#MyMuslimVote at ISNA

#MyMuslimVote at ISNA

The MPower Change team was in Houston, TX on Labor Day weekend for ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention!

We were all about getting out #MyMuslimVote. We did voter registration daily, and signed up many new partners to take the efforts to their own cities! 


If you stopped by our table, or took a walk around the bazaar, you would have seen hundreds of people wearing #MyMuslimVote buttons!

Our Executive Director Linda Sarsour reminded everyone about why this year is so important for Muslims. She also highlighted how now – more than ever – we need to stand on the side of the oppressed and stand for justice.

Our Organizing Director Ishraq Ali relayed the importance of building relational power with people in our mosques in order to effectively get out the Muslim Vote.


Our Organizing Manager Kifah Shah was everywhere during the convention – from our table, to the bazaar, to the sessions – reminding people to check their voter registration status, and signing up folks to bring #MyMuslimVote to their schools and centers.

FIBA Finally Lifts Religious Headware Ban

A small piece of good news that you may not have heard about:

FIBA, the international body that regulates professional basketball, has finally lifted its ban on religious headwear—that’s the rule that had previously kept some Muslim, Sikh, and other players from being able to play professionally.

This means that countless players, such as Muslim basketball star Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, will be able to aspire to play professionally, both at home and internationally.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” said Abdul-Qaadir at the news. “I’m happy to be a part of history and positive change.”

Read more in this article on Vice Sports by Shireen Ahmed:

FIBA Allows Hijab

Background photo from trailer for “Life Without Basketball”

Open Letter: Muslim Spiritual Leaders Pledge to Join the Sanctuary Movement

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference – Quran 17:70

As Muslims, we are called on by our prophetic tradition to join and protect our congregants, neighbors, and community members facing deportation and other unjust policies.

We, the undersigned, pledge to use our resources as spiritual and congregational leaders to support the movement to create sanctuary for immigrants and refugees of all faiths and backgrounds, documented and undocumented, and anyone else who feels marginalized, frightened, or disrespected by a hateful environment. We encourage leaders in Muslim communities across the U.S. to join us and do the same.

The past eight years have been full of challenges for undocumented immigrants. While President Obama was in office, the Department of Homeland Security deported over 2.5 million people, more than any other administration in history.

We remain horrified by the systematic targeting of undocumented community members and the cruel and dehumanizing methods used against them. We grieve for those who came here seeking asylum and were turned away, with some returning only to be killed by those from whom they fled.

Given the words of Donald Trump on the campaign trail and the policies he has put forth in just the first few days of his term, we can expect the environment for our undocumented sisters and brothers to get even worse under this administration.

These will be trying times for immigrants, refugees, and undocumented members of our communities, and for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But, as followers of the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we are blessed to have been given clear guidance mandating compassion towards and protection of migrants. Our faith teaches us that all people are worthy of humanity—regardless of their documentation status.

When the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions fled from persecution, they were lovingly welcomed into the homes of the helpers in Madinah. God describes their attitude of those who provided sanctuary by saying, “They love those who migrate to them…and give preference to them over themselves, even though they are also in need” (Quran 59:9).

With this same loving attitude, we pledge to offer our resources to creating sanctuary for any who desire it, and to work with people of all faiths and backgrounds to build and sustain strong communities.

Please join us in taking this pledge.

In faith and solidarity,

Sr. Aisha Al-Adawiya
Dr. Jonathan Brown
Dr. Dalia Fahmy
Imam Taha Hassane
Sr. Dalia Mogahed
Shaykh Khalil Abdul Rashid
Imam Omar Suleiman
Imam Dawud Walid
Imam Suhaib Webb

Need more information to understand the sanctuary movement? This document covers it:

Sanctuary Movement Toolkit from United We Dream and Church World Service

(This toolkit was created for church communities but has background information and resources that are applicable for mosques as well.)

Ready to join the movement? Add your name to the pledge here.

Prayer wins! Victory at Standing Rock

Our Native American family just set a powerful example for our communities going into 2017—how to stand strong against forces that can seem all-powerful and unbeatable, and how to WIN.

The Army’s announcement on Sunday, denying an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, marked a powerful victory. And we should be clear: this wasn’t a gift from President Obama or his administration—it was the result of a hard-fought struggle by the Standing Rock Sioux, supported by the more than 200 tribes who came together as water protectors and the thousands of allies like you from around the world who stood in solidarity with this movement.

This was also a victory for prayerful protest and a historic moment for faith-rooted organizing. The water protectors reminded us all that we must lead this organizing and social justice work with faith and prayer, even in the face of tear gas, attack dogs, rubber bullets, and water cannons.

We were honored to stand with Standing Rock and to call on Muslim communities to send their support. In October, our letter from 100 community leaders—most of them imams and religious scholars—and our video of young folks from our community reading the letter helped thousands of Muslims engage. By working with Native Muslims in the camp at Sacred Stone, we gave our community first-hand insights into the struggle to protect the water. And we helped raise over $15,000 for the movement and delivered ZamZam water to the tribal president of the Standing Rock Sioux.

We know that we must stay vigilant moving forward—driven by insatiable greed, the corporations behind the pipeline have vowed to press on with their assault on sacred water and land. But we should also take the time to celebrate what this win means for indigenous communities and the example it sets for all of us.

Author and activist Naomi Klein was at the Standing Rock camp when the decision was announced. Watch this powerful video of Klein interviewing 13-year-old Tokata Iron Eyes, someone many people credit with starting this remarkable movement.

Naomi Klein video from Standing Rock

In this moment, Muslim communities around the United States are struggling with concerns about our future as we head into 2017. What greater gift could we have than the incredible example of organizing and activism we just witnessed at Standing Rock? Our indigenous family have shown us how victories are achieved: not by wishing our oppressors success, but by standing firm and having faith in ourselves and our communities, even in the face of overwhelming force and violence.

We pray for the continued victories of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and all those who supported this movement: whether by their presence at the camps, or through their prayers and financial support. May this movement be the spark for us all to have the courage we need moving forward, God willing.


Where Do We Go From Here: Black Muslim Political Action

In the lead up to the presidential election, Sapelo Square published a series of short reflections by Black Muslims considering themes raised by Malcolm X in his famed speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Their responses were diverse but one thing they all illustrated is that voting is not enough—that change only comes from sustained political action.

Building off that insight, ‘Where do we go from here?: Black Muslim Political Action’ is a conversation between five Black Muslim leaders, evaluating the political landscape under the new president in light of issues that concern Black Muslims in the United States.

This discussion identifies the possibilities and challenges we face and suggests what organizing around/responding to these issues of concern should look like in our current climate.

Still Here: Reflections after Election Day

We all had a lot to process after Tuesday’s results, so I took a day for myself before writing this.

Here’s where I am today: no less unapologetically Muslim than I was when I woke up on Tuesday morning. And ready to work just as hard as we always knew we’d have to, no matter who won this election.

If you’re with us for the long-haul—the ongoing fight for justice and peace in this country, for Muslims and all people—I hope you’ll make a donation today as we get ready for this next leg of the journey.

Tuesday was definitely a blow for our communities—this is a man who has emboldened an openly, violently, racist and Islamophobic subculture in the U.S. A man who has proposed policies like registering Muslims to track us, banning Muslims from entering the U.S., and indiscriminately bombing Muslim-majority countries.

And we should remember the other communities that he’s mocked or attacked too—Latinx people, disabled people, Black people, women, immigrants, and more—all of which, needless to say, include Muslims. This man has come after all of us, and as a Muslim community, we should offer and invite solidarity in the hard days ahead, all while continuing to build the political influence and cultural capital to protect and lobby for ourselves.

MPower Change is bringing those realms together—the political and cultural—in a way that’s desperately needed for our people. And we’ll need to double down on our strategies as we confront 2017 and beyond.

Click here if you can a support a nimble, rapid-response, Muslim-led, digitally-native, advocacy organization fighting back against Islamophobia, and fighting for justice and peace for everyone.

Here’s why I’m hopeful about what we’ll be able to achieve. First, we have some of the country’s most prominent and learned Muslim scholars, as well as some of the most seasoned activists, advising and working alongside us—people like Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Omar Suleiman, Shaykha Muslema Purmul, Sister Aisha al-Adawiya, Sister Zahra Billoo, Fahd Ahmed, Imam Dawud Walid, and others. There’s blessing in having the support and prayers of people like this—and we’re grateful.

Secondly, our team is in the process of expanding to bring on more digital strategists, rolling out a program for fellows and interns, launching a new volunteer support team, and finding MPower Change leaders in every major city to give us more of an on-the-ground presence—we’re growing.

And thirdly, and certainly most importantly, are these two brief reminders. Number one, that the Quran tells us in a chapter called “The Relief” that “indeed, with hardship there is ease. Indeed with hardship, there is ease”—a reminder that every difficulty can be overcome. And number two, that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told us:

O community of Muslims, roll up your sleeves, for the matter is momentous. Prepare for an imminent journey. Garner provision now as the journey is long. Lighten your loads, for before you is an ascent most steep! Only those traveling lightly shall bear its climb.

O humanity, before the Hour comes, you will see wonders, vast tribulations, and difficult times. Darkness will prevail, and foulness will take the forefront. Those who enjoin right will be oppressed, and those who condemn vice will be suppressed.

Hence, strengthen your faith for that time, and cling to faith as you would clench on for dear life. Flee to righteous deeds, and force yourselves to perform them. Be patient during the difficult times, and you will eventually arrive to eternal bliss.

This fight for justice and peace is destined for victory, God-willing, and full of righteous deeds—if, as a community, we could force ourselves to perform them. Please click here to chip and support our work.

In solidarity,
Linda, Dustin, Mark, Mohammad, and the MPower Change team

MPower Change joins over 70 organizations to send letter to DOJ

Given the recent increase in hate violence and discrimination targeting Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities, MPower Change joined with over 70 organizations to send a letter to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2016. The letter outlines efforts that the Civil Rights Division could take in order to ensure the implementation of anti-discrimination laws. We continue to work with our partners at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), who are following up on the letter’s demands with the appropriate agencies.

The full text of the letter is available below or via this link.

Request for Additional Measures to Deter Violence and Discrimination Directed against Muslim, Arab, Sikh, a… by MPower Change on Scribd

Muslims at Sacred Stone Livestream

#MuslimsAtSacredStone aims to raise awareness about the #NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, about Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and the Native Muslims who are at the intersections.

The panel below, moderated by Muslim ARC and featuring MPower Change co-founder Mark Crain, includes Muslims from various backgrounds, including Lakota, Diné, K’iche Spanish speaking Indigenous, and mixed African American-Indigenous.

Watch the panel below, which touches upon identity, Indigenous Rights, systemic racism, and Muslim solidarity.


Muslims Defend the Sacred – Solidarity with Standing Rock

Nearly 100 faith leaders from Muslim communities throughout the United States signed this letter of solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock.

To make a donation towards some much needed supplies, please check out our Launchgood campaign.


In the Name of God the Merciful, the Mercy Giving,

We must defend the sacred.

We send greetings of peace to all our American Indian sisters and brothers in these times of great violence and destruction.

The struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and the incredible unity on display right now by American Indian tribes from across the land is inspiring the world. We stand with you for the sacred, for the water, for the Earth, and for human dignity.

Muslims from within and outside of American Indian communities stand with you for the sacred, for the water, for the Earth, and for human dignity. And we acknowledge that many of us are guests here on these great continents, your original homelands, named by some as Turtle Island.

As Muslims, these are blessed days in our calendar, a time of year when millions of people are gathered together in Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage. Part of the Islamic tradition of making pilgrimage to Mecca involves a reenactment of a Mother (Hajar / Hagar, the wife of Abraham) looking for water in the desert for her child who would otherwise die of thirst. She searched back and forth across two mountains until she prayed to All Mighty God and a spring miraculously opened for her. That spring, the well of Zam Zam, still flows in Mecca abundantly to this day.

Our sacred scripture, the Qur’an, states clearly, “We made every living thing from water.”

We know that water is life. Water is so central to our lives as Muslims that we use it to purify ourselves five times daily for prayer. However, there is a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad related to the conservation of water that says we should not waste it even if we are washing for prayer on the banks of a river.

Similar to many of your beliefs, Islam teaches that humanity is put here on this planet not to sow corruption and to destroy the land for capital as we are witnessing all around us, but that God put us here as protectors of the Earth. You have been the protectors of these lands today called the United States for millennia and that the injustices you’ve faced by this country are immeasurable. We honor all that our sisters and brothers have done in protecting this land and calling us all to stand for issues of indigenous land rights, environmental rights and responsibility, and more.

What you are doing at Standing Rock is the highest duty as a human in speaking truth in the face of injustice. We stand together with you as Muslims here on this land from all across the Earth–those born here, ones who immigrated, the descendants of those brought here as slaves, and the growing communities of American Indian Muslims.

At a time when our communities only hear lies about one another in the press, this is the moment to come together as people and to know one another so we can build a better world for all.

Our prayers are with you in these days. Please let us know how we can support you in your struggle. We are sending funds to support your movement and water from the well of Zam Zam as a symbolic sign of sacredness and solidarity.

We pray that The Creator gives you strength, may your struggle be victorious and may your journey be blessed.


Abdul Hakim Hamid, Imam
Abdullah Ali, Zaytuna College
Abu Qadir Alamin, SF Muslim Community Center
Aisha al-Adawiya, Founder, Women In Islam Inc
Altaf Husain, Associate Professor, Howard University -School of Social Work
Ameena Jandali
Bilal Ansari, Chaplain
Colleen Keyes
Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research, ISPU
Dawud Walid, Executive Director, CAIR-MI
Dawud Walid, Imam, ED at CAIR MI
Dr. Ahmad Jaber, President, Islamic Mission of America
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Co-Founder and Professor, Zaytuna College, National Chair, American Muslims for Palestine.
Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, Chairperson, Michigan Muslim Community Council
Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Sapelo Square
Dustin Craun, Founder, Ummah Wide
Faatimah Knight
Fatima Salman
Heba Macksoud, Director, Zaytuna College
Hind Makki, Islamic Society of North America, Program Committee
Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, CAIR-LA
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Sound Vision
Imam Omar Suleiman, President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research
Imam Sayyid Hassan Al-Qazwini, Islamic Institute of America
Imraan Siddiqi, Executive Director, CAIR-AZ
J. Lamptey, Director, ISJIE
Jamaal Diwan, Imam and Chaplain
Joe Bradford, Director, Wellspring Endowment
Kalia Abiade, Advocacy Director, Center for New Community
Kameelah Rashad, Founder & President, Muslim Wellness Foundation
Khalid Latif, Executive Director, ICNYU
Layla Fayiz
Linda Sarsour, Co-founder, MPower Change
Mansoor Sabree, Regional Director
Marc Manley, Middle Ground
Margari Hill, Programming Director, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
Mark Crain, – Director of Digital Innovation
Mark Gonzales, Founder, Narrative Growth
Mika’il Stewart Saadiq, Outreach Director, Michigan Muslim Community Council
Mohamad Joban, Imam
Mohamed T Khairullah, Mayor of the Borough of Prospect Park
Mohammad Ali Naquvi, Advocacy Director, Husayn Center for Social Justice
Mohammed Faqih, Imam, Islamic Institute of Orange County
Mohammed Khaku
Moustafa Kamel, Religious Director at WCIS
Mufti Mohmmed Wasim Khan, Director of ISRA Foundation
Mus’ab Abdalla
Muslema Purmul, Chaplain at UCLA, USC, and UCI
Nomaan Baig, Director, Institute of Knowledge
Noor Raheemullah Hasan, Executive Director, Muslim Women’s Alliance
Rasheeda Plenty
Rubina Tareen, Islamic Society of Schuylkill County
Ryan B. Hilliard, Youth Director, Islamic Association of Collin County
S. Hadi Qazwini
Saad Eldegwy, Imam of San Diego
Sabiha Ahmed
Salahadeen Osman, Imam of Salahadeen Center of Nashville
Salahuddin M. Muhammad, Associate Imam, As Salaam Islamic Center
Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Salim Patel, Commissioner, Passaic Board of Education
Shahed Amanullah, Co-Founder, Affinis Labs
Shaikh Suhail Mulla, Islamic Society of West Valley
Shamsi Ali, Imam, Jamaica Muslim Center, NY
Souleiman Konate, Imam Masjid Aqsa
Sulaiman Ahmad, Imam & Religious Director
Suroor Raheemullah, Board Director, Muslim Womens Alliance
Taha Hassane, Imam of Islamic Center of San Diego
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, Law Office of Tahirah Amatul-Wadus
Tamara Gray, Executive Director, Rabata
Tarif Shraim, Muslim Chaplain, University of Maryland
Umar Hakim, Executive Director, SHE
Usama Canon, Founding Director Ta’leef Collective
Yusuf Yasin, Resident Scholar, Maktab Fath al-Bab
Zahra Billoo, Executive Director, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area
Zaid Khan
Zein Rimawi, Vice President, Arab Muslim American Federation

Jeh Johnson at ISNA: A ‘Soiled Antidote’ for Islamophobia

This past weekend, I joined a group of Muslim activists and organizers at the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA’s) 53rd annual conference in Chicago, in a rapidly organized protest of the keynote speech by Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The ISNA speaker who opened the program that Saturday evening did so by recounting how the late great Muhammad Ali was defamed for his courage speaking truth to power—a rather ironic prelude to a speech by the head of a government agency that is responsible for Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies.

To their credit, ISNA’s programming this year included speakers and panels that challenged the status quo. And ISNA security did not intervene in our (mostly) silent protest (though those of us who acted had been willing to risk removal or arrest). But after learning that Secretary Johnson was delivering a keynote speech, we felt it was our moral and religious imperative to protest.

While some Muslims that night voiced appreciation that the White House sent a cabinet-level official to ISNA, and applauded Johnson’s speech, seeking proximity to power without making demands of that power does nothing more than amplify a declaration of weakness. And the need to speak truth to power becomes even more dire when power is in the room, not just when it is convenient and safe to do so from afar.

With myself alongside four Muslim women who led and grounded the action: Mariam Abu Ali, Maha Hilal, Ahlam Jbara, and Darakshan Raja, and supported by others who helped document it, we stood in protest while Secretary Johnson delivered his speech. A few of us lifted shackled wrists in the air, while I held a poster that read “Stop Deporting Families” on one side and “No CVE” on the other.

For us, the reason for making a stand was clear: Johnson and the DHS support, institutionalize, and enforce policies that are anti-Muslim and xenophobic.

Let’s start with deportations. Under the Obama Administration, DHS has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other administration in history. And their methods are cruel and dehumanizing. ICE agents raid communities under the cover of night, snatching women and children and tearing apart families. Before deportation, detainees are warehoused in sordid conditions in privately-run prisons. During deportation proceedings, agents use tasers and beatings, sometimes forcing migrants into body bags before tossing them onto airplanes like pieces of luggage. When they arrive back home, some who came to the US seeking asylum are killed by those whom they fled from.

These policies, which Obama and Johnson have stood by publicly and vocally, are inhumane and unjust. We cannot allow them to go unchallenged.

People are worthy of humanity and compassion—regardless of documentation status—whether they are women and children or those facing deportation because of accusations of “criminal activity.” And for Muslims specifically, our faith lays out an imperative for compassion towards migrants.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a practical consideration: if Donald Trump becomes the next president of the United States, if you’re a Muslim you may very well find yourself declared “illegal,” no matter how meticulous your documentation may be. Who will stand up for you then?

In contrast to his pleasant-sounding words about not drinking the “soiled milk” of bigotry, the actions of Secretary Johnson’s department continue to be responsible for institutionalizing Islamophobia. Setting aside its profiling of Muslims and perceived Muslims at airports and borders, the separate systems of justice for Muslims accused of violence, and the misuse of “national security” to justify surveillance of social justice movements, we can look at DHS’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program as one that is built squarely on Islamophobia.

As explained by Professor Sahar Aziz, for Muslims, CVE continues counterrorism policies that facilitate selective and arbitrary enforcement, while deadly acts of terror attempted or carried out by non-Muslims go undetected. DHS furthers stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and terrorism as a “Muslims only club,” which has the snowball effect of more policymakers calling for more aggressive scrutiny of our mosques, community organizations, and student groups.

This reduces our communities to being relevant only within the national security paradigm. And that’s exactly what Secretary Johnson’s presence did at ISNA, as it has done in other cities where he has been sent by the administration to promote CVE programs. Out of the myriad government agencies that deal with key issues, the decision to send the DHS Secretary affirmed that Muslims only matter to the State within the framework of national security.

In the end, Secretary Johnson’s speech did offer one kernel of wisdom—about the failure of respectability politics. He told the story of his grandfather, Charles Johnson, who “despite his academic degrees…and his many achievements, in 1949…was called to testify in Congress before the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

Likewise, for Muslims today, no number of degrees, accomplishments, or photo opportunities with prominent officials will be enough to insulate us from our government’s McCarthyist anti-Muslim policies.

Black Americans did not end segregation by inviting George Wallace to speak at their conventions—the civil rights movement, which included Black Muslim leaders, achieved significant victories by organizing, influencing culture, engaging in various forms of advocacy and activism, and building political power. And today, we find the Movement for Black Lives, indigenous communities, those fighting for migrant rights, and other marginalized communities resisting, converging, and building collective power towards collective liberation. Only by following this path can we overcome the institutionalized and mainstreamed Islamophobia that our communities face today.

Photo credit: Iram Ali @iramfali