Arab and Muslim American Studies Events Series

This page archives events in Arab and Muslim American Studies (AMAS) at UMBC. AMAS is intentionally capacious to allow numerous topics and communities space under its umbrella. The event series is sponsored by the Provost’s office. AMAS aims to create programming that: reflects and represents Arab and Muslim communities on campus, speaks to Arab and Muslim experiences,  and provides space for Arab and Muslim students, faculty, and staff to meet and network.  The events included below are from previous years; upcoming events will be added as they are scheduled.

Black Muslim Responses to COVID-19

Dr. Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad and Abdul-Malik Merchant

February 3, 2021

Link to watch this event is here

Drawing on results from the Black COVID Survey Project, Dr. Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad andImam Abdul-Malik Merchant discussBlack Muslim responses to the pandemic. This survey focused on understanding the psychosocial, spiritual and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a sample of religiously and ethnically diverse Black/African Americans. This presentation will highlight the survey’s major findings and discuss how the pandemic affectedBlack/African American Muslim’s religious practices, financial, and emotional well-being.

Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, PsyD is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healing and emotional well-being in the American Muslim community through dialogue, education and training. She is also the founding co-Director of the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition, an initiative launched in collaboration with Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative to address need for effective planning, preparedness and organizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Muslim Wellness Foundation, Dr. Rashad has established the annual Black Muslim Psychology Conference and the Deeply Rooted Emerging Leaders Fellowship for Black Muslim young adults. Dr. Rashad also serves as the Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). She is the advisor to Penn Sapelo, the first Black Muslim student organization at UPenn, and served three years as the Muslim Chaplain at UPenn. Dr. Rashad’s clinical and research areas of interest include: spirituality, diversity, religious identity and multicultural issues in psychotherapy, mental health stigma in faith and minority communities, first generation college students and  emerging adults of color; healing justice and faith based activism, racial trauma and healing, psychological impact of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Blackness, Black Muslim psychology and Black Muslim intersectional invisibility. Dr. Rashad graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and MEd in Psychological Services. She obtained further graduate education, earning a second Masters in Restorative Practices & Youth Counseling (MRP) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. She completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a concentration in Couple and Family Therapy) at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA.

After studying traditional Islamic Studies for nearly a decade in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Malik Merchant returned to America with his wife and children to serve as an Imam in a large ethnically diverse community in the Boston area. While serving he completed his Master’s of Theological Studies focusing on practical theology. In 2018 Abdul-Malik began serving as the Muslim Chaplain at Tufts University and in 2020 also at the Middleton Corrections Center. He hopes to use his diverse experience—serving in a community, higher education, corrections, and volunteering in hospitals—to in the pursuit of doctoral studies focusing on the spiritual education of Blackamerican Muslims.

Exploring Gender Ambiguity & Non-Conformity in Arabic

Dr. Dima Ayoub

March 8, 2021

Link to watch this event is here

During the last few decades, gender activists in the Arab world and the Arab diaspora have contended with and challenged the limitations assumed to be inherent in Arabic’s binary gender system. The talk will consider embedded grammatical features in the Arabic language and their potential for gender expression beyond the binary.

Dima Ayoub is an Assistant Professor of Arabic and C.V. Starr Junior Faculty Fellow in International Studies at Middlebury College where she was also the former director of the Middle East studies program. Her book manuscript Paratext and Power: Modern Arabic Literature in Translation rewrites the social and cultural history of modern Arabic literature in translation by centering the role of publishers, translators and paratexts, in addition to writers. She specializes in translation studies, feminist and queer theory and postcolonial studies.  Parallel to her book project, Dr. Ayoub is currently developing a digital archive of modern Arabic literature in English, French, German and Spanish translation. Her most recent publications appeared in the Journal of Translation Studies, the Journal of Arabic Literature and Middle Eastern Literatures and in the edited collection, Multilingual Literature as World Literature with Bloomsbury.

Trans Arab Poetics: Poetry Reading with Amir Rabiyah and Trish Salah

May 7, 2021

Link to watch this event is here

Amir Rabiyah was born in London to a Lebanese/Syrian father, and a mixed Cherokee and white mother. Their work explores living life on the margins and at the intersections of multiple identities.  Amir’s first full collection poetry book, Prayers for My 17th Chromosome, is available through Sibling Rivalry Press. This debut collection was a finalist for the Triangle Publishing Award, and an ALA Over the Rainbow pick. Amir is also the co-editor of Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices and has published in numerous anthologies and journals. For more information, visit
Trish Salah lives and writes in Tkaronto/Toronto and is associate professor of Gender Studies at Queen’s University. She is the author of Wanting in Arabic, which won a Lambda Literary Award, and of Lyric Sexology, Vol. 1. Her writing appears in current issues of Mizna and Tripwire. She is editor of the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, and is co-editor of a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly on cultural production, and of the spring 2021 issue of Arc Poetry Magazine, focused on poetry by trans and gender non-conforming writers. 

Prejudice Towards Arabs/Middle Easterners

Dr. Germine Awad

October 3, 2018

Although discrimination towards Arabs and individuals of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent in the United States was reported as early as the 1900’s (Naber, 2000), the events of September 11th, 2001 led to a sharp increase in prejudice and discrimination towards persons of Arab and Middle Eastern descent (Ajrouch, 2005; Ibish, 2003).   Instances of prejudice and discrimination toward other minority groups in the United States have been well documented throughout U.S. history (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986; Jones, 1997; Nelson, 2002).  Due to the fact that Arabs and individuals of Middle Eastern descent are not recognized by the U.S. government as a minority group many instances of discrimination fail to get recorded. Furthermore, the lack of recognition may increase feelings of invisibility and isolation for Middle Eastern Americans.   Previous studies have found a link between instances of discrimination and psychological variables such as psychological distress (Moradi & Hasan, 2004).  Additionally, differences in the experience of discrimination for Middle Eastern Americans have differed based on acculturation level and religious identification (Awad, 2010).  This talk will examine how psychological research may serve as an indispensable resource for deepening the understanding of experiences of discrimination for individuals of Middle Eastern descent.

Germine Awad, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Human Developments, Culture and Learning Sciences and Counseling Phsychology Programs in the Department of Educations Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is co-editor with Mona H. Amer of the 2017 Arab American Book Award non-fiction winner, The Handbook of Arab American Psychology (Routledge, 2016).

Sponsored by: the Provost’s Office; the CAHSS Dean’s Office; the Social Science Forum; the Depts. of Political Science and Psychology; and the Global Studies Program.

Black American Muslim Women Disrupting the Beauty Hierarchy

Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler

November 1, 2018

In this talk, Dr. Wheeler provides a history of the contemporary Afro-Islamic fashion industry in the United States, beginning with the Nation of Islam, to show how Black Muslim women have used fashion to challenge Arab-centrism in Islam and white supremacist beauty standards.  Dr. Wheeler will conclude by exploring the structural barriers that prevent Black Muslim models and designers from breaking into the mainstream fashion industry in the United States. Dr. Wheeler argues that much like mainstream media, the fashion industry contributes to the racialization of Islam in which Islam is read as a “Brown” religion, thus marginalizing Black Muslims. 

Kayla Renée Wheeler, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Digital Studies at Grand Valley State University. She is the curator of the Black Islam Syllabus and the author of Mapping Malcolm’s Boston: Exploring the City that Made Malcolm X.

Sponsored by: the Provost’s Office; the CAHSS Dean’s Office; the Depts. of American Studies, Gender +Women’s Studies, History, and Africana Studies; the Religious Studies Program; and the Women’s Center. 

Race and Religion in the U.S.: Women Writers in Conversation

Samiya Bashir, Alia Malek, and Susan Muaddi Darraj in conversation with Dr. Mejdulene B. Shomali

March 4, 2019

Link to watch this event is here

Three award winning writers, poet Samiya Bashir, journalist and author Alia Malek, and fiction writer Susan Muaddi Darraj will perform short excerpts of their work. After the performance, they will join Dr. Mejdulene B. Shomali for a moderated conversation on writing, gender, race, and religion in the U.S.. During the conversation, writers will discuss the useful and dangerous ways racial, ethnic, and religious identities do and do not overlap; how race, gender, and religion inform the writing and reception of their work; and how they use genre and form to navigate cultural expectations for their writing, especially when those expectations are tied to their perceived or real identities.

A book signing and reception will follow the program.

Samiya Bashir is the author of three books of poetry: Field Theories, Gospel, and Where the Apple Falls. Sometimes she makes poems of dirt. Sometimes zeros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. Her work has been widely published, performed, installed, printed, screened, and experienced. Bashir holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Poet Laureate, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received two Hopwood Poetry Awards. Bashir lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches at Reed College.

Susan Muaddi Darraj‘s short story collection, A Curious Land: Stories from Home, was named the winner of the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. It also won the 2016 Arab American Book Award, a 2016 American Book Award, and was shortlisted for a Palestine Book Award. In 2018, United States Artists awarded her a Ford Fellowship for creative writing. She is Associate Professor of English at Harford Community College, and she also teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University.

Alia Malek is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer. She is the author of The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria and A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives. She is the editor of Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices and EUROPA أوروپا : An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees. Her reporting has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy,, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, Jadaliyya, McSweeney’s, Guernica and other publications.

Mejdulene B. Shomali is a Palestinian American poet and Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies at UMBC. She received a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 2015 and an MA in Women’s Studies from the Ohio State University in 2009. Her creative and scholarly work centers on femininity, queerness, and Arab cultural production in a transnational perspective. Her academic monograph in progress, Moving Femininities: Queer Critique and Transnational Arab Culture, underscores femininity and sexuality as sites for cultural and political negotiation for Arabs, immigrant and indigenous.

Sponsored by Office of the Provost; the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities; the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies Department; the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program; the Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication Department; the Media and Communication Studies Department; the English Department; and the Women’s Center.

Visual Storytelling & Marginalized Voices: A Comic Workshop

Marguerite Dabaie and Iasmin Omar Ata

April 29, 2019

Palestinian graphic novelists Marguerite Dabaie and Iasmin Omar Ata will discuss how their comics and illustration work address issues of identity, memory, history, and diaspora. Then, they will lead participants through a hands-on comics workshop. Participants will create miniature, biographical comic zines, and learn about the power of self-publishing as a tool to push forward marginalized voices and perspectives.

Sponsored by the Provost’s Office; the CAHSS Dean’s Office; the Mosaic Center; the Media and Communication Studies Dept., the Visual Arts Dept., and the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program

If you are a UMBC community member (faculty, staff, or student/group)  interested in collaborating with AMAS, please do not hesitate to contact AMAS is excited to support UMBC faculty, staff, and students in the following ways:
  1. If you have suggestions for events or speakers you would like to see in the upcoming terms, please reach out.
  2. If you (student group, other programs, faculty member, department, etc) are interested in coordinating an event that would fall under this broad rubric, please reach out to AMAS as one option for funding and support. To be clear, events must be outward facing–speakers, workshops, etc rather than in support of individual research needs.
  3. AMAS can contribute to honoraria for speakers who visit classrooms in order to discuss topics within the AMAS scope.