Collaborations Highlight Divere Muslim Voices
by Ali Alsmadi
Global awareness of social justice through personal experiences, activism, and education marked this eventful year for the IU Muslim Voices Project and the Center for the Study of Global Change. In February, Rima Shahid, the Executive Director of Women4Change Indiana, and in collaboration with IU Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council, held a virtual workshop, "Challenging Islamophobia through Community Activism." The workshop discussed strategies to promote community engagement with issues of social justice. In February, the Muslim Voices Project collaborated with the Islamic Studies Program, IU African Studies Program, and Hidayah US on the "Race and Blackness in American Islam" panel. The panel featured Dr. Edward Curtis (Professor of Religious Studies, IUPUI) and Dr. Alaina Morgan (Professor of History, USC). They discussed the history of black Muslims in the United States and the role of Islam in the U.S. social justice system. In the Project's efforts to focus on personal experience, Arsalan Iftikhar of the Muslim Voices Podcast spoke with Rep. André Carson (D-IN), the second Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. As a current member of the U. S. Congress and a former law enforcement officer in Indianapolis, Rep. Carson reflected on the conviction of George Floyd's murderer in Minneapolis and shared his proposals for police and criminal justice system reform. In addition, he discussed how police and the community need to work together to resolve instances of social injustice.
To spread global awareness toward issues of women and children's safety and protection, the IU Muslim Voices Project focused its attention this year on the war in Yemen and its devastating impacts on the lives of women and children. In March, we hosted Nada Al-Ahdalh, a Yemeni human rights activist, married and divorced at eleven. Nada shared her story and experience with forced child marriage and the work of her foundation (The Nada Foundation) to advocate for human rights to young girls in areas of civic conflicts and wars. We hosted Fadia Thabet, a Yemeni peace activist and child protection officer, in April. In 2017, Fadia was awarded the International Women of Courage Award for her six years of work inside Yemen. Fadia shared her experience and dedication to care for traumatized children and prevent young boys from being recruited in the ongoing civil war. Finally, Arsalan Iftikhar of the Muslim Voices Podcast and the founder of the MuslimGuy.com hosted Nury Turkel, an Uyghur American attorney and a human rights activist named in 2020 by the Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the World. Nury discussed the Uyghur people's long political history, Islamic and cultural identity, and the Chines government's current plight and genocide. Nury spoke about the Chinese government's national and international propaganda directed at intensifying government efforts to erase the Uyghur's culture and alienate, persecute, and imprison the people.
In July, Heather Akou of the Muslim Voices Project and an Associate Professor at the IU Eskenazi School of Art participated in The Immigrantly Podcast episode "Whispers to God": Islam and Mental Health. As a Muslim, Heather spoke about the role faith plays in mental health and discussed how her faith helped her overcome her trauma of loss through spirituality and practice. The podcast indicated that a combination of practice and beliefs could bring profound healing to our souls and bodies. To illustrate her point of view, Professor Akou cited the verse most meaningful to her from the Qur'an: "Those who believe and do good things have grasped a firm hand-hold, one that will never break." Finally on December 1st, The Muslim Voices Project, the Islamic Studies Program, and the African Studies Program at Indiana University hosted Dr. Michelle C. Johnson (Bucknell University), who spoke about her recent book Remaking Islam in African Portugal: Lisbon-Mecca-Bissau (Indiana University Press 2020). Dr. Johnson’s Anthropology study of Islam shows the facets of being Muslim in urban Europe and how Guinean migrants adjust some of their ritual practices as they remake themselves and their religion.