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. Continue reading
by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee
In a press conference for his latest movie, The Pink Panther 2 (Why, God, why?!), Andy Garcia was quoted as saying, “I’m not a Latino actor, sincerely.” And, well. We think he has a point!
At the press conference, Andy said that, while he is known for being immensely proud of his Cuban heritage, he has tried (unsuccessfully, perhaps) to shed the label of “Latino” from being tacked in front of “Actor Andy Garcia.” He explains:
Everyone knows that I love my culture and that I’m Cuban, but I don’t consider myself a Latino actor, nor do I want other to classify me in that way. All actors should be classified in the same manner.
Dustin Hoffman isn’t described as “Jewish, American” actor. I don’t think heritage has anything to do with acting ability; in reality, we’ll all actors. In my case, I happen to be actor who is American with a Cuban heritage that’s given me a certain sensibility and point of view that maybe others might not have.
Andy also went on to address one of the stereotypes of Latino actors that we most love to loathe:
It’s possible that I’m thought of this way, but I’ve never accepted a script where I’ve had to play the “Latin Lover.” I’m not interested in that type of film.
by Guest Contributor Bianca I. Laureano
I can’t remember where I was or whom I was with when I heard and realized that we are all temporarily able-bodied. I’m sure it was this decade, perhaps 2003, because I really had not thought about my privilege as an able-bodied person until I began my graduate work and met Angel, a woman in my cohort who was focusing on women of Color with disabilities. I also didn’t think about it until I lost one of my abilities.
Being trained as a scholar specializing in intersectional theory and thought, disability was a “difference” rarely mentioned and discussed unless Angel brought it up. We can see the continued absence and exclusion of people with disabilities in popular culture. Yet, if they are present, we mostly see how people with disabilities are considered anything but “normal,” and usually there is a level of wanting to find a “cure” to become “normal.”
What would images that view disability as a social construction look like? How can those of us who are educators incorporate discussions of disability into our teaching? Where are resources for us? How can we use popular culture when we teach about disability? Continue reading
by Guest Contibutor Sulagna
First, I have to say that this isn’t a critique.
It’s a serious of observations, an analysis of my viewing, and a reflection on one of the warmest and most electrifying movies I’ve seen in a while. Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t perfect, but I know that after I saw it, I felt incredible. I had already known I would like it before I had gone in, because it fit the type I liked—the interesting premise, the quirky storytelling device, and, of course, the overall familiarity of the subject matter, but it defied my expectations. The hopeful, love-themed story was at Bollywood levels of intensity (though better made), and I easily identified with the setting and characters.
Here is where I realized that I saw this movie differently than how perhaps my non-Indian college friends at college did. I saw layers underneath certain scenes in the movie that I doubt they would’ve.
When Jamal answered the question about the Hindu god Rama, I predicted the clash of religion. As the pulsing beat of the music and the main character’s mother’s anxious face forecasted the riots, frustrated emotions burst in my chest, the fatigue of the age-long conflict between Muslims and Hindus in India and Pakistan pressing me with its weight.
Wasn’t it just a little more than a month ago that my family and I had watched the news about Mumbai on fire during our Thanksgiving holiday? I had felt uncomfortably separated from it—India felt so far away, but I still felt a scrambling anxiety at the events, nervous about what this changed. Continue reading
by Guest Contributor Margari Aziza Hill, originally published at Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman*?
According to census data and information provided by mosques and community centers, Muslims in America make up .5% of the total population in America. Keeping it conservative, that equals just under 2 million. Some estimates go as far to say that there are 5 million Muslims in America. I tend to stay on the conservative side because I don’t believe that boasting in numbers serves any cause.
Still, 2 million is a lot of people. And there have been multiple and contradictory narratives about American Islam. Who has the right to speak for American Muslims? Who are the real Muslims? Who will define the agenda for American Muslims? Last year, a huge debate exposing the immigrant Black American divide rocked the Muslim American community and we’re still reeling to recover from it. And when I speak of community, I talk about it in the broadest sense. I am not making any claims that Muslim Americans are a monolithic group. I’m not trying to be a downer, but the reality is that Muslim Americans do not vote in a unified way, have various political and economic interests that often conflict with their co-religionists, nor is there a central authoritative religious head that guides us all. Rather, this diverse group of people from various socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds with different political and social orientations comprises a community because we believe that There is no God but the one True God and that Muhammad is his prophet. Therefore, we share daily patterns of worship, rituals of birth, marriage, and death, etc. Mosques are also diverse, which contributes to a greater sense of community. And there are some national organizations that do work to defend Muslims’ civil liberties, foster community development, and create a forum for interfaith understanding.
I’ve written in the past and have been interviewed about the silencing of Black American Muslim voices in the past decade. Some national Muslim organizations have been critiqued for their failure to include issues of interest to Black American and other indigenous (I sort of cringe to use that word because I do have Native American relatives who might take umbrage with its use) Muslims such as white American and Latino/Hispanic Muslims. However, in many ways I don’t like how the public conversation has developed in the past year. I am troubled when some Black American Muslims use the same rhetoric and language that Islamophobes use to critique mainstream Muslim organizations dominated by first and second generation immigrants or those organizations that have an internationalist outlook. I am also bothered when I read or hear immigrant or second generation Muslims dismiss the tremendous sense of marginalization that some of us Black American Muslims have experienced in their communities. Continue reading
by Special Correspondent Fatemah Fakhraie
My brother likes to push my buttons. When I bring up women’s issues, he tells me to get back to the kitchen. When I bring up Iranian culture, he cracks jokes in a fakey Middle Eastern accent.
I love him anyway.
We’re pretty close. We look alike, family members often confuse our voices on the phone, and we crack jokes to keep each other entertained when things get tense or boring. I feel very blessed to have him, and to have the relationship that we do.
Since high school, I have been striving to reconnect with my Iranian and Muslim identities; he hasn’t shown the same inclination. This isn’t to say that he’s remained the same person since high school: he and his interests have developed and evolved, but they have not done so in a direction that seeks to connect with this half of his ethnic identity. He is just as Iranian as I am in his biological makeup, but his identification doesn’t mirror mine.
by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published on What Tami Said*
My hair is nappy. It is coarse and thick. It grows in pencil-sized spirals and tiny crinkles. My hair grows out, not down. It springs from my head like a corona. My hair is like wool. You can’t run your fingers through it, nor a comb. It is impenetrable. My hair is rebellious. It resists being smoothed into a neat bun or pony tail. It puffs. Strands escape; they won’t be tamed. My hair is nappy. And I love it.
Growing up, I learned to covet silky, straight hair; “bouncing and behaving” hair; Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley hair. But as a young black girl, my appearance was far from the American ideal. Making my hair behave meant hours wriggling between my grandmother’s knees as she manipulated a hot comb through my thick, kinky mane. The process stretched my tight curls into hair I could toss and run my fingers through, something closer to the “white girl hair” that so many black girls admired and longed to possess.
My beautiful, straightened hair came at a price. It meant ears burned by slipped hot combs and scars from harsh chemicals. It meant avoiding active play and swimming pools, lest dreaded moisture make my hair “go back.” It meant having a relaxer eat away at the back of my long hair until barely an inch was left. It meant subtly learning that my natural physical attributes were unacceptable.
I was not alone in my pathology. Pressing combs, relaxers, weaves and the quest to hide the naps are part of the fabric of black beauty culture. It is estimated that more than 75 percent of black women straighten their hair. In the book “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America,” Ayanna Byrd and Lori Tharps write: “Before a black child is even born, relatives speculate over the texture of hair that will cover the baby’s head, and the loaded adjectives “good” and “bad” are already in the air.” In the same book, a New York City dancer named Joicelyn explains: “Good hair is that silky black shit that them Indian girls be havin’…Good hair is anything that’s not crazy-ass woolly, lookin’ like some pickaninny out the bush.” Too often, black women find their hair hatred supported by media, men and the rest of the mainstream. Continue reading
by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man
In November, the University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies Program, with support from OCA, released a major new study on Chinese Americans in the United States. Based on extensive U.S. Census data and independent interviews, A Portrait of Chinese Americans offers the most comprehensive and current portrait of the country’s diverse Chinese American population: Major Study of Chinese Americans Debunks ‘Model Minority’ Myth.
According to the study, Chinese Americans, one of the most highly educated groups in the nation, are confronted by a “glass ceiling,” unable to realize full occupational stature and success to match their efforts. The returns on Chinese Americans’ investment in education and “sweat equity” are “generally lower than those in the general and non-Hispanic White population.”