Behind the Orange Curtain is a Minority Majority

When you hear the words “Orange County,” I’m sure you have an image that comes to your head very much like the ones on television shows “The O.C.” or “The Real Wives of Orange County.” The image I have, after having organized there for the past two years, is very different. The O.C. is a largely diverse county, with a “minority majority” where only 45% of the population is White and 17% of the population of Asian descent, according to the recent 2009 Census report. The largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam resides in Garden Grove in Little Saigon, and Santa Ana is an epicenter of the Latino population. And of course, the Muslims. There is a large population of Muslims scattered across the county – in fact, according to a religious study from 2000, it is the 5th most popular religion in the county, representing 1.4 percent of the population of The O.C. I’m sure the statistics on this will be different if you look at 2011 result of the region on religion.

Why am I telling you about this other perspective of Orange County? To give you context as you watch this video, released by CAIR-LA on Wednesday.

The above video was filmed at a rally in February, outside of a fundraiser for the Islamic Circle of North America, a charity driven international Muslim organization.

The event – held at Yorba Linda Community Center, a facility that has been frequented by Muslim families and businesses over the years – first became a target of anti-Muslim bigots over two of the fundraiser’s speakers, who were to speak on the importance of charity in Islam. [cair-la]

What was most disturbing to me, albeit not surprising since I’ve had to build relationships with Electeds in this region, is the statements that came from the politicians that spoke at the rally. Councilwoman Deborah Pauly clearly implied that all the Muslims should be murdered. In light of what happened with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, due to the hate sentiments fueled in the community (as well as by Sarah Palin) and a lunatic eventually retaliating with a gun shot in to head… Well. Can Deborah Pauly really be that ignorant to not make a connection that her words could have the same effect? Or maybe she knows, and simply doesn’t care.

Villa Park Councilwoman, Deborah Pauly, while addressing the crowd at the rally, appeared to threaten Muslim event-goers. Congressman Ed Royce (R-40), in a troubling trend of disparaging Islam and its followers, added fuel to the fire by encouraging protesters to continue on with their hate-mongering. The attendance of Congressman Gary Miller (R-42) was a clear surprise, since he previously has engaged with all constituents, including Muslims, toward a better America. [cair-la]

But this situation isn’t simply a one-off of crazy tea-baggers in Orange County. There have been a string of Islamaphobic stories recently in Orange County – from the protesting of the construction of mosques to a hijabi woman fighting for her job at Disneyland because she wanted to wear her hijab to work. But the biggest story currently comes from UC Irvine, with the case of the Irvine 11.

The students — 8 currently at UC Irvine and 3 UC Riverside graduates — were charged with with two misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and disturbance of the meeting by the Orange County District Attorney’s office on Friday, only a few days after a protest was staged outside of the DA’s office in support of the so-called ‘Irvine 11.’ Continue reading

Bronzes at the Chennai Museum

The Government Museum in Chennai has an amazing collection of bronzes from around what is present day Tamil Nadu.

Here are some photos from my visit there last month. Click on any of them for a larger version on Flickr. Despite the sad condition of the displays – dust-covered and poorly lit – the wonder and detail of the craft and work is still easily visible.

This is a Nataraja from Vellore, circa 19th century:

Vellore Nataraja I

Vellore Nataraja III

The hair of other Natarajas I’ve seen until now have resembled the one above: a ring attached to the back of the head out of which locks of hair emerge. This next one, however (my favorite of the lot), has hair that is very much part of Siva’s head. It’s from Melaperamballam in Thanjavur, circa 10th Century AD.

Melaperamballam Nataraja III

Melaperamballam Nataraja I

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Obama, The Destroyer of the World [updated]


Here we go again. And by that I’m referring to the Ms. 2009 cover depicting a multi-armed mom. This time, it’s an image of President Obama. Newsweek’s November 22nd, 2010 issue headlined “God of All Things” shows Obama on the cover balancing multiple policy issues and balancing on one leg. The image is of Hindu deity, Shiva, also know as “the destroyer of the world.”

Suhag Shukla of the Washington-based Hindu-American Foundation told FoxNews that her group doesn’t think Newsweek meant to be malicious, but believes ‘the cover was in line with the media’s comfort of utilizing Hindu symbols or deities to symbolize an issue.’

Zed said that Hindus understood that the purpose of Newsweek was not to denigrate Hinduism, but warned casual flirting like this sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees.[dailymail]

In the rest of the world, Hindus are outraged. Continue reading

Sikhs in the Yankee Army

As we tweeted earlier, here is an intriguing picture: A Sikh American Civil War veteran [via Sikhnet]

Here is the caption as to the origin of the picture:

I came across this photograph recently. It is a photo of British veterans of the American Civil War of 1861-65. The British veterans had gathered in London in 1917 to welcome the American troops on their way to Fight in France during World War One. Among them is (I believe ) a Sikh gentlemen sitting near the centre. I am curious to see if there were any Sikhs in the US army at this time.I am trying to discover this persons story as it is seems very interesting. Any insight in this matter would be most appreciated. -R.S. Kooner

Keep in mind that service in the U.S. military has always been one path to citizenship.

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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

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

Commercializing the Dahi Handi festival

The BBC South Asia had a video short last week about the Dahi Handi festival (each September) in Mumbai. Click on picture for video:

The charming local gentleman they interview in the video vociferously makes the case that they $hould commercialize the heck out of the festival. You know, like La Tomatina in Spain.

Dahi Handi generally takes place on the second day of Janmashtami. An earthen pot containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, ghee is hung around 20-30 feet high in the air with the help of a rope. Silver coins are hung along with the rope,which are later distributed as prize to the winners. Enthusiastic young men, form a human pyramid by standing one on top of the other, trying to break the pot. Onlookers throw water on the young men in order to prevent them from breaking the pot. Breaking of the pot is followed by prize distribution. Devotees believe that the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away mice and negative powers from their homes.

Dahi Handi is celebrated with fervor, especially in the twin cities of Mathura – Vrindavan, Dwarka and Mumbai. Young men in Mumbai yell ‘Ala re ala, Govinda ala’ during the ceremony. [link]

What say you? Shall we put together a team of Sepia Mutiny readers?

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Converse throws out its new shoes

Only someone in a Purple Haze could have come up with a design like this [thanks for the tip Ankur]:

Converse is longer selling a pair of Chuck Taylors that depicted guitar legend Jimi Hendrix as a colorful, multi-armed Hindu deity.

The company says the shoe–a part of a fall collection in memory of Hendrix–will no longer be sold because it offends Hindu culture. [Houston Chronicle]

The shoe company said that the inspiration for the design came from the 1967 album “Axis: Bold as Love.”

My take on this is the same as always. This stuff (taking artistic license with religious iconography) doesn’t insult me in the least as long as the intent behind it isn’t explicitly malicious or to stir up trouble. I’ll admit, I may have even bought a pair. I know many of you will disagree (and some will secretly want a pair too).

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America has a Nativism problem, not a “Muslim Problem”

Does America Have a Muslim Problem?

…Islamophobia in the U.S. doesn’t approach levels seen in other countries where Muslims are in a minority. But to be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country’s most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery. In France and Britain, politicians from fringe parties say appalling things about Muslims, but there’s no one in Europe of the stature of a former House Speaker who would, as Newt Gingrich did, equate Islam with Nazism. [Time]

My answer to Bobby Ghosh, the author of Time’s cover story, is “no.” America, despite all the ugly rhetoric of the past several weeks, is not Islamaphobic. Instead, I would say that America is currently in the grips of yet another episode of ugly Nativism, this particular episode fueled by power hungry ideologues that have access to methods of mass communication not present during former episodes of Nativism in our country: the 24 hour media cycle and the internet. “Islamaphobia” is not what afflicts our nation. It is merely a symptom of the underlying malady which, like chronic malaria, can flair up and leave the collective “us,” the American people, weak until treated. It will never be totally eradicated. Treating the problem by adopting an “enlightened” us vs.”ignorant” them mentality will make things worse, as will appeasement (see examples of the latter here, here, and here).

Before continuing the discussion it is important to understand what “Nativism” is in the context of American history. History has always been my favorite subject because historians are like fortune tellers. Everything that has happened will likely happen again. Let’s start with the most basic place to learn about the history of Nativism in our country. You guessed it, Wikipedia:

Nativism favors the interests of certain established inhabitants of an area or nation as compared to claims of newcomers or immigrants. It may also include the re-establishment or perpetuation of such individuals or their culture.

Nativism typically means opposition to immigration or efforts to lower the political or legal status of specific ethnic or cultural groups because the groups are considered hostile or alien to the natural culture, and it is assumed that they cannot be assimilated. [Wikipedia]

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