Tag Archives: islam

CNN’s In America Series Presents Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door

by Latoya Peterson

Readers, you can imagine our surprise when we received an email inviting us to the screening of CNN’s latest documentary for the latest in their In America series.

After all, we had a lot to say about the first few:

Thoughts on CNN’s Black in America Series
Going For Broke: The Racialicious Review of Black In America: Almighty Debt
Latinos Under Siege? A Look At CNN’s Latino In America
Latino In America goes out with a whine
The Fallout from Latino in America

But hey – they offered an advance screening, free breakfast, and a Q & A with Soledad O’Brien and the producers afterward. How could I resist? So Art RSVP’ed and I hopped on the Boltbus and made it to NYC in time for the 9:00 AM screening.

The newest addition to the In America family is called Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door. Here’s the trailer:

The Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door special revolves around the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, situated about 35 miles from Nashville. According to O’Brien, her team first heard about the tensions flaring in Murfreesboro when researching the “Ground Zero Mosque.” While the proposed Islamic Center in New York made national headlines, the drama playing out in Murfreesboro illuminated a different issue: how smaller towns were coping with the Islamaphobic rhetoric currently in vogue and how local Muslim populations were beginning to feel the heat.

Unwelcome begins by looking at the community of Murfreesboro, where even amid the fever pitch of hateful rhetoric, the citizens describe each other as neighborly, and defend Murfreesboro as one of the best places to live in America. For decades, Muslims in Murfreesboro have been free to worship as they see fit – there is one Islamic center in the town and around 250 currently practicing Muslims. Some of the Muslims interviewed in the documentary remarked that Murfreesboro remained peaceful and civil even after 9/11 – the idea of Muslims living and worshiping in the town was just a non-issue.

That is until plans to expand the existing Islamic center came to light last year. Continue reading

Canada’s Maclean’s has a whiteness problem

By Guest Contributor Restructure!, cross-posted from Restructure!

“‘Too Asian’?” was not the first racist Maclean’s article lamenting the quantity of racialized people displacing white people and white power.

In 2006, Maclean’s published “The future belongs to Islam” by Mark Steyn, who assumed that Muslims all over the world were primarily focused on a shared goal of imposing Islamic law globally, and tried to bring to everyone’s attention that the birth rates of Muslim-majority countries were higher than the birth rates of European countries. Steyn also pointed out that although “Africa” has a high birth rate, it is “riddled with AIDS” and “as we saw in Rwanda, [Africans’] primary identity is tribal”. Steyn then invoked a white colonialist narrative by describing Muslim-majority areas as “Indian territory”, “lawless fringes of the map”, and “badlands” that needed to be “brought within the bounds of the ordered world.”

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Open Thread: The “Ground Zero Mosque”

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Elvira asked why we haven’t opened up a thread about the proposed mosque and Islamic Cultural Center to be erected a few blocks away from New York’s Ground Zero location.

So, here is one.

Our take on this shouldn’t even be necessary because any person who pays attention to the situation logically would realize a few key things:

1. The existence of a mosque/cultural center is not an endorsement of terrorism.

2. American Muslims should not be forced to suffer for the sins of others.

3. Historically, this kind of fearmongering ends badly.

Here’s the link to the ADL’s tepidly worded plea to nobly suffer this kind of religious suppression in the name of “healing.”

Here’s Al-Jeezera’s story, which provides a quote from Mayor Bloomberg, saying “But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans, if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Here’s a recent story from CNN, which discusses the approval of bus ads that are against the building of the mosque/cultural center.

Here’s the Huffington Post, with a reminder that the mosque/cultural center is a few blocks away from the actual site, and there were dozens of Muslims who perished in the attacks, who also deserve to be remembered.

And as a refresher, here’s why we talk about Muslims/Islam on Racialicious.

“Oriental or Islamic” Immigrants Would Be “More Problematic”

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

cross and bible

This is an interesting Politico article on evangelical groups and the key role they are playing in getting immigration reform moving in Congress: Churches eye immigration’s upside.

While they’ve largely couched their arguments in moral terms, the fact of the matter is, they see Latino immigrants — both legal and undocumented — representing a significant population for proselytizing.

However, evangelical leaders are also advancing a more controversial line of argument: that immigration reform is practical or even desirable because Latinos subscribe to moral and religious values in line with social conservatives. Here’s a quote from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention:

Some evangelicals have stirred the pot further by drawing a contrast between predominantly Christian immigrants to the U.S. and a largely Muslim migration to Western Europe.

“Realistically, I think it is probably more politically feasible to do this because the overwhelming majority of the people that we’re talking about come from a European civilization,” said Land. “It would be more problematic if we had 12 [million] to 14 million undocumented people and they were either Oriental or Islamic… Whether that is right or wrong, I’m just giving you a realistic political calculation.”

“When I talk to political and religious leaders in Europe, one of their great concerns is their migration is coming from non-Christian regions, whereas most of our immigration is coming from people who have a Christian tradition,” Anderson said.

First of all — Oriental? Seriously? Guess Land never got the memo.

What’s disturbing is the idea that these deeply held moral and religious convictions that are motivating the push for immigration reform could suddenly shift if we were talking about immigration from somewhere else.

In that case, why do I suspect they’ll find some twisted reasoning to justify an organized effort to block the immigration of “Oriental or Islamic” people?

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam

by Latoya Peterson


“In this so called war of civilizations, we are putting the middle finger in both directions. Fuck you and fuck you.”

“We’re not freaking street preachers and we’re not slam dancing for Allah.”

At this year’s South by Southwest, I only had time to catch two movies.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that the two I chose were Taqwacore (the documentary) and The Taqwacores (the narrative film based on the novel by Michael Muhammad Knight).

The doc begins with a definition: “Taqwá is the Islamic concept of “God-consciousness” or higher consciousness.”

The “core” comes from from punk. Continue reading

No One “Hijacked” Islam

By Guest Contributor Jehanzeb, originally posted at Muslim Reverie

Last Thursday, I attended an event hosted by the Muslim Student Association as part of their peace and coexistence week.  The event was about raising awareness and appreciation for the various cultures within the Muslim community.  Muslims read their poems, played music, sang, and gave presentations on Sufism/Islamic spirituality.  There were many non-Muslims in attendance and it was great to hear how previous events during the week had excellent turnouts as well.  As I drove home, I felt like all of us made a huge difference.

When I checked my e-mail that night, a news report about a man opening fire at a military base appeared on the Yahoo homepage.  I prayed, as many Muslim-Americans did, that the shooter wasn’t a Muslim.  The last thing we needed the media to get hyped up about was a Muslim-American murdering fellow Americans in the armed forces.  When the man’s Muslim affiliation was revealed, I was devastated.

My thoughts and prayers went out to the victims and their friends and families.  Simultaneously, as details slowly unfolded and as CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) released immediate condemnations of the incident, I felt like we took one step forward, but then two steps backward.  I am still worried about a backlash on the Muslim community.  Muslim-Americans have been suffering from hate crimes, discriminatory acts, prejudice, and media stereotyping/propaganda since the atrocity on 9/11, and although many Muslim-Americans have been speaking out, polls and surveys have found that negative attitudes and perceptions of Islam and Muslims have been on the increase.

I am not surprised by the Islamophobia that has resulted from this.  It has been going on since September of 2001; what else is new?  In typical Islamophobic fashion, Senator Joe Lieberman called the incident an “act of Islamist extremism.” Despite warnings not to jump to conclusions from Army officials and the President himself, Lieberman concluded:   “There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman.

In other words, “terrorism” is a term reserved only for Muslims.  Yeah, we’ve been through this lesson before (see my post, “‘Terrorist’ Means ‘Muslim’”).

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The Surface of Buddhism: Is Buddhism the anti-Islam? [Racialigious]

by Guest Contributor (and frequent commenter) Atlasien

The similarities are fascinating. Buddhism and Islam in the United States are both minority religions with roughly the same number of adherents. Providing an exact demographic breakdown is impossible, and the issue of demographic study is controversial for both religions.

Here’s a good link to Muslim demographics in the U.S. It’s “good” not because I know anything about the site’s objectivity, but because it outlines the difficulties of achieving anything near an accurate count, and it lists multiple poll sources. There are somewhere between 1 and 7 million Muslims in the United States. In terms of ethnicity, about a quarter to a third of them are African-American, a quarter to a third are South Asian, a quarter are Arab and the rest are a mixed bag that includes a sprinkling of American-born white people and European immigrants.

Here’s a link for Buddhists that focuses on a recent controversial poll and does some great data-crunching. There are somewhere between 1 and 5 million Buddhists in the United States. As arunlikhati mentions in the above link, the 2008 Pew Forum Report has a demographic breakdown that’s horrendously inaccurate. They left out Hawaii, and the survey was conducted entirely in English or Spanish. That would be like providing a demographic breakdown of Catholicism by skipping Texas and asking questions only in English and Vietnamese. It’s completely nuts! Unfortunately, since “Pew” has such a strong brand name, the results of this study are going to be floating around for a while.

The Pew poll underrepresents the number of Asian-American Buddhists. A better estimate is that Asian-Americans represent somewhere from 60-90% of all Buddhists. The rest are composed predominantly of white people, plus a mixed bag with small numbers of African-Americans, Latinos and others. Different Asian-American groups that are well-represented in the US are going to have very different breakdowns. Vietnamese- and Cambodian-Americans will have high levels of Buddhism, Japanese-Americans will be medium, Chinese-Americans are all over the map while Korean-Americans are predominantly Christian.

Unlike Judaism and Hinduism, both Islam and Buddhism are religions with explicitly universal application and a strong history of proselytizing. There are strands within or associated with Judaism and Hinduism that do advance universal claims, but I think it’s safe to say that most adherents don’t claim universality as a goal. As a natural but somewhat paradoxical consequence of this universality, Islam and Buddhism have huge internal divides around race, ethnicity, class, immigration and convert status.

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Queen Rania’s YouTube Crusade

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

Queen Rania of Jordan has posted her own video on YouTube, entitled, “Send me your stereotypes.” Her aim is to break down stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims through YouTube (I assume she focuses only on Arabs because she herself is Arab; however, this is problematic for the majority of Muslims who are not Arab but whose cultures are stereotyped similarly). It’s an admirable aim, but is it going to work?

So far, there are 35 responses. They come from Italy, Canada, the U.S., Ireland, etc. There are genuine questions about the “truths” surrounding Islam and homosexuality, view of Jews, terrorism, etc. There are also people who’d just like to hear themselves talk, and some that I am pretty sure have aims other than addressing questions about racism and Islamophobia.

There are also some great examples of Islamophobia in the media; I was tickled purple to see the opening scenes of Disney’s Aladdin in the queue. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Aladdin, but it’s important to address the latent racism (not to mention sexism) in Disney movies.

The most positive of all the videos in the “dispelling stereotypes” category is entitled, “A Land Called Paradise,” and features American Muslims of all walks of life with placards that reveal their inner thoughts and confessions, humanizing tidbits that reveal that they are “just like us”: worrying about one’s mother, cheating in school, liking Grey’s Anatomy, etc.

Many of the stereotypes that are put forth deal with Islam and women. Several posters questioned why a woman in Saudi Arabia was murdered for chatting on Facebook, why (some) Muslim women undergo female genital cutting, why women are punished for adultery and not men.

The questions asked are valid, the stereotypes presented are real and harmful. But I’m skeptical as to how much of a change this is going to make. The ultimate goal of stereotypes is to dehumanize a person or group; even if these videos somehow change a few minds, will they humanize Muslims and Arabs? I’m a little skeptical.

Though Queen Rania is a lovely spokeswoman for this movement, we don’t know what perspectives she’s bringing. She hasn’t responded to any of the videos yet, and so it’s unclear as to whether she’ll be answering them all by herself, or if she’ll bring it other Arab and/or Muslim voices.

My main worry about this project is that it will be an excuse for Islamophobic ranting, with loud voices who aren’t interested in allowing others to refute negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims. That it won’t be a dialogue, that no one will learn anything. Or that the “truths” presented won’t be accepted because they are not black-and-white, but instead are complex and sticky: for example, explaining that female genital cutting is not an Islamic practice, but one that is tied to local cultures, might not satisfy a poster who thinks this practice and all who engage in it are barbaric.

Though I’m a skeptic at heart, I do laud this as a positive step. Videos on YouTube proliferate so many stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims; now is a good time to start fighting fire with…dialogue.

The conversation will continue until August 12, 2008 (International Youth Day).

Queen Rania on YouTube