A personal experience with the hatred of Islam

By Guest Contributor Shawna, originally published at Islam on My Side

This is an old post I’ve pulled out of the Islam on My Side archives, originally posted with the title “Give Me an Unbigoted Break.” It’s a bit more personal than I’ve been inclined to post on this blog, but as personal essays come in from contributors (deadline August 1st, so get to it!), I feel inclined to share a bit of my own experience–the roots of this blog and anthology, if you will.

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As I thumbed my way through some favorite blogs this morning, I was inspired to touch on a hot topic in the Muslim blogosphere: bigotry. Islamo-Facism Week has encouraged the debasement of Islamic ideals stemming from a bigoted hardline against Muslims. I’ve grown used to being lumped into unfriendly categories. It often happens by friendly people who are misinformed by Horowitz-like others or simply ignorant to world affairs. I’m often tolerant of said lumping.

I spent six years in Oklahoma, three years in Texas, and another six years in Arkansas prior to the eleven I’ve spent in Indiana. For those of you trying to do the math, that makes me twenty-six years old. When I lived in Arkansas, I was the object of some pretty serious hate. My family was the only Muslim family in the tiny town we lived in. I started there in fifth grade. I remember my first day of school clearly. I’d changed schools a number of times as my dad moved up in the job world. I’d gotten pretty good at identifying who the kids I wanted to get in with were from day one. I was thrilled when one of the girls disengaged herself from the medium-popularity clique and offered to be my tour-guide. She never got to guide me though. I was handed off before that first period ended to a girl with wildly red hair who was clearly not as well-to-do or well-looked upon. This girl became my best friend for several years, mostly due to her honesty when I asked her why the other girl had ditched me.

She nodded when she said it, “The teacher says you’re part of a cult.”

It took awhile for the implications of this to sink in. My fifth-grade homeroom/English teacher had discouraged another student from being my handler because she somehow knew my family was Muslim. Or maybe it was because I entered the classroom with a wicked tan, the same type of tan my younger sister sported when we were on the local swim team and another teacher’s daughter came up to her and asked, “Do you take pills to be Black?” or something like that. Continue reading

Guest Blogging Goodness

by Latoya Peterson

I am over at Feministe for the next two weeks, guest blogging. I would love if some of y’all came through every now and then to show some anti-racist love over on the boards.

I plan to blog a lot about hip-hop feminism, and also find the time to cover all the stuff I outlined in my intro piece:

I’m still planning to write some things on comic and video game heroines, manga-style feminism, the Pussycat Dolls, Tila Tequila, music videos and messaging, paranormal smut fiction and reggaeton. But I will also be outlining my understanding and application of hip-hop feminism, dissecting musical lyrics and ingrained misogyny, issues with discussing feminism and class, the perils of religious bias, capitalism, colonialist bias in the feminist gaze, why feminism is a battleground, and understanding the limitations of both lived experience and theory.

My first real post is up now, called “Before I discovered feminism…

A short sample…

[...] Bryan was also bored, alternately ignoring me and fighting with me, generally over whose turn it was to play their CD on the one stereo in the basement with a temperamental attitude. We both knew that at any moment, the CD player could decide to stop reading CDs so the battle quickly took on epic proportions.

After I lost the most recent round of slapboxing over the stereo, I settled onto a couch with a book to read while Bryan queued up a brand new CD that was just released.

“Stupid,” he taunted me from across the room. “You need to stop looking all dumb and learn to start acting like a girl. You need to look like this!”

He walked over, and shoved the CD cover in my face.


Read the rest.
I am not sure how I am going to handle these posts – depending on the quality of the conversation, I will either post them in full here or just provide links out. We’ll see how it goes.

-LDP

The elephant in the living room

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

In its current issue, Greater Good magazine ponders “Are we born racist?” and in the article “Look Twice,” Susan T. Fiske, Ph.D., Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, offers some bad news and good news:

Most people think they’re less biased than average. But just as we can’t all be better than average, we can’t all be less prejudiced than average. Although the message—and the success so far—of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign suggests an America that is moving past traditional racial divisions and prejudices, it’s probably safe to assume that all of us harbor more biases than we think.

Science suggests that most of us don’t even know the half of it. A 20-year eruption of research from the field of “social neuroscience” reveals exactly how automatically and unconsciously prejudice operates. As members of a society with egalitarian ideals, most Americans have good intentions. But new research suggests our brains and our impulses all too often betray us. That’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news: More recent research shows that our prejudices are not inevitable; they are actually quite malleable, shaped by an ever-changing mix of cultural beliefs and social circumstances. While we may be hardwired to harbor prejudices against those who seem different or unfamiliar to us, it’s possible to override our worst impulses and reduce these prejudices. Doing so requires more than just good intentions; it requires broad social efforts to challenge stereotypes and get people to work together across group lines. But a vital first step is learning about the biological and psychological roots of prejudice.

Modern prejudice

Here’s the first thing to understand: Modern prejudice is not your grandparents’ prejudice.

Old-fashioned racism and sexism were known quantities because people would mostly say what they thought. Blacks were lazy; Jews were sly; women were either dumb or bitchy. Modern equivalents continue, of course—look at current portrayals of Mexican immigrants as criminals (when, in fact, crime rates in Latino neighborhoods are lower than those of other ethnic groups at comparable socioeconomic levels). Most estimates suggest such blatant and wrongheaded bigotry persists among only 10 percent of citizens in modern democracies. Blatant bias does spawn hate crimes, but these are fortunately rare (though not rare enough). At the very least, we can identify the barefaced bigots.

Our own prejudice—and our children’s and grandchildren’s prejudice, if we don’t address it—takes a more subtle, unexamined form. Neuroscience has shown that people can identify another person’s apparent race, gender, and age in a matter of milliseconds. In this blink of an eye, a complex network of stereotypes, emotional prejudices, and behavioral impulses activates. These knee-jerk reactions do not require conscious bigotry, though they are worsened by it.

Continue reading

Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books – Part 2 of 2

By Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

While I believe there is very little known about the images and roles of women in comic books, the subject of how Muslim female characters are portrayed is even smaller. In part 1 of this essay, I looked at how the character of “Dust” was depicted in a popular American comic book (X-Men). In part 2, as promised, I will examine how numerous Muslim female characters are depicted in comic books written by Muslim writers. I will begin by discussing two female characters in Naif Al-Mutawa’s fascinating comic book, “The 99,” and then critique two more female characters appearing in the world of AK Comics, founded by Dr. Ayman Kandeel. Al-Mutawa’s company, Teshkeel Comics, and Dr. Kandeel’s AK Comics couldn’t be any more different in their presentation of female characters – the former shows us arguably the best depictions of Muslim female characters to have ever appeared in comic books, while the latter gives us an unimaginative redux of unrealistically curvaceous and buxom super-heroines who look like clones of Wonder Woman and Catwoman. By bringing these characters into the spotlight, we can learn how incredibly significant it is to battle sexism and racism in comic books as well as how we can create a much-needed dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world.

Judging by the title, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Muslim readers that Naif Al-Mutawa’s “The 99” is inspired by Islamic culture and religion. For those who are unfamiliar, the title of the comic refers to an Islamic teaching that God has 99 Beautiful Names or Attributes. Al-Mutawa draws from this tradition and produces remarkable superheroes – most of them teenagers who each embody one of the 99 Names of God. The story begins in Baghdad in the mid-13th century when the Mongol invasion threatens the great city and most importantly, the Dar al-Hikma, or “The House of Wisdom.” As many history buffs know, the library of Baghdad doesn’t survive –the Mongols destroy it and burn every book – but Al-Mutawa explores the human imagination and shows us an untold story of librarians and scholars who preserve the library’s knowledge within 99 mystical gems known as Noor Stones (“Noor” being the Arabic word for “Light”). The Noor stones were taken to Andalusia and preserved in a fortress, but one man’s thirst for power caused the fortress to erupt and scatter the stones all around the world. We are brought to the present day in Paris, where a scholar named Dr. Ramzi Razem quests for the lost Noor stones with his organization “The 99 Steps Foundation.” There are many naysayers at Dr. Ramzi’s presentations and call it mere myth until one day, something extraordinary happens…

Those who are able to activate the Noor Stones are called gem-bearers. We learn later on that the Noor Stones choose their bearers therefore they are useless if possessed by anyone other than the ones destined to bear them. The first female character we are introduced to is the 18-year-old Dana Ibrahim (pictured above) in the United Arab Emirates. Being the daughter of a wealthy father makes her a target for many criminals, and this truth soon dawns on her when a car explodes outside of her university. Amidst the chaos, a group of thugs drag her into a van and speed her off to an isolated prison. Dana has faith that her father will pay the ransom, but just in case, she starts calculating the intervals in which the guards give her food and leave her unwatched, and starts digging a tunnel with a spoon, all whilst wearing a blindfold and having her hands tied. After many days of digging in the darkness, she stumbles upon a magical gem that radiates with extraordinary light. Her abductors discover the tunnel and then drag her into another dark room. Angry with tears rolling down her eyes, Dana decides not to give up, and the magical gem she found shines light and reveals a ventilation shaft for her to climb into. She crawls to the end of the shaft but comes to a dead end because the exit is locked!

Magically, the Noor Stone pours light into the lock and cracks the combination, setting Dana free and racing to safety. She is frightened however because wherever she turns her head, she sees the light and darkness that exists within all human beings. This is visualized brilliantly in the comic book, showing people filled with light, but also with stains of darkness. She says, “It’s not about one person, one place, it’s about who we are.” These words allude to how every human being has light, or goodness, within them, but there are dark elements too that come from the external world. As she is terrified by these visions, she looks within herself and sees an enormous amount of light, but she doesn’t believe it; she doesn’t believe there is goodness in her.

She struggles with self-doubt – her mother had died a long time ago and her father mysteriously did not take immediate action in paying the ransom. When she returns home, she sees that he is filled with more darkness than anyone she has come across. Because of this, she feels un-Loved and unneeded; she feels like she failed her father somewhere in her life and didn’t deserve to be saved. Upon meeting Dr. Ramzi at “The 99 Steps Foundation,” she learns from him that the Noor Stones chose her because of something within her. Dana is reluctant to believe until she wears the gem stone around her neck and sees the light within Dr. Ramzi. She tears and says, “I never thought I’d have hope again.” Dr. Ramzi tells her that she is one of the 99: Noora, the Light.

Dana Ibrahim, or Noora, is quickly becoming one of my favorite female characters in comic books. I was saddened that there have only been 7 issues released in the United States so far (there are 12 issues in the Middle-East) because, in my opinion, Noora is the type of character we need to see more of in comic books. When we are first introduced to her, she is wearing a red t-shirt and blue jeans, and although she is drawn with curves, it’s very subtle and not drawn out of proportion. From Noora’s depiction, it is made very clear that Al-Mutawa and his creative team (which consists of artists and writers who have worked with DC Comics and Marvel Comics) are more interested in storytelling and character development rather than having full pages of women exposing their larges breasts or shameless close-ups. There was not a single panel in the comics where I found she was being objectified or exploited; she struck me as a real character, someone with her own mind, thoughts, and beliefs. One of the most important lessons I learned from screenwriting class was to make characters accomplish things on their own, i.e. let them work through their problems because that allows them to learn and discover something new about themselves. This doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to assist them; it just simply means that no one else should do all the work for them. Noora’s premiere issue reveals to us that she is a three-dimensional and strong-willed character because she broke out of the prison by herself. She started to dig her tunnel, but before she could complete it, the kidnappers discovered it and sent her to another dark room. Even as she is beaten, bruised, and exhausted from days of digging, she refused to give up, and she found the Noor Stone not simply because it chose her, but because of the will-power that exists within her. Noora is not rescued by anyone and taken to the headquarters of “The 99,” she fights her way free against all odds – this shows us that she has agency; she has control over her kidnappers and refuses to fall victim to her captive state. As she raced across the city and saw the darkness and light within others, she was learning something new about the world and, more importantly, about herself. Probably the most interesting part of the Noora’s character is that much of the scenario I described above runs parallel with Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Although Muhammad wasn’t kidnapped, he was meditating in a cave when he first received God’s revelation from the Angel Gabriel. Similarly, Noora is in a dark tunnel where she comes across the mystical Noor Stone, which clearly has Divine implications since it represents an attribute of God’s 99 Names. When Muhammad runs out of the cave, he is frightened because wherever he turns his face, he sees the Vision of Gabriel. He is frightened, but at the same time, realizes that he has reached a transition period in his life – he is making the self-discovery that he is the Prophet of God, to bring the people of the world from the depths of the darkness into the Light. When Noora escapes her dark prison, she is frightened by the new Visions she is sees wherever she looks. She is frightened, but at the same time, realizes that she has reached a transition period in her life – she is making the self-discovery that she is chosen by the Noor Stone, to help bring goodness and light into a dark world.

Whether Al-Mutawa intended Noora to be somewhat analogous to Muhammad is unknown, but the similarities cannot be denied. Likening a fictional character to a Prophet may be a very touchy subject among more conservative Muslim communities, but if these aspects of Noora’s story are inspired by Muhammad’s mystical experience with Gabriel, then I believe this is a very positive and timely achievement. Many fictional characters like Neo of The Matrix, Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars, and Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia have come to symbolize Jesus (peace be upon him), so it’s refreshing to see a positive fictional character inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (and even more so considering those horrid Danish cartoons!). Continue reading

New study: biracial asian-americans are more likely to be sad

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

biracial star trek 1

Do you remember last last week’s Freakonomics study that claimed biracial black/white kids were liable to be twice as messed up as kids who were monoracially black or white?Apart from the racist generalisations of that study, some of our readers (including myself) were peeved at the insinuation that the only kind of biraciality that exists is the black/white kind. But good news everybody: there’s now a study for Asian/white biracials too!

Biracial Asian-Americans are twice as likely as monoracial Asian-Americans to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder, U.S. researchers said.

At first glance, this study seems to be treading the same problematic lines as the Freakonomics study. Like, call us crazy (haha!), but us biracial Asian Americans don’t like being told by a researchers that we’re twice as likely to be bananas as our monoracial Asian friends and relatives.

But take a closer look:

Among the biracial individuals in their national survey the researchers found 34 percent had been diagnosed with a psychological disorder — such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse — compared to 17 percent of monoracial individuals.

Considering that many biracial folk from a wee age have to put up with a lot of nonsense from families, both communities of colour AND white folk, and just society in general, it doesn’t surprise me if researchers find we experience higher levels of unhappiness.

If you ask me, there are two problems with the way this study has been described. One has to do with the way we talk about mental health, and the other has to do with confusing nature with nurture.

Continue reading

Where Are the Jabawockeez Now?

Hanging with Daddy Yankee!

Does anyone know who the other crew is that the Jabawockeez battle in the video? Are they alums from the same show or someone else?

Yes, before you ask, we are going to critically parse the images presented in music videos in the near future, as well as provide some info on feminist deconstructions of hip-hop and reggaeton. But until then…

Friday Reggaeton Party!

(H/T Marisol)

Judd Apatow and the Art of White Masculinity

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

“That shit is SO fuckin’ homo”

So I finally saw Pineapple Express this weekend and throughout the whole movie the men around me were constantly expressing how “fucking gay” the movie was. I left there thinking about the two very different displays of masculinity I had just witnessed in the movie theater. The men in the audience, who were mostly young men of color in their late-teens/early-twenties, were attempting to (re)affirm their masculinity through homophobic and sexist comments in response to the perceived lack of masculinity they saw on the screen. On the screen however the cast of Pineapple Express (most of whom are white men with the exception of Craig Robinson) were celebrating their homosocial (but not homosexual) affection for each other and their outsider status as members of the informal economy. I thought about the ways that homosociality functions not only in Pineapple Express but in Judd Apatow movies generally as a comment on the state of contemporary white masculinity in American society.

For those of you who might not know who Judd Apatow is, he’s the writer and/or producer of many of the successful “Frat Pack” movies including: Pineapple Express, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Superbad, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He’s was also the Executive Producer of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks on NBC.

Yeah, he’s that guy. Continue reading

Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books – Part 1 of 2

Dust

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

BAKWA, AFGHANISTAN – A convoy of jeeps packed with turban-clad and bearded Taliban militia roar through the rocky streets of a small Afghan town. The engines slowly die down as the militiamen hop off their vehicles and prepare to unleash havoc and raid homes

But something unusual mystifies them and halts their extremist fervor. An ominous silence fills the town, as if it were a strange pause in reality. They ponder, “Has the town been abandoned?” The silence is interrupted by the desert wind blowing against curtains and flags, while startling the braying animals.The radicals soon realize: the wind is not alone.

A female voice emerges from gusts of sand and warns the Taliban to turn back.The leader becomes infuriated and threatens to burn the entire town to the ground if the people don’t come out of hiding. The invisible entity replies as her voice steps closer and closer to the militia, “[the town] is under my protection. Leave before you get a demonstration of what that means.” The leader is not intimidated and asks what will happen if he does not retreat.

“I’ll rip the skin from your bones,” answers the wind.

Infused with arrogance, the Taliban scoffs, “I would truly like to see that.”

Immediately, the gust of sand swirls into a tornado and swallows the leader’s hand and disarms him of his assault rifle. The sandstorm retracts while the Taliban leader screams in pain and looks at his skeletal hand in horror. Finally, the Taliban rush to their jeeps and speed off from the town. The desert wind and sand transform to reveal the city’s invisible hero.

Meet “Dust,” or Sooraya Qadir, a burqa-garbed adolescent Afghan girl who has the ability, as shown in the scene above, to shape into sandstorms and tear the skin off her enemies. She has been a member of Marvel Comic’s X-Men since her first appearance in 2002 and she currently appears regularly in the “Young X-Men” comic books.

In the male-dominated world of comic books where female characters are depicted with large breasts and skimpy skin-tight (or lack of) clothing, it’s interesting to examine whether or not Dust and other Muslim super-heroines escape the sexual objectification and sexism that women often suffer in comic books. Are the Muslim women subjected to stereotypes? Are they doomed to the same fate of other female characters? Does the “male gaze” still apply? Continue reading