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.

Changing Forms, Challenging Norms: Poetry, Prose, and More

Marwa Helal and Malaka Gharib

May 4, 2022

The event features writers Marwa Helal and Malaka Gharib who will share from their multidisciplinary and genre-challenging work. Their performances will be followed by a brief Q&A with the moderator before opening the conversation to audience participation.  This event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost. Complete speaker bios follow.

Malaka Gharib is a writer, journalist, and cartoonist. She is the author of I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir, winner of an Arab American Book Award and named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, and the New York Public Library. By day, she works on NPR’s science desk, covering the topic of global health and development. Her comics, zines, and writing have been published in NPR, Catapult, The Seventh Wave Magazine, The Nib, The Believer, and The New Yorker. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Darren, and her dog, Sheeboo.

Marwa Helal is a poet and journalist. She is the author of Ante body (Nightboat Books, 2022), Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019), the chapbook I AM MADE TO LEAVE I AM MADE TO RETURN (No Dear, 2017) and a Belladonna chaplet (2021). Helal is the winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial 2016 Poetry Contest and has been awarded fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, New York Foundation of the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Poets House, Brooklyn Poets, and Cave Canem, among others. She has presented her work at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Studio Museum in Harlem and Brooklyn Museum.

Her work is published in the following anthologies: Bettering American Poetry 2016, Best American Experimental Writing 2018, Brooklyn Poets Anthology, Halal If You Hear Me, and BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic. She has served as editor of The Poetry Project’s Newsletter and is on the advisory board of The Offing.

Born in Al Mansurah, Egypt, Helal currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School and her BA in journalism and international studies from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Reproductive Justice, Bodily Autonomy, and Islamic Values: A Discussion with HEART

Sabreen Mohammed

November 16, 2022

HEART (Health Education, Advocacy, Research & Training) is a nationally recognized non-profit organization with a mission to advance reproductive justice and uproot gendered violence by establishing access and choice for the most impacted Muslims. Their vision is a world where all Muslims are safe and exercise self determination over their reproductive lives and thrive in the communities they live, work and pray in.

During the panel, Mohammed will provide an overview of the key reproductive justice issues that intersect with Muslim communities and offer an understanding of Islamic values such as Khilafah (Moral Agency), Hurma (Sacred Inviolability), Ridha (Fullness of Choice), and Rahma (compassion) as they relate to our reproductive justice framework.

The discussion will aim to:

  • Explore how Muslims can use their faith as a tool of empowerment with respect to decision-making about their bodies.
  • Investigate the intersectionality of American Muslims (anti-blackness, class, islamophobia, etc.) and how it affects Muslims reproductive healthcare seeking behaviors.
  • Explore the concepts of Khilafah (Moral Agency), Hurma (Sacred Inviolability), Ridha (Fullness of Choice), and Rahma (compassion) and provide HEART’s reproductive justice definition.
  • Demonstrate the ways our reproductive justice framework responds to violence against those who are most impacted in our communities.
  • Demonstrate how our reproductive justice framework can be used to safeguard bodily autonomy.
  • Connect the rise of restrictive laws that prevent individuals from exercising full bodily autonomy as a violation of reproductive rights.

How Hate Crime Laws Perpetuate Anti-Muslim Racism

Evelyn Alsultany

April 19, 2023

In this talk, Professor Evelyn Alsultany will present research from her book, Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion. Prof. Alsultany will focus on two cases in which Muslim youth were murdered yet law enforcement refused to classify the murders as hate crimes: the 2015 murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the 2017 murder of Nabra Hassanen in Reston, Virginia. Hate crime laws are intended to recognize the persistence of racism and other forms of discrimination, so why would law enforcement agencies be reluctant to label these cases of anti-Muslim violence as hate crimes? Alsultany illustrates how the denial of hate crimes contributes to the diminishment and denial of anti-Muslim racism and, as such, should be understood as a form of racial gaslighting—that is, a systematic denial of the persistence and severity of racism. In conversation with those advocating for rethinking the criminal justice system through prison abolition and restorative justice, she argues that seeking state recognition for hate crimes cannot provide justice given that the state is responsible for constructing Muslims as a national security threat.

Professor Alsultany is is a leading expert on the history of representations of Arabs and Muslims in the US. media. She is the author of Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion (NYU Press, 2022), which was listed as one of the 10 best scholarly books of 2022 by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (NYU Press, 2012). She is the co-editor of Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging (Syracuse University Press, 2011), winner of the Arab American National Museum’s Evelyn Shakir Book Award, and Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora (University of Michigan Press, 2013). Alsultany is an associate professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College. Prior to her appointment at USC, she co-founded and served as the director of the Arab and Muslim American Studies program at the University of Michigan. Professor Alsultany has served as an educator and consultant for Hollywood studios (Netflix, Amazon, NBC Universal) and co-authored criteria, the Obeidi-Alsultany Test, to help Hollywood improve representations of Muslims. She has published op-eds in The Hollywood Reporter, Time, and Newsweek.

Queer Geographies: Poetics of Identity and Place

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán and Joe Kadi

May 5, 2023

Link to watch this event is here

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán and Joe Kadi will share work on the theme of “Queer Geographies: Poetics of Identity and Place.” The reading is followed by a short moderated discussion on the topic, which includes space for audience participation.

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán is a multimedia artist, activist/organizer, critic, and educator. A Tulsa Artist Fellow and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, he is author of the poetry/photography collections, Archipiélagos; Antes y después del Bronx: Lenapehoking; and South Bronx Breathing Lessons. Bodhrán is editor of the international queer Indigenous issue of Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought; and co-editor of the Native dance/movement/performance issue of Movement Research Performance Journal. His visual art is exhibited in New York, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. His films have been shared in the U.S. and Australia. He continually works with Indigenous, womanist, and queer/trans communities of color to create compelling multimedia dance works. He organized an international womanist/queer/trans Indigenous roundtable dialogue on issues of water for Hawai‘i Review. Co-founder of the world’s first transgender film festival, he organized the first transgender people of color panel at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference & Bookfair; and the world’s first transgender Arab roundtable dialogue for Sinister Wisdom: A Multicultural Lesbian Literary & Art Journal. Among Arab publications, his work appears in Lebanon in Rusted Radishes; in Morocco in Gallimaufry; in the U.S. in Mizna; A Different Path: An Anthology of the Radius of Arab American Writers; and Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry; and in Canada in El Ghourabaa: A Queer and Trans Arab and Arabophone Anthology. He has received scholarships/fellowships from CantoMundo, Macondo, Radius of Arab American Writers, Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and Lambda Literary.

Joe Kadi is an educator, feminist activist, and lover of cats, bears, and other wild beings, he has written Thinking Class: Sketches from a Cultural Worker (South End Press, 1996) and edited the anthology Food For Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists (South End Press, 1994). He also writes regularly for Mizna: Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America and has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Sajjilu Arab American: A Reader in SWANA Studies, and Arc Poetry Magazine. He teaches in the Gender and Sexuality Studies program at University of Calgary.A transgender/queer, disabled Arab-Canadian/SWANA man, Joe lives, with gratitude and love for the land, in the ancestral and contemporary homelands of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. This region includes the Blackfoot Confederacy (the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations), as well as the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda, comprising the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations. The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

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. 

Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonization

Dr. Ashley Minner, Dr. Dana Olwan and Dr. Stephanie Nohelani Teves

November 16, 2021

The program for Arab and Muslim American Studies is hosting its first event of the academic year: Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonization. During the event, three indigenous speakers from diverse communities discuss their perspective on indigenous identity and politics, decolonization practices, and solidarity. Our speakers include Dr. Ashley Minner (Lumbee Tribe NC); Dr. Dana Olwan (Palestinian); and Dr. Stephanie Nohelani Teves (Kanaka Maoli). Complete bios follow.

Ashley Minner is a community-based visual artist from Baltimore and an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She received her MFA (’11) and MA (’07) in Community Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art, and her PhD (’20) in American Studies from University of Maryland College Park. Ashley recently worked as a professor of the practice and folklorist in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she also served as director of the minor in Public Humanities. She currently works as a curator for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American in Washington, D.C.

Dana Olwan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. Her work is located at the nexus of feminist theorizations of gender violence, transnational solidarities, and critical feminist pedagogies. She is the recipient of a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader Award from the Institute of Citizens and Scholars, a Future Minority Studies postdoctoral fellowship, and a Palestinian American Research Council grant. Her work has appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Feminist Formations, the Journal of Settler Colonial Studies, American Quarterly, and Feral Feminisms. She is co-editor with Margaret A. Pappano of Muslim Mothering: Local and Global Histories, Theories, and Practices (Demeter Press, 2016). Her first book Gender Violence and The Transnational Politics of the Honor Crime was published by Ohio State University Press in 2021. She is currently working on a new project that is centered on marriage and divorce laws and citizenship practices in the Arab world, with a specific focus on Jordan and women’s access to personal status rights. She teaches courses on feminist theory, comparative settler colonialisms, and gender politics in the Middle East and North Africa. She is co-editor (with Chandra Talpade Mohanty) of Comparative Feminist Studies from Palgrave Mcmillan.

Stephanie Nohelani Teves (Kanaka Maoli) is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where she teaches courses on Indigenous feminisms and queer theory.

She is author of Defiant Indigeneity: The Politics of Hawaiian Performance and co-editor of Native Studies Keywords. She has published articles on Hawaiian sexuality, diaspora, hip-hop, film, and feminisms in Hawaiʻi and Oceania. She has received fellowships from Yale University, the University of Oregon, and the Ford Foundation. Her articles have appeared in American Quarterly, The Drama Review, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and the International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies. She is currently co-editing a special issue of Amerasia on Ocean Feminisms and is working on a new book on the queer history of Hawai’i and an oral history project with LGBTQ kupuna (elders).

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.