This month: Guide to Muslim Americans

Muslim front cover web resThis month, we expect to take delivery on the seventh guide in our Bias Busters series. This one answers 100 of the everyday questions that people ask about Muslim Americans. The questions were suggested by Muslims interviewed by students asked in a Michigan State University journalism class called Bias Busters.

This guide takes some steps forward for the series.

* It is our first to deal specifically with religion. While every guide so far has answered question about religion, this one deals specifically with a faith group. We plan to do that again.

* The guide has Stephanie Fenton’s extensive calendar of Islamic holidays, a great, hard-to-find resource.

* A foreword by John L. Esposito and a preface by Mohammad Hassan Khalil, scholars who know the subject inside and out.

* Student Cody Harrell’s excellent graphics, our best set so far. I can’t wait to see what they look like in the digital guide.

As usual, the guide is available in print and digital formats.

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Bias Busters guides spark conversations

Michigan State students talk about cultural competence raised in Bias Busters diversity handbook.

Michigan State students brainstorm cultural issues in event at library..

We had a great night at the Michigan State University Library Oct. 28 when almost 100 people came out to hear about the Bias Busters project. They answered questions from “100 Questions and Answers About Americans” and then discussed in teams questions from “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures.”

We asked international students from East Asian countries to join the various circles as resource people.

We talked about China’s relationship with Hong Kong, Korean and Japanese culture and difference among East Asian countries.

The guides led us to conversation, which is just what we want them to do.

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Fall reading list includes Bias Busters series

Thank you to Richard Prince of Journal-isms for listing our series as a best bet in his fall reading list.

Prince writes for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and regularly reports on issues affecting the media and news consumers.

Some of his other picks for fall include “Cosby: His Life and Times” (video trailer above), Charles Blow’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and Charles E. Cobbs’ “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.”

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International students start new year in a new country

WILX-TV did this report on how “100 Questions and Answers About Americans” is being used to help Michigan State University’s 7,000 international students get used to their host country.

The Office of International Students and Scholars, which helps those students and helped with the guide, is also working with campus police to help them do their jobs with cultural competence.

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Public schools are now mostly minorities

Diverse human pile.For years, we have known that the United States will become a country in which no racial or ethnic group is in the majority. The Pew Research Center reports why, when schools open, non-Hispanic white students will no longer be the majority.

Using U.S. Department of Education projections and Census data, Pew attributes the tipping point to the birth rate of Hispanic and Asian children. Birth rate was one subject covered in “100 Questions and Answers About Hispanics and Latinos.” Thoughts:

* The no-majority prediction has been out there for a long time. It makes sense that it will begin with young people and ripple as they grow up.
* How tolerant will the first no-majority generation be?
* Will pundits give this generation a name?
* Will we finally dump the term “minority?”
* For years I have felt that to see a community’s future, you should watch kids being dropped off or picked up at school.
—Joe Grimm

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‘White is the new black’ trips over culture, context

A “White is the new Black” T-shirt is being denounced in the United States as racist. The objections come during violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager. The shirt was made by Zara, a Spanish clothing retailer.

Missing from the debate is that this expression has been used before, including with a drawing of actress Betty White. Zara has been silent about the backlash, but people speculate it is a play on “Orange is the New Black” that just doesn’t play well in the United States and especially not with racial tensions in Ferguson as a backdrop. There is no doubt the shirt was created before the Aug. 9 Ferguson killing, but people are saying that the shirt reflects a racist mindset.

The expression is not new. Previous uses, including on T-shirts, did not produce the same reaction.

Until Zara fills in some blanks, we won’t know what the thinking was or when the shirt came out. But we already have at least two lessons:
* Phrases, gestures and other signs mean different things in different cultures
* People will interpret them not just through their culture, but through their personal lenses.
Both can change the meanings.

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Muslims guide will focus on cold end of thermometer

Chart courtesy the Pew Research Center

Chart courtesy the Pew Research Center

In the fall of 2014, a journalism class at Michigan State University will produce “100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans.” This is part of the school’s series of guides in cultural competence.

This will be the seventh guide in the series and the first to focus on one religion. We expect to do more interfaith guides like this in subsequent semesters.

We will come up with questions by asking a diverse group of Muslims what they wish other people knew about them and where they encounter knowledge gaps.

We intend to use journalism to fill some of those gaps to make it easy for people to get answers to their first, most basic questions. Then, we hope they will continue the dialogue by having more conversations on their own.

This temperature chart, from a June study by the Pew Research Center, shows that Americans on average are cooler toward Muslims than toward other groups. To us, this illustrates the need for some answers.

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MSU Bias Busters crowdsource interfaith questions

Participants at the North American Interfaith Network conference in Detroit help out on the upcoming Bias Busters project in Muslim Americans.

Participants at the North American Interfaith Network conference in Detroit help out on the upcoming Bias Busters project in Muslim Americans.

Course graduates attended the North American Interfaith Network conference Tuesday in Detroit to seek help on the next Bias Busters guide. The graduates were Dmitri Barvinok, a Michigan State journalism alum, and Merinda Valley, now a journalism senior at MSU.

They explained how the classes produce the guides and asked participants for questions that should be included in this fall’s guide about Muslims. The group also suggested several topics for future guides as well experts that could be consulted on guides.

This is the first guide for which a group of subject-matter experts have been consulted in advance of the start of the course.

The Muslims guide, which will be out in December will be the first in the series to deal exclusively with religion.

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North American Interfaith Network meets in Detroit

‎Myeengun Henry, manager of Aboriginal Services at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, shows a wampum treaty belt that pledge non-interference among settlers and indigenous people.

‎Myeengun Henry, manager of Aboriginal Services at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, shows a wampum treaty belt that pledge non-interference among settlers and indigenous people.

Hundreds of interfaith advocates from across the United States and Canada are meeting this week in Detroit for the annual conference of the North American Interfaith Network.

One of the few North American cities with an international connection, the conference was called Bridging Borders and Boundaries.

The Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit hoped to show off the Detroit area as one with a diverse and collaborative community.

Sunday’s keynote was the Rev. Daniel L. Buttry, a global peacemaker with roots in the Detroit area. The undercard was a concert by the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, a Franciscan monk and a Jewish inspirational speaker.

Monday’s event was a panel of representatives of major faith groups at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. That is where Myeengun Henry (left) spoke.

Tuesday was at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church and featured a panel of clerics from various faiths.

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Hawaii’s diversity made election hard to call

Nate Silver’s elevated his reputation as a rock star statistician in the 2008 presidential electinby predicting the winner in 48 of 50 states. That brand helped him create the the website FiveThirtyEight.com, where he works with other numbers-minded writers. But Saturday’s Democratic primary in Hawaii threw them for a loop, in large part because of demographics.

Hawaii gubernatorial primary winner David Ige

Hawaii gubernatorial primary winner David Ige

FiveThirtyEight.com’s Harry Enten wrote, “Hawaii’s diversity has troubled pollsters in the past and looks to wreak havoc in 2014. Unlike in most states in the continental U.S., the majority of Hawaiians are non-white. Native Hawaiians, people of Asian descent and those of mixed origin make up about 70 percent of the state’s residents. People of Chinese, Filipino and Japanese descent make up the vast majority of Hawaiians.”

Later in his report, Enten wrote, “I’m not aware of any reliable statistics on the racial makeup of Hawaii’s Democratic primary voters. The state and outside groups have done a terrible job at keeping records on who votes and who doesn’t …”

Incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie lost to state Sen. David Ige in the primary, but the winner of the Democratic spot on the ticket for the U.S. Senate was still unresolved Monday.

Low turnout caused by storms did not help and the Senate race could turn on absentee ballots in the Puna District of Hawaii’s Big Island, where the primary was postponed.

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