Religion and ethnicity

Organizers of the Muslim World Day Parade decided to organize this “civic procession” in order to share their culture with other New Yorkers.  It is true that followers of Islam have cultural identities in addition to their religious affiliation, however, Muslims do not share one ethnic origin and their cultural identities are quite varied.  Nevertheless, I understand that even though Islam is a religion, the organizers of the Muslim World Day Parade, felt the need to create an event that introduces Islam and its culture to New Yorkers of all religions and ethnicities.  Slyomovics discusses the issue of representing a religion at a parade and suggests that the Muslim World Day Parade is an attempt to “reconfigure religion into ethnicity” in order to be able to demonstrate ethnic pride.  The author notes that other religions represented by the citizens of New York do not have parades honoring their religions.  Jews and Catholics do not have parades to take pride in their religions; however, many Jews identify strongly with the Israel Day Parade and many Catholics identify with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  The question of whether a religion should use a civic procession is delicate, especially in a case like Islam, where the unifying factor among Muslims is religion, not necessarily culture.

From personal experience, I know that the Jewish people are a nation with divine law. This means that Judaism does not just comprise a religion, it also entails a culture. The religion defines the culture. The idea that religion defines a culture has repeated itself in past readings as well as the article by Slymovics.  For the Mexican immigrants, the virgin of Guadalupe guides them on how to lead their lives and how to construct their society. The Madonna of 115th Street was the focal point in the lives of the Italians in East Harlem.  In both cases, religious symbols dictated elements of culture.

For Muslim immigrants, Islam provides the structure through which Muslims live. The parade is a way for South Asian immigrants to share their cultural and religious ideals just like Italians do during the festa (or the Columbus Day Parade), Mexicans do through the Associacion Tepeyac, and Jews do during the Israel Day Parade.  In fact, even though Slymovics designates the Israel Day Parade as a cultural procession, in fact, for many Jews the connection to Israel is based on religious beliefs and practice.

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