Feb 16th: “Not Just an American Problem, But a World Problem,” Al Hajj Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Donna Auston

“Not Just an American Problem, But a World Problem” Feb. 16th

Al Hajj Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Harlem | Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Chicago | Donna Auston, Rutgers

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Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid has been the imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, a Sunni house of worship in Harlem, New York, since 1989. The mosque’s congregation was founded in the 1960s by followers of Malcolm X. Born a Baptist in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1951, Abdur-Rashid was raised in the South Bronx during the social tumult and racial tensions of the 1960s. “I was heavily influenced by pan-Africanism, by black nationalism, by the antiwar movement, all of it,” he says. “And then, I became a Muslim at age 20. And it played a great role in my grasp of the social-justice dimension of Islam.” In addition to his work with the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Abdur-Rashid is also the Amir (leader) of the Harlem Shura, a coalition of seven Harlem mosques; he serves as a chaplain to incarcerated Muslims in the city and state prisons of New York; and he works as a counselor to Muslims living with AIDS and to Islamic victims of domestic violence. Abdur-Rashid is a board member or advisor to several interfaith organizations in New York City: A Partnership of Faith; the Bertram Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty; the Chancellors Interfaith Advisory Committee of the New York City Board of Education; Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement; the Interfaith Center of New York; and the Temple of Understanding.
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is an assistant professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Purdue University. She received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Princeton University and her BSFS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. In her research she uses ethnography and performance art to explore the intersection of race, religion and popular culture. Her most recent work explores the ways young Chicago Muslims negotiate their religious, racial and cultural identities through hip hop. Her future projects will look at the relationship between sound, blackness and Islam in America and the role of Muslim hip hop in US cultural diplomacy efforts. In addition to her academic writing and publications, her poetry was featured in the anthology Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak. She has a commitment to public scholarship and has written for the Washington Post, theRoot.com and blogs for the Huffington Post. She is also a Senior Project Advisor for the US Public Television award-winning documentary, New Muslim Cool.
Donna A. Auston is a doctoral candidate in the department of Anthropology at Rutgers University, where she also received her B.A. in Linguistics and Africana Studies.  Her research interests include examinations of race, ethnicity, gender, the body, phenomenology and embodiment, religion, language, media representation, and Islam in America. Her dissertation research is an investigation of the interplay of race, ritual embodiment, and American Muslim ontology. She has been researching and writing about the history and experiences of American Muslims for many years, with particular focus on the African American Muslim community.  She has a book chapter entitled “Color Me Invisible: The Hidden Legacy of African American Muslims,” which appears in The Black Experience in America, Second Edition.  Donna also has forthcoming book chapters on African American Muslim women working as professional undertakers, and a study of the Nation of Islam’s religious transition in the aftermath of Elijah Muhammad’s passing in 1975. She has also published a number of short essays, including  “On Victim-Blaming: Reflections On Domestic Violence, Gaza, and the NYPD,” and “Recalled to Life: On the Meaning and Power of a Die-in.”  In addition to her written scholarship, she lectures regularly at universities and other venues on subjects relating to her research, and she has appeared on television and radio outlets discussing topics such as Islamophobia, faith and feminism, media representation of racial and religious minorities, and most recently race and policing.