Cross-posted at the Religion in American History Blog
In case you missed it, there are plans to build a mosque in New York two blocks from the the site of World Trade Center attack. The proposed mosque has ignited a variety of discourses about religion in American culture. Opponents of the mosque have various reasons for their opposition but a recent ad from the National Republican Trust PAC offers the most obvious examples of the “us” and “them” language opponents are employing.
The ad was rejected by by CBS and NBC. As Entertainment Weekly reports:
CBS and NBC have rejected an ad by the National Republican Trust PAC that seeks to rally viewers against a proposed mosque that would be built two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City. The one-minute spot (embedded below) begins with the words “the audacity of JIHAD” flashing on the screen followed shortly thereafter by the image of a plane flying into the World Trade Center; an accompanying voiceover declares that “to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”
The national spot “didn’t meet our broadcast standards,” said a spokesperson for CBS, confirming the network’s decision not to run it. An NBC spokesperson also confirmed the decision to reject the spot, but did not offer an explanation why. Nonetheless, EW obtained a letter from NBC Universal advertising standards manager Jennifer Riley to the NRT PAC explaining that: “An ad questioning the wisdom of building a mosque at ground zero would meet our issues of public controversy advertising criteria. However, this ad which ambiguously defines ‘they’ as referenced in the spot, makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque. Consequently the ad is not acceptable under our guidelines for broadcast.”
As I read it, the basic message of the ad is “If the mosque gets built then the terrorists win.” Patrolling the borders of acceptable religion has been a mainstay of American culture: colonial Quakers, nineteenth century Catholics, twentieth century Communists, and now, twenty first century Muslims What is remarkable about this ad is just how unremarkable it is in its rhetoric. The same strategies always work. Slap on a foreign label (“Jihad” or “Papist” or “Pinko”), add violence (terrorism, nuclear threat, licentious priests and nuns), predict the downfall of “American values” (read Anglo Protestantism) then stir until a nice foment of emotionalism forms.
The following is another old conference paper. I gave the following paper on rethinking diaspora to the History of Religions section of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion in Atlanta, GA in March 2008.
The term diaspora seems to carry with it an imperative for interdisciplinary work. Diasporas are approached by Judaic studies, anthropology, sociology, Caribbean studies, and various other cultural and area studies disciplines. But what does religious studies have to offer for an understanding of diaspora? I argue that while anthropology offers strong theoretical definitions and models for what diasporas are and what they do, religious studies, through a study of lived religion, offers an understanding of how diasporas are experienced and lived out in ordinary daily life. In order to show how religious studies offers an “on the ground” understanding of life in a diaspora I take the example of South Asian Hindus living in the United States as my point of departure for two reasons. First, because Hinduism in the United States is an under studied tradition and, second, because when it is studied, studies of American Hinduism have yet to take on lived religion approach found in other studies of American religions. As such, the conclusion of this paper is a theoretical gesture toward the solution of these two disciplinary lacunas.