The Power of Storytelling: Creating a New Future for American Muslims

ap-american-muslims-trump-1-jt-161114_31x13_1600The Muslim American storytellers of the 21st century need to mine our rich Islamic and American identity and history to tell new stories that will benefit and add to the ever-growing multicultural mosaic that is America.

By Wajahat Ali

In 7th-century Arabia, the storyteller was valued more than the swordsman. The audience sat on the floor surrounding the gifted orator as he captivated the eager listeners with beautiful poetry narrating their history. In the 21st century, the art form may have evolved to include motion pictures, TV shows, theater productions, novels, and standup comedy, but they all serve the same function: storytelling.

Ideas and principles are most effectively communicated and transmitted when they are couched in a narrative. Stories, whether they concern the etiquette and biography of prophets or the trials and tribulations of America’s founding fathers, inform and influence a cultural citizenry of its values and identity.

Similarly, the story of a biracial man with an Arabic name and a Kenyan father elected to the highest office in the land reminds the world that indeed America can live up to its cherished principles of freedom and racial equality, and her citizens are capable of reflecting a magnanimous and egalitarian spirit bereft of prejudice.

If a person were to read these stories comprising the core values of Islamic and American history, one would assume their respective cultural fabrics resemble a generous, messy, lively, colorful mosaic perpetually adding and experimenting with new colors, styles, and hues to beautify its narrative.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

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.

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 

Being a Muslim under Trump is risky. That’s why many are hiding their identity

3500Two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Nora decided to remove her headscarf – for good. Weighing on the mind of the 23-year-old were recent assaults against conspicuous Muslims like herself. State suspicion and private violence would only get worse under Trump, she feared. So she hid part of her identity from the world.

Many Muslim men and women, like Nora, choose to conceal their Muslim identity – or express it in a way that is less “threatening” to others. Some take things one step further: they undertake the extreme measure of erasing their Muslim identity altogether by passing as non-Muslim in public.

While this phenomenon predates Trump, he has certainly intensified it. Acting Muslim, today, is especially dangerous.

This is illustrated by the scores of Muslim women “afraid to wear the headscarf” after Trump claimed the presidency, men shaving their beards to diminish detection that they are in fact Muslims, job-seekers changing their Muslim names on résumés to increase the prospect of a job interview, and the known and unknown stories of Muslims passing as non-Muslims at school, work, or the public sphere at large.

This process is also prevalent in Europe, where Islamophobia is more pronounced than it is in the US and fully enshrined into law. The European Union recently broadened France’s 2004 “headscarf ban”, which prohibits Muslim women from wearing the hijab in public schools, to restrict it within the workplace in EU member states.

These policies, combined with the rise of Islamophobic populism throughout the continent, have had a collateral effect on Muslims men and women – pushing many to remove conspicuous markers of religious identity in the public sphere in order to dodge punitive action from the state or bigots on the street.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN 

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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