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because of the rad folks that I've met in the East Bay, and so I think that so many of us have internalized Islamophobia, and internalized wariness and anxiety about identifying with, either publicly or privately with things that have had so much history and meaning, and that we have literally generations of weight attached to them [musical interlude] !elcome to !e !ant the "irwaves My name is #ia $ing I know I said I'd only be doing one episode a month, but I got a little something extra for you this month %his week I interviewed &henaaz 'anmohamed, "liya $armali, and (oxana )hada of %otally (adical Muslims zine %he call for submissions for the next episode of the zine, which is going to be on the theme of *ueer Muslim love stories, closes on May +st &o, if you're interested, head over to totallyradicalmuslims com, and check out their call for submissions !ithout further ado, here's %otally (adical Muslims [musical interlude] Nia King: ,ow do you all edit this together- )o you have different position titles, or is it .ust kind of like /Shenaaz Janmohamed: 0ree1for1all 2laughter3 Nia: 0ree1for1all, is that your preferred choice of terms- 2laughter3 Shenaaz: !e recently came up with the term 4ulema5, which is like our organizing core, but 4ulema5 is an Islamic term, it's an "rabic term, it means6what would it be, the religious leaders' deciding board &o it's kind of a funny use of the word to call ourselves the ulema Nia: 7ool Aliya Karmali: I didn't grow up speaking "rabic or even learning it !hen I first heard the term, this is sort of ironic, I assumed it meant 4ummah5, not 4ulema5 "nd ummah, to me6given my little "rabic and my &outh "sian ancestry6meant kind of broad community, and the people &o it's a term that's really broadly used to describe Muslims around the world of different ethnicities, different regions, different languages "nd I feel like that very much rings true for me because, in %(M, we have &outh "sian folks from around the continent, we also have a lot of different "rab folks from different parts of the Middle East, a lot of different stuff in between also &o, it's a learning experience for me in that regard, for sure Nia: 8ou want to add anythingShenaaz: I think for me, ulema is like the scholars, the traditional kind of men6you know, cis men, who are seen as scholars "nd so, the zine is also about naming and resisting heteropatriarchy "nd so 6what was that-
Roxana: %he beardy ones 2laughter3 %hat's how I always think of them Shenaaz: 8eah, so, to say that we're the ulema is like6I think we have some pretty legit ideas, and some pretty passionate visions #ot .ust us, I mean the collective whole &o, the ulema is giving our voice authority within the Islamic rhetoric !hich is really6it feels kind of fun, but it also feels powerful as a potential Nia: %hat makes sense &o, my understanding from reading the story of %(M on the website is that one of your very intentional, and I feel like you touched on this a little bit already, but6political goals behind the pro.ect6was to build solidarity and community between &outh "sian Muslims and "rab Muslims 7an you talk a little bit about why that was important to youShenaaz: I think in the Bay "rea, one of the things that I often say, that has allowed me to organize and really lead with my *ueer Muslim identity is, I feel like we have some relative privilege in the Bay "rea because we have such a huge *ueer Muslim community %here's a huge *ueer &outh "sian community6communities %here are many "rab *ueers &o, big enough to where communities are kind of factioned off &o, we wanted to bring more people together I don't know how politically intentional it was back then I mean, frankly, "mir was like, 4I wanna hook up you and 0adwa ,ow can I bring you guys together-5 2laughter3 But it was also .ust about, like, these are really cool people who ought to know each other "nd we were in community side by side for years, and yet didn't necessarily have connection &o I think it was also .ust growing how inclusive, and how many identities we could hold within our community6*ueer, trans, straight6all the misfit Muslims who didn't have another place to be, we wanted to bring everyone together, and not .ust through cultural background, or .ust have a )esi community or an "rab community, we wanted as many folks as we could hold together Nia: I'm interested in how you define 4misfit Muslim 5 Because I noticed on the website that it's not just *ueer and trans I don't know if everyone that contributes or everyone that's part of the ulema is *ueer or trans, but it seems like there is an intention to be inclusive beyond .ust that, is that correctAliyah: Beyond .ust *ueer and transNia: 8es Aliya: 8eah I guess beyond, but inclusive and centering of that "nd I'm sure you all probably have something more to say about that, but we've been having internal conversations around what that looks like, the centering of *ueerness, because we don't .ust have *ueer folks who are part of even the core organizing team 8ou know, for myself for example, I don't really identify as *ueer I feel like we're really struggling with some of those issues right now internally "nd so even though we're trying to bridge those things, and also make it more, as denoted in the name, about radicalness and about radical politics and the struggle for collective liberation of our people and other people in 9akland !e're also thinking of more, how can we connect to the "frican1"merican community, since 6 Nia: "frican1"merican Muslim, or "frican1"merican in general-
Aliya: "frican1"merican Muslim, but I think also, in general "nd one of our potential upcoming issues is hopefully going to focus on issues of surveillance of Muslims in the Bay, and that obviously cuts across racial lines "nd I think it could also potentially cut across lines of sexual orientation, to look at the ways that *ueer black and brown youth, Muslim included, are specifically targeted at that intersection6in schools, on the streets, we know it happens I think we need to lift up those voices significantly more Nia: My impression was that the title, Totally Radical Muslims, was like, slightly tongue1in1cheek, but you also do identify as radicals, is that correctRoxana: #ot, like, in a white way: 2everyone laughs3 &orry, is that appropriate for this podcastNia: It's totally appropriate, but I'm going to ask you to explain what that means Roxana: &ure 8eah I think that, in my experience at least, in the Bay "rea, identifying as a radical immediately places you within the context of white Bay "rea activism "nd I think, this is something we mention as Muslims a lot, when we say, 4*ueer;trans radical Muslims,5 we reference this ideal of, like, 4the pork1eating whores 5 !hich is like, the Muslims who are radical for other Muslims &o, radical within our own Muslim community, as well as radical in other communities that do have different contexts in the larger political discourse that is in the East Bay, I think that we would all sort of identify ourselves as politically radical But I think one of the uni*ue things for me about this pro.ect was the opportunity to come out and do work as a radical person and a radical Muslim %hat's how it feels for me Nia: 9kay, and so, can we talk about the difference or similarities6like, when you differentiate between radical person and radical Muslim, you're talking about someone who's radical in their politics versus someone who's radical in their religious beliefs or in their religious community, or could you sort of explain/Roxana: &ure I mean, I guess I can explain by example 0or many Muslims, and then for me definitely, the way that I grew up, not wearing hi.ab, or choosing not to eat zabihah, or choosing to remain uncovered in various ways, or even crossing gendered socialization norms is something that is radical, in Muslim communities, depending on the context "nd so I think a lot of us transgress those boundaries, and would be considered radical, or whatever word you want to use6outcast, misfit, we've sort of used those words before !hereas, in the non1Muslim community, being radical takes on a lot of different connotations It's about your political identity, it's about your6I mean, I guess the diet choices overlap a little bit6you know, like, radical intentional lifestyles, but it is a different context Nia: "nyone else want to6Shenaaz: 8eah I mean, I think for me, the radical Muslim is meant to turn the whole notion of 4who's radical Muslim, these terrorists,5 and turn it on its head, and actually, in the <& context, radical means left1wing, politically It means progressive It means revolutionary It means all these different things, there's a rich history %he ways in which 4radical Muslim5 has been kind of warped into this meaning of someone to fear, someone to basically, you know, bomb &omeone to exploit &omeone to, etcetera It's deeply not really understanding people in their context &o, for me the reason I wanted to really use the word 4radical Muslim5 is to reclaim some of that It feels like whenever you hear 4radical Muslim5
there's some awful lie attached to it, or even .ust a very small sliver of an understanding of a person %he humanity is lost &o, not understanding a person in =aza, >alestine who's been occupied, who's resisting in any way they can, but rather, 49h, those savage >alestinians %hose radical Muslims 5 &o, it's to kind of interrupt some of that But I think to your point (oxana, I slightly disagree In that, for me, radical culturally6I think there's a lot of different ways to be culturally radical, or oppositional, or non1establishment &o I think in a family where wearing hi.ab was the norm, and choosing not to wear hi.ab, that's an example I think there's some who wear hi.ab within a family where nobody's wearing hi.ab, and that's radical &o, there's lots of different ways in which someone's gutsiness shows up, that are .ust really family1specific, culture1specific, community1specific 0or some it is, not eating swine is a radical act "nd for some, eating swine is a radical act &o it's really6those are where the lines are not hard lines Nia: &o, basically, what radical means is relative and different for everyone Shenaaz: I mean, I think that there are some political gains in terms of like, a liberatory frame, that feel universal But I think where we get into policing cultural practices, that's where it's sticky "nd I think that's where family of origin and context and community is really meaningful %he social worker in me is like, meet everyone where they're at "nd there are little ways to be radical as well as big ways Aliya: 8eah, you said it very well: 2laughter3 I .ust feel like, for me, as someone who does a lot of work with a lot of radical, political left organizations in the Bay, those can be extremely oppressive, alienating spaces &o, in contrast, I mean, while we definitely are extremely complicated as a group, and are working through our own issues, nobody is immune to internalized oppression and externalizing oppression on various forms I think it's a very interesting conversation that we're having because there's clearly so many different ways to define what radical means6culturally, politically, and religiously &o I don't think we necessarily need to have a rigid definition %hat's the beauty of it, is it's so individualized Roxana: "nd all of our different intersectionalities make it really sticky, like you were saying, in a lot of ways it can be really hard to be visibly or to speak up or to come out as a Muslim if you're *ueer In a lot of ways, the *ueer community has been really Islamophobic, and the same goes for finding a mos*ue that you feel comfortable in as a *ueer person 9r as someone who, this is something that we talk about6having a )esi identity, but, Islamophobia in )esi spaces, and it gets complicated It gets messy "nd I think I'm always fighting against the feeling that I have to choose, that I have to leave something at whatever door I'm entering, and that has been one thing about %(M that has been very valuable for me, and has sort of extended into the other *ueer, trans, and radical Muslim folks that I've met through %(M, is that I have come to this realization that there are doors where I never have to leave things to enter, and that Islam is *ueer, that Islam is radical, and that my Islam is my Islam, and that no one can ever take that or make me leave that Nia: 8our second issue, Karbala-Fired Resistance Stories, your website said that the goal of it was to lift up &hi'a Islam and its strong anti1oppression roots, could we talk a little bit about what that meansShenaaz: 8eah %his feels like me saying 4%his is what I've been talking about, people:::5 2laughter3 8ou know, &hi'as are the minority6are a minority sect, and within &hi'as there's several sects or divisions within, so, being in ma.ority1&unni spaces, I've always been trying to raise the visibility of &hi'as "s a Muslim pro.ect, and really lifting up the &hi'a experience, or at least a word like $arbala6
and $arbala is an actual city in Ira*, so it's a historic place Intentionally saying, we are going to acknowledge &hi'as as legitimate Muslims is to me, a very radical act, because the norm, I think, is tolerating &hi'as, certainly not respecting the history that we believe, and certainly not respecting or acknowledging the values that &hi'as really center around, which are deeply rooted in social .ustice !hen I was a kid, I feel like I first learned about feminism6not in that word, but through stories around the >rophet's family that my mom told us, and so much of my social .ustice fabric was woven through my &hi'a upbringing 0or me it was really important to celebrate that, and make that connection explicit publically %his is actually why I do the work I do Aliya: 0or me, I identify as a &hi'a Ismaili, which, like &henaaz was talking about, is a sect within &hi'aism, and historically, we as a group have been, and continue to be, along with other various forms of &hi'as, persecuted and literally violently attacked and killed in different parts of the world, sometimes at very specific times, when we have celebrations or moments like6there's something called "shura, which takes place throughout the world, and it's a moment of very public manifestation to commemorate the loss of Imam ,ussein, who was a descendant of the >rophet Mohammed, and those are times where, because people get together very visibly, they're targets, they're sitting targets ?iterally 0or people who feel like &hi'as are infidels, because they don't believe in very strict notions and interpretations of the @ur'an But, then there's these other groups that are minorities within minorities, and you carry around a lot of hurt from that historically, and it does get passed on from generation to generation "nd there's a lot of work that we have to do within our own communities6the other day, someone was like, 4Ismaili!hat does that mean- 8ou mean smiley- 8ou're smiley-5 "nd I .ust died inside I don't know, it's important work IAm glad weAre centering it Nia: )id you want to add anythingRoxana: &o, I was raised sort of defaultedly &unni, so not explicitly "nd I learned, in a similar way that a lot of Muslim children are taught, a simplified narrative of the &hi'a;&unni split, and the history of that But, my take on it is that I am for Muslims I'm for all Muslims I'm for the ummah, and I'm for Muslim identities being recognized, and valid, and legitimate, and6you can't pick out one group and say no I feel like that makes no sense If there isn't liberation for all Muslims, then Muslims are not liberated Nia: &o, ummah is a term that intentionally includes both &unni and &hi'aShenaaz: I guess that's arguable It depends on different times %echnically it is a word that .ust means 4community,5 4the people 5 &o how you slice that depends on how you see &unnis and &hi'as If you are on the spectrum of seeing &hi'as as infidels, then it does not include us !hen I was at <niversity of Michigan, there was a very conservative Muslim &tudents "ssociation #ot the whole group was conservative, but there was a conservative element, and6a typical greeting for Muslims is 4salaam aleikum,5 4wa1aleikum as1salaam,5 but if you do not believe that the person greeting you is a righteous Muslim, rather than saying 4wa1aleikum as1salaam,5 you say, 4wa1aleik,5 which means, 4and to you 5 &o you don't say6 Nia: %hat's kind of a burn
Shenaaz: 8eah &o instead of saying, 4and peace onto you,5 you .ust say, 4onto you 5 "nd I received that a few times "nd I was like, what the hell is going on- !ahhabis are in the mix here: Nia: !hat does !ahhabi meanTRM: !ahhabi is like this fascist, 2laughter3 <&1backed, very essentialist &unni group Based in &audi, historically been very much in the pocket of the <&, and has been one of the most divisive elements within the Muslim community in terms of &unni;&hi'a divide Bery literalist interpretation of the @ur'an [other TRM speakers mmm-hmm in a reement] !hich is6when you start getting that literal, you start losing any meaning or essence, and you have a lot of power then because you're .ust using words, and saying 4%his is what it means 5 "nyway, so !ahhabis are a hot mess [lau hter] Aliya: In sum Nia: &o, we talked a little bit about being a minority within a minority as Ismaili &hi'a Muslims, and as &hi'a in a ma.ority1&unni context, but I know from reading the story of %(M on the website that %(M is also formed, to some extent, out of experiencing6this is my understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong6,indu hegemony within &outh "sian spaces Is that an accurate paraphrasingShenaaz?: 8eah, so6"liya and I wrote together the story of %(M, because we've been a part of it really from the very beginning, and6I don't know Aliya: !ell, I kinda think it goes back to this *uestion that we had before about why do we want to make bridges between &outh "sians and "rab folks, and I think, like &henaaz was saying, we were part of this group, which historically has been financially supportive of the pro.ect, of the %otally (adical Muslims, as a fiscal sponsor, but historically, and I'm not sure about now, there are very very few self1 identified Muslims 2in the group3 %his is several years ago #ot that long ago, maybe three or less years ago, when we came about, and it .ust didn't always feel like a safe space, because not only was it very ,indu1dominated, but it was also very #orth Indian1dominated, and though we're both of #orth Indian descent, we also come from a diaspora of &outh "sians that is housed, and has roots migratorily in East "frica %here's .ust so many different kind of layers to our identity, and certain things happened or certain things were said where it was very clear that Muslims were not necessarily welcomed or understood &o at that point, there was a decision to try to do something different, and something called the Muslim 7ircle was created, and6&henaaz, .ump in at any point if you feel comfortable6 Shenaaz: %rauma [lau hter] Aliya: 6but the idea was to have that circle and come together as Muslims that also identify as )esi, which is &outh "sian, and identify potentially as radical or left, and also have a concurrent circle for people who identify as ,indu, and have that kind of privilege historically in our subcontinent, and to then come together and do work around our differences and that tension, but it really never came to fruition, I donAt think, within the ,indu circle, but we certainly got stronger, and from the Muslim circle was spawned some years later, %otally (adical Muslims "nd we were doing work with other
"rab groups in the Bay "rea around surveillance issues, and I think that's also how we started to make those bridges, and those connections Shenaaz: %his kind of ,indu1dominated6is a common problem with &outh "sian spaces %hey are by default the ma.ority %hey're going to fall into identity of the ma.ority, which is often ,indu, #orth Indian It's been my experience in all &outh "sian spaces that as a &outh "sian Muslim, it doesn't feel like there's really a space for me, or an understanding of how I come into the room, as a Muslim, as someone from the diaspora, who's not >akistani >eople assume that we're >akistani when we say we're Muslim It's like, get a life, dude Nia: [lau hter] I read also on the website, I don't remember the exact context for this, but6there's something about people who were from >akistan being asked to speak about >alestine, because people .ust confused the two >s- [lau hter] Shenaaz: Mmm1hmm %hose are probably, like, the human rights campaign people, the ,(7 people I think that speaks to (oxana's earlier point around Islamophobia in the ?=B%6and I use ?=B%, not like, @>97 spaces6because it is in ?=B% space where you're, like, the darling Muslim who's like 64It's so exciting that you're gay and Muslim: 7an you speak 2on this panel3- "nd hey, would you mind talking about >alestine-5 Roxana: (sarcastic 4%hat must be really hard: ,ow do you deal with that- ,ow's your family-5 Shenaaz: &o it's like this confusing piece of being lifted up, and acknowledged for, likely, your legitimate work6 Nia: 6but sort of fetishized, in a wayShenaaz: Exactly "nd your real identities don't actually matter that much It's like, oh, >akistan, >alestine, what- 8ou know It's interchangeable It's .ust like, 4exotified other 5 9r, 4Muslim who pushed through 5 %hat story comes from "roo., who has been an organizer in *ueer communities for a long time, and she and I did this workshop at an ?=B% Muslim retreat in >hilly, and we asked people in the room6all *ueer Muslims6how they were treated in social .ustice and ?=B% communities, and there was a resounding 4we feel exotified,5 4we feel misunderstood,5 4people .ust don't know what to do with us,5 and those conversations were what lead to wanting to put together the zine, as well Nia: It feels like through the zine you are creating space for *ueer Muslims 8ou said 4I don't really feel like there's a space for me,5 and I think zines6it's weird to think of something made out of paper as creating space, or creating place, but I feel like it does in a way )oes that make senseShenaaz: 8eah It's been incredible6I should send them to you guys more often, but we get some incredible, particularly when we first started, we would get some incredible emails from people "ll across the country, but even outside of the <&, mostly in Europe to be honest6people thanking us for existing Being so happy to find our pro.ect 0eeling so seen, and so excited to have a chorus with whom to feel into "nd that's the most exciting part, is that again it comes back to me really believing that we have6I feel like I have relative privilege here in the Bay 0or someone like in way1up upstate #ew 8ork, who hasn't even met another *ueer Muslim, this is their opportunity to meet folks %o have
community ?ike you said, through paper Nia: 8eah &o, I want to talk about this paper %his is a really, really beautifully laid out zine, and it's got some color in it It's mostly black1and1white on the inside, but then you've got this beautiful full1 color glossy cover "nd you talked a little bit about where the money came from, but I'm curious to hear more about how do you have distribution overseas, how are you continuing to put out such an incredibly beautiful productShenaaz: !ell, we charge for our zine, so it's not for free !e give away, I would say, CD percent But we do sell them through our website, totallyradicalmuslims com Nia: I'll make sure to include it Shenaaz: But that really covers the cost, because they're like6I think this volume E was something like FG CD or FH to print per 2zine3, and we're starting sliding scale at FC, so it costs shipping %he price that we're asking covers shipping "nd with some shipments in the <&, it's a little bit less than the F+ CD we ask for, and so that +D, ED cents goes towards shipping to &witzerland &o, it's been working itself out I don't know how glossy and colorful we'll make them look, moving forward I think there's been an ask to return to more of the )I8 culture of zines, and to also make it more accessible in the end &o, do we also want to make it a >)0 that people can .ust print, or pull up on their home deviceBut we also have these community events, like zine releases, and those tend to be pretty decent fundraising efforts, because we'll charge a little bit of a door, we've done them during (amadan, so there would be iftars, we'd have food !e tend to make a little bit !e definitely get community support during some of those times, which feels good, it's like6oh, the community appreciates and is supporting this pro.ect Nia: 8eah I think I read on the website that the first zine release party was in 0ruitvale Is that a place that has significance for you, or for6I keep wanting to call it a collective, I know it's not a collective, but6 Shenaaz: !e're trying, one day, insh'allah: %hat's my hope, being real [lau hter] !e did it in 0ruitvale because it was at &9? 2&ustaining 9urselves ?ocally3, because we have some homies that live there, and they gave us the space for a really good deal, and it's a people of color1centered, *ueer people of color space !e had some random white folks that attended [lau hter] "ctually, there was a couple people that, it felt like they were there for other motives, and so it was .ust like 9$, this is part of the reality Nia: &o, not white Muslims, .ust like, tourists, essentiallyShenaaz: %ourists by way of like, you know the 0BI
Nia: 9h, 9$ %hat's a very specific kind of tourist: [lau hter] Shenaaz: %hat kind of tourism: Nia: =ot it
Shenaaz: %he very brief and specific visits [lau hter] Nia: 9kay: !ow, that's so intense Shenaaz: %hat's part of what this climate and time produces, is kind of being suspect, who can you trust- 8ou know "nd also .ust being real, okay, there's this random guy who's .ust having this weird conversation I mean, he could .ust be awkward, but/ Aliya: 9r on the flip side, very self1righteous activists who feel like because they were involved with 9ccupy, they should get free admission or something Nia: !ow Shenaaz: 9r they should eat first [lau hter] Before the people that are fasting, incidentally It's like, get to the back of the line, son Nia: It seems like you're very 9akland1based in a way, but then you have this international audience, so how much of your contributors are from here, and how do you reach folks outside- ,ow much is it a priority to have folks contributing from not .ust 9aklandShenaaz: I would actually say that a lot of our contributors are outside of 9akland, and outside of 7alifornia !ell, a good deal in the first volume were from &outhern 7alifornia, I think !e had some international contributors It's really .ust word of mouth, so it's how things spread, but in volume E, we had a good deal of submissions, to the point where we couldn't include all, and we have very particular ideas, and a frame that we're trying to put out, and so some things didn't fit as well as others Nia: 7ould you talk a little bit about what that isShenaaz: 8eah ?ike, we have this value of not editing voice In this time where the Muslim voice is so constructed, is meant to be so6what was the word you used in the carAliya: Moderate Shenaaz: Moderate &afe 8ou know, that's the Muslim voice you hear "nd we're like6#o %ell your story as you want to tell it Be thoughtful and don't play oppression olympics ,onor histories But tell your story "nd we have values that we say that we want to lift up "nti1oppression, I mean, I don't know exactly off the top of my head, I'd have to look at the website Nia: But when you say something doesn't fit, what would be an example of whyShenaaz: I mean, it kind of goes back to the conversation on how you define radical "nd we had6 there was a submission that was someone saying like, 4I believe that gay Muslims are 9$ I don't believe there's anything wrong with being gay, and I tell my friends that, and I tell aunties in my community that, and I get pushback 5 "nd right on %hank you sister, that's good work It didn't feel like it necessarily was at the same place6 Nia: ?ike they were coming from a different place politically
Shenaaz: >olitically, and .ust6it didn't feel cohesive with the other pieces, because there was still something being worked out "gain, I'm really not interested in being tolerated I'm interested in being seen and respected "nd I think that contributor was definitely on a path towards something, but still working it out, and really trying to convince herself that there's nothing wrong with being gay Aliyah: &traight savior Shenaaz: " little bit Nia: &o this person was not *ueer1identifiedShenaaz: #o Nia: &o it was kinda like6 Shenaaz: #ot yet Nia: I like to call it cookie1seeking ally behavior [lau hter] Roxana : I'm so glad you said that: I'm so glad you said that, yeah Nia: [lau hter] %hat's my interpretation Shenaaz !hat is that, I missed itNia: 7ookie1seeking ally behavior Aliyah: [lau hter] "lly treats Roxana: !hich I think that, you know, like &henaaz said, there's an aspect of that that we do want6 we're happy that that person is taking those actions because ultimately, perhaps it helps in the grand, zoomed1out scheme of things, but when I think about it, and when I think about a baby *ueer Muslim who is in a lot of pain, .ust working out their own shit, I would want every single piece in our zine to only be healing and helpful "nd as complex and painful and messy as all of our histories have been But, this theoretical pained baby *ueer Muslim will at one point hear that sort of straight savior narrative, and I think, in terms of the position of power and privilege that we have in having money to make a zine, but I think our time, our space, the paper space we all think is super valuable "nd so, like &henaaz was saying, some things get cut Nia: &o, in this issue that I'm looking at, issue IE, from what I read, you got a lot of contributions from folks in prison, is that correctShenaaz: 8eah, not a lot, but four !hich feels like a good amount Nia: ,ow do you get submissions from people-
Shenaaz: "liya, would you like to speak to this oneAliya: !ell, the person who I think helped source them worked with "sian >risoner &upport 7ommittee, if I'm not mistaken, and also used to be active with "&"%", the "lliance of &outh "sians %aking "ction Shenaaz: "s well as )unya, who was doing the printmaking workshops Aliya: 8eah But I feel like &henaaz and I have been talking about this a little bit, and it's .ust incredible that that amount even happened, to be honest, because as we all know, prisons are some of the most, if not the most oppressive, restrictive, violent, inhumane places in our society, so .ust to be inside those walls, much less be a Muslim1identified person, post1J;++, and potentially a black Muslim1identified person, because there are a lot of converts "nd there is a lot of conversion that happens inside 7alifornia prison walls, is doubly and triply powerful But we have to be very careful of how we do that work, and $asi 7hakavartula, who helped source these pieces, and )unya, had existing relationships with people, I think primarily in &an @uentin, potentially But I mean there's GG, GC, an ever1growing number of prisons in 7alifornia, and new and different kind of prisons, and I feel like there's also a lot of focus on men's prisons and ones that are close by, but oftentimes they're .ust in the middle of nowhere in 7alifornia or all the way at the border in 9regon !e have a lot of work to do on that front, too Shenaaz: &o I think there's a real commitment to continuing to reach folks inside and, if not get submissions, certainly continue to make sure that the zines get in 9ne of our comrades, )unya, said that when she did a workshop at &an @uentin, she did a printmaking workshop, and she passed out some zines, and she said this one gentleman was sitting down, and he literally read it from cover to cover in like, HC minutes "nd .ust, was like, in it "nd she texted me when she left, and she was like, you should be really proud It's something that we're trying to figure out, in terms of how to reach the breadth of our community Nia: 8eah %hat's part of what I wanted to ask Both how you get writing out of prison, but also how you get writing into prison Because I've heard different things about sending zines to prisoners 9ne of the things I've heard is that you can't send anything with staples in it I think it varies from prison to prison ,ow do you actually get the call for submissions into prisons- I apologize if this seems redundant, but6digitally, on paper- ?ogistically, how does that workAliya: I imagine they took it in personally Shenaaz: %hey did, yeah $asi was working with a few folks and said 4hey, there's this zine pro.ect,5 and told them about it, and "dnan submitted a piece I think it was .ust through oral communication, and she probably showed him the call1out, too "nd then our other friend was doing workshops, and showed them the zines and said, 4would anyone like to contribute to the next volume-5 and several of them volunteered their work %hose are some of the artistic pieces that are in there Nia: 8ou had mentioned earlier, black male prisoners converting to Islam inside prison I feel like there was something that you said that sort of had the assumption embedded in it6and I might be incorrect here6that there6
Aliya: 6weren't already Muslim Nia: 8eah, that it's more common for people to convert on the inside than to go into prison already being Muslim Aliya: 8eah Nia: )o you know that to be11Aliya: I don't know that to be statistically or empirically true, and I think that was, right, an assumption on my part But .ust in doing that work, through paid work and through voluntary work, I should have also said that there is a number of ?atino Muslims who have converted and who have not necessarily converted, and who have come to the faith through their own community outside, and who have come to the faith politically on the inside 7onnecting, like we were talking about earlier, the history of struggles for liberation and being anti1oppressive as being a core tenet of the faith of Islam, and a way to draw strength to survive and persist and be resilient while inside Roxana: #ia, I'm really glad that you said that "nd I do want to take a moment here because you are right, in that I don't think that the ma.ority of black Muslims are converts, or that they are exposed to Islam through conversion or even necessarily through the prison system, and I want to take a moment and acknowledge that as Muslim "mericans, the first Muslim "mericans were black "fricans who were brought to the <nited &tates via the slave trade %he history of black Muslim resistance goes back to since there have been black people in the <nited &tates, and I think that as non1black >97 Muslims, we have such a terrible history of erasing that narrative "nd it's a narrative that I think isn't really told in a lot of Muslim spaces I'm really glad that you bring that up Because I think that is maybe the biggest work that we have to do Nia: %he sort of, this is a great transition into what you were talking about before, but the desire for solidarity with black Muslims But I also want to add, I don't know how much that narrative is constructed, but it certainly is reinforced, by the media I think a lot of people6when they think 4Muslim5, they think someone from another country, and someone who is not black, when in reality, most <& Muslims are black "mericans who are not immigrants !hat you were talking about earlier was potential for building alliances around surveillance I'd be interested to hear more about what that could look like, if you have thoughts or ideas, or things that are already in progress Aliya: I mean, I think there's a lot of things that are already in progress, through different organizations in the Bay "rea that do that work through grants, and for paid work, but I don't think we necessarily have thought of ways to implement all of the things we've .ust been discussing, in terms of outreach, in terms of bridging those connections across racial lines in a way that doesn't seem forged and tokenizing, and potentially intrusive I think it might .ust come about when we do put a call1out, seeing what the responses are like, and where they're coming from, and trying to meet people where they're at that way, because I don't think we can say necessarily 4here we are, we want to be an ally, now come to us 5 Nia: (ight Aliya: I think we .ust have to6I mean, the call1out might kind of serve that purpose But one idea that
some people who have overlap between %(M and what was called the 7oalition for a &afe &an 0rancisco, itself a very interesting, powerful, sometimes problematic space that no longer exists, is having a town hall on surveillance in 9akland "nd that's an idea that could potentially resurface and come to fruition through %(M Nia: %hat's great Aliya: 6because the coalition doesn't exist, and a lot of those people are no longer in those organizations, but we did some base ground outreach to different mos*ues all over 9akland, East 9akland, !est 9akland, downtown 9akland, #orth 9akland, and .ust tried to start building relationships between imams and us Shenaaz: Isn't some of that happening with the )"7Aliya: %he )omain "wareness 7enter, yeah %here's actually a huge city council meeting on that tomorrow evening, and Imam Kaid &hakir, who represents ?ighthouse Mos*ue, came and made a very powerful speech before the city council on that issue %here's a lot of )epartment of ,omeland &ecurity and other federal funding that could potentially flood 9akland and is likely to flood 9akland in the millions, because if they don't spend it, the money is .ust going to evaporate &o, Imam Kaid &hakir, who's a very well1known black Muslim leader of the ?ighthouse Mos*ue in 9akland, had a pretty elo*uent speech about how that effects his community, and more broadly in 9akland Nia: 8eah It's really fucked up that the only thing 9akland can get money for is surveillance Aliya: (ightNia: ,ow do you distribute the call- ,ow do you get the submissions you get- Because I feel like that often shows you how communities are shaped, and who's part of them and who's not part of them Is most of your outreach or publicity through the website- 9r, I don't know, is there this like, international *ueer Muslim network that is a pipeline that you can .ust input things to- [lau hter] Shenaaz: %here are listserves, and they have gone out, some international, some <&1based "gain, it's all through networks &o it's hard to get outliers, because we're so reliant on social media and the internet "t some point we had talked about guerilla1style going into mas.ids and putting zines in between the @ur'ans, putting call1outs in the musallahs, and .ust like6 Nia: I'm sorry, can you please define those terms for meShenaaz: 9h, sorry: &o, putting zines next to the @ur'ans, our book, and6 Nia: I know what the @ur'an is: [lau hter] Roxana: 49ur book:5 I like how you called it 4it's our book:5 Shenaaz: I know, now I feel like I'm going door1to1door [lau hter] Roxana: It's the bigger, older book
Nia: Mas.idsShenaaz: 9h, mas.ids Mas.id is mos*ue 8eah "nd then musallah is a praying mat &o, like sneaking zines into the prayer mats and6so that's one way to get it out Especially with youth 8ou know, I work at a high school, and I think about, how would I get one of my students to think that it's interesting and not .ust like 4Miss &henaaz, what are you doing-5 )o you have suggestions for outreachNia: %o the *ueer Muslim community- [lau hter] Shenaaz: 'ust people in general 8ou'd be surprised who's a *ueer Muslim undercover [lau hter] Nia: 8eah I guess I'm thinking about6so I edited a zine, the first issue was called M!"# True Stories by Mi$ed Race %riters, and the next two were called &orderlands ' and ( "nd it started out, like I think a lot of zines start out this way, where you tap people you know and you're like 4,ey, I want you to write something 5 "nd then when they don't get it to you, you harrass them and extend the deadline and tell them that it's for real this time Shenaaz: >retty much Nia: "nd then if that gets read, and distros carry it, or zine libraries carry it, or it gets reviewed by somebody, then you can start to take cold submissions because then if you put the call out, people will be like 49h, I've heard of this thing,5 or 49h, I've heard of this editor,5 and so you start to get a broader range of folks that way But what I found is that also, the *uality of the submissions when you're taking stuff from people you don't know is very different from when you're working with a core of folks that you do know, and you know the *uality of their writing I think there was a third issue of &orderlands that I never put out because I was a very nervous editor, and I felt .ust, politically and personally not okay about changing people's words, but there was something that someone wrote6it was by a woman of color, but I felt like it was speaking about this other woman of color in a way that was really ob.ectifying, and I didn't feel comfortable with it, and that ended up6it wasn't .ust that, it was also that I didn't get a lot of submissions, but that was a hump that I couldn't get over I think I asked them6I can't remember if I asked them to take it out and change it, or if I was .ust too shy to do anything [lau hter] I think it's really hard as an editor6for me it was hard to get to a place of being comfortable with saying, 48ou can't say this in my zine 5 &o yeah 9ther aspirations or ambitions in terms of the future of %(MShenaaz: It's linked, but paying the contributors Even something like a gesture would feel good Nia: 8eah Shenaaz: "nd then making it more accessible &o, how do we do both those things, still getting community support to be able to make it more accessible Nia: 8ou mean accessible financially or accessible, like, translating it into Braille, or6there could be so many things6 Shenaaz: %hat too would be awesome I meant also .ust like, making it available
Nia: 8eah Shenaaz: >eople keep asking us to do it as a download Nia: "nd how do you feel about thatShenaaz: I .ust don't know how to do it Nia: 9h, okay [lau hter] %hat's like a relatively easy fix, I guess [lau hter] Shenaaz: %he point is for people to have it &o I don't have any hangups about that, I .ust don't know how to do it Nia: 8eah, I feel you 0or me, giving away stuff for free that you worked so hard on is also6I feel like there's always that balance between wanting something to be accessible, and wanting to be compensated for the work you've done, and it sounds like y'all are not making a profit on this at all It's like you're charging basically exactly what it costs to make, and ship, and sometimes even less, which is also the situation I'm in [lau hter] where I'm like, am I .ust really bad at this, or does no one make money on zines- I'd like to think it's the second, but it might be the first [lau hter] Shenaaz: I did throw a nice %hanks1taking dinner, and got like a fancy, organic turkey %hat was our one moment of compensation [lau hter] Nia: !ith money that was raised from %(M salesShenaaz: 8eah !e had a celebration party Nia: 7ool &o you talked about moving to a more6I don't want to say 4more )I8,5 because I feel like what you're doing is already )I86but more lo1fi sort of a model for the next issue- 8ou talked about having a more sustainable model going forward 8ou talked about paying contributors 8ou talked about building bridges with black Muslim communities, particularly in the East Bay "re there other hopes and dreams that you have, and making it more accessible, for the zine- ?ike, big pie1in1the1sky type dreamsShenaaz: It's not a big pie in the sky necessarily, but it's wanting to actually connect the pro.ect more explicitly to Islamophobia and the current political moment, and the experience of Muslims, the climate of war, the drone use, surveillance state "ll these different things that actually inform what it's like to walk in the world as a Muslim, and certainly what it's like to walk in the <& as a Muslim, for me %o make those links explicit %o not .ust be like this gay Muslim group, but as we get more media attention, I really want to connect to the amount of drones that we're using in #orthern >akistan and 8emen, and I want to actually talk about what's not in the typical media more %hat feels like an important next step Because it's on our minds, it's in our hearts But I think we don't necessarily6I haven't been leading, and making those connections explicit I think because I assume that people know those connections in our left community, but I don't think I should assume that anymore
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