• Becoming well versed in Arab and Desi culture, language, food  but seeing no reciprocal interest in your traditions
  • Writing for a news site focused on global Muslim culture/trends but actually only covers the Middle East/South Asians
  • Not seeing yourself represented on the Muslim fashion scene
  • Not seeing yourself represented in Islamic conferences and events
  • Being mistaken as a convert
  • Being discriminated against for two reasons, add female and that’s three strikes
  • Not learning about your contributions to Islamic scholarship and history
  • Participating in relief fundraisers and awareness campaigns for Arab countries only
  • Experiencing racism in two layers
  • Carrying on the legacy of an indigenous American Islam
  • Shying away from calling out non-black Muslim friends who stereotype Africans so you don’t make waves
  • Standing up for peace, justice, and equality…values rooted in both your culture and faith

For more on this great Twitter discussion, look up the #BeingBlackandMuslim trending topic and read here.

There will be more discussions planned in the next few weeks, so be sure to participate (and if you’re not black & Muslim, be sure to listen respectfully and not derail the conversation.)



Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story

History is said to be written by the victors.

Noor Inayat Khan is a Muslim woman, born in Moscow in 1914. While living in Paris, she found her true calling during the Second World War: to stand up to the encroaching Nazi terror. She worked as a secret agent and wireless operator in Paris behind enemy lines and transmitting messages to Berlin. Noor was eventually betrayed by some French operatives, arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. She was tortured, but refused to reveal any information to her captors.She was later transferred to Dachau concentration camp with other female agents and shot in 1943.

Noor Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949. She is a real-life hero we have failed to acknowledge in our war accounts and heroic narratives and now we have the chance to ensure history doesn’t miss this incredible chapter.

Unity Productions has produced a fantastic 60 minute docudrama about her life and needs our help to make sure the movie gets to see the light of day. The Kickstarter campaign has a $45,000 goal and already $39,467 has been pledged. There are 69 more hours to go and the campaign is SO CLOSE.

There are hundreds of films about WW II, but the Muslim story is largely missing. Our aim is to share the story of a hero who was unique in her own right: growing up in a household with American and Indian roots. Noor’s childhood was rich with inclusion and openness to all people, even as divisive nationalism and ethnic genocide were on the rise across Europe. Because of its universal values and sheer display of heart and courage, everyone can identify with Noor Khan’s story. It will help people to see Muslims, particularly Muslim women, in a new light.

Noor’s identity as a Muslim woman did not stop her from signing up to join the fight against the Nazis. Motivated by her faith, Noor’s worldview was based on a respect for all faiths against Hitler’s ideology of ethnic and religious extermination. She suffered the same fate as millions of Jews.

In a period like ours, filled with debate about Muslim women, who they are and what they stand for, we see great value in bringing into the public square examples and stories of strong Muslim women in unconventional situations. The Muslim community rarely has an opportunity to share such stories widely. Noor Khan’s biography, shown on national television, has the potential to reach millions.

If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, then the project loses ALL FUNDING. ALL OF IT!

That means all the hard work and outreach will have been for nothing. Please donate whatever you can to this amazing project and spread the word to your family, friends and network. Check out the project on KickstarterFacebook, and Twitter.

UPF is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit, so all donors will also get a tax-deduction (if that’s what really motivates you.)

Noor’s story deserves to be heard. Let’s make it happen!

Winning the Story Wars

I’m currently reading a book titled Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs. If you have seen the awesome video called The Story of Stuff hosted by Annie Leonard, well, he’s the man who produced that controversial viral documentary.

My coworker mentioned that I should read the book for an interesting perspective on strategic communications. The imagery of  a “story war” and the illustrations on the cover caught my attention. In the opening chapter, Sachs writes:

” All societies have relied on core myths to guide them, and too many of ours have been stretched to the point of breaking. Our hunger for these stories explains many of the greatest marketing successes of our time and points to the enormous responsibility marketers carry as creators of modern myths. Why? Because the wars fought over stories have always been the most critical fights in shaping a society’s future.”

So this sounds like pretty exciting, epic stuff, right?

As a creative writer, I love the idea of linking storytelling with social change. Stories shape how we view the world, ourselves, our morals and values. Communication is a key part of the implementation process of any new business strategy or policy measure. You have to understand human psychology and behavior to achieve your goal and build the appropriate relationships with the public that foster participation and mutual respect.

I choose to see this ability as a “force for good,” although clearly there are plenty of media professionals out there using their authority for “evil”  whether its through corporate or political propaganda, smear campaigns, otherization, victim-blaming, and shoddy journalism.

Just think of the powerful voices who created the narratives that deny the occupation of Palestine, the reality of global warming, the facade of WMDs in Iraq, the otherization of Muslims in the US, the disproportionate incarceration of young black men in US prison system, the failure of the war on drugs and poverty etc. etc.

I’m looking forward to learning more about how to take timeless storytelling themes and weave them into the modern day media landscape to amplify truth, empowerment, and justice. I plan on blogging more about my readings from this book, so stay tuned and let me know if you have any specific questions!