Archive for the ‘Politics’Category

The Mayor and His Myopia

by Mohammad Ali Naquvi

In response to the recent boycott of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual inter-faith breakfast this morning by over a dozen NYC Muslim leaders, the Mayor reasserted his support for the NYPD/CIA secret spying program by responding with the following statement:

 

“If you want to look for cases of measles, you’ll find a lot more of them among young people,” he said, according to an Associated Press account. “That’s not targeting young people to go see whether they have measles or not.”

 

It’s thoughtful of the Mayor to use an analogy, so that the rest of us can try to comprehend the wisdom of an illegal spying program on everyday Muslims.  I remember when I was studying for the SAT in high school, my course review teacher explained a simple test to see if an analogy works. You need to substitute the pairs of words into the same sentence, he told us.  So in this case, the pairs would be:

 

cases of measles : young people :: terrorists : Muslims

 

Since the Mayor has already provided us with a sentence, let’s just substitute in the second pair of words to see the brilliance of the analogy:

 

“If you want to look for [terrorists], you’ll find a lot more of them among [Muslims],” he said, according to an Associated Press account. “That’s not targeting [Muslims] to go see whether they [are terrorists] or not.”

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19

01 2012

BDS comes to Penn

by Ahmed Moor

The past few years have seen the BDS movement electrify campus activism – a bright spot on the landscape of Palestine advocacy. The movement has enabled students around the country to engage constructively with the big moral question of our era – apartheid in Palestine. Thanks to BDS, thousand-mile expanses no longer stand in the way of direct non-violent action.

Still, the movement has some way to go before it can boast the levels of support that the South African call once enjoyed. That’s part of the reason that students at the University of Pennsylvania are organizing an on-campus BDS conference there. The two-day event will take place on the weekend of February 4th and 5th and will examine ways to strengthen campus-based activism.

As you can imagine Zionist groups have reacted badly to the news. The Jewish Exponent picked up the story, while the Israeli Foreign Ministry-affiliated Stand With Us organization has already posted a smear targeting Penn BDS on its website (see here and here for Ali Abunimah’s and Alex Kane’s posts about SWU’s fabricated quotes). Other groups have also contacted university officials in an attempt to abort the conference and silence dissenting voices.

The University – my alma mater – has been clear in its unequivocal support of Israel, but it has also emphasized its commitment to free speech. So while no moves have been made to block the conference the administration hasn’t been supportive either.

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08

01 2012

Abruptly Arrested, Briefly Detained, Irreversibly Inspired

by Samer Abulaela

My primary motivation for starting this blog is to work with others in formulating a meaningful response to islamophobia that refuses to engage in the “good Muslim – bad Muslim” narrative, and to tie social and political consequences to islamophobic speech and actions of political, media, and government officials and institutions. Nevertheless, I’m finding myself rather pleased that my first post has little to do (at least directly) with the deluge of articles regarding the racist spying and community mapping perpetrated against Muslim Americans. Nor does it relate to the bigoted trainings conducted by FBI and Justice Department personnel, both within their respective institutions, and to first responders.

Instead of getting right into all that’s in need of being changed, I’m delighted to have caught a glimpse of the spirit that’s going to change it. Perhaps you heard of the Brooklyn Bridge mass arrest of 700 peaceful Occupy Wall Street protestors this past weekend… well, I happened to be among them. As the charges against us are being challenged, I’ve been warned not to discuss the details of the events that lead to our arrest – so for now, I won’t. Anyway, I think that’s much less interesting than what I want to talk about: the passion and dedication that was on display that day by more than just those of us who had to endure the inconvenience of arrest.

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19

10 2011

9-11 Essay

The late Edward Said in his last series of lectures Humanism and Democratic Criticism defined the role of modern Humanists and their responsibilities to society. This is one of my favorite lines from the lectures:

“Nowhere is this more true for the American humanist today, whose proper role, I cannot stress strongly enough, is not to consolidate and affirm one tradition over all others. It is rather to open them all, or as many as possible, to each other, to question each of them for what it has done with the other, to show how in this polyglot country in particular many traditions have interacted and—more importantly—can continue to interact in peaceful ways, ways never easy to find but nonetheless discoverable also in other multicultural societies…in other words, American humanism, by virtue of what is available to it in normal course of its own context and historical reality, is already in a state of civic coexistence, and, to the prevailing worldview disseminated by U.S officialdom…humanism provides little short of stubborn, and secular, intellectual resistance.”

Where are we as Americans 10 years after the September 11th attacks? Have we espoused the principles of egalitarianism, understanding, and brotherhood with our fellow Americans and the Citizens of the global community? Or have we grown more isolated, introverted and developed enclaves of seclusion? The most promising signs after 10 years after the attacks have been interfaith growth and cultural understanding between previously opposing or isolated communities. In the realm of culture we have seen Muslims starting to come into their own, from actors, comedians, poets, playwrights, rappers, and writers. We are starting to see Muslim-Americans take hold of their own narrative— The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 30s revitalized and rejuvenated the African American community in America. A young poet wrote The Negro Speaks of Rivers:

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

 

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

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11

09 2011

Libya: The Case Against False Dichotomy

The spark for Libya, which ignited much of the protests and demonstrations highlighted by the mainstream media, was struck in and around mid-February – only a few days after the fall of Mubarak. The timeline in this case is fairly important in assessing how quickly things have progressed in the country – from rising action to the climax, where we seem to stand now. In late February is where we begin to see actual movement by the international community, including the Arab League which suspended Libya from meetings until the crisis in the country would end.

During late February, the National Transitional Council – which is the oppositions political body, now recognized by over 45 countries as Libya’s legitimate government, was also created. The executive board was formed in March, chaired by Mustafa Abdul Jalil former Minister of Justice under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In March the UN declared a no-fly-zone over Libya, supported by the international community and NTC chairman Mustafa Jalil who called for its “immediate” placement, wherein NATO swiftly assumed command – arming and bolstering the rebels against Gaddafi’s regime and coordinating airstrikes. Prior to the implementation of the no-fly-zone over Libya there were arguments being made against such a maneuver; that bombing Libya’s air-defense would cause civilian casualties,which it did. In June NATO admitted to killing nine civilians, including two children, claiming that one of its air-strikes “went astray”. In August NATO was once again accused of killing Libyans, this time 85, in Zlitan; among the 85 killed were 32 women and 33 children when NATO targeted a residential area, shown below.

The number of civilian casualties has not been fully disclosed but one can assume the body count is climbing as we find ourselves watching a war unfold, a mixture of NATO-backed rebels versus Gaddafi loyalists and Libyans against NATO involvement who are also being targeted.

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29

08 2011

“Contradictions Collapse”: Moral Dignity and Spending

“You only look smart.

You read about consumerism using Starbucks receipts as a bookmark.”[1]


In response to a question posed to me on a DePaul University radio show called Writing Our Story[2] faith I considered how my personal spending habits links me to worldwide suffering.

I believe there is often an inverse relationship between how much we spend and the amount of exploitation we are responsible for perpetuating. This is an important notion to consider in the context of the ideals that Muslims place on themselves.
Many active Muslims call for believers to detach from extravagant stuff and call for establishing Justice in their lives.

Within our frames of understanding, do these lead to a:

“Contradiction” from the Merriam Webster’s online dictionary: “a situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent or contrary to one another.”
?

Let me make this a little more straight-forward. Some measure their frugality by the amount of money they spend on items.

  1. Instead of purchasing high-quality food they purchase processed or genetically modified foods.
  2. Instead of buying long-wearing, sustainable clothing they purchase their clothing at large department stores.
  3. Instead of buying high-quality, sturdy furniture they purchase flimsy pieces.

 

One of my contentions is that this frugality might actually plunge us deeper into systems of exploitation.[3]

  1. When one chooses cheaply-made foods over organic, fair-trade options one is buying into items that may use slave-labour or crops harvested by under-paid, migrant workers. Mass-produced, factory-foods are also ecologically unsustainable (especially meat products). Multi-national corporations run the food-game and this leads to damaging effects to all who……eat……or starve.[4] This is all said without considering health-effects.
  2. My inverse-relationship theory is weak in the clothing department primarily because many expensive, “high-end” brands also use exploitation to produce their garments. But, generally speaking, affordable, cheap clothing and footwear is made in sweat-shops. In some cases, children and women are being overworked and underpaid…for those sweet kicks.
  3. The furniture sold in the US is often made of rather cheap material. This leads to a high turn-around rate. We no longer repair our items—furniture, appliances, electronics—we just toss them and upgrade! I wonder how long the earth will take that.

 

In general terms I want to say that we should begin thinking about a few things. Perhaps our framework of buying cheap to be zahid (detached) needs to change. When we get suckered into buying cheap items that are produced by over-worked fellow humans, fall apart in no-time and destroy the earth, are we really being true to Islamic teachings because only paid 20 bucks for the shoes in our closet?

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04

08 2011

Difference and Representation

In Michael Cook’s Forbidding the Wrong in Islam—an abridged version of his Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought— a striking difference of opinion amongst Muslim jurists is shown in the picture he paints of “the duty”—to forbid wrong. One sees differences amongst jurists about the legality of certain musical instruments; some jurists forbade all instruments while others allowed for the use of some in certain circumstances.  On a much more problematic level there is a wide variety of opinions on the issue of taking up arms in order to enjoin good and forbid evil; some scholars reserved the right of the use of the sword and force to forbid wrong for the state only while others held that individuals can choose to use force without any recourse to any social or political authority or consensus. The implications here are immense: How does a Muslim society run itself if the people take a variety of juristic opinions with the assumption that these are all “legitimate”?

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27

06 2011

Distracting from the Issues

It might be wishful thinking that now that President Obama has released his birth certificate, the ridiculous issue can be put to rest.

I can’t believe questions about Obama’s birth have gone on for this long. Besides being a ludicrous issue, it really takes away from big questions that actually matter.

There’s more than enough going on in the world that the president, Congress and the rest of the leadership have to deal with. There are two wars, uprisings all over the Middle East and a grave financial situation.

Obama was right to feel affronted when people questioned why he wouldn’t release his full birth certificate. It shouldn’t be an issue.

It takes away from him dealing with what’s important.

What’s more, the Republican leadership has just helped fuel this fire. They haven’t pointed out that there are more problems at hand. They’ve let a faction of their constituency go on about a problem that shouldn’t be the focus for anyone.

The political arena has fallen away from wanting to solve a problem by any means to political parties wanting their way to be the only way to tackle a matter.

Republicans have been disingenuous about wanting to solve economic problems. They just want to make sure that nothing gets solved while a Democratic leader is in power and will do anything to make sure that things go wrong with Obama in office.

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10

05 2011

The Price of Dignity in Libya

As the Anglo-American French coalition sustains its “humanitarian” military assault on Libya with a fiery downpour of missiles and CIA operatives alongside British special forces, and MI6 intelligence officers continue to work in Libya, “as part of a shadow force of Westerners” the mainstream body of activists residing in the United States of America have raised the Libyan flag in solidarity with calls for air strikes against Libya.

They (who is they?) continued to gleefully cheer even as missiles landed, greeting Libyan soil with 2,000-pound bombs dropped from American B-2s and therein possibly tainting the earth with depleted uranium. Emotive contentions used pre-Iraq invasion are now being recycled unashamedly in support of military intervention in Libya; the arguments, some stirring and others bitterly sensational, have overwhelmed conventional media outlets and social networks. Those bold enough to publicly admonish the so-called “humanitarian intervention” have been shamelessly branded Gaddafi apologists and supporters of genocide. Mouse-click couch warriors have more or less attempted to wipe out even the slightest cross-examination of the military tactics being used in Libya. This despite the lack of an endgame being provided by the Western Coalition engaging in warfare, and irregardless of the White House candidly having expressed ignorance in respect to the Libyan rebels and who they are.

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05

04 2011

Is Libya any different from Iraq and Afghanistan?

It’s a question that’s come up ever since President Obama decided to take military action in the current conflict in Libya.

I personally think so. Is it just because I’m an Obama supporter? Part of me suspects that may be it. “War” from the mouths of Democrats may just be more palatable. I was one of those people in the ‘90s who was happy when Bill Clinton took action in the Balkans and Somalia. I may not have been as supportive if it was George W. Bush making those same calls.

However, I do think that Libya is a different situation. I don’t see it as just a “third war” that America is now involved in.

Iraq and Afghanistan were a different process. It was a reaction to a direct conflict with America. The concepts are somewhat similar: We’re going into a Muslim-majority country to help exert Democratic rule. But, Libya is more organic. This dissidence is coming from its own people. They’re the ones who want to overthrow their ruler. This manifesto isn’t coming at them from an outside source.

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05

04 2011