July 20 2018

by Rabia Kamal, University of San Francisco

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

“Asian American Muslims”—the phrase itself provokes confusion for many people in the United States, often because there remains a prevalent assumption that Islam is not an Asian American religion. In American worldviews, Islam is most often associated with Middle Eastern culture as a result of a long history of racialization, whereby aspects of social personhood (such as class, ethnicity, and religion) are essentialized and naturalized, transforming “fluid categories of difference into fixed species of otherness” (Silverstein 2005, 364). Thus, teaching Asian American Islam and the many complexities of racialization in post-9/11 America has been both a challenge and a thought-provoking exercise for me. How does one begin to push students to question some of the most basic assumptions about Islam that have been instilled in them for years through powerful images and narratives in the American media and other institutions?

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

Amerasia Journal 22:1 (1996). Special Issue: Racial Spirits: Religion & Race in Asian American Communities.

Adams, Maurianne and Khyati Y. Joshi. “Religious Oppression Curriculum Design.” In Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, 255–284. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Berling, Judith A. Understanding Other Religious Worlds: A Guide for Interreligious Education. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004.

Bird, Elizabeth S. and Jonathan P. Godwin. “Film in the Undergraduate Anthropology Classroom: Applying Audience Response Research in Pedagogical Practice.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 37, no. 3 (2006): 285–299.

Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co, 1956.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Masculine Domination. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

by Dean Ryuta Adachi, Claremont Graduate University and Laney College, California

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

As a young instructor of Asian American studies, I admittedly feel a bit hesitant in addressing my own experiences teaching religious studies. Rather than speaking before a classroom of students interested in studying religion (at least in theory, as many would probably attest), my students are often more concerned with taking their first steps towards individual and group empowerment as students of color. For so many of the students at Laney College—an urban community college in Oakland, California that is comprised of a working-class student body—ethnic studies courses provide them with an opportunity to learn about stories that their previous courses may have ignored. For example, rather than characterizing the Pilgrims as a group seeking religious freedom, a common ethnic studies version would be to discuss their role in the sustained genocide of American Indians. 

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