WBEZ | islam http://www.wbez.org/tags/islam Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Marvel Comic's new female Muslim superhero http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/marvel-comics-new-female-muslim-superhero-109122 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marvel AP.jpg" style="height: 376px; width: 620px;" title="The image released by Marvel Comics shows character Kamala Khan, second left, with her family Aamir, father Yusuf, mother Disha and friend Bruno, from the &quot;Ms. Marvel&quot; issue. (Marvel Comics/AP)" /></div></div><p>Marvel Comics&#39; newest superhero is more than just a symbol of diversity and a deviation from the white, male norm that Spiderman, Wolverine, Captain America, and countless other comic book heroes occupy.</p><p><a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/showbiz/ms-marvel-muslim-superhero/" target="_blank">Kamala Khan</a>, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City, also looks and sounds like a real person, albeit with extraordinary powers.</p><p>In a universe where most female superheroes are impossibly stacked and Barbie doll-proportioned (to draw ogling male eyes) Khan is a refreshing change of pace. She is pretty, yes, but rock-hard body &quot;hotness&quot; is not what defines her. &nbsp;</p><p>Writer G. Willow Wilson, a convert to Islam, says Khan was created as a true-to-life person teenagers could relate to.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s for all the geek girls out there, and everybody else who&#39;s ever looked at life on the fringe,&quot; Wilson said in a statement.</p><p>Khan, who will make her debut in January, is radically different from most of Marvel&#39;s most popular female superheroes, but also appealingly meta for a fanbase already attached to legacy characters. While she lives with conservative Pakistani parents, she fits the mold of an angsty teenager and an outsider in school.</p><p>She also is an avid reader of Marvel comic books.&nbsp;</p><p>So when she discovers her superhuman power as a polymorph &mdash; being able to lengthen her arms and legs and change shape &mdash; she takes on the name Ms. Marvel, a title which previously belonged to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Carol Danvers. Now, Khan&#39;s story will be the one to inspire a new generation of girls and boys.</p><p>Series editor Sana Amanat, who also worked on Ultimate Spiderman and Ultimate X-Men comic books for Marvel, told <a href="http://www.deccanchronicle.com/131110/news-current-affairs/article/pow-zap-marvel-comics-present-teenage-female-muslim-superhero" target="_blank">Reuters</a> that a reflection of the Muslim-American experience through the eyes of a teenage girl creates a font of endless possibilities.</p><p>&quot;We are always trying to upend expectations to an extent, but our point is to always reflect the world outside our window, and we are looking through a lot more windows right now,&quot; she said.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, the idea for this new kind of superhero came from a conversation that Amanat had with her senior editor, Steve Wacker, about her own experiences growing up as a Muslim-American.</p><p>&quot;He was interested in the dilemma I faced as a young girl and the next day he came in and said, &#39;Wouldn&#39;t it be great to have a superhero that was for all the little girls that grew up just like you, and who are growing up just like you are today, and to create a character they can be inspired by?&#39;&quot; said Amanat.&nbsp;</p><p>Of course, girls have been inspired by female superheroes from the moment Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in 1941. But more than 70 years later, the endless parade of unbelievably bodacious babes in skin-tight bodysuits has begun to wear thin.</p><p>Female comic book fans need more than a strong, independent woman with superpowers and a slamming body to stay interested. We need diversity, in every sense of the word: racially, culturally, intellectually, and physically.</p><p>In my opinion, this is in part why so many comic book films and TV shows helmed by female superheroes (Elektra, Catwoman, and the Wonder Woman series that never made it to air) have fallen flat in recent years. The average woman or adolsecent girl has to fall in love with these characters too. If all she sees is plastic, how can she relate?</p><p>I&#39;m excited to see all of the new stories that the creators of Kamala Khan will bring to life, but I also long for more.</p><p>When will we see a mainstream superhero who is gender-queer or transgender? Why do the female characters continue to be drawn to serve the male gaze, with their supermodel sexiness and perfectly-chiseled abs? Isn&#39;t it about time we had a full-bodied female superhero, or at the very least, more&nbsp;<a href="http://geektyrant.com/news/2013/4/3/fully-clothed-female-superheroes-geek-art.html" target="_blank">fully-clothed</a>&nbsp;ones?&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the good news is that times are changing, and Kamala Khan has punched a hole through the glass ceiling with a resounding smash.</p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/marvel-comics-new-female-muslim-superhero-109122 DuPage County reverses decision on mosque http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/dupage-county-reverses-decision-mosque-107850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DuPage Mosque (1)_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>DuPage County has reversed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/dupage-board-denies-petition-turn-house-mosque-98954" target="_blank">an earlier decision on a zoning petition by a Muslim group</a>, and will now allow the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs to conduct worship services in a single-family residence near west suburban Bartlett. The reconsideration of the group&rsquo;s petition came per order of federal magistrate judge Sheila Finnegan, as part of a negotiated settlement between the two parties.</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;They didn&rsquo;t vote right,&rsquo; that&rsquo;s what the judge said, &lsquo;You got to do it over, do it right,&rsquo;&rdquo; fumed Jacqueline Sitkiewicz, after the 10-7 vote in favor of the petitioner was tallied. &ldquo;Why have a county board, then? Just abolish it and when you have an issue, go right to the judge.&rdquo;</p><p>Sitkiewitz and her husband, whose home sits directly next to the ICWS property, were among many neighbors who voiced opposition during the public comment portion of the county board meeting. Many said that the proposed use, which would allow up to 166 people to visit each day, would overwhelm its septic capacity. They also said that plans to pave over portions of the property for a parking lot would result in stormwater flooding, and that traffic on the already-busy Army Trail Road would become more dangerous.</p><p>But this time around, commissioners had additional information about each of those points from the county&rsquo;s own agencies, which assessed the septic, stormwater flow and traffic conditions at the site.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/muslim-group-sues-dupage-county-over-zoning-denial-101471" target="_blank">The ICWS sued DuPage County in federal court last year</a> claiming discrimination after it failed to win its conditional use bid. But the county recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420" target="_blank">lost a similar federal case</a> with another Islamic group, the Irshad Learning Center. That prompted the ICWS and DuPage County to pursue a settlement in their case.</p><p>ICWS still seeks damages and attorneys fees in their case, an issue that was not discussed at Tuesday&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think the case is mooted because of the zoning approval today,&rdquo; said Mark Daniel, attorney for ICWS. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s one major step in the direction of getting this resolved. The biggest step, actually, but it&rsquo;s not the full route that we have to take.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 08:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/dupage-county-reverses-decision-mosque-107850 For some, Boston news coverage highlights need for Muslims in the media http://www.wbez.org/news/some-boston-news-coverage-highlights-need-muslims-media-106753 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP65997749651.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As details continue to emerge about the two brothers suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon on Monday, many American Muslims are processing the treatment that this story has gotten in the mainstream news media. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia, but little is still known about their motives or other affiliations.</p><p>Even before the suspects were identified, news shows and commentary programs on outlets such as Fox News, CNN and Glenn Beck speculated that the perpetrator of the attack was Saudi, Arab, &ldquo;dark-skinned,&rdquo; or Muslim. Fox News pundit Erik Rush provoked particular outcry when he tweeted &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s kill them all,&rdquo; in response to a message about Muslims &mdash;a tweet that he later said was sarcastic.</p><p>&ldquo;[The] Islamophobia machine is out there, it&rsquo;s well-funded, well-oiled,&rdquo; said Abdul Malik Mujahid, a Chicago-area imam and founder of SoundVision, an Islamic educational media organization. &ldquo;Muslims have a responsibility to move forward and use the media which they have the freedom to use to say their opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>Mujahid said the coverage has bolstered his belief that Muslims need to play a bigger role in crafting media coverage, whether by creating their own media outlets or by joining the newsrooms of existing ones. It&rsquo;s a battle that Mujahid began nearly ten years ago, with the launching of Radio Islam, a daily, current affairs program that streams online and at 6 p.m. nightly on WCEV 1450AM.</p><p>A recent show focused on Muslims who were at the Boston Marathon as runners or as first responders. Mujahid said the idea is to counter <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Public-Remains-Conflicted-Over-Islam.aspx" target="_blank">a trend toward unfavorable attitudes toward Muslims.</a></p><p>&ldquo;Despite the fact that Muslims have done a lot of effort to reach out to their neighbors, [perceptions of] Muslims and Islam in America continue to go on the negative side,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In the wake of the Boston coverage, Mujahid has stepped up a call for donations to expand Radio Islam&rsquo;s programming. He wants to build a new studio downtown to increase the amount of programming, as well as foster the training of Muslim journalists.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made this switch from more of a victim mentality, more of this idea of please don&rsquo;t beat me up, and kind of scared and not knowing what to expect, as opposed to now taking a more confident and proactive position,&rdquo; said Asma Uddin, an attorney at the Becket Foundation for Religious Liberty and the founder of Altmuslimah, a blog about gender and Islam.</p><p>Uddin said since 9/11, more Muslims have started to think like Mujahid, focusing on how to disseminate their stories through the media. She said she saw the effect of that in the media coverage of the Boston bombings. Although some news outlets rushed to connect the attack to Islam, she said many more were careful not to jump to conclusions.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s become increasingly sophisticated, and part of that, is because Muslims are speaking up and nuancing people&rsquo;s perceptions,&rdquo; Mujahid said.</p><p>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef </a>and @<a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">WBEZoutloud</a>.</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 20:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-boston-news-coverage-highlights-need-muslims-media-106753 Muslim group claims win on DuPage mosque dispute http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420 <p><p>A federal judge has ruled that DuPage County was &ldquo;arbitrary and capricious&rdquo; when it denied permission for an Iranian Muslim group to build a mosque on a 3-acre residential property near west-suburban Naperville. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a 70-page summary judgment Friday that could force the county to reconsider the zoning petition of the Irshad Learning Center.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s significant not only for this one Muslim institution but all Muslim religious institutions who are facing problematic decisions by their local governments,&rdquo; said Kevin Vodak, an attorney with the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represented the center. DuPage County has had a number of disputed zoning bids by mosques in recent years, but this is the only one that CAIR has stepped in to represent.</p><p>Judge Pallmeyer found the county did not discriminate against the Irshad Learning Center petition on the basis of religion but concluded &ldquo;the County imposed a substantial burden on ILC,&rdquo; violating state and federal laws that protect the freedom to exercise religion. The Irshad Learning Center case alleged that DuPage County violated certain religious protections afforded by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the U.S. Constitution, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.</p><p>The zoning matter could now go back to the County Board. &rdquo;We&rsquo;re hopeful that the county fully complies with that decision,&rdquo; said Vodak, referring to the judge&rsquo;s ruling. &ldquo;If so then we will be seeking damages and attorneys fees based on our litigation in the case and Irshad&rsquo;s expenses having to maintain the property as it not being tax-exempt at this stage because they were denied the permit.&rdquo; Vodak said he has no estimate yet for total damages.</p><p>The petitioners purchased the property in 2008, hoping to turn it into a religious center that could accommodate roughly 25 families for Thursday evening services and weekend classes. But many neighbors and outside organizations objected to their petition for a conditional zoning use, calling into question figures that the Irshad Learning Center used in its bid. In particular, the objectors felt the petition did not accurately portray the intensity of use that the property would be subjected to.</p><p>A spokesman for DuPage County government said the county is reviewing the judgment and not presently commenting.</p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.11356477928347886" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="text-decoration: initial;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">@oyousef</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></b></p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 17:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/muslim-group-claims-win-dupage-mosque-dispute-106420 A healthy, well-hydrated Ramadan! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/healthy-well-hydrated-ramadan-101308 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/120731%20yvonne%20maffei.jpg" style="height: 494px; width: 620px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; " title="Yvonne Maffei, publisher of 'My Halal Kitchen.' (Image courtesy of the writer)" /></p><p style="text-align: left; ">I first met Yvonne Maffei when she came for an interview with <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/weekender-cure-cultural-indigestion-100853">Weekender</a>. </em>Normally those interviews are short &mdash;&nbsp;a quick ten minutes or so exploring the personalities behind the local events we spotlight each week.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">I&#39;d already checked out Maffei&#39;s blog,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.myhalalkitchen.com/"><em>My Halal Kitchen</em></a>, and was totally captivated. There are delicious-sounding recipes, great tips for keeping a green kitchen, and so much more &mdash; the woman&#39;s a font of nutritional information! But while researching Maffei I learned something else: Maffei grew up in a Puerto Rican and Italian household, and only converted to Islam in 2001, just prior to the events of 9-11.</p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F54736554&show_artwork=true"></iframe><p style="text-align: left; ">What timing! For an American to convert to Islam at a moment when Muslims in America came under such intense scrutiny is a bold move. Of course&nbsp;Maffei couldn&#39;t have known what was coming, and in any event her decision was very measured. She told me her interest was lit by a trip to Morocco, after which she spent years exploring the tenets of the faith and why she wanted to leave the Catholicism of her childhood for the Islamic rituals that have shaped her adulthood.</p><p style="text-align: left; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dates_600.jpg" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Dates and Cream Iftar (photo courtesy of Yvonne Maffei)" />We ended up talking for half an hour, about how her own family and friends, as well as her nascent Muslim community, reacted to her decision. To some extent she became a spokesperson for her local mosque in Ohio, someone who could &nbsp;help dispel some of the myths and misperceptions around Islam. But her decision also created rifts and cost her friendships.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">I think you&#39;ll hear Maffei&#39;s passion and intelligence, and whatever your religious persuasion you&#39;ll no doubt relate to her motives: to find a deep and meaningful connection to the world, one Maffei thought she was lacking.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">However if food is your oracle, then look no further than the<a href="http://www.myhalalkitchen.com/2010/08/dates-cream-iftar/"> recipe</a> Maffei provides for dates stuffed with almonds and topped with creme fraiche, lemon zest and chopped pistachios. Maffei likes to break the daily fast with this treat, especially if guests are dropping by. And she recommends you accompany them with a cool glass of watermelon or guava juice.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">That&#39;s one of her tips for enjoying Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. She also has things to say about staying healthy during the fast, and why frozen halal foods &mdash; available at locations from Walmart to Whole Foods &mdash; are both handy helper and badge of pride for many Muslims.</p></p> Tue, 31 Jul 2012 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/healthy-well-hydrated-ramadan-101308 Calls force cancellation of Chicago Islam meeting http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/calls-force-cancellation-chicago-islam-meeting-100053 <p><p>Phone calls and emails warning of protests have forced a Chicago-area club to cancel a conference by a controversial Islamic group.</p><p>The U.S. branch of the international Hizb ut-Tahrir movement still plans to hold a conference in the area on June 17.</p><p><a href="http://bit.ly/MrqzqW">The Arlington Heights <em>Daily Herald</em> reported</a> Wednesday that The Meadows Club in suburban Rolling Meadows, Ill. pulled out of the event after a deluge of calls and emails.</p><p>Organizers were expecting 1,000 people to attend the event under the title &quot;Liberation by Revelation &mdash; Muslims Marching Toward Victory.&quot;</p><p>Hizb ut-Tahrir says it rejects violence, but it is banned in several countries, including Pakistan, where it advocates the government&#39;s overthrow. The group seeks to unite the Muslim world under a single government following strict Islamic law.</p></p> Wed, 13 Jun 2012 09:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/calls-force-cancellation-chicago-islam-meeting-100053 Chicago Muslims reassured after meeting McCarthy http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-muslims-reassured-after-meeting-mccarthy-96824 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-23/RS3878_Garry McCarthy Police Dept Superintendant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Less than one week after sending a letter to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a Muslim rights advocate organization says it has been reassured that Chicago police will not undertake blanket surveillance of the city’s Muslim population.</p><p>The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations addressed the letter to McCarthy after learning that while McCarthy was police director in Newark, N.J., he knew of a wide-ranging surveillance operation that the New York Police Department undertook to monitor Muslims in Newark. The 2007 surveillance operation, which NYPD characterized as a “joint operation” with the Newark Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, resulted in a 60-page report about where Muslims in Newark lived, socialized, and prayed.</p><p>McCarthy has distanced himself from the operation. On Tuesday morning, McCarthy met with individuals from CAIR-Chicago and from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, to respond to their concerns.</p><p>“We sought and received reassurances that such a program would not be carried out in Chicago and that the superintendent stood against community profiling and blanket investigations,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.</p><p>Rehab said he has no reason to believe that McCarthy, who was appointed to head Chicago’s police department by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, harbors any anti-Muslim sentiment.</p><p>“We’re hoping that this marks a new page for Muslim-police relations, in which we move forward,” said Rehab. “There’s two sides to the same coin: safety and civil rights, there can be a balance achieved between both, and there will be.”</p></p> Wed, 29 Feb 2012 14:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-muslims-reassured-after-meeting-mccarthy-96824 Usman Ally on identity politics in ATC's 'Disgraced' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-08/usman-ally-identity-politics-atcs-disgraced-96199 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-08/disgraced_ATC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-08/usman ally.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 275px;" title="">“Being Muslim these days is like being public enemy number one,” says actor Usman Ally. “Our voices are not being heard.”</p><p>“In a way, it’s a dangerous play,” he says of Ayad Akhtar’s <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/"><em>Disgraced</em>, which had its world premiere at American Theater Company</a> last month. At a dinner party, every imaginable prejudice gets laid on the table by corporate lawyer Amir (played by Ally), his blond American wife, a Jewish gallery owner, and his African-American wife, also a lawyer. But that danger, Ally says, “has brought us as a cast together.”</p><p>An ATC ensemble member, Ally has experienced some irrational reactions to earlier performances as a Muslim. He played an Indian-American character, VP, in <a href="http://www.victorygardens.org/onstage/chad-deity-reviews.php">Victory Gardens’ <em>The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity</em></a>—another “incendiary” show, he says, that toured to New York and L.A.</p><p>“Audience members would come up to me afterwards and call me a terrorist—even though I was playing a spoof of a terrorist! Because my character was multilingual, they’d tell me, ‘I think everyone in this country should be speaking English.’ They directed their political outrage at me.”</p><p>Muslims’ reactions after seeing <em>Disgraced</em>, Ally says, have varied a lot. “Some were like, ‘This is so important that this play is being done, because Muslims need to think about this sort of stuff, too.’ Others were just outraged because they thought it would fuel more of the negative stereotyping of Muslims in this country.”</p><p>A violent scene between Amir and his wife sparked a lot of conversation among the cast, playwright Akhtar, and director Kimberly Senior--Ally says it went through 17 iterations. Though originally scripted to take place onstage, it’s now a noisy offstage altercation, a decision Ally approves of partly because it’s “more gut-wrenching to imagine what’s going on.”&nbsp;</p><p>“My biggest fear, to be honest,” he says, “was that if the audience sees a large, dark-skinned man beating a small white woman, they will turn on him.” Everyone involved in <em>Disgraced</em> has had to tread a fine line between acknowledging the validity of ethnic stereotypes—and reinforcing them.&nbsp;</p><p>“There is anti-Semitism in the Muslim community,” says Ally. “Everything that Amir says—whether it’s about his mother, who tells him he’ll end up with a Jewish girl ‘over my dead body,’ or whether he’s saying white women are whores—those ideas are not pervasive, but it’s there. I heard it growing up, not from my parents but from people in the community. [Playwright] Ayad heard it as well.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-08/disgraced%20Ally%2C%20Arenas%2C%20Stark%2C%20Foster%20-%20V.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 432px;" title="A scene from American Theater Company's 'Disgraced.' (Courtesy of ATC)"></p><p>Ally, 29, was raised in a Muslim family originally from Pakistan, where he lived for about a year when he was 10. But he was born in Swaziland and grew up in Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. After living in Africa for 18 years, Ally moved to the States to attend college, then got an MFA in theater. “Especially in our culture and community,” he says, “it was like, ‘You’re going all the way to America so you can sing and dance?’”</p><p>Ally says his parents come from “a very, very humble background.” His mother’s family “had to leave everything behind when they were forced from their homes” after the India/Pakistan partition. His father was raised in a small, impoverished village outside Islamabad but eventually got a master’s degree in economics and became, Ally says, “involved in trade between African countries—textiles and things of that sort.”</p><p>Like his character, Ally is married to a white American. “It was neither of our intentions to fall in love,” he says. “But we did. And people will project certain ideas onto us—we have to battle that quite a bit.”</p><p>“I always identified as a Muslim as a child and as a young adult. But practicing the dogma of religion was never something that my parents enforced on us. They said, ‘You are Muslim—that means that you should be good to people.’” He learned Arabic well enough to read the Koran but never understood what he was saying. During Ramadan, he’d sometimes fast, sometimes not.</p><p>Also like his character, Ally has clearly learned to negotiate cultures of all kinds. “I believe that my identity is porous,” he says. “I should be willing to allow my identity to shift and change based on what I experience in my life. But it’s all rooted in who I was. I start off from where I was, and I work from there.”</p><p>“But Amir has literally divorced himself from who he was, and it’s all brand-new. It’s based in nothing. He’s not rooted in anything. He has to whitewash himself in a way. Ayad very succinctly says that the play is about a man identifying with a false sense of self.”</p><p>“Identity is a very American issue—understanding who you are and where you fit in this massive jigsaw puzzle.”</p></p> Wed, 08 Feb 2012 15:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-08/usman-ally-identity-politics-atcs-disgraced-96199 Muslim woman, school district settle discrimination case http://www.wbez.org/story/muslim-woman-school-district-settle-discrimination-case-93163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-14/AP00031601268.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A school district in western Cook County has come to a settlement with a former teacher in a case about religious discrimination. Berkeley School District 87 will pay Safoorah Khan $75,000 and will create a program for employees to undergo training on how to comply with federal laws regarding religious accommodations.</p><p>Khan was a math lab teacher at McArthur Middle School when she applied for three weeks of unpaid leave in 2008 to perform hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Able-bodied and financially capable Muslims are required to perform hajj at least once in their lives, as a religious duty.&nbsp;</p><p>When the Berkeley school board denied her leave, Khan filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Commission tried, but failed, to mediate the case, so it called in the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the settlement, the DOJ will work with the district to create the training program, and will monitor the district’s compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for a period of three years.&nbsp;</p><p>“I don’t believe that the board of education acted with any kind of malice, or with any kind of anti-Muslim hostility,” said Kamran Memon, Khan’s attorney. “I think they just made a mistake based on their lack of familiarity with their religious accommodation obligations under the civil rights laws and a lack of familiarity with the religious significance of the Hajj.</p><p>The school district could not be reached for comment.</p></p> Fri, 14 Oct 2011 20:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/muslim-woman-school-district-settle-discrimination-case-93163 My personal jihad: Defending Islam after 9/11 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-09-10/my-personal-jihad-defending-islam-after-911-91798 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-09/IMAG0745.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="299" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-09/American Flags.jpg" title="(Photo by Maham Khan)" width="500"></p><p><em>Editor’s Note: Maham Khan was a freshman at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine on September 11, 2001. As president of the Muslim Student Association on campus, she became part of an integral movement to educate Harper students and faculty about Islam.&nbsp; This year, to commemorate 9/11’s tenth anniversary, Harper College hosted a memorial program and invited back Maham Khan to speak about - and reflect on - the Muslim-American experience since.&nbsp; Here are her remarks:</em><br> <br> <br> Good Afternoon, Asalamo –Walaikum: Peace be unto you.<br> <br> When Harper asked me to speak a few months ago, my first thought was: do we really still need to talk about Islam on 9/11's anniversary? I thought, Americans get it; they know they can’t blame an entire religion for the actions of a few mad men. And yet, the answer to my question became clear when I chose a title for my speech. I had wanted to call it <em>10 Years and Counting: My Jihad against Ignorance</em>. But this title was met with concern by a few involved parties. They felt it was “insensitive,” so they changed it.&nbsp; I understood where they were coming from, but that's also when I realized we still have a lot to talk about – and a lot&nbsp; to understand about Islam and about jihad.<br> <br> Merriam-webster.com defines jihad:</p><p>1.&nbsp; A holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also: a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.&nbsp; 2.&nbsp; A crusade for a principle or belief<br> <br> Perhaps I should have used the word crusade instead.&nbsp; Might have been less, well, insensitive.<br> <br> But for the record, I wasn't trying to be insensitive or controversial - especially not today. I merely wanted to point out the full context of the word jihad. You see, for the last 10 years, I and millions of other Muslims have been fighting the actual jihad that Islam prescribes for the modern day we live in. It's the jihad of self-improvement through the actions I take to better my community.&nbsp; It’s a jihad against misconceptions and hatred and injustice. It's jihad against the adulteration of my beautiful faith. Every time I stand up here to reiterate that Islam does not condone murder, destruction or suicide--I am a jihadist. And I'm fighting with my heart, words and actions standing before you today. Just like Merriam-Webster says, it is my religious duty as a Muslim to defend my faith.&nbsp; And it’s my duty to defend it, most importantly, against the perpetrators who attacked my faith – indeed, every faith - and my country on 9/11/2001.</p><p>It’s a day none of us will ever forget.<br> <br> Strangely, I remember almost everything leading up to the towers crashing. The day was absolutely beautiful, sunny with clear skies. I wore a red shirt and black pants. I had a bagel and cream cheese while driving because I was running late for my 9:20 public speaking class, right here at Harper. I ran up the stairs of Building L thinking of an excuse, because I knew my teacher would ask why I was late before marking me down a letter grade. But when I reached my classroom, everyone was crammed into the corner around the TV, fixated on the images we all wish we could forget.&nbsp; Then the hallways filled with confusion and fear. Campus security officers worked their way through the hallways informing us that there was a bomb threat.&nbsp; Then in an eerie, silent chaos we all rushed to go home to our families.<br> <br> In the weeks following 9/11, once it became clear that the villains in this story had an identity defined solely by the same religion as mine, I knew my life was going to change-and not necessarily for the better.&nbsp; I had a feeling that now people, including myself, would want to know everything about Islam. I was right.<br> <br> My friends and I brought the Muslim Student Association on campus back to life (which had been in hibernation for some time). Every Thursday we held an hour-long meeting and open discussion.&nbsp; Almost every week, dozens of non-Muslims showed up. They wanted to know what was the meaning of all this? What role did Islam play?&nbsp;</p><p>As we clarified Islam’s stance, I realized how lucky we were to be in an environment that was conducive to learning and discussion.&nbsp; My time at Harper College was truly enlightening because I learned a lot about the nature of people in the wake of tragedy. I saw the power of compassion and cooperation rise above the destruction that happened on 9/11.</p><p>Even so, the last decade has been filled with incidents of “Islamaphobia,” city-wide Quran burnings, and misleading debates over the so-called&nbsp; Ground Zero Mosque. And when I hear and see these things, I think: they're winning. The bad guys are winning. Because this is exactly what they want to happen. They want Americans to be divided, fighting against each other and against their Muslim countrymen and women, so that they can undermine our ideals of freedom and equality for all.</p><p>I am also hurt and disappointed with the conditions of the world around us. It's disappointing that while Facebook and Twitter have reminded us that the world is really very small, a great disconnect between the East and the West still remains.&nbsp; It hurts to see legally proven innocent Muslims—fathers and sons-come out of Guantanamo Bay after being tortured for years. And it hurts even more when people continue to die in the name of Islam or jihad.&nbsp; Ten years after 9/11, it's safe to say it's not easy being Muslim anywhere in the world today.</p><p>But despite this I am optimistic about the future, because&nbsp; I have so much faith in the American people. I love this country - because this country gives me the freedom to be who I am: a proud Muslim American. This country fights for my freedoms. This country is fighting a constant jihad to better the lives of its people.<br> <br> Ten years from today, I hope and pray that on 9/11’s 20th anniversary, we will look back and be relieved, celebrating a world without fear of terror. We will look back and be proud of how far we have come—how truly united we stand.&nbsp;</p><p>I believe that is the best way to honor all the lives that were lost on September 11th.</p><p>Thank you.</p><p><em>Maham Khan is a Production Assistant for WBEZ's Front and Center.</em></p></p> Sat, 10 Sep 2011 08:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-09-10/my-personal-jihad-defending-islam-after-911-91798