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The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed To be an American... is not to blindly accept America as it is (Sociology 156)

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Presentation on theme: "The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed To be an American... is not to blindly accept America as it is (Sociology 156)"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed To be an American... is not to blindly accept America as it is (Sociology 156)

2 State Repression Across the 1990s, govt antiterrorism campaign degenerated into indiscriminate state repression. More than 20,000 Islamists were imprisoned... many of them had been detained without charges and subjected to torture. – Restrictions on press, military courts – Threat of imprisonment for association with any Islamist group, even if nonviolent Especially the Brotherhood (151) High levels of chronic coercion signals weak state 2

3 Why does Islamism grow in popularity in the face of repression? Unlike militant Islamism, not just against status quo but for a better alternative Valuable social networks Embodies many of the same hopes and aspirations –for freedom from dictatorship and for social justice and public accountability that have inspired other movements A form of empowerment for young people, who can critique their elders from a religious standpoint Powerful forces of peer pressure & powerful social coercion – Isnt it proper, following the path of the Prophet? A demand for social & political activism, political optimism – Contrasted with a politically quietist pessimism common among non- Islamists (150-156) – Webers active asceticism: the believer as Gods tool 3

4 MSA 1965: Immigration and Nationality Act – Abolished quotas that had prevented immigration from Africa, Asia, not- Europe to the US – Largest Muslim immigration – Overwhelming majority not Islamists, represent mainstream Muslims of their time – But some were, as repression in Nassers Egypt & elsewhere leads to Islamist migration 1963, Urbana, IL: Muslim Student Association (MSA) founded by Islamist immigrants Gutbi Ahmed: Islam was seen as an ideology, a way of life, and a mission, and the organization was not considered simply a way to serve the community but as a means to create the ideal community and to serve Islam. – 1963: 10 affiliated associations, 1968: 105 across US & Canada – 1968: begin to draw funding from Muslim majority nations (ends in 90s) (158- 163) 4

5 MSA During the 1960s, the MSA begin to do outreach work – Mosques, Islamic centers, schools, summer camps, etc. – Mosques also function as social centers – Lectures, study groups Congregationalization Outreach & conversion programs, especially active in prisons Muslim immigrants turn to MSA for services, mosques function as institutions that facilitate assimilation – Like Latino Catholics in Putnam & Campbell As the MSA grew, its departments (financial, educational, etc.) each had its own head – Department heads each had a doctorate in the relevant field, included women (161-164) 5

6 MSA Certain that they had arrived at the proper understanding of Islam, MSA members presented themselves as instructors and teachers of Islam Despite the fact that scarcely any of the MSAs members had any formal training in Islamic scholarship – This is overwhelmingly the norm rather than the exception among Islamists, who, like Hassan al-Banna himself, were typically educated in secular rather than religious institutions. Often, moreover, their academic training was in the hard sciences. Taught their own committed, activist, and deeply modern understanding of Islam. – Shaped by the assumptions of the supremacy of rationality and the irrelevance, for the most part, to a true understanding of the Quran, of the long Islamic tradition of what were, in the eyes of many Islamists, mere casuistry and interpretation. – The Quran as they saw it was essentially a transparent text that any rationally trained persona doctor, an engineer, a social scientistworking within the framework of Islamism could reasonably interpret for himself and others. (164-165) 6

7 ISNA May initially have been dependent on Saudi Arabi for funding, and thus tended to promote Wahhabism and discourage criticism of SA – Would gradually diversify relations w/Muslim world, reflect a great diversity of Muslim belief & opinion 1981: MSA splits off the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to attend to the needs to a growing number of American Muslims – MSA returns to its focus on college students & campuses – In response to internal criticisms that ISNA leadership had been too oriented toward their homeland, ISNA encourages Muslim Americans to be full participants & activists in mainstream American politics (166-167) – Hassan & Maher Hathout (ISNA members, former Muslim Brothers: to be an American... is not to blindly accept America as it is, but to strive to make it cleaner and better by using the available freedom, the constitutional rights and the democratic process persistently and relentlessly towards reaching that goal. (165-168) 7

8 The Face of Islam in America Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), founded in 1994, focuses on the civil rights of Muslims in America – Devoted to particular causes, not a rival to ISNA Together, ISNA and CAIR are the most prominent Muslim in America today – Often approached by media & politicians to represent Islam, becoming the face of the faith in the US – Both have Sunni & Islamist roots – Describe the hijab as religiously mandated covering for women 8

9 The Face of Islam in America May be less than representative of American Muslims on the whole – Immigrants sometimes unaware of brand of Islam practiced by MSA & ISNA-founded schools – Most Muslim immigrants not activists, do not see their faith as a political ideology, may be unwilling to ignore sectarian or national divisions – This majority has no organization, so goes unrepresented in national politics – Media tends to gesture at diversity of Islam, and then go on to generalize (168-71) 9

10 Islam & African Americans Sunni Islamist organizations have made gains among the African American community – Example: Malcolm X after conversion to Sunni Islam & going on hajj: tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white. 10

11 Islam & African Americans Most African American Muslims are Sunnis – W.D. Mohammed, son of Elijah Mohammed, converts to Sunni Islam and took the larger part of the Nation of Islam with him – During the 1970s, Saudi govt gave many African Americans scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia – Salafist approach to Islam a staunchly protestant approach resonates with religious practices of many black Americans There is a general tendency of Muslims in America to group into mosques based on ethnicity, language, and nationality (171-175) 11

12 The 1990s Mujahedeen – Fawaz Gerges: Tens of thousands of hardened fighters baptized into a culture of martyrdom – freedom fighters, trained & equipped by CIA, funded by US & Saudi Arabia – Staunch anti-communists – How could these warriors be demobilized and reintegrated back into their societies as law-abiding citizens? Could the genie be put back inside the bottle? USA becomes fundraising location Global network of militant Islamists emerges Veterans of war against Soviets in Afghanistan had the training to deploy their skills against their own govts and the West – Blowback, Islamist terrorism in the US rises in the 1990s – Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik, Ayman al-Zawahiri both get visas to raise funds in the US (177-80) 12

13 The 1990s While the response to terrorism in Egypt had resulted in negative attitudes toward Islamists, in the US the negativity was directed toward Muslims in general – 1993 WTC attack Samuel Huntingtons The Clash of Civilizations becomes influential Daniel Pipes – Militantly pro-Israel, anti-Muslim. – Post-9/11, creates Campus Watch list of academics whom he considered insufficiently loyal 13

14 The 1990s Steven Emerson, anti-Muslim documentary maker – On Oklahoma City bombing: This was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait. Blamed Hamas, because The hate democracy. They hate America. Jennifer Rubin & Norway mass shooting In wake of OKC attack, harassment of Muslims rises – Also of Sikhs, because they wear turbans 14

15 The 1990s Some Muslims, not sharing the Islamist goals, Sunni beliefs, or political agenda of ISNA & the MSA, speak out against it as an extremist organization that facilitates terrorism Khaled Abou El Fadl – Islamist puritans vs. true Muslim moderates Sheikh Hisham Kabbani testifying at State Dept in 1999 – MSA & ISNA had hijacked the mike – Says 80% of Islamic leaders in America extremists ISNA, MSA, CAIR condemn Kabbani as enabling stereotypes of all Muslims as terrorists (185-187) 15

16 The 1990s Operation Desert Storm – American troops in Saudi Arabia Mecca & Medina – Saddam Hussein appeals to religion for support, not very successful Saudi Arabia & Kuwait fund MSA & ISNA, support the war SA & Kuwait demand that MSA & ISNA do likewise, the organizations refuse, money dries up As a result the organizations end up with greater financial & political independence (186-189) 16

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