Thursday, April 18, 2013
  White, Muslim and Privileged
Tim Wise writes about the Boston Marathon Bombing, racism and white privilege saying that evidence of white privilege is rampant in the wake of the bombings. I can't agree more.

As a Muslim, I dread the notion that the bomber may turn out to be a Muslim, and that all Muslims will be tarred and feathered as a result. I worry that innocent people may experience violence, harassment, prejudice, hatred and bigotry against them on the basis of the actions of a single individual or a small group. Even more, I worry that Muslims will be blamed (as they already have been by many tv and radio hosts) and that even if a Muslim didn't do it, fellow Muslims will suffer rude remarks and perhaps harassment because of the irresponsible speech of people out to make a buck.

I worry about the impact on my kids, who are growing up as a member of a minority which right wing talk hosts jump to declare guilty at the drop of a hat, and about whom they have no compunction to say outrageous things like, "kill them all."I worry that elected officials who ought to uphold the freedom of religion enshrined in our Constitution are trying to make our religious practice illegal via anti-shariah laws and express the need for tough immigration laws in terms of keeping out Arabs or Pakistanis or Muslims in general . I worry that this atmosphere of hostility will warp their self-image and damage their self-confidence, ruin the carefree surety of safety which all children need to thrive, and destroy their sense of the goodness of humankind and of America. And I worry how constantly being on the defensive affects not only my kids, but the entire Muslim community. How it changes the dialogue about what it means to be a Muslim. How it pollutes our ability to grieve over terrible events like 9-11 or the Boston Marathon Bombing. How it hampers us from being able to challenge extremists from within the religion.

As a white person, I do not have those fears... I know that if a white person or group carried out the bombings, I don't have to worry that I or other white people will face bigotry, discrimination, hatred, harassment or violence as a person similar in some way to the person who committed this act of terrorism. I do not worry that all white people will be viewed with suspicion, that police will stop white people driving through Boston or traveling through airports at higher rates in the near future, or that my country of origin may face drone strikes as a result of the actions of extremists and the inability (or unwillingness) of the government to do anything about those extremists. (Unwillingness demonstrated by things like the recent failure to expand background checks for those who wish to purchase guns...think how we would react to such a failure in Pakistan or Afghanistan...). I do not worry that talk show hosts will rant about the evilness of white people and/or our beliefs. If I were Christian or Jewish, I wouldn't worry that the acts of a single extremist group or individual would be attributed to everyone in my religion.

Even more, as a white Muslim I know that I am largely immune to the discrimination and potential violence that looms over my co-coreligionists who "look Muslim" (ie have brown skin, especially those who "dress Muslim"). I know that when I go through the airport, with or without a scarf on my head, the security people will not look at me with extra attention. Unlike my brown brothers and sisters I am never selected for additional screening, and have never faced questioning when returning from abroad for Muslim conferences and events, even though my co-workers and friends have regularly faced such things. During the 25 years that I wore a headscarf, people mostly assumed I was Amish or Mennonite or a nun (even when I was 9 months pregnant I had people coming up and asking me what order I belonged to!). If they recognized me as Muslim, they assumed I was a "different" sort of Muslim. They engaged me with curiosity and respect. I can count the times people were gratuitously rude to me in the grocery store or other public spaces because of my Muslim identity on one hand, indeed on one finger.  Perhaps most telling, as a white Muslim, my fears around the Boston bombing are not for myself or even my mixed-race children, who easily pass as white, but for my friends who have darker skin, or who speak with an accent.

This more than anything hammers home the racial nature of the prejudice Muslims face in this country.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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