and to promote positive activism within Muslim and non-Muslim communities. cair-ny.org
Brian Tate is a marketing strategist and culture creator with unique experience in developing major projects that unite audiences across traditional divides of race, gender, income, and age. He is president of The Tate Group, a New York City-based consulting firm that specializes in strategic marketing, cultural initiatives, corporate sponsorships, and critical paths. Economic growth and narrative change around issues of equality are at the core of its practice.
Chinese-born artist Zhang Hongtu has lived in the U.S. since 1982. From the mid ‘80s to the mid ‘90s, his paintings, sculptures, and installations utilized Mao’s image to express his own ideas about Communist China and the Cultural Revolution. In the last decade, Zhang‘s art has questioned complex relationships between the traditions of old China and the West today. His recent works examine the relationship between nature and the human condition. Zhang has exhibited extensively, and recent shows include Museu Picasso in Barcelona, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and the Queens Museum in New York City. momao.com