An Annotated List

Ethnicities, Nationalities and/or Socially Constructed Identities That I’ve Been Mistaken For

Put on a kufi and grow a beard and it becomes harder and harder to take advantage of institutionalized white privilege.

Middle Eastern

  • I’m sure all the converts have gotten that one before.


  • The late Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani (q) emerged from a doorway. Huge smile on his face, he gave me a heavy pat on the chest, spoke to me in Turkish, and laughed out loud. He, of course, knew English and this was in Chicago.

Arab: unspecified

Arab: Syrian

  • On the flip side, a Syrian I ran into at a gas station looked at me and said, “you’re Ukranian, aren’t you?” My mother’s side of the family is in fact from Ukraine. He explained that he had met a number of soviet engineers who were in Syria offering technical assistance, the Baathist government being soviet-aligned in those days, and I looked just like them. Huh.

Arab: Lebanese

  • When I lived in Dearborn, home to tens of thousands of Lebanese, I had to memorize the Arabic for, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Arabic”, to which a lady once cocked her head at me and said, “Eh? Why not?”




  • When Malays guess this, I can understand. I was more surprised when I went into a store last week and asked the Pakistani uncle “Adakah jual songkok disitok?” (Do you sell malay hats here? …in Malay.) He cocked his head to the side as if to wonder why I would speak Malay to him and answered gently, “Nai, beta.” (No, my child.…in Urdu.)



  • The boiled sheepskin hat I was wearing at the time contributed enormously, I’m sure.


  • Back when I was barely aware of where Malaysia was, and had not yet sprouted facial hair. In fact it was about 12 hours after I had taken shahada.


  • I was working this temp job and had been there several weeks when a few of the Black guys I worked with started telling this white girl that I was Black. I don’t know what they could possibly have presented as evidence besides the fact that Islam is the Black Man’s Religion ™ but they had her fooled.

In Malaysia, the response I’ve gotten most often when I clarify that I’m actually an American is,

Aren’t you kind of short for an American?

To which I reply:

“I’m an Asian export model.” 


This muslim votes Green

I’ve mentioned before how ridiculous it was for the major Islamic organizations in the US (CAIR, MPAC, etc.) to endorse Bush in 2000. I could only imagine that they did so out of fear that the US might get a Jewish VP. How they expected the Golden Child of the Oil and Guns businesses to have a fairer dealing with the Middle East I don’t know, but the real crime is that they completely ignored Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Nader, an Arab-American, who promised to eliminate all aid to Israel if elected! Remember, justice in Israel is the one single issue that the Bloc Vote Mafia has always urged Amercian muslims to vote for. That’s water under the bridge now, but I bring it up because I just read an interesting article called Islam and the Greens. It’s an article by a Green Party strategist who is

suggesting the possibility that Greens and Muslims might somehow collaborate as parallel, overlapping movements of liberation from the dominance of capital.

[via Planet Grenada, the archives of which I’m still poring over]

White Minority

Sharon Gallagher is white but she knows what it is like to be part of an ethnic minority. For the past 18 months she has lived with her three children in the predominantly Asian district of Manningham in Bradford. This was once a white area, but over the past 30 years most of the whites have left; today Manningham is home to Pakistanis and Bengalis, halal
butchers, Islamic book stores and mosques. And it is home to the Gallaghers. They are the only white family on their street and one of the last left in

Putera Buana forwarded me this great article from UK’s Gaurdian. For the kids in the neighborhood, you’re either a Paki, that is, a muslim, or a Porkie, that is, everybody else. I also grew up as a white minority, in Detroit, so I giggled to read the 11-year old son in the family say

know they have troubles in places like Detroit,” Jake
tells me, “but if a white person from there came to
Manningham for a week they would come home crying.”

I never had trouble getting along though. I had more animosity for the white folk who had fled the city than I did for the black people who I lived among. And the only violence I ever received was at the hands of white Detroiters. That’s beside the point anyway, since Jake’s take is a little off. Manningham isn’t like Detroit, despite what he may think from listening to too much Eminem. Jake and his sister’s experience is probably closer to white kids in Dearborn or Hamtramck, where the majority population is or is fast becoming muslim. And it’s his sister’s story that is really amazing: she wants to be a muslim. The full article is here.

Breaking News

The office of the Islamic Assembly of North America was finally raided by the FBI last Wednesday Feb. 26th. Terrible adab though it may be to rejoice at another’s misfortune, I can barely contain the glee I’m feeling after hearing the news. Regular readers may remember that I’ve blogged about the IANA before. Based right in my home town as they are, I’ve had far too many opportunities over the years to get to know their membership. I’ve been close enough to some of them to smell their rotten, betel-nut flavoured breath. IANA members have shook their fist in my face, questioned the dignity of my wife, and relentlessly slandered my master. Readers not familiar with them may be satisfied simply to know that they published a fatwa explicitly describing and justifying the crashing of airplanes into buildings as a legitimate jihad tactic THREE MONTHS BEFORE September 11th. I really can’t imagine a group of people I would rather have ill befall. I can only wonder what took the FBI so long.

Having vented my spleen, I should step back and state that the only indictments so far have been for visa fraud and bad checks, and the closest the’ve come to IANA is a funder, Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, and an ex-director, Bassem Khafagi (who is also reported as being active with CAIR). We’ll see what follows from the raid. The three articles from the Ann Arbor News have some really priceless quotes in them, such as Rick from the business next door saying,

“They’ve never bothered anybody, as far as I know, and they were always courteous,” he said. “If they’re doing anything illegal they’re definitely doing it on the sly.”

That’s too cliched for words: Quiet, Kept to himself, Never really bothered anybody. Who would have thought he’d have bodies in the freezer? And then there’s:

Nazih Hassan, president of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor, described IANA as an “apolitical” organization that focuses on publishing the works of Islamic scholars and translating books from Arabic to English.

Hassan said he was shocked to hear about Wednesday’s raids. He said he was concerned for IANA employees, many of whom are involved with the local Muslim community.

“The people who work there, we know them, and they are very decent people,” he said.

Well, yes he knows them. If I’m not wrong, IANA members have sat on the executive board, da’wah committee and board of trustees of the mosque, at least. Apolitical? Readers can go their website and make up their own minds about that. Thanks very much to F.L for the links.

The Ann Arbor News coverage:

[Update: For the record, Khafagi appears to be the community affairs director of the national office of CAIR. That’s no small affiliation.]

Erewhon, Utopia, Khilafa

Sheauga, that news carnivore, points to a great article by Muqtedar Khan in Sheauga has some good comments accompanying it that are worth reading, but I can’t figure out how to link directly to his posts! In any case, he picks out the key points which I’ve reproduced here:

It is time the leaders of the American Muslim community woke up and realized that there is more to life than competing with the American Jewish lobby for power over U.S. foreign policy. Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all it is the pursuit of moral perfection.

That is such an important lesson; Islam, all religion, is not about solving the ills of the world. It is about worshipping Allah. Having moral perfection does involve doing for those who have less, and improving the world around you. Jews call this Tikkun Olam, I think. But no dunya outcome can possibly be the target of worship. If my practice of Islam is for the re-establishment of the Khilafa, then to me that is hidden shirk; I am now worshipping my religion, which I’m counting on to solve my earthly problems. The preoccupation with worldly outcomes is widespread; I saw a poster for an upcoming Islamic conference that had as its topics “The Muslim Ummah, Our Community & Our Society, and Global Concerns”. I can’t help look at that and see Politics, Politics, Politics. What about Allah, His Beloved Muhammad, and How to Draw Near to Them? I’m sure it’ll be mentioned, InshaAllah.

H.N. led me to an amazing website called Living Islam. It is phenomenal resource, assembled and in some cases authored by Sidi Omar K N. He makes a related point in a longer essay called Modernism and Postmodernism :

Also have the anti-traditional ideas of an utopia and progress penetrated quite a few fundamentalist minds of some world religions. This shift of emphasis toward the materialistic (“das Grobstoffliche”) is one of the symptoms of the decadence of time as foretold by the Messenger of Allah . It is then not surprising that the greater the loss of true spirituality in a community, the stronger the imagination of some kind of paradise on earth.

I want to tell you how great the essay is, but I haven’t finished reading it.

Back to the Khan article:

It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim world. If you disagree, then prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with. If you do not leave and do not acknowledge that you would rather live here than anywhere else, know that you are being hypocritical.

Of course, when I was younger and people would ask me why I don’t just leave if I’m not happy here, I would reply, “Because I don’t want to be victimized by our foreign policy.” [rimshot] I find it ironic that as I’ve come around to really respecting and appreciating the tremendous amount of good in this country, I’ve already charted a course to leave.

Another interesting article with muslim commentary dealing with the futility of fixating on political combat with the AIPAC, over at IslamAmerica. It [the article, not IslamAmerica] is very lefty, but there is some wisdom there.

Back in October, AltMuslim had an article on Muslims in political races. One interesting development was that in California, there was a muslim running for US Senate whose non-muslim competitor was endorsed by the American Muslim Political Coordination Committee. I can only speculate that this was because the non-muslim took a tougher stand on Israel. AMPCC pitched this as the maturation of muslim politics that they wouldn’t endorse a guy just because he’s muslim. But surely the benefit to muslims in the US, who all four member organizations of AMPCC represent, of having a real, live, visible muslim in the Senate outweighs any gain the other guy could give in Israel/Palestine matters.