March 7, 2014
It should come as no surprise that being a Muslim American woman on an American college campus, surrounded by social pressures involving drinking and dating, makes for a complex young-adult experience. What’s surprising is that these conflicts are not much discussed.
Shabana Mir, who teaches global studies and anthropology at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., spent 10 months in Washington during 2002-03. She interviewed 26 Muslim American women at Georgetown and George Washington universities about how their choices concerning dating, alcohol and clothing made them feel around their non-Muslim peers. Each woman had her own way of melding her two modifiers into a “third space” that is “neither stereotypically American, nor stereotypically Muslim.”
One theme of the book is a subtle current of dismay on the part of non-Muslim students, who tended to be misinformed at best and fearful at worst about interacting with Mir’s subjects. Here is the author’s summation of what one young woman experienced after deciding to go to parties where there was drinking but not indulge in it herself: “Though Fatima optimistically assumed that her peers would respond to her compromise and ‘just accept’ her teetotalism, the tolerance proffered by her peers was far shallower than the acceptance they received from Fatima because of the cultural power differential.”
The book may leave readers feeling confused about what it is young Muslim American women are seeking or needing from those peers. In any case, the reticence Mir found on both campuses is unfortunate in a university setting, where dialogue and mutual understanding should be the norm.
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2014/03/07/6c3058b4-844c-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html
News Agencies – December 19, 2012
Thousands of Muslims from across North America gathered in Toronto from December 21 through December 23 for the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention. “The conference has always been about uniting and joining hands with scholars, journalists, academics, representatives from other faiths, and artists to promote messages of peace and tolerance,” RIS spokeswoman Farhia Ahmed told OnIslam.net.
Themed “Divine Light for Living Right: The Light of Prophetic Guidance in the Midst of Modern Darkness”, the convention is organized and managed by approximately 400 young Canadian volunteers. It brings a galaxy of prominent Muslim scholars including Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, Karen Armstrong and Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University. Also attending are the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Cerić, scholar Habib Ali Al-Jifri, Swiss professor Tariq Ramadan, Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled, Dr. Aisha al-Adawiyya; Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury; Yasmin Mogahed and Edina Lekovic.
Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention was first launched in 2003 by Muslim youth to tackle the backlash on Islam and Muslims after the 9/11 and to build a bridge of understanding with non-Muslims. Last year, over 20,000 people attended the event and for the first time tickets were sold out by the second day of the 3-day program.
Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?
Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”
In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.
The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)
THE PRESS RELEASE announcing complaints against Catholic University of America for alleged bias against Muslim and women students begins with a mention of criminal charges leveled against a bishop in Kansas City for withholding information about suspected child abuse. It’s an irrelevant cheap shot. But it’s a good tipoff to the lack of substance in public-interest lawyer John Banzhaf’s high-profile campaign against Catholic University.
Mr. Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University noted for litigation on behalf of non-smokers and women, recently complained to the D.C. Office of Human Rights that Catholic was violating the rights of its Muslim students. The complaint is focused on the school’s policy of not giving official status to non-Catholic worship groups, but Mr. Banzhaf, in interviews and releases, also suggests that Muslim students are uncomfortable with the symbols of Catholicism on the campus. He faults the university for not setting aside space — free of crucifixes and other religious icons — for Muslims to worship. The complaint follows another action by Mr. Banzhaf in which he alleges that Catholic’s elimination of coed dorm floors is discriminatory (he claims such adverse effects to women as not being able to find males to walk with them to their dorms after dark).