On April 4, 2018, ACMCU adjunct faculty Dr. Nahid Afrose Kabir discussed her research and book entitled Muslim Americans: Debating the Notions of American and Un-American. Kabir explored the concept of what it meant to be ‘Un-American’ in the past, referencing how various minority groups have been deemed ‘Un-American’ at different points throughout the history of the United States. From Japanese internment to the segregation of Native Americans, America has a long history of classifying groups of people based on their identity, Kabir said.
“The term un-American is determined by the majority, not the minority,” she said.
Kabir’s research centered around the Muslim experience in America, as she sought to define ‘American’ and ‘un-American’ in this context and its interpretation upon historical, cultural, sociological and political foundations. Kabir engaged with the terms in dialogue with young American Muslims in the years preceding the Trump administration, basing her book on 400 in-depth interviews with Muslim Americans (aged 15 years and over), from seven states including Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Michigan and New Jersey.
Much of Kabir’s talk centered around her findings in these interviews, in which many participants described themselves as having multi-faceted, intersectional identities that often made them feel like outsiders in the United States. From her research, Kabir concluded that the U.S. is a norms-driven environment, and “to be un-American is to step outside the lines.”
Kabir also briefly spoke about both mainstream American and Muslim culture, recognizing that neither is monolithic. Kabir described a tension not between incompatible cultures, but rather, unfair media bias that often puts groups at odds with one another. Ultimately, Kabir was hopeful that tides were turning and that the United States, despite its current political climate, and was becoming a more open and inclusive place.
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