Tag Archives: religion

The Invisible Muslimah

by Guest Contributor Faith, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you think of a Muslim woman? Is she Arab or South Asian? White or maybe Afghan or Indonesian? Notice that I haven’t mentioned African American (and also Latina). The media depiction of Muslim women usually does not include African American women. Often, Muslim women are depicted as coming from the Middle East or South Asia, and occasionally sub-Saharan Africa. Also, there has been increasing focus on Muslimahs of European descent, especially converts such as Yvonne Ridley and Dr. Ingrid Mattson.

When African American Muslims are depicted in the media, it is usually a male face (Siraj Wahaj, Abdul Hakeem Jackson, Malcolm X, Imam Warithdeen Muhammad, etc.) that is presented to the public. There are exceptions such as Dr. Amina Wadud. However, the overall trend is rather disheartening, considering how much African American Muslimahs do for other black Muslims as well as the whole Muslim community. I have often wondered why the stories, needs and concerns of African American Muslimahs are not focused on and come up with a myriad of possible answers. Continue reading

Casting Out: Exploring the Racialization of Muslims

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I just finished reading Sherene H. Razack’s Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law & Politics (2008). And I gotta say, it blew me onto my ass.

Razack is the author of several books, including Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race, and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms, and her work in race theory definitely shows in Casting Out. She uses plenty of theory and excellent cross-racial examples to illustrate that what’s currently happening to Muslims in the West (racialization that results in “the expulsion of Muslims from the political community, a process that takes the form of stigmatization, surveillance, incarceration, torture, and bombing”) has happened to other groups before.

She first argues that Muslims are racialized through “race thinking”, which “divides up the world between the deserving and the undeserving, according to descent.” The racialization of Islam and Muslims is something the editors and I have been wanting to address on Racialicious for awhile, but I haven’t quite known how to begin; Razack’s book provides the perfect springboard.

Islam is represented in mainstream media as South/West Asian brown-skinned people who are bearded and turbaned or veiled and hidden: this racializes Islam.

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

Mazen Asbahi: The Blog Rundown

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie


You may or may not have heard that Obama’s volunteer national coordinator for Arab American and Muslim American affairs has resigned after ten days on the job because of a campaign in the media that alleged he had ties to Muslim fundamentalists, led by The Wall Street Journal. Here are some great perspectives on it from Arab and Muslim bloggers:

altmuslim discusses how WSJ’s shoddy journalism smeared Asbahi:

The Journal went out of its way to discredit this politically active volunteer-citizen by putting his name and picture front and center of its online edition (the second page of its print edition), laying bare portions of Asbahi’s resume, and questioning his affiliations as un-patriotic and terroristic. Journal readers must have been comforted to know that the Journal showed all the subtlety of a lynch mob in taking to task one of the most sensitive, peaceful and politically moderate members of the Muslim American community.

The kicker? The Wall Street Journal did so by quoting Washington insiders, who were so powerful and brave that they were given a veil of secrecy. Sure, don’t hesitate to scrutinize every blemish on the professional record of Asbahi, and blow up his picture large enough to show whether a hair is misplaced on his head. But for the people who brought this to light, let’s leave them nameless and faceless to lurk in the shadows, lest some other radically moderate Muslim get some crazy fundamentalist aspiration of actually participating in this democracy of ours.

Continue reading

The Pintele Yid (Yiddish for “Jewish spark” )

by Guest Contributor Matthew Egan

My fiancée, Soo, put The Savages on our Netflix queue. Despite plenty of slice-of-life humor, I found it to be an unyieldingly bleak story about two children putting their father in a nursing home. In one scene, the son (Philip Seymour Hoffman), shows an old movie to help his father with the transition. The movie? The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. Not a good choice, considering that they invited the entire nursing home including the predominantly black staff. Blink and you might miss the father react hysterically to a scene of the young protagonist getting beaten by his Orthodox Jewish father. But Jenkins doesn’t linger there, moving to Jolson applying blackface and highlighting the gap between the white, theater professor son and the black, working class staff.

This moment, so quickly covered over, is the only reference in the film to the family’s Jewishness. I think the director, Tamara Jenkins, was intentionally pointing to the assimilation of the two children as something that estranged them from their own father. Since the children won’t acknowledge their connection to Jewishness, the film can’t explore it. If you happen to notice it, that moment is poignant precisely because it can’t be explored. It tints the rest of the film, but uncertainly. No other moment of the film is decidedly Jewish, but details like the children’s interest in theater can be understood as such. This universally recognizable story of a dysfunctional family is also a particular story of the assimilated, Jewish experience in America. The relationship between these two stories, however, remains unclear.

Up to that moment, I was enjoying the film. It’s good, if you like to sit with painful social dysfunction. But once I noticed it was a “Jewish” film, I was hooked. After the film, I went online to find out if Jenkins is Jewish and to try to fill in the Jewish side of this story. She says of herself, “I’m half-Italian and half-Jewish, so I eat lots of food on both sides. I’m very attracted to both sides culturally.” Looking for Jews like that can be a bad habit, promoting stereotypes and the myth of Jewish power. But it’s a hobby enjoyed by both Jews and antisemites, omnipresent in the Jewish press. For me, I’m trying to get a better handle on what it means to be Jewish. Like in Jenkins’ story, I’ve found Jewishness to be underexplored, so that I’m not sure what it means and how it’s affected my life. To my mother’s surprise when I asked her while writing this, at age 34, I knew almost nothing of our family history. Continue reading

No Más, Por Favor: Stereotypes of Latina Muslims

by Guest Contributor Melinda, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

There’s a trend in the Americas. Latina* women are getting tired of Catholicism. They’re sick of being called “mamacita” in the streets. They don’t want to deal anymore with the chauvinistic pigs otherwise known as Latino men. So they’re throwing away their tank tops and their statues of the Virgin Mary and pulling on the hijab and ‘abaya instead.

Or so the media would have you believe. I’ve seen a stream of articles about Latina women converting to Islam, and they overwhelmingly rely on stereotyped images of Latino cultures as well as Muslims. The topic has been covered by MSNBC, NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, the Houston Chronicle, and more.

Here’s the standard lead:

Latina woman is walking down the street. It’s a hot day, and she’s dressed in a full-length skirt (dress, coat, etc.) and a hijab. She passes some Latino men. They look towards her and don’t scream at her. She sighs thankfully and reflects on the days of the past, of catcalls and shouts of “Hey, mami” as she walked by in her skimpy outfit.

The article then explains that in Latino culture, men are macho jerks and women are sex objects. In Islam, they are covered up and immediately respected. The author retells the woman’s decision to leave Catholicism for Islam, her experience putting on hijab, and the sad reactions of her family. If the journalist tries to dig a little deeper, there may be some theological reasons for choosing Islam, but they’re usually an afterthought. Some articles will note that Latina women like the strict gender roles of Islam because that’s what they’re used to.

Of course, not every article follows this mold precisely, but none stray from it completely. They paint monolithic pictures of both Latinos/Latinas and Muslims. It’s especially unfortunate in a time when both groups are often vilified and misunderstood in the United States. Continue reading

Gimmie That Old Time (Tribal) Religion

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

I admire a good ghost story, especially a “true” one. I read tales of the paranormal. I watch those ghost investigator shows on television. And I’ve been known to take ghost tours in cities that I visit. I am intrigued by the idea of unknown realms beyond our comprehension. I love that glance-behind-you-and-make-sure-the-closet-door-is-shut chill that lingers for days after hearing a particularly delicious spooky tale. And I am fascinated by the places where history and the paranormal meet, like Gettysburg, Pa. But one aspect of ghost stories—true and otherwise—that I am not so fond of is the demonization of the traditional spirituality of people of color.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard reputed hauntings attributed to Indian burial grounds, angry shamans or the mere fact that “y’know where your house sits used to be Native American land.” (Cue ominous music…duh, duh, duh, DUH!)

Not as popular, but too common, is the “slaves were here” explanation. Watching a DVR’d episode of Ghost Hunters the other night, I heard a woman at a historic house that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad explain a supposedly haunted room by sharing the accepted lore about the space: (paraphrase) People say some slaves got in here an sacrificed an animal. (Cue ominous music…duh, duh, duh, DUH!)

Why do we never hear this?

Worried homeowner: I just don’t understand what is happening. Furniture is moving about the house. My wife hears disembodied voices in the laundry room. Our little Billy is interacting with a shadowy figure in the backyard and the dog refuses to go into the basement.

Ghost expert: Well, Mr. Homeowner, we’ve done some research and…some Episcopalians once held a church service right on this very land! (Cue ominous music…duh, duh, duh, DUH!)

What? Not scary enough for you? Continue reading

Where Have All the Manners Gone?

by Guest Contributor Aaminah Hernández, originally published on Writeous Sister Speaks


We’ve all seen it. A lot of us have experienced it personally. There is talk all the time about how the youth of today are rude and disrespectful, parents aren’t teaching their kids basic manners anymore, etc. That may or may not be true. But what isn’t discussed so often is the rudeness of older generations.

A white Muslim friend of mine once told me about her grandmother who still uses the “N” word and has made indirect disparaging comments about my friend’s Arab husband and about her wearing hijab. She brushed it off because who has time to stay angry at that kind of ignorance? She figured her grandmother is old, from a different generation where that kind of stuff was normal, she isn’t likely to change now. But my friend’s mother had a different viewpoint. She said that it was fine to be compassionate, understanding the woman’s age and how society was in “her day” but not to excuse her for not having learned anything and choosing not to change.

A lot of us have family members like my friend’s grandmother. And it’s not just those of us who are Muslims, but any of us from any minority know people who haven’t changed with the times. Many of our white allies have family or friends that make comments that, while not directed at them personally, make them shudder. I’ve read other bloggers relatively recently who have said “you can’t stop being family, but what do you say or do when someone you love says something that shocks or hurts you?” Some people have even discussed this in relation to Rev. Jeremiah Wright – we all know someone we respect who says stuff we don’t agree with sometimes but we don’t throw them under a bus for it! (For the record, I agree with the Rev anyway.)

Today in the grocery store (which is rarely a pleasant experience anyway) a considerably older gentleman (really, I’d guess that he could have easily been in his 80s) looked at me and very loudly said “what the heck is that? What do you even call that?” And laughed as he turned his cart (and back) to me and tried to walk away. He was still laughing and happened to have turned down the next aisle that I was going into, so as I turned into the aisle I saw him there, and he kept laughing and shaking his head saying “the things you see… the people they let come into our country… how ridiculous” as he turned his cart again like he was trying to get away from me. Continue reading