"What is this newsletter? You don't have enough things to do?"
My mom, wanting me to hang out with her today
Happy Sunday, my friends!
This is going to be a quick newsletter because I’ve been hanging out with my mama so she can ask me more questions like “how do you add music to your Instagram story?” and “you have soooo many nice outfits in your closet, why are you wearing that old ratty shalwar kameez?” :)
What I read this week (in no particular order)
Gustavo Arellano perfectly eulogizes Hashem Ahmad Alshilleh, a Riverside resident who, for 30 years, helped bury Southern California Muslims. It was hard not to be moved to tears by this. We can only hope that we’re lucky enough to have someone like Alshilleh handle our bodies with care, respect, and dignity in our last moments on the Earth. Arellano captures not only Alshilleh’s legacy and impact, but how Alshilleh embodied what it truly means to be a Muslim.
Alshilleh eventually left his truck-driving job to prepare bodies full time as demand grew. He taught his sons the basics: Start the ritual bath by washing the right hand three times. Wrap the body in three simple white cloths. Wear personal protective equipment at all times. Be mindful of how to place arms — Sunnis want corpses with their arms crossed over the midsection, while Shiites prefer them on the side.
“He would always tell me, ‘Don’t ever fear death, son,’” said Mahmoud, who apprenticed under him for two years, “‘because it’s all going to be us one day.’”
His children tried to slow down their father as the years passed, but Alshilleh always waved them off. “Baba would say it wasn’t work for him,” said Rayah, a Los Angeles police officer. “That it was a blessing.”
No Muslim will be surprised by this. It’s important for more journalists in the United States to put Donald Trump’s Muslim ban—that President Joe Biden reversed on his first day in office—into context in this way. Reversing the Muslim ban is the bare minimum, Waqas Mirza noted. It wasn’t born out of Trump’s own Islamophobia or his base’s, but it was the product of “a two decade long domestic war on terror against American Muslims.”
The Democrats played a significant role in waging this war, often through the same means as the Republicans, promoting shoddy counter-extremism programs which cast all Muslims as potential terrorists. The mainstream, state-friendly media provided its viewers with a steady diet of anti-Muslim tropes, casting American Muslims as either un-American or not fully American. The courts, the police, and intelligence agencies were all implicated, treating Muslims not as citizens but rather as national security concerns to be addressed through surveillance, entrapment, racial profiling, and deportations. It was this pervasive culture of Islamophobia, one that continues to exist, that created the conditions for the Muslim Ban.
I didn’t have the stomach to watch Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s full Instagram Live where she recounted how she experienced the insurrection on the Capitol on January 6. I still don’t, and I was especially disappointed to see that The New York Times’ framing of the story sensationalized a short disclosure Ocasio-Cortez made and entirely missed the point of her Live by doing so. For GEN Magazine, Sara Benincasa discusses how trauma can show itself in different women, and how powerful it is when we share our stories.
Trauma can give women the tough “gift” of noticing what others don’t see, anticipating risk, solving a problem before it occurs. Sometimes people imagine the folks who do this are magically strong. They’re not. They’re just experienced in managing harm. And just because they seem miraculous under fire doesn’t mean they don’t break.
If you weren’t already disturbed by the behavior of Missouri Senator Josh Hawley after the insurrection, Rafia Zakaria writes about his weaponization of religion for the purpose of dominance:
Hawley’s words are frightening because of their ability to justify everything that happened on January 6. When metaphysics and religious dogma become the basis of human action, they can galvanize and justify like no other force. Unlike political agendas that rely on the success or failure of ideological goals made palpable, those driven by God never expect to see success, which is conveniently set aside for the afterlife. In the living world, this can justify everything from suicide bombings to institutional destruction to targeted killing.
Tariq Panja filled in the gaps in my knowledge about Valencia C.F. in this piece. When I started following soccer about 11 years ago, Valencia was one of the best clubs in Europe, more or less comfortably in third place in La Liga behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. Here, Panja hits on why poor management of a soccer team is more than just bad business practice:
To many Valencia fans, Lim’s management style has been part of the problem. They noticed, for example, that he spent the 2019 cup final in a private box with his friend Beckham but did not visit the locker room to congratulate the team.
Though they once chanted his name in the streets, believing him to be their club’s rescuer, many now believe he never understood what the team represents in its city.
“It is our essence, what we have loved for so long, what our parents told us about,” Romero said. “It’s like they stole our memories, our traditions, our history, our pride.”
You’re welcome to write me back and let me know what you think of the stories and the newsletter, or even better: send me a story that you think I’d like.