Tag Archives: Identity
The Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
- Dale Wimbrow (1934)
Reclaiming the Beard in Behalf of Christianity, Huffington Post, June 11th.
Honoring Muslim American Veterans on Memorial Day, Huffington Post, May 26th.
Documents Show Prophet Muhammad and U.S. Founding Fathers Were Kindreds Spirits, ISLAMiCommentary (Duke Islamic Studies Center), May 19th.
Morocco and US must not let recent spat harm their historic friendship, Morocco World News, May 6th.
A Challenge for the Media to Counter ‘Burn the Quran Day’, Huffington Post, May 3rd.
BOSTONIANS WILL TRANSCEND FEAR AFTER MARATHON BOMBINGS, Huffington Post, April 25th.
ALLAH OR GOD, IT DOESN’T MATTER TO ME, Huffington Post, April 22nd.
FINDING TOLERANCE IN AKBAR, THE PHILOSOPHER-KING, ISLAMiCommentary (Duke Islamic Studies Center), April 10th.
ANOTHER WAY TO CELEBRATE SAINT PATRICK’S DAY, Huffington Post, March 15th.
GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS A FRIEND OF MUSLIMS, Huffington Post, January 18th.
HUFFPO: GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS JUST LIKE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD, FOX NATION, January 13th.
AN UNLIKELY CONNECTION BETWEEN THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND GEORGE WASHINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST, January 10th.
IT’S ANTI-AMERICAN TO CARE ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S RELIGION, The Clarion Ledger (Mississippi), November 6th.
IT’S ANTI-AMERICAN TO CARE ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S RELIGION, Huffington Post, November 5th.
WHAT WOULD AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS SAY ABOUT ISLAM, Bikya Masr (Egypt), November 4th.
Les Pères fondateurs des Etats-Unis et l’islam?, Le Soir (Belgium), November 1st.
ISLAM AND AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS, Muslim Village (Australia), November 3rd.
WHAT WOULD AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS SAY ABOUT ISLAM?, Huffington Post, October 31st.
VOICES: WHAT WOULD AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS SAY ABOUT ISLAM?, Voice of America News, October 29th.
Les Pères fondateurs des Etats-Unis : Que diraient-ils sur l’islam?, Oumma, October 27.
Les Pères fondateurs des Etats-Unis : Que diraient-ils sur l’islam?, Yenoo Belgique Magazine, October 27.
WHAT WOULD AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS SAY ABOUT ISLAM, The Frontier Post (Khyber Pakhtunkwha, Pakistan), October 26.
WHAT WOULD AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHERS SAY ABOUT ISLAM, Common Ground News Service, October 23.
‘ONE FILM 9/11′ CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, Huffington Post, October 8.
‘ONE FILM 9/11 INITIATIVE’ CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, The American Muslim, October 4.
ONE FILM 9/11 CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, Islamophobia Today, September 26.
HOW 9/11 CHANGED RELIGION IN AMERICA, Huffington Post, September 11.
TEA PARTY FOUNDER OVERLOOKED MUSLIMS’ SACRIFICE FOR U.S. Arizona Capitol Times, August 3.
‘Preface’, Trinity College Dublin Journal of Postgraduate Research, Volume 11: Ireland’s Research on the World Stage
HOMELESS, IRISH INDEPENDENT, 14 December.
FOUNDING FATHERS ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES WITH GINGRICH, ISLAMOPHOBIA TODAY, December 12.
ISLAMOPHOBIC YELLOW JOURNALISTS ATTACK PROFESSOR AHMED, AGAIN, JOURNEY INTO AMERICA BLOG. February 25.
PAINTING THE TRUE PICTURE OF AMERICA, COMMON GROUND NEWS SERVICE, April 2010. (Also published by ZAMAN (Turkey), Kuwait Times, Saudi Gazette, Bikya Masr (Egypt), Pakistan Christian Post, Middle East Times, and The Muslim (Canada)).
‘JOURNEY INTO AMERICA’ UNLEASHES A CHALLENGE FOR AMERICANS, THE AMERICAN MUSLIM, June 2.
LIEBERMAN’S DANGEROUS AND HYPOCRITICAL ‘CITIZENSHIP STRIP’ LEGISLATION, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, May 7.
PENTAGON PUTS WIKILEAKS IN ITS SIGHT, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, April 7.
OBAMA: CONTINUING BUSH’S WAR CRIMES WITH DRONE BOMBING CAMPAIGN, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, April 1.
EMPIRE AND OKINAWA, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, March 28.
SUSPECTED MILITANTS, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, March 27.
U.S. BRINGS DEMOCRACY TO IRAQ? HARDLY, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, March 11.
OVER 1,000,000 DEAD IRAQIS FROM 2003 U.S. LED INVASION, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, March 8.
2009 TOLL OF NATO AIR STRIKES: 131 DEAD CHILDREN, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, February 26.
MCCHRYSTAL’S MURDEROUS AFGHAN ‘PROTECTION’ RACKET – DEATH TOLL CLIMBS TO 27, WORLD CAN’T WAIT. February 23.
NATO COMMANDERS ON AFGHAN CIVILIAN DEATHS: ROCKETS ‘HIT THEIR INTENDED TARGETS‘, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, February 17.
THE REAPER AND PREDATOR DRONES: ‘TWIN TERRORIZERS OF U.S. AND U.K.’, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, February 10.
AUTOPSY REPORT IN MICHIGAN: IMAM SHOT 21 TIMES BY POLICE, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, February 4.
MAKING ENEMIES; OR, THE MURDEROUS HYPOCRISY OF DRONE STRIKES, WORLD CAN’T WAIT, February 1.
A CELEBRATION FOR ALL: LAUNCHING ‘JOURNEY INTO AMERICA’ FILM, PAKISTAN LINK, July 3.
A TRAGEDY AT FORT HOOD, PAKISTAN LINK, November 9.
OBAMA SHOULD LISTEN TO THE PASHTUNS, PAKHTUNKHWATIMES. December.
A 21ST CENTURY RENAISSANCE MAN, PAKISTAN LINK, October 2.
“JOURNEY INTO ISLAM” LAUNCHED AT PRESTIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, PAKISTAN LINK, July 6.
THE REFLECTIONS OF A CONCERNED YOUNG AMERICA, PAKISTAN LINK. April 13.
‘JOURNEY INTO ISLAM’, PAKISTAN LINK, February 16.
THE SEARCH FOR ILM: ‘GLORIES OF ISLAMIC ART’, PAKISTAN LINK, February 2.
THE COMMON THREAT, PAKISTAN LINK, October 12.
Tags: America, Arab News, Articles, Clarion Ledger, Craig Considine, Frontier Post, Huffington Post, Identity, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Islamophobia, Journey into America, Memorial Day, Muhammad, Muslim, Muslims, Prophet Muhammad, Publications, Trinity College Dublin, United States, Writer, Writing, Yanoo Belgique Magazine
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
Stuart Hall is a theorist who has contributed a great deal to our understanding of identity and racism. He is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of cultural studies and here discusses race as a floating signifier. I was not able to find all the videos but you should be able to search for them on You Tube. Please feel free to leave your comments below in hope of opening up a discussion.
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
This morning I read an interesting article about Italian immigrants and how they were treated like dirt in the decades following their journey from Italy to the US. The author of the article, Ed Falco, compares the Italian experience to what many Muslim Americans are going through today and essentially points out that practically every major ‘other’ group in American history has been persecuted to some extent or another for their religious beliefs. Falco highlights many historical events where Italian Americans were subjected to inhumane treatment, such as a controversy with the construction of a Catholic Church in New York City during the Revolutionary period and a lynch mobbing episode in New Orleans in the early 20th century. The controversy over the construction of the Catholic Church in New York City mirrors greatly the Park 51 moment. New Yorkers asked ‘those’ Catholics to build their Church outside of the city’s boundaries because they feared the ‘foreign’ and ‘non-American’ influences’ of Popery and the Vatican. After the lynch mobbing incident in New Orleans, Teddy Roosevelt, who would later move on to become president of the US, said that the killing and dragging of the Italian immigrants through the streets was largely a good thing. Italians, however, gradually integrated into ‘mainstream America’. They ‘became’ American after years and years of trials and tribulations and proving their loyalty through the ultimate sacrifice in war. It’s unfortunate that ‘other’ groups of Americans have to wither through the storm of discrimination and ethnocentrism as part of their Americanisation process. Muslims are the latest group to undergo this process of ‘othering’, but soon their neighbours will see their ‘Americanness’. It’s unfortunate that they have to wait for acceptance, but this seems like the ‘American way’.
Tags: Americanization, Americanness, Assimilation, Catholic, Catholic Church, Culture, Identity, Integration, Italian American, Italian Americans, Italy, Muslim Americans, New Orleans, New York City, Opinion, Other, Othering, Politics, Religion, United States, Vatican
I just picked up Eboo Patel‘s Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation at New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, Massachusetts. To be honest, I wasn’t searching for it; I pretty much stumbled across it randomly in the extremely small ‘Islam’ section (it’s small in comparison to the ‘Judaism’ section, which, I think, symbolizes a lot about the Book Fair, the city of Newton, and the country we live in). Anyways, before the Table of Contents, Eboo includes these three quotes to give the reader a feel for his story:
I am large, I contain multitudes
The road of Creation
Resolves into music.
Start a huge, foolish project,
The first quote from Whitman reminds us that as people we’re complicated, have many layers and no core identity.
The second quote from Tagore reminds us… actually… I’m not entirely sure… Any theories?
And the third quote from the Prophet Noah reminds us to be ambitious and to never lose faith in ourselves or God along the journey of life.
Eboo Patel actually appeared in the documentary Journey into America (2009) which I directed with Akbar Ahmed. I’m looking forward to reading his book and applying it somehow to my research on the experiences of young Pakistani men.
Have you heard about the ‘European problem’? To your likely surprise, the problem has nothing to do with debt, sovereignty, Brussels, or the devaluing euro.
As George Weigel posits in The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics Without God, the ‘European problem’ is atheistic humanism or, as he often calls it in more academic terms, secularism. The solution to the ‘European problem’ for Weigel is to return to what made ‘European civilization’ so great in the first place. This is Christianity.
Weigel suggests that atheistic humanists are involved in a ‘deliberate act of historical amnesia, in which a millennium and a half of Christianity’s contributions to European understanding of human rights and democracy are deliberately ignored by contemporary Europeans’. Rather than adhering to another transcendent allegiance, contemporary Europeans, as Weigel argues, now belong ‘nowhere’. In citing Christopher Dawson, Weigel writes that this ‘spiritual no-man’s-land’ is ‘inherently unstable and ultimately self-destructive’. Secularism is nothing more than ‘a monstrosity – a cancerous growth which will ultimately destroy itself’ (Dawson). To further support his argument here, Weigel turns to Solzhenitsy:
The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. That war… took place when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation that could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them…. Only the loss of that higher intuition which comes from God could have allowed the West to accept calmly, after World War I, the protracted agony of Russia as she was being torn apart by a band of cannibals… The West did not perceive that this was in fact the beginning of a lengthy process that spells disaster for the whole world.
Perhaps unknowingly, Weigel and Solzhenitsyn touch upon a Weberian analysis in the idea of ‘worldly disenfranchisement’, in which human beings become increasingly rationale, like mindless robots, and less inclined or curious with the supernatural and spiritual dimensions of the human experience.
Another valuable piece of Weigler’s book is his introducing of the international legal scholar J.H.H. Weiler’s notion of ‘Christophobia’; a very real concept and not just a theory. Weiler’s ‘Christophobia’ has eight key features, as outlined by Weigler, which include (in no particular order):
1. The notion that the Holocaust and other 20th-century European genocides are the logical outcome of Christianity’s inherent racism.
2. The ’1968 mind-set’ – the youthful rebellion against traditional authority and Europe’s traditional Christian identity and consciousness.
3. The psychological and ideological denial of the non-violent revolution of 1989, which, according to Weiler, was deeply and decisively influenced by Christians in central and eastern Europe, preeminently by Pope John Paul II.
4. The continuing resentment of the dominant role once played by Christian Democratic parties in post-World War II Europe.
5. The habit of associating Christianity with right-wing political parties, which are the parties of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, etc.
6. The resentment towards Pope John Paul II among secularists and anti-Catholics.
7. The distorted teaching about European history which stresses the Enlightenment roots of the democratic project to the virtual exclusion of democracy’s historical cultural roots in the Christian soil of pre-Enlightenment Europe.
8. The resentment of the ’1968 mind-set’ generation that their children have become Christian believers.
Weigel’s analysis of Pope John Paul II is also intellectually and spiritually invigorating. Using John Paul II’s exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (The Church in Europe), Weigel contends that Europe can witness a new burst of hope and confidence to end its current state of ambiguity, which has led to a ‘loss of faith in the future’. Europe’s most urgent need, for John Paul Il, is ‘not a common currency, a transnational parliament, a unified set of fiscal and budgetary norms, or a Continent-wide regulatory regime’, but rather ‘the growing need for hope, a hope which will enable us to give meaning to life and history and to continue in our way together’. John Paul II’s insinuation, however, in Ecclesia in Europa - that returning to Christianity can cure Europe of all her ills – is a bit of a stretch on the imagination. In my opinion, Europeans could, however, use a bit more from Christian teachings to overcome the following dilemmas:
1. ‘A kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history’.
2. ‘Fear of the future’.
3. ‘Inner emptiness that grips many people’.
4. ‘Widespread existential fragmentation’ in which ‘a feeling of loneliness is prevalent’.
5. ‘Weakening of the very concept of the family’.
6. Selfishness that close individuals and groups in upon themselves’.
7. A growing lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges’ leading to ‘the diminished number of births’.
While he offers useful insight into the life of John Paul II, and how we can benefit from his philosophy, some of Weigel’s points are misleading and, to be honest, downright inaccurate, especially those which pertain to Muslims and Islam in Europe. These problems include:
1. Not including Islam in the Abrahamic tradition; ‘God’, for Weigel, is the God of the Prophet’s Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. The Prophet Muhammad is not mentioned in this context.
2. Warning Europeans that Europe will be increasingly influenced, and perhaps even dominated by, ‘militant Islamic populations’, even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe denounce violence and acts of terrorism as antithetical to Islam.
3. Contending that Europeans are becoming ‘Islamicized… in the sense of being drawn into the civilizational orbit of the Arab Islamic world’.
And yet in a bizarre twist from his comments towards Muslims and Islam, Weigel concludes his book by hoping Europeans reconvert and find in Christianity ‘the spiritual, intellectual, and moral resources to sustain and defend its commitments to toleration, civility, democracy, and human rights’.
In following sociologist Andrew Greeley, Weigel is guilty of ‘using secularization as an all-purpose brush with which to paint a portrait of contemporary Europe’. Many Muslims in Europe, for instance, have an interpretation of Islam that calls for belief in God, tolerance, respect, humility and integrity, all principles which Weigel seems so desperate for Europeans to recapture. Sadly, however, Weigel appears to think that only a return to Christianity can recapture these principles.
Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral is basically an exercise with a massive contradiction. He argues for Europeans to return to Christianity to defend ‘European principles’ like toleration, civility, democracy, and human rights, and yet demonstrates intolerance and ethnocentrism when speaking about Muslims in Europe and Islam. More attention should have been paid to the many Muslims in Europe who have successfully balanced their religious and national/regional identities and a peaceful and progressive ‘European manner’. Weigel’s ’European civilization’ term, moreover, is problematic when it is used in the singular form. Is there really such a thing as a ‘European civilization’? Was Europe ever a homogenous entity? Could we not argue that there have been different ‘European civilizations‘ throughout history? These are theoretical propositions which are never adequately addressed by Weigel.
Weigel does offer some interesting insight into the philosophy of Pope John Paul II and the very real and increasingly important concept of ‘Christophobia’. This easily readable book is worth flipping through if you can stomach blatant Westerncentrism and Eurocentrism, an unapologetic ‘Christian supremacy’ perspective, as well as a tint of anti-Islam rhetoric.
Weigel, George. The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God. Basic Book: New York, 2005.
Tags: Atheism, Atheistic humanism, Catholic, Christian, Christianity, Christopher Dawson, Christophobia, Culture, Democracy, Enlightenment, Europe, European problem, Europeans, George Weigel, God, Identity, Intolerance, Islam, Morality, Muslims, Pope John Paul II, Racism, Religion, Secularism, Weigel, Xenophobia
Kavirah (2010) argues that the growing religiosity in many parts of the world is quite different from our traditional understanding of religion (in his writing, he refers to rising Hindu identity and nationalism). He argues that we need to distinguish between ‘thick and thin religion’. Thick religion encompasses traditional rituals, practices, and beliefs, whereas thin religion intersects religion, politics and nationalism and serves as a tool to bring people together for a cause, such as Hindu nationalism or Muslim victimhood (a ploy of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda).
Source: Ghaffar-Kucher, A. (2011). The religification of Pakistani-American Youth. American Educational Research Journal. Pgs. 17-18.
Tags: Culture, Hindu identity, Identity, Islam, Kavirah, Muslim, Muslims, Nationalism, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Religiosity, Religious Studies, Rituals, Sociology, Spirituality, Thick religion, Thin religion, Tradition, United States
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
The Arabic word nafs is variously translated as ‘soul’, ‘self’, or ‘ego’. The nafs has seven levels or stages of development that correspond more or less to the seven stages of the Sufi Path. The Path, which leads to a transformation of consciousness, can therefore be described as the refinement and purification of the soul. The seven nafs are generally defined as:
- nafs al-ammara – the commanding or compulsive-obsessive self, also known as the carnal or animal self, is entirely governed by its desires, passions and instincts.
- nafs al-lawwama – the accusing or blaming self, corresponds to the awakening of conscience and a realization of the extent to which one’s actions are controlled by the nafs al-ammara.
- nafs al-mulhama – the inspired or balanced self marks the beginning of genuine spiritual integration and a release of the self from the tyranny of physical instincts and the desires of the ego.
- nafs al-mutma’inna – the tranquil self or self at peace, as its name implies, has attained a degree of detachment from worldly concerns and an increasing awareness of the Presence of God in all things.
- nafs al-radiyya – the fulfilled or satisfied self is the initial merging or union of the individual with God.
- nafs al-mardiyya – the fulfilling or satisfying self, also described as the self of total submission, is the merging of God with the individual.
- nafs al-kamila – the perfected and complete self is the state of total union with God and the attainment of universal consciousness.
Source: Baldock, John. The Essence of Rumi. Arcturus: London, 2005.
In October 2008, I visited the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York City as part of the Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam research team.
The parade had a very strong impression upon me. After being thrown literally in the middle of an intense protest, I put my video-camera away for a second to digest the pressure that just overcame me. I was overwhelmed with negative emotions. I was disturbed at how much hatred there was between the various groups involved. Sadly, all these groups were American.
While filming, I wasn’t really able to process what was going on around me because I was so focused on getting the right shot and making sure I was filming the opinions of everyone involved. I eventually broke down for about 5 minutes. I felt my country was really in dire straits. The hatred got the best of me.
For my tutorial this week, I’m using this video below as a starting point for discussion. The tutorial is touching upon different types of identities and the matters surrounding them. I will focus specifically on issues pertaining to ethnic, racial, national and religious identities. In doing so, I will also explore issues concerning racism, the melting pot, and imagined communities.