What We Can Learn from America’s Other Muslim Ban (Back in 1918)

President Trump’s January 27th Executive Order attempted to ban the entry of nationals from seven Middle Eastern countries and suspended the resettlement of refugees unless they are “persecuted religious minorities,” a terminology that is itself selectively deployed to refer to Middle Eastern non-Muslims in general, and Christians in particular. This policy has correctly been understood as part of Trump’s campaign promise to create a ban on Muslim travel to the United States; the order is currently facing legal challenge in 9th District Federal Court. As a scholar of Middle Eastern migration, I am stunned by this administration’s unwillingness to engage the expertise of refugee resettlement … [Read more...]

Getting Past the Bad Math of the #MuslimBan

As someone who studies global migration for a living, it has been hard to choose where to begin when it comes to denouncing Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  Where to start?  There is, of course, the Order’s bedrock of Islamophobia: Trump has ignorantly conflated Islam with terrorism. And then there’s the constitutional angle: the Order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, among other things.  Or we could counter with the fact that more than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed national origins bans with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Or the statistical “probabilities” generated by think tanks: The CATO Institute says that your chance of being … [Read more...]

Reading Racecraft in Atlanta

There’s a joke that everyone in New York who’s reading a book in public is just doing it to be seen reading that book.  This is not true in Atlanta, though, because no one here reads.  Part of it may be down to the dearth of public transportation; reading while driving is not an option, unless you want to put your life at even greater risk than you already have by the mere fact of getting behind the wheel in this city (and, of course, there is the matter of texting, as Werner Herzog reminded us). If Atlantans do read, it must be in secret, and most likely the Bible. But I have occasionally cracked a book in a bar in Atlanta, typically when I'm alone in the city and footloose, in the hope … [Read more...]

Syriana: Responsibility to Protect or Someone Else’s Problem?

If you’ve ever taken an International Relations Theory course then it’s likely that you’ve encountered the ubiquitous naysayer or two of IR Theory. “Why does this even matter in the study of foreign policy?” “Who cares what the Athenians told the Melians (FYI: 'The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must')?” “Leaders don’t think about this stuff when formulating foreign policy!” Now, the last accusation may in fact be true. Sure, foreign policy elites are not necessarily thumbing through volumes of Morgenthau, Grotius, Kant, Wendt, and/or Waltz when deciding what to do about North Korea. But, these authors and the IR theories they construct provide useful analytical … [Read more...]

Hearting Hamas So Hard Right Now

It says something about where we are that a play called I Heart Hamas can be staged in America without the actors, writers, and producers being run out of town on a rail.  Ten years ago it did not seem like someone could even say “I Heart Palestine” without being hooted down with howls of derision.  I recall the sorry spectacle of a UNCC anthropology professor who wrote to the Charlotte Observer to rebut a virulently racist op-ed piece in the early 2000s; to claim that Palestinians are not, in fact, innately bloodthirsty and fixated on nothing but revenge made Gregory Starrett a lonely voice indeed. Academics such as Edward Said, Joseph Massad, and Nadia Abu el Haj have been hounded for … [Read more...]

Love and Death in the Early 1990s

What do Meat Loaf, Robin Hood and Dracula have to do with the Persian Gulf War?  Filmmaker Bradlee Crawford Hicks draws out the connections in this piece, discussing his mashup, "The Highway of Love and Death." Some degree of credit--or should I say responsibility--for this video should be given to my friends Aaron Hodges and John McCann. I used to live with these gentlemen and we would often make up songs while we were cooking. John had once attended a jingle writing conference, which left him with unfathomable song powers, while Aaron had a rather deft method of jumbling up Pearl Jam lyrics; I will confess to having brought nothing to the table, other than a constant desire to be … [Read more...]

Life in the Fast Lane: An American Catholic’s Experience of Ramadan

Photo by Nathan Hartle Ramadan, while quite familiar to well over one billion Muslims, represents a religious practice more universal and extreme than most Americans have ever experienced. The rules of the month-long fast are intimidating; during daylight hours, participants are not allowed to eat, drink any kind of liquid, smoke or have sex. For Muslims, the month of fasting represents a chance for self-reflection and to practice self-discipline. For a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, the experience of Ramadan is eye-opening. I was a visitor in Morocco during the month of Ramadan in 2011. I had never been to a place so religiously monochromatic—about 99% of the population of Morocco is … [Read more...]

The My Fellow American Project: Embracing Muslim America

The last few years have been paradoxical ones for Muslim Americans and Americans of Middle Eastern or North African descent. The period of tension and suspicion that followed the September 11th attacks seemed to fade as the years went by and the attention of the world shifted to other catastrophic events, such as the financial crisis and Kim Kardashian’s wedding. The election of Barack Obama perfectly captured the double aspect of Muslim life in the United States; his campaign spurred the growth of a dark netherworld of rumor and innuendo about a “Manchurian candidate” who was not really American and pursued a nefarious “crypto Muslim” agenda. Some even claimed that our … [Read more...]

Madison on the Mediterranean: What Lies Ahead for Libya?

Libya, it seems, just went from a civil war to a revolution.  At least that’s what the title cards on Al Jazeera suggest, as “The Libyan Revolution” replaced headlines like “The Crisis in Libya” after opposition forces appeared to take Tripoli over the weekend.  Speaking of the Confederacy, Eric Foner once said that an uprising is just a rebellion until you win; only then does it become a revolution.  The Declaration of Independence gives people license to overthrow an unjust authority, but the overthrowers’ authority only becomes accepted and legitimate once they have successfully pulled off the overthrowing.  Otherwise, you are no more than a riot or a rebellion that got snuffed out – not … [Read more...]

American Arab Kitsch: From Ahab to Abed and Back Again

When I was a kid, I thought Pinkard & Bowden were pretty funny. The comedy duo’s parodies of famous country songs were often promoted on TV for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling, and I got a kick out of them. “Blue hairs driving in my lane.” “Won’t you help me make it through the yard?” I never heard their song “Arab, Alabama” back then, and I wonder what I would have thought of it when I was 9 or 10. I might have thought it was funny just because they were referring to Middle Eastern stuff (the PLO!), and I was generally interested in anything that had to do with my Arab heritage. After six long years of grad school, though, I can’t not see some of the bizarre ethnocentrism … [Read more...]