Recently a piece of news from an otherwise internationally unknown college attracted the attention of social media, news, and created a huge twitter and blog response. The object of such (probably unwanted) attention is the South Puget Sound Community College where staff members decided to hold a ‘happy hour’ to ‘build support and community’ for ‘people of color’ (interesting how this terminology is back by the way) as long as the color was not White. The exclusion of White people provoked the expected reaction of the ‘happy hour’ being canceled and the activity labelled racist in itself. Yet the organisers — after apologies — insisted that their request to exclude Whites originated from a rational and not racist fact: members of an in-group communicate and understand each other better. Continue reading
I have written before about Burma (Myanmar) and its persecuted Rohingya population as well as the lack of interest both in the ASEAN countries as well as in the western mass media (see The other, invisible suffering of Burma, Rohingya Odyssey: a silent cultural genocide?, Rohingya Muslims and injustice: a security issue, Rohingyas: not solely a political problem, Selling lives: Rohingyas face deportation from Bangladesh). Since June, Burma and its Rohingya Muslim population have attracted a wider mass media presence. On May 28, in a village in the central part of Rakhine State, three Muslim members of the Rohingya ethnic group allegedly raped and killed a Buddhist woman. Retaliation did not take long and on June 3, a group of Arakan attacked a bus carrying Rohingya in southern Rakhine and 10 people were killed. Continue reading
On the 13th of December, in my birthplace Florence, an Italian gunman killed two street vendors from Senegal, wounded another three, and committed suicide when the police reached him. The killing was racially-motivated and Gianluca Casseri, 50, was a writer for and member of CasaPound, a neo-fascist group. The Senegalese street vendors he killed (Samb Modou, 40yrs old, and Diop Mor, 54yrs old) lived in Italy for a considerable time and leave behind their wives and children in Senegal. The life of migrants in Italy, in particular for Muslims such as the Senegalese, is known. The xenophobic Lega Nord has built its political reputation on the exploitation of Italians’ frustration with a badly managed migration policy and an increase of refugees. Continue reading
During my 3 years of research in Singapore, as part of a wider research on Malay youth in Singapore, I studied the social identity formation of Malay teen Muslim girls from socially and economically disadvantaged families. Methodologically, not only have I conducted in-depth interviews but also, thanks to organizations such as Clubilya, 4PM and Petrapis, had the opportunity to engage in participant observation of several group activities involving these girls. Facebook has furthermore provided a level of access that years before would have been imaginable to an anthropologist studying youth. Continue reading
“Hey Abid, why are you here? Do not take anything, okay? I know what your people do.” Aimed towards the ears of a black man whom had just entered, the hoarse voice of Lamin echoed throughout the mosque. The black worshiper left. I turned towards Lamin, an elderly Libyan migrant from Misrata whom I had met recently. I asked if he knew the man whom just left. He replied “no, I do not know him, but I know his people.” I was confused why he called him ‘Abid’. To my natural question of how he knew the man’s name, he replied “all of us in Misrata call blacks Abid. They are fake Libyans, since we are white Arabs. All these Abid are criminals: they steal everything, our jobs, our homes and even lands because Gaddafi likes them”. Abid was a nickname charged with a painful reference to the dark history of slavery, so common in the history of Mediterranean countries. In Libya, the slave trade continued at least until the 1930s, although some cases can still be documented today. Indeed Abid means slave. Continue reading
Is it politically incorrect to say that one ‘fears’ Muslims? Does it deserve public condemnation? In other words, should have Juan Williams been sacked for his remark about fearing Muslims dressing in ‘Islamic garb’ on planes? Are these instances of Islamophobia?
Let me start with an anecdote which took place in London in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks. I was waiting for the next tube train with my friend Hakim, a Pakistani born and raised in London who wore clothes considered to be Islamic attire and sported a very long beard. When the train arrived, we were lucky enough to find a seat. At the next stop, another young Pakistani, attired in western clothes and shaved to perfection, entered the train and after freeing himself from a bulky and heavy black backpack, which he positioned in front of him, sat a couple of seats from Hakim. We had a long way to go yet.
In any course of sociological theory we will meet Marx. Certainly his theory of society and economy seems, today, part of history. Yet Marx’s analysis of ‘commodity’ has still some interesting aspects worth of thinking over. This is even truer in the case when instead of objects, the commodities are actually people; or better a people. I have written before about the forgotten Rohingya, highlighting their inhuman condition in Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh, as well as their status of the “gypsies” of Asia. Continue reading