by Abaki Beck
Our reading of the week reflects on the importance of art, community, and how resistance and responses to islamophobia and racism manifest differently in different people.
In "A Hate Crime Against the Universe," Tanzila Ahmed tells a story of her and her friends taking down Islamophobic graffiti. In removing the graffiti, she took down only half of it, leaving the symbol of Islam (a crescent and a star) in plain view above the interstate. In a sense, she flipped the script and reclaimed the hateful graffiti. Throughout the essay, she discusses the importance of art - particularly political art, as she is an organizer and artist - in expressing pain and other emotions. Beyond her own experience as a painter, this essay explores her parents relationship with art; her father took up painting after her mother died, and her mother knitted sweaters with colors reminding her of her homeland. Perhaps, she posits, all art is a political act when you are an immigrant Muslim and a woman of color - given the omnipresent force of islamophobia.
Muslim communities have faced persecution and fought negative stereotyping for centuries - but recent action by President Trump has made many even more fearful. Hate crimes escalated after his election, and his recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries seems to be moving us closer to a “Muslim ban” that he has widely discussed. (Though we also must remember that surveillance of Muslim communities occurred under the Bush and Obama administrations as well; this is not new.) In response to the executive order, Twitter users began posting selfies with the hashtag #MuslimJoy to celebrate the joy and existence of Muslims. There is significance in cutting down paper graffiti, in knitting sweaters for your family, and in taking up painting to deal with grief. There is significance in simple acts of love and small bits of resistance and survival.