A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis

01homecoming1-superJumboThe conversion took place on Honky-Tonk Row, my baptism a glaze of midsummer Tennessee sweat anointing my forehead. Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon is a tabernacle for line-dancing disciples, and I was in communion with the gyrating congregation.

“Shuffle, shuffle, turn to your left.”

“Right, left, right — there ya go!”

I have a strong respect for choreographed mass dancing; I grew up with the understanding that seminal moments in Bollywood films must be commemorated with synchronized hip shaking. The Wildhorse was a divine revelation — white people, they’re just like us!

There I was, a Yankee of Indian extraction who had always dismissed country music without a second listen, tearing through Nashville’s Lower Broadway — swaying along to cover bands at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World and perusing star-spangled cowboy gear at Boot Country.

My visit to the South was long overdue. I’ve lived in five countries on three continents, but the United States has always been the unifying thread; my America is diverse and dynamic and molded by immigrants. But how well did I really know it? Last fall, when I returned from a four-year stint as an expat in South Africa, I deplaned into unfamiliar territory. There was an acrid, unseen fog looming: two weeks later came Election Day.

President Trump began his term with a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries; this week he’s expanding that diktat, and in what’s become the hallmark of a turbulent presidency, no one has any clue what’s next. As a Muslim American immigrant, am I just a few 140-character proclamations away from having my citizenship revoked? But fear also sparked curiosity. To me, “Wyoming” sounds foreign and peculiar, spilling lazily off the tongue like a yawn and evoking in my mind the wild terrain someone else might associate with a Zimbabwe or Mozambique. What’s exotic to me isn’t food gilded with turmeric and six-day weddings — it’s grits and rodeos. How much time did I have left to experience them?

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Lower Broadway, Nashville. CreditRobert Rausch for The New York Times

I wondered if, given Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, I would feel like a foreigner in my own home. So I hit the road over the Fourth of July to see how much of an outsider I really was.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

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In many ways, Muslim men and women see life in America differently

FT_17.08.03_muslim_men_women_MP_featured.jpgWhile many Muslims express wariness and anxiety about aspects of their lives in theFT_17.08.03_muslim_men_women United States, Muslim women tend to be more pessimistic about their place in U.S. society than Muslim men.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, more Muslim women than men say it has become more difficult to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years (57% vs. 43%).

And Muslim women are more divided on their acceptance by society at large than are men. Half (52%) of Muslim women say they have a lot in common with most Americans and 44% view the American people as friendly toward Muslim Americans, compared with two-thirds of Muslim men who say each of these things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH

Reza Aslan Argues: There Is No Divide Between Islam and American Culture

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-PROTESTReligion comes in countless forms, depending either on the soil from which that religion arose or the soil in which it was planted. What we call Christianity in America is not what Guatemalans call Christianity. It’s not what Iraqis call Christianity. What we call Islam in the United States is vastly different from Islam in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Indonesia.

The notion that religion clashes with a culture is a misunderstanding of what religion is, but, more specifically, the idea that Islam clashes with American culture is just foolishness, naiveté, and lies. There is no clash between Islam and American culture. In fact, there is no clash between any religion and any culture because religions are inextricably linked to culture.

Think of it this way: Culture is like a vessel, and religion is like water — it simply takes the shape of whatever vessel you pour it into. And this is why the prosperity gospel — the notion that what Jesus really wants for you is to drive a Bentley — can exist in the United States, and why the liberation gospel — the notion that Jesus was a warrior who fought oppression and poverty — exists in El Salvador. Both versions of Christianity are equally valid. They’re just dependent on the culture of the community to which they belong.

When you look at Islam in the United States what you see is an overwhelmingly moderate version of Islam, but more interestingly what you see is a highly individualistic form of the religion. Islam is a religion that often advantages the community over the individual, but in the United States, where the culture is rooted in radical individualism, you see a radically individualistic Islam forming. An Islam that, in America, is not beholden to traditions or to the consensus of Muslim scholars and Islamic trains of thought that came before — it is an Islam that is innovative. You have a version of Islam that is vibrantly feminist. You have a version of Islam that promotes gay and lesbian spirituality. You have versions of Islam that are quite pluralistic and democratic. And in every one of these cases, what you see is a religion that has married itself fully into culture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE

Muslim ‘Twoness’: Fearful Of Some, Feared By Others

npr-twoness_wide-2388905bcfc7763435cbd54c9a1cf7e15e00c33b-s800-c85He leaned against the subway doors in a faded denim jacket, camo cargo pants, combat boots and, to top it off, a black ski mask. I wondered if he had a gun. I wondered if he was a white supremacist. I wondered if he had seen my friend and me, with our brown skin and black hair. Our Islamic faith and immigrant parents — could he somehow see that, too?

Was it me, or were his eyes darting up and down the crowded subway car? I yanked on my friend’s sleeve and raised my mouth to his ear.

“We have to get out of here,” I said.

I told him to hop off the train with me at the next stop and get back on, three cars up the platform.

Many of us have grown used to the suspicion. Amid a wave of frightful attacks carried out by extremist Muslims across America and Europe, everyday Muslims fear we’ll suffer reprisals for a violent ideology that we, too, find abhorrent.

It feels as though we’re being tested daily — like anyone who sees us on the street or in the store is deciding our ideology for us. Some have made the painful decision to forgo aspects of their faith in an attempt to ward off assaults. Others are afraid to leave their homes.

I have lived a life praying it wouldn’t come to this. I never wanted to believe that I am threatened because of who I am. But recent events have made me think that I really don’t belong in the land of my birth.

No one has articulated this paradox for me quite as well as the late scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it the “peculiar sensation” of “double-consciousness.” It is “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,” Du Bois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, his seminal work on race in America. It’s a way “of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR

Muslim in America: The Gray Area

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Every day from elementary school to high school, these words echo over the speaker systems of every school in America. These are words that define America and its principles, and words that every American can recite from memory. These words that we have been taught to believe in talk about freedom and justice for everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender.

Every American would like to believe that not only are these values we preach, but they are also values we incorporate into our actions. However, since Sept. 11, 2001 and perhaps even more since election proceedings began, the majority of Americans have ignored the belief which our country was founded on: All men and women are created equal. They have taken to social media and news media to give America the villain it has hated for 15 years: Muslims. Muslims have become a scapegoat for the country to turn to every time something goes wrong. Muslims live in fear that today is the day someone is going to come and ask them to wear badges of crescent moons and stars and walk them out the door and out of their lives. My name is Komal Surani, and I am an American Muslim woman.

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A group of people is often easily defined as one unanimous being, made of people who are alike in every way, who all think the same, act the same and believe exactly the same things. All feminists are man haters. Every Southerner is a racist. And of course, all Muslims are terrorists. All 1.5 billion of them, that is. The media reports on it every minute of every day, always painting Muslims as a group of terrorists simply waiting for the opportunity to blow America apart. Muslims have easily slid into the role of scapegoat. The media and even most of America can’t fathom the idea that Muslims do not think alike, nor are they all alike. Muslims are individuals from varied communities and homes. They are elderly and middle-aged and fresh out of college and high school graduates and kids in classrooms and babies born in a world where they are hated from the moment they open their mouths and begin to wail. They are all of these people, but America prefers to wear rose-colored glasses. It is easier for every Muslim to be a criminal than to fight the Islamophobia that has taken over our country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY NEXUS 

Barack Obama nominates first ever Muslim to become a federal judge

final1Barack Obama has nominated the first ever Muslim to become a federal judge

 Pakistani-born Abid Qureshi is a partner at law firm Latham and Watkins LLP and works as global chair of the company’s pro bono committee, one of the largest in the world.His place on the federal judiciary is not yet guaranteed, as nominations must be approved by the Senate.

“I am pleased to nominate Mr Qureshi to serve on the United States District Court bench,” Mr Obama said.abid-qureshi

“I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

The nomination was welcomed by Muslim advocacy groups.

“I commend President Obama for taking this important step in continuing to pick the best and brightest from every community to serve as part of our nation’s judiciary,” said Farhana Khera, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization.

“A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK) 

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Father Of Muslim-American War Hero Makes Emotional Case Against Trump (VIDEO)

“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son the best of America,” Khizr Khan told delegates. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership.”

 

 

The speech took an emotional turn when Khan addressed the GOP directly.

“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future,” he said. “Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” he said, pulling out out a pocket sized copy of the Constitution from his jacket to swelling cheers from the crowd. “Look for the word liberty and equal protection of law.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM TPM.COM