Islamophobic fearmongering about Muslims in the United States ignores the ways they have influenced the country from its inception. Dr. Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Barnard College, chronicles this history from 1492 to today in an animated short from The New York Times yesterday (December 17)
Flattening Faith: Searching for 3-Dimensional Religion in 2-Dimensional Fiction Tickets, Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite
Imaginary worlds extend and expand our visions of what is possible. In these worlds, we can fly with dragons or shoot lightning from our fingertips. Yet, this expansiveness does not always apply to the religious lives of the characters populating our narratives. Religion can be made flat, so that the lived religious experiences and ideals of characters are signified by objects: head coverings, prayer beads, or feathers. As a result, both the religion and practitioner are not fully realized. Conversely, imaginary worlds can add depth and nuance to religions that have been flattened in real life. This panel explores the tensions of how religion is (re)presented in fiction and in real life, and how it is actually practiced by adherents.
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“A lot of people might assume Muslim immigration started in 1965 when the U.S. had a period of immigration reform, others will date it back to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, yet others to the 9/11 attacks, but usually no one looks farther back than the 1960s and certainly not beyond the 20th century for this history at the popular level,” said Hussein Rashid, who teaches at Columbia University.
Course: Two Faiths, Two Scriptures, One God: The Torah and the Quran | The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center | New York City
Muslims and Jews have a long history of interaction both in Europe and the Middle East — and that interaction hasn’t always been hostile. After all, like the Torah, the Muslim holy book, the Quran, tells the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Noah, and contains many parallel or echoing passages. What are the differences between these various accounts? How might we understand the common origins of these stories? How does examining the two approaches help us gain greater understanding of both Judaism and Islam?
I am a longtime fan of the Imaginary Worlds podcast, and was ecstatic was I was asked to participate in roundtable on the role of faith in imaginary worlds.
The episode description is:
Science fiction has not always been compatible with religion — in fact many futuristic settings imagine no religion at all. But sci-fi and fantasy have long fascinated people of different faiths because the genres wrestle with the big questions of life.
You can listen to episode embedded below, or on the podcast page here.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s ban, albeit a narrower version of its predecessors, further vilifying Muslims and legitimizing their discrimination.
Hussein Rashid, professor of religion at Columbia University, says that the ruling wasn’t surprising in that it has often ruled “in favor of discrimination.”
However, the highest court’s decision highlights that particularly since the 1978 Iranian Revolution and the 9/11 attacks, “Muslims have been “racialized”: bound together and stereotyped, instilling an idea of Muslims as a foreign threat and brown-skinned,” that includes anyone from South Asia or the Arab world, wrote Rashid after the ruling.
Irfan Ahmad’s text, Religion as Critique, is an ambitious work that seeks to open a new approach to the understanding of Muslims: an anthropology of philosophy. As a result, his book covers a vast amount of material. The text reads like two separate endeavors—a historical, methodological study, and the author’s original work. Since the author recognizes this structure and guides the reader to be aware of it, the book does hold together fairly well. At the same time, as a reviewer, it makes more sense to treat the two parts as divisible, since they each serve different functions.
Whether viewed in terms of contemporary politics or American history, the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Trump’s travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries is not surprising. The court has safeguards designed to make it apolitical, but it is never immune to its immediate surroundings on Capitol Hill. Historically, as long as the people support its decisions, the court has ruled in favor of discrimination.
And when it comes to admitting people to these shores and welcoming them to the American nation, the court almost never acts for the rights promised in the U.S. Constitution without first denying them.