Where Racial and Religious Discrimination Meet

August 27th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

So Amber,


Twenty days later and I gotta come back to this mosque topic. I’m heated again. The latest is this video:


I wanted to tear some heads off when I saw this. Scream. Cry. The works. It is disgustingly ugly. 

And racial.

They may be chanting “No Mosque here” but it is so much more than fear of a religion. It demonstrates that the perceptions of Islam in America (and the Western world) are racialized. This man, trying to get through a crowd, is chanted at, verbally abused and dehumanized because he is a man of color and he wore a “weird” hat. The combination of the two signaled to the crowd that he was Muslim. Because he was (perceived to be) Muslim, he must be their opponent.

I read a comment that said (not a direct quote) “Stop saying its racist stupid. It’s a religion.” And this is what I want to talk about. Why this video is racist.

I’ve made comments to people before about how racist the language against Islam is, and they often don’t understand me. They understand that the language isn’t good, but they don’t see race involved. The color of someone’s skin is never verbalized, so how is it racist? It’s about religion and culture.

But here it is to see. A sea of white faces angrily following a black man and chanting. As he puts it, “All ya’ll dumb motherfuckers don’t even know my opinion on shit.”

But they think they do. Because of how he appears. Because they see Islam as a religion that is not white. Because he is a black man wearing certain clothing. Because they see him as other. As foreign. As not American (you know, the “real” America).

What is “other” to them? Islam is. Blackness is. In the context of a protest against Islam (or a Mosque at Ground Zero…whichever you want to say), race becomes a stand-in for religion.

It doesn’t matter that he says, “I’m not even Muslim.”

Why is this video racist? Why are the conversations European countries have about ridding their countries of the influence of Islam racist? Why are tv shows, movies, articles about terrorism so often racist? Because race and religion cross each other is so many contexts. Because one is used to characterize the other. Nothing is scarier than a black Muslim man.

I can barely write this without wanting to rip something to shreds. This entire issue makes me so upset: Real people are hurt by this bullshit. Politicians can bow to polls like it doesn’t matter, but real people are hurt. This man does not walk away from it unscathed. Neither do those who watch it and feel the heat and anger directed towards them.

This is when I really hate the world.

I wanted this post to be more thoughtful, more intellectual, but right now, it can only come out as emotional. It’s just too deep.

America, Mosques and Ground Zero: A Symbol of What and for Whom

August 3rd, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

Amber,

I’m going to take us away from gender for a bit – I’m sure we’ll return to the topic. Today, I read an article at Slate (shout out to Anaka – thanks!) about the recent controversy over a plan to build a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in NY. I’d heard of this fight before, but here was a collection of quotes from Republican and religious leaders declaring their opposition to this project. A sampling:

“To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.” – Sarah Palin

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” – Newt Gingrich

“It is simply grotesque to erect a mosque at the site of the most visible and powerful symbol of the horrible consequences of radical Islamist ideology.” – Newt Gingrich

“Even though the vast majority of Muslims reject that ideology and condemned their actions on Sept. 11, 2001, it still remains a fact that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam. Given that fact, I believe that it is inappropriate for a mosque to be at Ground Zero.” – Dr. Richard Land

The same leaders who tout America’s superiority, due to its freedom and democracy, are the same who demand restrictions on fellow Americans’ freedom. Because let’s not be mistaken, this mosque and community center is for Americans. Islam is in America. It is not foreign. It is not other. It is American.

But that is not the narrative we wish to create, that is not the story we tell, that is not the America we have constructed. When Palin says it would be a stab in the heart of victims’ families, I wonder if she has considered the families of those who died and who are Muslim? Or are they not her “real” America?

And is Gingrich honestly suggesting that we mirror the actions of oppressive countries? That the decisions we make and the causes we support should be based on the actions of foreign countries and not the needs of our citizens? Because, again, this is an American mosque and community center.  A mosque and community center would be a powerful symbol of peace if erected at the site of one of the most powerful symbols of the “consequences of radical Islamic philosophy.”

I remember standing at the top of Cape Coast Castle, in its Church, staring at a verse from the Psalms, “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling.” Moments before I stood in dungeons where enslaved Africans were held. A dungeon below a church. A symbol of evil.

It is not a symbol of my faith. It is a symbol of my faith corrupted, a symbol of inhumanity covering its sins with “righteousness.”

Should no church be near sites such as these?

If America claims to be democratic and free, New York City will allow the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. We will not speak of Muslims as foreigners, as only perpetrators and not victims, but as Americans seeking to build a place of worship and community, to contribute their own narrative.  

But 54 percent of Americans do no believe a mosque should be built.

America’s values are its greatest asset and its biggest lie.

And its civil religion – honoring a god that is American* patriotic** – is its own church atop a dungeon – masking the ugliness below. But that may be another topic.






* Who is American in that civil religion narrative?
** And what is patriotic?

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