Young immigrant voices shatter stereotypes about Islam at event at Fordham University

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The young speakers included: Mariam Agbelusi, Maryam Mohammed, Farida Ahmed, Memuna Abdul Rahman, Salwa Mohammed, Mouhamed Kaba, and Tijay Mohammed
By Mark Naison, professor of history and African American history at Fordham University.

Anyone who thinks immigrants from Muslim countries are here to wage war on Christianity, or that Islam is a “terrorist religion,” would have left yesterday’s “Young African Immigrant Voices” panel at Fordham, organized by the Bronx African American History Project, with their belief system shaken to the core.

On the outside, the panel looked like White Conservative America’s worst nightmare. Five of the seven young women on the panel wore hijabs and both of the men–and one of the women–had “Muhammed” in their names.

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The writer: Mark Naison, Ph.D.

But once they started speaking, every stereotype started to shatter. One young woman, a recent immigrant from Ghana who attended Kappa International High School across the street from Fordham, wore an Army ROTC sweatshirt along with her hijab, and spoke how much she loved the military and of her plans to pursue a career in the United States Armed Forces.

One of the men on the panel, an artist and teacher whose work promoting peace and gender equality has taken him all over the world, spoke of how his father, an Imam in Ghana, sent him to a Catholic boarding school, allowing him to sing all the same songs as his Christian friends and endowing him with a lifelong commitment to bringing people of different nationalities and faiths together.

A young women recently arrived from from Nigeria, now a student leader at Lehman College in the Bronx, spoke of how her Muslim faith did not separate her from her Christian siblings and spoke proudly of her family as a model of mutual understanding between people of different faiths.

And finally, three of the elders in the group–two Muslim, one Christian, who had worked for groups ranging from the Mayor’s Office to the City Commission on Human Rights to the offices of Bronx City Council members and Congressman Serrano, spoke of how you could not work effectively in the African Immigrant communities of the Bronx by dividing people along religious lines. They said Christians and Muslims faced the same issues and lived and worked in harmony.

On a panel that was diverse in age and experience as well as religion, there was not a single moment where anyone spoke critically of people of other faiths. And when people spoke of their own religious background, they invoked that tradition as something which promoted peace and the building of strong families and communities.

At a time when fear of immigrants, and Muslims, is being promoted in the highest places, the Bronx African American History Project provided an extremely valuable counterweight to misinformation and hysteria.

Special thanks must be given to the organizer of this panel, Jane Edward, Ph.D., a brilliant scholar brought up Christian in South Sudan, who has worked closely with the African Islamic Community of the Bronx since her arrival at Fordham ten years ago, and who has won their respect through her writing, speaking and advocacy.

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Jane Edward, Ph.D.

The young people she brought together exemplified, for all who wanted to see it, the promise of an American future where people of all faiths, and nations and values live together in harmony and mutual understanding. 

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Dylann Roof is guilty. Now what?

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Image via KXII News 12

As a person who very often shares news on her Facebook page with snarky commentary, I shared the news about Dylan Roof being found guilty of massacring nine church goers in North Carolina without any caption. It’s not that I disagree with the verdict on this self-proclaimed white supremacist, who probably will never see the error of his ways, I just hate that this will now turn into a death penalty debate, and then when it’s all said in done, for the most part, it’s over.

Sure, there will be memorials on the anniversary of their deaths, but mass shootings don’t really get remembered save for Sandy Hook for obvious reasons.

It doesn’t solve the heightened racial tension we find ourselves in at this point in time in a post-Obama era (I mean, just today: Motorist told schoolchildren ‘f–k black lives, they don’t matter’). It certainly doesn’t put an end to mass shootings (and neither will him getting executed by lethal injection for that matter). Roof’s eventual execution (I mean, it’s the South) won’t even convince folks on the fence about racism that it’s one of the main reason he chose his targets. They’ll just pony it up to mental illness and then not discuss any further. And that’s wrong!

We obviously need to drill down as to why we find ourselves in a super polarized state that obviously played a pretty big factor in the last election.

The Charleston massacre was a clear case of nine people who were killed because of the color of their skin. It’s almost as if this many years after slavery, we need to define what racism is again.

One of the leadings scholars of theological ethics, Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, describes racism as a “profound warping of the human spirit.” He’s also referred to it as a “soul sickness.”

Maybe if looked at white supremacy as a mental illness and had deeper discussions about it, we can do more honor to the Charleston victims than the death penalty and forgetting about the case ever would.

Watching the GOP debate tonight?

Found this article in the New York Times to be super interesting…

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Since Trump’s being ‘challenged’ in the polls by Ben Carson, he does what politicians in the U.S. always do: Go after his religion! (Not policy, duh!) —> “I’m Presbyterian,” Mr. Trump proclaimed at a rally in Florida last Saturday. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about.”

And, last Spring, so, too, did the Southern Baptists –> “Dr. Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist,” a group of pastors from the Baptist organization B21 wrote in protest of his visit. “Their official theology denies the doctrine of hell in favor of annihilation,” they wrote, “and believes that those who worship on Sunday will bear the ‘mark of the beast.’ ”

NOT THAT Carson is the most loyal Adventist —> ... some Adventists have been disappointed in a perceived lack of tolerance regarding Islam from Mr. Carson, who said recently that he did not think a Muslim should be able to be president. His fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which he has compared to slavery, has also rankled some in the community who say the law is in keeping with the religion’s focus on promoting health.

“It was certainly disappointing for me,” Sam Geli, a retired Adventist chaplain who considers himself an independent, said of Mr. Carson’s remarks about Muslims. “It was very sad.”

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So .. YEAH, religion! Super important in this, er, debate. I’ll be paying attention to that.

Read the rest of the article here.