Thursday, July 23, 2009

James Baldwin Quote

"I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." -pg. 9, Notes of a Native Son

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Zareena Grewal on Intra-Racism & Post-Colonial Muslim Immigrants

"Although constructions of difference may be transformed as Muslim immigrants assimilate the racial discourse in the US, race is hardly new to them. As post-colonial peoples, they have an intimate history with regimes of white supremacy, which is reflected not only in the ways they construct racial difference in relations to others, but also in the ways they link privilege and colour among themselves. Intra-racism is a term describing the phenomenon of a racialized group that internalizes white supremacy and redirects it at its own members. Since each group contains a wide spectrum of individual skin colours, people are stratified along this colour line. Those individuals at the lighter end of the spectrum are considered more attractive, and are therefore privileged. This privilege is embedded in ways that are not readily apparent, and the benefits, elisions and racial myths that accompany it are re-inscribed in everyday social interactions. Dark skin is stigmatized in parallel, often imperceptible, ways."

from pg. 330 in Grewal, Zareena A.(2009) 'Marriage in colour: race, religion and spouse selection in four American mosques', Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32:2, 323 — 345

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Neil Postman on Language

"If we define ideology as a set of assumptions of which we are barely conscious but which nonetheless directs our efforts to give shape and coherence to the world, then our most powerful ideological instrument is the technology of language itself. Language is pure ideology. It instructs us not only in the names of things but, more important, in what things can be named. It divides the world into subjects and objects. It denotes what events shall be regarded as processes, and what events, things. It instructs us about time, space, and number, and forms our ideas of how we stand in relation to nature and to each other. In English grammar, for example, there are always subjects who act, and verbs which are their actions, and objects which are acted upon. It is a rather aggressive grammar, which makes it difficult for those of us who must use it to think of the world as benign." -pg. 123 of Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of U.S. Organizations That Challenged Exclusion Of Prominent Muslim Scholar (7/17/2009)


CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – A federal appeals court today found that the U.S. government had not adequately justified its denial of a visa to a Swiss professor and leading scholar of the Muslim world. The decision, which reverses a ruling of a lower federal court, comes in a case in which the American Civil Liberties Union contended that the government's exclusion from the U.S. of Professor Tariq Ramadan violated the First Amendment rights of organizations inside the United States that had invited Ramadan to meet with and speak to their members.

In today's ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the First Amendment rights of U.S. organizations are at stake when foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others are excluded, quoting from a 1972 Supreme Court ruling in Kleindienst v. Mandel that the organizations have a First Amendment right to "'hear, speak, and debate with' a visa applicant." The appeals court also found that the government cannot exclude an individual from the U.S. on the basis of "material support" for terrorism without affording him the "opportunity to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he did not know, and reasonably should not have known, that the recipient of his contributions was a terrorist organization."

"We're very pleased with the appeals court's decision. The court properly found that the exclusion of foreign scholars like Ramadan implicates the First Amendment rights of Americans, that the judiciary has a role in policing the government's exclusion of foreign scholars, and that in this case the government simply has not offered a constitutionally adequate justification for its actions," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, who argued the case before the appeals court. "As we've been emphasizing from the outset of this case, the exclusion of foreign scholars on ideological grounds skews and impoverishes academic and political debate inside the United States. The government should not be using the immigration laws as instruments of censorship."

Ramadan was invited to teach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 but the U.S. government revoked his visa, citing a statute that applies to those who have "endorsed or espoused" terrorism. In January 2006, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging Professor Ramadan's exclusion on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center. After the ACLU filed suit, the government abandoned its claim that Ramadan had endorsed terrorism, but it continued to defend his exclusion on the grounds that he had made small donations to a Swiss charity that the government alleged had given money to Hamas.

"I am very gratified with the court's decision," said Ramadan. "I am eager to engage once again with Americans in the kinds of face-to-face discussions that are central to academic exchange and crucial to bridging cultural divides."

The case will now be sent back to the lower court for further proceedings, but the ACLU expressed hope that the Obama administration would end Professor Ramadan's exclusion without further litigation.

"Given today's decision, we hope that the Obama administration will immediately end Professor Ramadan's exclusion," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "We also encourage the new administration to reconsider the exclusion of other foreign scholars, writers and artists who were barred from the country by the Bush administration on ideological grounds."

Attorneys on the case, now called Academy of Religion v. Napolitano, are Jaffer, Goodman, Lucas Guttentag and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU, and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky. The lawsuit was originally brought against then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

More information about the Ramadan case and the ACLU's separate lawsuit concerning the exclusion of South African scholar Adam Habib is available online at:

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Tariq Ramadan's homepage

Princeton University has first Muslim chaplain

Article on Sohaib Sultan:

By Reem Nasr, Staff Writer
Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009 6:59 PM EDT

From a young age Sohaib Sultan has always fostered a deep passion for serving the Muslim community.

Now at 28, he is the first full-time Muslim life coordinator and chaplain serving at Princeton University.

The past academic year was Mr. Sultan’s first as a full-time chaplain. Two years ago, the university launched a pilot program to evaluate the Muslim community’s response to having a Muslim chaplain on campus. It was a part-time position for one year filled by Khalid Latif, the Muslim chaplain at New York University.

”I think that university Muslim chaplains are critical to the development of vibrant, ethical and intellectual Muslims and non-Muslims in this country,” said Mr. Sultan. “Muslim chaplains play a very critical role in shaping Islam in America.”

Mr. Sultan did not always know that he would become a chaplain. Born in North Carolina, he went to Indiana University where he majored in political science and journalism. While working as a journalist he received a contract to write “The Koran for Dummies,” published in 2004. It was then that he discovered his passion for Islamic studies.

”I found myself in the position of being a resource for young Muslims and I really enjoyed it,” said Mr. Sultan. “I decided that I wanted to work with the youth to fulfill a need in the community.”
Mr. Sultan then began his degree at the Hartford Theological Seminary, where he received his master’s in Islamic studies, Christian-Muslim relations and Islamic chaplaincy. After his first semester, he was invited by Trinity College to serve as its Muslim chaplain. Mr. Sultan graduated from the program in 2009.

There are about 15 official Muslim university chaplains in the country, most of whom are on the East Coast. Georgetown University was the first to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain.

Mr. Sultan is sure the number of Muslim chaplains will grow in the near future. He would like to see the phenomenon grow out of the East Coast to the rest of the nation.
There are about 250 Muslim students at Princeton University, according to Mr. Sultan. From 70 to 80 attend the weekly Friday prayers, which are held on campus at Murray-Dodge Hall. Muslim students can use another room in the same building to pray the regular five daily prayers whenever their schedule allows. His office is also located in Murray-Dodge Hall.

”The Muslim community has dramatically increased in its presence over the past few years,” said Mr. Sultan. “Just about three to four years ago there were only five to 10 people who would come together for the Friday prayer.”

Princeton University is one of many universities to have a Muslim Students Association (MSA) on campus. It is a non-political, faith-based organization that aims at uniting Muslims on college campuses. Princeton established its chapter in 1995.

Mr. Sultan works with the MSA and other groups to facilitate programming. He explained that their programming is centered around four core ideas: spiritual and religious enrichment, service, engagement and dialogue, and community building.

For religious enrichment they offer Nights of Devotion and a Qur’anic Study Circle. For community service the students participate in Project Downtown, delivering food and supplies to the homeless in Trenton. They also host humanitarian fundraisers for regions like Gaza and Darfur.

To engage with the greater society Mr. Sultan began the Islam in Conversation lecture series, in which each month a scholar or artist or thinker visits campus. Community-building events aim to bring the Muslim student community closer together by hosting daily iftars, breaking of the fast, in the month of Ramadan and other events. Mr. Sultan hopes to increase that kind of programming next year.

”I think that the most important quality of a chaplain is to be a person of compassion, empathy, and to be a good listener,” said Mr. Sultan. “As a Muslim chaplain I wear many different hats but the one that I feel most called to and that I enjoy the most is counseling.”

He explained that most Muslim students approach him with questions about relationships and issues of identity.

”They want to know how to be a confident Muslim while preserving their values and being an active part of society,” said Mr. Sultan.

Non-Muslims approach Mr. Sultan as well. Some are generally interested in Islam while others use him as a resource for papers they are writing.

Two of the biggest misconceptions about Muslims involve violence and the subjugation of women, he said. Mr. Sultan referred to the Gallup polls about the Muslim American community by Dalia Mogahed. Ms. Mogahed is the first Muslim scarf-wearing woman to be appointed to President Obama’s administration. Mr. Sultan said that Muslims are the only faith-based community in America whose women are slightly better educated than their men. Another poll showed that Muslim attitudes toward indiscriminate violence are very similar to those of other faith communities.

”I think that these myths and misconceptions are eroding with the rise of the younger generation,” said Mr. Sultan. “They are more open-minded.”

Mr. Sultan is looking forward to a greater number of Muslim female chaplains. Among female chaplains are Al-Hajjah Khalilah Karim-Rushdan at Smith College and Mumina Kowalski at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Pa. One of his long-term goals is to have a female Muslim chaplain as an assistant.

Mr. Sultan has enjoyed his stay at Princeton University and hopes to continue working there in the future.

”The Muslim students have responded very well and the Muslim community here has been very hospitable and warm in their greeting of a Muslim chaplain,” said Mr. Sultan. “The students really seek me out and use me as a resource.”

Mr. Sultan is also the author of “The Qur’an and Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad,” published in 2007. He and his wife now reside in Hamilton. 

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