Blog Post#3: Between Identity and Alienation

Human is alienating because it imposes a false representation on on existence. True alienation happens when… we think of the human as static, in the sense of having a particular fixed state or fixed belonging and characteristic”. – James William

What is the first image that pops in your head when you hear the word “Muslim”?

Is it a ‘desi’/ ‘arab’  man/ woman? If it’s a woman, is she wearing a hijab (headscarf)? If it’s a man, does he have a long beard? Is he wearing a taqiyah (Prayer skull cap)?

For a majority of America population, a similar image comes to mind when said the word “Muslim” and understandably so given the rise, expansion and dominance of Islam in the rest of the world. However, this association of Islam with the East marginalizes a significant proportion of the Muslim population, that is in numerous way, indigenize

Black Muslims are, in a sense, the pioneers of Islam in the United States. Long before, the Arab and South Asian immigration, this group of muslim converts, oppressed by the shackles of slavery, turned to Islam for knowledge and wisdom.

However, the past 4 decades have witnessed a rapid transformation of the demographics  American society . Black muslims, now, constitute only 20% of the entire muslim community. On the other hand, black muslims form 2% of the total black American population. Since this group is a minority within each of its already minority identities, their needs, concerns and voices are often overshadowed among the fight for the individual community’s rights. In times of diminished opacity and increased categorization, this group finds itself alienated from the standardized frameworks of what it is to be muslim or what it is to be black.  So while the Muslims and Blacks clamor for their religious and racial identities, the group at the intersection of these identities of goes unnoticed.

However, the West-African muslim community in the South Bronx has forged kinship ties that transcend beyond biological relations that has given groups and families living in the area a place to call home. This small mosque on the corner of Alexander Avenue is a haven to a number of Muslims looking for a group to call a family, a place to call home. While the adults spend non-working hours hanging out or praying with their kin, the children spend their hours out of school learning quranic  teachings. Connected through shared racial, religious and linguistic identities, these individuals come together to form self-supporting community of support and brotherhood. The goal of this organization is simply to provide its members a place to pray and seek answers to higher existential questions and a community to identify with.


The project seeks to take viewers on a multi-sensory journey through this mosque located in Mott Haven. Assuming that most of the viewers have never been to a mosque, or even if they have, they have never been a “local” mosque (as different from a grandiose, monumental one) I wish to familiarize the audience with the architectural layout, the interiors and their interactions with one another as well as the mosque’s community.

In doing so, I wish to reveal and educate the “general” american public about the lives of an economically underprivileged community in South Bronx in the wake of racial tension, anti-muslim rhetoric, increasing costs of living and gentrification. The major goal is show how this small community has forged a new sort of kinship and created a self-sufficient sanctuary on this street corner, tucked away in a residential area in Mott Haven, away from the hustle-bustle of the larger society. I understand that is doing so, I might, unconsciously, romanticize and objectify their identity and their space. However, it is important to understand that such romanticization can be a necessary evil if one is trying to get an audience interested in a cause that they have no direct stakes in. Moreover, by constantly being conscious of and accounting for my biases and subjective understanding of the issue, I aim to avoid to exploitatively romanticize the community and its identity. My goal is not to be the champion of the issue. My goal, with this project is simply to bring to educate people about this subgroup within the larger muslim community which is often overlooked due to the collision of their dual minority identities and alienated due to their divergence from the standard framework of their racial/ religious identities.

#alienation #architectonicdisposition #kinship #opacity


~ by va1997 on March 31, 2019.