October 20 2018

by Jaideep Singh, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Race & Gender

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

When I was last in India in 1998, researching the lost history of Sikhs in World War II, I visited my grandfather for the final time. I had a wonderful time with him and my mamaji (maternal uncle) as we spent time exploring my ancestral home of Punjab, India pilgrimaging to historically significant gurdwaras. The three of us treasured the opportunity to get to know one another again during our brief time together without the rest of our family, something we had not shared since I was a toddler a quarter-century earlier. As important as it was to connect to my overseas family, homeland, and religious heritage on this trip, the most significant and enduring experience of the journey occurred in my maternal grandparents’ home in Chandigarh.

by Thien-Huong T. Ninh, Williams College

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

In 1992, three years before Vietnam normalized relations with the United States, approximately fifty Vietnamese American Catholics, Caodaists, and Buddhists gathered in Rome to participate in the “Pray for Peace in Vietnam Day.” The event was organized by exiled Vietnamese members of the clergy under the auspices of the Vatican. Joining the Vietnamese Americans were Vietnamese who came from different religious backgrounds and who have made their homes in other countries, including France, Canada, and Australia. For nearly two decades, since the Fall of Saigon to communism in 1975 which led to their forced displacement, overseas Vietnamese faithful have been scattered throughout the world. Despite their geographic separation, however, they have continued to be emotionally and symbolically connected to each other. The meeting at the Vatican was a testament to their lingering bonds.

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?

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