Hello, from the Book Club!
Welcome to the second cycle of the UPlift Black Book Club! Every two(ish) months we will
select a book of Black excellence to read as a community in an attempt to amplify and UPlift the
Black Voice within Simcoe Muskoka. This month, we have chosen to read Muslim Cool: Race,
Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer. Each cycle, we will send
out a discussion guide (this one you are reading is the first one ever!) as well as attempt to host
one virtual group discussion near the end of the two month period. This is subject to change as
we get into the groove and decide how best to meet the diverse, but likely specific, needs of our
Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us! We can’t wait to see where it takes us!
The book UPlift has chosen for the February/March cycle of the book club is The Body Is Not An
Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor!
*If you are having difficulty participating because the cost of the book club is inaccessible and
you are a BIPOC member of Simcoe Muskoka, or if you would like to sponsor a book for
someone who would like to join but cost for whom is a barrier, please email
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
In other less-than-exciting news, we have had to postpone the next cycle of the youth book club.
We are currently planning to relaunch in June/July for a summer reading club, rebranded and
better than ever! Stay tuned, and get your kids excited!
Reflections from an UPlift Black Member
It’s Chris again, coming at you fresh off of finishing Muslim Cool! I am so happy to see you here
again, and I am looking forward to reinvigorating and refreshing the book club in a really big
My goodness, this book was a big read. It was quite academic in nature, very specific in scope,
and overall went above my expectations. It highlighted the nuances and specific intersections of
race and Islam with regard to specifically Chicago, but broadly the United States. I learned a lot
about the Black Muslims who live in the United States and their experiences of being racialized
doubly – both as Black and as Muslim.
I must say, this book was tough. It had themes that were difficult to digest and hard to continue
reading, because the major theme of discrimination within the US Islam community was both
revealing and heartbreaking. The Black Muslim community is disregarded as being a prominent
source of Muslim identity, even though they are the major shapers of how Islam is viewed within
the United States, especially by new immigrants and the upcoming generation of Islamic people.
It’s interesting how policed Black Muslims are, especially when such prominent figures as
Malcolm X, Iman, and Muhammad Ali claim Islam and help to shape it. It was also jarring to me
how much is argued about the place of hip hop in Islam, especially when it has produced so
many hip hop stars, and it could be argued gave birth, in part, to hip hop itself.
So where do we go from here? I know that I have changed the way I view Islam, even just since
George Floyd’s murder. It is a global religion, one that has influencers from across the world and
from all walks of life. I will also never doubt that the United States, and subsequently Canada,
can and do have influence on global Muslim culture. Muslim is not monolithic, and to treat it as
such and gatekeep who gets to do what within Islam is perhaps not the correct approach.
Religion evolves over time. I am not about to preach here since I am neither Muslim nor Black,
but what I will say is that I believe that I continued to expand my idea of what religion means,
and moreso what culture and spirituality mean and how they are shaped and evolve. This is my
Thanks for joining on this journey! See you again at the end of March!
Why We Chose This Book
We started out with two choices and ran an Instagram poll to see which would be more popular
and get more people excited. The choices were: Afropean: Adventures in Black Europe by John
Pitts and this book, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Su’ad
Abdul Khabeer. Both were great choices, and that reflected in the poll response! 49% wanted
Afropean, and 51% wanted Muslim Cool. That one vote that flipped it decided that we would do
Muslim Cool this cycle and push pause on Afropean for now.
Muslim Cool was one of the choices because we wanted to read a book with strong Black and
Muslim intersectional themes to help us understand how those two identities intersect. This
book hit the target! Although very academic in nature, it described the nuances of the
intersection we were looking for, with a fun twist – how they influence hip hop!
1. When regarding choosing if, how, and when to wear a hijab for a Muslim woman has
implications: “as personal as her choice might seem, it is also a very public one.”
Describe how Muslim identity both is and is not a public identity, and why wearing a hijab
is a choice that is personal, especially in American culture.
2. At the beginning of chapter 3, Khabeer puts in her own written dramatization of a Muslim
woman (Sara) choosing which hijab she will wear: traditional, hijabi-lite, and ‘hoodjabi.
Khabeer says after this that “which kind of hijabi Sara chooses to become has
implications for how she will be ‘read’ in her Muslim community.” Discuss why this is true.
What implications does the type of hijabi you become have on how you are perceived in
3. “When determining what is and is not ‘Islamic,’ not all music is treated equally.” Why is
this true? What implications does this have for hip hop with regard to its relationship with
4. Discuss Chicago as a main character in this book.
5. Queen Latifah is a Christian Black woman. Her name, Latifah, means delicate or very
kind in Arabic. She is used as a symbol to represent hip hop within the context of the
book, which is about Muslim influence on hip hop, but most specifically with regard to her
Blackness. Why is it significant that Latifah’s music video for “Ladies First” is heralded in
this way in this book?
6. What is Black consciousness? In what ways can we raise Black consciousness using
concepts and knowledge gained from this text?
7. Why is it significant that most Black Muslims are assumed to be converts to the Islamic
8. “The sincere presentation of self, racial or otherwise, may be an intentional practice that
seeks not to delude but to make the inner self and to make that self accessible to
others.” Why is the construction of self a major theme in this book? What does self have
to do with Blackness and its intersection with Muslim identity?
9. Discuss hijab as a gender presentation. How does local culture shape or influence
Muslim gender identity?
10. The ‘hood, as well as discourse surrounding the ‘hood, is described as playing a “critical
role in defining contemporary Blackness.” What role does the ‘hood play in defining
Blackness within Canadian context? Does the ‘hood shape Black identity only within
cities, or does it shape Blackness in suburbs? How does globalization affect the role of
Watch the video of Queen Latifah performing Ladies First with Monie Love. It will help to add to
your conception of what Black consciousness means, and helps give context to the book in the
way that Blackness is performed through hip hop.
As a follow up, check out Queen Latifah talking about this video in the following synopsis of an
episode of Songs that Shook America by AMC.
Blair Imani, A Queer Muslim Black woman, has been asked many times how she reconciles her
queerness with her religion. She says that there is nothing to reconcile because Allah makes no
mistakes. Many people who intersect at Black and Muslim identities also intersect with their
queerness. Check out this TED Talk by Blair Imani discussing themes of queerness and its
intersections with Black Muslimhood.
Heroes and Holidays
Get your list of famous Black Muslim people in your toolbox growing by checking out this article!
17 Famous Black Muslims
Call to Action
From this book (if you didn’t already know), we now understand that Blackness intersects with
Islam. Islamophobic terror attacks by white supremacists are on the rise, even here in Canada:
(Content Warning: the following videos are news clips reporting on New Zealand and Canadian
terror attacks on mosques, places where Muslims worship)
With the rise in Islamophobia since 9/11 because of undue targeting of one faith in particular,
Muslims are under a large threat. Islam itself is being racialized, just as Judaism was (and still
is) preceding WW2, just as indigineity was immediately after Contact with Europeans in 1492,
and just as Blackness was when Europe colonized Africa. It is not acceptable, and we have to
gain understanding and compassion so that we can help dispel myths and bring our human
Your call to action is this: if you don’t know much about Islam or Islamic issues today, do not let
this guide be your last investigation of Islam and Islamic culture. Diversify your understanding of
Islam. Everyone has bias, and right now we are fighting to UPlift all of our Black siblings so that
we can come together and be in global peace.
Get out there! Use your voice!
PS: Another option – join UPlift Black as an advocacy volunteer!
Here are some awesome videos that help to break down what it means to be Muslim in North
America today. Muslims are not monolithic: there are 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide and there
are 1.7 billion ways to be Muslim – and counting! Islam is the fastest growing religion globally. So
expand your definition, get your boots on, get out there and advocate for our Black Muslim