Video of 2015 Muslim Studies Conference on Global Halal

August 26th, 2015

For 3 days (February 19-21, 2015), scholars, students and comglobalhalalgraphicmunity members met at Michigan State University in East Lansing for the 2015 Muslim Studies Conference, Global Halal: Muslims and the Cultural Politics of the Permissible. The conference was videotaped. Video of selected conference papers and keynotes will be available in Fall 2015. Click this link to view the video of the welcoming address by Paulette Granberry Russell, Director MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and Deandre Beck, Associate Dean MSU International Studies and Programs.

The Conference program included over 20 papers on topics ranging from the halal food markets to the representation of halal themes in literature. Conference highlights included keynote presentations by John Esposito (Georgetown University), Kecia Ali (Boston University), Ingrid Mattson (University of Western Ontario), and Sherman Jackson, University of Southern California.

While the term halal refers to all that is permitted to Muslims, its specific associations with Islamic dietary restrictions underscore the cultural politics of food at time of growing awareness of ethics of food production and consumption and simultaneously an expansion of the globalization of food habits, including increased consumption of highly processed foods. The conference provided a forum for discussing the culture and politics of food within the framework of Muslim Studies, emphasizing not only the cultural or ethnographic aspects of food preparation and consumption, but also the political and economic considerations.

What it means to be Muslim in America (Huffington Post)

April 11th, 2015

Muslim in america screen shot“What It Means to Be Muslim in America” (Huffington Post) by Emily Kassie takes us on a quick but meaningful journey across the U.S. Moving between a variety of spaces including an airport, farmer’s market and New York fashion runway, these nine animated videos share diverse encounters of Muslim American men and women in very different professions. Ranging from the heartwarming to the chilling, each of these very personal anecdotes (less than a minute in length) offers an intimate glimpse into the Muslim American experience. This video project highlights the good and the bad. We see that battling Islamophobia as it rears its ugly head, both within ourselves and in others, is an inevitable part of the Muslim American identity. Ultimately, being Muslim in America is about living your life and shouldering responsibility, confronting ignorance, bringing understanding, and holding strong to your faith and to your community. LT

Global Halal: An International Conference on Muslims and The Cultural Politics of the Permissible

February 19th, 2015

February 19 – 21, 2015
International Center and Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan

Global Halal is an international conference organized by the Muslim Studies Program at
Michigan State University in partnership with the UK-based Muslim, Trust and Cultural Dialogue Program. The conference topic addresses a range of cultural, economic and political concerns associated with the principle of halal, especially in relation to contemporary food, banking, and lifestyle. Often associated with Muslim dietary practices, the concept of halal applies to that which is permissible to Muslims and serves as one of the key ethical concepts in Islamic theological doctrines. Yet as with any religious principle, concepts like halal and its antithesis haram, are subject to interpretation and variation, especially in the contemporary global era. Muslim practices today are conditioned by a wide-range of technological and contextual influences that raise many questions about what constitutes halal. While the term halal refers to all that is permitted, its specific associations with Islamic restrictions underscore the cultural politics of religious practices at a time of growing awareness among Muslims of the ethics of consumption, the diversity of cultural values, the changing nature of interpersonal relations, and the globalization of financial interactions. In the majority Muslim regions of the world, halal is embedded in daily life, but it nevertheless raises other issues, for example in regard to the rights of non-Muslim minorities. In contexts where Islam is the minority religion, adaptations of daily practices have been historically necessary to the establishment of Muslim communities. With the growing number of Muslims in Europe and North America, there has been increased demand for halal options, especially with regard to the availability and marketing of halal meats, which has caused some controversy in the United States, Britain, France, among other countries. These controversies illustrate the centrality of the halal concept in contemporary discussions of Muslimness, national belonging and ethics. This conference will provide a forum for exploring the principle of halal within a global context, emphasizing the complexities of the permissible and the impermissible (haram).

Conference Program
Thursday, February 19, 2015
3:00 – 3:30 p.m.  Refreshments and Registration ( Room 303, International Center)
3:30 – 4:00 p.m.  Welcoming and opening remarks

4:00 – 5:30 p.m.  Panel 1: Re-imagining Muslimness in Diaspora
Moderator: Salah Hassan, Michigan State University
Aliyah Khan, “Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, and the Secret of the New York White Sauce”
Achmat Salie, “Halaaloween”
Alysa Perkins, “Islam Homosexuality and Sexual Boundaries in an immigrant city”
Shabana Mir,  “Dancing in front of boys can taint you: Muslim American women on campus”

6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Opening Keynote (Room 303, International Center)
John Esposito,  “Islam and Shariah in American pop culture: halal and haram”

Friday, February 20, 2015
8:45 – 9:00 a.m. Coffee and Refreshments ( Room 303, International Center)
9:00 – 9:15 a.m. Welcome

9:15 – 10:45 a.m. Panel 2: Global Halal Markets
Moderator: Stephen Gasteyer, Michigan State University
Elif Izberk-Biligin, “Faith-based Marketing and the Emergence of the Global Halal Industry
Sharif Islam, The Semiotics of Halal: Mosqueing the Marketplace in Hamtrack
Ryan Calder, “How do we study the “Halal Revolution?” A map of existing investigations on Global Halal and agendas for future research”

11:00 – 12:00 p.m. Keynote Speaker
Kecia Ali, “Redeeming Slavery: ISIS and the Quest for Islamic Morality”

12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Panel 3: Ethics and Traditions
Moderator: Younus Mirza, Allegheny College
Nathan Tabor, The Bottle Let me Down: Intoxicants and Poetry Recitation in 1700s Safavid and Mughal Lands
Moustafa Elsayed, Permissibility of the Maulida: Historical and Contemporary Debates
Tazeen Ali & Evan Anhorn, The (Im)permissibility of Jihad and Hijrah: Western Muslims between Text and Context
Yasmin Moll, Natural Pleasures: Ethical Entertainment in the Islamic Revival

3:15 – 4:45 p.m. Panel 4: Negotiating Halal in the Arts
Moderator: Karin Zitzewitz, Michigan State University
Alaya Forte & Asmaa Soliman, “Halalising the Arts: How European Muslims Negotiate Religion & the Arts”
Peter G Morey, “‘Halal Fiction'” and the Limits of the Postsecular”
Leila Tarakji, “The Halal Question in Muslim American Literature”
Amina Yaqin, “The Permissibility of Sufi rock music in Pakistan”

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Keynote Speakers (Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center Auditorium)
Ingrid Mattson, “Let’s Get Real: The Body as the Locus of Ethical Action”
Sherman Jackson, “Beyond Halal: Shariah and the Challenge of the Islamic Secular”

Saturday, February, 21, 2015
9:30 – 10:45 a.m. Panel 5: Law, Power and Belonging ( Red Cedar A/B, Kellogg Center)
Moderator: Emine Evered, Michigan State University
Rula Al Abdulrazak and Geeta Patel, “Trust and Islamic Capital”
Umut Korkut & Hande Eslen-Ziya, “Haram versus Halal in the Eyes of the Beholder: The case of Turkish Friday Mosque Sermons”
Liyakat Takim, “Fiqh for Minorities: Shi’i Law in the Diaspora”
11:00 – 12:30 p.m. Panel 6: Hala Meat Industry in International Contexts
Moderator: Safoi Babana-Hampton, Michigan State University
Shadia Husseini de Araújo, “‘Even more halal?’ Interpretations of the permissible and the Brazilian halal chicken industry”
Oliver Leaman, “Controversies about halal: a British debate”
Cedomir Nestorovic, “Philosophical and Political Reasons for Non-Regulation of Halal Food in Europe and North America”
Sarah E. Robinson, “Sourcing Zabiha-Halal Meat as an Expression of Piety: Taqwa Eco-food Cooperative’s Care Ethics in Action”

Keynote Biographies
Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. Formerly, she was professor of Islamic Studies, founder of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program and director of the MacDonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT. She earned her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago in 1999. She is the author of The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life, as well as numerous articles exploring the relationship between Islamic law and society, gender and leadership issues in contemporary Muslim communities. From 2006-2010 Dr. Mattson served as President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); she previously served two terms as Vice-President. Dr. Mattson was born in Canada, where she studied Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario (B.A. ‘87). From 1987-1988 she lived in Pakistan where she developed and implemented a midwife-training program for Afghan refugee women. Dr. Mattson is frequently consulted by media, government and civic organizations and has served as an expert witness.

Dr. Kecia Ali (Ph.D., Religion, Duke University) teaches a range of classes on Islam. Her research focuses on Islamic law; women and gender; ethics; and biography. Her books include Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (2006), Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (2010), Imam Shafi‘i: Scholar and Saint (2011), and The Lives of Muhammad (2014), about modern Muslim and non-Muslim biographies of Islam’s prophet. She has also co-edited the revised edition of A Guide for Women in Religion, which provides guidance for careers in religious studies and theology (2014). Ali held research and teaching fellowships at Brandeis University and Harvard Divinity School before joining the BU faculty in 2006. She is active in the American Academy of Religion and currently serves as President of the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics.

Dr. John L. Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion and International Affairs, and Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He earned his B.A. at St. Anthony College, his M.A. at St. John’s University, and his Ph.D. at Temple University. Professor Esposito is Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and International Affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. He has served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, and the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies. A specialist in Islam, political Islam, and the impact of Islamic movements from North Africa to Southeast Asia, Dr. Esposito serves as a consultant to the Department of State as well as multinational corporations, governments, universities, and the media worldwide. In 2005, Professor Esposito won the American Academy of Religion’s prestigious Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. A prolific writer, Professor Esposito is the author of over 25 books, including What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam, and The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.

Dr. Sherman Jackson is an adjunct scholar and a member of the board of advisors at ISPU and the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He previously was in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Michigan. He is the author of a plethora of books, including Islam and the Blackamerican, The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam, and Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi. He has also written a number of thought-provoking articles, such as “Literalism, Empiricism, and Induction: Apprehending and Concretizing Islamic Law’s Maqasid al-Shariah in the Modern World,” and “Secular vs. Religious Salvation.” In addition, Dr. Jackson is the Co-Founder of the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), as well as past president of Shari’ah Scholar Association of North America, among many other board positions in several organizations. He received his Bachelors cum laude, Masters, and Doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Oriental Studies, Islamic Near East.
This conference has been organized by the Muslim Studies Program in collaboration with the Asian Studies Center at Michigan State University in partnership with the University of East London
Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue project.

College of Arts and Letters
College of Social Sciences
Department of History
Honors College
James Madison College
With additional support from:
Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
Department of Anthropology
Department of Philosophy Department of Sociology
Department of Religious Studies
Department of Sociology
Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

Journeys of Practice: 2014 Conference of the MSU Muslim Studies Program

March 22nd, 2014

Thursday March 20 (all day from 9:45 am-5:00 pm) and  Friday March 21 (morning)

Rm 303 International Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

MSU Muslim Studies Program will host their annual interdisciplinary conference entitled Journeys of Practice. “Practice” here includes both devotional and non-devotional expressions, customs, and tendencies among Muslims in Africa, the Middle East and Central/South Asia. See the attached Program contents for the panel presentation titles.

This conference is co-sponsored by the Office for Inclusion and International Initiatives, College of Social Science, Collate of Arts and Letters, African Studies Center, Asian Studies Center, International Studies and Programs, and the Department of Religious Studies.

Mipsterz . . . Muslim Hipsters

December 5th, 2013

Can a Muslim woman be a hipster? A group of young American women created a Facebook page called Mipsterz, and released a video last week that sparked a huge discussion on the Internet. Evidently, a Muslim woman in hijab, with stylish clothes, skate boarding or climbing a tree or fencing to Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America” is a big issue for many people: some condemning, some celebrating,

The mipsterz video shows that it is possible to be a hipster—or to belong any other subculture—and still conserve a Muslim identity. Here is how mipsterz define themselves on their Facebook page,

a mipster is someone at the forefront of the latest music, fashion, art, critical thought, food, imagination, creativity, and all forms of obscure everything. A Mipster is someone who seeks inspiration from the Islamic tradition of divine scriptures, volumes of knowledge, mystical poets, bold prophets, inspirational politicians, esoteric Imams, and our fellow human beings searching for transcendental states of consciousness. A Mipster is an ironic identity, one that serves more as a perpetual critique of oneself and of society. A Mipster has a social mind, and yearning for a more just order, a more inclusive community unbounded by stale categories, unwilling to plod blindly along in a world as obsessed with class as it is unmindful of its consequences. The Mipster is a bold, yet humble mind, open to disparate ideas and firm enough in conviction to act, speak out and drop the hammer when the time is right.

And their music video is a reflection of what some Muslim women in American think about being a young female, free and stylish, an individual, and of course an American. The video forces the viewer to rethink what it means to be an American Muslim woman.mipsterz sun glasses

Mipsterz and their video challenge the long held stereotypes about Muslim women. And this challenge ostensibly is not only against non-Muslim subjects. Many Muslims are, however, uncomfortable with this video as indicated in the comments section of the video distribution platforms, such as youtube, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Facebook. Some of those who criticize the video see it as inappropriate for Muslim women because it contradicts “Islamic” values; some go so far as to condemn these women as heretics and question their Muslim identity. Another group likes the idea of mipster but dislikes some of the profanity in Jay Z’s Somewhere in America. (A “clean” version of the video now appears alongside the original one on youtube). But of course not all reactions are negative. Many commentators welcome the video with appreciation, and see the hostile reactions as a reflection of gender politics: Would so many people react if the women in the video were Muslim men? Muslim Americans hip hop artists are praised for their public performances, political statements and self-fashioning. In contrast, mipsterz, which is further evidence of the adaptability and changing character of Islam over time, have come under attack because they challenge not only the Islamophobia, but also patriarchal conservativism among Muslims.

No one can know what this group and their video would evolve into; but they triggered a debate which will surely inspire other young Muslims—”Somewhere in America”—for whom religious identity need not necessarily be set in opposition to other sorts of lifestyles and cultural belongings.

The video, Somewhere in America #Mipsterz:

Facebook page, Mipsterz: Muslim Hipsters:

Their Google groups:!forum/mipsterz

On News:

On Buzzfeed:


Contributed by Abdulhamit Arvas

Michigan Federal Judge Grants Muslim Inmates Right to Halal Meals

November 19th, 2013

The Associated Press and local Detroit newspapers reported today that a Michigan Federal judge has granted Muslim inmates the right to halal meals in prisonprison food halal. The ACLU initiated the case in 2006 on behalf of Muslim inmates. In 2010 there were approximately 1800 Muslim inmates in Michigan prisons, less than 10% of the total prison population. Michael Steinberg of the Michigan branch of the ACLU stated  that “Inmates do not lose their religious freedom rights simply because they’re behind bars.” The Associated Press article notes that “the state has decided to serve a vegetarian meal for all inmates who request a meal that adheres to their religion.” The state’s new policy on prison food, which will soon be subcontracted to Aramark, has caused some inmates to protest the soy-based meat substitutes that they will be offered as an alternative to non-halal meat. To challenge the new food policy, Muslim inmates will have to petition the prison authorities, whose decision to serve them vegetarian meals conforms to the law.

Enemies Within? Inside the NYPD’s Secret Domestic Spying Program

October 19th, 2013

Guest Lecture

Adam Goldman, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
Enemies Within? Inside the NYPD’s Secret Domestic Spying Program

Wednesday, Oct. 23 @ 12:00 pm (noon)

145 Comm Arts Bldg  *  Michigan State University  *  East Lansing, MI

Adam Goldman is Associated Press investigative reporter. He will discuss the troubling, legally questionable surveillance program of Muslims and Arabs after 9/11.

Co-sponsored by the School of Journalism and the MSU Muslim Studies Program.

Enemies Within

Muslim and Gay: A Growing Community Discussion

March 17th, 2013

There is a tension between those Muslims who see Islam as an historically fixed religion and those Muslims who recognize the long process of historical transformation that is a feature of Islam’s movement through time and space from its origins in 7th century Arabia. Muslim religious doctrine and practices change based on context and interpretation. Religious faith clearly is more than a list of do’s and don’t’s derived from a holy text, but is based in part on reconciling age-old traditions and contemporary values.

Recently, there have been growing debates about Islam’s capacity for acceptance of gay Muslims. The question of reconciling faith and sexual orientation is not unique to Islam. As with Catholics and other Chrisitians, for example, many Muslims have positioned Muslim and gay identities as incompatible. In contrast, a growing number of Muslims and others are asserting Islam’s openness to sexual diversity. Because of this, Muslims, like other faith-based groups across the nation, are wrestling with the fact that gay rights are an issue for members of their family and their Mosque. It is not a simple theological question applying to an “other.”

In her account of the experiences of a lesbian Muslim friend, Nazly Siadate articulates a plea for Muslims to “modify their interpretation of their faith to be more inclusive.” Specifically, Siadate asks gay Muslims to stop “self-segregating” themselves. She suggests that gay Muslims can and should maintain their religious identity alongside their sexual identity. Then, Muslim communities will consider sexual difference from a position of a shared relationship and religious identity, thus making acceptance easier.

Siadate is not alone in her call for embracing gay and Muslim identities. Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed researches homosexuality in Islam from an anthropological perspective, and Imam Daayiee Abdullah, gay himself, leads a progressive prayer center in Washington D.C., counseling gay Muslims. Additionally, Muslims for Progressive Values advocates for LGBTQ rights from an Islam-inspired perspective. These examples show that gay Muslims exist (and there is a new documentary about it), they have Muslim allies, and they will cMuslimLesbianontinue to embrace both identities regardless of official doctrine.

Muslims in America are targets of prejudice and bigotry. The same bigots attack LGBTQ people. These attacks on Muslims and gays draw distinctions between Americans by highlighting a difference (religion and sexuality) that challenges sexual and religious conservative definitions of what it means to be American. Today’s progressive Muslim voices argue that their co-religionists ought to approach LGBTQ issues from a place of empathy, both within and beyond their community.

Like other religions, Islam must contend with the tension between normative practices and the reality of sexual diversity among believers. As is evident by the growing public discussion, Muslims today are exploring ways to address social issues, like sexual orientation, with the knowledge that how they respond plays a significant role in defining their own faith, especially for gay Muslims, and sets the tone for how they define the social values associated with their religious beliefs.




New Study of Muslim College Students and Alcohol Consumption

March 17th, 2013

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) recently published a report on alcohol use among Muslim college students in America. This report was part of an effort to better understand the prevalence of alcohol use among Muslim college students, to test the feasibility of studying hard to reach groups, and to identify possible areas of intervention. The study explored the relationship of alcohol use based on a variety of factors that included family, religious and personal beliefs, and social influences using respondent-driven sampling with a web-based survey for this particular demographic.

The study sampled 156 self identified Muslim undergraduate students at Wayne State University, located in Detroit, MI. 9.1% of students surveyed said they used alcohol at least once in their lifetime. According to the report, this is much lower than a previous 2001 national survey of college students in which over 45% of Muslim students used alcohol; it is also lower than a recent 2010 federally funded study that reported 63.3% of all college students using alcohol within the past month.

The study used Reference Group Theory, according to which an individual might look to or reference a particular group’s appropriate behaviors and actions when deciding how they will act. This includes religious groups, peers, and parents. These reference groups were examined in the context of the influence they played in a Muslim student’s decision to drink alcohol.

Not surprisingly, the ISPU study found parents, the student’s religious understandings and beliefs, as well as social actors such as peers, friends, and the community were all strong influences on a student’s decision to drink. For example, the study notes that students who drank generally had social networks that included others who drank, while those who abstained associated with non-drinking social networks.

The behavior of Muslim parents was an influence on students and drinking; those who drank reported their parents as having consumed alcohol before while those who abstained reported their parents to also have abstained. The attitudes, however, that parents had towards drinking did not seem to affect the actions of the youth. The difference between behavior and attitude is worthy of additional studies, especially among mixed families such as native born-immigrant marriages or Muslim and non-Muslim marriages.

Interestingly, outward behavior such as prayer and attending mosques was not as strong an influence in choosing to drink compared to the influence of a student’s beliefs and understanding of Islam. Compartmentalizing one’s actions in public and private space, especially as a minority, warrants further studies.

In addition, the study shows that despite opinions and concerns, social attitudes and behaviors of this specific demographic can be tapped for research beyond simple news stories. The study would be strengthened if it included a larger, more diverse group of Muslims given the limitations of the Detroit area. In addition, the study did not indicate if it measured for additional or other drug usage beyond alcohol such as marijuana, prescription pills, ect., which may serve to better understand this hard to reach group and the social complexity of the issue. The study focuses on the context of youth but does not explicitly indicate their approach to youth as a demographic, a culture, a context, or a transient stage as others have done.

M Al-K

Madah-Sartre: Reading and Discussion of the Play by Alek B. Toumi

March 14th, 2013

 Madah-Sartre, The Kidnapping, Trial and Conver(sat/s)ion of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir

a play by Alek B. Toumi  

 DATE:  Friday, March 15, 2013
TIME:   12:30-1:45pm
PLACE:  B-342 Wells
Hall, MSU (East Lansing, MI)

“Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote in No Exit. The fantastic tragicomedy Madah-Sartre brings him back from the dead to confront the strange and awful truth of that statement. As the story begins, Sartre and his consort in intellect and love, Simone de BeauvoiMahda Sartre coverr, are on their way to the funeral of Tahar Djaout, an Algerian poet and journalist slain in 1993. En route they are kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and ordered to convert . . . or die. Since they are already dead, fearless Sartre gives the terrorists a chance to convince him with reason.

What follows is, as James D. Le Sueur writes in his introduction, “one of the most imaginative and provocative plays of our era.” Sartre, one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, finds himself in an absurd yet deadly real debate with armed fanatics about terrorism, religion, intellectuals, democracy, women’s rights, and secularism, trying to bring his opponents back to their senses in an encounter as disturbing as it is compelling.

Sponsored by the Department of Romance and Classical Studies and the MSU French Club