by Darakhan Raja Founder and Co-Director of Justice for Muslims Collective
In the weeks after 9/11, when I was only 13 years old, I witnessed my small community of working class Muslims go through mass levels of violence.
From deportations, NYPD surveillance, increase in hate crimes, and workplace discrimination, our community was destroyed. In that crisis, it was women in the community who stepped up to fill the void that was left. They defended our community, protected us and nurtured us even though they weren’t supported. This, in spite of the fact that they had to navigate Islamophobia, xenophobia, patriarchy, and the violence specifically directed at working class women. Growing up in this community was central to forming my personal commitment to fighting Islamophobia.
My formative personal experiences propelled me to create a space for radical Muslim organizing to fight back against state violence. That’s where Justice for Muslims Collective came in, which is a space dedicated to dismantling institutional and structural Islamophobia. For Muslim women, many of whom have carried the organizing of Muslim communities forward, we have not benefited from organizations to serve as our political and nurturing homes to resist, survive, and thrive. But since February, I have been co-directing JMC full-time and have been fortunate enough to get paid for this important work. In order to sustain JMC’s work in the long-term, however, we need strong institutions and structures to tackle this well-funded and organized system of violence. That is why we are building JMC.
Pictured: Left to Right, Darakshan Raja and Maha Hilal
If you’re not already familiar with Dr. Hilal’s analysis and work, you can read more about her backgroundhere. But she has been central to building every aspect of JMC and has been directing our community defense program which includes mobilizations, political education, and Know Your Rights trainings. She has significant experience working with other human rights organizations including Witness Against Torture, Center for Victims of Torture, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition. Dr. Hilal has centered Muslims in every aspect of our work to challenge state violence in the War on Terror. Moreover, her educational background as a holder of a PhD in Justice, Law, and Society has been critical to our development of an institutionalized Islamophobia framework and analysis, and the many pillars of structural Islamophobia. We cannot fight a structure if we don’t understand it. So I’m asking you to help me bring her on to scale up our work.
In the past few months, we have organized, mobilized, and brought together groups fighting Islamophobia. I can only imagine how much more we can accomplish if Maha is hired full-time. Our work thus far has included the following:
Launched 3 programs focused on Community Defense, Healing and Wellness, and a DMV Resisting Islamophobia Alliance. We are in the process of launching a Muslim Women’s Organizing Institute and can’t wait to introduce you to our cohort of Muslim women.
We led an effort to write a solidarity statement demanding Noor Salman’s prosecution be dropped and organized signatures from over 100 civil rights, gender justice, and social justice organizations. When Noor Salman’s defense attorney reached out to us thanking us for what we did, it was a reminder of the need for our work.
Submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court against the Muslim Ban with other Muslim organizations and have co-organized numerous actions against the Muslim Ban.
Led an action outside the Senate uplifting the Muslim victims of CIA’s torture campaign during the confirmation hearing of Gina Haspel and created a social media toolkit.