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

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Saturday, 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

Sunday, 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

Sunday, 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

Thursday, 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

Reminder: Wham! Bam! Islam! screening (Thursday, February 28, 2013 @7:30 pm MSU Main Library)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

MSU Library Film Series presesnts:  Wham! Bam! Islam!

Followed by a discussion with Professor Salah D. Hassan (MSU Muslim Studies Program/Dept. of English)

Thursday, February 28, 7:30 pm
MSU Main Library
North Conference Room, W449
Light refreshments will be served.

Muslim Journeys Bookshelf event organized by MSU Libraries.
Co-sponsored by MSU Muslim Studies Program,
MSU Comics Forum, and Michigan Humanities Council.

Wham! Bam! Islam! tells the story of Naifwham! bam! islam! cover
Al-Mutawa and his venture to create the first
team of superheroes from the Muslim world
called THE 99. Following the tumultuous
journey of THE 99 from concept to reality,
from acclaim to censure, from the edge
of bankruptcy to a multi-million dollar
animation series, Al-Mutawa dodges cultural
minefields and confronts the harsh realities
of the global marketplace in pursuit of his
vision to bring new heroes to children around the world.

Naiza Khan: Karachi Elegies at The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum (MSU East Lansing, MI)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

“Karachi Elegies,” an exhibit of the artwork of Naiza Khan, will open on Friday February 22, 2013 at The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing. The exhibit will continue until March 26, 2013.

On Wednesday, February 20 at 6:00 pm, Khan will give talk on her work. The talk will take place in room 120 Psychology building (MSU).

See the Broad Museum website for more information.

Naiza Khan

Naiza Khan, Armour Lingerie IV, 2007. Courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi Gallery, London. © Naiza Khan

Pakistani artist Naiza Khan captures the experience of living and working in Karachi, where everyday life has been disrupted by natural disaster, migration to the city, and political violence.  For her first solo museum exhibition in the United States, Khan will show oil paintings, sculpture, and video works that map the tragic geography of violence in Karachi and place the human figure within it.  Khan uses the term “disrupted geography” to describe her oil paintings and video works, in which she layers striking images and words to create a dream-like topography.  In her landscape paintings, ruined structures are the lone traces of life.  Her steel sculptures of lingerie armor similarly refer to the human figure without actually representing it, but are evocative of both delicacy and strength.  In artworks of extraordinary beauty, Khan’s work provides a complex and sensitive window onto life in one of the world’s most troubled cities.

About the Artist
Born in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, in 1968, Naiza Khan is based in Karachi, Pakistan. Raised in England, Khan trained at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford, and Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London. Her work has been widely exhibited internationally, including in the 2012 Shanghai Biennale and exhibitions such as Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan at the Asia Society, New York; XV Biennale Donna, Ferrara, Italy; Art Dubai 2008, Manifesta 8, Murcia, Spain; and the 2010 Cairo Biennale. She has been selected for residencies in the Gasworks International Residency Programme, London, and at the Rybon Art Centre, Tehran. As a founding member and longtime coordinator of Vasl Artists’ Collective in Karachi, Khan has worked to foster art in the city, and participated in a series of innovative art projects in partnership with other workshops in the region, such as Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi; Britto Arts Trust, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Sutra Art Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal; and Theertha International Artists’ Collective, Colombo, Sri Lanka. In addition, Khan has also curated three exhibitions of Pakistani contemporary art, including The Rising Tide: New Directions in Art from Pakistan 1990–2010 at the Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi. In 2011 she gave lectures at several universities across the United States, which were sponsored by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. From 1991 until 2008 Khan was a member of the faculty in the Department of Fine Art at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Karachi.


Underwraps: Fashioning Muslims

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

For many devout Muslims the fashion industry poses a predicament – how to blend style without violating Islam’s tenets on modesty. While Muslim women may feel the conflicting pressures of fashion and modesty more keenly than others, this tension is not unique to them. Many women, regardless of faith, desire to dress modestly and lack representation in high fashion. Nailah Lymus is seeking to change this.

Lymus established Underwraps Agency to promote modest attire and provide an opportunity for aspiring models, Muslim and non-Muslim, who do780x520n’t want to, in her words, “show everything” in order to make it far. Underwraps Agency connects “modestly-minded” models with designers, and brings them into the industry. Lymus and her company are focusing mostly on Muslims because she believes that they are underrepresented in the industry. However, Lymus believes that the desire fore modest clothing transcends cultures and religions, and she wants Underwraps to establish its reputation based upon modesty more than its Muslim orientation.

While views on modesty differ throughout the national and international Muslim community, Lymus has based her company upon the idea that, regardless of religious practice, people feel best when they are comfortable with the clothes they are wearing. For many this means modesty, but not at the expense of style.