The various groups that were drawn (or in some cases, dragged) to the United States have themselves been made up of a variety of smaller identity groups: Italian Catholics and Irish Catholics; Polish Jews and German Jews; Latinos from Guatemala and Latinos from Brazil. If, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, the poetical nature of the United States is determined by the dynamics of engagement between those identity communities, then there is also American poetry to be drawn from such dynamics within those communities.
No nation has a Muslim community that is more ethnically, racially, or theologically diverse than the United States. For many years, these various Muslim groups created separate spaces, such as mosques, schools, and community centers. Those who were less ritually observant often found no space at all. But the era of Islamophobia has forced them all together and raised fascinating questions about what it means to be American, what it means to be Muslim, and who gets to define the identity of American Muslims.
Ansari offered lessons in the science of prejudice through a set of humorous stories about Muslims. He reminded his audience that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews. If you just changed the music on Homeland, he joked, we wouldn’t look so scary.
In a New York Times op-ed published a few months earlier, Ansari wrote on several of the same themes, but this time through the poignant story of instructing his parents not to go to the mosque for prayer lest they wind up the victims of an Islamophobic attack.