Brooklyn Historical Society logo

Guide to the Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories 2018.006

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Elena Locascio

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 13, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Revised by Maggie Schreiner to reflect updated access restrictions.  , April 2019

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Brooklyn Historical Society
Creator: Ali, Zaheer
Creator: Strong, Liz H.
Creator: Kitto, Svetlana
Title: Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories
Dates [inclusive]: January 24, 2018 - January 22, 2019
Abstract: This collection includes oral histories conducted and arranged by Brooklyn Historical Society in 2018. The interviews reflect varying approaches to religious observance among Muslim Brooklynites in relation to a wide range of communities and traditions within Islam, including Sunni, Shi'i, Sufi, Nation of Islam, W. D. Mohammed community, Five Percent, Dar ul Islam, and Ansaarullah. Collectively, there is particular focus on cultural and religious customs, practices, and gender roles within these communities; education and the arts; immigration from South Asia and the Middle East; the Nation of Islam; Islamophobia in the wake of the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as well as after the 2016 presidential election; political activism and engagement; and community relations with law enforcement and government officials.
Quantity: 8.32 Gigabytes in 149 files; Running time of available interviews: 103 hours, 19 minutes, and 27 seconds. All recordings and transcripts were born-digital.
Call Phrase: 2018.006
Sponsor: This collection was processed and described with funding from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art's Building Bridges Program, the Ford Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the Nissan Foundation, the Pillars Fund, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council Members Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Brad Lander, and Rafael L. Espinal, Jr.

Return to Top »


Biographical / Historical

In 1907, a community of Lipka Tatar immigrants from Eastern Europe founded the American Mohammedan Society in Brooklyn. Over the next few decades, the borough's first mosques were established, including both the American Mohammedan Society's Brooklyn Moslem Mosque in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and the Islamic Mission of America on State Street (also known as Dawood Mosque) in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. By the second half of the twentieth century, policy changes and political volatility on the national and global stages greatly expanded the presence of Muslims in Brooklyn through large waves of both spiritual and physical migrations.

The Nation of Islam's resurgence among African Americans throughout the 1950s and 1960s was particularly strong in New York, whose Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan was home to one of the Nation of Islam's largest temples. By 1963, the Nation of Islam's New York Minister Malcolm X had opened mosques elsewhere in the city, including Mosque No. 7C (later known as Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah) in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The community underwent significant reforms following the transfer of leadership from Elijah Muhammad upon his death in 1975 to his son Warith Deen Mohammed, including a shift toward Sunni Islam tenets. These changes ultimately led to local and national rifts within the Nation of Islam, and were a catalyst for the establishment of Masjid At-Taqwa in 1981, also located in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Brooklyn's Muslim immigrant communities also experienced significant growth during that time. The American Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished quotas that favored primarily Christian countries in Europe, broadening the geographic and religious diversity among immigrants to the United States. Successive waves of immigration included greater proportions of emigrants from primarily Muslim countries in Africa and Asia, many of whom settled in Brooklyn. In the following decades, many communities blossomed, including (but not limited to) Muslim Pakistani communities in the Brighton Beach and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn, the Muslim Bangladeshi communities in the Kensington and East New York neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and interfaith Arab communities in the Midwood and Bay Ridge neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Islamophobia became more pronounced after the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Harassment, detentions, and deportations rose, and in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the New York Police Department pursued a policy of religiously-motivated surveillance of Muslim communities throughout the city. After the surveillance was revealed, the Raza v. City of New York lawsuit was filed in June 2013 on behalf of some of the Brooklyn-based individuals and institutions whose religious or social missions had been harmed by policy. The courts ultimately found in the plaintiffs' favors, requiring the city to pay damages and make significant changes to their policies surrounding surveillance of religious groups going forward.

Attacks on Muslim communities also escalated when 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on all Muslim people entering the country. After he took office, his administration crafted Executive Order 13769, and despite a series of court challenges, including the Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii allowed implementation of most of the ban. During this period, hate crimes against Muslim Americans also increased across the United States, including in Brooklyn.

The social and institutional hostility directed at many Muslim Americans throughout that period, especially during the early part of the twenty-first century, sowed significant anxiety and suspicion among many in Muslim communities. Consequent fears for their safety and security led some Muslim Americans to withdraw from public life. For others, it contributed to a surge in activism, political engagement, charitable work, advocacy, and involvement in cultural institutions. Many Muslim Brooklynites in particular were leading voices in these efforts, including Linda Sarsour's co-chairing the nationwide Women's March on Washington in 2017 for equality and Debbie Almontaser's leadership in organizing the Yemeni Bodega Strike at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2017.

Return to Top »


Scope and Contents

The Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories include interviews with narrators with roots in a number of Muslim communities in Brooklyn. These narrators reflect the diversity that is characteristic both of Brooklyn's population in general and of Muslim Brooklynites in particular: they include immigrants and their immediate descendents from different regions across all five continents as well as African Americans; represent a wide variety of approaches to their faith within several different traditions of Islam, including Sunni, Shi'i, Sufi, Nation of Islam, W. D. Mohammed community, Five Percent, Dar ul Islam, and Ansaarullah; and span in age from 24 to 74.

These narrators discuss their overall experiences in neighborhoods across Brooklyn as well as their involvement in nearly a dozen of the city's religious institutions from the mid-1960s until 2018. Collectively, many of them also emphasize their personal relationships with their Muslim faith, including the degree and approach of their observance over time; the teachings and philosophies that speak most strongly to them; the intersection between religion and cultural traditions; cultural norms and education specific to their community's tradition; and building relationships with people of other faiths. There is also significant emphasis on their encounters with Islamophobia, particularly following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001 and the United States' 2016 presidential election, as well as the social and political activism it inspired from several narrators in the collection as well as from many Muslim Americans across the country.

Arrangement

This collection was organized chronologically by interview date.

Return to Top »


Access Points

Document Type

  • Interviews (sound recordings)
  • Oral histories (document genres)
  • Transcripts

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • American Mohammedan Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Five Percent Nation
  • Islamic Mission of America (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)

Subject Topics

  • Arab Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islam and art -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and culture
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • South Asian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)

Return to Top »


Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

This collection can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of these oral histories for purposes other than private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of both Brooklyn Historical Society and the narrator. For assistance, please contact Brooklyn Historical Society at library@brooklynhistory.org.

Preferred Citation

[Narrator Last Name, Narrator First Name, Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First Name Last Name, [Month DD, YYYY], Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These oral histories were conducted by staff or consultants at the Brooklyn Historical Society in 2018.

Processing Information

Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories were processed by Elena Locascio, Oral History Project Archivist, in 2018. Interviews were processed to the item level. Due to privacy concerns, the specific birthdates of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from the digitized transcripts and audio recordings. Interviews were cataloged using Library of Congress subject headings. When Library of Congress subject headings were misaligned with narrators' self-identification, subject headings were substituted with broader terms where available.

Return to Top »


Container List

Oral History Interview with Ahmad Jaber, January 24, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Ahmad Jaber was born in 1947 in the city of Jenin in Palestine during a period of changing political boundaries. He earned a medical degree from Mosul University in Iraq in 1972. When political unrest prevented him from returning to Jenin, he practiced medicine in Jordan and then immigrated to the United States. Following successful completion of his post-graduate studies and residency, he married his wife and began a private OB/GYN practice in Brooklyn. He also maintained a strong presence in several religious and cultural institutions in Brooklyn, including co-founding the Arab American Association of New York and taking on a leadership role in the Islamic Mission of America (also known as the State Street Mosque).

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Ahmad Jaber discusses his early life, including his mother's struggle to support the family following his father's death, his immigration to the United States following Israel's occupation of the West Bank, and his medical education. He also talks extensively about the role of his faith and ethnicity in his professional life, especially regarding co-founding the Arab American Association of New York, his advocacy for a dedicated Muslim prayer room at the Lutheran Medical Center, and his efforts to support women's education and health in culturally sensitive ways. In addition, he speaks in depth about his ongoing involvement in New York's Muslim and interfaith Arab American communities, especially the Islamic Mission of America (also known as the State Street Mosque) and the New York Chapter of the National Arab American Medical Association. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Jaber, Ahmad

Subject Organizations

  • Al-Noor School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Islamic Mission of America (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Dawood (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • National Arab American Medical Association
  • NYU Lutheran Medical Center
  • State Street Mosque (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Islamic education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim physicians -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Palestinian Arabs -- West Bank
  • Religion in the workplace -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women's health services -- Religious aspects -- Islam

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jenin

Oral History Interview with Debbie Almontaser, February 10, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Debbie Almontaser was born in Yemen. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was a toddler and settled in Buffalo, New York. She married her husband and moved to the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1980. Her involvement with her child's primary school inspired her to pursue a career in education, eventually becoming the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. She also became a prolific activist, including coordinating New York City's first Arab-American Heritage Week in 2005; founding the Bridging Cultures Group, Inc. in 2015; supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign; and organizing the Yemeni Bodega Strike at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2017. Throughout her work as both an educator and an activist, she put significant focus on multicultural and interfaith partnerships, also founding and participating in a number of groups and initiatives aimed at increasing empathy across racial, ethnic, and religious lines. She earned a bachelor of the arts in English and world religions from St. Francis College in Brooklyn; a master of the sciences in multicultural education and reading from Adelphi University in Manhattan; and a doctor of education in urban education and leadership from Fordham University in the Bronx.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Debbie Almontaser discusses her Yemeni American family, including her childhood in Buffalo, New York; her marriage to her husband; and raising their children in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also talks about her career in education, including her early work as a paraprofessional and teacher for the New York City Board of Education; her collaborative efforts with the Board of Education, the New Visions for Public Schools non-profit organization, and the Arab American Family Support Center to create the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic dual language secondary school in Brooklyn; and the circumstances surrounding her resignation and subsequent community protests in her defense. She speaks at length about her relationship with her faith; experiences at the State Street Mosque in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn; and work to build interfaith relationships within her community, especially between Muslim Americans and Jewish Americans. In addition, she remembers being a teacher in Brooklyn during the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001, and elaborates extensively about subsequent increases in Islamophobia and racial profiling. Debbie Almontaser was also interviewed for this collection on May 14, 2018. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Almontaser, Debbie

Subject Organizations

  • Arab American Family Support Center, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Islamic Mission of America (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Khalil Gibran International Academy (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New Visions for Public Schools (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Board of Education
  • State Street Mosque (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • United States. Department of Education

Subject Topics

  • Arab Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hijab (Islamic clothing) -- New York (State)
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic education of children -- New York (State) -- New York (State)
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State)
  • Jewish-Arab relations
  • Muslim educators -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Public Schools -- Employees
  • Racial profiling in law enforcement -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Yemeni Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Buffalo (N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Hassan Ben Jaafar, February 12, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Hassan Ben Jaafar was born in 1962 in Fès, Morocco. He studied music under his father, following in his footsteps to become a Maâlem (master musician). After coming to New York in 2000, he collaborated with a wide variety of musicians, performing both individually and with his band, Innov Gnawa.

Scope and Contents

Hassan Ben Jaafar discusses his early life in Morocco, especially regarding his culture and his musical education through his father's school. He also speaks about coming to New York City, especially to the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He expands on his musical influences; performances in a variety of venues across New York City, and work with his band, Innov Gnawa. He also talks about his memories of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001; surviving a house fire; being robbed while working at a store; and involvement in Masjid Farooq in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. This interview includes extensive conversation in Moroccan Darija. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Ben Jaafar, Hassan

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Al-Farooq (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Arabic language -- Dialects -- Morocco
  • Gnawa (African people)
  • Moroccans
  • Music -- Moroccan influences
  • Performing arts
  • Robbery -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

Subject Places

  • Boerum Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fès (Morocco)
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Ferial Masoud, February 13, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Ferial Masoud was born in 1950 in the city of Jerusalem during a period of changing political boundaries. She immigrated to the United States after marrying her husband in 1972. After settling in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, they owned a series of small businesses, the most notable of which is the Balady Halal Market.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Ferial Masoud shares her memories of growing up in Jerusalem, including the detrimental impact the Six-Day War had on her safety and the broader culture of Jerusalem. She also speaks about her marriage to her husband, her feelings of isolation following her immigration to the United States, and her efforts to maintain her American-born children's link to their culture. In addition, she talks extensively about her husband's small businesses in Brooklyn, especially the Balady Halal Market, and their family's work to make the businesses successful. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Masoud, Ferial

Subject Organizations

  • Balady Halal Market (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Americanization
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Grocery trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrant business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Palestinian Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Small businesses -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jerusalem

Oral History Interview with Asad Dandia, February 16, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Asad Dandia was born in 1992 in Brooklyn, and was raised by his Pakistani family in the Brighton Beach neighorhood of Brooklyn. While attending Brooklyn College as an undergraduate, he co-founded the nonprofit charity Muslims Giving Back. Over the course of the next several years, he became involved with a number of other activist and religious organizations, including Make the Road New York and the Center for Spiritual Life at New York University (NYU). In 2013, Dandia joined the Raza v. City of New York class action lawsuit that successfully sued the New York City Police Department for its prejudicial surveillance of Muslim communities, including Muslims Giving Back.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Asad Dandia discusses his experiences growing up in a close-knit Pakistani American community in Brighton Beach, including his involvement in a local mosque. He also talks about his involvement in the volunteer-based Muslims Giving Back charity, the negative impact the New York City Police Department's religiously-motivated surveillance had on Muslim communities throughout the city, and his participation in the resulting class action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility at the CUNY School of Law. In addition, he speaks about his college experiences and involvement in other activist organizations, including a strong focus on both his religious convictions as a Muslim and affinity for interfaith groups and ideas. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Rahman, Shamiur

Subject Organizations

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility. City University of New York
  • Global Spiritual Life (New York University)
  • Islamic Center (New York University)
  • Masjid Omar (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslims Giving Back (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Class actions (Civil procedure) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Faith-based human services -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Pakistani Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Racial profiling in law enforcement -- New York (State) -- New York
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brighton Beach (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Siraj Wahhaj, February 19, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Siraj Wahhaj was born in 1950 in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1969 and became the imam of Masjid Muhammad 7C in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1976. Two years later, he studied with the Muslim World League in Chicago, Illinois and at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He founded Masjid At-Taqwa in 1981, and purchased a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant to house the mosque the following year. As the imam of Masjid At-Taqwa, he coordinated successful efforts to reduce crime in the area, especially through anti-drug patrols in January of 1988, and also emphasized significant community outreach. He was the first Muslim to give an opening prayer for the United States House of Representatives in 1991, and in 2004, he founded the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) to advocate for Muslim Americans' needs and civil rights. He also served on the city's Majils As-Shura Islamic Leadership Council of New York, campaigned for New York City public schools to formally recognize Muslim Eid holidays, and represented Masjid At-Taqwa in the Raza v. City of New York lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for religiously-motivated surveillance.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Siraj Wahhaj discusses the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on his feelings about nonviolent protests; his exploration of the Nation of Islam as a young adult; his attendance and activities at the Nation of Islam's Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn; and his experiences with Louis Farrakhan, Warith Deen Mohammed, and other leaders of the movement. He elaborates about becoming the imam of Muhammad Mosque No. 7C after it was renamed Masjid Muhammad 7C; studying Islam in Illinois and Saudi Arabia; the circumstances of his leaving Masjid Muhammad 7C; and his founding Masjid At-Taqwa in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He also speaks extensively about the anti-drug patrols he coordinated at Masjid At-Taqwa, his experiences with local law and federal enforcement, and the importance of integrating Islam into American culture as a mainstream religion. In addition, he touches on his family, childhood, and early education. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Elijah Muhammad, 1897-1975
  • Farrakhan, Louis
  • Muhammad, Warith Deen, 1933-2008
  • Wahhaj, Siraj

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Muhammad 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community policing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Imams (Mosque officers) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim converts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Abdul Rasheed Abdullah, March 10, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Abdul Rasheed Abdullah was born in 1952 in Brooklyn. He joined the Nation of Islam and married his wife in the 1970s, and was involved in Muslim communities in both Queens and Brooklyn. In 1984, his son received a scholarship to study in Sudan through the Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya school in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The family relocated and Abdullah spent his time in Sudan studying Sufism. After returning to New York, he taught as a licensed Sufi shaikh in a zawiyah in Brooklyn. He also attended Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah and Masjid At-Taqwa, both in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, and was the head of the Islamic studies department at Masjid Khalifah's Clara Muhammad School.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Abdul Rasheed Abdullah discusses his childhood in Brooklyn and Queens, his exposure to the Five Percent Nation as an adolescent, and his embrace of the Nation of Islam while serving an eighteen-month prison sentence. He speaks about his participation in the Nation of Islam-affiliated Muhammad Mosque No. 7B in the Corona neighborhood of Queens and Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn; his reaction to Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975; and his subsequent exploration of Masjid At-Taqwa in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Yasin Masjid in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. He expands on studying Sufism in Sudan and teaching as a licensed Sufi shaikh after his return to New York. He also talks at length about his wife's religious convictions and support; his father's embrace of Islam; and his friendship with Imam Siraj Wahhaj (interviewed for this collection on February 19, 2018). Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Abdullah, Abdul Rasheed
  • Wahhaj, Siraj

Subject Organizations

  • American Muslim Mission
  • Five Percent Nation
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7B (Queens, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
  • World Community of al-Islam in the West
  • Yasin Masjid (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Black power -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- 20th century
  • Islamic religious education
  • Mosques -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim educators
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Prisoners -- Religious life -- United States
  • Religious education of children -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Spirituality -- Muslims
  • Sufism

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Corona (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sudan

Oral History Interview with Zein Rimawi, March 13, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Zein Rimawi was born in 1954 near the city of Jerusalem during a period of changing political boundaries. After studying engineering in Lebanon and East Germany, he immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s. He settled in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn and he co-founded both the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and the Al-Noor School, the latter of which his children attended.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Zein Rimawi discusses growing up in a village near Jerusalem, studying engineering in East Germany, and then immigrating to the United States. He addresses his personal experiences with cultural assimilation in East Germany and in the United States, and also speaks extensively about the importance of voting and political activism within his community. In addition, he touches on the value of interfaith celebrations, his relationships with his children, and his personal philosophy regarding work and charity. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • El-Yateem, Khader
  • Rimawi, Zein

Subject Organizations

  • Al-Noor School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Islamic Center of Bay Ridge (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Israel-Arab War, 1967
  • Muslims -- Suffrage -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Palestinian Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Germany (East)
  • Israel
  • Palestine

Oral History Interview with Amer Abdelrasoul, March 20, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Amer Abdelrasoul was born in 1991 in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended the Al-Noor School before moving to Palestine for high school. After returning to Brooklyn, he married his wife and co-founded the Freedom Dabka Group, which performs the traditional Arab dabka folk dance.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Amer Abdelrasoul discusses his experiences growing up as a Palestinian American, including attending elementary school at the Al-Noor School in Brooklyn and high school in Palestine. He also talks extensively about his involvement in dabka dance, especially regarding his founding of and continued involvement with the Freedom Dabka Group. In addition, he touches on his cultural and religious values, his arranged marriage to his wife, and the conflict he feels between traditional Muslim teachings and his passion for dance. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Abdelrasoul, Amer

Subject Organizations

  • Al-Noor School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Freedom Dabka Group

Subject Topics

  • Arranged marriage -- United States
  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Folk dancing, Arab -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam and the performing arts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Palestinian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel
  • Palestine

Oral History Interview with Mohammad Razvi, March 21, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Mohammad Razvi was born in 1971 in Pakistan. He immigrated to the United States as a small child in the late 1970s, and his family settled in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn. He started several businesses in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn following his marriage to his wife, and founded the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. Through COPO, engagement with law enforcement agencies, and participation in research regarding hate crimes, he worked to provide support to Muslim and immigrant communities.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mohammad Razvi discusses his upbringing in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, with particular emphasis on the role his family-owned businesses in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn have played in providing support to the local Pakistani community. He talks about founding Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) to protect immigrant and Muslim communities from harassment, arrests, and deportation following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. He also elaborates about his work with law enforcement agencies to improve their approach to communities COPO serves and his research about hate crimes. In addition, he speaks about his childhood friendships, his marriage to his wife, and the importance of interfaith and multicultural friendships in both his personal and professional lives. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Razvi, Mohammad

Subject Organizations

  • Council of Peoples Organization (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department
  • Punjab Grocery and Deli (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation

Subject Topics

  • Bullying -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Cultural competence -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Faith-based human services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Grocery trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hate crimes -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hurricane Sandy, 2012
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Pakistani Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racial profiling in law enforcement -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Midwood (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sheepshead Bay (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Zeinab Bader, March 23, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Zeinab Bader was born in 1956 in Tyre, Lebanon, and immigrated to the United States with her husband and infant daughter in 1980. After settling in New York, she volunteered for several years as a teacher in an Arabic school run by the Palestinian Women's Association of New York. She resigned from the position in 1991 and spent several years raising her children, and then pursued work as a health insurance specialist. She also served on the board of Arab American Association of New York and organized their Mother's Day celebrations for several years.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Zeinab Bader discusses her upbringing in Lebanon, touching on her family's religious convictions and her sister's death in childbirth. She elaborates broadly on the impact of the Lebanese Civil War on her family, including the deaths of two of her brothers, threats to her own safety, and its role in her family accepting her betrothal to her Palestinian husband. She also speaks about her immigration to the United States, raising her five children in Brooklyn, and her involvement in their religious and secular educations. She talks about her own work to empower Arab American women, especially through civic activism, access to family and mental health care, and special events. In addition, she addresses her own religious convictions and practices, battle with breast cancer, and involvement in the Arab American Association of New York. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Bader, Zeinab

Subject Organizations

  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Child Health Plus B (N.Y.)
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • NYU Lutheran Medical Center
  • Palestinian Women's Association (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Child health insurance -- New York (State)
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interethnic marriage -- Lebanon
  • Islamic religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Lebanese -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Lebanon -- History -- Civil War, 1975-1990
  • Mother's Day -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslims -- Suffrage -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women's health services -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Tyre (Lebanon)

Oral History Interview with Sarah Aly, April 5, 2018

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is restricted.

Oral History Interview with Marion Sedorowitz, April 11, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Marion Sedorowitz was born in 1954 in Brooklyn and was raised in Hauppauge, New York. As a child, she attended the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, which had been founded by her Tatar community following their immigration from Eastern Europe throughout the early 1900s. She briefly worked as a pharmacist after earning a bachelor and a master's degree in pharmacy from St. John's University in Queens, and then went on to become a consultant for the creation and management of electronic medical records. As an adult, she also became involved in the management of the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque, including serving as treasurer on the board with her niece, Alyssa Haughwout (interviewed for this collection on April 25, 2018) and planning the mosque's centennial celebration.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Marion Sedorowitz discusses her family, especially regarding their traditional Tatar cooking, immigration to the United States, religious traditions, and involvement with the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. She expands on her own experiences with the mosque, including her successful efforts to remove the curtain preventing women from seeing the imam during prayers, her organization of the centennial celebration, and generational friction within the board about modernized outreach and records-keeping. In addition, she talks about her childhood experiences in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, work in the medical field, and concerns about Islamophobia. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Haughwout, Alyssa
  • Sedorowitz, Marion

Subject Organizations

  • American Mohammedan Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Moslem Mosque (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Cooking, Tatar -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Special events -- Planning -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tatars -- History
  • Tatars -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Technology and older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Jo Ann Benoit, April 14, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Jo Ann Benoit was born in 1975 in Brooklyn. She spent most of her childhood being raised by her grandmother in Haiti, with regular trips to visit her mother in Brooklyn. She moved back to Brooklyn permanently following the 1991 Haitian coup d'état, where she completed her last two years of high school. While attending Pace University in Manhattan, she worked as an interpretor and English language teacher for Haitian refugees. Her passion for education continued throughout her adulthood, leading her to work as both a teacher and a school administrator. Coursework for one of her graduate degrees in education inspired her initial interest in Islam, which she embraced in 1999.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Jo Ann Benoit discusses her childhood, including growing up in Haiti, attending a Catholic school there, and moving to Brooklyn as a teenager. She also talks about her passion for education and community activism, especially regarding her work as an English language teacher, interpreter, and school administrator. She elaborates about her Muslim faith, including her initial exposure to Islam through graduate level coursework, embracing Islam, observance of Muslim customs and traditions, and raising two children in an interfaith marriage. In addition, she speaks about having her portrait taken for an article in Essence Magazine. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Catholic schools -- Haiti
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Haitian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interfaith families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Refugees -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Haiti

Oral History Interview with Shahana Hanif, April 17, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Shahana Hanif was born in 1991 in Brooklyn. She was raised in the Bangladeshi community in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. After a health crisis as a teenager led to a diagnosis of lupus, she went on to earn a bachelor's degree in women's and gender studies from Brooklyn College. While there, she became involved in intersectional activism and community organizing, especially with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) and Naree Shongothok: Bangladeshi Women Organizing for Social Change. She also worked as Director of Organizing and Community Engagement for New York City council member Brad Lander.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Shahana Hanif discusses growing up in a Bangladeshi American family in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, including her relationship with her sister, the impact strict gender roles had on their religious educations and social lives, receiving a diagnosis of lupus as a teenager, and her subsequent navigation of health and accessibility limitations. She also talks about her exploration of intersectionality and activism in college, especially regarding her disability, religion, and race. In addition, she speaks about internet activism and specific organizations and causes she became involved in, especially Naree O Shongothok, the Muslim Writers Collective, the Kensington Stewards, and a local ladies' club. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Hanif, Shahana
  • Lander, Brad

Subject Organizations

  • Church Avenue Merchants Block Association, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Global Spiritual Life (New York University)
  • Kensington Stewards (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslim Student Association (Brooklyn College)
  • Muslim Writers Collective
  • Naree O Shongothok: Bangladeshi Women Organizing for Social Change
  • The Kensington Family Shelter (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshi Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Health services accessibility -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Internet and activism
  • Intersectionality (Sociology)
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Lupus -- Patients -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • People with disabilities -- Political activity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shelters for the homeless -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Alyssa Haughwout, April 25, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Alyssa Haughwout was born in 1984 in Queens and raised in Long Island. Her family frequently traveled into the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn throughout her childhood to attend their Tatar community's Brooklyn Moslem Mosque, which had been founded following the group's immigration from Eastern Europe throughout the early 1900s. She first served on the mosque's board with her aunt, Marion Sedorowitz (interviewed for this collection on April 11, 2018) while working toward a master's degree in art and design education from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She eventually became the board's vice president as well as the caretaker of the mosque.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Alyssa Haughwout discusses her community's Tatar heritage and Muslim faith, especially regarding their founding of the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque in 1907, unique language and religious practices, concerns about assimilation, and recent shifts from their traditional handling of gender roles. She also talks about her own relationship with her Muslim identity, including her deeper exploration of Islam in college, work as caretaker of the mosque's building and historical artifacts, concerns about Islamophobia, and experiences as a white Muslim woman. In addition, she touches on generational friction within the board over modernization of the mosque, her family's deep roots in the community, and her appreciation of interfaith celebrations. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Haughwout, Alyssa
  • Sedorowitz, Marion

Subject Organizations

  • American Mohammedan Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Moslem Mosque (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Building management -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim women -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ramadan -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tatar Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tatar language -- Dialects
  • Technology and older people -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Abdul Rehman, May 3, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Abdul Rehman was born in 1944 near Mirpur, Kashmir. He earned a medical degree from Dow Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan. After immigrating to the United States in 1968, he completed his internship at Evangelical Deaconess Hospital in Detroit, Michigan and his residency at Brooklyn Hospital Center in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. He practiced internal medicine in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and took on leadership roles within Brooklyn's medical community, including serving as president of the Medical Society of the County of Kings.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Abdul Rehman describes growing up near Mirpur, Kashmir (also considered part of Pakistan), particularly regarding his family and medical education. He expands on his immigration to the United States; settling in Detroit, Michigan and Brooklyn, New York; and growth of Brooklyn's Muslim communities since he arrived. He speaks extensively about practicing medicine in Pakistan, Michigan, and Brooklyn; his research on sickle cell anemia; and his tenure as president of the Medical Society of the County of Kings. He also talks about his marriage to his wife and recites an excerpt of original Urdu poetry. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Rehman, Abdul

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Hospital Center (Fort Greene, New York, N.Y.)
  • Evangelical Deaconess Hospital (Detroit, Mich.)
  • Medical Society of the County of Kings (Kings County, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Immigrants -- United States
  • Kashmiri (South Asian people)
  • Marriage -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Medical education
  • Muslim physicians -- United States
  • Religion in the workplace -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Urdu poetry

Subject Places

  • Azad Kashmir (Pakistan)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Detroit (Mich.)
  • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
  • Karachi (Pakistan)
  • Pakistan -- Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Mohammed Hashem, May 10, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Mohammed Hashem was born in 1957 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). He immigrated to the United States as a young man and settled in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. He pursued work in the construction industry, eventually starting his own company. He also co-founded the Bangladesh Muslim Center and Islamic School, where he served as the board's treasurer, secretary, and president.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mohammed Hashem discusses his experiences with the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn's Bangladeshi community, including his co-founding and continued involvement with the growing Bangladesh Muslim Center and Islamic School; the benefits of the community's positive relationships with other local religious groups, elected officials, and law enforcement; and the role of traditional food in facilitating social relationships. He also speaks about his immediate and extended family, many of whom have also settled in Kensington. In addition, Hashem talks about the social and political state of modern Bangladesh as well as his memories of living in Bangladesh during the Bangladesh Independence War in 1971. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Hashem, Mohammed

Subject Organizations

  • Bangladesh Muslim Center and Islamic School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh -- History -- Revolution, 1971
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Debbie Almontaser, May 14, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Debbie Almontaser was born in Yemen. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was a toddler and settled in Buffalo, New York. She married her husband and moved to the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1980. Her involvement with her child's primary school inspired her to pursue a career in education, eventually becoming the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. She also became a prolific activist, including coordinating New York City's first Arab-American Heritage Week in 2005; founding the Bridging Cultures Group, Inc. in 2015; supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign; and organizing the Yemeni Bodega Strike at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2017. Throughout her work as both an educator and an activist, she put significant focus on multicultural and interfaith partnerships, also founding and participating in a number of groups and initiatives aimed at increasing empathy across racial, ethnic, and religious lines. She earned a bachelor of the arts in English and world religions from St. Francis College in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn; a master of the sciences in multicultural education and reading from Adelphi University in Manhattan; and a doctor of education in urban education and leadership from Fordham University in the Bronx.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Debbie Almontaser discusses the aftermath of her resignation as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, including successfully suing the city for violating her right to free speech and discriminating against her for her Muslim faith and Arab heritage; experiencing a subsequent outpouring of community support; and successfully defending herself against a retaliatory lawsuit by the city alleging defamation. She also speaks about the 2016 presidential election, especially regarding her support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; her speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and her community's reaction to Republican nominee Donald Trump's victory. In addition, she elaborates at length about increased activism among Yemeni New Yorkers in the wake of the Trump administration's Executive Order 13769 (colloquially known as "the Muslim ban"), including coordinating the Yemeni Bodega Strike with businessman Zaid Nagi at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2017 and serving as board secretary with the Yemeni American Merchants Association. Debbie Almontaser was also interviewed on February 10, 2018 for this collection. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Almontaser, Debbie
  • Nagi, Zaid

Subject Organizations

  • Yemeni American Merchants Association (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Board of Education

Subject Topics

  • Actions and defenses -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Demonstrations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish-Arab relations
  • Muslim Americans -- Press coverage
  • Patriotism -- United States
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Yemeni Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Yemeni Bodega Strike (2017)

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Syeda Akter, May 22, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Syeda Akter was born in 1965 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). She immigrated to the United States to join her husband after their marriage. They initially settled in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, and then moved to the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn to raise their family. She co-founded the Brooklyn chapter of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), an activist organization aimed at empowering South Asian New Yorkers, became involved in a local ladies' club, and also spent many years working for small medical practices doing both office work and basic medical procedures.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Syeda Akter discusses her upbringing in Bangladesh, following her husband to the United States, and her entry into the medical field. She also speaks about working while being her children's primary caregiver, her commitment to her children's education, and friction over her personal thoughts on religious teachings. In addition, she talks about her friendship with Annie Ferdous (interviewed on May 25, 2018 for this collection), their involvement with a local ladies' club, and co-founding the South-Asian and Indo-Caribbean-led Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM). Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Akter, Syeda
  • Ferdous, Annie

Subject Organizations

  • Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts (Queens, New York, N.Y.)
  • Desis Rising Up and Moving (Queens, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Arranged marriage -- Bangladesh
  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic education of children -- New York (State) -- New York (State)
  • Medical assistants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Bangladesh
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Annie Ferdous, May 25, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Annie Ferdous was born in 1959 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). She had a strong foundation in both education and dance from an early age, ultimately earning a master's degree in political science from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh and performing on stage in Bangladesh, England, and the United States. She immigrated to the United States with her husband shortly after their marriage. They settled in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, where she founded the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts and became involved in a local ladies' club.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Annie Ferdous discusses her upbringing in Bangladesh, her parents' marriage, and her early relationship with her husband. She also talks at length about her lifelong involvement in dance and the fine arts, including both her personal passion and the role they play in maintaining younger generations of Bengali Americans' connection to their cultural and religious heritage. In addition, she speaks about her involvement in the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts and local community groups, as well as her desire to see more women in her community become socially engaged outside the home. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Ferdous, Annie

Subject Organizations

  • Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts (Queens, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- Cultural assimilation
  • Folk dancing, Bangladeshi
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam and the performing arts
  • Islamic education of children -- New York (State) -- New York (State)
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Dhaka (Bangladesh)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Idris Conry, June 21, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Idris Conry was born in 1952 in Brooklyn. He graduated from Boys' High School in Brooklyn and briefly played football for Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina before earning his bachelor of the arts in African American studies from John Jay College in Manhattan. He and his wife both embraced Islam in the 1970s and worshipped first at Masjid Ikhwa in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and then at Masjid At-Taqwa in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In 2001, he opened Abu Baker's Bakery (now known as Abu's Homestyle Bakery) next door to Masjid At-Taqwa. The bakery is currently managed by his son, Idris Braithwaite (interviewed for this collection on July 7, 2018).

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Idris Conry discusses his family, his education at Boys High School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, and his semester-long scholarship to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. He talks extensively about his Muslim faith and identity, including his initial exposure to the religion through his Muslim stepfather, his decision to embrace Islam, and his perspective on cultural traditions within the Muslim African American community. He also elaborates on his experiences at specific mosques, especially regarding Imam Khalid Yasin's leadership at Masjid Ikhwa in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and community policing efforts by Masjid At-Taqwa in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In addition, he speaks about opening Abu Baker's Bakery (now known as Abu's Homestyle Bakery) next door to Masjid At-Taqwa, the bakery's focus on bean pies and their significance to the Muslim African American community, and future plans for the bakery. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Braithwaite, Idris
  • Conry, Idris
  • Yasin, Khalid

Subject Organizations

  • Abu's Homestyle Bakery (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Bears Football Team (Shaw University)
  • Boys' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Ikhwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American college athletes -- United States
  • African American cooking
  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African American universities and college -- North Carolina -- Raleigh
  • Bakeries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community policing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic education of children -- New York (State) -- New York (State)
  • Music -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Idris Braithwaite, July 7, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Idris Braithwaite was born in 1971 in Brooklyn. He had a strong interest in dance and music from a young age, including attending his father's music rehearsals and working as a DJ. As an adult, he served on the Bedford-Stuyvesant Gateway Business Improvement District Board, founded the non-profit Aunt and Uncle Youth Employment Services, and took over management of Abu's Homestyle Bakery (originally known as Abu Baker's Bakery) in 2011 from his father, Idris Conry (interviewed for this collection on June 21, 2018).

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Idris Braithwaite discusses his childhood in Brooklyn, being raised in a Muslim household following his parents' conversion to Islam from Christianity, and his approach to educating his own children about Islam. He also talks about his relationship with his African American and Muslim identities, including the distinction he draws between Muslim beliefs and Arab culture. In addition, he speaks extensively about his father's founding of Abu Baker's Bakery (now known as Abu's Homestyle Bakery) in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2001 and his own management of the bakery starting in 2011, especially regarding the bakery's focus on bean pies and their significance to the Muslim African American community. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Braithwaite, Idris
  • Conry, Idris

Subject Organizations

  • Abu's Homestyle Bakery (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American cooking
  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Bakeries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Clothing and dress -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic religious education
  • Music -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and ethics
  • Small business marketing -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Oral History Interview with Wazina Zondon, August 2, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Wazina Zondon was born in 1982 in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. She began working as a sexuality educator while attending the State University of New York at New Paltz. She continued her work in the field after graduating, including with the Planned Parenthood in Newburgh, New York; the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York City; and the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women in the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also co-wrote and performed the series Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love, which was inspired by her experiences as a queer Muslim woman.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Wazina Zondon discusses her family, growing up in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, and attending the State University of New York at New Paltz for college. She speaks extensively about her identity as a Muslim Afghan queer woman; her work with Terna Tilley-Gyado on their performance series Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love; and their collaboration on the project with musician Alsarah Abunama-Elgadi (interviewed for this collection on August 31, 2018). She also talks about working as a sex educator, especially in New York City public schools; moving to the Crown Heights and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn; and her concerns about gentrification. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Alsarah
  • Tilley-Gyado, Terna
  • Zondon, Wazina

Subject Organizations

  • Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love
  • State University of New York at New Paltz

Subject Topics

  • Afghan Americans -- New York (State)
  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Queens
  • Coming out (Sexual orientation)
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State)
  • Feminism
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam and the performing arts
  • Muslim educators -- New York (State)
  • Muslim families -- New York (State) -- Queens
  • Queer culture
  • Queer identity
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Religion and culture
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State)
  • Sex educators -- New York (State)
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flushing (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Fahiym Abdul-Wasi, August 7, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Fahiym Abdul-Wasi was born in 1973 in New York City. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn. He explored different Muslim traditions throughout his teenage and adult years, including the Five Percent Nation, the Ansaaru Allah Community, the Nation of Islam, and Sufism. His work as a hip-hop journalist was featured in a variety of publications and he served as the editor-in-chief of the music magazine The Source under the byline Joshua Fahiym Ratcliffe.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Fahiym Abdul-Wasi discusses his childhood in Brooklyn, his education, and his social life. He speaks at length about his experiences with religion, including his involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses as a child and his exploration of different traditions of Islam, including the Five Percent Nation, the Ansaaru Allah Community, the Nation of Islam, and Sufism. He expands on his memories of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and the police standoff that occurred there in 1994. He also talks extensively about his work as a hip-hop journalist, particularly with regards to the music magazine The Source. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Abdul-Wasi, Fahiym

Subject Organizations

  • Five Percent Nation
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7 (New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
  • The Source (Magazine)

Subject Topics

  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Hip-hop -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interfaith families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Jehovah's Witnesses -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Journalists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslims converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslims, Black -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Nuwaubian movement -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Rap (Music) -- Periodicals
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sufism

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Nsenga Knight, August 7, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Nsenga Knight was born in 1981 in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a child, her family attended mosques in the nearby Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, including both Masjid At-Taqwa and Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah. As an adult, she became active in New York's fine arts community, creating both exhibitions and performances that explore various facets of her identity as a Black and Muslim woman in the United States. Her formal education included both a bachelor of the fine arts from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a master of the fine arts from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She moved to Egypt in 2017.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Nsenga Knight remembers her childhood experiences with Islam, including attending Masjid At-Taqwa and Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah, both in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn; learning martial arts at a local academy run by members of the Nation of Islam; celebrating Eids in Prospect Park; and her mother's conversion to Islam. She also speaks about the value placed on physical strength within her African American Muslim communities. In addition, she extensively discusses her involvement in the arts, especially regarding her performance art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, exhibitions done with the She Shootin' Photography Collective, and memories of her broader friend group of Muslim artists and scholars. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Knight, Nsenga

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • She Shootin' Photography Collective (New York, N.Y.)
  • University of Pennsylvania. School of Design
  • When Worlds Collide (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Artists, Black -- United States
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Food -- Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • ʻĪd al-Aḍḥā -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • ʻĪd al-Fiṭr -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islam and art -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Martial arts -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Muslim artists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslims, Black -- United States
  • Performance art -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
  • Self-defense -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Women artists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Rodney Adib Rashid, August 14, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Rodney Adib Rashid was born in 1955 in Christiansted, United States Virgin Islands. His family moved to Brooklyn two years later. He embraced the Nation of Islam in the early 1970s and adopted Warith Deen Mohammed's reforms to the tradition following Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975. He attended Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1980s, becoming the mosque's imam in 1989. Under his leadership, the mosque emphasized community outreach and education, including holding Eids in Prospect Park; improving the safety of the neighborhood around Masjid Khalifah; and opening the Clara Muhammad of Masjid Khalifah school, which was run by his wife Darlene Bashir (interviewed for this collection on September 10, 2018).

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Rodney Adib Rashid discusses growing up on the island of Saint Croix in the United States Virgin Islands and in New York City. He mentions getting in trouble with the law as a teenager in New York and speaks at length about about his exploration of Islam while incarcerated, particularly regarding his interactions with other Muslim prisoners and involvement in the Nation of Islam. He elaborates on his continued study of Warith Deen Mohammed's teachings after his release, especially as imam of Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. He also talks about Masjid Khalifah's history, its growth in the thirty years that he has been its imam, his hopes for the mosque's future, and the ongoing gentrification of Bedford-Stuyvesant. He also touches on his first marriage and his life immediately after being released from prison. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Rashid, Rodney Adib

Subject Organizations

  • American Muslim Mission
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
  • World Community of al-Islam in the West

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Feasts and Fasts -- Islam
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Imams (Mosque officers) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic religious education -- United States
  • Muslim converts -- United States
  • Prisoners -- Religious life -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Croix (United States Virgin Islands)

Oral History Interview with Shafaiat Ali, August 27, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Shafaiat Ali was born in 1948 in Trinidad and Tobago. He immigrated to the United States in 1968 and settled in Brooklyn. He married his wife, who also emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago, in 1971. They opened Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the late 1970s. They have since expanded the restaurant, which was one of the first in Brooklyn to serve Caribbean halal food.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Shafaiat Ali discusses his family, his immigration to the United States, and his marriage to his wife. He speaks at length about his ownership of Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, the restaurant's strong focus on Caribbean food, and community support for the restaurant. He also talks about changes in Bedford-Stuyvesant since he opened the shop in the 1970s, including the development of Fulton Street's commercial businesses and efforts by members of the nearby Masjid At-Taqwa to reduce crime in neighborhood in the late 1980s. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Ali, Shafaiat

Subject Organizations

  • Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Community policing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cooking, Trinidadian
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Halal food -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Trinidadians -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • West Indian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Beatrice Sabir, August 28, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Beatrice Sabir was born in 1947 in Sumter, South Carolina. She moved to New York City as a young adult and joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. She worked in the Nation of Islam-affiliated Shabazz Restaurant in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan before opening Neighborhood Bakery with her husband in 1972 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The bakery's market grew to include contracts with correctional facilities; accounts with local grocery stores, delis, and restaurants; and catering for cultural events. She also served on the board of directors of Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Beatrice Sabir discusses her childhood in South Carolina and Boston. She speaks on her exposure to Islam as a child, joining the Nation of Islam as a young adult, and her memories of Black Family Day on Randall's Island in 1972. She expands on her ongoing involvement with Muhammad Mosque No. 7C (later known as Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah) in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, including participating in Muslim Girls Training - General Civilization Class (MGT-GCC) as a young woman. She also talks at length about opening Neighborhood Bakery with her husband, including the bakery's transition from retail to wholesale and its emphasis on the bean pie. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Sabir, Beatrice

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Muhammad 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Neighborhood Bakery (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American cooking
  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Bakeries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Social aspects
  • Grocery trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Martial arts -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Muslim converts -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Salima Malik Ahmed, August 30, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Salima Malik Ahmed was born in 1959 in Wah Cantonment, Pakistan. She worked as a teacher on a nearby Air Force base until marrying her husband in 1985. She immigrated to the United States shortly after their marriage, spending a few years in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens before eventually settling in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. She raised her children in the Ahmadiyya community centered around the nearby Masjid Bait ul Tahir, where she also taught religious classes.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Salima Malik Ahmed discusses growing up in Wah Cantonment, Pakistan, including her family, their Ahmadiyya Muslim faith, and her arranged marriage to her husband. She expands on their immigration to the United States, her memories of the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, and raising her children in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also speaks at length about her involvement with Masjid Bait Ul Tahir, an Ahmadiyya mosque in Bensonhurst. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Ahmed, Salima Malik

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Bait ul Tahir (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Ahmadiyya
  • Arranged marriage -- Pakistan
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Muslim families
  • Religion and culture -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jackson Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Punjab (Pakistan)

Oral History Interview with Alsarah Abunama-Elgadi, August 31, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Alsarah Abunama-Elgadi was born in 1982 in Khartoum, Sudan. Her family fled political persecution in 1991 and spent several years living in Yemen before immigrating to the United States in 1994. They settled in Amherst, Massachusetts. After earning her undergraduate degree in music from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, she moved to New York City to pursue singing professionally. She started the band Alsarah and the Nubatones in 2010; they released the albums Silt in 2014 and Manara in 2016. She also released the solo album Aljawal in 2013 and was featured in several other albums, including the Nile Project's Aswan in 2013.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Alsarah Abunama-Elgadi discusses her childhood in Sudan, including her parents' political activism; her father's imprisonment following the 1989 Sudanese coup d'état; and the family immigrating first to Yemen and then to the United States. She speaks on her experiences attending school in Amherst, Massachusetts as well as studying ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She expands on her musical background and career, especially regarding her band, Alsarah and the Nubatones; recording their albums, Silt and  Manara; and her connection to Nubian music. She touches on her collaboration on  Coming Out Brooklyn: Radical Acts of Self-Love by Wazina Zondon (interviewed for this collection on August 2, 2018). She also talks about her relocation to the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn after college; her cultural and religious connections to Islam; and her memories of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Alsarah
  • El-Aasser, Rami
  • Manoukian, Haig
  • Zondon, Wazina

Subject Organizations

  • Alsarah and the Nubatones
  • Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.)

Subject Topics

  • Africa -- Colonization
  • Bands (Music) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnomusicologists
  • Immigrants -- United States
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Mawlid al-Nabī -- Sudan
  • Music -- African influences
  • Music -- Performance
  • Muslim families
  • Political activists -- Sudan
  • Political violence -- Sudan -- History -- 20th century
  • Racism
  • Religion and culture -- Sudan
  • Sound recordings -- United States
  • Sudan -- History -- Civil War, 1983-2005
  • Sudanese
  • Sudanese musicians

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Khartoum (Sudan)

Oral History Interview with Rabia Ahsin, September 1, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Rabia Ahsin was born in 1991 in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. While studying political science at Brooklyn College as an undergraduate student, she joined the school's Islamic Society of Brooklyn College as well as with the Muslim Women's Educational Initiative, both of which were targeted by the New York City Police Department for religiously-motivated surveillance by an undercover officer while she was a member. She also became an outspoken activist against human rights abuses, including protesting with the school's newly-formed Students for Justice in Palestine and focusing her studies on surveillance in New York City. She went on to work as a special education teacher at all all girls' secondary school.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Rabia Ahsin discusses growing up in a Punjabi Muslim family in the Midwood and Ditmas Park neighborhoods of Brooklyn. She speaks extensively about the complex relationship between faith and culture, including her own connection to her Punjabi roots and her exploration of different traditions and customs within Islam. She expands on her education at Brooklyn College, including the hostility she experienced when she joined a school organization that advocated against violence in Palestine; studying human rights abuses against Muslims with Professor Jeanne Theoharis; and the undercover police officer who infiltrated the Islamic Society of Brooklyn College. She also talks about her struggles with mental health. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Ahsin, Rabia
  • Theoharsis, Jeanne

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • Islamic Society of Brooklyn College (Brooklyn College)
  • Students for Justice in Palestine (Brooklyn College)

Subject Topics

  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Clothing and dress -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Food -- Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hijab (Islamic clothing) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim women -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Pakistanis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ditmas Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Midwood (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Mamnunul Haq, September 6, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Mamnunul Haq was born in 1962 in Sandwip, Bangladesh. He married his wife in 1988 and immigrated to the United States in 1991. He began driving a yellow medallion taxi in New York City in 1995 and was a strong advocate for taxi workers' rights, including co-founding the Bangladesh Yellow Society New York, the Bengal Cabbie Society, and the New York Taxi Driver's Alliance in in the mid-1990s. He retired from driving his taxi after a violent attack from a passenger left him hospitalized in 2005, and went on to become involved in health education and community organization in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, including supporting the local Avenue C Plaza and serving on a community board.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mamnunul Haq discusses growing up in Sandwip, Bangladesh; his father's position in the local community; his political activism in Bangladesh; his marriage to his wife; and his immigration to the United States. He expands on his experiences driving a yellow medallion taxi in New York City, including his work to advocate for taxi drivers' rights and safety; co-founding the Bangladesh Yellow Society New York, the Bengal Cabbie Society, and the New York Taxi Driver's Alliance; and being seriously injured by a passenger. He also speaks at length about his memories of the East New York and Kensington neighborhoods of Brooklyn, especially regarding community organization in Kensington; serving on a community board; and his friendship with New York City council member Brad Lander. Interview conducted by Svetlana Kitto.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Haq, Mamnunul
  • Lander, Brad

Subject Organizations

  • Bangladesh Yellow Society New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bengal Cabbie Society (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Taxi and Limousine Commission
  • New York Taxi Workers Alliance (Queens, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis
  • Community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education -- Bangladesh
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Labor policy -- New York (State)
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim families -- Bangladesh
  • Political activists
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ridesharing -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Taxicab drivers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Taxicab industry -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Victims of violent crimes -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Kensington (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sandwīp Island (Bangladesh)

Oral History Interview with Damirzhan and Aliakbar Azimov, September 10, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Damirzhan Azimov was born in 1974 near Taraz in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (now Kazakhstan). He was a farmer before immigrating to the United States in 2011 with his son, Aliakbar, and the rest of their family. They settled in Brooklyn and he worked as a truck and paratransit driver before opening the Dungan cuisine-centered restaurant, Lagman House, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Aliakbar Azimov was born in 1998 in Taraz, Kazakhstan. He immigrated to the United States in 2011 with his father, Damirzhan, and the rest of their family. He worked as a manager at his family's Dungan cuisine-centered restaurant, Lagman House, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn while attending Stoney Brook University in Brookhaven, Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Damirzhan and his son Aliakbar discuss their family, especially regarding their Dungan ancestors' migration from China to escape persecution; Damirzhan's memories of living under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union); and the cultural shifts they both observed following the establishment of the nation of Kazakhstan. They also speak at length about their family's immigration to the United States; settling in Brooklyn; and opening their Dungan cuisine-centered restaurant, Lagman House, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn. Damirzhan's answers to interview questions were translated by Aliakbar. Interview conducted by Svetlana Kitto.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Azimov, Aliakbar
  • Azimov, Damirzhan

Subject Organizations

  • Lagman House (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Cooking, Hui -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Dungans
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Racism -- Kazakhstan
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Russian language

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sheepshead Bay (New York, N.Y.)
  • Soviet Union
  • Taraz (Kazakhstan)

Oral History Interview with Darlene Bashir, September 10, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Darlene Bashir was born in 1958 in New York City. She was raised by a Baptist family in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville neighborhoods of Brooklyn. She married her husband and embraced Islam in the mid-1970s. She earned a bachelor's degree from Baruch College and graduate degrees from Metropolitan College of New York and Adelphi University, all in Manhattan. She worked in the corporate world before entering the education field, becoming the director of the Clara Muhammad School of Masjid Khalifah in 1998.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Darlene Bashir discusses growing up in a racially mixed family in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, including her early experiences within the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem; her education in primarily white schools; and meeting her first husband. She also speaks at length about her Muslim faith, especially regarding her early exploration of Islam, her admiration of Warith Deen Mohammed's teachings, and her experiences at Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. She expands on becoming the director of the Clara Muhammad School of Masjid Khalifah in 1998 and marrying Masjid Khalifah's imam, Rodney Adib Rashid (also interviewed for this collection), in 2006. In addition, she talks about raising her five children, losing one of them in infancy, and her work in the corporate world. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Bashir, Darlene
  • Rashid, Rodney Adib

Subject Organizations

  • Clara Muhammad School of Masjid Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Death -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Interfaith families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racially mixed families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism in education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brownsville (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Baseera Khan, September 11, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Baseera Khan was born in 1980 to Indian immigrants in Denton, Texas. She became involved in the arts as a young adult, earning a bachelor of the fine arts from the University of North Texas in Denton and a master of the fine arts from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her artwork has often focused around the intersection of identity, politics, and culture. She participated in art shows and performances at various New York cultural institutions, and her solo exhibition, iamuslima, was first shown at the Participant Inc. Gallery in New York City and later had installments in Texas and Colorado. As a teacher, she also worked to create safe spaces for self-expression and encouraged others to think critically about how a creator's identities inform their work.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Baseera Khan discusses her parents' early lives in India, her experiences growing up in their insular immigrant family in Denton, Texas, and her encounters with bullying and racism from the broader Denton community. She talks extensively about her involvement in the arts and about "creating spaces" through her artwork, especially regarding her show iamuslima and the design class she was teaching at the New School's Parsons School of Design in New York City during the 2016 presidential election. Throughout the interview, she also repeatedly returns to her feminist interpretation of Islam; the intersection between prejudice, capitalism, and artistic expression; and her broader philosophy regarding the societal inequities around us. In addition, she talks about her formal education and studying art in school. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Khan, Baseera

Subject Organizations

  • Cornell University. College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • Parsons School of Design
  • Participant Inc. Gallery (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • American artists -- United States
  • Capitalism -- Moral and ethical aspects
  • Children of immigrants -- Texas -- Denton
  • Colorism -- Texas
  • Feminism -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Immigrants -- Texas -- Denton
  • Internet and activism
  • Islam and art -- United States
  • Islamophobia -- United States
  • Muslim artists -- United States
  • Patriarchy
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016
  • South Asian families -- Texas
  • South Asian Americans -- United States
  • Women artists -- United States
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Denton (Tex.)

Oral History Interview with Nailah Lymus, September 12, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Nailah Lymus was born in 1983 in Oneonta, New York. She was raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. She used her experiences with her high school fashion club at Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development and internship at a local boutique, both in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, to launch her clothing and accessory line 'Amirah Creations' in 2003. She founded Underwraps Modeling Agency in 2012 to represent female models who had strong religious or cultural convictions around modesty, and started the MODA MANTRA Magazine to feature modest fashion in 2017. She also served on Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah's board and taught at the mosque's Clara Muhammad School, which her son attended.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Nailah Lymus discusses growing up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, her family's interest in the fine arts, and her childhood experiences at Masjid At-Taqwa and Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah, both in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also speaks extensively about her lifelong interest in fashion that embraces religious modesty, including early experimentation with her own clothing and jewelry, involvement with her high school fashion club and internship at a nearby boutique, launching her clothing and accessory line 'Amirah Creations,' founding the Underwraps Modeling Agency, and starting MODA MANTRA Magazine. In addition, she expands on raising her son and her support for Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah, including serving on the mosque's board, teaching in their school, and participating in a youth outreach committee. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Lymus, Nailah

Subject Organizations

  • Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Underwraps Modeling Agency (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Hijab (Islamic clothing) -- United States
  • Islamic religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Modeling agencies
  • Modesty -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Muslim women -- Clothing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women fashion designers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Clinton Hill (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Suheir Hammad, September 13, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Suheir Hammad was born in 1973 in Amman, Jordan. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1979 and settled in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. She started writing poetry as a teenager, often drawing from her family's history and her own experiences as a Palestinian Muslim woman in New York City. Her poetry collections Born Palestinian, Born Black and  Drops of This Story were both published in 1996. She gained addition recognition with her poem "First Writing Since," which was centered around the September 11 Terrorist Attack in 2001, performing it for the pilot for the Peabody award-winning HBO show  Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry and in the Tony award-winning Broadway play  Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. She published additional collections of her poetry called  ZaatarDiva in 2006 and  Breaking Poems in 2008, as well as an updated version of  Born Palestinian, Born Black in 2010. Her work has also been featured in various anthologies, magazines, plays, and films.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Suheir Hammad discusses her family's roots in Palestine; their displacement to Jordan in 1949; and her childhood in Brooklyn and Staten Island. She talks at length about social justice, including gender, privilege, prejudice, and violence in her community. She elaborates about her passion for hip-hop; spiritual and religious convictions; and development as a poet. She expands on her poem "First Writing Since," which centered around the September 11 Terrorist Attack in 2001, and her subsequent involvement in the Peabody award-winning HBO show Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry and in the Tony award-winning Broadway play  Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. In addition, she touches on her religious and secular education. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Hammad, Suheir
  • Simmons, Russell

Subject Organizations

  • Def poetry (Television program)

Subject Topics

  • Hip-hop -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam and the performing arts -- United States
  • Misogyny -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim women authors -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Palestinian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Poetry slams -- United States
  • Poets, Palestinian Arab -- United States
  • Privilege (Social psychology) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Racism and the arts -- United States
  • Refugees, Palestinian Arab
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001, in literature
  • Social justice -- United States
  • Women -- Violence against -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Oral History Interview with Fatima Shama, September 17, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Fatima Shama was born in 1973 in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx. She earned a bachelor of the arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a master of public administration from Baruch College's School of Public Affairs Executive Program in New York City. After college, she worked with the Arab American Family Support Center and the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition to improve New Yorkers' access to services like healthcare and education. She served in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration from 2006-2014, first as Senior Education Policy Advisor and then as Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. During her tenure, she worked to build stronger ties between Muslim communities and the city government. After leaving the administration, she became Executive Director of the Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on providing low-income children in New York City with access to nature.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Fatima Shama discusses her upbringing in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx, especially regarding the emphasis her Catholic Brazilian mother and Muslim Palestinian father put on embracing her multicultural and interfaith roots. She expands on performing the traditional Palestinian 'dabke' folk dance with dance groups as a teenager, her religious and secular education, and her exploration of Islam through women scholars in college. She speaks about her commitment to activism to promote the rights of Muslim Americans, especially regarding her work with the Arab American Family Support Center and Muslims Against Terrorism. She also talks about her marriage and three children. Fatima Shama was also interviewed on October 2, 2018 for this collection. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Shama, Fatima

Subject Organizations

  • Arab American Family Support Center, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslims Against Terrorism (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Brazilians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Children of interfaith marriage -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Folk dancing, Arab -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Multiculturalism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim women -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Palestinian Arabs
  • Religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social service -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Parkchester (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Ahmed Nasser, September 18, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Ahmed Nasser was born in 1966 in the village of Almayanah in Yemen. He immigrated to the United States in 1986 and settled in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He worked in family-owned restaurants and earned undergraduate degrees with New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn and Baruch College in Manhattan before joining the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 2000. As a detective and member of the Community Affairs Bureau, he worked to improve communication between Muslim immigrant communities and the NYPD in the years following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. He also cofounded the American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association in 2001 and the NYPD Muslim Officers Society in 2004.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Ahmed Nasser speaks extensively about his career as a Muslim detective in the New York City Police Department (NYPD), which he joined in 2000. He elaborates on his work to build relationships between law enforcement and Muslim immigrant communities across the city, especially following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. In addition, he talks about educating his fellow police officers about Islam and his efforts to secure accommodations surrounding religious customs and practices for Muslims serving in the NYPD. He also touches on his family, immigration to the United States, and attachment to Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Nasser, Ahmed

Subject Organizations

  • American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department. Muslim Officers Society

Subject Topics

  • Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Detectives -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion in the workplace -- New York (State) -- New York
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • Yemenis -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Moustafa Bayoumi, September 25, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Moustafa Bayoumi was born in 1966 in Zürich, Switzerland. His family immigrated to Canada when he was a toddler and settled in Kingston, Ontario, where his parents taught at the local college. He moved to New York City in 1990 to attend graduate school at Columbia University. After earning his doctor of philosophy, he taught postcolonial literature at Brooklyn College. He was a prolific author on issues surrounding Islam and the Arab world, regularly appearing in The Guardian,  The Progressive, and other similar publications. He also wrote the books  How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America in 2008 and  This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror in 2015.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Moustafa Bayoumi discusses growing up in an Egyptian academic family in Kingston, Ontario. He expands on his own studies, especially pursuing his PhD at Columbia University; teaching at Brooklyn College; and becoming an author. He also speaks about American politics and law enforcement, especially surrounding the surveillance of Muslim American students at Brooklyn College; racial profiling in New York City; the consistent presence of Islamophobia throughout both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations; and the escalation in Islamophobia he has observed during the Trump administration. In addition, he touches on the broader demographic changes and gentrification in Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Bayoumi, Moustafa
  • Said, Edward W.

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • Columbia University

Subject Topics

  • Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • College teachers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim authors -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016

Oral History Interview with Su'ad Abdul Khabeer, September 26, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Su'ad Abdul Khabeer was born in 1978 and raised in the Crown Heights and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn. She earned her bachelor of science in foreign service from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; her diploma in Arabic and Islamic studies from Abu Nour University in Damascus, Syria; and her doctor of philosophy in cultural anthropology from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. She examined the relationship between race and popular culture as an author and a performer, including publishing Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States in 2016 and ongoing performances of  Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life. She also joined the faculty at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2011 as a professor of American Culture and Arab and Muslim American Studies.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Su'ad Abdul Khabeer discusses her childhood in the Crown Heights and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn, including her family and her experiences at Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah and Masjid At-Taqwa, both in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. She expands on her religious and secular education, especially at Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn and at Edward R. Murrow High School in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. She speaks about her work on the intersection of race and culture, particularly regarding her performance piece Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life, and teaching at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She also touches on gentrification in Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Abdul Khabeer, Su'ad

Subject Organizations

  • Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans in popular culture
  • African American women educators -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hip-hop -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam and the performing arts
  • Islamic education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim educators -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and culture -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Midwood (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Mahmoud Widdi, September 27, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Mahmoud Widdi was born in 1957 in Beit Hanina during a period of changing political boundaries. He was raised primarily by his mother and paternal grandfather, and joined his father, Subhi Widdi, in the United States in 1975. He and his cousin opened a Met Foodmarket grocery store in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1983, which they converted into a Foodtown in 2016. He and his wife maintain strong connections to their Palestinian heritage, regularly visiting Beit Hanina and the surrounding area with their children.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mahmoud Widdi discusses being raised in Beit Hanina, Palestine by his mother and grandfather; his personal experiences with violence and political upheaval in the region; and his thoughts about the conflict moving forward. He expands on his parents' relationship; his father's emigration from Palestine; and his own immigration to the United States as a young adult. He speaks at length about his father's involvement in the assisted living facility St. Nicholas Home in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn; his founding of Widdi Catering Hall; and the community effort to co-name the block the catering hall is located on "Subhi Widdi Way" after his death. Mahmoud also talks about working in his father's grocery stores; opening a Met Foodmarket in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn; and his marriage to his wife and their children. Interview conducted by Svetlana Kitto.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Widdi, Mahmoud
  • Widdi, Subhi

Subject Organizations

  • St. Nicholas Home (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Grocery trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrant business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Israel-Arab War, 1967
  • Muslim families
  • Palestinian Arabs
  • Small businesses -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Bayt Ḥanīnā
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Kameelah Rasheed, October 1, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Kameelah Rasheed was born in 1985 in East Palo Alto, California. She was raised in religiously diverse communities by an African American family who embraced Islam shortly after her birth. She attended both undergraduate and graduate school in California, earning a bachelor of the arts from Pomona College in Claremont and a master of education from Stanford University, and spent a year in South Africa as an Amy Biehl Fulbright Scholar. She moved to Brooklyn in 2010 and worked as a visual artist, exhibiting work at a variety of New York cultural institutions.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Kameelah Rasheed discusses growing up in East Palo Alto, California, especially regarding her interfaith group of friends, her parents' Muslim faith, and a series of family health crises while she was in college. She speaks about studying in South Africa for a year on a Fulbright scholarship, attending graduate school at Stanford University in California, and teaching in both California and Brooklyn. She elaborates on her exploration of her faith and experiences with Muslim communities in California, South Africa, and Brooklyn. She also talks at length about her philosophy and identity as an African American Muslim artist. In addition, she describes her relationship with her husband. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Rasheed, Kameelah

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid At-Taqwa (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Stanford University

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims
  • Communities -- Religious aspects -- Muslims
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Fulbright scholars -- South Africa
  • Health -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Islam and art
  • Multiculturalism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim artists
  • Religious education of children

Oral History Interview with Fatima Shama, October 2, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Fatima Shama was born in 1973 in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx. She earned a bachelor of the arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a master of public administration from Baruch College's School of Public Affairs Executive Program in New York City. After college, she worked with the Arab American Family Support Center and the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition to improve New Yorkers' access to services like healthcare and education. She served in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration from 2006-2014, first as Senior Education Policy Advisor and then as Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. During her tenure, she worked to build stronger ties between Muslim communities and the city government. After leaving the administration, she became Executive Director of the Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on providing low-income children in New York City with access to nature.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Fatima Shama discusses her work in healthcare advocacy with the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition and with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration. She expands on her interactions with Mayor Bloomberg, building connections between Muslim New Yorkers and local government officials, and her memories of early efforts in the campaign to add the Eid holidays to the local public school calendar. She also touches on her feelings about the religiously-motivated surveillance by the New York Police Department and about her work going forward. Fatima Shama was also interviewed on September 17, 2018 for this collection. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Bloomberg, Michael
  • Shama, Fatima

Subject Organizations

  • Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

Subject Topics

  • Civil service -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Health services accessibility -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Queens County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Multiculturalism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslims -- Political activity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Palestinian Americans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Faiza Ocasio, October 6, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Faiza Ocasio was born in 1953 in New York City. She was raised in a Catholic Puerto Rican family in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. She married her husband and reverted to Islam while studying at Fordham University in the Bronx. After receiving their degrees, they moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the Islamic Party of North America. They returned to New York two years later, settling in the Cypress Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn. She became active in several Islam-centered organizations, including Alianza Islámica, a Latinx activist organization co-founded by her husband; Islamic Family Services in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which offered support services for Muslim children in foster care in Brooklyn; and Al-Madrassa Al-Islamiya, a school in Staten Island and Brooklyn. She retired in 2015 and moved to Westminster, Maryland in 2016 to live on the family's farm.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Faiza Ocasio discusses growing up in a Catholic Puerto Rican family in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. She speaks extensively about her Muslim faith, including her initial exploration of Islam, Latin Americans' ancestral roots in the religion through the Muslim conquest of Spain in the Middle Ages, and the relationship between her Muslim faith and Latinx heritage. She also remembers organizations that she has been involved with, with particular emphasis on the Islamic Party of North America in Washington, D.C.; teaching at Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya in Staten Island and Brooklyn; and serving as Chief Fiscal Officer with Brooklyn-based Islamic Family Services prior to the agency's closure over its Chief Executive Officer's financial mismanagement. In addition, she talks about her relationship with her husband and buying a farm in Westminster, Maryland. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Ocasio, Faiza

Subject Organizations

  • Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya (New York, N.Y.)
  • Alianza Islamica
  • Islamic Family Services (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Islamic Party of North America

Subject Topics

  • Agriculture -- Maryland -- Westminster
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Faith-based human services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hispanic Americans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Puerto Rican Catholics -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Religious education of children -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Maha Attieh, October 8, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Maha Attieh was born in 1958 in Amman, Jordan. She immigrated to the United States in 1981 and raised her five children in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. She began working at the Arab American Family Support Center in 2003 to improve Arab Americans' access to healthcare, particularly among non-English speakers. Her commitment to providing Arab American communities with health and education services also led to her becoming involved with other initiatives in New York City, including the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center community outreach committee; the New York Immigration Coalition; the New York City Language Access Committee; and the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Maha Attieh talks about immigrating to the United States; settling in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn; and raising her five children. She expands on her involvement in her children's education, particularly following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001, and on her son's military service in Iraq. She speaks at length about her work in healthcare with the Arab American Family Support Center. She also touches on Americanization, Islamophobia, and changes she has seen in Arab American communities since settling in Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Attieh, Maha

Subject Organizations

  • Arab American Family Support Center, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Americanization
  • Arabs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Health services accessibility -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic religious education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • Veterans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Amman (Jordan)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Midwood (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Stacey Salimah-Bell, October 9, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Stacey Salimah-Bell was born in 1963 in Brooklyn. She was raised in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. She spent more than twenty years working for the New York City Department of Correction, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. She was involved in a successful class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Corrections for sexual harassment. She was a founding member of the American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association in 2001 and Muslims Employed in City Corrections Association, Inc. in 2006. She also served as Vice President for the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Jean Sampson Scott Greater New York Chapter.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Stacey Salimah-Bell discusses her family, particularly regarding their relocation to New York City during the Great Migration; her memories of her grandmother; and her relationship with her husband. She speaks at length about her tenure in the New York City Department of Correction, including the successful class action lawsuit she joined over sexual harassment; her efforts to secure accommodations for religious clothing; being a founding members of the American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association and Muslims Employed in City Corrections Association, Inc.; and being at Ground Zero during the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001. She expands on converting to Islam as a young woman; attending Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah; and changes in the her religious beliefs and practices over time. She also talks about her work with the Girl Scouts. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Salimah-Bell, Stacey

Subject Organizations

  • American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association
  • Girl Scouts of the United States of America
  • Manhattan House of Detention (New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Abdul Muhsi Khalifah (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslims Employed in City Corrections, Inc. (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Class actions (Civil procedure) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Clothing and dress -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Correctional institutions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Correctional personnel -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Hijab (Islamic clothing) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and culture
  • Religion in the workplace -- New York (State) -- New York
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • Sexual harassment in law enforcement -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Sexual harassment of women -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Shaheen Rushd, October 17, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Shaheen Rushd was born in 1956 in Chittagong, Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and came to the United States in 1970 when her father was stationed in Washington, D.C. as a diplomat. When her parents returned to the newly-independent Bangladesh, she remained in the United States to complete high school, and went on to attend Kalamazoo College in Michigan and New York Law School. After earning her law degree, she joined a Manhattan law firm that specialized in securities litigation. She and her husband raised their children in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, and upon retirement, she became involved in local social justice organizations and in the Democratic Party.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Shaheen Rushd discusses her family's history in religious, academic, and political circles in South Asia, as well as her own upbringing in a secular Bengali Muslim household. She speaks about her father's diplomatic assignment to Washington, D.C. and their experience of the Bangladesh War of Independence from the United States. She elaborates about attending high school near Washington, D.C., her experiences at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and her work as a lawyer. In addition, she talks about her decades-long residence in the Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn; her interfaith marriage with her Jewish husband; their children's relationship with their Bengali heritage and Jewish religious traditions; and her own exploration of Islam. She puts significant emphasis on her political activism following the 2016 presidential election, particularly involving her membership in the Kings County Democratic Committee; economic inequality and gentrification; and segregation in schools. She also repeatedly touches on her lifelong experiences around diversity, racial profiling, misogyny, and class throughout the interview. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Rushd, Shaheen

Subject Organizations

  • Democratic Party (New York, N.Y.)
  • Human Rights Watch (Organization)
  • Kalamazoo College
  • New York Appleseed (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bengali Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Diversity in the workplace -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Education, Secondary -- Washington, D.C.
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interfaith families -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interracial marriage -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- United States
  • Multiculturalism -- United States
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016
  • Segregation in education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • South Asian Americans -- United States
  • Women lawyers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh -- History -- Revolution, 1971
  • Washington (D.C.)

Oral History Interview with Linda Sarsour, October 17, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Linda Sarsour was born in 1980 in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Following the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001, she became involved with the newly-founded Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) as both an organizer and a certified Arabic interpreter. She succeeded co-founder Basemah Atweh as executive director of the AAANY in 2005. During her tenure in the AAANY, she became involved in a number of progressive causes, particularly in defense of Arab American and African American communities. During the 2016 presidential election, she campaigned first for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and then for Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton in the general election. When Republican Donald Trump was elected instead, she took an active role in resisting his administration, including co-chairing the Women's March on Washington in 2017 in protest of his inauguration, which attracted millions of participants nationwide.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Linda Sarsour discusses growing up in the Sunset Park and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn, especially regarding her Palestinian American family; her education at John Jay High School in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn; and her memories of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001. She expands on her involvement with the Arab American Association of New York, including her experiences as a female leader in patriarchal communities; her close personal relationships with co-founders Ahmed Jaber (interviewed for this collection on January 24, 2018) and Basemah Atweh; and Basemah Atweh's death in a car accident in 2005. She also speaks at length about her political activism, particularly surrounding intersectionality, racial justice, and the 2016 presidential election. She expands on her work with Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory, and Bob Bland to organize the Women's March on Washington in 2017 to protest the election of Republican Donald Trump. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Atweh, Basemah
  • Jaber, Ahmad
  • Mallory, Tamika
  • Perez, Carmen
  • Sarsour, Linda

Subject Organizations

  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Bay Ridge Arab American Bazaar (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Democratic Party (U.S.)
  • John Jay High School
  • Women's March on Washington (2017)

Subject Topics

  • Arab Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Black lives matter movement
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Intersectionality (Sociology)
  • Political activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
  • Women, Palestinian Arab
  • Women in Islam
  • Women in community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, October 21, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was born in 1963 in New York City. He was raised in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a teenager, he spent time in the Five Percent Nation before becoming involved in the Nation of Islam. He became the assistant minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1984; the minister of the newly-founded Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in the Brownsville of Brooklyn in 1993; and the minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 7A in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in 2000. He was also an activist within the broader Black community, including co-chairing the local organizing committee for the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in 1995.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Abdul Hafeez Muhammad discusses his childhood in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, including his adopted family; his early exposure to violence and mortality; and his exploration of the Five Percent Nation. He speaks at length about his subsequent involvement with the Nation of Islam under Louis Farrakhan, especially regarding his marriages, his service as assistant minister and minister within local mosques, his memories of Farrakhan's speech at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan in 1985; and his work with educational and religious outreach to incarcerated Black men. He also talks about his advocacy within the broader Black community, particularly regarding the Million Man March in 1995 in Washington, D.C. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Farrakhan, Louis
  • Muhammad, Abdul Hafeez

Subject Organizations

  • Five Percent Nation
  • Million Man March (1995 : Washington, D.C.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7A (New York, N.Y.)
  • Muhammad Mosque No. 7C (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)

Subject Topics

  • African American Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African American religious leaders -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Black Muslims -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children -- Death
  • Civil rights demonstrations -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamic religious education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Marriage -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Muslim converts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim religious leaders -- New York (State) -- New York
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Canarsie (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Mohammed Fayaz, October 22, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Mohammed Fayaz was born in 1990 in Brooklyn. He was raised in the Jamaica Estates and Middle Village neighborhoods of Queens. As a young adult, he channeled his creativity into art, with a particular focus on depicting people of color. He created early promotional materials for the group Papi Juice, which was founded to celebrate queer and trans people of color, and became one of their core organizers.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mohammed Fayaz discusses his Muslim Indian family, especially their immigration to the United States; their religious and cultural traditions; and their experiences following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He speaks about his exploration of his culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, and Muslim faith; his development as an artist; and posting his artwork on social media. He elaborates on the promotional artwork and organizing he has done for Papi Juice; the group's focus on creating "intentional spaces" for queer people of color; and his friendships with founders Oscar Nñ and Adam Rhodes. He also talks about his decision to move to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Fayaz, Mohammed
  • Nñ, Oscar
  • Rhodes, Adam

Subject Organizations

  • Papi Juice (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Children of immigrants -- New York (State) -- Queens
  • Coming out (Sexual orientation) -- New York (State) -- Queens County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Gay artists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Gender nonconformity -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Queens County
  • Intersectionality (Sociology)
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muslim artists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Muslim gays -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Queer culture
  • Queer identity
  • Religion and culture
  • South Asians Americans -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jamaica (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Misba Abdin, December 17, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Misba Abdin was born in 1969 in Beanibazar, Bangladesh. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1982 and settled in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. Shortly after arriving, he organized a series of local soccer tournaments called the Bangladesh Football Federation (later renamed to Bangladesh Sports Council). He married his wife in 1995 and later founded the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS) in East New York in 2011.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Misa Abdin discusses his family; his life in Beanibazar, Bangladesh; and his immigration to the United States. He expands on his experiences in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn over the years, including his organizing a local series of soccer tournaments called the Bangladesh Football Federation (later renamed the Bangladesh Sports Council); his ongoing involvement with the local mosque his father co-founded, Masjid Al-Aman; and his founding the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS). He also speaks about his encounters with violent crime and the New York City Police Department; Islamophobia; and racism. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Abdin, Misba

Subject Organizations

  • Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Bangladeshi Sports Council (New York, N.Y.)
  • Masjid Al-Aman (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community organization -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hate crimes -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamophobia -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racial profiling in law enforcement -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religious pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social service -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Oral History Interview with Sharmin Hoque, December 21, 2018

Biographical / Historical

Sharmin Hoque was born in 1994 in Noakhali, Bangladesh and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1999. She was raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn and the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens. After earning her bachelor of the sciences in public health from Long Island University and her master of public health in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University, she focused on improving New Yorkers' access to mental health services through her work as a research coordinator at NYU Langone and as the vice president of Muslims Thrive.

Scope and Contents

Sharmin Hoque discusses her family; her upbringing in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn and the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens; and her impressions of Baitul Mamur Masjid and Masjid Al-Aman, both located in East New York. She speaks extensively about studying public health at Long Island University and Columbia University; her work as a research coordinator at NYU Langone and as the vice president of Muslims Thrive to improve access to mental health services for Bangladeshi and Muslim New Yorkers; and her observations about the intersections between race, religion, and mental health. She also talks about her marriage to her husband; her faith; her experiences with racial profiling and Islamophobia; and her thoughts about gender roles within Muslim communities. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Hoque, Sharmin

Subject Organizations

  • Baitul Mamur Masjid and Community Center (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Columbia University
  • Long Island University
  • Masjid Al-Aman (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslims Thrive (New York, N.Y.)
  • NYU Langone Medical Center

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hijab (Islamic clothing) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Medicine -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Mental health -- Religious aspects -- Islam
  • Mental health services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Patient education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Police-community relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Public health personnel -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women in Islam -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ozone Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Kobir Chowdhury, January 10, 2019

Biographical / Historical

Kobir Chowdhury was born in 1974 in the Sylhet District in Bangladesh. He immigrated to the United States in 1991 and settled in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. He worked in real estate and banking after arriving in New York. He also attended Masjid Al-Aman in East New York and began to take on leadership roles in the mosque in the 2010s, including serving as an advisor to the executive committee and as the president of the mosque's board.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Kobir Chowdhury discusses his childhood in Bangladesh; leaving his family behind when he immigrated to the United States alone as a teenager; and settling in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. He expands on his work in the service industry, real estate, and banking after arriving in New York; his continued ties to his home village in the Sylhet District in Bangladesh; and his involvement with Masjid Al-Aman in East New York. He also talks about his Muslim faith, his marriage to his wife, and raising their son. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Chowdhury, Kobir

Subject Organizations

  • Masjid Al-Aman (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Faith-based human services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islamic religious education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and ethics
  • Religion in the workplace -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Real estate investment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ozone Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sylhet District (Bangladesh)

Oral History Interview with Firoza Akter, January 22, 2019

Biographical / Historical

Mst. Firoza Akter was born in 1981 in Bangladesh. She moved to Dhaka as a teenager to pursue higher education and married in 2002. She immigrated to the United States to join her husband shortly after the birth of their first child in 2005. They settled in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, where she became involved in both Baitul Mamur Masjid and Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA). With MUNA, she worked to engage youth in their community's cultural and religious traditions; plan community events; and provide social and material assistance to people in need.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Mst. Firoza Akter discusses her family, her childhood in Bangladesh, and moving to Dhaka to pursue higher education as a teenager. She expands on her marriage to her husband, her immigration to the United States, and raising their children in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. She speaks at length about her involvement in East New York's Bangladeshi community and her work with the faith-based community organization Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA). She also talks about Bengali cultural traditions; her Muslim faith; gender roles within East New York's Muslim communities; and her experiences with Sharmin Hoque (interviewed for this collection on December 21, 2018) and her family. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview will be available starting in Spring 2019.

Subject Names

  • Akter, Firoza
  • Hoque, Sharmin

Subject Organizations

  • Baitul Mamur Masjid and Community Center (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Muslim Ummah of North America

Subject Topics

  • Bangladeshis -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Child rearing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community centers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Cultural pluralism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education of children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Faith-based human services -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Islam -- Customs and practices
  • Islam -- Prayers and devotions
  • Muslim women -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and ethics
  • Ummah (Islam) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women in Islam

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Dhaka (Bangladesh)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)

Return to Top »