My name is Jessica Maryam Mathieu. I’m a graphic designer, artist and writer working on various projects that I share here and on my Twitter and Instagram, including my graphic novel, Prismwalkers: The Resistance. My goal is to share 3 pages a week of the graphic novel here on Sundays when I’m not traveling, God-willing. I currently live at Aprovecho, a sustainable skills research and educational center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, where I’m the Office Manager and Marketing and Communications Director. I moved here almost 2 years ago on hijrah from the exploitative and destructive system of Industrial Capitalism in order to pursue a lifestyle inspired by the example and teachings of the prophets, peace be upon them, and in particular the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I share about that journey on my blog, Come to the Hills. I’m also a student of Shaykh Muhammad Mendes, and I manage his blog, and a student of Imam Fode Drame.
When I was 17 living in Thailand as an exchange student, I vowed to God to spend my life fighting slavery after witnessing girls being sold into slavery by their own families. I knew I couldn’t turn my gaze away from the truth and horror of the modern economic system. I also happened to arrive in Thailand 2 months before the beginning of the 1997 Asian Market crisis, which originated in Thailand. Witnessing the vultures of the IMF and WorldBank circling to effectively colonize Thailand, which until then had remained free of colonialism, through structural adjustment policies, I was disillusioned about the Western financial system early on. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to find effective ways to disengage from and resist the exploitation and destruction of the modern industrial system.
My journey took me to China, where I tried to implement a business model inspired by a blend of classical economic theory and Marxist theory to emancipate women in the garment industry. Having no money and no ability market the product of a radical new industrial model, I ended up partying with Chinese gangsters for a year, then came home to finish my bachelors degree in International Studies.
To continue on my journey to fight slavery, I sought more inspiration, which I found in Sen. John Kerry’s book, The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America’s Security, detailing the devastating consequences that transnational organized crime and political corruption on global peace and stability. Inspired by this and my Chinese gangster friends, I moved to New York, where I earned my MSc. in Global Affairs at New York University, studying the relationship between international political economy, transnational organized crime, and human trafficking. My thesis project was an inferential, associative algorithm designed to detect, track, and investigate transnational criminal activity online through public and private data. The NSA recruited me to develop my algorithm, but I ultimately turned the offer down. If my hypothesis had been correct, then the algorithm could have been able to be used to detect, track, and investigate any kind of person, including minorities, political dissidents, and more, being an unprecedented tool of oppression. I realized I couldn’t stand before God and explain why I had given such a powerful tool to the government. Under the current circumstances, I’m glad I made that choice.
However, after that, I was quickly running out of options. My degree left me with no real skills and it was too specialized to be of any value to other businesses or organizations. At about 30 years old, I didn’t have much or consistent work history and my degree was useless. I ended up being offered a job at an NGO in Cambodia developing social enterprise for rescued sex slaves, but they didn’t want to pay me actual money, so I couldn’t afford to take it.
At that point, after single-mindedly pursing my vow to God instead of pursing a “normal life,” I was at a total dead end in life, and in desperation, I prayed for a miracle. The funny thing is that I didn’t necessarily “believe” in God. At that point, and even when I had made the vow at 17 years old, I didn’t have any beliefs. I was not raised religious, and if anything, I had animosity toward the “God” the Christian West portrayed and toward organized religion. So when I prayed for a miracle, I prayed to everything I could think of, because it was all equally real and not real to me, but I felt that something must be out there, something bigger than myself. Shortly thereafter, I heard a voice, neither male nor female, say, “On March 14th your life will be transformed.” Two months later, in fact on March 15th, I said my shahada and embraced Islam by the Grace and Mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. I continue on my vow to Him ta’ala to fight slavery in its myriad forms by trying to share his Light and Treasure taught by His Beloved Muhammad (SAW) in my art and writing, without restricting the truths to any religion’s symbols, Islam being beyond religion and containing all the religions. And I try to inspire a return to the simple and sustainable lifestyle he, peace be upon him, taught, as an antidote to the destruction, violence, and poison necessitated by the structures of modern capitalist society.
I pray that some people find benefit through my work, and I know that if any benefit I offer is from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alone, and to Him alone all praise and thanks is due.