Letter to a Young Islamophobe

Ayaan Hirsi AliAP061001023052-thumb-400xauto-4681.jpg Dear Young Islamophobe:

You will do well to start with any of the books written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her best-known work is Infidel. Her latest book is Nomad. She has also written a few other things. Anything written by Hirsi Ali will do; they all say the same things about the terror of Islam.

I read Nomad recently. It is littered with stories like the following: “In February 2009 in Buffalo, New York, a forty-seven-year-old Muslim businessman who had set up a cable TV station to ‘promote more favorable views of Muslims,’ beheaded his wife, who was seeking to divorce him.”

This is a short short-story. You can narrate it at parties. Imagine the shock (but perhaps not the silence, because these days everyone, it seems, has a story to tell about Islam). But you should also learn from Hirsi Ali’s style of writing. Continue reading

Famous Desi People Want You to Vote

This week I tweeted about how we need to get Desi famous folks to make a “Get Out the Vote” PSA for November 2nd’s election. I’ve brought this up before on Sepia Mutiny on how the only voting PSA I was able to find with a Desi person is from the infamous Sunny Leone.

Well, the famous Desi folks have heard my appeal. Ok, they may have been working on this PSA before I tweeted at them. Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn (along with other famous people) are featured in the below Funny or Die video which I stumbled upon at 99Problems.org.

Like Aziz says, “Do you realize how motivated stupid people are? Work up a little energy. Go vote.” Along those lines, I’m dressing up like the Chai Party this Halloween as I go Trick or Voting for my campaign. Does anyone have costume ideas?

And just in case you needed a reminder…

Famous Desi people! Infamous Desi people! Non-famous Desi people! I want to see your videos telling the South Asian American community to get out the vote! Kthxbye. Continue reading

From Macacas to Turban Toppers…

I have been flipping through the thorough new report released on Wednesday by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) titled, From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse. The report catalogs a great many derogatory statements directed at South Asian Americans. The vast majority of the statements cited are examples of anti-Islamic bias by elected officials, but recent examples include statements against South Asian Americans running for Congress (which was also touched upon in this good NPR story from Wednesday morning).

With the midterm elections round the corner, SAALT’s report, From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse, documents intolerant remarks made by elected officials and those running for office. According to the report, since September 11, there has been an unprecedented rise in xenophobic statements that have specifically targeted South Asians, Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs…

“The details in this report are extremely helpful not only to the South Asian community but to the rest of the country as well”, said Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the speakers at the briefing. Shelton compared the experiences of Muslims, South Asians, Arab Americans and Sikhs to those of African Americans, who have also been dehumanized and marginalized by a racist political climate.

Reflecting on the current climate of Islamophobia, lawyer, commentator and founder of themuslimguy.com, Arsalan Iftikhar, noted that “‘Muslim’ has become the accepted slur in America… Race, xenophobia, bigotry have now become a permanent political wedge issue in America.” [link]

Many of the examples cited in the report are incidents we have blogged about here on SM. To see them all cataloged in one place though results in an even more disturbing narrative. This is why it is important to vote.

Check out the full report and let us know what you think.

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Pondering Obama and the Golden Temple

Last week, the White House decided that Obama would not be going to the Golden Temple, even though this was tentatively on his schedule for his trip to India in early November.

As the story was reported, the White House pulled out because Obama was told he had to cover his head with a bandana rather than a baseball cap, and White House Staff were afraid this would make it look like Obama was wearing “Muslim garb.” [See NYT, Daily Beast]

The problem is, I find that story absurd. I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, and here’s why:

  • Sikh religious authorities have said outright that a baseball cap would be fine:

any covering, even a baseball cap, would be acceptable. “We would welcome President Obama as long as he covers his head while inside Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Caps or hats are not barred by Sikh dharmik maryada (religious code of conduct). After all even Queen Elizabeth wore a western hat when she came to the temple”

  • The Queen of England wore a hat when she visited the same site. (Photo is of Anadpur Sahib not Harmandir Sahib, but her garb was the same in both places)
  • MiriPiri-QueenVisit[1].jpg
  • People wear all sorts of hats to the Golden Temple, including baseball caps, and this has never been a problem. 
  • The President would look dopey wearing a baseball cap to a religious site. He could, however, have worn a cowboy hat, something which seems to have been OK with everybody, and which would have looked marginally more dignified.

But here’s my biggest issue with this narrative: a bandana on Obama’s head would have made him look gangster or hipster, but certainly not Muslim.

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Let’s Help Juan Williams Identify More “Muslim Garb”…

Hi, my name is Anna, often spelled “A N N A”. You might remember me from my past roles as “Mutineer # 3”, “Only Vagina in the Bunker”, “Over-dressed-brown-girl-at-Bhangra-Blowout”, “The abnormal, Vegetarian Mallu” and “Token”.

These days, I am consumed with my nifty new job as a reporter with D.C. NPR-affiliate, WAMU, 88.5 FM, where I write and curate the DCentric blog. Precisely because of my dream job, I have received emails from some of you asking me to opine about Juan Williams, who was recently let go from NPR because of comments he made on FOX’s “The O’Reilly Factor” about Muslim people and their garb freaking him out. To those readers who have reached out to me, I would like to say two things:

1) Aw, thanks! I’m flattered you care what I think…

2) ARE YOU INSANE? If I get fired, I ain’t gettin’ $2 Million from FOX.

Instead of wading in to this controversy, I will point you towards this HILARIOUS Tumblr called, “Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things”. And if you insist on a Desi connection, check this out:

This unfortunate Muslim is wearing Ed Hardy. He is called Salman Khan.


I will also add that this wasn’t the first time NPR had issues with Juan (he did, after all, call the First Lady “Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress“). Hey…is it just me, or does Juan Williams seem really preoccupied with what people wear… Continue reading

Original copy

Hello and welcome to another episode of Original Copy, the show that Aroon-Purie.jpgteaches you how to make your mark in the competitive world of journalism. Today we bring you a lesson on what to do if you’re caught lifting another writer’s work. As you may have heard, Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today, had to apologize for a recent “From the Editor-in-Chief” column that included lines like this: “If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth.”

As it turns out, that sentence and nine others originally appeared in Slate writer Grady Hendrix’s article on Rajinikanth. Purie sent apologies to Hendrix and Slate editor David Plotz, which Hendrix included in a piece called “Great Writers Steal.”

It’s my normal practice in my letter from the editor to enumerate why we carry a particular cover story. In the regional edition of our weekly newsmagazine India Today issue dated Oct 18th 2010 we carried a cover story on the film star Rajinikant.

I normally ask for inputs on subjects that are specialized , as for instance a superhit filmstar from the south, from those in charge of editing the copy. Some of the inputs which were sent to me on Rajinikant were unfortunately taken from an article authored by Mr. G Hendrix in your magazine. This was not known to me. I believed it to be original copy and a portion of it got included as inputs in my longer letter from the editor which got published. I greatly regret this error.

Rajinikanth is indeed a very specialized subject, one that’s studied diligently at many Tamil Nadu theaters. So it’s no surprise that Purie asked for inputs, and believed them to be “original copy.”

Purie: “Original copy?”

Assistant: “Yes, sir, we are the first ones to copy it.”

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Getting Gully w/ Ras Ceylon, Mandeep Sethi & Humble the Poet

I was hesitant to make the two hour drive from Oakland to Sacramento on a late night after working a full day of campaigning. But when I stepped into Sol Collective in Sacramento and was embraced by a sea of brown faces, mainly Sikh kids from the local UC Davis campus, I knew I was stepping into something special and it was well worth the drive. Mandeep Sethi had put this show on, pulling together a gully line up of South Asian hip hop heads from Los Angeles based Hoodini, to Oakland based Ras Ceylon, to Toronto based Humble the Poet to Bay based Mandeep Sethi himself.

The highlight of the evening was by far when Humble the Poet, Ras Ceylon and Mandeep Sethi took the stage together to spit a song that they had just created that week with a beat produced by Sikh Knowledge. You can peep my live recording of the song Gutter right here, but Ras Ceylon just tweeted at me that the official music video was up. Live and direct, here you go – Gutter.

I’ve written about Humble the Poet and Mandeep Sethi in the past, but who is Ras Ceylon? I connected with him through Sri Lankan friends and when I moved to Oakland a couple months ago, I knew I had to connect. From L.A. to the Bay, Ras Ceylon has been a hip-hop reggae artist representing Oakland for the past ten years. I sat down with Ras Ceylon for a quick Q&A before he headed out to Jamaica on tour. It was a windy day by Lake Merritt in Oakland, so I had to edit the clip just a bit because of the sound – I transcribed some of it though which you can read after the jump.

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Where Nikki Haley’s money comes from

A few weeks ago I cited the ridiculous assertion by Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach that it was somehow wrong for his Democratic opponent Manan Trivedi to accept money from…Indian Americans. Well, a noteworthy portion of Republican Nikki Haley’s haul in South Carolina may be coming the same way:

More than 30 percent of Nikki Haley’s campaign cash came from outside South Carolina, more than three times what her opponent Vincent Sheheen has raised out of state in their race for governor.

Sheheen’s campaign quickly seized on the news.

“The truth is Nikki Haley claims to be an outsider, but more than 100 PACs have bought and paid for her vote,” Sheheen campaign manager Trav Robertson said of the Republican state representative. “No other candidate who has run in South Carolina history, to my knowledge, has ever gotten as much money from outside the state as Nikki Haley has…”

Among donors who listed their occupation in Haley’s most recent campaign finance filing, about 6 percent were attorneys.

Lakhwinder Singh, who lives in Jamaica, N.Y., was one of several Indian-Americans across the country to send a check to Haley, whose parents emigrated from India to build a new life in South Carolina. Singh contributed $1,000 after he met Haley at fundraiser in his state.

He said he has friends in South Carolina, but Haley’s campaign is most important to him because of their shared heritage. He said Indian-Americans also rallied around Bobby Jindal in his successful run for governor of Louisiana…

An article in the Hindustan Times noted Haley has attended at least half a dozen galas organized by the Indian-American community and estimated she may have raised $250,000 at them. At one event in New Jersey, Haley told the audience that she wanted to open up avenues for business ties between South Carolina and India.

Sheheen, whose ancestors emigrated from Lebanon in the late 19th century, has experienced similar support on a smaller scale, receiving contributions from both the Arab-American Leadership PAC and Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.


That’s great. Apparently all you have to do is tell some uncles that you want to “open up avenues for business ties between South Carolina and India” and that is good enough to fill ’em coffers. All you aspiring politicians take note. Do you think Haley admitted to them that she does occasionally go to gurdwara? Maybe if she becomes governor on Nov. 2nd she can accompany President Obama to Amritsar? I am just putting that out there for the internet to pick up. It would make for good symbolism (but would cause some tea baggers to suffer a stroke).

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Air Pollution: Is Not Flying a Solution?

Thumbnail image for globe_west_172.jpgTech geek Anirvan Chatterjee and landscape architect Barnali Ghosh were surprised to learn that their carbon footprint was bigger than 90 percent of Americans, despite their green efforts which included living without a car. They found that air travel was to blame and challenged themselves to spend a year without flying. In words that might resonate with many desis, Chatterjee wrote about why it would be hard to give up flying, just before embarking upon the Year of No Flying project.

Growing up in a family of post-1965 transnational immigrants, our history is deeply connected with the democratization of air travel — countless flights to and from India, Canada, Nigeria, and the United States. Our stories begin and end in airports. (Last flight) Continue reading

Musings on Mistaken Identity

kalyan.penn.jpg Actor Adhir Kalyan was on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and shared a story of being mistaken for Kal Penn when he was visiting a beach in California. I don’t feel there’s too much similarity in their looks, and they sound completely different because Kalyan has a British accent. But hey, I know being mistaken for another desi happens from time to time, even to us non-celebrities who aren’t getting screen time during prime time or in theaters across America.

Example #1: At one summer job, I was one of four interns in a small office with less than ten staff members. Occasionally, throughout the summer the Executive Director and one or two other staff members would call me Ritu, the name of another intern. She was desi, had straight hair (of a different length) and wore glasses like me, but that’s where the similarities ended. Continue reading