Our own Wajahat Ali explains why muslim Americans are akin to Boo Radley. No, not the band!
Tariq Nelson, aziz, Willow, and 1 other are discussing. Toggle Comments
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My problem with articles like this is that “Muslim-American” is used as a euphemism for Pakistani-American or (Muslim) Arab-American. It is being used like an ethnic identity.
Personally, I think it is as ridiculous to say “Muslim-American” as it is to say “Confucian-American” or Buddhist-American”
I agree, to some extent, but whats the alternative? Just “muslims” ? Personally I think the adjective has descriptive value, and I don’t like “American muslim” because it makes American the adjective and muslim the noun. The inverted phrase muslim-american is in line with everybody else’s hyphenation.
I think that it is hard to separate ethnic identities from religious ones. Muslim americans are indeed Arab, pakistani, black; Arabs and Indians and Blacks are not neccessarily muslim. But there is enough overlap between the ethnicities and the faith that the shorthand is understandable. If we are going to nitpick it, then we need alternatives.
Also it should be noted that some ethnicities have higher cohesion than others. African Americans have a whole culture and shared history that transcends the religious divide within the community. Pakistanis tend to be overwhelmingly muslim, and identify/segregate accordingly, whereas Indian Americans tend to gravitate towards the pan-Asian “brown” identity.
I agree, to some extent, but whats the alternative? Just “muslims”?
“Muslim-American” is being used as an ethnic term (mainly for Pakistani and Arab-American Muslims) and I don’t think a religion should be used as an ethnic description.
For example, most articles mention that “Muslim-Americans” voted as a block for George Bush in 2000. However black Americans voted for Gore. Why do they say that “Muslim-Americans” voted for Bush when it would be more accurate to say that Pakistani-Americans and Arab-Americans voted for Bush.
Secondly, the GOP is reaching out to Pakistani-Americans pretty heavily across the country, but not to some mythical “Muslim-American” group that no one can define other than people who share a religion
Yes Pakistani-Americans are overwhelmingly Muslim, but that would be understood when you are speaking of them.
I see what you mean. It would be more accurate to say that Arab-Americans in Michigan voted for Bush in 2000, than the generic term “muslim-Americans”. But do you think that the term muslim-Americans has any value? (I’m asking for your opinion, here).
I think that the “muslim community” by virtue of being so small is subject to aggregation in this way. The black community is orders of magnitude larger, and generally the mainstream perception of black muslim americans (rightly or wrongly) is that they are black first, muslim second. So, saying “muslim americans voted for bush” doesnt invalidate the fact that black americans voted for Gore. It is just assumed that black muslim americans were different (rightly or wrongly). Im not justifying this, I am just observing it.
We have had similair discussions in the UK, with people now flitting between ‘British Muslims’ and ‘Muslim Communities in Britain’ depending on how accurate people want to be. As far as ethnicity goes, we lump people into ‘Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black, White, Somali and Arab’. Mostly though, we refer to ourselves as ‘Confused’.
But do you think that the term muslim-Americans has any value?
Not when it comes to politics. (How does “Confucian-American” or “Hindu-American” sound?) It would have more value if there was a faith based ballot issue. However, this so called “Muslim-American” voting block has not organized around traditional faith issues such as gay marriage, legalized gambling or abortion rights when they come up on ballot issues. That being the case, then what are ‘Muslim’ issues and how can one define voting for either John McCain or Barack Obama by the Muslim faith?
In other words, I don’t hear people say “As a Muslim I am pro-life so I am going with McCain” or what have you. There are no faith based issues around which Muslims in America have largely united so “Muslim-American” is being used as an ethnicity which does not include white, Latino, Asian or black Americans.
I think we need to stop using it for politics and use ‘Pakistani-Americans’ when we mean it. ‘Arab-Americans’ when we mean it instead of a euphemism.
So, saying “muslim americans voted for bush” doesnt invalidate the fact that black americans voted for Gore.
No, but it gives Pakistani-Americans and Arab-Americans ownership of the term ‘Muslim-American’. It may already be too late as the horse is largely out of the barn on that one and I am perceived as whining about the fact that I am not included in that definition.
It’s not whining. Your gripe is legitimate. But I wonder if there is more to ‘Muslim-American’ than meets the eye. Islam has been an emphatically political religion since time immemorial. Half of our religious laws pertain to social organization rather than ritual or personal relationships with God. The Prophet was not a recluse–he founded and ran a city-state, and was succeeded (in the Sunni tradition) by temporal rather than spiritual leaders. Historically both Sunnis and Shiites have been encouraged by their ulema to see the ummah as a political unit. So I wonder whether ‘Muslim-Americans’ might make more political sense than Hindu-Americans or Confucian-Americans.
The problems I see with the term are all social. You’re right in that it does tacitly refer to Arabs and Indo-Pakistanis and exclude lighter and darker minorities. It was a term invented by the non-Muslim media, which saddles us with their definition and all it implies. In that sense it is very problematic.
It may already be too late as the horse is largely out of the barn on that one and I am perceived as whining about the fact that I am not included in that definition.
I dont think anyone can reasonably portray your position as “whining” since you’ve already stated you ropinion that the label itself is meaningless. And I kind of agree. “ownership” of “muslim American” is kind of irrelevant to defining muslim issues. I prefer the idea of a Muslim Left around which all ethnicities that muslims may belong to, can gravitate towards on the basis of liberal policy rather than specific racial concerns or notions of a pan-islamic ummah.
I prefer the idea of a Muslim Left around which all ethnicities that muslims may belong to, can gravitate towards on the basis of liberal policy rather than specific racial concerns or notions of a pan-islamic ummah.
That makes more sense. The term “Muslim-American” is also problematic because one can not say that an Obama supporter is more or less ‘Muslim’ than a McCain supporter. It is just not based on anything at all. A Muslim Left makes more political sense
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