Associate Professor Khyati Joshi to Speak about Religion at Global Security and Human Rights Event in Austria

Teaneck, N.J . (March 11, 2009) — Khyati Y. Joshi, an associate professor in the Sammartino School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has been invited address the “racialization of religion” at an international gathering of security and human rights officials in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, March 20. Joshi, whose research focuses on the experiences of Indian-American Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, is the only American scholar making a presentation at the event, which is sponsored by the human rights unit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Joshi will present her work at the plenary session on “Racism in the OSCE Region: Old Issues, New Challenges.” The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization, with 56 participating nations in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America, including the United States. The Vienna meeting is sponsored by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The event is scheduled to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, and will mark the 40th anniversary of the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In the United States and other OSCE member countries, growing populations of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are often still not on an equal footing with the majority population. Joshi will discuss the range of issues—from violence and discrimination to accessing appropriate services and full participation in society—that immigrant and second-generation minorities face in the region.

In her 2006 book, New Roots in America’s Sacred Ground (Rutgers University Press), and in other books she has co-edited or co-authored, Joshi describes the “racialization of religion,” a process that happens when physical features associated with a group—such as skin color—become associated with a particular religion.

After the 9/11 attacks, for example, “many Americans have tended to assume that people with brown skin are Muslim,” Joshi said. “Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asian American Christians and Jews have become backlash targets because their race connotes an assumed religious identity—a racialized identity in the United States.”

Joshi’s research has turned up examples of such backlash that range from deadly violence against turban-wearing Sikhs to the hazing of South Asian-American schoolchildren. She also found that U.S. schools and workplaces often fail to accommodate different religious obligations and holidays, and that these failures could have a negative impact on academic and social outcomes. In the case of schoolchildren who felt their religious identity was ignored or discriminated against, Joshi has written, “Over time, this exclusion caused many students to feel self-conscious and even ashamed of coming from a faith tradition that was not perceived as ‘normal’ by their teachers and classmates.”

A member of the New Jersey Governor’s Asian American Commission, Joshi said of the Vienna meeting: “I hope to bring new ideas back so our state can respond most effectively to the needs of its citizens of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. The growth of diverse religious communities in the U.S. and Europe represent a great opportunity to live out the purposes of our pluralistic society. But we have further to go toward embracing and responding to the needs and obligations of all religious groups.”

Joshi earned her Ed.D. in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree from Emory University. She consults and conducts professional development workshops for educational institutions on immigrants in schools, race in education, and religion and public schools. Raised in India and Atlanta, Georgia, she now resides in Wayne, New Jersey.

About ODIHR
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is one of the world’s principal regional human rights bodies. Based in Warsaw, Poland, it promotes democratic elections, respect for human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and the rule of law.

To learn more about Professor Joshi, visit http://www.khyatijoshi.com

For Immediate Release

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