Sep 18, 2017

Assimilation is Not Erasure


Assimilation is Not Erasure: Updating the Discourse of Assimilation in America And Encouraging Cultural Collaboration

The discourse surrounding immigrant populations in America often revolves around the term "assimilation."  This term is defined in a number of ways, and is often used to suggest that newcomers to the United States should adopt values and traditions that are "American" in place of their own unique values and traditions.  This pattern of thought is unproductive, and serves only to divide the people of America.  Why should we encourage cultural conformity, when the American people are already so diverse, so adaptable?  MALA aims to update the current discourse of assimilation, and offer a more nuanced definition wherein assimilation is understood as a process by which different cultures and traditions coexist, and interact with each other.

Assimilation should not be an instrument of erasure.   Successful assimilation does not mean that one set of cultural traditions should yield for another.  Rather, it means the melding of culture, and the celebration of diversity.  Assimilation should be considered as a means of collective cultural contribution, not cultural suppression.  Through this collective contribution of culture, Americans have built a vibrant national identity that is both unique, and fluid.  MALA seeks to highlight the individuals on the forefront of this fluid identity, and to celebrate their contributions to the ever-evolving American society.  

American greatness hinges on our own willingness to carve out spaces in our communities for new ideas, fresh perspectives, and intersecting identities.  Our strength can extend only as far as our empathy; our momentum as a nation can continue only so long as we are willing to look upon our differences as powerful, and not divisive.  Diverse perspectives and experiences are what made this country great, and what will continue to make us great; by celebrating these perspectives and encouraging the interweaving of cultures into the fabric of American society, MALA hopes to update the discourse, and create space for the progress that is necessary for the success of us all.   

Jun 29, 2017

MALA's Stories at the Library of Congress!

Thanks to your support, we are celebrating a significant milestone!

Join us at the historic Library of Congress on July 24th, 2017 in Washington D.C as we debut "Muslim American Journeys." These stories have been archived and preserved for generations to come.

As part of NPR's StoryCorps oral history project, The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) has collected over 350 stories of Muslim Americans - many of which are archived in the Library of Congress as part of the program. To date, MALA has collected, archived, and preserved over 350 stories of Muslim Americans. Many of these stories were also archived into the Library of Congress through our community partnership with StoryCorps, and several were even aired on NPR programs.

The event celebrates this groundbreaking effort - and in the process spotlights Muslim Americans’ diversity, individuality, innovative contributions to mainstream American society, and assimilation as proud citizens.

“Muslim American Journeys” provides ordinary Muslim Americans a platform to share their personal journey – and an opportunity for recognition. The program’s wide range of storytellers (e.g., ethnic, sectarian, religiosity, converts, atheists, immigrants, native-born, liberal, conservative, etc.) defies common stereotypes of Muslim Americans. Emphasizing individual journeys humanizes Muslim Americans for the general public – MALA seeks to be at the forefront of showcasing compelling portraits from the broad and diverse Muslim American community.

We thank our donors, partners, and story-tellers for this collective achievement!

Apr 4, 2017

Storytelling In A Digital Era

“We have to give people things not to escape to...but things they can run to, to reaffirm that … if you’re feeling something and you wanna speak it … someone will be there to hear your truth.” - Director Barry Jenkins of Academy Award winning film, Moonlight

There are few things more intimate and brave than sharing one’s story. Storytelling is offering the gift of vulnerability- of shedding the layers we shield ourselves with as we go about our daily lives and offering someone, for just one moment, an honest glimpse into where we came from, and who we became. Storytelling is reveling in our similarities and engaging in each other’s differences to gain perspective and understanding. It is the chance to stray away from the narratives assumed by the media and stereotypes, and to frame our own stories in the way we understand them, and the way we want to be understood. For this reason, diversity and inclusion is an inherent and imperative aspect of the storytelling process. Telling the same stories over and over and ignoring the voices that are heard the least, creates a singular culture that isolates anyone different and creates factions in a society.     

Bringing diverse voices to the table and offering a broad range of stories helps foster society to understand each other, and provides each of us with choices. Hearing the experiences of people we think are entirely different from us, and then finding a commonality in their story through which we can relate is a reminder that no matter where our histories differ, we are  rooted in our sense of humanity. Simultaneously, hearing how profoundly different our lives have been is not necessarily always about relating, but rather gives those who have struggled the unique voice they inherently deserve.

MALA promotes diversity by celebrating differences in cultures, perspectives, backgrounds, and traditions. We strive to create awareness by sharing the unique experiences of hundreds of individuals and giving them a platform to be heard; to inspire, and be inspired. MALA sees diversity as a strength that can unite people from every walk of life and provide them with an opportunity for self-growth and enlightenment.

By including stories from individuals of many different backgrounds, MALA hopes to bridge understanding, create meaningful dialogue and set the stage for real change. Through empathic story-telling, we can begin viewing diversity as a reflection of ourselves - our hopes, our dreams, our heartbreaks and challenges, our unwavering beliefs, and most of all, our commitment to a better world. Listen and share our latest stories below:

  1. Sam comes from an Iraqi-Hispanic background, and reflects on a defining turning point in his life during childhood when he and his mother escaped from his father in the middle of the night. As a gay man, he hopes his story is helpful to share with people who may feel that they are alone.
  2. Noura is a Syrian immigrant from Damascus. She filed for divorce due to domestic violence, and raised her two children as a single parent in the USA. The revolution in Syria drove her to take action and join a collective effort to assist with the refugee crisis.
  3. Sadaf shares a compelling view on how her faith has guided her to champion feminism. Born and raised into a middle class Pakistani family in America, she credits her mother for being her source of motivation.
  4. Bihi fled from Somaliland due to war and conflict. In his eloquent story, he describes his journey to America, and how he remains committed to help his community overcome cultural and language barriers in Minneapolis.
  5. Colette is of Mexican and Palestinian descent. She studied communications at Northwestern University. In her story, she describes how she took a risk to go to Egypt and work on a film to raise awareness about sexual harassment of women.


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