Friday, December 25, 2015

MSJ Activities in 2015

Check key activities by Muslims for Social Justice members in 2015. Learn about our principles and values here. Contact us if you wish to join us or support us by emailing us at

Organizing Against Racism:
Manzoor spoke at 50th anniversary of Malcolm X assassination on February 21, 2015 at Haytai Heritage Center. This event was organized by Workers World Party and also featured Ajamu Dillahunt Jr., Desmera Gatewood, Larry Hales (Workers World Party, NJ) among others. 

MSJ members participated in BlackLivesMatter rally in Durham on 5/2/15 in response to the murder of Freddie Gray. Ahmad Jitan spoke on behalf of MSJ. (May 2, 2015)

MSJ members attended Black Lives Matter rally in Durham on June 2nd, 2015 in response to Charleston Massacre. Sister Q spoke on behalf of MSJ and Sister Shafeah represented BWFJ. 

Manzoor Cheema attended North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) Summit on Oct 16, 17. NCEJN is a grassroots organization led by Black community and fighting against environmental racism. Brother Saladin spoke on a panel on environmental justice and state repression. Other panelists included D'atra Jackson from IgniteNC and Adam Bledsoe, UNC PhD student. The panel was moderated by Loan Tran from Youth Organizing Institute. I was fortunate to make a video of this talk and other panel discussion. Check the video of his panel.

Prison Justice/Political Prisoner Rights Work:
Sister Shafeah organized screenings of an important movie - The Newburgh Sting at Raleigh (9/08/15) and Greenville (9/11/15), NC. This movie depicts the phenomenon of entrapment of Muslims. Sister Shafeah organized these screenings on behalf of The Communiversity, BWFJ and Imam Jamil Action Network. Muslims for Social Justice was one of the co-sponsors.

In August 2015, MSJ was invited to join the newly formed coalition of concerned Durham residents who have come together to form the Durham County Jail Investigation Team and conduct an independent, community-based investigation of inhumane conditions inside the jail. Over the years, inmates have revealed that they systematically face abuses inside, including medical neglect, poor nutrition, unsatisfactory sanitation, routine physical violence, sexual abuse, and religious discrimination. After months of organizing, students, researchers, сommunity organizers, health care workers, formerly incarcerated people and their family members held a press-conference in front of the jail on December 10, 2015 [123]. They demanded access to the jail to investigate the human rights abuses inside the facility. The coalition announced its five demands to the officials (view the video from the press-conference here), which include in-person visits with at least 100 inmates, full inspection of the facilities, release of all data related to grievances, monthly revenue summary reports, and documented evidence of when all cells are closed and open on a daily basis. On December 14, 2015, members interrupted County Commissioners Meeting to demand an independent investigation of the facility [view video of the direct action here]. 

Sister Anastasia Kārkliņa has served as a liaison between the JIT and MSJ. Muslims for Social Justice recognizes that the prison industrial complex constitutes a white supremacist system of domination built on and perpetuated by anti-Black/Brown racism. The struggle for prisoner rights and, ultimately, prison abolition is intimately tied to racist police harassment, profiling, and violence inflicted upon Black and Brown folks, including Muslims and those who are perceived as Muslim, in our communities. Firm in our dedication to justice for all, we support and join the fight for the rights of prisoners in Durham, the United States, across and beyond the borders.

To follow the conversation on social media, see #WeBelievePrisoners and #JailInvestigationNow. 

Organizing Against Islamophobia:
Muslims for Social Justice has understood Islamophobia as an imperialist and fascist weapon. These forces have also used anti-Black racism, sexism, attacks on workers, homophobia and other oppressions in order to rise to power. MSJ realizes that it is essential to connect these liberation movements. Fight against Islamophobia cannot be waged by Muslims alone. We especially believe that any work against Islamophobia should be connected to anti-racism work, which has a much uglier and longer history in the USA. Black Muslims make the largest ethnic group within the American Muslim population and victims of racism, Islamophobia and other oppressions.

MSJ played an active role in responding to the rise in Islamophobia by launching a network called MERI (Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia) in early 2015. Partner organizations include MSJ, Black Workers for Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace - Triangle, NC Justice Center, Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East, Methodist Federation for Social Action NC Chapter and seven other organizations. Here are some actions taken by MSJ (as member of MERI network):

- Muslims for Social Justice spoke up against Islamophobia in the wake of Chapel Hill murder of three students. Our interview was quoted in Reuters and posted in media organizations across the world - Indonesia, Qatar, South Africa, Turkey, Germany, among other countries. Here is a list of news links that carried our interview.

- We issued petition in defense of Imam Griggs. We also participated in a forum against  Islamophobia at Wake Forest University on 3/02/15.

- MSJ wrote a letter-to-the-editor to condemn David Horowtiz's visit to UNC. We joined a rally against racism and Islamophobia at UNC Chapel Hill (People of Color Take Over of the Quad) that was organized by The Real Silent Sam Coalition at UNC Chapel Hill on 4/24/15.

- MSJ and partners organized a forum against Islamophobia and racism at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church on 6/15/15.

- MSJ participated in a counter-confederacy rally at UNC-Chapel Hill on 10/25/15 that opposed racism as well as Islamophobia by "Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County".

- MSJ participated in anti-racism/anti-Islamophobia forum in Fayetteville on 11/16/15

- MSJ joined rally against Trump's speech in Raleigh on 12/04/15.

- MSJ participated in anti-Islamophobia and anti-racism action by Jewish Voice for Peace - Triangle on 12/11/15.

You can learn many of these events at website.

Participation in other talks and events:
HKonJ 2015: MSJ members participated in HKonJ rally on 2/14/15. Imam Salahuddin, Imam Oliver, Farris Barakat, Sister Khalilah Sabra and Manzoor Cheema were Muslim speakers. Rev. Barber spoke against rising Islamophobia and connected it to anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression. A youth contingent for Black Lives Matter also participated to raise issues of police brutality. HKonJ started as a process of people's assembly and developed 14-points that came out of that process. In 2013, HKonJ movement led to Moral Monday Movement. Check a brief report for HKonJ rally in 2015.

Talk in Solidarity with Oppressed People's Movement in Pakistan: Manzoor and Ahsan Kamal (Awami Workers Party) spoke about oppression against Christians and the working class in Pakistan at UNC-Chapel Hill on April 7, 2015. Majority of the Christian community in Pakistan is working class and discriminated against. Working people mostly live in slums/informal housing. Awami Workers Party is organizing working people from all backgrounds to change the balance of power.

32nd Annual BWFJ Banquet: MSJ members participated in and sponsored 32nd Annual BWFJ (Black Workers for Justice) Banquet on April 11, 2015. Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza spoke at the event. The event was very well attended. Members of In the Name of Humanity (Br. Moussa, Sister Fatimeh) from Greenville, NC, also participated in the banquet. This is the annual event by Black Workers for Justice that features a prominent leader in Black Liberation/anti-racism movement. In the past, I have the privilege to listen to the late Chokwe Lumumba (Black Liberation leader and the mayor of Jackson, MS), Larry Hamm (People Organizing for Power - New Jersey), Clarence Thomas (former president of ILWU), Sister Margaret Rose Murray (Black Muslim leader in Raleigh) among other power speakers. See videos from the 2015 banquet.

2015 UNAC Conference: Sister Shafeah and Manzoor participated in United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Seacaucus, NJ, on May 8-10, 2015. This conference brought together anti-racism, worker rights, anti-Islamophobia, anti-imperialism activists. along with people from other movements. Sister Shafeah presented on anti-racism, political prisoners and worker rights. Manzoor presented on work against Islamophobia. You can learn more here: 

Palestine rally on 10/30/15: Members of Muslims for Social Justice co-organized an anti-racism and pro-Palestine rally, along with Workers World Party, Jewish Voice for Peace - Triangle, Green Party NC and other allies. Ahmad Jitan spoke on behalf of Muslims for Social Justice. See a brief report here.

Social Events/Potlucks:
MSJ organized multiple social gatherings for Muslim community members. These gatherings featured poetry, spoken word and theater on social justice. Here are some pictures.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Muslims for Social Justice statement on Palestine

Here is a speech from Ahmad Jitan on behalf of Muslims for Social Justice at Palestine Solidarity march and rally in Durham on 10/30/15.
"As we stand here in solidarity with Palestine, I want to first recognize the land that we stand on.
This is a land that was ethnically cleansed of its indigenous populations by European settlers who saw it as their divine right.
So I want to bring to mind and honor the indigenous people of this land, those who have passed and those who continue to struggle and live in a country that was founded upon their genocide.
A country that was founded to preserve the life, liberty, and property of white, male, land-owners who enslaved Africans to build their promised land.

They try and make us forget the history of this land and the histories of the people who inhabit it. But we have not forgotten, and we know what is going on today is intimately connected to that history. We have not forgotten. We are here. We are proud and dignified.
I’m here today a son of Palestinian refugees, and we are here today to honor and be in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle. A people who have been and are continuing to be ethnically cleansed by European settlers who see it as their divine right.
A country claimed to have been founded as a homeland for the Jewish people but brutalizes, sterilizes, and imprisons them when they are African.
Which is to say, when I say “Free Free Palestine” I know that dream is not possible just when the occupation ends or when there is a Palestinian state. Which is to say, as I struggle for a free Palestine, I must also struggle for the liberation for all people. Here in the United States, in the South, in Durham, NC that means standing in solidarity for the liberation and self-determination of Black people in this country.
It’s necessary not just as an ethical imperative or a theoretical connection, our lives are materially tied.
The tear gas canisters, the guns, the bombs, the walls, that brutalize, terrorize, murder, and displace our communities are funded by the same sources and produced by the same companies worldwide. They share tactics and information in order how to best oppress us.
White supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy are global phenomenons. We each have unique histories and particular struggles, yet we are still connected in our fight for justice.
I’m here with Muslims for Social Justice, a grassroots organization based here in the triangle dedicated to fighting racism, white supremacy, and sexism within as well as beyond the Muslim community. I want to make it clear, for those who still may be confused, that the Palestinian struggle isn’t a religious conflict or a war between Muslims and Jews, but a struggle for self-determination against settler-colonialism. Muslims and Muslim communities, however are under attack. When Israel raids al-Aqsa, they are raiding a sanctuary, a religious and cultural symbol for many Palestinian people.
It’s a tactic we see by white supremacists here in the states. In just the past three weeks, six black churches were burned to the ground in the St. Louis area. This is not a coincidence. When they see you fighting for your freedom, they terrorize you by targeting your places of worship, congregation, and community. Your places of safety and security.
Islamophobia has been around since the founding of this country, when the first Muslims who made it to this continent were enslaved Africans.
Today, Islamophobia fuels global wars on “terror” and justifies the expansion of the surveillance and police state here at home in order to protect us from “foreign invaders” and “sharia law.”
In the face of all this, I take hope that I am not struggling alone. I take hope in the ancestors who have paved the way for our struggle and I take hope in the many many leaders of our movement who continue to pave the way toward justice and freedom."

Friday, August 7, 2015

MSJ Position on School Vouchers

Against Vouchers
Letter-to-the-editor published in The News and Observer on August 7, 2015.
Regarding the Aug. 5 Point of View “No ‘public purpose’ in school vouchers”: I agree with Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin that the voucher program will undermine public education. Private and religious organizations have a right to establish private schools. However, tax money should be provided only to public schools that are accountable to and serve the broader public. Diverting funds from public to private schools has been proposed to increase educational choices. In reality, this program undermines the basic choice of well-funded and equitable public education. As Muslims for Social Justice, we believe that all children are our children. We should strive for well-funded public schools that serve all students irrespective of the color of their skin, religious background (or lack thereof), socioeconomic status or any other background.

Read more here:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Protest Against Charleston Massacre

Muslims for Social Justice is proud to be part of the movement to end white supremacy. It was great hearing powerful young Black leaders Desmera Gatewood, Ajamuito Dillahunt, Lamont Lilly and many more during protest against racist terrorist attack in Charleston that was organized in Durham, NC, on June 20, 2015. Thank you Qasima Wideman for speaking on behalf of Muslims for Social Justice. Sister Shafeah TrayvanMartin M'Balia's speech on Black worker rights and political prisoners was powerful. We are proud to have her as co-founder for Muslims for Social Justice. It was great meeting many allies during the protest - Bryan Perlmutter, Nadeen Bir-Zaslow, Mari Caldwell, Mousa Shehadeh, Anastasia Kārkliņa. Thank you Durham Solidarity Center, Dante Strobino, Jillian Nicole, Lamont, Ben Carroll, Felicia Arriaga and friends for organizing this important protest.

Here are pictures from the event:

Forum on racism and Islamophobia

Muslims for Social Justice along with six partner organizations of MERI (Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia; co-organized a forum titled Challenging Racism and Islamophibia at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church on Monday, June 15, 2015. 

MERI is a North Carolina based network that is made of Muslims for Social Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace - NC, Black Workers for Justice, Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East, NC Justice Center, Methodist Federation for Social Action - NC Chapter and Peace Committee of Chapel Hill Friends Meeting. 

The forum was co-sponsored by many local organizations including NC Council of Churches, Congregations for Social Justice, Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, Muslim American Public Affairs Council (MAPAC), Coalition for Peace with Justice (CPWJ), Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House, Quaker House of Fayetteville NC, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - NC (WILPF - NC), Durham Solidarity Center, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, Balance and Accuracy in Journalism (BAJ), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Raleigh Friends Meeting and Triangle Interfaith Alliance.
During the panel discussion, panelists covered areas of Islamophobia & racism (Manzoor Cheema), war on Black workers, women, and political prisoners (Sister Shafeah M'Balia), Israel's role in Islamophobia (Beth Bruch) and connections between Palestine and African American liberation (Ajamuito Dillahunt). This was followed by a break out session where attendees were asked about their experience and strategies to counter racism and Islamophobia. Naveed Moeed gave closing remarks. Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble offered cultural performances at the beginning and end of the forum.
MERI plans to offer similar forums and workshops on racism and Islamophobia in the future. To learn more, contact
Here are pictures from the forum: