Acting in Faith

Hibah Berhanu

In 1989, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality highlighting discrimination particularly experienced by Black women in the United States—an oppressive reality which Black men nor white women can truly understand. This breakthrough in anti-racist scholarship inspired deeper considerations of the nature of multifaceted identity. Over the past year, I have centered myself in a larger exploration of activism within the Muslim American community. The fusion of Western caricatures that depict “your Muslim neighbors” as immigrants of Arab or South Asian descent paired with racial and ethnic hierarchical tendencies perpetuated within Muslim institutions, amongst many other factors, have influenced the status of socio-political action by the community itself.

This research was inspired by the idea that my Habesha legacy and Black womanhood are inextricable from traditions of resistance and the Islamic tradition. From the Council on American Islamic Relations, Brother Edward Ahmed Mitchell shares the importance of a safeguard against anti-Muslim discrimination in order to support work that must be done within the community. Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer highlights an issue-oriented political culture within the United States reinforced by anti-Black racism and classism, as well as what it means for community members to challenge it. Finally, Professor Maryam Kashani contextualizes the Islamic understanding of bondage in today’s carceral state and how Believers Bail Out is directing zakat towards bailing out incarcerated community members, all while encouraging larger aspirations towards prison abolition.


Additional Reading

Believers Bail Out.” Believers Bail Out, 2020,

“CAIR At a Glance.” CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2020,

Crenshaw,Kimberlé Williams. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics [1989].” Feminist Legal Theory, 2018, pp. 57–80.

Davis, Angela Y. Are Prisons Obsolete? Seven Stories Press, 2003.

Khabeer, Su’ad Abdul. Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States. New York University Press, 2016.

Rahemtulla, Shadaab. Qur’an of the Oppressed: Liberation Theology and Gender Justice in Islam. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Project Contributors

Hibah Berhanu

Hibah Berhanu

BA Candidate, Politics

My name is Hibah Shems Berhanu! I am a third-year student from Snellville, Georgia majoring in American Politics, minoring in Sociology, and earning my Masters in Public Policy through the Batten School. My hope is that I can incorporate social justice in my post-grad work by centering on marginalized experiences in education and criminal justice policy and advocacy. Outside of class, I am active in the Muslim Institute for Leadership and Empowerment (MILE) as well as the Minority Rights Coalition (MRC).

Additional Credits

Edward Ahmed Mitchell is a is an attorney and former journalist who serves as the Deputy Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Mr. Mitchell previously served as the Executive Director of CAIR-Georgia from 2016 to 2020. During that time, the civil rights organization resolved numerous cases of anti-Muslim discrimination, opened its first office, and expanded its staff to include a paralegal, a staff attorney, legislative aides, and a communications director. He has also served as secretary of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, an editor of Atlanta Muslim, a member of the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta.

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist who uses anthropology and performance to explore the intersections of race and popular culture. Su’ad is currently an associate professor of American Culture and Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan. Her latest work, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States (NYU Press 2016), is an ethnography on Islam and hip hop that examines how intersecting ideas of Muslimness and Blackness challenge and reproduce the meanings of race in the US. Su’ad leads Sapelo Square,the first website dedicated to the comprehensive documentation and analysis of the Black US American Muslim experience.

Maryam Kashani is a filmmaker and assistant professor in gender and women’s studies and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work focuses on theories and theologies of liberation, geography, race, Islam, visual culture, and social movements. Her current project Medina by the Bay is based on ethnographic research and film making conducted among Muslim communities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. She is part of the leadership collective of Believers Bail Out,a community-led effort to bailout Muslims in pretrial and immigration incarceration towards abolition.

I would like to give a special thanks to my family and friends for their endless support and encouragement, and to the contributors for their wisdom and work. May Allah (SWT) protect and reward them all.

(Top image) Eritrean Muslim Community Club, Asmara 27 June 1946, Courtesy Martin Plaut


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