We welcome a guest post from Bruce B. Lawrence, author of Who is Allah? This vivid introduction to the heart of Islam offers a unique approach to understanding Allah, the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Drawing on history, culture, theology, politics, and the media, Lawrence identifies key religious practices by which Allah is revered and …
Recently, a blogosphere debate erupted on headscarves/hijab among various Muslim women. The debate was preceded by physical harassment against visibly Muslim women. The worsened climate of Islamophobia was greeted with shock and disgust by a number of Americans. A number of non-Muslim women—Dr. Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College, for instance—put on the headscarf as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims. While some Muslims critiqued hijab solidarity as a form of appropriation, many welcomed it as a well-intentioned and courageous gesture in difficult times.
Fatima was an adventurous designer of third space identities, a non-hijabi who was at the same time religiously devout, socially liberal, sexually conservative, and politically aware. When Fatima entered the gates of Georgetown, having newly graduated from a strictly Islamic school, she was horrified to find that some of her Muslim friends drank alcohol.
These discoveries have changed the way I teach about Islam even at the introductory level. I now try to put Black people at the center of my course rather than on the margins of it (and by extension, on the margins of Islam).
The greatest misunderstanding about veiling is that it is imposed by an outside party, not willingly adopted by women. To be sure, some women are forced to veil because of parental pressures or because of the government of the country in which they live. But they are the minority, not the majority, as much of the media wants us to believe.
Recently, I took (and passed) my citizenship test, and the interviewer asked me if I had a middle name. When I said no, she asked if I wanted to change my name. Hmm, I thought, am I supposed to, to become an American? For many Americans, including those born and raised here, there’s an assumption that they must prove just how American they are. My research participants felt that way much of the time, but those who practiced certain kinds of behaviors—drinking, dating, dressing in mainstream Western fashion—felt the pressure less. Diya was relatively indistinguishable from her White American friends in terms of lifestyle, but then she came under question for just how Muslim she was. If she didn’t wear hijab, was she a nominal Muslim? Amber, a hijabi, was on the other hand perpetually being required to speak up for Muslims in classroom discussions on Islam and terrorism, or Islam and gender. Almost all of my research participants felt that because of the pervasive nature of Muslim stereotypes, they were always or often having to prove that they were really American, normal, empowered, peaceful Muslims.
Malcolm’s transition would include rejecting the homegrown and Ahmadiyya-based, heterodox Islam practiced by the Nation of Islam and embracing the intellectual, moral, and political currents of orthodox Sunni Islam, African decolonization, and Arab nationalism. In this way, Malcolm’s political and moral commitments combined sometimes-contradictory political ideologies, including those of Muslim Brothers, secular pan-Africanists, and Nasserist pan-Arabists.
It is Cairo on a sweltering afternoon, and the faithful are streaming into a beautiful, simple mosque. The Friday (jumu‘a) prayers are about to begin. In the courtyard, people take their ablutions in the cool fountain water that provides welcome relief from the heat of the Cairene afternoon. A group of women sitting close together is silently reciting the Qur’ān. An old man, his face kissed gently by time, is sitting easily upright with eyes closed, meditating on the beautiful names of God. Two old friends, both returning to the city after years of travel, trade, and learning, are greeting each other with a tender embrace. A young man, hands raised in supplication, is softly murmuring his deepest yearnings into the hearing of the omniscient One. As the call to prayer is given, a hush falls over the crowd, with each person repairing to his or her private supplications before the sermon begins.
A historical and literary approach at least offers the prospect of a fair-minded and reasonable approach to other people’s religions, which is why such a method seems both attractive and necessary today.
Time for the obvious statement of the day: technology is difficult to keep up with because it changes so much. Let’s take an iPod for example: I bought my most recent player three years ago, and while it continues to faithfully entertain me with tunes, it has become outrageously outdated by newer iPods. New models …