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Generational strife, marriage problems, sibling rivalry—this happens in every culture and religion.S: Tell us what is happening with “Domestic Crusaders” now.With Muslims post-9/11, you see a renaissance of creativity.
It might seem bleak and ugly, but there is an opportunity for healing and bridging the divide. Americans need to know that Muslims have always been here. For those who say Park51 is a very sensitive issue because it is so close to ground zero, what do you say to a mosque that has been existing in Tennessee for 30 years? The narrative that has been popularized in the American mind is that Islam equals violence. We don’t have stories showing Muslims being regular people.
S: You recently wrote an essay on the power of storytelling and I want to quote some of what you say. Say, the wife who comes home and cooks some “biryani” after a hard day’s work as a corporate attorney and the husband with the beard who comes home from being a school principal.
“Despite a rich history of active participation in American society, many Muslim Americans feel trapped by the shadow of 9/11 and condemned to being viewed as suspects by neighbors in their own homeland.” And then you say, “Around the world, the clichéd story also paints Americans as the bad guys who arrogantly stroll into town and bully anyone who opposes their might.” Can you talk about the power of narrative? W: As human beings and societies, we learn about ourselves and about our values and ideals through stories. That is an interesting story that we have never heard.
When people feel like they can’t tell their own story—that their voice is being outsourced to others who are incorrectly telling their story—they feel helpless, victimized, angry.
It’s no surprise that some of the greatest American storytellers and artists have been African Americans and Jews.
African Americans had their voices and identity taken away from them but still found through oral history a way to keep their traditions alive.
Prashant Kidambi is Associate Professor in Colonial Urban History at the University of Leicester.
His research explores the interface between British imperialism and the history of modern South Asia.
S: I’d like to ask about your Pakistani American heritage. The overwhelming majority of us are moderate, peace-loving people.
What most people know about Pakistanis is what they see in the headlines—terrible flooding, dangerous tribal areas—but they probably don’t know much about the Pakistani-American community in this country. W: Pakistanis have been painted with a broad negative stroke due to the violent actions of a deluded minority, both here and abroad. According to polls, many Americans are averse to giving aid to Pakistanis who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. Most Pakistanis, if you poll them, loathe the Taliban. We have a mostly moderate conservative spirit and are more in tune with our religious identity than many would assume.