Profiles: The Beauty, Love and Passion of Islam

Profiles is an ongoing series, seeking to create spaces of affinity, where similarly identified folks have a space to talk about the perceptions, nuances and actualities of their identity.  

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MUSLIM AFFINITY 

The fear of Islam and Muslim believers has become overwhelmingly socially acceptable. Critics of Islam, who blame the faith for the actions of radical, fundamentalist terrorists have misjudged the religion that well over a billion people worldwide have found salvation in. The hypocrisy that persists is one that does not apply this same standard to Christianity, a faith that saw the enslavement, mass genocide and centuries of war throughout time, internationally. Despite this all, Muslims within the U.S. are staying truth to their identity. Amidst the rhetoric, young Muslim-American men and women are challenging their fellow citizens and communities to solve the myriad of social injustices that permeate our society, with the teachings and principles of Islam. 

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Ibrahim , 17

on Living as a Muslim in America 

"I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas… We lived in a neighborhood, our car would get egged and someone put needles under our cars and we would get hate messages… Ever since then, we moved out of that neighborhood and I have gotten any physical abuse for my religion. I would walk with my sister and people would look, because my sister wears the hijab… Part of the Muslim experience is not abuse, it kind of undermines what American means to you… It kind of amuses me the lack of ignorance of what people think Islam is and what isn’t."

 

on the Meaning of Islam 

"‘A Muslim is not a Muslim if he knows his neighbor is hungry and goes to sleep full.’ And so Islam is helping people and keeping your connection with God." 

Semerdin, 16

on Perceptions of Muslims

"The media kind of portrays this idea of Islam totally differently. Islam is one of the largest religions in the US… It is really surprising how many different people have that basic idea of Islam and twist it to their own imagination. That takes a larger effect on Muslim individuals."

 

on Islamic Values

“Islam is a religion that means you have to help yourself and help others, keeping up with good deed, that’s what Islam is all about… Islam provides a sense of interdependence that all people should value."

Pellegrino: Relations, Community and Housing

Many have not heard of the Office of Government Relations. But it does exist. The smallest of all of Portland’s city offices, the Office of Government Relations happens to be one of the most important entities of the City of Portland.

Serving as the lobbyist, representative and liaison between jurisdictions local, national and international, Martha Pellegrino is the head of these affairs. Pellegrino has been a longtime law, government and political force in Portland. With successes such as the new affordable housing power, that allows The City of Portland to buy housing units of newly built residential buildings in hopes of leveling the current, overly competitive and expensive housing market.

Pellegrino has made it her job to find ways to engage and be a supporting political force, for the empowerment of marginalized communities. Her honesty brings to light an emerging generation of community invested politicians.

This is Martha Pellegrino, the politician and the person.

Bus Project: Time-Lapse of Portland Communities

Public transit is the equalizer of city change. People of all walks of life, come together in the narrow aisles of a forty-something seater bus, where there is no separator between the rich and the poor, the black and the white -- society’s melting pot.  

As I rode two of Trimet’s busiest bus lines, the 72-Killingsworth/82nd and the 4-Division/Fessenden, at some point it felt as if I had been transported to cities along the banks of the Mekong and Balsas Rivers, gently the melody of languages foreign and close to home soothed my experience throughout these changing areas.

My trip, starting on N. Skidmore and Mississippi, featured characters similar to the Portland based, Portlandia. Milling in and out of taxidermy shops, teahouses, local businesses and microbreweries, these characters with no knowledge of this area’s history, move about aimlessly not knowing where they enjoy their chai teas, use to be a crack infested house. A house that had been home to three generation of middle class African-American, business owners, who had moved with the tide of a hopeful black population, prospering for generations until the hell-infested crack bomb, took the lives of the very people they had moved for-- their future children.

Riding to the city center, three older black gentlemen, liven the bus with memories of their days as a young people. Never a shortage of substance, they move through topics from racial discrimination to government conspiracies and gentrification. My ears became glued to these voices. They were the voices of my uncles, cousins and grandfather, who had a bounty of knowledge, but the wrong skin tone. Their memories digging out my own ideas and perceptions of life, making me think deeply about who and what was in these areas, prior to me telling these stories.

Out to the areas in which these communities of color now call home, is where I see the sparse glimmers of community pride in the small businesses, occupied by people of the Mekong and Balsas Rivers, but also their children, finding pride in speaking their household languages among friends at school. A young Hispanic boy got on the bus, in hand with his mother and her friend, who both seemed to be on her way to her job. The two speaking Spanish, so fluently, I felt myself ashamed not to have been able to engage too. Following, came a bounty of young people in the late morning rush hour, heading to work, the entry jobs that could possibly get them the house their mother had lost.

On my trip to North Portland, I heard the stories of men that been sucked in by streets, going in and out of jail, one even recently stabbed at the porch of his home. But even the wake of this commonly thread theme of North Portland, being the “hood,” they had a firm pride for their own community. This pride broadened my eyes, as I rode through New Columbia, looking at the various flyers advertising community events from old Father’s Day Honors Brunch, to clothe drives and employment preparation classes. As I continued further into North Portland, the pride of being a homeowner illuminated as the bus passed the streets with immaculate yards, set in front of houses painted as if to smile, assuring you are safe.

From the conversations that started with a simple question, “what are you doing?” to the smiles that made me feel welcome, but not enough to stay, as I travelled through the changed, bright, vibrant, new, fun, urban, white neighborhoods: Division, Mississippi and Alberta, I realized so much has changed, but the people coming in and the people who left remain the same. There faces do change colors, but life continues to go on.

This is our Portland.

The hopes and dreams of new groups of people mixed with the anger and adaptive behavior of old groups of people, undercut by the overwhelming acceptance of this change, by the majority of people. The old to the new.

To my surprise, as the bus is the equalizer, it is also the divider. Allowing for these displaced communities to get to and fro from where they had to leave. It allows for city expansion to occur and in turn, city change. The city will go on with or without these communities. So it is time to make the city realize these communities, we, exist.

Listen to those old guys talking, help that Hispanic woman and her son, talk to the homeless guy next to you, do as much as you can to learn about people. This is the basis of changing a tide that caused a hurricane-- talking, organizing and changing. As the city does virtually nothing to help these displaced people, they matter to us as fellow Portlanders, as fellow humans. 

Christina: Cultural Identity, Gentrification and the PDX Suburbs

Born in a suburb of people almost all the same and finding her multi-heritage skin the difference among the similarity, a young woman must find a way to fit in, especially when she is not even accepted by the very people she stands up for everyday at school.

Christina Spires (17), and a senior at Catlin Gabel, battles a fight that many people of color face as they attend private schools, while at the same time making an effort to be apart of their cultural community.

This complexity of cultural identity, finds it way in many of the issues our society faces, especially gentrification.

At first glance, her broad smile and witty charisma convey a sense of guaranteed happiness and joy, but as soon as her words process in your mind comes a surprise that someone of such appeared kindness possesses the ability to articulate feelings so personal and strong it could puncture the homogeneous, fluidity of the suburbs-- a break, her diverse family may have caused in their wake.

Yet, she has not allowed such negativity to bring her down, succeeding in academics and athletics, as her infectious spirit to never ceases to capture the hearts of all she meets.

Bring a smile and a notepad, as you listen to Christina’s Story.