Rarely do photographers put together religion stories, but the New York Times just came out with a piece on gun-owning American Muslims that truly stands out.
Egyptian documentary photographer Amr Alfiky, together with Adeel Hassan, who writes for a Times newsletter on race, assembled vignettes on nine such Muslims in Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma and northern Virginia.
It’s the kind of piece that definitely stands stereotypes on their heads. The familiar surroundings (the local gym, the tree-lined neighborhood streets, a university library) in which these folks are photographed convey the idea they could be us.
What these Muslims want to say in this story is they are us. As for the Second Amendment, they own it.
American Muslims ... say they own guns for the same reasons as anyone else: for protection, for hunting and sport shooting, for gun and rifle collections or for their work.
They also cite another factor: fear of persecution, at a time when hate crimes against Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But owning a gun is no assurance of security. Muslim gun owners are viewed with suspicion by gun stores, ranges and clubs, and occasionally met with harassment. ... Gun ranges and gun shops in several states have declared themselves “Muslim-free zones.”
Guess I had no idea such thing existed. Then again, I googled "Muslims and guns" and saw non-stop images of ISIS, jihad, you-name-it.
What the Times is offering is a whole different side of God and guns.
One gun range owner in Arkansas, Jan Morgan, gained national attention in 2014 when her business was one of the first to declare a ban on Muslims. (She used her newfound prominence to run for governor, losing in the Republican primary last month.)
In Florida, a gun store and range that banned Muslims was sued for discrimination in 2015. The suit was dropped, but the company still sells bumper stickers that proclaim it “Muslim-free.”
And in Oklahoma, a federal judge is considering a lawsuit filed by a Muslim man, an Army reservist who was turned away from a gun range in 2015. Before kicking him out, employees at the range demanded to know whether he was part of a “jihad,” according to the lawsuit.
I bet it wasn’t easy to find these folks nor coax them to be photographed and quoted in a large newspaper. Several have very public jobs. One is a deputy sheriff in Florida and another is a state investigator in Oklahoma.
The American Muslims we interviewed recently said their decision to own guns was simply a matter of exercising their hard-earned rights.
One of them is Nezar Hamze, a deputy sheriff in Broward County, Fla., who is also active in the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights group.
“Muslims have a victim mentality, or immigrant mentality, when it comes to gun ownership,” said Mr. Hamze, 41, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and whose father emigrated from Lebanon. “They’re afraid that they’re going to be put on some sort of list if they purchase, or if they go to a gun range and shoot.”
He added: “They’re diminishing their rights for themselves. They can practice their Second Amendment, just like every other American does.”
Photographs showed people in Islamic settings (at a mosque, standing on a prayer rug, attending a Muslim wedding) and then at a secular setting.
According to the Pew study, only 16 percent of nonwhite women in the United States reported owning a gun. Chaikirah Parker, a black woman who converted to Islam at 16, plans to become one of them.
“I don’t go outside in the evening time anymore by myself, and I am a very independent woman,” said Ms. Parker, 40, who works for a military contractor and lives in Tampa. She said she converted after learning more about the history of African-American Muslims, and soon after decided that she needed to take safety precautions because of her hijab. Signs with racial and religious slurs were put near her home after the Sept. 11 attacks, but with young children, she did not want to have a gun at home.
One of the best stories was about the man who filed a lawsuit.
An Army reservist who lives in Tulsa, Okla., Raja’ee Fatihah, 31, says that on most firing ranges, “everybody is very open to one another.”
But not at the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in Oktaha. In July 2015, the owners posted a sign near the front entrance announcing that Muslims were not permitted at the facility and that the business was a “Muslim-free establishment.” Three months later, Mr. Fatihah dropped by.
“I thought that visiting that gun range would be a good way to build a bridge with those people, who I knew already had some animosity toward Muslims,” he said. “That wasn’t the case. As soon as they knew that I was Muslim, they wanted me to leave the establishment.”
A lawyer for the gun range said it would not comment on the litigation. Mr. Fatihah, an investigator for the State of Oklahoma, owns six guns…
I imagine the photographer enjoyed destroying stereotypes, such as the Oklahoma couple who converted to Islam in 2001; she being a Choctaw Indian and he looking like the kind of guy you’d see driving a pickup and both of them fervent National Rifle Association members. Yet they attend an Islamic center in Tulsa.
Because this story was more photographed, then reported, I'm not going to quibble with the lack of interviews from people who oppose Muslim gun ownership because this was more a visual piece with audio.
So give it a look. It does put a whole different take on God and guns.