February 25, 2015

On Texas Muslim Capitol Day: Photos by Nina Berman from Austin

In spite of the ferocity of this expression, these images and this event are authorized by something infinitely more powerful: the civic calendar and the state sanctioned observation. In contrast to months of civil rights protests roiling America in the wake of police shootings and racial profiling, what we have here is something incredulous by comparison: the vision of fearful citizens effectively railing … against the field trip.

Here in the seat of government, the hostility of a group of anti-Muslim protesters on the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day pales in significance to a ritual that is just as vested in America, the recognition of the different cultural and religious communities among us and the power and strength of our diversity. And there is no more confirmation of that than to observe who, in these pictures, looks more properly situated as well as comfortable in their own skin.

If there’s not a real drama here, however, let’s not mistake this for a farce either. Instead, let appreciate the portrait for what it is: people among us feeling that much insecurity and fear as to engender such paranoia over “the other.”

If disarming for being slightly pedestrian, this is the photo that speaks to me most. If they’re private school girls, they look diverse in themselves, and (thinking about what’s normative, again) they just seem confused. After all, it is Texas Muslim Capitol Day and that is where they are. What I appreciate most, however, is how the photograph embraces and even bends the right angle. So who is more uniform or more black-and-white? And who is taking the opportunity to read, and to recognize the event with even more diversity? Though I’m not naive enough to claim this as evidence, what the photo certainly aspires to — as reflective of the day — is a teaching moment.

— Michael Shaw

PHOTOGRAPHS by Nina Berman.

(caption: Jan. 29, 2015 Muslim Day at the Texas State Capitol draws counter demonstrators who assert that Sharia law is coming to the US and condemn Muslims refusual to “assimilate”.  This woman had just interrupted a speech by a Muslim leader on stage.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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