This article below, “How Muslim Students’ Knowledge of Christianity Is Related to Their Attitudes to Mainstream Australia and Australians: A National Survey” originally appeared in Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760), an international, open access journal with rapid peer-review, which publishes works from a wide range of fields, including anthropology, economics, law, linguistics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology and sociology. Social Sciences is published quarterly online by MDPI.

by ABE ATA for SOCIAL SCIENCES on SEPTEMBER 7, 2015:

Abstract: Outlined below are selected results of a 5-year long national survey which investigated the knowledge, values and attitudes of 430 Year 11 and 12 Muslim students in eight Muslim High schools towards the mainstream Australia and Australians society. The findings reflect a wide spectrum of responses with a strong implication that much work is needed to bring about an appropriate degree of adjustment. Providing awareness sessions to students and parents—both non-Muslims and Muslims—which address critical social, religious and cultural issues including stereotyping and inclusivity, is key.

Social media are abuzz with daily articles asking the same questions: Do Muslims find it harder than other migrants to integrate, or is the bigotry of some that perpetuates it? Is Islamophobia the flipside of inherent racism that some Australians lashed in stages against Aboriginals, Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Africans and Middle Easterners? Or perhaps it is the cultural and historical (and religious!) differences between the Christian and Muslim communities worldwide that are too wide to make a complete reconciliation? Why do religious minorities in Muslim countries have fewer rights than Muslims do in Western societies? Do Muslims need reform and reflection similar to those of Catholic Priests? Are Muslim and Australian identities compatible or are they mutually exclusive? And lastly, are the schools doing enough in fostering goodwill and inter-communal relationship!

I will not pretend to have set theories or clinical remedies to these questions. I will, however, address the government’s key question. What kinds of programs and initiatives are needed to identify, and eventually modify falsehoods and incorrect information that precipitates attitudes to mainstream Australia?

Continue reading

“The communities I write about in the book — South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh immigrants — are “othered” and scapegoated today in our country. But at the same time, they are finding the strength, courage and purpose to reshape America by telling their own narratives, building community power, and changing policy.” — Deepa Iyer 

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

41j8PRILBzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN  for ISLAMiCommentary on SEPTEMBER 29, 2015:

A vibrant multiracial America is emerging right before our eyes.  According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, “Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole.” (“Multiracial in America,” June 11, 2015).

Deepa Iyer takes a looks at the struggles behind this momentous change in the United States and the challenges ahead in We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press, November 2015).  She writes that America “has yet to fully confront the scope and effects of racial anxiety, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that have permeated our national narratives and policies in the years since 9/11.  We must change this legal, cultural, and political climate of hostility and suspicion, especially as communities perceived as ‘others’ change American cities, schools, and neighborhoods due to population increases and migration patterns.”

A native of Kerala, India, Deepa Iyer immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her parents and brother to Louisville, Kentucky.  In a 2014 interview, she reflected on her early experiences as an immigrant to America: “It did not take long to find out I was on the margins, that I was not mainstream. In the mid-80s in Kentucky, people were used to a black or white racial paradigm.  People like me fit neither.  I definitely had my share of experiencing some bullying and harassment at school, which shaped my sense of being different.”

Iyer, currently a Senior Fellow at Center for Social Inclusion, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and University of Notre Dame Law School.  An activist, writer and lawyer, she has served as a Trial Attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and as Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). 

Her work on immigrant and civil rights issues began at the Asian American Justice Center in the late 1990s. While at SAALT for nearly a decade, she shaped the formation of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of local South Asian groups, and served as Chair of the National Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). Iyer’s essays on immigration, the post 9/11 backlash, and racism have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today, Al-Jazeera and the Nation.

With contentious national debates on race, religion, and immigration making the news every day, We Too Sing America is a fresh voice in the conversation.

Deepa Iyer discusses her new book in this exclusive interview.

Deepa Iyer (credit: Les Talusan Photography)
Deepa Iyer (credit: Les Talusan Photography)

Why did you choose to take the title of your book from a Langston Hughes poem?  Does the poem have special meaning for you as an activist for social justice?

Almost ninety years ago, Langston Hughes wrote a poem about how Black people, though they were marginalized and rejected in all aspects of American society, grew stronger and wiser. He wrote that they too “sing America.” The communities I write about in the book — South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh immigrants — are “othered” and scapegoated today in our country. But at the same time, they are finding the strength, courage and purpose to reshape America by telling their own narratives, building community power, and changing policy. That is why the poem resonated with me. Continue reading


by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on SEPTEMBER 14, 2015: 

Earlier this month, the Duke Middle East Studies Center, in partnership with the Duke Center for Jewish Studies and the Duke University Program in Arts of the Moving Image,  screened Sajil Ana Arabi (“Write Down, I am an Arab”) — the 2014 documentary film about “one of the most influential writers of the Arab world” Mahmoud Darwish. It’s the ninth film of award-winning Israeli director Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin.

As written in the official description of the film:

“Write Down, I am an Arab” tells the story of Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet and one of the most influential writers of the Arab world. His writing shaped Palestinian identity and helped galvanize generations of Palestinians to their cause. Born in the Galilee, Darwish’s family fled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and returned a few years later to a ruined homeland. These early experiences would provide the foundation for a writing career that would come to define an entire nation. 

Like other Palestinian citizens of Israel at the time, Mahmoud Darwish grew up under military law that prevented freedom of movement. In 1964 his defiant poem, “Write Down, I am an Arab”, lands him in prison and turns him into an icon of the Arab world. At the same time, he meets and falls in love with Tamar Ben-Ami, a young Jewish-Israeli. He sends her intimate love letters in Hebrew which she keeps secret for decades. The affair ends when Tamar joins the army. 

Darwish leaves Israel in the 1970s, moving to Beirut just before the outbreak of the civil war, where he connects with the PLO leadership and becomes speech writer and confidant to Yasir Arafat. He returns to Palestine in 1995 after years of exile and continues to be the biting and powerful voice of the Palestinian people until his death in 2008. 

“Write Down, I am Arab” is a personal and social portrait of the poet and national myth, Mahmoud Darwish. Through his poetry, secret love letters, and exclusive archival materials, we unearth the story behind the man who became the mouthpiece of the Palestinian people.

Following the documentary screening, Shai Ginsburg (an associate professor of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and Arts of the Moving Image at Duke University who researches Hebrew literature, Israeli Cinema, and critical theory) engaged the audience in a free-flowing discussion about the life of the famed writer and the literature and politics that informed his work, as well as the state of the Israeli film industry today.

ISLAMiCommentary conducted a written Q & A (below) with Ginsburg to elaborate on these themes and also spoke with miriam cooke (Braxton Craven Distinguished Professor of Arab Cultures at Duke University) about Darwish. Iraq-native Abdul Sattar Jawad (professor of comparative literature and Middle East studies at Duke University) traveled in some of the same Arab writer’s circles as Darwish from the ‘70s through to 2003. He got to know the writer personally, and has also added some of his reflections to the Q & A. Continue reading

“The overall consensus seems to be that the assimilationist policies of the tsarist state in late imperial Russia lay at the foundation of the bitterness that characterized the tsarist central state establishment’s relations with the Volga-Ural Muslims, and especially their elites… Hasty attempts to forge a nation-state out of a multiconfessional, multilingual, and multiethnic empire cost Russia its existing and functional imperial model.” – Mustafa Tuna, speaking on the theme of his manuscript “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Islam, Empire and European Modernity, 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015) at a Mellon-grant supported workshop on Muslim and Jewish diasporas, held at Duke University.

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN with MUSTAFA TUNA on JUNE 16, 2015:

UnknownWith the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I last year and the 100th anniversary of the hashing out and signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement beginning this Fall, historians have been getting a lot of attention. They are being asked to explain, for example, how the conditions of that period — including the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the re-drawing of borders, and the displacement of people — shaped the modern Middle East with all its current challenges and conflicts.

The treatment and “management” of minorities during that period is instructive and essential to understanding the geopolitics of a very wide region today.

In his new book “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Empire, Islam, and European Modernity 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015), Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture at Duke Mustafa Tuna explores how another empire, tsarist Russia, sought to “manage” its minorities — specifically the Muslim communities of the Volga-Ural region. Looking at the period from the late 18th century through to the outbreak of World War I — a slightly earlier period — he “reveals how the Russian state sought to manage Muslim communities, the ways in which the state and Muslim society were transformed by European modernity, and the extent to which the long nineteenth century either fused Russia’s Muslims and the tsarist state or drew them apart.”

His book “ raises questions about imperial governance, diversity, minorities, and Islamic reform and in doing so proposes a new theoretical model for the study of imperial situations.”

In this interview, Tuna carries his insights about the opportunity costs of Islamophobia for imperial Russia to a broader and contemporary context. Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary  — Q & A with REBECCA STEIN — for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on MAY 18, 2015:

DigitalMilitarismDigital Militarism: Israel’s Occupation in the Social Media Age (Stanford University Press, April 2015), by scholars Adi Kunstman and Rebecca Stein, has been called “a pioneering book, showing how information and communication technologies have turned into wartime arsenals, and the Internet and social networks into digital battlefields” and described as “a riveting guide to contemporary media strategies, improvisations, and accidents in the theatre of Israeli militarism.”

Kuntsman is a lecturer in information and communications at Manchester Metropolitan University whose work lies at the intersection of cybercultures/digital and social media; anti-colonial and feminist scholarship; queer theory; and social research on war, nationalism and colonialism.

Stein is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University who studies linkages between cultural and political processes in Israel in relation to its military occupation and the history of Palestinian dispossession.

ISLAMiCommentary connected with Stein for this Q & A about their new book.

What is digital militarism and who named the trend?

This phrase — our own coinage — refers to the ways that social media tools, technologies, and practices can be employed in the service of militant projects by both state and everyday civilian users. Of course, digital militarism is a broad and flexible concept, with wide global applicability.

In this book, we consider the ways it has emerged in the context of Israel’s occupation. We are chiefly interested in everyday Jewish Israeli users, and the ways that social media functions as a toolbox for militarized politics – this within a society that has moved progressively rightward over the course of the last two decades. Digital militarism takes shape at the intersection of militant nationalism — now widespread in Israel — and very conventional, globalized modes of networked engagement: like liking and sharing, participating in meme culture, and posting a selfie. This interplay between nationalist violence and the social media everyday is at the core of our study.

When we began this study, digital militarism existed on the margins of social media — both in the Israeli and global contexts. Today, of course, it has become commonplace. We have become are accustomed to the integration of social networking into military arsenals, to calls for war issued en masse on social media platforms, to the presence of smartphones in military zones and battlefields, to social networking from scenes of atrocity.

In the Israeli context, we are now accustomed to damning Instagram images from soldiers, or to YouTube videos of violent confrontation between Israelis soldiers and Palestinians in the territories. Once, such events and media exposure surprised Israeli and international publics. Today, we have come to expect them. Digital Militarism is a chronicle of the emergence and naturalization of digital militarism as a social form. Continue reading