Writing

4 Muslim vets on life in the military (Religion News Service) Profiles of four Muslim military veterans.

Reporting From the Texas Democratic Convention From my Muslim Voices Matter column, a running summary of my experience as a delegate to the 2016 Texas Democratic Convention.

Arsalan Iftikhar on the answer to Muslim scapegoating (Religion News Service) Q&A with author and speaker Arsalan Iftikhar about his new book, Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms.

How Trump and Cruz cause neighbors to eye each other warily (Religion News Service) Thoughts about presidential candidates’ responses to the Brussels attacks, with special attention to Ted Cruz’ call to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.”  

Bad Advice: Phares and Gaffney Join Trump and Cruz Teams From my Muslim Voices Matter column, a look at two presidential candidates’ new advisors and their anti-Muslim past. 

They Said We Put Each Other on a List: Adama Bah’s Ordeal From My Muslim Voices Matter column, the story of a 16-year-old girl who was detained by immigration authorities and the documentary made about her.

Trump’s Bad Words and Simple Thoughts From my Muslim Voices Matter column, an examination of propaganda, with Donald Trump’s speech as an example. 

Christmas for non-Christians This reminiscence of holidays with a secular family appeared in the Houston Chronicle’s Gray Matters section.

Waiting for the backlash Gray Matters, a feature section of the Houston Chronicle’s website, published my commentary on Muslim concerns after the San Bernardino, CA attacks.  This article also appeared in the Zest section of the December 13, 2015 Houston Chronicle.

As a Muslim, I refuse to call myself a victim after the San Bernardino shootings (Religion News Service) Personal commentary about the aftermath of the San Bernardino, CA attacks.

San Bernardino: Let’s not make more victims From The Straight Path, my Houston Chronicle blog, personal reaction to the San Bernardino, CA attacks.

Texas Falls Victim to Terror From my Muslim Voices Matter column, a response to various governors’ refusal to admit Syrian refugees to their states.

Ahmed Mohamed is owed an apology (Religion News Service) Commentary on the case of Ahmed Mohamed, high school student arrested for bringing homemade clock to school.

Why We Have To Talk About Trump: The GOP Debate and Beyond From Muslim Voices Matter, analysis of the second GOP debate with an emphasis on Donald Trump’s campaign.

Working Ourselves Out of a Job Inaugural post for Muslim Voices Matter column, introducing myself and topics the column will explore.

How a proposed Muslim cemetery became a battleground for American’s soul (Religion News Service) Commentary on public opposition to an Islamic cemetery in Farmersville, Texas.

“Convert or die”: A real thing? From The Straight Path, my Houston Chronicle blog, commentary on a common misunderstanding about Islam.

Dignified or indignant in Farmersville? From The Straight Path, my Houston Chronicle blog, a personal reflection on a north Texas town’s opposition to a Muslim cemetery.

Back on The Straight Path Announcement of my return to my Houston Chronicle blog after a two-year hiatus.

Women of MYNA: Can young Muslim Americans take up the challenge of leadership? A look back at the pioneering women leaders of the Muslim Youth of North America organization.

Gun Violence: A Muslim Issue (Islamic Horizons) A look at how American Muslims can encourage gun safety.

Scholarships for Muslim Kids (Azizah) A review of fields in which Muslim high school graduates may find community support.

Gathering Community to Stop Domestic Violence (Islamic Horizons) Article profiling Project Sakinah, a community-based domestic violence prevention organization.

50 Years of Love (Azizah) Feature article profiling several couples married 50 years or more, exploring the key to long and happy marriages.

It’s All Relative (Toastmaster) Feature article about families who join Toastmasters clubs together.

Making the Grade (Toastmaster) Feature article about college students and professors honing their communication and leadership skills in and outside the classroom.

Missionaries take colorful approach to spread the gospel Article about Mormon missionaries who use sidewalk art to share their message; cover story of the Houston Chronicle’s Belief section.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas (Islamic Horizons) Article about activists and institutions in the Houston Muslim community.

A Full Ride (Azizah) Overview of college scholarships available to Muslim women.

Music to My Ears Toastmaster magazine cover story about the similarities between music and public speaking.

Toastmasters Helps Muslim American Outreach (Toastmaster) Article about ways American Muslims can improve their public communication.

You’re Speaking About What?! (Toastmaster) Tips for speaking about controversial topics.

All-American Muslim: The TLC version From The Straight Path, my Houston Chronicle blog, thoughts on TLC’s reality show “All-American Muslim.”

Hurricane Ike, September 11 and Thoughts on Loss (MuslimMatters) Musing on intersections of personal and public tragedy.

The Depths of Vanity (MuslimMatters) Pondering surgery from a spiritual standpoint.

New York, New York From The Straight Path, my Houston Chronicle blog, reminiscence about my time living in Brooklyn.

Halloween’s strange fruit (The Straight Path, Houston Chronicle) About the eerie and violent nature of Halloween traditions.

Severe black hijab (The Straight Path, Houston Chronicle) Commentary about being judged by religious clothing.

Skin Deep (Azizah) Feature article examining the Islamic view of plastic surgery.

The Migrations of Faith (MuslimMatters) An exploration of the spectrum of faith.

A Place to Pray (Azizah) Article about women’s space in the mosque.

Spare change: News from the sidewalk sets men free Article about newspapers sold by homeless men in Cambridge, MA.  Written for the Emerson College student newspaper.  (Written under my maiden name, Sullivan.)

Rhythm, Rhyme, and a Verbal Art Form Comes to Life A look at the spoken word scene in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., written for the premiere issue of Boston-based Juicy magazine.  (Written under my maiden name, Sullivan.)

Stryker Leads as Cordless Trend Grows A report on market trends in orthopedic power tool suppliers.  (Written under my maiden name, Sullivan.)

Mycosis fungoides: The unknown cancer An unpublished article about a rare cancer and its sufferers. (Written under my maiden name, Sullivan.)

Here are excerpts from what I consider some of my best writing.

 

Oddly enough, I don’t remember who told me that the hysterical woman had just gotten in her car and discovered she had forgotten to take the child to day care, had left him in the car all day, and that the child was dead.

I left the store. I had a glimpse of the child, who was strapped into a car seat. A leg. An arm. A slumped head.

This didn’t make sense either. It’s a stupid mistake to leave a gallon of milk or a package of meat in a hot car all day. You don’t leave a child. You don’t leave a child. You don’t leave a child.

(From You don’t leave a child, Houston Chronicle)

******

“Shut the door!  Shut the door!” A middle-aged woman in a colorful jilbab waves her hand at a young girl who has wandered from the main prayer hall into the women’s area and left the door ajar.

It’s the third of Ramadan at Masjid An-Nasr in Oklahoma City, and the women are relaxing after iftar in their section of the masjid.  The men are in the main prayer hall, the doors to which are shut and into which no women venture.  They occasionally take a furtive peek inside but never open the door more than halfway.  If a woman needs to speak with her husband, she sends a child with the message.  Each time a stray toddler or the wind keeps the door from closing, a sister calls for it to be shut.  It’s clear that the areas are strictly separated.

(From A Place to Pray, Azizah magazine)

******

A middle-aged man in army fatigues and a dingy beige coat stumbles into berth 20 at Dudley Station in Roxbury.  He wears a white baseball cap turned backwards and dress shoes with scuff marks.  Hands in his pockets, he does a sort of uncoordinated dance, landing on the macadam and twirling around.  He slinks toward a woman sitting on a bench.

“Hey, you have a quarter?”

She doesn’t look up.  He yells the question at her.  She glares and shakes her head.  He spins away quickly as though she hit him.

The #1 bus pulls in.  The man gets on and slumps across a row of seats.  The bus turns left onto Warren Street.  The man’s eyes are half open.  Rime has collected on the edges of his mouth.  He brings onto the bus a smell of half-digested liquor, the odor of a street drunk.  He mumbles.

A few blocks away, in the Roxbury Courthouse at 85 Warren St., security guards take cursory glances at bags going through the X-ray scanner…

(From Redemption: Drug Court Stories, masters degree capstone project)

******

If one shares a diagnosis of, say, breast or prostate cancer, the listener nods in sympathy, perhaps mentioning an uncle or grandmother who had it.  On the other hand, a person who announces he has CTCL [cutaneous T-cell lymphoma], or its most common form, the odd-sounding mycosis fungoides, is likely to be greeted with a confused stare.

Mycosis fungoides (MF) is an indolent, or slow-progressing, cancer that primarily affects the skin.  It progresses to the lymph nodes and internal organs in about 10% of cases.  It is the most common type of CTCL, a term which encompasses other non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas such as lymphomatoid papulosis; lymphomatoid granulomatosis; peripheral T-cell lymphoma; and Sezary syndrome, the leukemic form of the disease.

Although MF causes a variety of rashy patches and lesions on the skin, it is not a skin cancer.  It is in fact a lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphatic system, the collection of vein-like tubes that run throughout the body and assist in the fight against infection.  Because the T-cells of the lymphatic system which are affected by this disease are naturally attracted to the skin, the symptoms appear there.  There is no cure, but it can be treated by a variety of means and after treatment often does not reappear for years at a time.

(From Mycosis Fungoides: The Unknown Cancer, unpublished article about a rare disease)

******

I am a convert to Islam, and I know many converts’ stories, often starting with their very first interest in Islam. Not a single one of them came to Islam lightly.  For many it involved loss: loss of tradition, loss of family relationships, loss of certainty in what one was raised with.

The show [All-American Muslim] presented Jeff’s conversion as expedient rather than heartfelt, something meant to make his bride’s family happy…

Two aspects of conversion to Islam were emphasized: how easy it was to do and how challenging it was to his mom, who is presented as a lone figure in the midst of a huge extended family.

“I feel like this is all crashing in on me,” we see her weep – but unfortunately we get few other details.  She makes simple remarks about change, but seriously, an Irish Catholic converting to Islam is a big deal, and we only hear from her that Jeff is a “big boy” who can make his own decisions.  But through her tearful confessional shots I had to wonder if her heart was breaking and we just didn’t know it; instead we got an eyeful of the belly dancers at the couple’s wedding.

(From All-American Muslim: the TLC version, The Straight Path blog)

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