Combating Anti-Muslim Stereotypes Through Art

Last week, co-blogger Anna John reported on how D.C.’s South Asian Muslims reacted to the death of Osama bin Laden. Afshan Khoja, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, told John:

“When I heard the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A,’ I felt fear. I don’t understand why, but I wanted to lock my doors. This morning I heard about vandalism and graffiti at a mosque. Between yesterday and today, three people have already asked me why the Pakistani government didn’t know that Osama was in Pakistan for years – I don’t know!

“The fact is, regardless of this news, none of that has stopped. This may be a significant blow to a terrorist network, but for a Pakistani Muslim living in the U.S., I’m not sure if it changes anything.”

Crescent Moon Nights

A group of young Muslims in D.C., aware of the negative stereotypes against them, started a monthly open mic five years ago in an effort to build bridges across cultural and religious divides. WAMU’s Matt Laslo reports that Crescent Moon Nights is still going strong. Co-coordinator Tahir Amin Kayum tells Laslo:

“Pretty much it is different people of all backgrounds, cultures and nationalities, for them to come, express and share on the open mic,” says Kayum. “So we have featured artists for the evening, and we have various artists just come up, poets, singers, rappers, whatever, just coming up to share from different backgrounds.”

Osama bin Laden is Dead: D.C’s South Asian Muslims React

Flickr: Chris.M.G.

Locals celebrate in front of the White House, Sunday night.

Afshan Khoja, a Muslim of Pakistani descent who lives in the DC area, was in tears after President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

“It wasn’t because I was happy about bin Laden’s death, it was because suddenly all the things that September 11th have done to me, my religion and my country, came back to me: The fear of being asked questions while traveling; the immediate requirement to defend my religion not only when people asked why Muslims hate America, but also when terrorists did anything that could remotely be associated with Muslims; the feeling that somehow, I’ll always be ‘the other’ in America.”

Mou Khan, a Bangladeshi-American, also found herself reflecting on September 11th, after learning of bin Laden’s death.

“I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that a plane had struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center. My memories are deeply personal, like when a schoolmate I didn’t know called me a terrorist…now, confronted with the news that Osama bin Laden, the man behind the tragedy, has been killed, I find myself conflicted.
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