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Excerpted From: Nadia B. Ahmad, “Blood, Sweat, Tears:” A Muslim Woman Law Professor's View on Degenerative Racism, Misogyny, and (Internal) Islamophobia from Preeclampsia and Presumed Incompetent to Pandemic Tenure, 16 FIU Law Review 13 (Fall, 2021) (110 Footnotes) (Full Document)


NadiaBAhmadFrom classical literature, popular press, law, everyday conversations, and social media rampages, society scrutinizes visible Muslim women even though they are a part of a vast global population. From E.M. Forrester's A Passage to India--the Orientalist summer reading I endured in high school--to the incessant online attacks on U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the hatred has no end and no bounds. Visible Muslim women are accustomed to erasure and censure for simply existing. In France, legislators sought to expel visible Muslim women under the age of eighteen from the public space. Women's rights have been used as a pretext to invade Muslim-majority nations. This paper examines the perspective for deep thought and the impetus for change that the pandemic parenting experience offered me. Being around my children and at their beck and call 24/7 allowed me to see the world more through their eyes. The subtle bigotry and insensitivities that I experienced pre-pandemic intensified because not only did I want to survive, I wanted my children to grow up in a world free from hate. Sitting around and ignoring the slights would be impossible.

Free from daily microaggressions, constant commuting, and code-switching, but saddled with intensive childcare, cooking, cleaning, and sanitizing responsibilities, I developed a keener awareness for the degenerative biases I faced in the periphery of my pre-pandemic life. Being a pandemic academic parent empowered me to confront systemic racism, misogyny, and (internal) Islamophobia. My only goal was to stay alive, be authentic, and stop self-censuring. If it all went to hell in a handbasket, so be it. I survived 2020. Over 1.81 million people did not survive the coronavirus in 2020. This is my journey from a shy little girl in Central Florida to motherhood and the faculty tenure vote put into perspective by the pandemic.

[. . .]

President Biden nominated Zahid Quraishi to the federal bench. It was the first Muslim appointment to the federal bench. Yet as community leaders dug deeper into his background, disturbing details emerged about his connections to the military and ICE. There was discussion on the Muslim lawyers listserv about whether military service is problematic. I had strong feelings about the military. I thought it didn't need to exist. People were clearly in two camps from “Way to Go. Rah Rah,” to “What the Hell?” Quraishi's testimony involved a question regarding Shariah law. His response forced his supporters to also cringe.

Attorney and activist Abed Award chimed in:

I want to make my position on the Biden judge public.

A 'Muslim’ judge cowardly says he knows nothing about Sharia. He is a true American patriot. F those backward Sharia living Muslims. When Amy Barrett was asked about her Catholic background, she said she is a proud Catholic and guided by her faith.

Sad that many folks are finding anything to defend his shameful response. Pragmatism. Moderation. American patriotism. Everyone is more American than the Mayflower. This has nothing to do with religiosity. An atheist who happens to be of a Muslim background can answer the Sharia question with respect, thoughtfully and defend his community.

Sad but not surprising that those who are financially secure with careers and influence in our community and society are the lawyers supporting his nomination. But who cares about the poor Muslim recent immigrant who is demeaned and discriminated against because he represents Sharia to Americans? And the Muslim Americans who live a Sharia moral lifestyle, they are not worthy of being true Americans.

And the organizations like CAIR who lead the defense of our community are being attacked as supporters of terrorism or militant religiosity.

Defend as much as you wish but this nominee is an embarrassment to our community and has contributed to the misinformation and bigotry about Sharia and our Muslim community. Basically, there are good Muslims like him and the bad Muslims like me.

Shortly after Abed's email, there was a reminder of listserv etiquette, followed by a new rule of the listserv policy. Abed expressed our anger and disappointment in the nomination. President Biden's Muslim appointments aside from Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, and Lina Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, have been uninspiring. Major appointments by the Biden administration and the Democratic National Committee consist primarily of South Asian males, ignoring the diversity of American Muslims, particularly African Americans and Latinos, and overlooking more competent women. These appointments even have a dearth of practicing Arab Muslims, because most have a spine when it comes to speaking out on issues that impact the community unlike the servile, secular, politically conservative/moderate South Asian male. I hate drawing these broad stroke generalizations of my Muslim male counterparts, but the correlation of their background and constant self-serving nature are not merely accidental. As a Muslim woman progressive, every political conversation I have shouldn't feel like kicking the door off its hinges, even among my own ethnic and religious communities, as well as the Democratic Party. I'm tired of the getting along to get along. In short, the White House and the Democratic Party perpetuates the sexist and racist history of those marginalized within the marginalized group of American Muslims. Attorney Ahmed Shaykh noted the “professional class of Muslims that sees Muslim 'identity’ as a ticket to professional opportunities and funding.” Law professor Nancy Leong termed the phrase “identity capitalists” to describe this phenomenon of how powerful people and institutions take advantage of diversity for their own selfish gains.

Our anger is love for what our world could be if we had the courage to put aside the tools and trappings of racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia. It's because we love the law that we pause to question the indignities and the injustices. Because we love and know the law, we understand the insidious manifestations of racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia and the chokeholds that they have on our systems, which want us eliminated.

The week before, I received a death threat by email, “Die infidel Muslim scum.” I promptly reported the death threat to the FBI, which did nothing.

Nadia B. Ahmad. Associate Professor of Law, Barry University School of Law; Visiting Associate Professor, Fall 2021, Yale Law School; B.A., University of California, Berkeley; J.D., University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law; LL.M., in Natural Resources and Environmental Law and Policy, University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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