Tag Archives: religion

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?

Religious Major: Undeclared [Racialigious]

by Latoya Peterson

“What do you mean you don’t know what Easter is?”

I appraised Best Boy with all the understated annoyance I could muster at the ripe old age of fifteen.

“Again,” I said with an eye roll, “not raised with a religion.  And all that comes out around Easter time is new patent leather shoes, dyed eggs, and ham.”

He would not drop the subject.

“How do you not know what Easter is?”

“Did the Rugrats make a special about it? Then no, I don’t know.”

Since I had opened up the lines of fire, he launched his own smart ass attack.

“How do you not go to church, anyway? What kind of black person are you?”

His words struck me deeply, and from time to time I’ve revisited that short conversation and wondered about his motivations and beliefs.  This is not a new idea, but one I am starting to hear more and more often:

What kind of black person am I, if I grew up without a religion? Continue reading

Racialigious? [Series Introduction - Racialigious]

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been fascinated by religion most of my life.

This is probably because I wasn’t raised with one.

When I say this, people – particularly other black people – tend to hear what I say and interpret it as “lapsed Christian.” As in, a girl who used to go to church and doesn’t go anymore.

Before the age of 21, I can count how many times I’ve been to church on one hand. With fingers left over. All my knowledge of Christianity comes from what my friends tell me and pop culture. And my knowledge of Judaism. And atheism. And any other religious belief system or lack thereof.

So, over time, I think I came to like listening to stories about religion and why people choose their specific belief systems. It’s interesting to listen to the reason for belief (or non-belief) and the battles to fight misconceptions. It’s even more interesting when analyzing the effect of race, gender, and class on religious practice and religious perception.

In launching Racialigious, we hope to explore where race (among other things) intersects with religious practice and belief.

Submissions welcome.

Link Love: The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival

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.

Continue reading

Coming out Black and Agnostic

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

The Devil is wearing mittens and I expect a ham to fly past my window any second now. Why? Salon has published a letter from an African American in its Cary Tennis advice column. To be fair, most writers to the column don’t mention their race, so I could be wrong in guessing that most queries come from white, urban, highly-educated, highly-privileged liberals. One thing is clear, rarely does Tennis tackle issues unique to people of color.

Today’s dilemma comes from a black man who is disaffected from the church. Unlike his conservative, Christian wife and family, he has come to know that he is agnostic–he believes that the truth about the afterlife, deities and ultimate reality is unknowable. While the writer wants to be true to himself, he is hesitant to come out to his family–afraid of the fractures his lack of faith might cause.

I feel that I am now at a point where I must make a declaration that will surely affect those who are close to me. My loved ones have long suspected that there was something “different” about my approach to spiritual subjects, but up until now I have successfully hidden my true thoughts, philosophical developments and feelings from them.

    * With every Sunday that I sit in a church that would likely condemn my kind, I feel like I am betraying my potential and misleading my spouse.
    * With every public prayer uttered “in Jesus’ name” I feel like I am living a lie.
    * With every in-depth discussion about religious and social topics, I use evasive humor and agile commentary to distract my conversation partners — fearing that a sustained encounter would lead to the exposure of my controversial religious and philosophical views.

But one can only do this for so long before wondering if such attempts to suppress one’s true self for fear of offending the sensibilities of others is really worth it. One can only maintain a facade so long before wondering if doing so also erodes one’s sense of integrity while also denying loved ones the opportunity to know, understand and accept the “true” you. Read more…

What to do?

Tennis gave one of his predictably lofty and meandering non-answers to “Churchgoing Agnostic”–advice that, I think, doesn’t take into account the unique relationship the black community has with Christianity. The Black Church, as an institution, is about more than worship. It is about community, history, activism and more. For many, Christianity and churchgoing are part of the very fabric of African Americanness. For a people whose African ancestors practiced indigenous religions far removed from the Western view of worship, we have embraced Christianity as ours. A recent survey revealed that blacks are more religious in key ways – including frequency of church attendance, daily prayer life and certainty of belief – than the U.S. population as a whole. Quiet as it’s kept, a whole lot of those presumably white, conservative, Evangelical Christians that get so much ink, look like me. Continue reading

How to Write about Muslims (for real)

by Guest Contributors Sobia and Krista, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

After getting all of that sarcasm out of our systems two weeks ago, we decided it might be useful to put together a list of actual guidelines for writing about Muslims. Of course, this is mostly just wishful thinking, because if reporters actually seemed willing to adhere to guidelines like this, then there would be no need for this blog. But here are some suggestions anyway.

A lot of this isn’t new stuff, as you’ll see from the many MMW posts that we link to, which illustrate some of our guidelines in more detail.

So, here you go: the shockingly un-sarcastic version of “How to Write About Muslims.”

Rule #1: Don’t assume that Muslim women need to be saved, or that you know how to save them.

By making this assumption, what one is essentially doing is:

    * Assuming that all Muslim women are somehow oppressed at the hands of their fellow Muslims. The Muslim community is just as diverse as any other. By generalizing in such a way, one maligns the entire community, including the women. This is offensive to the many women who are treated with respect and equality by their fellow Muslims, including Muslim men. This assumption also ignores the forms of oppression that Muslim women may be facing from outside of the Muslim community, such as racism and Islamophobia (or even war and occupation, in cases like Iraq and Afghanistan), which for some women can be much more disastrous than anything they experience from their Muslim community.
    * Assuming that Muslim women can’t take care of themselves. This is very patronizing. Muslim women have agency, and a great deal of it. Throughout history and today, Muslim women have been taking various forms of leadership. In situations where women are being oppressed, they are resisting in all sort of ways that the media doesn’t always think about. Additionally, most Muslim countries have Muslim women’s organizations that are working hard to support themselves and other women.
    * Assuming that what you’re going to do for them is going to be helpful. The assumption is that you know better than them what’s good for them. It also suggests that you are actually in a position to help them, which might not be true.

These two posts by Faith go into more detail about what is wrong with making these assumptions.

Rule #2:Rather than assuming you know what Muslim women’s lives are like, try asking them.

Too often, writers write about Muslim women without ever having tried to find out what Muslim women’s lives are like from their perspective. This is poor research, and feeds into the problematic assumptions discussed in Rule #1. Do your homework, and try hard to connect to the specific women that you are writing about. Even if you are writing about women in another country, try to connect to women’s organisations in that country. At the very least, try to connect to women from that country who are living in your own community.

Rule #3: Be careful of who you talk to regarding Islam and/or Muslim women.

Don’t assume, just because someone is Muslim, that all Muslims will agree with them or that they represent all Muslims. For example, Muslims who have made a career out of calling other Muslims Islamists, and who base their credibility on the number of other Muslims who don’t like them, are not a good source of information. Generally, people who work within an Islamic framework, as opposed to always bashing Islam, are more likely to understand the Muslim community. Continue reading

Brutal Attack on Sikh Teen

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

Last weekend in Queens, a young Sikh man was attacked and beaten so badly he may lose his left eye: Brutal Attack Has NYC Sikh Community In Uproar.

18-year-old Jasmir Singh was walking on the street early Sunday morning when he was approached by three men who demanded his money. Then they began to taunt him because of his turban, touching his hair and threatening to cut it. When he tried to run away, they beat him.

This appears to be hate crime, plain and simple. They targeted and taunted Singh because of his turban and beard — an important part of his Sikh faith. But the police and the Queens district attorney have simply classified it as a robbery and an assault. What’s up with that?

But here’s the part that kills me. That same night, police arrested two of the three suspects, described as “16-year-old Asian Pacific male and a 21-year-old Latino.” Ack. You freaking hateful idiots. That’s racist!

You’d think as people of color, as racial minorities, these two idiots would know what it’s like to be targeted and violated like this. Maybe they do. But I guess we know that ignorance and hate extends across all color. Police are still searching for the third suspect.