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Lone Star Muslims

Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

Ahmed Afzal
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Lone Star Muslims
    Book Description:

    Lone Star Muslimsoffers an engaging and insightful look at contemporary Muslim American life in Texas. It illuminates the dynamics of the Pakistani Muslim community in Houston, a city with one of the largest Muslim populations in the south and southwestern United States.

    Drawing on interviews and participant observation at radio stations, festivals, and ethnic businesses, the volume explores everyday Muslim lives at the intersection of race, class, profession, gender, sexuality, and religious sectarian affiliation to demonstrate the complexity of the South Asian experience.

    Importantly, the volume incorporates narratives of gay Muslim American men of Pakistani descent, countering the presumed heteronormativity evident in most of the social science scholarship on Muslim Americans and revealing deeply felt affiliations to Islam through ritual and practice. It also includes narratives of members of the highly skilled Shia Ismaili Muslim labor force employed in corporate America, of Pakistani ethnic entrepreneurs, the working class and the working poor employed in Pakistani ethnic businesses, of community activists, and of radio program hosts.

    Decentering dominant framings that flatten understandings of transnational Islam and Muslim Americans, such as "terrorist" on the one hand, and "model minority" on the other,Lone Star Muslimsoffers a glimpse into a variety of lived experiences. It shows how specificities of class, Islamic sectarian affiliation, citizenship status, gender, and sexuality shape transnational identities and mediate racism, marginalities, and abjection.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-5163-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    I had been in Houston for less than a week when I realized the diffi-culty in figuring out where cultural life took place for the interlocutors for my research: Pakistani Americans and Pakistani immigrants. Like many new immigrants in Houston, Pakistanis reside throughout Greater Houston. Even in the sections of southwest Houston along Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, and Bissonnet Street where Pakistani businesses and residential enclaves predominate, Pakistanis are a part of an ethnically and racially diverse landscape that also includes, among others, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Ecuadorian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Nigerian, Palestinian, and Vietnamese businesses and residential communities. During...

  5. 1 Houston: Race, Class, Oil, and the Making of “America’s Most Diverse City”
    (pp. 30-63)

    Why Houston? Pakistani immigrants in Houston typically respond to this question by stating one of the following reasons for why they choose to come to Houston. Many cite the presence of family—kin and biradari (the patrilineal kin group) already living in Houston. Others, especially those from the port city of Karachi in Pakistan, maintain that the climate of Houston is vividly reminiscent of Karachi’s weather and is a significant factor in the decision to relocate to Houston. Yet others refer to the affordability of raising a family in Houston compared to say, New York City. Finally, the energy and...

  6. 2 “A Dream Come True”: Shia Ismaili Experiences in Corporate America
    (pp. 64-94)

    In the winter of 2001, a financial scandal emanating from Houston exploded onto the international scene. Enron Corporation, one of the largest multinational energy, commodities, and services companies based in Houston, had become embroiled in a financial scandal centered on unprecedented levels of corporate corruption, greed, and mismanagement of funds and appropriations.¹ Enron filed for Chapter 11 protection, sued rival Dynegy Inc. for $10 billion, and initiated widespread layoffs that significantly impacted its 7,500 employees in Houston (Bradley 2009a). Within a year, Enron’s twelve remaining core assets, natural gas pipelines, and electric utilities were auctioned (Fox 2003). Enron’s rapid fall...

  7. 3 “It’s Allah’s Will”: The Transnational Muslim Heritage Economy
    (pp. 95-123)

    For several months during the course of my ethnographic research, I carried out fieldwork at a South Asian video and DVD sale and rental store located in a strip mall on Hillcroft Avenue. This particular strip mall, a couple of blocks south of the Mahatma Gandhi District, overlooking Highway 59, was within walking distance to several predominantly Pakistani and Indian residential buildings and gated communities as well as a mosque. The strip mall included Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores, an Indian ethnic jewelry shop, a photocopy and printing center, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant, a travel agency specializing in...

  8. 4 “I Have a Very Good Relationship with Allah”: Pakistani Gay Men and Transnational Belonging
    (pp. 124-151)

    The Pakistani Muslim American gay male represents a multiply hyphenated¹ and complex figure, confounding easy categorizations in classificatory schemes of subjectification. Stigmatized in diasporic nationalist projects,² Pakistani Muslim American gay men draw on South Asian histories and epistemologies of same-sex sexual eroticism and relationships in constructions of diasporic identities.³ Criminalized for a deviant sexuality in transnational revivalist Islamic movements that espouse literalist interpretations of Islam, Pakistani Muslim American gay men nonetheless mobilize Islam in fashioning a religiously conceived transnationality. Marginalized and racialized in Anglo-centric queer movements and organizations (Das Gupta 2006), Pakistani Muslim American gay men draw on Western epistemologies...

  9. 5 The Pakistan Independence Day Festival: The Making of a “Houston Tradition”
    (pp. 152-177)

    The Pakistan Independence Day Festival is a high-profile annual event organized by the Pakistani American Organization¹ in Houston, Texas. According to official estimates released by the organization, on August 11, 2001, between 5,000 and 7,000 men, women, and children in Houston attended the annual Festival, which celebrates the founding of Pakistan as a sovereign nation-state on August 14, 1947. Financed by membership dues, private donations, and corporate sponsorships, the Festival is a major source of revenue for the organization. Advertised as a “family event,” the Festival begins early in the evening and continues late into the night.

    Independence Day is...

  10. 6 “Pakistanis Have Always Been Radio People”: Transnational Media, Business Imperatives, and Homeland Politics
    (pp. 178-204)

    Radio is a ubiquitous presence in Pakistani public life in Houston. For the Pakistani community that is dispersed throughout the greater Houston metropolitan area, radio is a site of connectivity and convergence that transcends boundaries of class, gender, generation, and geography. In 2001, there were fifteen Pakistani radio programs on the air (see tables 6.1–6.3), a high number even for a city with one of the largest Pakistani populations in the United States. A decade later, in 2011, the number had increased to more than twenty programs. As an assemblage of “expertise, material circuitry, listening practices, and sound” (Bessire...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 205-214)

    On a late summer Sunday afternoon in 2005, over a leisurely lunch of delicious chicken shawarma and hummus sandwiches at a halal Lebanese restaurant and supermarket on Hillcroft Avenue, I met with Tariq. Tariq is a middle-aged Pakistani American engineer who is actively involved in one of the major Sunni Muslim community centers in Houston. I had first met Tariq during the course of my initial fieldwork in 2001–2002, and we were meeting on this day to catch up. The conversation turned to the challenges that continued to face Muslim Americans. About one thing, Tariq was clear: the need...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 215-232)
    (pp. 233-256)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 257-262)
    (pp. 263-263)