The Important Lessons from Edward E.Curtis IV

As an outspoken human rights activist, I did not think I would need a safe space to express my opinions, feelings, and experiences pertaining to discrimination and other forms of oppression, especially in light of the current political campaign. But, I should admit how I was wrong. The lecture that Professor Edward Curtis IV served as a platform for me to express how I feel, and how are my feelings connected to a central concept that we focused on throughout the semester: Citizenship. So, I decided to utilize the blog to convey what I took from the lecture.

The first concept that was introduced during the lecture, and which I believe is crucial to understanding citizenship in the real world is the concept of “social citizenship.” The professor entertained that citizenship in the real world goes beyond the legal framework, to the ability of the individual to express that citizenship, and the absence of systemic obstacles that stop them from accomplishing their full potential. This idea is very close to the ideas of Goldman in her definition of what true womxn’s emancipation mean. This is why I feel that the lecture allowed me to share how my community (direct family sometimes) lacks social citizenship, even though they have the right to work and earn.

Another idea that was discussed during the lecture is the long history of hostility of the American collective experience against Islam and Muslims that dates back to the founders and extends to the present day. I think that the future of this relationship is highly connected to the role played by opinion leaders, including the media. We have to reverse this long tradition of vilification and exotification of the Muslim and Middle Eastern and try to advance cohabitation and cooperation. The perpetuation of the current trend would lead to more tension and missed development opportunities, while the reversing of this trend would free our attention to more substantial challenges.

The lecturer touched on an important factor in the rise of islamophobia, which is the real danger vs. the perceived danger. For an average American who might not have access to Muslims to talk to them or know more about them, the only way they could hear about this community is through the media; and studies from different sources show without a shadow of a doubt that there is a hyper-representation of Muslims in the main stream media, with most of the coverage on the negative side. Furthermore, there was a mention of many preventive laws that spread across many states, which ban the use of sharia law (a silly and unreal threat) in these states; the average person might think that this is a real issue since the legislature thought the need to outright ban it is urgent and important.

I should admit that I enjoyed the whole conversation and that is exactly what gave me the strength to share the stories of oppression that my family goes through in public places. I felt that my story might be a humanization of theoretical disenfranchised group, and I felt that the class resonated positively with the whole process of the lecture.

Hamza El Anfassi

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2 Responses to The Important Lessons from Edward E.Curtis IV

  1. Ryan Wadding says:

    Great post. I think you took away exactly what Professor Curtis IV was trying to convey to us. I will only add one thing: I think the hostility that Americans have towards Muslims and Islam has deep roots that date back farther than the founding fathers. Since the Ancient Greeks the west has held a perceived superiority over the east; for instance Herodotus’ account of the Greco-Persian Wars was a clear historical bias in favor of the west (Greeks). It is because of these biased historical accounts from the west that I believe the hostility that the west has for the east today exists. The average American believes their values and beliefs hold moral superiority over Islam because the west has had that attitude since a distinction between the west and east was created. I realize that this blog is a political blog and not a blog about history so I will stop there but I do believe that the hostility we see from Americans toward Islam today has roots that date back farther than the founding of Islam and America. As always Hamza you wrote a quality post. Cheers!

    • Ryan,
      I completely agree with the historical perspective that you are bringing up. I think that professor Curtis mentioned it briefly in the beginning, but it was not focused on. There is definitely the idea of East/West that can be a lens to view the last 3000 years of history around the Mediterranean basin. There is definitely more elements drawn from the Crusades and Inquisition eras that painted Muslims in very horrible ways, which still play a big role in the mental image that White Christian Europeans have on Islam. I feel that all the negative effects and unintended consequences of centuries of vilification of Islam and Muslims is hard to overcome so easily. But, I still feel optimistic; I feel that what will change this perspective is the exponential rate of diversity in this country, and what that means in terms of acceptance. I think that we will see a big shift in the cultural norms, the same way we saw many issues move (even though it takes a long time to change cultural norms, and that they are harder to change than laws and regulations.)

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