Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

On Thursday, several of us Mutineers spoke to an AP reporter about a story in Utah last week — about a girl in middle school in Utah who got suspended from her school for violating dress code, after getting her nose pierced. She and her family said she did it to get in touch with her Indian cultural identity — she had the piercing done on Diwali just a couple of weeks ago. The school, however, had a strict “ear pierces only” policy, and was only willing to allow her to have a “transparent” stud in her nose, not the more obviously Indian nose ring she wore to school initially.

Here is the AP story that resulted. It’s been printed in a fair number of newspapers around the country. The reporter quotes Abhi, Sandhya, and myself. But something goes wrong here:

“I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family,” said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India as a member of the Sikh religion.

“I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture,” said Suzannah’s mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. “I didn’t know it would be such a big deal.”

It shouldn’t have been, said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians,” Singh said. “Even if it is just culture, culture matters. And her right to express or explore it seems to me at least as important as her right to express her religious identity.” (link)

Um, wait a minute. Did I read that right? Take a look at it again: “…said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States…”

[UPDATE: The online version of the article has been corrected.]

This is a really bizarre and unfortunate error. Just to be clear, I have one kid, and he’s three years old. I am annoyed on my own behalf, but I also feel bad for the Pablas. (Suzannah has a dad, who is a practicing Sikh. It just so happens that most of the coverage of this story in the local Utah newspapers doesn’t mention his name: see the Salt Lake Tribune, for example)

When I spoke to the reporter who authored this story, he was 100% clear that I was in no way related to the Pablas. Somewhere between that conversation and the story that has now run in 200+ newspapers around the country, that important fact fell out. I don’t know who’s responsible for the error — it appears an editor might have come up with this.

In the end, it’s not really that big a deal; the only people who will really think anything is amiss are people who know the Pablas and people who know me. Still, maybe the moral here is to JUST SAY NO when reporters call you for a quote for a story that doesn’t really involve you directly.

Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?

170 thoughts on “Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

  1. South Asian Muslims disparage Hindus because of the following customs we deem backwards

    Yes, those reasons such as “marrying a dog” are not common and there are always outliers of a religion and considered barbaric among fellow Hindus :) . I am sure most Muslims do not condone running over their daughter with a car, as a correct interprection of their religion, no? Or perhpas, raping women within a marriage is alllright – I’m sure those practices though can be pointed out are practiced by individuals that may be Muslim or Hindu, or whatever, are deemed barbaric by their fellow religious compatriots and not actually part of their religion, no?

    Those same reasons that you suggest for the perceived “backwardness” of Hindus are very similar to the backward characteristics given to Muslims. I’m from Kerala, where female infancticide is virtually nonexistent, and there is a stereotype (and sometimes statistically supported) that Muslims treat their women pretty bad and most are not given educational opportunities, even though the govt supports them to have those opportunities, that Muslim women have very little rights. The issue of child brides, coverage, marrying many wives are all stereotyped toward Muslims and Muslim practices – the Taliban and their disgusting attitudes toward women and the Saudi cultural practices toward women, are all seen as a backwardness that is ingrained in Muslim religion.

    I’m not Islamic expert, but like Hindus, there will always be Muslims who interpret their religion to treat women badly and Hindus who interpret their religion to treat women badly.

    However, most HIndus I know, (and these folks are educated and have a higher socioeconomic background), feel that whereas within their Hindu or pluaralistic Indian background, women’s status and caste issues can change, b/c of the type of govt and cutlure that was created in a Hindu dominated country, they do not view Islam as opening doors for minorities (and please about the caste system – there is so much tribal and racial delineations among different Muslim groups, which has led to ongoing wars, slaughering and slavery in many Muslim countries between Muslim groups) as there isn’t one govt created by a Muslim dominated country that has much push for respect for women or minorities whether fellow Muslims or not. Hence a stereotype of backwardness and disdain that conintues to this day among many Hindus of my parents generation.

  2. PS: “LOL, yes let’s not generalize. All Irish are not red haired, and many, many have very black hair.”

    well, er I didn’t mean that everyone Irish person did, I was just taking an example of one person and me… I could have said a blonde blue-eyed person, very pale-skinned person from Sweden (not all of them are blonde or blue-eyed) my point was just that they are variations in skin tones in Europe… sorry for the confusion in my wording.

    My tone, etc are from the Croatian side of my family, (who mixed with Turks back in time too) so (though I am not as dark as I was when I was a kid) growing up in an almost completely white town in extremely white Maine– skin tones and variations among white people where pretty clear to me. And I used Irish as an example because quite a lot of the people in Maine boast Irish or French ancestry (I have neither) so it was the first thing that came to mind…

    I think some of the differences are pretty stark… for example, if you put me on a beach, I usually will get a sun burn after being outside for say, 8 hours (generally I just tan), whereas my friend of Irish descent (a specific person I know) will burn in like 2 hours. When you put my arm next to hers, our skin tones are quite visibly different.

    Here I am on the far right: http://www.flickr.com/photos/reluktantwarrior/416711184/ or another (http://www.flickr.com/photos/reluktantwarrior/317974182/in/set-977455/) again I am far right, my sister is behind me.

    Anyways, I hope that clarifies what I meant, did not intend to generalize the Irish or any other group….

  3. well, it is different if it is your heritage rather than Julie-next-door-wears-stirrup-pants-so-iwanna-too.

    So then what’s the cut-off year when a fashion trend becomes or ceases to become a “heritage”?

  4. So then what’s the cut-off year when a fashion trend becomes or ceases to become a “heritage”?

    Oh, I dunno, a hundred years sounds pretty reasonable? ;)

  5. And I mean 100 years of keeping something up, not something that people wore a 100 years ago and no longer wear, for the record… :)

  6. PS— a respond to you about skin tones and Europe is coming– it is stuck in the cogs of sepiamutiny for approval because I linked to a photograph or two… ho hum. eventually it will pop up, I hope.

  7. they do not view Islam as opening doors for minorities (and please about the caste system – there is so much tribal and racial delineations among different Muslim groups, which has led to ongoing wars, slaughering and slavery in many Muslim countries between Muslim groups) as there isn’t one govt created by a Muslim dominated country that has much push for respect for women or minorities whether fellow Muslims or not.

    Malaysia and Indonesia are countries that have enshrined pluralism and strive to create national cohesion despite ethnic differences and animosities that may exist between different communities. Malaysia proudly boast about its multifaceted heritage, even though Malays do receive preferential treatment in some social arenas.

    India has been witness to sectarian violence by Hindus against both Christians and Muslims.

    I think Indians disparage Islam for historical reasons. Since the 7th century, Muslims have continuously invaded the subcontinent be they Arabs, Afghans, Turks, etc.

    Indians disparage Islam because of partition.

    Indians disparage Islam because Muslims are seen as “foreigners” yet most Desi Muslims are converts to the Islamic faith from Hinduism.

    Historically, not all Muslim sovereigns in Indian history were tolerant of the Hindu majority, and this is also a reason for the hatred.

    Kerala is an exception to India.

    Iranian women outnumber Iranian men on colleges and universities in Iran. The gender gap is evident, for every 2 male college students in Iran there is 3 female college students. There are more women serving in Iran’s parliament than serving in the US Congress proportionally.

    Your experience with educated Hindus, sadly is not the vast majority of Hindus just like my associations with educated Muslims do not represent the majority.

    Both the Muslim community globally and Hindus face many similar conditions such as poverty, lack of opportunities, and social restraints.

    India is by my estimation a greater success than Pakistan on many fronts. But this may not be due to Islam.

    Islam is not monolithic.

    Islam is like Christianity, fractured and divided among various denominations.

    Islam varies from group to group. The Ismailis of Gujarat are very open-minded and they fund various charitable works in Central Asia and Africa in particular to non-Desis.

    Whereas Hinduism is a tribal faith, not open to those not born in the faith, Islam is a universal faith that has addressed social ills. However, Muslims fall prey to their cultural shortcomings, and this is what has happened in Afghanistan.

    Islamic culture gave India much, modern Hindu culture has been influenced by Islamic contributions to India and vice versa.

  8. PS,

    Notice that I highlighted the contradictions that exist in my community towards anti-Hindu biases.

    Unfortunately, for your relative open-mindedness, you fall prey to your grandparents’ biases and prejudices against Muslims.

    Realize, even in South Asia, not all Muslims can be easily stereotyped and classified.

  9. PS: “LOL, yes let’s not generalize. All Irish are not red haired, and many, many have very black hair.”

    well, er I didn’t mean that everyone Irish person did, I was just taking an example of one person and me… I could have said a blonde blue-eyed person, very pale-skinned person from Sweden (not all of them are blonde or blue-eyed) my point was just that they are variations in skin tones in Europe… sorry for the confusion in my wording.

    My tone, etc are from the Croatian side of my family, (who mixed with Turks back in time too) so (though I am not as dark as I was when I was a kid) growing up in an almost completely white town in extremely white Maine– skin tones and variations among white people where pretty clear to me. And I used Irish as an example because quite a lot of the people in Maine boast Irish or French ancestry (I have neither) so it was the first thing that came to mind…

    I think some of the differences are pretty stark… for example, if you put me on a beach, I usually will get a sun burn after being outside for say, 8 hours (generally I just tan), whereas my friend of Irish descent (a specific person I know) will burn in like 2 hours. When you put my arm next to hers, our skin tones are quite visibly different.

    Here I am on the far right: www dot flickr dot com/photos/reluktantwarrior/416711184/ or another www dot flickr dotcom/photos/reluktantwarrior/317974182/in/set-977455/ again I am far right, my sister is behind me.

    Anyways, I hope that clarifies what I meant, did not intend to generalize the Irish or any other group….

  10. Malaysia and Indonesia are countries that have enshrined pluralism and strive to create national cohesion despite ethnic differences and animosities that may exist between different communities. Malaysia proudly boast about its multifaceted heritage, even though Malays do receive preferential treatment in some social arenas.

    Umm no, I don’t see Malyasia as any shining example that comes close to India’s constitution. Their laws actively discriminate against nonMalays and reverse affirmative action has happened there. I don’t know too much about Indonesia.

    India has been witness to sectarian violence by Hindus against both Christians and Muslims.

    Umm, yeah and Hindus have been subjected to violence by Muslims and the Christian issue has been discussed (as well as the muslim – hindu violence) quite often on this blog, by folks who have a much better grasp of history…I can lead you to those discussions, though they eventually closed I believed, b/c it just wasn’t moving forward.

    I noticed when you talked about the violence Gujarati Muslims suffered by Hindus, you didn’t mention what started it (well I’m sure it’s much more complex than one incident) – before some Hindus unleashed violence against some Muslims, some Muslims burned a train filled with Hindus, including women and children, they died a horrible death. Read up on it. The violence was horrible on both sides but please state the full story.

    Indians disparage Islam because of partition. ? Take your own advice. Don’t say “indians” say “sme indians”; some indians disparage Islam; some Indians don’t; some Indians who are Muslim disparage Hinduism; some Indians don’t.

    Indians disparage Islam because Muslims are seen as “foreigners” yet most Desi Muslims are converts to the Islamic faith from Hinduism. I don’t know. Perhpas some Indians think like this. But I must say a Muslim Indians have rights that no Afghani Hindu/Christian/Buddhist do and I hope India continues in that trajectory.

    Historically, not all Muslim sovereigns in Indian history were tolerant of the Hindu majority, and this is also a reason for the hatred. Yes, I definitely think this may go along with the idea that SOME hindus disparage Islam – they don’t see it, as it was practiced for centuries, with openmindedness and equality in mind (not that Hindus didn’t have their own inequality etc) and many sovereigns practiced the notion that either you convert or you die by the sword. Whereas this was seen in Christianity at some time, there is much that has changed in this interpretation of the religion – primarily I think b/c of the separation of church and state. Whereas again, unfortunately I don’t see this in Islamic majority countries.

    I don’t disparage Islam. I’ve retold what many Hindus, educated feel toward Muslims, that I know. I understand there’s plenty of misogyny to go around among Hindus and Muslims and different areas of a vastly diverse subcontinent, practice and interpret their religion many different ways. I can’t speak for the dog marrying apparent “hindu” or the Muslim who might practice honor killing. But if you are going to bring a practice of Hinduism, it’s silly to bring up something that is not in any way considered a “practice” and considered crazy by most other Hindus. What do many Afghanis say about honor killings or not allowing women to work? I expect there’s a diversity of views.

    But like I said I don’t disparage Islam. I do state facts; I do not want to EVER live in a country that has married religion with its state govt – In every Muslim country this is the case, and as expected there are rights and cultural practices that are enshrined in the law that degrade and oppress other minorities and women. I don’t think a country that’s a theocracy can be any example of trying to achieve equality. Maybe it’s my Indian or Western upbrining that makes me think that :) . When I’m in Kerala, I like waking up to the call to prayer that I hear from the mosque. I love visiting parts of India and seeing on the skyline mosques, temples, and gurudwaras. Thank goodness that is possible, even in a thrid world country, that did not have the luck of having oil, that was able to be exploited b/c Westerners invented the car.

  11. I just wanted to bring it back to the issue in the article — nose piercings. I don’t know what the girl’s actual motivations were (a sense of heritage, or a sense of style, or whatever), but I do think misrepresenting the nose piercing as religious is a stretch. A more interesting question is about “default” culture and what the school believes is acceptable, and from what framework. Why not allow Maori tattoos, or “subculture” styles? I err strongly on the individual expression side, but it’s unfortunate that the dress code is formulated in a way that either makes kids rely on cultural relativism arguments, or forgo something they feel is important to their own expression of self/identity. There are a lot of appropriate places to draw the line on dress codes, and perhaps the school does not want to open a free-for-all on arbitrating facial piercings. Perhaps this is also a difference in regional culture — from California, piercings seem ubiquitous and non-threatening, but in Utah or on Wall Street this is still countercultural to a very specific, straight-laced, kind of WASPy view of how we present ourselves.

  12. unfortunately I don’t see this in Islamic majority countries.

    The separation of mosque and state is apparent in Turkey, but Turkey replaced religious chauvinism with ethnic chauvinism.

    Just this week, Turkey has now eased restrictions on the Kurdish minority.

    Some people will wonder what this has to do with nose-piercing as an expression of “culture.”

    I received a secular education, but for a time attended Christian parochial schools. The sedative that allows America to thrive despite potential for sectarian violence is historical amnesia, relative wealth, and opportunity.

    The shortcomings in the Muslim world have little to do with Islam. They have a lot to do with human error and flaw.

    Again, you paint Islam in a box, for someone being from Kerala where a third of the population is Muslim, where Muslim women there have higher literacy rates than most other South Asian Muslim women, I would expect you to be more tolerant.

    But again, I’m an “Afghan foreigner” who is not an unauthentic South Asian as alleged by other posters to this article.

    Even though the Chinese are not given preferential treatment de jure, they thrive economically in Malaysia.

    The shortcomings in Afghanistan have nothing to do with Islam. Muslim minorities like the Shia and Ahmadi have been persecuted by the Sunni majority for their differences in theology, religious practice, etc.

  13. To PS and Jenna,

    You expose why South Asians in America may never be a truly unified front or political force. We are a collection of communities, with each group excluding and including who they deem worthy to associate with.

    PS,

    I am critical of Pakistan, but I understand that Pakistan’s unique history has less to do with Islam and more to do with communalism which plagues the subcontinent as a whole.

    Therefore, in my criticisms of Pakistan, I do not assign blame to that nation’s woes to Islam. I assign them to secular nationalism, nepotism, Punjabi chauvinism, lack of accountability, lack of meritocracy, and a general lack of investment in all Pakistanis.

    This site is pretty cool, I heard about it on progressive Muslim circles. However, I see that even “liberals” can be blinded by their own prejudice.

  14. Again, you paint Islam in a box, for someone being from Kerala where a third of the population is Muslim, where Muslim women there have higher literacy rates than most other South Asian Muslim women, I would expect you to be more tolerant.

    dude how have I painted islam in a box?

    But again, I’m an “Afghan foreigner” who is not an unauthentic South Asian as alleged by other posters to this article. I didn’t say this and I’m not sure Jenna said this. I consider Afghanistan part of S. Asia. Not a big deal to me.

    Even though the Chinese are not given preferential treatment de jure, they thrive economically in Malaysia. They have a capital that many South Asians did not who were often brought there as indentured servants. There are tons of Indians who are despite, these factors a part of the extremely wealthy in Malaysia; It’s unfortunate that the minorities such as Indians were doing so well in their exams that the Malay govt started giving quotas for spaces in their universities and restricting Indians. It’s very nice that minorities, who do not have the same rights as their fellow Malaysians, and some come from a much more disadvantaged history, have done well, but so what? LIke I said, Malaysia is not in any way a good example of pluralistic society. The shortcomings in Afghanistan have nothing to do with Islam. I think some of India’s shortcomings that the country is trying to straighten out comes from an interpretation of Hinduism, that was destructive to the society. Once the caste system might have made sense, nor was it stringent. But then it became a tool of exploiting groups of people, and keep large masses away from literacy and empowerment. The country is coming to terms with the flaws that come from some people’s perverted views of a religion. I feel the same way about many Muslim countries and I believe that the one way to help prevent the perversion of religious practices seeping into who has civil rights, is exactly keeping those rights civil and away from religion. So there needs to be a separation of church and state, which is not practiced by a Muslim majority country. So maybe this is due to a cultural feelings of insecurity that come from the Muslim world. I don’t know. Why does this observation mean that this means I’m putting Islam in a box. I know Muslims who embrace seapartion of church and state and still consider themselves practicing Muslims. Unfortunately that view does not seem to dominate the ideas that go behind creating a country in the “muslim world”. I don’t know where those Muslims are when these govts and states are being created.

  15. Punjabi chauvinism

    as opposed to Islamic chauvinism? Yeah, you’re right open minded. S. Asians are a fairly new minority and I do believe we have built political clout in such short time. I don’t see our ability to break into different groups so different from the first wave of european immigrants and/or jewish immigrants. Plus since some parts of South Asian society has starkly different socioeconomic levels there is also bound to be differences in political viewpoints.

  16. PS,

    I call a truce. I was insulted when I read your original comment about not marrying a Muslim.

    I was even insulted when I heard this sentiment expressed in the movie Bend It Like Beckham where the main character’s Sikh mother makes a casual anti-Muslim comment.

    But I’m rather lax in my beliefs. I eat pork, drink alcohol on occasion, and well I’m gay. I’m far from being insecure, I feel secularism is key for advancement in the Muslim world.

    The insecurity you cite among Muslims often leads to rigidity in the interpretation of their faith. This is often imposed on women either willingly or not.

  17. Punjabi chauvinism as opposed to Islamic chauvinism? Yeah, you’re right open minded.

    In Pakistan, Punjabis have been the privileged ethnic group similar to Malays in Malaysia.

    This is one of the reasons why Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan, because Bengalis were not given their rights despite their numbers.

  18. PS,

    Essentially your arguments hover around Indian exceptionalism, similar to how Americans state this is the “best country on Earth.”

    On some indicators, the US is not always on top.

    You try to imply that I am an Islamic chauvinist, how so?

    I am willing to admit shortcomings in my community.

    The South Asian community is not entirely new. Sikhs have lived in California for over a century, especially in the Central Valley and some of the earliest Asian Americans came from the subcontinent during the Revolutionary period.

    The “brain drain” which has brought well-educated and well-to-do South Asians since 1965 to this country is not truly reflective of the populations left behind. Most Indians immigrating to America from the northern part of the country, while in Malaysia, that immigration comes from the South. But as for the question of being a “bami putra” (son of the soil) in Malaysia, Indian Muslims were able to magically become “Malay” which was the case for Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad , former prime minister of Malaysia, was the son of an Indian Muslim with roots from the state of Kerala. Therefore, the longest-serving prime minister of Malaysia is half ethnic Malayali.

    My family is a well-to-do Afghan family, we are not similar to more recent refugees who came to this country post-1996.

    I do not see South Asians as a major force politically in this country. Pre-9/11, the Muslim community in America was pretty insular among the immigrants, many of whom come from Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh. Even today, people still self-segregate though Muslim activists be they extreme or moderate in their views, try to break down these barriers.

  19. So then what’s the cut-off year when a fashion trend becomes or ceases to become a “heritage”?
    Oh, I dunno, a hundred years sounds pretty reasonable? ;)

    Totally arbitrary. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    The chick wants special treatment just for being Desi.

    Whatever happened to equal rights for all?

  20. Totally arbitrary. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The chick wants special treatment just for being Desi. Whatever happened to equal rights for all?

    This reminds of the Desi Muslim from the UK, who attended a Muslim school and objected to the shalwar kameez, stating it was not “modest” enough and opted to wear an Arab abaya.

  21. From my experience with grad school, working with nonprofits, etc, I always see Afghanistan counted as part of South Asia….

  22. Gustavo, you need to calm down. You are just creating problems where there are none. No one is attacking Islam or its practices. All I said was, Afghanistan is in the Middle East, therefore you are middle eastern. Claiming South Asian identity does not make you South Asian. And another thing, the UN seems very misinformed (just look at their lack of organization and execution in the Middle East, not knowing where it is might contribute to it.).

    But I agree with you on one thing, South Asia will never be unified. It consists of many cultures, religons, languages etc etc. Just like America will never be unified (ie Dems vs Reps) or most countries/ regions.

    LinZi

    there are further stereotypes about the western ‘gori’… beautiful but SEXUAL,

    Well, you’ve the last part right. White women are just seen as whores by lots of Indian men BUT what makes you think white women are considered beautiful in Indian culture? Fair skin does not mean white, freckly with pink undertones. Those features are what most white women have and are NOT considered beautiful. Having tan, blemish free skin is–which is what people mean by fair.. having a lot of self loathing, shallow Indian men come after isn’t because you’re “beautiful”, it’s because they think you’re easy, as you said yourself.. and I noticed in every comment you post, you try to make everything about yourself. “Oh look, I’m marrying an Indian, but I face SOOO much discrimination and I don’t deserve it because I’m a white woman which is weird because Indian men love white women and Indian women want to look like me POOR ME :(

  23. “Again, you paint Islam in a box”

    This, to me, appears to be an extremely hypocritical comment. In an earlier post, you criticized Hinduism for the practices of child marriage and the marriage of dogs to humans. Do you really think those customs (and could you even call the latter of those two practices a custom? How many Hindus do you know who are married to dogs?) represent the values of Hinduism? I would really rather not engage in a religious argument, but your hypocrisy is compounded here by the fact that child marriage is prevalent in Muslim societies, besides the fact that Muhammad himself was married to a 9-year old. The BBC had an article a week or two ago about a 117-year old Somali man marrying a 17-year old girl. It is a problem that afflicts both Hindu and Muslim societies. And I don’t think your point about humans being married to dogs even deserves a rebuttal. For every such isolated, ridiculous incident in India, there’s probably something equivalent happening in a Muslim country. I believe the BBC (my primary news source :p) ran an article a while ago about a Sudanese Muslim man getting married to a goat. These rare incidents have nothing to do with religion. 

  24. From my experience with grad school, working with nonprofits, etc, I always see Afghanistan counted as part of South Asia….

    Maybe we aren’t “brown” enough to be South Asian!?

    When I was in the US Navy, people assumed I was “Italian” so I guess I could pass to be “white” if I so desired.

    PS,

    Realize, the majority of the world’s Punjabis are Pakistani Muslims, not Indian Sikhs contrary to images we constantly see in Bollywood films.

    Yes, there is an issue with extremism in Islam and among young men in particular. I am 29 years old, and I use to attend an all-male mosque affiliated with Tablighi Jamaat. Though they are largely apolitical, their views on Islam are a little rigid and I would consider them the “Jehovah’s Witness” of the South Asian American community, once they know where you live, they will occasionally make home visitations.

    Their “sermons” are longer than the typical Friday khutba.

  25. and well I’m gay

    Gustavo, why limit yourself to such a cramped Western construction as “gay”? Don’t the Pashtuns have a storied history of classical-Greek-like man-boy love, but supplemented by marriage and a family? Keep the faith!

  26. All I said was, Afghanistan is in the Middle East, therefore you are middle eastern. Claiming South Asian identity does not make you South Asian.

    Actually it is not so simple. Depending on the organization, Afghanistan is considered part of South Asia in some organizations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Asia “South Asia typically consists of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Some definitions may also include Afghanistan, Burma, Tibet, the British Indian Ocean Territories and Iran.”

  27. Gustavo, why limit yourself to such a cramped Western construction as “gay”? Don’t the Pashtuns have a storied history of classical-Greek-like man-boy love, but supplemented by marriage and a family? Keep the faith!

    The sexual Puritanism of modern South Asia does an influence on me.

    I live in the West, and personally I disagree with pederastry (intercourse with adolescent boys). In modern Afghan culture, homosexual sex is an act, not a lifestyle or community. But such practices were apparently widespread in Central Asia.

    In Desi culture, you have the hijra (transsexual women), many of whom are devout Muslims and can be seen at many a Pakistani wedding or at a shrine to a deceased Sufi saint.

  28. Considering I’m part Pushtun, and Pushtuns are Pakistan’s second largest ethnic group after Punjabis, I would say Afghanistan certainly is South Asia. Middle Eastern, no, we are not. The Middle East ends with Iran.

  29. Not sure how Pashtuns in places like Pakistan would be any more South Asian than those living in Afghanistan, just because they are living in one of the so called “core” South Asian countries. I don’t think it is a biggie for Afghans to consider themselves South Asian if that is what they prefer. They are brown enough to be South Asian to me if that is how they feel comfortable in describing themselves.

  30. The Middle East ends with Iran.

    Actually for some organizations the Middle East ends with Iraq. Check that wiki link out.

  31. I have encountered a number of Desi Muslims who have the most disparaging view concerning Hindus.

    I guess, I find it funny that Afghans tend to be more tolerant of Hindus, since we have this affinity for Indian popular culture.

    The laundry list was not reflective of my views. These are some of the common anti-Hindu remarks I’ve heard other Muslims make.

    I even admitted to child marriage being an issue in the Muslim community.

    I am secular Muslim, but one that is not some Republican conservative who is only concerned about my own welfare.

    I am a “benign Islamist” who believes gender equity is a necessity to uplift Muslims. I disagree with the whole concept of Partition and the creation of Pakistan. Education must go beyond “blind imitation” of the example of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad married Aisha while she was still a child, but such a marriage nowadays is socially inappropriate with increased longevity.

    Child marriages may have served a purpose and had a rationale in traditional societies, but in today’s reality, I consider them inappropriate.

    According to many Hadith, the child bride Aisha and Muhammad had a loving relationship, one that went beyond merely lust and physical contact.

    I’m not here to stand by while Sikhs and Hindus can make their casual anti-Muslim comments. I will point out hypocrisy in the South Asian community, even if people like or not, and that also includes my fellow Muslims.

  32. I guess we’ve stopped talking about the nose ring in schools now….

    Sameer,

    I only wanted to defend myself and what I perceived as slights.

    Personally, I’m an opinionated person.

    People don’t like what I have to say, fine.

  33. Some Afghans including myself consider themselves South Asian.

    Others, will say Central Asian.

    Few will claim Middle Eastern though.

    Afghans are considered Asian Americans according to the US Census Bureau, but when it came to racial classification, the overwhelming response was “non-Hispanic white.”

    Now my aunt Cima, considers South Asians as Middle Eastern!!!!!! She’s half Iranian and half Afghan.

    In America, the average Joe would consider an Indian as a “Middle Easterner.”

  34. When “Devdas” premiered at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA (a famous movie palace from Hollywood’s Golden Era), my aunt who is six months younger than me, bought us tickets to see the movie followed by Q & A with the actress Madhuri Dixit, I guess my aunt had a run-in with her in the ladies’ room.

    My aunt alleges the Indian model-actress was giving her dirty looks.

  35. How many Hindus do you know who are married to dogs?

    now now… there’s no need to call indian women ugly…

  36. “White women are just seen as whores by lots of Indian men BUT what makes you think white women are considered beautiful in Indian culture? “

    Don’t spend to much time chilling with the dudes in India, huh?

  37. That was hilarious.

    But as a gay guy, if I was living in India, I would probably go straight. I don’t find South Asian men all that attractive, the women can be stunningly gorgeous, but the men “ashy” in appearance.

  38. Another thing is hair. Too much coverage is well not my thing.

    I guess, sad to admit, I like Latin and white guys mostly.

  39. typical modi apologia.

    The riots that occurred in Gujarat were beyond barbaric, lives were literally set on fire, a pregnant woman was killed with her child still in utero.

    Hinduism is often portrayed by Western hippies as a non-violent alternative to the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    However, Hinduism has issues with gender, sexuality, and issues confronting modernity like Islam.

    Islam is not monolithic, and neither is Hinduism.

    India may be an emerging superpower, but one that has many social ills. Classism, caste prejudice, racism, communalism, tribalism, etc. plague this pluralistic country.

    And caste prejudice is not confined to Hindus alone, many Desi Muslims also practice a form of caste prejudice on the basis of alleged “illustrious ancestry” or not.

    I’m not excusing the act of terror in Mumbai a year ago.

    But why as a Muslim, do I have to apologize for the random acts of terror that have plagued Pakistan, the US, and other locations since 9/11?

    I have no control of these extremists, even if I was hold a press conference denouncing the violence, what good would that do?

    I understand the “jihadist” mindset, and though I renounce this frame of mind, I have no control.

    Even if Muslims instigated the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Gujarat, was one act of barbarism justified with another act of barbarism?

    Personally, I am Muslim for cultural reasons.

    I don’t believe in Allah, Rama, or Jehovah. I think all religions are relics of the past. I won’t go as far as Sir Salman Rushdie in his disparagement of organized faith.

    Islam is a part of my culture. It has been for almost 14 centuries, it gives me identity, and facilitates a community.

    When I pray in the masjid, it is to connect with other human beings, even those I may disagree with. It gives me humility and clarity.

  40. Jenna “”Oh look, I’m marrying an Indian, but I face SOOO much discrimination and I don’t deserve it because I’m a white woman which is weird because Indian men love white women and Indian women want to look like me POOR ME :( “”

    I don’t deserve to be discriminated against because I am a human being.

    I love how some people just love to make this all “you’re a white woman and obsessed with yourself” bullcrap. Please, as if ‘eve teasing’ doesn’t happen all the time to Indian women in India as well. I never said Indian men love white women, but I did say Indian culture at present (not ALL individuals in India) have a preference towards fairness. I did not say this fairness necessarily means white people only. But from MY experiences, American white women are often viewed as desirable/sexual. Whether or not that is because they like fairness, or because they watch too much illegal porn on the internet (or Hollywood movies for that matter) , I don’t know, but my point was just that such stereotypes can make things difficult for a minority living in another country (I’m sure no one here would be able to understand what it is like to be a minority in another country, right? I’m sure they NEVER felt stereotyped or had to complain about anyone’s treatment of them, right?)

    Please, half of the sepia mutiny posts are about the minority South Asian community in the U.S., trying to deal with issues and stereotypes they have to deal with on a daily basis in America. I don’t go around telling them “oh poor you, stop crying… ” I know what it is like and I know how frustrating it can be to have people judge you before meeting you and stereotype you into a box. (Like, you Jenna, and some others have done to me on Sepia Mutiny as well).

    Too many people are too busy feeling upset and slighted by the ‘white woman’ that dares to make any comment about South Asia that they don’t really seem to notice that we have more in common than we have to fight about. It’s ridiculous. But, you know what, no I don’t think ‘poor me’ as you wrongly assume. I share my comments to have an open debate. Why should I be less than truthful about my experiences in India? I like India, I lived there, and it is a part of who I am, take it or leave it. You can judge whether or not a ‘white woman’ has any right to live in or care about India, but I really don’t care, because the people I care about most accept me, and I accept them as we are. We don’t need to bother with silly stereotypes, because we have actually bothered to get to know each other.

    Many of my comments end up being about me, because it seems I need to constantly attempt to prove to others here that I am “allowed” to have an opinion about anything related to South Asia. As if I would pop onto a blog about the U.S, and start questioning someone as to how many years they lived in the U.S. and whether or not they have the proper credentials or skin tone ot have an opinion. I end up talking about me because somehow any conversation I post on gets redirected back to the same issues– gori this, who REALLY can participate in South Asian culture, what is discrimination, etc. Other people are bringing the conversation back to this not me, because I am constantly having to jump through hoops just to have my comment taken seriously in anyway.

    Or perhaps I need to spend my days proving to everyone I am not pardesigori, since apparently it is difficult to tell white women apart– even when we have entirely different viewpoints and opinions on everything. I am so sick and tired of all this, maybe if I start of every post of mine with a life history and a list of credentials, I won’t have to go through this every time I make a comment on this post.

    I enjoy this blog, and I enjoy engaging on issues regarding South Asia. But if people continue to cut out all non-South Asian origin commenters, I guess you can continue your cheery assault on assaults on South Asians in the west, and continue on merrily. I’m sorry if I am disturbing you will my viewpoints and experiences, I just thought that someone might actually be interested in hearing about experiences in India besides there own, and engaging in open debate on a variety of topics. Sorry, if I am mistaken.

    There are so many people I know who are part of South Asian culture in someway, but since they were not born with brown skin they do not even feel comfortable sharing anything on this blog. I suppose you would be happy if I shut up and go on my way, like many other non-desi s who used to particiapte on this blog have. Or maybe it would just be easier for me to share my opinion or experiences on this blog if I call myself “ashwini” or “pooja” rather than my name.

    Honestly, the reason I bring this stuff up is because I think a real dialogue needs to happen. But we can’t seem to get past “you’re white, I’m brown” and on to actually consider anything. It’s the same on so many topics. Afghani,Shri Lankan, Pakistani, Indian- Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jew, Jain, Buddhist, caste, class, city- village, brown white, videshi, desi, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Mayalam, Pashto, Bengali. Divisions, divisions, divisions. Isn’t it time we try and leave our past frustrations, assumptions, and scorn behindand just talk about the issues? Aren’t we all well educated people who think a lot and care about South Asia and America? Shouldn’t the whole point of dialogue be to share and hear different viewpoints, to understand from different frames of mind, and to challenge ourselves past our current experiences?

    Seems like a lot of my lessons here so far are “shut, up, you don’t count, stop whining” Maybe if people stopped telling me I don’t count, I wouldn’t have to talk about it all the time, and could focus on nose rings.

  41. Divisions, divisions, divisions. Isn’t it time we try and leave our past frustrations, assumptions, and scorn behindand just talk about the issues? Aren’t we all well educated people who think a lot and care about South Asia and America?

    LinZi,

    I actually like hearing your viewpoints.

    The personal is politic, that was the slogan of the 1960s.

    When I attended UCLA as a undergrad from 1998-2003 (I was a super senior), I noticed the lack of activism among the Desi/South Asian community. Few were involved in political issues, ironically, it was Muslim South Asians under the banner of pan-Muslim organizations that raised awareness.

    To many South Asians, I was excluded and not viewed as “authentic.” My friend Priti, who was a South Indian Christian, felt the isolation and she was Indian.

    Even for Indian nationals studying at UCLA, one friend said it best, “These Indian Americans are confused Desis, to them Bharat is nothing more than the bhangra music or Bollywood film. What do they know? Their parents have sheltered them from the reality of South Asia.”

    I have heard many Desis say Indians overseas try to outdo Indians in India in terms of authenticity.

    My principle interaction with South Asians has been in the Muslim setting of the mosque. I have never step foot in a Hindu temple or attended a puja.

    Growing up in America, I noticed that even though South Asians would shop in the same venues, when it came to religious gatherings, the self-imposed segregation was evident.

    There is no one common South Asian American scene.

    In my community, the Afghan community, we are mostly poor compared to our North Indian counterparts who formed the “brain drain” of their country. I have more in common with the Bangladeshi, not simply because they are fellow Muslims but because they too economically as whole are more modest in means.

    I have felt excluded and many other South Asians also.

    But remain active, your comments are appreciated, at least by me.

    The most hated white woman in India is Sonia Gandhi, because of her foreign origins, she had to step down as prime minister of India to appease the nativists.

  42. I might get flake for this, but Muslim Desi youth seem more socially aware because the Islamic world is always in the news. 9/11 changed everything for the Desi Muslim community, they were suddenly exposed and introduced to the national stage, required to denounce terrorism as a perversion of Islam, and to reach out to people they otherwise would not have to do if 9/11 didn’t occur.

    The mosque I attend now has open houses designed for non-Muslims. Have Sikhs and Hindus did the same for their neighbors? Probably not! My imam will appear at local churches and synagogues, to discuss the common origins of Islam to the other Abrahamic faiths. My mosque has a strong South Asian flare, though the religious leaders are mostly from North Africa.

    India doesn’t figure prominently on front page news reports in the West, and when India is discussed, it is because of some worshipers getting trampled to death or how American jobs are being outsourced to India.

  43. Jenna, I can attest to the fact that some Indians do in fact find pale skin with pink undertones to be “sundar”.

    And yes, many of them find the golden and olive “fair” tones sundar as well.

    You’ll even find, believe it or not, a Desi or two who actually likes dark chocolate.

    Desis recognize beauty in all spectrums.

  44. Sameer, I only wanted to defend myself and what I perceived as slights.

    I understand. That comment wasn’t directed to you. I was reading through the comments and noticed how long and far everyone’s strayed…

    In America, the average Joe would consider an Indian as a “Middle Easterner.”

    If they don’t think you mean Indian as in Native American first. ;)

    Native American, South Asian, Middle Eastern – what’s the difference :)

  45. Jenna,

    Most of my family lives in India and Pakistan now.

    When I visit my family, I fly to Pakistan or India. My family is marrying native Pakistanis and Indians now. My younger sister married a Hakka Chinese from West Bengal.

    And even if my family was still in Afghanistan, we have much in common with our Desi neighbors who live along the Indus river valley.

  46. The most hated white woman in India is Sonia Gandhi, because of her foreign origins, she had to step down as prime minister of India to appease the nativists.

    Uh, Manhohan Singh is sooooooooo much more qualified to be PM than Sonia Gandhi whose only qualification is that she married a Gandhi. He also stands out among other ethnic Indian politicians. I for one am glad others beside the Nehru-Gandhi family get to be PM. This is supposed to be a democracy not a monarchy.

    Plus I guess I am used to the US system where the President, and the next two positions who can replace the President should anything happen, has to be born in the country. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect the PM to at least be born India – either in larger pre-partition India, or smaller India post-partition.

    ” India’s newest prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was born into a family of very modest means on September 26, 1932, in Gah, West Punjab (now Pakistan). After earning degrees in economics from Cambridge University in England and from Punjab University, he spent the next thirty years working as a quiet but very key player in Indian politics. In the 1980s Singh served as the head of the Reserve Bank of India, and in 1991 he became the country’s finance minister in the Congress Party-led government of Narasimha Rao (1921–), which was in power until 1996.

    When he took the post, India was in disastrous financial straits, but during his tenure Singh became the mastermind behind the country’s economic reform movement. He opened up the country to outside investors for the first time, and ended regulations that had kept India tied to the past. For example, Singh dissolved the “license Raj,” which required private businesses to seek government approval before making almost any decision. By the end of the 1990s, with Singh’s help, India was well on its way to economic recovery.

    Perhaps more remarkable, however, was that throughout the decades of scandal that rocked the Indian government, Singh retained an incredibly “squeaky clean” reputation. In fact, in 2002 he was awarded the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award. And in May of 2004, when it was announced that he would be taking on the post of prime minister, Singh was given support across the board from representatives of the various Indian parties.”

    Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ca-Ge/Gandhi-Sonia.html#ixzz0Wyh5aROk

  47. Gustavo, I had to leave and just came back — I call a truce. I was insulted when I read your original comment about not marrying a Muslim.

    don’t be insulted by that. I’m just saying what are known attitudes among different south asian groups. My family doesn’t believe that Muslims shouldn’t have the same civil and human rights, but culturally many of them have their biases and yes, sometimes prejudices. And I’m sure the same can be said about what some people may say about us. Anyways, – every day there’s a skin color debate saying how unattractive dark-skinned Indian girls, like I am darkskinned Indian girl, are deemed, and I just separate that talk with my personal experiences and the knowledge that its some people who are like that. I’m not at all offended by that, I just understand its a discussion about attitudes. So I haven’t read what else you’ve written but truce for now :)

  48. Gustavo, thanks for your comment.

    I don’t doubt that there are a great number of people who have had similar experiences, whatever their background, on this blog and within communities all over.