Prashad’s follow-up to The Karma of Brown Folk arrives at a hugely significant moment, as its subject matter is startlingly relevant to the recent shootings at the Oak Creek Gurdwara. The book also covers the post-9/11 rise of Islamophobia among American Hindus, as well as the political strategies adopted by the rising Hindutva lobby in the United States. For those interested in the South Asia diaspora, Prashad’s book is a must-read!
"We are not Muslims" hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact "are not Muslim" will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.
This is an important article from earlier this year that clearly resonates with today’s tragic events. This is a significant point both for the media and South Asians responding to the horrifying violence in Oak Creek.
A first look at Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson in Mira Nair's upcoming adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The film also stars Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schrieber, Shabana Azmi, and Om Puri.
Monsoon Wedding is one of my favorite movies, so I was glad to hear that Nair would be directing the film. I think the source material will translate well to the screen, and it will be interesting to see how the adaptation translates the novel’s unique narrative voice. A major release like this could foster some important dialogue about Islamophobia in the United States, especially considering the novel’s incredibly complex protagonist. Let’s just hope we don’t see an All-American Muslim-style controversy when the film is released.
Vijay Prashad, “Crafting Solidarities” in A Part, Yet Apart: South Asians in Asian America, edited by Lavina Dhingra Shankar and Rajini Srikanth
This quote comes to mind as I see the impressive development of forms of solidarity against the Florida Family Association and their opposition to All-American Muslim. As deeply flawed as I find that show, there’s something impressive about the type of progressive politics the controversy surrounding it has produced. Ultimately, the type of model minority politics that the show celebrates hasn’t been what’s saving it; instead, its a widespread progressive commitment against Islamophobia that has emerged without relying on defining which groups as more “All-American” than others.
Showtime’s Homeland has been praised as one of the best new shows of the season and is definitely worth checking out. Its politics aren’t perfect, but the show’s attempt to engage with structural forms of Islamophobia can foster some interesting discussion. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are fantastic as the show’s leads and definitely deserve recognition for their performances. The show has already been renewed for a second season, so it will be interesting to see how the plot develops and expands.
"Manhattanites who had always prided themselves on their liberalism confessed that they were talking to their therapists about their discomfort with Mohammad Khan as the memorial’s designer," writes Amy Waldman of the fictional World Trade Center memorial at the center of The Submission, her debut novel. After a jury of artists, scholars, politicians, philanthropists, and a 9/11 widow discovers that a Muslim American architect is behind their selection for the planned memorial, an intense public spectacle erupts that troubles popular conceptions of national identity, belonging, grief, and—quite surprisingly-–the contradictory reactions to art and beauty. The novel follows a disparate cast of characters, each conveying a different, yet equally complex attitude towards the memorial: Claire Burwell, the sole family member of a 9/11 victim on the jury; Mohammad “Mo” Khan, the Indian American architect behind the design who rejects the expectation that he either justify his design through his secular credentials or a defense of Islam by remaining silent about the nature of his submission; Paul Rubin, a former investment banker who attempts to bring order to the public debate; Sean Gallagher, the brother of a firefighter who died in the attacks who becomes caught up in the right wing attacks on the memorial and Islam; Asma Anwar, the Bangladeshi widow of an undocumented worker in the World Trade Center who bears witness to the dramatic changes that the public backlash to the memorial has upon the everyday lives of American Muslims.
Thought the subject matter might seem excessively current (though Waldman wrote much of the novel before the Park 51 controversy), the novel avoids reading as journalistic through Waldman’s incisive, yet emotionally evocative prose, which reveals the intimate depth and complexity of her characters’ experiences. Waldman’s masterful narrative voice and expert characterization affirm that a novel can be culturally relevant, politically insightful, and a deeply affecting, moving, and beautiful work of art. By interrogating the dangerous politics of grief, the limits of multicultural “tolerance,” and the perils of the imperative that art provide concrete meaning and interpretation, Waldman reveals the impossibility of any easy answers to the many questions that rise in response to the memorial. I found Waldman’s portrayal of American Muslims’ dilemma in the face of the hostile public trial of Islam to be particularly poignant; as one character notes of Mo’s bind, “If Khan fights for his rights, he’s an aggressive angry Muslim waging stealth Jihad. If he gives in, he’s conceding they weren’t his rights to begin with.” Though public perceptions of Islam serve as the driving force behind the novel, Waldman eloquently portrays the way that this public debate is intricately intertwined with dynamics of class, race, sensationalism, and aesthetics, among other concerns.
Though Waldman herself is a journalist, having served as the co-chief of the South Asia bureau of the New York Times, the novel is sharply critical of the media; this occasionally results in one of the novel’s few weaknesses: its over-the-top portrayal of self-interested journalists and right-wing demagogues. ln addition, I found Waldman’s epilogue to be a bit unnecessary, providing a somewhat unnecessary sense of resolution after a bold and powerful final chapter. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend the novel highly enough. I haven’t found myself this enamored by a work of fiction in quite some time and I will be pestering everyone I know to read it. I will be seeing Waldman read on August 17th at McNally Jackson bookstore in Soho and would invite anyone who is free in NYC to do the same.
Currently reading The Submision by Amy Waldman
Publishers Weekly’s blurb on the novel:
Waldman imagines a toxic brew of bigotry in conflict with idealism in this frighteningly plausible and tightly wound account of what might happen if a Muslim architect had won a contest to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site. Jury member and 9/11 widow Claire Burwell presses for the winning garden design both before and after its creator is revealed as Mohammed “Mo” Khan, an American-born and raised architect who becomes embroiled in the growing furor between those who see the garden as a symbol of tolerance and peace, and various activists who claim patriotism as they spew anti-Islamic diatribes. Waldman keenly focuses on political and social variables, including an opportunistic governor who abets the outbreak of xenophobia; the wealthy chairman of the contest, maneuvering for social cachet; a group of zealots whose obsession with radical Islam foments violence; a beautiful Iranian-American lawyer who becomes Mo’s lover until he refuses to become a mouthpiece; and a trouble-sowing tabloid reporter. Meanwhile, Mo refuses to demean himself by explaining the source of his design, seen by some as an Islamic martyr’s paradise. As misguided outrage flows from all corners, Waldman addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole. True, there are more blowhards than heroes, but that just makes it all the more real.
I’ll post some thoughts on the novel once I finished, but based on what I’ve read so far, I think I’m going to have a lot to say.
Interesting street art in Nolita. I’m not sure if the “I’ve been reduced to this!” caption belongs to this or the piece underneath it, but it adds a lot to the image. I’m also not sure if all the phalluses and breasts are part of this either. I’m guessing the Hanksy rat at the bottom is separate though.
Thanks to a tip from WalkOutOfHerMind, Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora has jumped to the top of my reading list.
Duke University Press’s description of the book:
Terrifying Muslims highlights how transnational working classes from Pakistan are produced, constructed, and represented in the context of American empire and the recent global War on Terror. Drawing on ethnographic research that compares Pakistan, the Middle East, and the United States before and after 9/11, Junaid Rana combines cultural and material analyses to chronicle the worldviews of Pakistani labor migrants as they become part of a larger global racial system. At the same time, he explains how these migrants’ mobility and opportunities are limited by colonial, postcolonial, and new imperial structures of control and domination. He argues that the contemporary South Asian labor diaspora builds on and replicates the global racial system consolidated during the period of colonial indenture. Rana maintains that a negative moral judgment attaches to migrants who enter the global labor pool through the informal economy. This taint of the illicit intensifies the post-9/11 Islamophobia that collapses varied religions, nationalities, and ethnicities into the threatening racial figure of “the Muslim.” It is in this context that the racialized Muslim is controlled by a process that beckons workers to enter the global economy, and stipulates when, where, and how laborers can migrate. The demonization of Muslim migrants in times of crisis, such as the War on Terror, is then used to justify arbitrary policing, deportation, and criminalization.
I’m sure this will be of huge interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the racial politics of Islamophobia, race, diaspora, and the War on Terror.
DEFINITELY worth reading. As this blog post asks, why are Muslims always in “garb” and not “clothes”?
there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.
today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.
fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.
first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed,
the plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.
i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.
more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.
|—||Suheir Hammad, Part I of “First Writing Since”|
Each person is solely accountable for his actions. Acts of monstrous criminality “begin and end with the criminals who commit them.” It’s wrong to hold others of the same nationality, ethnicity, or religion “collectively” responsible for mass murders.Unless, of course, you’re talking about Muslims. In that case, Palin is fine with collective blame. In fact, she’s enthusiastic about it. Palin was the first national politician to join the jihad against what she called the “planned mosque at Ground Zero” (which wasn’t a mosque and wasn’t at Ground Zero, but let’s cut her some slack).
Palin has never retracted this position. Indeed, she has persisted in her opposition to any mosque near Ground Zero. Her position is that the act of monstrous criminality on 9/11 doesn’t end with the criminals who committed it. Its stigma extends to any mosque near the site. All Muslims should yield to that stigma. All Muslims are responsible.
"Blood libel," as defined by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, is historically targeted not at a country but at a religion. Palin’s campaign against any Muslim house of worship near Ground Zero, based on group blame for terrorism, fits that definition more closely than does any current accusation against the Tea Party.
This article serves as a necessary reminder of the extensive nature of Palin’s disturbing public discourses. While I am thoroughly disgusted by Sarah Palin’s violent rhetoric, I think it is equally important that her opponents do not simply replicate conservative strategies of simplification and scapegoating. Instead of simply laying the blame on Palin and the Tea Party, Palin’s response to these accusations of culpability provide her opponents an opportunity to reveal her hypocrisy. But in order for that stance to be viable, it’s important that we don’t take refuge in the easy, yet problematic position of assigning blame for this tragedy.