Panel 6

Brittainy Bonnis
Combating Anti-Muslim Bias Through Comedic Counter Narratives

In December of 2010, Katie Couric in her CBSNews.com review of the year suggested that what might be needed in response to anti-Muslim bigotry prevalent in the United States that year was a “Muslim version of the Cosby Show” because, she argued, “the Cosby Show did so much to change attitudes about African Americans in this country … maybe if it became more a part of popular culture …”. In direct response to Couric’s suggestion two versions of a “Muslim Cosby Show” would be produced in the next four years. The first, The Qu’Osby Show was aired as a segment of the Daily Show on February 17th of 2011, and the second, a four episode web series entitled Halal in the Family, was released on the internet in January of 2015. While the Daily Show openly mocked the idea that a sitcom might combat anti-Muslim bias, producers of Halal in the Family (including Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi) on the “about” page of the website states that the series is meant “to challenge stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims and communities associated with Muslims. … It’s also a tool to support existing campaigns to combat anti-Muslim bias”. This paper examines Halal in the Family as a counternarrative to dominant anti-Muslim discourses. It considers how successfully parody is used to portray Muslims as assimilable and assimilating members of American society. Ultimately, it considers whether the portrayal of Muslims as “ordinary Americans” is more a cultural designation than a religious one.

I am currently 1st year PhD student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. My MA in Media Studies at Western University examined discursive constructions of religious and national identities within the framework of Canadian multiculturalism presented in Canadian newspapers between 2003 and 2013. My research interests focus on how representations of religious persons in mass media delimit boundaries of their belonging in plural societies. My current research takes up discourses that present religion as culture in situation comedies, which I propose is intended to demonstrate the manageability of difference and the negotiation belonging.

Adil Ahmed
An X for Our Times: Understanding Malcolm X as a Self-Reflexive Cultural Critic and Strategist

If we think of Malcolm X at all, it is usually to construe him singularly as a ‘black leader.’ This uncompromising construal, however, obscures the potential in Malcolm’s life and work to bear example for intellectuals and activists engaged on a variety of fronts. Of course, any consideration of Malcolm’s legacy must necessarily take his steadfast and personal commitment to the uplifting of Black Americans as the cornerstone of his career. From this cognizance of Malcolm’s situatedness in the struggle for black dignity and wellbeing, however, emerges the real task of understanding how he maintained his commitment to this cause while constantly reinventing himself as he did. From hustler to prison-cell autodidact, from prodigal son of the Nation of Islam to visiting dignitary in foreign lands, Malcolm showed that he was not only a black leader, but also a self-reflexive cultural critic and strategist of great acumen, capable of adapting his thought, character, and identity while entering and staying true to the cause. Keeping in mind both Malcolm’s stituatedness in the struggle for Black Americans and his penchant for reinvention, what example might Malcolm’s life and work bear for intellectuals and activists who seek to be of long-term service to racialized, minoritized, or marginalized peoples? After examining the twists and turns of Malcolm’s life and work, this is the question I will raise and address in my paper.

My name is Adil Ahmed; I’m a first-year M.A student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s. I did my undergrad in History and Religious Studies, also at Queen’s. I’m currently working towards a thesis that should shed light on Malcolm X’s connection to Islamic modes and narratives of anticolonial, anti-imperialist resistance, and also on the intricacies that tie Islamophobia to antiblack racism in the United States. My aim is to develop a historical and cultural analysis that illuminates the need and potential for nonblack Muslims in America to join forces with Muslim and non-Muslim Black Americans in a united front against racism. This solidarity, I believe, will be crucial for Muslims who hope to confront Islamophobia without apologizing for their faith, and without surrendering the public domain to take shelter in private religious practice. It will also be a step towards a fuller realisation of the fact that Black Americans are at the heart of American culture and religion and that they belong to so much more than real or imagined margins.

 

Max Charest
Attachment Theory, Perception of God and Experiences of HIV

This paper proposes that attachment theory provides a useful analytical framework to explore how people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) perceive God and cope with their illness. Attachment theory has established that the bond between an infant and their primary caregiver often serves as a template for subsequent adult relationship. The three main attachment styles are defined as secure, anxious/ambivalent and avoidant. This theory has since been extended to adult relationships with the divine. PLWHA often experience changes in their religiosity and/or spirituality following their diagnosis. The relationship between God and HIV for PLWHA has yet to be examined through the lens of attachment theory. This essay reviews the current literature linking attachment theory and perception of God, as well as perception of God and individuals’ experiences of living with HIV/AIDS. A secure attachment to God, for example, can provide hope and comfort in times of distress, including when faced with a serious illness. A secure relationship with God is also associated with more favourable psychological functioning and physiological outcomes . This paper extends our understanding of PLWHA’s psychological and spiritual health by bridging the gap between the fields of religion and psychology.

Maxime Charest is an MA student in Religious Studies at Queen’s University, focusing on the intersection between religion and sexuality. He has completed a BSc in Biology and Religious Studies and a BA in Psychology from the University of Ottawa. His undergraduate research focused on sources of sexual health information and confidence in sexual health practices for marginalized emerging adults. He has volunteered and worked in the field of human sexuality, previously facilitating a queer and trans youth group and sexual health dropin. Following this MA, he hopes to complete an MA/PhD in Clinical Psychology in the field of HIV.