Love in the Time of Islamophobia

Eds. Note: Big love to our Love InshAllah community for four wonderful years! Our site is going on hiatus but we hope to be back with more stories soon. In the meantime, keep telling yours.

Tanzila Ahmed

Tanzila Ahmed

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story – and a happy ending.

Ever enamored by the RomCom, I always pictured myself as the clumsy, awkward but affable protagonist of my own 90 minute, wittily narrated romance. In my story, taking fake boyfriends to Desi weddings, having a hot doctor that stars in telenovelas, and having a back-up baby-daddy for my geriatric uterus were a part of my off-color but meaningful RomCom story. It’s why I loved being a part of the book Love Inshallah, so much – for the first time I saw my narrative side-by-side with 24 other Muslimah’s love stories. It gave me hope that maybe there was a love story for me as well.

I always imagined that the end of the Radical Love column would come when I had fallen in love with the perfect man. In my mind, I thought that after two years of writing about the intersections of grief, love, faith and social justice that I would be able to make someone fall in love with me through my words alone and that closing out my column with a “happily ever after” ending story would make my readers (and myself) content. Finding love was never the point of writing this column – redefining love as a 30-something single Brown Muslimah-American with social justice values was. But I harbored this little romantic hope that with words love could manifest.
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Hip-Hop Hijabis: Spitting Rhymes About Being Muslim And Female

Muslim women’s hip-hop collective confronts stereotypes & breaks up the boys’ club:

“We’re knowledgeable, we have rhymes, we have soul, and we have something to say.” – Alia Sharrief


Silent Dhikr

Key Ballah

Key Ballah

1. My name is too long to fit into the tiny space of your mouth.

2. My God is too big to be affected by the pebbles you throw with your tongue.

3. I am too beautiful to care whether your sons are comfortable with the black fabric in place of my bare skin.

4. My father’s beard is none of your business.

5. My mother’s henna spotted hands can strangle the appropriation out of you.
 
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The Legacy of Zines

Eds. note: Please welcome activist, storyteller, politico and Love InshAllah anthology contributor Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed as our newest columnist! Her column “Radical Love” will be published the first Tuesday of every month and will explore the connections between social justice & intentional love.

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

We thought we were doing something new. Something fresh and cutting edge. But something old too, building on “our” punk DIY roots. At one of the first meetings in my Oakland apartment two years ago, sitting around the dining table covered with fruits and dates, we passed around our collections of zines. These were those black and white zines. Those hand written zines. Those photocopied zines that were stapled zines.  These were zines that would magically appear in our postal mailbox, and how you got on the distro list you had no clue. That feeling of a personalized note slipped in to your envelope was nothing short of special. We too would create a DIY Zine that would combat Islamophobia in the most revolutionary way – through poetry and prose infused with love from the untold Muslims on the margins. That was our vision for the zines we would create from the Totally Radical Muslims.

This summer, at Los Angeles’ bimonthly bi-monthly Asian American poetry spot Tuesday Night Café. the Gidras made an appearance and it was the first time I heard about this collective driven publication. A short documentary was shown telling the story of the radical newspaper Gidra created by a group of students out of the University of California, Los Angeles. They dubbed themselves “the voice of the Asian American movement” and published monthly from April 1969 to April 1974. The only month they missed was the month when Cambodia was being bombed and they were out busy protesting. Their artists created political images to go with the pieces and they talked about how the art was just as important as the essay. They used lightboxes and had to physically cut and paste words. Gidra was, as described by one of the writers Robert Nakamura was not “about art, it wasn’t about self-expression, it wasn’t even about breaking stereotypes to the majority society. We wanted to break stereotypes to ourselves.”

Three of the activists were there – they are older now, leaders in the community that I’ve worked with but I never knew this about their past. It was heartening to see that their trajectory from student organizers to community leaders still had those radical roots. As they talked about their collective process and the difficulty of creating a newsletter without hierarchy, I laughed. It was just like the collective process of many of the groups I worked with, including in the Totally Radical Muslims zines.

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