When Muhammad Ali died I cried. A deep sadness set in and every so often I’d just have a little breakdown for the first few days. I know it wasn’t just me, I’m just one of millions of others who felt a connection to him, a pride in him and a love for him despite not sharing his faith or his race or really any part of his life, struggles, and achievements. It’s a common phenomenon when cultural icons die, whether it’s Prince or Princess Diana. Some icons mean more to us than others, some speak more to us than others, some represent us more than others. But in our attachment to all of them, we have to recognize a big part of what we really mourn when others die: our past, the memories connected to the people no longer with us, a little bit of us gone forever too, and of course our own life passing by.
I recognize the selfish impulses that are connected to my mourning for Muhammad Ali. Ali is close to my father’s age, and whenever someone close to my father’s age passes away, a twinge of fear rises. Not yet, I think. It’s too soon. Not yet. My parents, immigrants from Pakistan, knew about the civil rights movement and the struggle for black dignity and equality only superficially – perhaps as superficially as Americans, including black American Muslims, know about the bloody partition, and all the horror stories leading up to it, and after it, of Pakistan and India in 1947. Nearly everything my parents knew about black American history could be distilled down to two figures: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.
In a new country, with no family and faith community to support them, fish out of water, Malcolm and Ali were proof to my parents that Muslims belonged to America and America belonged to Muslims. It was not a mistake to raise their family here. We all belonged. That was his significance to my family.
I’ve watched over the past week as Muslims, including thought and religious leaders, duke it out over Ali. Others are too. Over who he belongs to, who can mourn him, what lessons we are supposed to take from his life, what he really represented, how everyone else is wrong, shouldn’t grieve him, shouldn’t co-opt him, shouldn’t even love him. I can only imagine how deeply distressed Ali, who loved people, loved to love people, and loved to be loved, would be at seeing these exchanges.
I’ve watched as some berated the lineup of powerful politicians at his funeral, scoffing at their presence in face of Ali’s revolutionary life, despite the fact that he planned his own funeral and that their inclusion was most likely of his own design.
I read a piece that said Ali became beloved to the establishment when he lost his ability to speak and stand up to power as he did in youth. But this video shows me that he was beloved to establishment even when he was in his prime.
I’ve read many declare that in memory of Ali’s life, they’ll become less apologetic, more outspoken, less careful with language, more ardent in speaking truth to power. It’s true, Ali spoke hard truths to brutal power, but so do many others. Social media is filled with people speaking hard truths to brutal power, not mincing their words (is there a safer way to do it than behind a keyboard?). But the difference with keyboard truth warriors, who often come across as assholes, and Ali, was that he was able to do so (and do other things we can’t get away with, like point out others as ugly but himself as beautiful) and still be loved and popular at the same time – that was his magic.
It’s a magic very few have, and that’s ok. We don’t all have to be Muhammad Ali. We can be like our Prophet (saw), gentle in word and humble always. We can be like Umar (RA), fiery but just. We can be like Ali (RA), wise and brave. We can be like Uthman (RA), shy, kind and gentle to the core. We can be like thousands of other good people, because there isn’t just one way to do life right, there isn’t just one way to be a good Muslim or a good person.
Even Muhammad Ali wasn’t just one way his entire life. He said it best himself.
The truth is Ali was to people what they wanted him to be, and we all wanted a piece of Ali. We all wanted a connection to him. The most conservative Muslims, the ones who would ordinarily be deeply offended and opposed to it, loved Ali even though he accepted his daughters marrying out of Islam and raising children who are not Muslim. The most staunch BDS activists love him despite him supporting an endowment at an Israeli university. The most salafi and anti-CVE Muslims love him despite him taking bayaah with Sufi shaykh Hisham Kabbani, who happens to be connected deeply to CVE work in the US.
It’s not that Ali was full of contradictions. It was that he could not ever be boxed in. And because he can’t be boxed in, the people who love him can’t be boxed in. He will always be loved by every kind of person. Despite what some may say, he belonged to us all simply by virtue of us loving him. No one has to justify their love for him. I wish people would stop demanding it, and I’m glad to see, despite the struggles over who “owns” him, that the world came together to honor him when he was finally laid to rest.
Rest in peace Muhammad Ali. InshAllah we’ll see you again on the other side.
There aren’t enough words, or even the right words, to express my grief and horror at this tragedy.
I’m not yet over Sandy Hook, and actually I hope I never get over it, that none of us do, but since then almost 1000 mass shootings have taken place in the US. You read that right. I didn’t add an extra zero by mistake.
We have a gun problem, America. The reason I go straight to guns, and not religion, mental illness, bigotry, or straight up hate is this: no society will ever rid themselves completely of any of these things. We will always, always, always have people among us who are hateful of others, who are psychologically or emotionally unstable, who are violent and criminal, who are ideological extremists, and who are just evil. We can address and try to treat these conditions, but no way will we be able to wipe them out. In the face of that, I’d rather not that people who suffer from all sorts of seriously troubling conditions have easy access to weapons that can snuff out dozens of lives. It’s not complicated. We can’t control the human condition, but we can control guns. We just refuse to do it.
This attack is leaving people, both Muslim and not Muslim, deeply confused and conflicted. On one hand, there are the immediate pronouncements of radical Islamic terror, but then it emerged that the killer, Mateen, was himself gay, being a regular visitor of the club, where he’d often be escorted from drunk, that he destroyed two nights ago.
Much like in the case of Adnan you can’t have it both ways. You can’t argue he was a devout fundamentalist doing the bidding of Allah while at the same time acknowledge he drank and dated men, decidedly un-fundamentalist-like behavior.
Like many of the mass shooters this country has come to endure and tolerate (because really we are tolerating this crap), Mateen was an angry, unstable, sick man. Abusive, racist, conflicted over his sexuality. He wasn’t violent because he was Muslim or because he was gay. He was violent because he was deeply disturbed and he did damage because he was able to get guns easily.
This attack, like every attack by a Muslim perp, has again put the Muslim community into an impossible fix. We decry that such a deed has anything to do with Islam and yet we scramble to put on press conferences and issue statements knowing that people associate it with us no matter what. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t and are stuck having to respond publicly, as if there is collective culpability, to every Muslim piece of crap who does something awful in the West. In the East there are daily terror attacks, because terrorists spend most of their time killing Muslims in case you didn’t realize it, but American Muslims aren’t expected to hold a press conference for those. A small comfort. Or not.
The next few weeks will packed with analysis over Mateen, homosexuality in the Muslim community, and ISIS. But as we continue to debate his motives, remember this: the families of 49 innocent people will remain shattered forever and other sick, scary people keep buying more guns.
I will continue to pray for the families of the victims, donate to help them through all of this, and point out that America is addicted to lethal weapons.
Asia McClain’s book was finally released last week and I read it over the past weekend. It was a quick read because she writes with conversational comfort, direct and simple, a style I actually love. I have always hated the pomposity of presumptuous writing.
I couldn’t not read the book, after all I had to see what she had to say about the case, about Serial, about Urick and Thiru, and of course about Adnan and Hae. She didn’t disappoint. As she had since 1999, Asia remains firm in her conviction of seeing Adnan after school on the day Hae disappeared, and confirms what I recall, that both her boyfriend and his friend had also seen Adnan and during that time remembered it. All these years later they may not, but they were never asked to for 15 years.
I was deeply moved at how strongly she felt about doing the right thing after she heard Urick on Serial. It weighed on her heart heavily, and I could sense it in her words. I outright cried when she cited a mutual friend of her and Adnan who said he always believed in Adnan’s innocence and that Adnan is one of the sweetest people he’s ever met.
Asia also publishes her letters from 1999, the ones she wrote to Adnan, in the book with notations. She scrupulously tries to explain nearly everything that could be left up to interpretation. I understand why she does it, given the awful way Thiru tried to twist everything she wrote as a 17 year old at the PCR hearing. I hope on the inside he is ashamed of himself. He’s no better than the idiotic guilters who have harassed Asia to no end, including saying terrible things about her baby (she’s due next month) and organizing a campaign to give her book one star ratings on Amazon. One asshole, a female one from the chubby, scruffy nail-polished finger I could see in the pics, bought the book a couple of weeks ago from Barnes & Nobles and took photos of some pages to share with the cockroach sub. At least she bought the book, because no one else did. Within a jiffy the roach gang apparently uploaded a pirated copy. Of course ten sad angry people reading a pirated copy does not a revolution make, and though they tried hard to screw Asia on Amazon reviews, the result is pathetic. Every single star left is from someone whose purchase can’t be verified, ie they got hearts full of vitriol but empty, broke-ass wallets. Every verified purchaser has left her four and five stars. That says something.
I’m going to be writing my review in the next day or so. The book was sweet, funny (I lol’d a few times), and authentic. I will never be able to appreciate enough Asia stepping up to the plate, to the scrutiny, to the assholery of the state, to the sickness of online trolls, all for the sake of truth. It won’t be in vain sister.
I’m asking all my readers, followers, supporters to buy Asia’s book and leave her the reviews she deserves for being brave and sticking by the truth despite being harassed and intimated by trolls and Thiru. I promise you the shyte the trolls are saying about her book are lies. Because the idiots haven’t even read it.
Thank you Asia. Power and prayers to you and your family.
Speaking of books and reviews, my book has been reviewed by the two toughest reviewers in publishing – Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Kirkus, I’ve been told, lives to rip authors a new one. Only 10% of the books that are submitted to them for review get the coveted Kirkus Star. PW is called the Bible of the book review industry. Both of these review outfits help determine the amount of media your book will get, if bookstores will carry it, and even the kind of sales you are likely to see.
Both Kirkus and PW have now given Adnan’s Story starred reviews. It is rather unreal to me. I looked up some of my favorite books and authors on both sites and realized how most of them didn’t get the star. My agent and editor are thrilled of course, but I’m still not believing it. After reading my book through about 2300 times for edits, I can’t quite take it anymore. Despite my skepticism, it seems the book is not half-bad.
You can get your not-half-bad book here: adnanstory.com. If you preorder before August 9, you get a bookplate personally signed by me, just fill out the form on that site. My hand will be just fine after signing 5000 of them, who needs fine motor skills? After August 9, sorry no more bookplates.
But you may be able to get your book signed in person, because there will be a number of events coming up, including an actual launch event on August 9, on the Baltimore harbor itself. The list of cities is not yet complete, and they’ll be added over time. If you don’t see your city, feel free to tweet at my agent Lauren Abramo (I love you Lauren, sorry) and see if something can be set up.
I look forward to meeting folks around the country and signing your books, but let’s face it, I have to love my pre-order readers more. You’ll feel the love in every cramped signature. Apologies in advance for any chai or Mr. Beans hair that ends up on them.
And yes, there is an audiobook. I’m recording the sucker. “How hard can it be?” I thought when I was asked to do it. Let me just put it this way: it takes me about 5 hours to read 50 pages. The book is over 400 pages. Do the math. I’ve recorded for 5 days and have about 3 more days to go. By the end of every recording day I can barely form words anymore. Some words, words I use all the time, don’t even sound right anymore. After a while I start wondering if anything I’m saying is even coherent. I periodically break into tear when reading hard passages. My intestinal track is one loud beast, a revelation to me, and often competes for the mic in the dead-silent recording booth.
All in all, I feel deeply sorry for the sound editor who has to deal with me saying “sorry”, “thirsty”, “tummy”, “need a tissue” and a host of other things a million times as we trudge through my inability to simply read with expression. Nonetheless they seem hopeful that it will actually get done, so I have hope too. You can order the audiobook on Audible.com.
Adnan’s story isn’t just what’s in the book of course. It’s what is going on right now, this very minute. I must get at least a dozen inquiries a day about the status of his appeal, about if the judge has ruled.
He hasn’t. Yes, it’s been four months or so. Yes it feels like forever and I am really really ready to get that ruling already. But there is no deadline, no time limit, no way to predict when it will happen. I love you people, but please, I can’t keep repeating the same thing over and over on social media. You can bet when the judge rules it will be all over the news, my timeline, Justin Brown’s timeline, and the timeline of anyone associated with the case or Undisclosed, including Saad, Susan, Colin and others. YOU WILL NOT MISS THE NEWS WHEN IT BREAKS, believe this.
Lots of people ask if it’s a good or bad thing that Judge Welch is taking so long. It’s neither. He’s taking as long as it takes for him to try and make his judgment iron-clad. It will be his legacy after all, the last ruling of his career, having been brought out of retirement for it. The last thing he wants is to be overruled by the higher court. Whatever he decides, he wants to make sure it will withstand an appeal.
Because it will be appealed. If we lose, we appeal. If the State loses, they appeal. Judge Welch’s decision is very important, but it may be that the final decision will be with the higher court anyway.
It’s hard to be patient, I know. Just remember that Adnan and his family have waited 17 years. We got this.
Season 2 is upon us soon. We will start off a brand new wrongful conviction case, one that will make your head spin, on July 11, 2016. It doesn’t mean we won’t continue to cover Adnan’s case, we will. You know we can’t and won’t ever walk away from it. So anytime there is a development, we’ll update you on it, rest assured.
It’s not just a new case we’re bringing to you, and a new defendant to fight for, we also have some big changes that we’re over the moon about. Actor Jon Cryer has joined the Undisclosed team! I know, we can’t believe it ourselves. You may be wondering how this all came about, but no worries, we’ll soon have an episode explaining all that.
For now what you should be really excited about is this: every Monday you’ll get your Undisclosed episode with Susan, Colin and I. Every Thursday you’ll get an Addendum episode hosted by Jon. That’s right. Two episodes a week.
And that’s not the last you’ll hear of Undisclosed news. There’s more to come, soon enough. The criminal justice system won’t know what hit em.