The Shoe Is On the Other Foot: Pluralism and the Qur’an

lead_960The raging fires of the immigration debates in the U.S. illuminate what Muslim immigrants have known for a long time — America is not and really never has been a melting pot. The ugly rhetoric surrounding the plan for a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, and recent assaults such as those on the Bridgeport, CT mosque in my neighborhood, illustrate well the difficulties Muslims face on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Muslims have actually managed to survive quite well in the West and have even succeeded in persuading many American citizens of the right of Islam to exist as a legitimate partner in the complex balance of religious life in this country.

For many Muslims the shoe is now slipping onto the other foot. The issue is becoming not only whether they and their religion are accepted by other Americans, but whether Islam itself can find a way to live out the pluralism that many are persuaded is at the heart of the Qur’an’s message. Studies now show that while early generations of Muslims tried to honor that pluralism in relation to other religious groups, more exclusivist views came to prevail and communities such as Christians and Jews found themselves increasingly discriminated against by Islam. Exegetes turned from verses of the Qur’an that insist that God willed different religious communities rather than a single one, and emphasized those verses that affirm that the only true religion in the eyes of God is Islam.

I Am Not Your Muslim

muslimIf Islam were a skin color, there would be a sliding scale along which you could determine just how Muslim you are. On the extremely Muslim end, there would be classic identifiers — hijab or niqab for women, a beard and skullcap for men. On the light Muslim end, there would be those whose identity can only be determined because of a name or provenance, those who usually “pass” in public and are not immediately identifiable. Let’s call this the Identity Matrix.

In order to predict how likely it is that a Muslim will be discriminated against, another measurement needs to be overlaid over visibility — The Privilege Scale. Jobs, wealth, education and other markers of status interplay with the degree of perceived Muslimness that can confer or deny immunity. This is pretty much how identifiers are leavened with social status (or lack thereof) across minority groups in most parts of the world.

Certain attributes and accoutrements offer some Muslims a “pass.” Sara Yasin, a Palestinian American journalist, remarked on how comparatively easy her passage through life in the United States is due to her pale skin, hazel eyes and neutral first name. A pass almost always depends on the ease with which an individual can blend into the affluent dominant culture. It sounds dramatic, and it is.

The ways Muslims have been fingered, pathologized and persecuted mean that the Muslim identity is being calibrated and re-calibrated in order to settle upon one dominant narrative. During the presidential election, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims,” immediately casting suspicion upon any Muslim as a potential threat. He also suggested that Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parent who appeared alongside her husband to support Hillary Clinton, was “not allowed to speak,” because she was Muslim.

These broad strokes are not only the preserve of the political right. Liberals such as Bill Maher have been at it for years. On terrorism, Maher suggested that, “if Muslim men could get laid more, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

This drive to otherize and dehumanize Muslims is grotesque, and the speed and uncoordinated efficiency of it seems almost like a natural phenomenon. But it isn’t. It’s a confluence of unnatural, dynamic and calculated narrow interests that dictate who gets to be “mainstream.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

Faith Perspectives: Dispelling myths about American Muslims

542ef5f73eefa.imageI have been in America for the last 37 years.

Initially when people learned I’m Muslim it would trigger curiosity about Islam and eastern cultures. Sometimes I would encounter misinformation in the mainstream media, but mostly Muslims in America were under the radar.

Since 9/11, I’ve found more interest in learning about Islam and at the same time seen spike in misinformation and hate groups. Myths are behind the misunderstanding. I’d like to tackle a few of those here:

Myth: Muslims are relatively newcomers in America. • Historians trace first Muslims in America towards the end of 15th century. African-American Muslims, who have been here for centuries, make about quarter of the total U.S. Muslim population. A recent estimate in 2016 placed the nation’s Muslim population at over 3.3 million.

Most of the American Muslims who immigrated in last century probably came from
South Asia, Middle East, and Africa in 1960s, when The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 was enacted. This law changed the immigration policies from being nation-based formula to one that lifted restrictions against immigrants from Asia and Africa. It gave priority for relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.566b29e21fd78.image

It also gave preference to professionals and other skilled workers. Most of Muslims came here for the same reason that brought the majority of non-Muslim Americans: opportunity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH 

American Muslims Are Young, Politically Liberal, and Scared

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Muslims may be the religious group that’s most talked about and least understood in the U.S. President Trump has put Islam at the center of his policymaking, making shaky claims about how assimilated Muslims are into American life. And yet, in part because the group is so small, actual data about their religiosity, political leanings, and engagement with American culture is relatively scarce.

A new survey from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, or ISPU, offers a rare look at this changing community. The report covers interviews with nearly 2,400 American residents from diverse religious backgrounds, including roughly 800 Muslims. The data suggest that this rapidly growing group is strongly shaped by a few factors. U.S. Muslims are younger and more liberal than their neighbors. They tend to be fairly religious. And they are extremely anxious about what’s happening in America.

Over the past decade, the Muslim community has grown significantly. According to the Pew Research Center, their share of the U.S. population more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. The group now makes up roughly 1 percent of the populace.

Muslim identity has evolved along with their population size. George W. Bush-era conventional wisdom held that Muslims were a natural constituency for the Republican Party. By the 2016 election, that had radically changed: ISPU found that only 15 percent of Muslims in their survey wanted Trump to win over Hillary Clinton in November, including those who are not eligible to vote.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

Anti-Muslim, Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Poses a Big Threat to Our Communities

58cc424b2c00003b00fef053By Mohamed Abdulkadir Ali

Wednesday saw a significant blow to the Trump administration’s attempts to institute a Muslim ban. A Federal Judge in Hawaii struck down a revised travel ban, saying it was driven by “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” as evidenced by comments made by the administration and Trump himself. As a Somali-American living and working in a large refugee community, this animus has long been apparent and has deeply affected me and those in my community.

Since the launch of his presidential campaign two years ago, Donald Trump seemed to have a particularly virulent animus toward us Somalis. In stops in Minneapolis, and Lewiston, all home to large Somali refugee populations, he referred to Somalis as a “disaster” to the communities they moved to, as a dangerous threat to their neighbors, and as potential terrorists. This was underscored by repeated calls to prevent Muslims from entering the country, warnings of the dangers of Muslim refugees, and denunciations of Islam as an enemy of America.  Many in our community called it hate.

Why does he hate us” was an often repeated question.

When the executive order was announced in January, it was clear to many of us that its creation was driven by this hatred.  Statements of securing our nation and preventing a terrorist threat, many of them baseless, could not cloak that this order was an amalgamation of Trump’s unique brand of cheap jingoism, xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.  We were being targeted, because of our nationality, of the color of our skin, and of our religion. When the second version of the order was released, despite attempts to “water down” language targeting Muslims, it could not sterilize the intent. Two years of anti-Muslim speeches and rhetoric are well documented and videos of him railing against refugees and Muslims can be easily found on Youtube.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

 

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Muslim Americans Are United by Trump—and Divided by Race

lead_960Facing increasing hostility from the administration, the religious community also has to cope with its own internal tensions.

When weary Muslims gathered in Toronto in December for an annual retreat, marking the end of a tumultuous U.S. election year, they probably didn’t expect the event to turn into a referendum on racial tensions within the American Muslim community. But it did.

One session was led by Hamza Yusuf, a well respected white scholar who co-founded Zaytuna College, which claims to be America’s first Muslim liberal-arts college. At the end, he was asked whether Muslims should work with groups like Black Lives Matter. “The United States is probably, in terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world,” he replied. “We have between 15,000 and 18,000 homicides per year. Fifty percent are black-on-black crime, literally. … There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos.”

He went on. “It’s the assumption that the police are racist. It’s not always the case,” he said. “Any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist.”

The backlash on social media was swift and immense. “For black Muslims, hearing this from somebody we’ve all come to love and trust—it was a cold slap in the face,” said Ubaydullah Evans, the executive director of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, who is black. He said he saw Yusuf’s comments as a way of perpetuating myths about “black pathology” and blaming African Americans for violence. Yusuf’s statements were indeed somewhat misleading: While a greater number of white people have been shot by the police compared to black people, that statistic doesn’t account for population size. When that adjustment is made, historical data shows that black people are more likely to be shot by police than white people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC