Author: Fatemeh

May 29, 2009 / / muslim

Compiled by Latoya Peterson and Fatemeh Fakhraie


Rolling Ruminations has hosted a blog carnival on White Privilege and the Muslim Ummah. As regular readers know, it gets kind of heavy around here when we start discussing the intersection of race and religion. True to form, the carnival featured a range of opinions. Our favorites are below.

Ginny – Hesitant Thoughts On White Privilege

As a blind white Muslim, I just plain give up in trying to understand how I’m supposed to navigate the complex world of race, disability and religion, because no matter what I do or say, it’s always going to be viewed through the fact that I’m white, and thus everything else is seemingly minimized and seen as an attempt by me to gain some kinda street cred with POC, because “hey I’ve been discriminated just like you”, when that wasn’t even my intention, and I wouldn’t even try to say as much! Because the fact that I had to testify in a court of law to being sexually assaulted, or the fact that I had to give a detailed deposition regarding employment discrimination, or the fact that there are certain websites that are not accessible to me has nothing to do with race, and is a completely different type of discrimination altogether. Yes, I experience white privilege, and I’m sure I do so in ways I don’t realize. However, I don’t think other forms of discrimination should be passed off as nothing, though at the same time, I don’t think that they should be held up as ways that whites “understand” people of color. I’d not go so far as to say that. Because I’ll tell you right now that sighted people will never understand what it’s like to be blind. So as a white person, I can’t tell you what it’s like to be black, or anything else for that matter. All I can tell you is what it’s like to be a blind white Muslim who benefits from white privilege but doesn’t always understand how. And I’m struggling with that. This whole race thing is hard for me to understand, I’m white but I don’t know what that means, only what society tells me it means. I’m supposed to have some kinda privilege, I’m supposed to be on the upper echelons of my society but I don’t feel like it most of the time. Most of the time I feel less than, second best, not as good as. I’m made to feel that I have to work twice as hard, go twice as far, do twice as much. But oh, I’m white, so I’m supposed to have some kind of privilege. And maybe I do, it’s just hard for me to realize what or where that privilege lies.

Read the Post Link Love: The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival

May 28, 2009 / / academia
April 17, 2009 / / gender

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Jim Hoagland’s April 12, 2009 article for The Washington Post, entitled “The War Within Islam,” is the best example of “journalistic” Islamophobia I’ve seen in a reputable news source in quite a while. Hoagland has written for The Washington Post for several years, and his focus is on both national and international politics.

But in all his time at the Post, this is the first time he’s ever shown editorial concern for Muslim women. In fact, it’s only the second time he’s focused on Muslim women at all: in 2005, he wrote about the gains that Iraqi women gained in the 2005 elections. These two articles alone reflect a heavy-handed political paternalism that is amplified when he discusses the position of women in predominately Muslim societies. Get ready to see some serious faking concern for women to mask and justify martial occupation!

On a serious note, Hoagland opens by describing the recent video of a Pakistani girl being publicly whipped. This was a horrific occurrence, and no one should be made to suffer this way, publicly or privately. But Hoagland’s use of this video to illustrate the “brutality” of the local Taliban is misplaced because he ends up casting an illustrative net so wide that it catches all Muslim and Southwest Asian men, dehumanizing all instead of only a few. Which one is worse, I’m not sure. Read the Post Hoagland’s Hogwash: Islamophobia in the Washington Post

April 13, 2009 / / links
March 23, 2009 / / links

Compiled by Latoya Peterson

The Daily Beast – Obama’s ‘Third Culture’ Team

John Quincy Adams lived in France, and young Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Europe often enough to master French and German, but Barack Obama is the first modern American president to have spent some of his formative years outside the United States. It is a trait he shares with several appointees to the new administration: White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was a child in Tehran and London, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was raised in east Africa, India, Thailand, China and Japan as the son of a Ford Foundation executive, and National Security Advisor James L. Jones was raised in Paris. (Also, Bill Richardson, tipped as Secretary of Commerce, grew up in Mexico City.) […]

This is more than a trivial coincidence. So-called “Third Culture Kids”—and the adults they become”—share certain emotional and psychological traits that may exert great influence in the new administration. According to a body of sociological literature devoted to children who spend a portion of their developmental years outside their “passport country,” the classic profile of a “TCK” is someone with a global perspective who is socially adaptable and intellectually flexible. He or she is quick to think outside the box and can appreciate and reconcile different points of view. Beyond whatever diversity in background or appearance a TCK may bring to the party, there is a diversity of thought as well.

The F-word.org – New Study Refutes Bulimia as “Rich, White Girl’s Disease”

Eating disorders are often thought to be a “rich white girl’s disease,” but a new study shows that black girls and girls from low-income families are more likely to develop bulimia than their wealthier white counterparts. The study is based on information from a government database of 2,300 girls from schools in California, Ohio and Washington D.C. The girls were surveyed annually about their eating habits and body image between the ages of 9 and 20. The study included an equal number of blacks and whites.

About 2.6 percent of black girls were found to be bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of whites. Bulimia affected 3.3 percent of girls whose parents had a high school education, compared to 1.5 percent of girls in households where at least one parent had a college degree. In other words, black girls are 50 percent more likely than whites to develop bulimia, while girls in low income brackets are 153 percent more likely to develop bulimia than girls in the highest income bracket.


Real Media Ethics – The Usage Panel: “Illegal Immigrant”

“Illegal aliens” and “illegals” are two answers that can be dispensed with pretty easily. When used in journalism, the legal term “aliens” suggests an exaggerated sense of strangeness, and the connotation with martians is unavoidable. Although it’s relatively rare to find uses of “illegal aliens” in major news organizations (cable news, as always, excepted), except in quotes, a quick Google news search found numerous examples from local news organizations. “Illegals” dehumanizes, defining a diverse group of people by one (negative) characteristic by employing the reductive practice of noun-ifying an adjective. In a 2006 press release addressing immigration terminology, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists states that “using [“illegals”] in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed.” “Illegals” is increasingly unusual even in headlines (where more accurate and ethical, but longer, phrases are sometimes eschewed for space considerations), though the AP seems to have few scruples about using the word, in headlines, the body of a story, or both. I don’t know how much control publications that use AP stories have over style issues like that, but it would be interesting to know to what extent they are allowed to impose their own style guildelines.

The interesting question for me is whether “illegal immigrant” is an ethical/accurate way to refer to people who enter or reside in the country illegally.

Read the Post Links – 2009-03-23

March 20, 2009 / / links
March 10, 2009 / / Israel/Palestine

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie. A longer version of this article appears on altmuslimah.

I finally got around to watching AmericanEast this weekend. Full disclosure: I had originally read Tariq Nelson’s review, which was a pretty good rundown.

AmericanEast is an attempt at mainstreaming American Muslims and attempts to portray the struggles Muslims face in the United States. In my opinion, they overdid it and never established a coherent plot. And on top of that, I found that the characters had no depth and some were cartoonish caricatures.

The movie centers on Mustafa, an Egyptian immigrant who owns a café in a heavily Middle Eastern part of Los Angeles. His life, and the lives of several close to him, is one problem or tragedy after another: at one point during the movie, I asked myself whether anything good was ever going to happen to anyone.

Mustafa has a sister, Salwah. Tariq outlines her character:

Salwah Marzouke, Mustafa’s sister, was a nurse that styled hair in the back of her brother’s restaurant and was arranged to marry her cousin Sabir. However she did not like him and they did not get married. But the cousin was never informed (at least not on camera) and the story was dropped. Salwah was also interested in a doctor at her hospital who was not Muslim.

The movie stresses over and over that marrying Salwah off is Mustafa’s duty (or so he believes). Sabir comes from Egypt to marry Salwah and take him back home with her, although she is less than excited (that’s an understatement) about this arrangement. Even though she often fights with her brother, she gives off major submissive, dutiful vibes that plague many female Muslim characters in the form of wide-eyed, helpless stares contrasted with humbly averted eyes and lowered chin. Read the Post Losing My Religion

February 13, 2009 / / cultural appropriation

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie. An expanded version of this piece can be found at Muslimah Media Watch.

Last summer saw the launch of ALO Hayati, “America’s Top Middle Eastern Lifestyle Magazine.” Thanks to a gracious donor, I finally got my hands on a copy of the July 2008 issue.

All lifestyle magazines have an aspirational feel to them, and this one was no different. Chock full of advertisements for Dubai hotels and Swiss watches, ALO wasn’t particularly different than any other lifestyle magazine. Considering the economic situation of magazines, it doesn’t seem like an incredibly auspicious time to launch one aimed at a materialistic lifestyle. I wasn’t able to find any updates about the magazine’s publication on the website, and as far as I’m aware, this is the only edition, though in the magazine they refer to an earlier issue in some places.

As someone who enjoys a good glossy every now and then, I delighted over advertisements with Kim Kardashian, and interview with exclusive designer Bijan, and a fluffy piece on intercultural relationships (though I did not care for the cover teaser: “Shocking Intercultural Stories”).

The magazine featured an interview with Leila Ahmed, which was a great one, likening the current western media representation of Muslim women to the same patronizing Orientalism that played out in the first wave of colonialism in Middle East. Her interview shed lots of light on the history and future of the headscarf. Despite the educational qualities of her interview, I kept thinking, “Who is this educating?”

While not every Middle Eastern person is going to be familiar with the history behind the headscarf, it seems sort of odd to have an educational feature about hijab in a magazine aimed at a demographic that has a fairly lengthy history with headscarves, even if many of them aren’t Muslim. Something about this piece tugged at me. It almost felt as if it was aimed at people who were not Middle Eastern. Read the Post ALO Again: New Lifestyle Magazine More of the Same Old Orientalism