Founders & Futures

Sana Ali

Sana Ali

Sana Ali is a fashion designer born in Pakistan and raised in New York with a Master's Degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in Islam, graphic representations of Allah and the Prophet are forbidden; study of the Prophet’s life is carefully curated and his mortal deeds are apotheosized. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Jinnah is treated the same way (albeit not to the same degree): this conveniently allows the less desirable facets of his life to be elided while taking what’s left over from his memory and elevating it above reproach.

    @sunny-ali, thank you so much for this fascinating, sobering, and deliciously dense compare-and-contrast essay. I shall eagerly hope for more of your writing to grace these pages.Report

    • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Hi Burt, you are correct, Islamic forbids any physical representation of God and His prophets and I’ve always been curious why there isn’t a backlash against the many depictions of Jesus and Moses, but the fury seems to exclusively respond to cartoon or other depictions of Mohammad. Since the genesis story for Pakistan have been wrested away by the right-wing and establishment to justify a Muslim homeland, applying the same treatment of Jinnah (you say Muslim champion, I say political prophet, to-may-to, to-mah-to) makes sense. It has most definitely been effective!

      And thank you! I hope to write more 🙂Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    This was great. It’s also the case that for a couple of generations, the way history was taught in Southern US public schools had a certain, um, focus. (And even after it lost that focus due to metropolitanization, it still had a ‘well, it’s complicated, you got to understand…)

    I imagine most Americans probably associate the karakul hat with Hamid Karzai, though that’s a presence that also seems to be slipping from the top of the public consciousness. (& if the internet & New York Times is to be believed from a few years ago, has not been adopted as a sartorial choice at all among the younger generation)

    It is also probably a curse that when anyone named Khan (probably like the 5th or 6th most common name in the world) is in the global headlines, as it is today, every American of a certain age can’t help but read that name with a particular inflection.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kolohe says:

      @kolohe

      Yeah, but as much as I am annoyed by said focus, it’s still quite different from a much more rigid and proscriptive way of discussion. The information was openly there and discussions were loudly being had in public fora, even if they weren’t in the mainstream (personally I suspect NPR/PBS *is* pretty mainstream, though, considering how many people outside their stereotype-demographic listen to them/watch them anyway – and heck! they have actual gov’t *funding*).

      No one had to be secretive about their opinions of the founders, at least not in large cities, because they could get in a lot of trouble if they were found out…

      Being Howard Zinn is just not *possible* in Pakistan – at least, not to the best of my understanding based on Pakistani diaspora friends and acquaintances.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Maribou says:

        To be clear I’m not talking about the history circa American Revolution / Constitutional convention timeframe. The curriculum for that in basic public education has always been more or less consistent througout the US.

        I’m talking about something that happened later.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kolohe says:

          @kolohe OH. Yeah, that’s fair although if we’re talking modern day, I still think it’s different…. in the 40s, not so much…)

          Btw, did you change the original comment (as would be your right to do and as I frequently do to mine)? I think I was responding to an earlier, less clarified version…. but maybe I just didn’t read carefully.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Maribou says:

            I might have added to that first paragraph beyond the first sentence after hitting submit not before, but I’m not sure now. I’m usually good about puting an ETA when I do more than correcting spelling errors and grammatical train wrecks, but I might have missed it in this case.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

      The thing I’ve noticed about teaching history in the United States is that it is very geographically focused.

      All of my Californian friends (at least the ones educated in public schools) speak warmly about the Mission project that they did around fourth grade or so. Missions being a big deal in Californian history. Being a K-12 New Yorker, we did not do a Mission project. We did learn a lot about Ellis Island, Jacob Riis/How the Other Half Lives, Triangle Shirtwaist, etc.

      When I was in high school in New York, we also had Global Studies I (Latin America, Asia, and Africa) for 9th grade social studies, Global Studies II was Europe from Ancient Greece until sometime after WWII.

      The problem of history that it is too big, too complicated, and too long to teach in high school survey courses but at least they tried a bit when I went to high school.Report

      • This is a good point. History does tend to get regionalized. In West Virginia, were I grew up, all eighth graders are required to take West Virginia history, which I think is a good thing, but is obviously unique to the state to teach that material. It was interesting having children in schools overseas how differently things like history is approached.Report

      • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The problem of history that it is too big, too complicated, and too long to teach in high school survey courses but at least they tried a bit when I went to high school.

        Spot on. And it is a never-ending study, one we should all strive to outline with facts and fill in with stories, and perspectives. As you can see, I study at the Walter Fisher school. 🙂

        I also went to school, from K-college, in New York City. I still remember many details I learned of New York City’s history, from the Algonquin Native Americans, to the Dutch and onwards, because that was our state’s curriculum, I suppose, and I’m grateful for it.Report

    • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to Kolohe says:

      I absolutely agree that schools in the US differ in how they teach history, but that selective ideological take transcends the subject. I am always shocked (and more than a little horrified) at the inclusion of creationism in school books. I would love to read something deeper on this, please do share any resources you have/may come across.

      As an aside: Do you think most Americans would know what a karakul hat is?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Sunny Ali says:

        Not by name, but they would recognize one when they see one. But probably not which specific ethnic groups (or economic class) normally wear one.*

        In all honesty, I had to it up when I read this, because I was thinking ‘Isn’t that the same hat Karzai wears’ but wanted to be sure. I also just learned today that the stereotypical ‘Russian’ or brezhnev hat is also called this because it’s made from the same sheep’s wool.

        *most Americans are also probably not going to be able to tell by name what exactly a niqab, hijab, abaya, and burqa are (maybe the last more than others) unless they’re really paying attention. And again, I too just had to look it up to be sure and also get a consistent romanization of the names. (Accent marks are a lost cause for me, unless it’s the tilde on the spanish ñ, because you might have a really bad year without it)Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Sunny Ali says:

        1). Not surprising at all that different places teach history differently.
        Texas still teaches the Republic, which claimed the Eastern part of New Mexico. At the time, this was Apache lands where whites couldn’t settle. That changed with the U.S. cavalry coming in for the Civil War.
        New Mexico still teaches don Onate and Felipe II.
        I really don’t give a damn about some tea- drinking pilgrims. I don’t expect them to give a damn about me.

        2). You should recognize the same political rhetoric, without regard to what quarter it comes from.
        When I saw up close what “age-appropriate sex education” means in practice, I was cool with it (3rd grader going over the life-cycle of a butterfly).
        “Creationism” is just a keyword with much the same function.
        Do yourself a favor, and get your feet wet. Talk to someone actually going through it rather than the loudest of those yapping about it.
        Very much the same.

        3). Karakul, no.
        Always remember: Americans, as a people, are fairly stupid.
        Objectively, we would have been better off as Dutch, but I doubt the Dutch would take us now.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thorough essay. Really enjoyed reading it.Report

  4. Avatar Maribou says:

    Thank you, @sunny-ali, for this piece. The comparison seems both apt and likely to lead to more thoughts as I turn it over in my mind in future.

    I hope we get to see more of your writing!Report

  5. Avatar Dave says:

    Kolohe: This was great. It’s also the case that for a couple of generations, the way history was taught in Southern US public schools had a certain, um, focus. (And even after it lost that focus due to metropolitanization, it still had a ‘well, it’s complicated, you got to understand…)

    Narrative paradigm – southern style. Also known as the facts be damned approach.

    EDIT: I do believe the topic at hand here is that pesky thing known as the Lost Cause.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There is an interesting history of the Founding Fathers theorizing about Muslims coming to the United States.

    The idea is that the founders wrote about Muslims coming to the United States and supporting it as a defense of the few Jews were already living in the United States at that time. I remember these essays from the Bush II admin.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Many of the political elites from the Founders onward understand separation of religion and state in a way that modern liberals do, America is a secular country and everybody has a right to practice their religion. There is a quote from President Tyler that explains in 19th century language why freedom of religion means that Hindus and Muslims get to worship in the United States to. Many ordinary or even elite Americans always saw this as a bit of a wash and interpreted the United States as a Protestant and/or Christian nation despite the language of the First Amendment.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Too busy to look this one up, but I don’t think “secular” is the correct label for the US government. Not saying it’s religious; I just think that secular has a specific meaning and only applies to systems like FranceReport

        • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to Pinky says:

          “Secular” takes on different meanings in the United States and Pakistan. In the US, as you rightly say, the French government is seen as secular and if most political pundits are to be believed, far and away left of anything the US would ever adopt.

          In Pakistan, “secular” is a dirty word, it’s up there with accusations of treason or racial epithet. To deny the country it’s religious roots and the government as the enforcer of religiously-rooted laws is anathema in the eyes of the public. I’m sure there are maybe some zealous evangelicals in the US who feels similarly, but Pakistanis generally do not accept/respect the idea of secularism. Its meaning has been horribly misconstrued, and even it were correctly construed (is that a word? i dunno), it doesn’t jibe with the genesis of the country.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Pinky says:

          @pinky
          From Oxford dictionary:

          Not connected with religious or spiritual matters.

          or from Cambridge:

          not having any connection with religion:

          We live in an increasingly secular society, in which religion has less and less influence on our daily lives.
          secular education
          a secular state

          Contrast with this from Dictionary.com:

          Secularization refers to the declining influence of religion and religious values within a given culture. Secular humanism means, loosely, a belief in human self-sufficiency.

          I think the 1st Amendment defines the U.S. government as officially secular by the first two definitions but the last may be what you’re thinking of re France. It’s like the difference between atheist and agnostic. So the old Soviet Union couldn’t really be considered secular because they held atheism as the official religion.Report

    • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Would you be able to share any resources on the Founding Fathers theorizing about Muslims bit? I would be super interested to know more about that!Report

  7. Avatar CJColucci says:

    This is a very sensible and thoughtful essay on a subject that too often leads to our ancestors being savaged because they lived a long time ago and did what we probably would have done had we lived then. I’m betting you’re the only fashion designer with a Hopkins SAIS Masters. There’s probably a joke to be found there, but I can’t think of it now.Report

  8. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    “Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.” (A. Lincoln, Feb. 22, 1842)Report

    • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to PD Shaw says:

      Thought 1: I miss the way people spoke.

      Thought 2: That most definitely comes across as deification, if it was your intention to make that point without a word otherwise from you.

      Thought 3: To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it.

      I disagree with this sentiment: Eliza Hamilton raised funds for the Washington Monument in a concerted effort to honor him and his efforts. We are the better for it, as we are better for all the scholarship that provides us with information. There is a level of sacredness that makes leaders untouchable, and that should concern us all. Same goes for Lincoln, I may add.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Sunny Ali says:

        Yeah, that was intended to convey an example of deification. It is an early speech and I think the rhetoric is clumsy, but it is one of the mist transparent examples of his advocacy of “political religion.”Report

        • Sunny Ali Sunny Ali in reply to PD Shaw says:

          Absolutely.

          You know, I had an Islamic teacher who would come to our house after school and would teach us the Qur’an and also sometimes tell stories. I remember when he told me when the Prophet first heard the angel Gabriel, and according to my Qur’an teacher, the Mohammad was immediately like “I’m the Prophet? Perfect, let’s go.” (You’ll excuse the irreverence, I hope!) Years later, young adult me is reading a biography of the Prophet and it actually said there were accounts that when he first heard the angel Gabriel, he at first thought he was going mad and told no one, and then over a period of weeks fell into an overwhelmed panic about his divine duty. I actually find the much more human Mohammad far more sympathetic than the one who accepts his role as the savior of humanity. I mean, that’s a super tall order.Report

  9. Avatar Aaron David says:

    This was a wonderful piece. Thank you.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Good piece and an interesting contrast.Report

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