Being Banned: An Inside Islam recap


The Islamic Center is Murfreesboro, TN. Photo: tennessean.com

The Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is in the news again. The last time Inside Islam covered the center, it had been delayed on a procedural technicality. Most recently, a federal judge overruled that decision, and the center is expected to open sometime this month, hopefully in time for Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.

This development gives us an opportunity to reflect on similar stories that we have covered over the years. Rather than an isolated case of pushback against Islam, the Murfreesboro debate is just one example of attempts to ban or otherwise stifle expressions of faith. As I went through the Inside Islam archives, it really struck me what a monumental torrent of hate and Islamophobia Muslims are up against.

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Islam in France


Praying in the streets was banned in France in 2011. Photo: Bbc.co.uk

A recent article in National Geographic speculates that Marseilles may become the first city in Europe with a majority Muslim population. Official statistics are unavailable, but experts estimate that about 30 percent of the southeastern French city is Muslim.

Although the city is known for its tolerance, France as a whole is not, especially when it comes to its Muslim population. The country is home to about 6 million Muslims (the largest number in Western Europe), and is known for its bans on burqas, niqab, and for considering banning halal meat. Praying in the streets was also banned in 2011. At the end of 2011, the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an umbrella organization for various Muslim groups, released a study saying Islamophobia is on the rise in the country.

I spoke with John Bowen, Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis about Islam in France. Bowen is the author of Can Islam be French? Pluralism and Pragmatism in a Secularist State. Continue reading

Is Islam compatible with [blank]?

Here’s a quick exercise: go to Google and start typing the following: “Is Islam compatible with.” What are some of the predictions Google gives you for the end of that sentence? I get: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Is Islam compatible with modernity? Is Islam compatible with secular pluralistic societies? Is Islam compatible with evolution?

Google search predictions for the phrase "Is Islam compatible with..."

In comparison, when I type, “Is Christianity compatible with,” I get evolution, capitalism, yoga, and free masonry. Hinduism gets only one prediction: Christianity. Buddhism gets science, Christianity, atheism, and Judaism. Incidentally, there are no predictions for “Is Judaism compatible with.”

When Google predicts the end of your search, they’re looking for results based on what others before have searched for frequently. So although the exercise is admittedly trite, the message could not be clearer. People (or at least people who use Google) question Islam’s compatibility with fundamental political ideologies (democracy, modernity, secularism) much more regularly than they do other religions. Continue reading

Tennessee Islamic Center delayed on procedural technicality

The sign has been spray-painted with the words "Not Wanted." Photo: CNN

The proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is no stranger to controversy. Since 2010, plans to set up the facility have been constantly thwarted by opponents. Some argued that Islam is not a legitimate religion and thus not protected under the U.S. Constitution. Others protested that the mosque would create traffic problems and lower housing values. Still others decided to take the law into their own hands, spray-painting “Not Welcome” on signs announcing the center, and even setting fire to construction equipment and vehicles.

The center prevailed through a string of lawsuits, so opponents adopted another tactic, this time attacking the planning commission who granted the building permit. Now it seems that construction may be held up on procedural grounds. On May 30, a county judge ruled that plans for the center, which had previously been approved by the planning commission, are now “void, and of no effect.” Continue reading

nine/twelve

Filming nine/twelve (Source: huffingtonpost.com)

The attacks of 9/11 changed the course of history and affected many communities. The Muslim American community was particularly impacted by the attacks and have had to face growing Islamophobia. Throughout the Inside Islam project, we have explored some of the central challenges to the Muslim American community, which include questioning their national identity and their place in American society. Some question this group’s loyalty to their country and the possibility of being both Muslim and American. The entire nation was affected by the attacks; yet, 10 years later there is not enough exploration of what Muslim Americans faced in the days after 9/11. In February, a new project was launched to make a film called nine/twelve,  a film that will explore the experience of Muslims right after the attacks. Continue reading

The Muslims Are Coming!

Comedy is one of the many means by which people deal with stereotypes. Muslim Americans have used comedy for some time to break down the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. The idea is that if people can laugh together then barriers break down. In other words, it is a constructive way to have people reflect on what they think about Muslims. We have addressed the topic of Muslim American comedians before here on Inside Islam through both blog posts and radio programs. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming comedic film The Muslims Are Coming! Continue reading

There’s No Substitute for Personal Relationships

For the past four years, the Inside Islam project has been one of a few creative initiatives educating Americans about Islam as part of the Academia in the Public Sphere program. The idea is a good one, encouraging resource-wealthy institutions to interact with the larger public on contemporary and relevant issues. And we aren’t the only project trying to educate, connect, and facilitate dialogue around both controversial issues and more mundane topics related to Islam and Muslims. Muslimah Media Watch, Muslim Matters, and Loonwatch are some of the other active web-based platforms writing about Islam and Muslims. More recently, Crash Course and other internet-based learning tools are reaching out. In only three days, over 100,000 people viewed Crash Course’s latest video on the early history of Islam and Muslims. Click below to see it for yourself.

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Senator Russ Feingold Takes on Islamophobia

Today is the beginning of a two-day conference co-sponsored by Inside Islam, Islam and Democracy, to be held in Madison, Wisconsin. Although Senator Russ Feingold is not expected to speak at the conference, at an event earlier this week, he highlighted issues that will be discussed in detail at the conference. Islam and Democracy will feature over 30 speakers, including keynote addresses by John O. Voll and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. See the conference website for more information.


Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Photo: BarackObama.com

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is known for taking on monumental challenges. In 2001 he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. These days, Feingold has turned his attention to another cause—US foreign policy. At a talk in Madison, Wisconsin, about his new book, While America Sleeps, Feingold argued for increased American engagement with the rest of the world. He said 9/11 highlighted the importance of engaging and understanding the rest of the world, and criticized Democrats and Republicans alike for failing to heed the message. Continue reading

Perceptions of the Head Scarf

Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi

As Reem pointed out yesterday, many see a connection between the beating death of Shaima Alawadi and the shooting of Trayvon Martin because both hate crimes are connected to the clothes the victims were wearing. In light of that connection, this is the first of two posts this week that will examine hijab and the various perceptions associated with it.

Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi is the author of The Color of Mehndi and a doctoral student of international psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Zaidi is studying the influence of the Muslim headscarf on perceptions of attractiveness, intelligence, and employability.

There is no argument among Muslim women that the headscarf is a necessary component of Islamic prayer; however, the incorporation of the hijab in public life continues to be an area of contention. Within the Muslim community, the hijab has often been used as a litmus test to determine the piety of Muslim women. Not surprisingly, women who wear the hijab are able to gain a higher level of social prestige within their Muslim communities, while the public display of their faith has made them more susceptible to discrimination in secular Western society. By publicly declaring their faith, those who adopt the hijab are often perceived as conveying a greater passion in their observation of Islamic practices than those who confine their religiosity to the private sphere. As a result, the decision to wear or not wear the hijab in public life has a profound influence on the identity and group affiliation of Muslim women.

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When does hate become terrorism?

One of the major problems Muslims have had to face around the world, especially since the 9/11 attacks, is that Islam is seen as a violent religion associated with terrorism, even though the vast majority of Muslims do not condone violence, much less carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, in some circles, the term “terrorist” itself has almost become synonymous with “Muslim.” Conversely, there seems to be a reluctance to label as terrorism those times when Muslims are the victims of an act of deep hatred. This is the case with the story of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi-American mother of five who was found beaten in her home in San Diego, California, last Wednesday, March 21st. Alawadi died on Saturday, March 24th. Continue reading