Tag Archives: American culture
In the face of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or whatever you call hate in modern America, I am still optimistic about the future of the United States.
From day one, the mission of America has been progress, progress, progress. We need thoughtful writers and bridge builders to keep it going.
There are thousands and thousands of Americans fighting messages of hate. America is in good shape, so long as the struggle against ignorance continues.
Insisting on civil discourse and religious tolerance are the proper ways to discuss bad speech. We can’t fight hate with hate and expect peace.
America was founded on the idea that all human beings have inherent dignity and rights. If we turn this idea on its head, we turn America on its head. We must protect these rights to make sure that the idea of America doesn’t end.
If you don’t call out discrimination, if you don’t condemn hatred based on skin color or religious beliefs, you’re not a “good American.” “All men are created equal” is one of the principle sentences in the Declaration of Independence.
What do we have as Americans if we don’t adhere to the egalitarian spirit of our founding documents?
Tags: Abraham Lincoln, All men are created equal, American culture, American exceptionalism, American identity, civil discourse, Commentary on American society, current-events, Declaration of Independence, Hate, Human rights, Inspiration, Islamophobia, Politics, Race-Ethnic-Religious Relations, Religion, Religious freedom, Society, Toleration, United States, United States Declaration of Independence, Vision of America
This morning I picked up Jacob Needleman‘s The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders in the hope of finding some useful material on my dissertation on pluralism and the founding fathers. But early in my reading, I was distracted by Needleman’s discussion of materialism and its impact on our health as Americans, and as human beings. He writes:
The root of materialism is a poverty of ideas about the inner and the outer world. Less and less does our contemporary culture have, or even seek, commerce with great ideas, and it is that lack that is weakening the human spirit. This is the essence of materialism. Materialism is a disease of the mind starved for ideas
On the next page, Needleman continues and suggests that the root of materialism is
… the cultural neurosis of an era that believes that only the external sense show us the real world and that only physical or social comfort is worth striving for. Simply put, the neurosis of materialism leads us to despair. Despair because the impulse of hope, which is implanted in human nature as part of our unique consciousness, finds nothing in the world or in our concept of ourselves that carries the mark of indubitable, enduring truth and goodness, those two ultimate principles towards which that impulse of hope is meant to lead us (Page 7).
These ideas are powerful, especially in this Christmas season when family and friends oftentimes express their love for one another through gifts. Perhaps the Christmas season is a proper time to contemplate our obsession with possessions. Is materialism allowing us to live nobly as the founding fathers had hoped? It’s a question worth pondering.
Via Chris Hedges ‘McGovern: He Never Sold His Soul’ (Truth Dig)
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for “this is your land, this land is my land—from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters—this land was made for you and me.”
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.
Good night, and Godspeed to you all.
RIP George McGovern
Listen carefully. I am interested to hear about your interpretation of this tune. Leave it below and I will share mine.
I hear you say,
with a cancerous rage,
‘LET’S TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK!’
But where are you taking it back to,
who are you taking it back with,
and who are you taking it back from?
Why are some people joining you,
while others are not?
Why do some people yearn for the past,
while others dread it.
Copyright Craig Considine
Note: A quote from a speech that JFK gave on September 12, 1960, before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. My comment is that I would have liked to see other references to Muslims, Hindus, etc, as there were certainly non-Christians and Jews living at this time in the United States.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions or public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew – or a Quaker – or a Unitarian – or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s Statute of Religious Freedom. Today I may be the victim – but tomorrow it may be you – until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end – where all men and all churches are treated as equal – where every man has the same right to attend the church of his choice – where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind – and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, as both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division.
This commentary from Mitt Romney about the US’s Anglo-Saxon American heritage is both tasteless and dangerous. It’s a trick right out of Samuel Huntington‘s Who Are We? Romney is racializing the 2012 presidential race and creating a hierarchy of ethnic groups in the US (with Anglo-Saxon being at the top of course). His talk of ‘whiteness’ and bringing up the birth certificate issue insinuates how Obama’s not really ‘American’ enough because of the colour of his skin. Certainly Romney is suggesting that he’s more ‘American’ than Obama because he isn’t black and doesn’t have African ancestors.
Tags: American culture, Anglo-Saxon, Barack Obama, Ethnic groups, German American, Hierarchy, Mitt Romney, Myth, News, Obama, Opinion, Politics, Racializing, Racism, Romney, Samuel Huntington, United States, White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Who Are We?
We can gain a sense of young Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on religion in A Witch Trial at Mount Holly, which raised the concern of his Puritan parents that he held ‘erroneous’ religious opinions. Franklin was not himself an emphatically religious man; while he believed in God, he did not subscribe to one particular creed. What we do know about Franklin’s personal beliefs is that he frowned upon religious orthodoxy, writing to his mother, in citing Matthew 26, that ‘I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue’. To escape the clutch of his parents and Puritanism, the young Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, a city more diverse in its religious makeup (with Quakers, Jews and Christian sects). It was here in Philadelphia where Franklin famously raised money to build a new ‘religious hall’ that would be ‘expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something’. And while colonial Philadelphia had few Muslims, Franklin also suggested that ‘Even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service’. Franklin’s virtue was on display when in 1788, he donated money to each religious group in Philadelphia, including a sum for a new synagogue of the Mikveh Israel Jewish community. Later in 1790, Franklin was carried to his resting place by clergymen from every single religious group in Philadelphia. How is that for respect? We as Americans would be wise to heed his message.
Tags: American culture, Arts, Benjamin Franklin, Craig Considine, Franklin, God, History, Interfaith, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Matthew 26, Mikveh Israel, Muslims, Opinion, Personal, Philadelphia, Pluralism, Quakers, Religion, Spirituality, Tolerance, United States
Nothing like some guns to celebrate the birth of Christ!
This is how guns become ‘normal’ in the USA. Buy a kid a gun and he or she will love you forever.
In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Muslims are hoping to celebrate Ramadan in the much-anticipated opening of their Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM). While it seems they will be able to do so, a most unfortunate story is lurking in the shadow. A group of non-Muslims who filed suit seeking a restraining order to end the Centre’s construction has recently complained that the local judicial system did not offer a hearing to check the ICM’s ‘risk of actions promoting Jihad and terrorism’.
This group of non-Muslims also argues that Islam is not a religion and thus undeserving of the religious freedom protections granted by the First Amendment. It furthermore claims that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology.
In response to this act of terrorism, Reverend Bill Williamson of the Columbia Presbyterian Church not only offered the Columbia Muslim community money but also a key to his church if they needed protection or a quiet space to pray. Reverend Williamson even went as far as offering to remove religious symbols of Christ if they were offensive.
The Muslim community did not ask Reverend Williamson to remove the Christian symbols. Muslims, after all, revere Christ and treat him as one of the great prophets of the Abrahamic tradition.
If members of the Murfreesboro community need guidance on how to treat their Muslim neighbours as Americans and Christians, they have the perfect role model in Reverend Williamson, who was only following in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers. These men certainly were not perfect, but on the issue of religious freedom, they most definitely were:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment
Tags: Religion, Muslim, Christian, Politics, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Islam, Opinion, News, Muslims, Mosque, Terrorism, America, American culture, Founding Fathers, Religious freedom, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, First Amendment, US Constitution, Sharia law, Reverend Bill Williamson, Columbia, United State, Ramadan, Murfreesboro Tennessee
When Somali youth have made story-lines over the last few years, they have generally done so for the most unfortunate of reasons, mainly that some are going to Somalia to join and fight for Al-Shabaab. A different perspective, however, appeared today in the Washington Post about the challenges Somali youth face while growing up in Boston. It paints a different picture of their lives as well as the activities of mosques outside of what we typically see in the mainstream media.
Some of Imam Webb’s comments from the Washington Post article really struck a cord with me as a sociologist. He touched on some of the most difficult problems facing young, minority groups growing up in the US. For example, he states that ‘As religious leaders, we need to explain to the older generation that these are young people navigating a lot of difficult challenges’. The generational gap will inevitably exist in the process of migration as parents and their children grow into different cultures. The key is how to smooth the transition.
Imam Webb also mentioned something very powerful, that ‘The tears of the sinner can be more valuable than the arrogant smile of the pious. People need to appreciate the struggles of the sinner’. The ICCB’s initiative is important not only because it is actively taking misguided youth off the streets, but also because it’s a story that can help non-Muslims see the great work mosques are doing for American youth. The ICCB’s contributions to the betterment of American society should not go unnoticed.
Tags: Al-Shabaab, American culture, Boston, Gangs, Imam Suhaib Webb, Islam, Islamic Cultural Center of Boston, Muslims, Religion, Sociology, Somali, Somalia, Somalis, Suhaib Webb, United States, Youth
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.
One can only face in others what one can face in oneself. On this confrontation depends the measure of our wisdom and compassion. This energy is all that one finds in the rubble of vanished civilizations, and the only hope for ours. – James Baldwin, ’NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME‘
Tags: African American, American culture, Ethnicity, Identity, Identity crises, James Baldwin, Literature, Nobody Knows My Name, Philosophy, Race, Racism, Religion and Spirituality, Sociology, Writing
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, amongst these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness‘. – Thomas Jefferson
I’m proud to be an American if we adhere to this framework both on the domestic front and abroad.
Let us be inclusive and tolerant, just as the Declaration of Independence demands of us.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Tags: 4th of July, All men are created equal, America, American culture, American identity, Creator deity, Declaration of Independence, Immigrants, Immigration, Independence Day, Italy, July 4th, Liberty, Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Natural and legal rights, Thomas Jefferson, United States, United States Declaration of Independence, World War II
Location: Hamza Yusuf‘s home, California
Date: November 2008
Topic: American identity and Muslims in the USA
Principal investigator: Akbar Ahmed
Filmed by: Craig Considine
© Akbar Ahmed
Tags: American culture, American identity, Democracy, Discrimination, Founding Fathers, Hamza Yusuf, Interview, Islam, Muslims, Philosophy, Politics, Racism, Religion, Sociology, Spirituality, United States, Western culture, Zaytuna College, Zaytuna Institute
Date: October 2008
Topic: American identity (with some focus on Muslims in the USA)
Principal investigator: Akbar Ahmed
Filmed by: Craig Considine
© Akbar Ahmed
Tags: Akbar Ahmed, American culture, American identity, Chomsky, Christianity, Culture, Discrimination, Ethnic groups, Ethnicity, Fascism, Fear, Hate, Identity, Islam, Jews, Mexican-Americans, Myth, Noam Chomsky, Politics, Racism, Religion, United States
Note: I came across this essay titled ‘Growing up Muslim in America’. It was written by a young Pakistani girl. In 1999, the essay won First Prize in the Minaret of Freedom High School Essay Contest. My research is exploring all the key factors and concepts touched upon in this essay, though my focus is on young Pakistani men (between the ages of 18-35) in both Dublin, Ireland and Boston, Massachusetts. You can find ‘Growing up Muslim in America’ here.
I will not exaggerate and say that growing up in America is a great experience and that it allows me to see Islam alone, as opposed to an Islam riddled with cultural influence. Nor will I exaggerate and say that growing up in America is a horrible experience, that I am surrounded by the influence of evil daily, and that I abhor living in “Dar ul Kufr.” Both statements are valid to a certain extent, and the point at which they compromise is the truth.
Growing up as a child of Pakistani immigrants, I was confused about my identity for quite some time. Was I Pakistani, Pakistani American, Muslim, a Muslim Pakistani, a Pakistani Muslim, Muslim American, American Muslim, or a Muslim in America? Never have I seen the arrangement of two or three words both so confusing and controversial. I considered myself Pakistani even though my attachment with the country and culture was not equal to that of a native Pakistani. I wore American clothes, spoke English most of the time, even in the home, and I had only visited Pakistan twice. My daily connection with Pakistan was through the food I ate and the Pakistani clothing I wore every so often. It was tough not having the same type of name as most of my peers. Even other children of immigrants, especially from Asian countries, had “American names” in addition to their “Chinese” or “Korean” names. I did not eat the same food as these children nor did I celebrate the same holidays. When asked the question what I received for Christmas, my face would usually turn a little red and I would try to change the subject. I realized I was not just the average American.
Yet in the same sense I was not the average Pakistani. As stated before, I did not speak much Urdu and my contact wit my culture was not great. When I visited Pakistan at the age of six, my relatives called me “Amrikan” or American. In their eyes, I was not Pakistani. I had the same type of name, ate siilar food, and looked just like them, but I was not Pakistani. Back home in America, I had a different name, complexion, and color, but I was not American. So for much of my life, I lived with the absence of a true identity. I could not define myself and that left me confused.
Things began to change once I entered adolescence. I began to lose many of my friends because I did not see the opposite sex in the same light as they did. My friends began dating and the usual talking about girls, but even though I was attracted to the opposite sex, I did not make it a public spectacle like they did. As a Muslim, my interactions with the opposite sex was to be dignified and in accordance to Islam. So I lost a lot of friends because I was not “cool” anymore, and thus I was isolated based on my character, my beliefs, because I was a Muslim.
This isolation brought me to a realization. Slowly I began to see that Islam was a priority for me. My identity as a Pakistani American or American Pakistani, whatever it was, was meaningless. Sure I ate Pakistani food, wore Pakistani clothes on holidays and sometimes listened to Pakistani music, but did it actually matter? Was it the fact that I was of Pakistani descent or that I was different? No, it was because the real component of who I was, was my Islamic identity. I still maintain my ties to Pakistan and it does compose part of my identity, but Islam is my priority.
I began to make Muslim friends in junior high school. They were not just Pakistani, they were also from countries like Afghanistan and India. Although these youth represented only a small geographical area of the Muslim ummah, I was introduced to the concept of global Islam. I in turn was on the path to separating Islam from my culture and seeing that I can be a Muslim and live in this country just like any other American.
I was only fourteen at the time, so I did not come to a complete realization of my identity. I finally moved to a very different area. My new home was in an upper class, white Jewish area, as opposed to my former middle class diverse community. Moving to this new town, Roslyn, allowed me to experience a lot of different things from before. This move coincided with my entering high school. So the experience was not only different because I moved to a totally different area, but also because I was entering high school.
Things were very different now in school. High school to most students dealt a lot with fitting in and being accepted by their peers. This meant going to clubs and parties every Friday and Saturday night where they would get drunk, smoke marijuana, and most often, engage in sexual intercourse. This type of lifestyle was accepted in my area, especially when my school began to distribute condoms to the students.
Not only was I set apart from the others in terms of my morals, but also in terms of my identity. In the first month at my new school, a student spread a rumor that I was in the Nation of Islam and that I had said an anti-Semitic statement. Both of these allegations were absolutely untrue, but for some reason most of the students believed it. Their religious-school teachers, parents, and the media fed them with stereotypes of Muslims, so it was not hard to believe that this Muslim was an anti-Semite.
This began one of the toughest times in my life. I was a new student and I did not have many friends. because I was Muslim. I had a few Asian friends, but that was it. Alhamdulillah, all that changed one weekend.
I received an e-mail from a friend about a “Muslim Youth of North America” conference in Maryland during the Thanksgiving weekend. This was the first time I had heard of such an event, and I was amazed. At that conference, I came to a full realization of who I was, a Muslim. I am not dramatizing in saying that this conference was a turning point in my life. I met Muslim youth, just like myself, from all over the East Coast of the United States, and they had the same experiences as me. Many were children of immigrants, just like myself, and were juggling their dual identities as I had. Many of the youth were also children of indigenous Americans who had reverted to Islam. I saw Islam in a scope as wide as I had ever seen it before. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the United States, China, Albania, Malaysia, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia among other countries were all represented at this conference. But it didn’t matter. We were all Muslim. I made many friends and to this day, I keep in contact with them. I was so motivated at the conference that I ran for a position as Director of Publicity for New York, I lost the election, but was nominated for New York Representative later on, and to this day I hold that position.
I came back to my school motivated and proud. I finally had a secure identity I could grasp and never let go of. I was sure I was not some weirdo who did not date or like girls, that I was not anti-social, and that there was nothing wrong with me. If some kids decided to believe a lie about me or prejudge me because I’m Muslim, then that was their loss.
Over the months following that conference, I changed a great deal. I was no longer a shy, reclusive person. I was vocal, confident, opinionated, and unafraid of who I was. My good friends were not only the few I had at school, but also the ones I had at the masjid and from the conference I attended. The following year things grew better for me at school as well. I accumulated many more friends who accepted me for who I was. I did not drink, I did not date, and I respected women. These new friends were interested in my religion, and did not perceive it as something strange. Alhamdulillah, I now have a good balance of Muslim and non-Muslim friends. I realized that there are some people in this country and in this world who will choose to remain ignorant. Racism and stereotyping are far too common in this nation, but that we Muslims can change this society and we Muslims can change this society and this world. In fact, it is our obligation.
My work with the Muslim Youth of North America is inspired by this obligation. I organize events for the youth in New York such as conferences, camps, and sports tournaments. My goal is to help other youth realize who they are and to be proud of it. Muslims have much to offer to this nation and America truly needs Islam. The people in this nation are looking to real answers to life’s questions and can only find those in Islam. Sadly on the same note, as stated before, many people choose to remain ignorant. For example, there was a segment on the television program, Saturday Night Live, which mocked the Muslims who died during the Hajj stampede last year. I wrote a petition for the SNL to apologize, but there was no response. That did not discourage me though. I am currently organizing a petitioning of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who stated during the bombings of Iraq on Fox News that American national security (bombing Iraq for no justifiable reason) is a priority over religious sensitivities (not bombing during Ramadan). It is obvious that other religious groups would not be treated like that. The lesson is that Muslims in this country do have the ability to attain simply an Islamic identity, and there is so much we can offer this nation and this world. But there is also a great deal of discrimination against Muslims, in addition to the abundance of immorality, and we must work towards their elimination. There are many advantages to living in this country as there are disadvantages. The difference is, our advantages enable us to overcome and eliminate our disadvantages.
Growing up a Muslim youth in America in indeed an exigent experience. But once that youth transcends and overcomes the obstacles along the way, there lies the path towards the true success and true realization, insha’Allah.
Tags: American culture, American Pakistani, Culture, East Coast of the United States, Experience, Identity, Immigrants, Immigration, Islam, Muslim, Muslim Pakistani, Pakistan, Pakistan Irish, Pakistani, Pakistani-American, Pakistanis, Research, Sociology, United States, Young Pakistanis