My latest article is now on The Humanist (first published 15 May 2017). Below is an excerpt.
In his latest podcast episode titled “Forbidden Knowledge,” atheist author Sam Harris guides political scientist Charles Murray through an extensive defence of Murray’s widely debunked body of work, focusing mostly on The Bell Curve. Co-authored with psychologist Richard Herrnstein (who died around the time it was published in 1994), the book was universally critiqued as an example of modern-day scientific racism.
The Bell Curve was founded on a flawed premise that inferred a correlation between intelligence, socio-economic achievement, and genetics, without accounting for the effects of discrimination. The research was funded by the eugenics-promoting Pioneer Fund, while academics like Stephen Jay Gould showed that The Bell Curve obscured data.
Time has proven the book to be scientifically “reckless.” It enjoys a resurgence in 2017, the era of Trump, specifically because it is read as proof that White people are superior to racial minorities, especially Black and Latin people. […]
Harris’s characterizations of Murray’s critics are a projection of the push back he feels he’s unfairly faced. “You were one of the canaries in the coal mines,” Harris tells Murray. Having previously dismissed Murray, Harris now feels an affinity due to facing rebuke for racism (while continuing to espouse similar views).
The atheist movement has changed. Once the almost-exclusive domain of White men, calls for equality have challenged conversations, as diverse groups of women and minorities seek a more inclusive vision for atheism. It is telling that aggrieved White men feel more comfortable hosting uncritical discussions on scientific racism than engaging in anti-racism practices to reform the movement.
Co-authored by Lauren Tolsma and Zuleyka Zevallos This report was first published in 2009 by the Swinburne Institute for Social Research. I republish the summary and one of the findings chapter. The study can be read free and in its entirety via the link below.
This report provides a sociological analysis of the settlement and support services available to Muslim migrants living in the suburbs of Greater Adelaide, in the state of South Australia. In particular, we seek to learn how existing Muslim organisations address the collective needs of Muslim migrants in Adelaide. We present a critical analysis of the literature on community development with specific focus on the provision of services that aid economic development.
Broadly, we use the term ‘community development’ to refer to the process of organising, educating and encouraging the participation and collaboration of local residents and stakeholders in order to improve their collective outcomes and objectives. Stakeholders might include practitioners who work in the social welfare sector, community leaders, businesses and government agencies who work with Muslim communities. These stakeholders are able to provide funds, or exchange their skills, services, prestige or other forms of support in order to achieve social change. As a pilot case study of community development, we incorporate previously unpublished data on South Australian Muslim community organisations. This includes interviews with service providers, representatives and religious leaders, as well as field notes during visits to organisations and the public events that these groups hosted around Adelaide in 2008.
Our report considers different forms of social capital in relation to Muslim community development and service provision. Social capital refers to the norms, knowledge and status enacted by social actors through their participation in social networks in order to become more socially mobile, particularly by tapping into the resources and capacities of other groups who are better off. This concept is used to examine the power dynamics in negotiations of social and economic exchange among different Muslim organisations and other groups, including mainstream service providers and government officials.
Our study finds that many newly arrived Muslim migrants do not understand the breadth of government-sponsored services available to them, and so they largely rely on a couple of the smaller and widely trusted Muslim community organisations for all of their needs, rather than approaching mainstream organisations for specialised services. In this connection, because some Muslim organisations have stronger visibility among new arrivals, some groups are struggling to manage their members’ requirements, especially given their limited resources. Consequently, a small number of over-worked volunteers deliver targeted assistance for which they have no formal training or qualifications. This includes crisis counselling, occupational assistance and educational advice.
We suggest that an asset-based community development (ABCD) approach would strengthen the social network ties and resources both within and external to the Muslim organisations studied. The ABCD framework is an evaluation methodology which first identifies the social and material capacities that presently exist within particular organisations. This information is used to establish practical ways in which those resources might be used to enhance their service delivery. In order to mobilise the existing assets of Muslim organisations around South Australia, the report proposes the establishment of a South Australian Muslim Community Corporation (SAMCC) which would consist of Muslim community service providers, volunteers and their Muslim clients from around South Australia. We propose a number of recommendations regarding the SAMCC including:
Assisting equitable decision making among Muslim organisations via the SAMCC.
Rather than solely privileging religious leaders, the SAMCC is set up to encourage the inclusion of a broader range of Muslim ‘voices’ that would contribute to community development activities;
Recruiting a SAMCC media liaison to help disseminate important information via a multi-lingual, regularly updated Muslim community newsletter and website. This includes promoting non-Muslim participation in community events, focusing on secular activities, and making available a list of culturally sensitive, mainstream service providers to Muslim community groups;
Restructuring the existing grants scheme of community funding. This is with a view to supporting the long-term self-sustainability of a wider range of ‘grassroots’ Muslim community organisations;
Funding training and hiring professional staff. This would ease the burden of Muslim organisations that are widely used and trusted but currently overextended, while still allowing them to continue providing specialised services for Muslim migrants.
The idea of the SAMCC is to provide sustainability for the Muslim community groups currently in operation, by pooling together and taking better advantage of their existing resources. In this way, it complements the asset-based approach to community development, by mobilising existing social networks and the value that those networks have for ordinary Muslims living in South Australia.
The next section presents our findings from Chapter 5 of our report.
This study examines the ethnic identities of 50 second-generation migrant-Australian women aged 17–28 years. Twenty-five women were from Turkish backgrounds and 25 women were from South and Central American (or ‘Latin’) backgrounds. The overwhelming majority of the women interviewed for this study had travelled extensively to their families’ countries of origin, and their experiences growing up in Australia alongside their ongoing overseas visits shed light on transnational ties and the negotiation of ethnicity and belonging in the Australian multicultural context.
A typology of the women’s migrant-Australian identities highlights the differences and similarities of experiences among the women in both groups, and reveals the role of social context in shaping identity. Islam was a primary source of identification for most of the Turkish women, as a form of pan-ethnic identity. Participants exhibited a good deal of agency in their identity choices, and this was specifically connected to their transnational positioning. However, while most of the women took on a transnational identity to some degree, their experiences of racism and social exclusion reproduced an ambivalent sense of belonging to Australia. Their sense of being allowed to belong ‘where they are at’ remained salient to the ways in which they constructed their identities.
This paper explores issues of religion and identity among tertiary-educated Muslim women, and the role of education in negotiating social inclusion. Data was derived from 25 qualitative interviews with second-generation Turkish-Australian women aged 18 to 26 years. Sixteen women were attending Australian universities at the time of their interviews, and the other nine women had completed tertiary degrees. The paper examines the adoption of the hijab in the ‘presentation of self’ in the Australian context. The participants communicated an overwhelming support for the hijab as a rewarding religious practice that came with specific social duties given Australia’s status as a multicultural nation. The women likened the hijab to a ‘flag for Islam’, and so they advocated the view that Muslim women who wore the hijab literally embodied certain Islamic responsibilities, including the roles of spokesperson and educator on behalf of Islam. While they felt a sense of marginalisation from the Australian mainstream, these participants ultimately believed that the hijab provided them with an opportunity to bridge the communication gap between Muslims and non-Muslim Australians.
This paper analyses data from 25 qualitative interviews to explore the relationship between religion, gender and sexuality for Turkish-Australian women aged 18-26. It argues that the hijab (headscarf) symbolises an idealised Muslim femininity be-cause it signifies to the participants a high level of personal religious commitment and it also embodies the Islamic mores of modesty and self-respect regarding their sexuality. Participants in the study explained that ‘a woman is precious like dia-monds, that’s why we have to keep her covered’. While they displayed a sense of agency in perceiving their ‘liberation’ from sexual objectification through the hijab, some ambiguity arose from their conceptualisation of an ideal Muslim femininity. This ambiguity is tied to Islamic and Australian narratives of female sexuality, which position women in a role responsible for regulating sexual expression and sexual attraction in both the private and public spheres. Continue reading “A Woman Is Precious”: Constructions of Islamic Sexuality and Femininity of Turkish-Australian Women