Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem

Wow, and I thought I was harsh on Obama.  Isn’t it interesting that there are people on the Left who think Obama is just another Bush, while there are others on the Right who absolutely abhor him because they think he’s a “secret Muslim” (laugh) or the, ahem, “anti-Christ”?  I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Obama is exactly like Bush, but I’m not overly enthusiastic about him either.  Yes, his speech was brilliant and beautiful, but let’s see how he follows up on his words before we start leaping for joy, shall we?

Anyway, I found this clip almost immediately after I watched Obama’s speech in Cairo.   Before you watch it, just be warned that it contains excessive profanity, offensive racial slurs, and homophobic remarks.  It’s also very important to keep in mind that these individuals do not represent the opinions of all Jews.  The people in this clip are obviously ignorant, childish, and poorly educated, so it would be foolish and counter-productive to associate them with Judaism.

At the same time, this video is important to share because it shows the kind of tension and animosity that exists concerning diplomacy with Muslim nations.  Remember when the mainstream western media showed video clips of Palestinians dancing in the streets after the 9/11 attacks?  It created the perception that all Muslims and Arabs rejoice whenever Americans and/or Jews suffer.  It told us that non-Muslim Americans and Jews were innocent and morally superior to Muslims.  Why do we only see Palestinians doing horrible things in the news?  Why don’t we see things like this video clip of American Jews and Israelis making racist comments?  Will that hurt the “good guy/bad guy” image it’s been trying to promote for the past 8 years?

Don’t count on seeing this clip on CNN.

Open Discussion: President Obama’s Speech in Cairo

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Also published on Islam on My Side.

President Obama delivered a very moving and powerful speech in Cairo on June 4th, 2009.  The speech focused primarily on improving American and Muslim relations, but also addressed issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I admit that it was heartening and emotional to hear Obama cite so many verses from the Holy Qur’an, as well as referring to the miracle of al-Isra, the Night Journey, in which the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to the seven heavens and met with Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, peace be upon them all.  When Obama said “peace be upon them” after mentioning these Prophets, there was enormous applause from the audience because the attendees, as well as Muslims all around the world, knew exactly what it meant:  Respect.

It was also nice to hear Obama stress on the importance of Islam being part of America.  He acknowledged the contributions of Islamic civilization, particularly in mathematics, science, poetry, architecture, and music.  When he spoke of Israel and Palestine, he emphasized on a two-state solution and recognized the struggles that both Israelis and Palestinians face.  For many Muslims, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is crucial simply because U.S. foreign policy has been overwhelmingly supportive (politically, militarily, and economically) of Israel while vilifying and ignoring the plights of Palestinians.

Although there were many times during the speech where it seemed like Obama was hesitant to acknowledge certain atrocities, such as Israel’s recent airstrike on Gaza, it was at least refreshing to hear a U.S. president recognize the Palestinian humanitarian crisis.  I really liked when he said “children of Abraham,” because that kind of language speaks to the hearts of inter-faith communities around the world.

While citing the Qur’an and reaching out to Muslim majority countries displays the President’s desire to improve relations, it’s important to stay mindful that actions speak louder than words.  As Tariq Ramadan mentions in his recent article, “Obama’s speech to Muslims will mean little if its symbolism is not followed up by concrete measures to restore trust.”  In no way am I trying to deny Obama’s efforts, but rather I’m simply pointing out that I truly hope he follows up on his words.

What are your thoughts?  If you missed the President’s speech, you can watch it below (it’s divided into 6 parts):

Watch Part 2
Watch Part 3
Watch Part 4
Watch Part 5
Watch Part 6

Critics of U.N. Anti-Blasphemy Resolution Overlook Opportunities for Global Dialogue

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Much is being made about the U.N. Anti-Blasphemy Resolution, which calls upon member nations, including the United States, to combat defamation of religion — Islam in particular.  Critics of the resolution include CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who describes the opposition against the resolution as a “fight for free speech,” author Christopher Hitchens, and Islamophobes around the blogosphere who scathingly label the resolution a step towards “spreading Sharia law to the West.”

The resolution, “Combating the Defamation of Religion,” was adopted in 2007 and “stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular.”  Unsurprisingly, religious groups and free-speech advocates in the United States accuse the resolution of impeding on constitutional rights such as freedom of expression.  John Bolton, former U.N. Ambassador, comments:  “It’s obviously intended to have an intimidating effect on people expressing criticism of radical Islam, and the idea that you can have a defamation of a religion like this, I think, is a concept fundamentally foreign to our system of free expression in the United States.”

I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers terming this issue “freedom under fire” and I see a lot of Islamophobes pouncing on it since it “scores points” for their “argument” that Muslims want to “impose Sharia law.”  What I see missing from these reactions are efforts to engage in global dialogue between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.  Rather than recognizing the importance of much-needed dialogue, Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens spend about seven minutes defending freedom of expression, accusing the U.N. of being a “totalitarian” and “authoritarian organization,” and resorting to typical fear-mongering tactics by saying there are “Muslims who are prepared to use violence at the drop of a hat.”  Dobbs and Hitchens present us with a very singular, misconstrued, and stereotypical perspective on the situation instead of acknowledging social problems such as annually rising hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslims in the West, which clearly contribute to the formation of this particular U.N. resolution.

The fact of the matter is that this is a very complicated issue.  Personally, I find the U.N. anti-blasphemy resolution flawed.  Although the resolution aims to prevent violence and discrimination against people of any religious background, I believe the defamation laws can be abused by governments.  Individuals should be allowed to express their views and opinions about religions and cultures without worrying about being criminalized.  I am not against the idea of people criticizing Islam; surely everyone is entitled to their opinion, but what I am against is dehumanization and vilification of religions and entire groups of people.  There is a difference between constructive criticism and hate speech, the latter has the potential to lead to discrimination and hate crimes.  One could argue that organizations like the KKK are entitled to “freedom of speech,” but when they advocate violence towards African-Americans, it no longer complies with the American constitution.

The “Combating the Defamation of Religion” resolution was introduced by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  The fact that the resolution stems from a Muslim organization should indicate the importance of dialogue rather than perceiving the idea as an attempt to “impose Sharia law in the West.”  As I mentioned, I do not support the resolution, but I think it raises an important opportunity for Muslim and non-Muslim communities to achieve a richer and empathetic understanding about issues related to vilification of Islam in mainstream media, pop culture, and newspapers.  During the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan in 2007, for example, the Clarion Fund decided to distribute millions of anti-Islamic DVDs entitled “Obsession” to swing states in the U.S.  Although there are those who continue to argue that the film is an exercise of “freedom of expression,” the larger issue that is often ignored is how Islamophobic imagery was distributed on a massive scale.  Whenever Muslims protested against the DVD and wrote letters to their newspapers, they were often accused of being “over-sensitive” or “impeding on American values.”  Muslim voices were hardly given a chance to voice their own opinions about the DVD and how it made them feel.  Instead, their voices were lost and dumped into a box of Islamophobic generalizations.

The argument that people like Dobbs and Hitchens don’t seem interested in is that dehumanization and vilification of a religion and/or entire group of people is an inevitable companion of war.  In other words, in order to successfully rally supporters for war, one needs to establish an immensely contrasting divide between “us” and “them.”  Demonizing the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the Danish cartoons is an example of attacking the very heart of Muslims and reinforcing the “differences” between non-Muslims and Muslims, not just in the Islamic world, but also within the West.  The Danish cartoons also generated such a negative perception and attitude towards the Prophet Muhammad that CAIR (the Council for American-Islamic Relations) mobilized to hold seminars to educate and enlighten non-Muslims about the truth of the Prophet.  Muslims wouldn’t have held educational programs if they weren’t so concerned about the general public’s perception of their religion after the Danish cartoons and riots.  The mainstream media didn’t seem to be concerned with these stories because they were too busy covering the violent riots in the Muslim world.  The inability to empathize with the sentiments of Muslims all over the world (including in the West) represents a failure to establish communication and understanding.

It is important for freedom of speech to be protected, but when Muslim-Americans experience ignorance, verbal abuse, physical assault, and vandalism, it is society’s responsibility to recognize that they, like every other American citizen, deserve to be treated equally regardless of their skin color, culture, and religious background.  Sensitive issues need to be discussed fairly and openly between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, otherwise stereotypes and misunderstandings will continue to persist.  Islamophobic rhetoric and blindly defending “free speech” are just obstacles and barriers that are created to prevent necessary dialogue.  If people like Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens took the opportunity to engage in respectful and open-minded discussions with Muslim-Americans, they may empathize with how Islamophobic material, like the Danish cartoons and the “Obsession” DVD, have been used to bully, harass, and discriminate against Muslims in the West.

In the end,  it is not simply a matter of “freedom of speech.”  It’s a matter of understanding one another better.  The Muslim-American experience needs to stop being treated as something “foreign;” on the contrary it is an American story that isn’t being given enough voice.  As Muslim students, who protested the Danish cartoons in Washington D.C., wrote on their banners, “Freedom of Speech Does Not Equal Freedom to Hate.”

Deconstructing an Islamophobe

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Over at Beliefnet, there are plenty of Islamophobes who have the nerve to blame Muslims and Islam for what happened to Aasiya Zubair. I saw one comment that just really set me off and I couldn’t help but to respond. His original comment will be posted first, and below that, I will paste my little deconstruction. I hope he reads it so he can see how ignorant he is. Maybe he’ll laugh at himself too :P

Original post by Islamophobe (signed under the name “Me”):

Ah, the irony. I can sympathize with Broken Mystic regarding his fears of prejudice in the U.S. Yet as a Caucasian American citizen, I know the reality of the situation – the U.S. is clearly one of the safest and sanest places in the world for people of any color, ethnicity or religion.

Nearly everywhere else in the world, and certainly in the vast majority of Muslim-dominant countries, I would be threatened with much more than prejudice – how about loss of life and limb? How about jail time, beatings and – if you’re lucky – deportation, for foreigners who unwittingly offend Allah vis-a-vis some local “holy” man’s personal interpretation of Muslim Law?

Sad as it is, prejudice is a fact of life. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – historically speaking – you may face more scrutiny in a given situation than another individual. There is no use in dwelling on this fact and repeatedly whining about how unfair life is. Life IS unfair, to all people, at all times, in one way or another. So, moving on.

I’m glad to see Mr. Poonawalla’s commitment to ending violence, regardless of it’s form or location. I would encourage him – and all Muslim Americans – to prioritize even higher the need to address the incredible amount of violence and destruction caused by followers of his religion worldwide at this point in time. I’m no religious bigot. In fact, I could care less which dogma a person follows as long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to lead a peaceful, productive life in the manner that I choose.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with most of our major religions at some point, today’s Islam is awash with ignorance, brutality, bigotry, incredibly harsh treatment of women, and a populist movement which seeks to force a particularly nasty strain of the religion on every person worldwide at the point of the sword, the bomb, the bullet, or the stone.

Someday, billions of average everyday people who happen to follow the Prophet but otherwise want nothing more than to lead a peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, will wake up and look around at what they’ve allowed their religion to become. It will happen slowly, in small pockets, and it will happen from within. The destruction, the violence, the outright murder will simply become so overwhelming that even the typical “average” Muslim won’t be able to deal with the guilt and shame any longer.

Neither the U.S. nor any other military power will have much of an effect on this process. In the short-term, in fact, it will likely result in the kind of backlash we’re seeing today but in even larger numbers. But again, all this (the wars, the terrorists, the violence) is simply a sort of window-dressing that provides a backdrop to the ebb and flow of religious struggles throughout the history of mankind. It’s scary to me how few people understand this. Sooner or later (probably later), as any first year history student could predict, the violence will ebb, the pain will lessen, the conflict will cool, and rationality will begin – however slowly – to re-exert its hold on the minds of the many Muslims who are simply too scared, too ignorant, too poor, too beaten down, or whatever to think logically in the face of the insane mutterings of many of the religions current leaders.

So, here’s my appeal to all of you obviously intelligent and thoughtful people out there: forget about the nay-saying, quit the whining, get past the fear, the threats and the knee-jerk one-liners (e.g., “you won’t find other religions doing that” – read a history book AmWiser, they’ve ALL done it in the name of ignorance at one time or another, and we’re just damn lucky that we live in a place and time where our dominant relgions and social constructs don’t allow the insanity to happen here).

Here’s what you can do with all that hot air you’re expending talking about who’s more peaceful, who’s religion is more charitable, less violent, and more open-minded. Take the time and energy used in that dubious venture and direct it towards a productive effort to counteract the status quo.

Write, speak, and otherwise communicate in any way you can to anyone at all that will listen – but most importantly Muslims like Mr. Poonawalla who have influence and the ability to to use it effectively – the message that only Muslims can solve this problem. Only Muslims will change their own “churh”. Encourage them, one and all, to stand up by the billions in the face of the angry, violent and deadly surge of destruction their religion has become, and denounce it in such a way as to leave no one in doubt about their feelings and their intentions.

Every Muslim Man, Woman and Child has the right and the responsibility to cry out against the evil and the bloodshed propogated on the world under the names of Allah and the Prophet. There is no other way, no simpler path, no magic solution and no other process by which Islam can be redirected towards its original objectives – bringing Man And God closer to one another and preparing the mind and soul of Man to sit with His Savior in peace for eternity.

By whatever name one’s god is called, by whatever words have been used to justify a variety of actions that never were or could have possibly been envisioned by that religions prophets, peace and love are the truest and highest callings of our modern religions. It’s just a fact that some would rather ignore this concept to focus on the minutiae of religious laws, contradictory and difficult to understand sayings, and enmity towards one group or another versus dropping their arms (as in rifles) and spending more time in the synagogue, the church, or the mosque.

It’s really so much more demanding of one’s intellect to become educated, to direct one’s life towards a higher level of understanding about one’s religion, neighbors, and world. It actually takes an effort to think critically about what is important and what is not.

And when millions upon millions of one’s fellow believers are spewing forth filth, ignorance and cruelty in the time honored fashion of the morally bankrupt everywhere – it’s more than just difficult to stand up and speak out. It’s very likely to be dangerous, even deadly.

It’s time for every Muslim to make a choice: to take action to move the religion forward towards more enlightment, or let it erode into a barbaric nightmare of hatred and violence that may last for countless generations.

And, it’s time for every American to stand up against violence and ignorance in every way, including bigotry towards the followers of the Prophet, the vast majority of whom simply want to raise their children in peace, teach them justice, and watch them grow into the adults who will inherit all their hopes, dreams and aspirations. If you are NOT a Muslim, your duty in this time and place in history is to help every Muslim you can to facilitate the dream of all of us who live in the world of sanity – to live a peaceful, prosperous and productive life while seeking wisdom and spreading love througout the world.

I’ll end with a quote from an unknown author that seemed appropriate -

Time will soon teach you what you were ignorant of

Response by Broken Mystic:

LOL @ “Me”

You wrote: “I can sympathize regarding fears of prejudice in the U.S. Yet as a Caucasian American citizen, I know the reality of the situation – the U.S. is clearly one of the safest and sanest places in the world for people of any color, ethnicity or religion.”

Translation: “That sucks that you’re afraid of prejudice, but hey, America is the best country in the whole world so it’s best for you to shut your mouth.”

You wrote: “Nearly everywhere else in the world, and certainly in the vast majority of Muslim-dominant countries, I would be threatened with much more than prejudice”

Translation: “So if I see a Muslim getting beat up in a hate crime in the United States, I’ll just pat him on the back and say, ‘hey buddy, Muslim countries discriminate against non-Muslims all the time!’ Can’t help you with this one!”

You wrote: “Sad as it is, prejudice is a fact of life. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – historically speaking – you may face more scrutiny in a given situation than another individual.”

Translation: “With wars going on in Muslim countries these days, it just sucks to be you! Sorry Muslims!”

You wrote: “I’m glad to see Mr. Poonawalla’s commitment to ending violence, regardless of it’s form or location. I would encourage him – and all Muslim Americans – to prioritize even higher the need to address the incredible amount of violence and destruction caused by followers of his religion worldwide at this point in time.”

Translation: “This was a nice little blog entry, but since I know EVERYTHING about Muslims despite not visiting Mosques on a weekly basis, I’m pretty darn sure that Muslims don’t prioritize stuff and don’t speak out against violence! I know they don’t speak out because I don’t see it on TV! If its not on TV, it doesn’t happen!”

You wrote: “Unfortunately, as has been the case with most of our major religions at some point, today’s Islam is awash with ignorance, brutality, bigotry, incredibly harsh treatment of women, and a populist movement which seeks to force a particularly nasty strain of the religion on every person worldwide at the point of the sword, the bomb, the bullet, or the stone.”

Translation: “Basically, Islam is a violent religion that promotes brutality, bigotry, oppression of women, and forced conversions. I’m a non-Muslim, so I know everything about Islam!”

You wrote: “Someday, billions of average everyday people who happen to follow the Prophet but otherwise want nothing more than to lead a peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, will wake up and look around at what they’ve allowed their religion to become.”

Translation: “The peaceful majority of Muslims are responsible for atrocious crimes like the murder of Aasiya Hassan and terrorist attacks like 9/11! Even you Muslim kids who just want to play video games and watch “Twilight” — you should be speaking out against terrorism because you’re Muslim!”

You wrote: “The destruction, the violence, the outright murder will simply become so overwhelming that even the typical “average” Muslim won’t be able to deal with the guilt and shame any longer.”

Translation: “Every Muslim should feel guilty and shame for the crimes that other people did.”

You wrote: “Sooner or later (probably later), as any first year history student could predict, the violence will ebb, the pain will lessen, the conflict will cool, and rationality will begin – however slowly – to re-exert its hold on the minds of the many Muslims who are simply too scared, too ignorant, too poor, too beaten down, or whatever to think logically in the face of the insane mutterings of many of the religions current leaders.”

Translation: “In order to get people to think rationally, we need to bomb the hell out of them until the violence dies down. War is good!”

You wrote: “So, here’s my appeal to all of you obviously intelligent and thoughtful people out there: forget about the nay-saying, quit the whining, get past the fear, the threats and the knee-jerk one-liners.”

Translation: “Here’s my appeal to you over-sensitive Muslims: ignore Islamophobia, stop standing up for your civil rights, stop being so paranoid about racial profiling and the patriot act, and don’t call the police if someone threatens to blow up your Mosque or your car. It’s ok, there’s nothing to be afraid of, America is the safest country in the world!”

You wrote: “Here’s what you can do with all that hot air you’re expending talking about who’s more peaceful, who’s religion is more charitable, less violent, and more open-minded.  Take the time and energy used in that dubious venture and direct it towards a productive effort to counteract the status quo.”

Translation: “Anyone who posted something on this blog hasn’t done a single bloody thing. I know because I am God.”

You wrote: “Write, speak, and otherwise communicate in any way you can to anyone at all that will listen – but most importantly Muslims like Mr. Poonawalla who have influence and the ability to to use it effectively – the message that only Muslims can solve this problem.”

Translation: “I insulted your religion and now I’m going to tell you what to do. You should listen to me because I know what’s best for Muslims.”

You wrote: “Every Muslim Man, Woman and Child has the right and the responsibility to cry out against the evil and the bloodshed propogated on the world under the names of Allah and the Prophet.”

Translation: “Again, I reiterate, like a broken record, every single one of you Muslims — yes even the CHILDREN — are responsible for the violence in the Muslim world.”

You wrote: “There is no other way, no simpler path, no magic solution and no other process by which Islam can be redirected towards its original objectives – bringing Man And God closer to one another and preparing the mind and soul of Man to sit with His Savior in peace for eternity.”

Translation: “Let me sprinkle in some positive things about Islam just so I don’t get called an Islamophobe (even though the positive things I’m saying about Islam completely contradict everything I just said!) God bless Tokenism!”

You wrote: “By whatever name one’s god is called, by whatever words have been used to justify a variety of actions that never were or could have possibly been envisioned by that religions prophets, peace and love are the truest and highest callings of our modern religions.”

Translation: “Let me speak about peace and Love now, even though peace and Love should have led me to visit Mosques on Friday and actually listen to the sermons instead of making lousy accusations here! Yes, peace and Love. You Muslims need to learn about peace and Love.”

You wrote: “It’s really so much more demanding of one’s intellect to become educated, to direct one’s life towards a higher level of understanding about one’s religion, neighbors, and world. It actually takes an effort to think critically about what is important and what is not.”

Translation: “Muslims aren’t educated and can’t think for themselves, therefore I, a non-Muslim, have every right to tell them what to do.”

You wrote: “And when millions upon millions of one’s fellow believers are spewing forth filth, ignorance and cruelty in the time honored fashion of the morally bankrupt everywhere – it’s more than just difficult to stand up and speak out. It’s very likely to be dangerous, even deadly.”

Translation: “Since I don’t see Muslims speaking out against terror on TV, it must be because they’re freakin’ scared!”

You wrote: “It’s time for every Muslim to make a choice: to take action to move the religion forward towards more enlightment, or let it erode into a barbaric nightmare of hatred and violence that may last for countless generations.”

Translation: “The fate of the world depends upon the choices that Muslims make.”

You wrote: “And, it’s time for every American to stand up against violence and ignorance in every way, including bigotry towards the followers of the Prophet, the vast majority of whom simply want to raise their children in peace, teach them justice, and watch them grow into the adults who will inherit all their hopes, dreams and aspirations.”

Translation: “Yeah, here’s my shield against being labeled an Islamophobe. After all, I’m an intellectual man, if I only spoke badly about Muslims, I wouldn’t look very educated!”

You wrote: “If you are NOT a Muslim, your duty in this time and place in history is to help every Muslim you can to facilitate the dream of all of us who live in the world of sanity – to live a peaceful, prosperous and productive life while seeking wisdom and spreading love througout the world.”

Translation: “O’ non-Muslims, help the Muslims, just like I am by telling them what to do. Tell them what to do because they cannot think for themselves and there are no such things as Muslim leaders. Only we, non-Muslims, can lead!”

You wrote: “I’ll end with a quote from an unknown author that seemed appropriate – ‘Time will soon teach you what you were ignorant of’”

Translation: “Oh shoot, this quote actually just backfired on me! ‘Time will soon teach ME what *I* was ignorant of’”

PWND.

South Asian Unity: A Priority for India and Pakistan

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Like everyone, Muslims are saddened and horrified by the recent Mumbai attacks. However, unlike everyone else, Muslims find themselves defending their religion from stereotypes, misconceptions, and bigoted accusations. It’s not an easy burden to live with — especially in Western countries like the United States — when the media not only scrutinizes and vilifies your religion, but also criticizes you for “not doing enough” to speak out against radicalism.

What’s worse is the division I’m seeing within the South Asian community, Indians and Pakistanis in particular. I was shocked and appalled at the excessive amount of anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani bigotry written in discussion boards of South Asian internet forums and group pages on Facebook. Not only are fingers being pointed at Pakistan, but also at the religion of Islam, which has been accused continuously for teaching “hatred” and “waging war” on non-Muslims.

First, why is Pakistan being blamed when there is hardly any evidence? As we have seen in the last eight years, jumping to conclusions has resulted in foolish and deadly consequences. The fact that Indian authorities almost immediately accused Pakistan of being behind the attacks indicates that they deny and dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism. Tariq Ali, who is a Pakistani novelist, historian, and political campaigner, recently pointed out that the Deccan Mujahedeen — an extremist militant group based in India — made a claim to the Mumbai attacks. In his article on “Counter Punch,” Mr. Ali writes:

“The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy’s successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.”

When I looked at my local newspaper, the article on the Mumbai attacks used the following words to describe Pakistan: “volatile,” “rival,” and “archrival.” And I’m sure many of us remember President-elect Barack Obama warning Pakistan that if they are “unable or unwilling” to fight terrorism, then the U.S. will invade the region (which they already have under the Bush administration).

This hostility and antagonism towards Pakistan is irresponsible. For one, Pakistan has been fighting Taliban militants in North-Western Pakistan since 2004, and according to “Times Online” Pakistan has lost about “1,000 soldiers fighting militants in border mountains that have never come under the control of any government.” Thomas Houlahan wrote a brilliant piece for “The Middle-East Times” titled “Pakistan: Separating the Facts from the Myths” where he criticizes the media for reporting a lot of misinformation about Pakistan. He writes:

“Pakistan has lost more civilians in the war on terror than the United States; Pakistan has lost more troops killed in fighting insurgents than every foreign contingent in Afghanistan combined. These facts fly in the face of the misinformation bandied about that Pakistan is soft on terror.”

Houlahan has also pointed out that “more than one in four insurgents killed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan insurgency (4,500 of 16,500) has been killed by Pakistani security forces.” Last night, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Asif Zardari, appeared on Larry King Live and stated that Pakistan had no involvement with the Mumbai attacks. Furthermore, Zardari insisted that he looked forward to building peaceful relations with their Indian neighbors. Despite these facts and condemnations by Pakistani officials, one must question why the media and even the newly elected President of the United States are skeptical about Pakistan’s commitment to the “War on Terror.” Pakistan has been doing America’s dirty work since September 11th, 2001, and has suffered on several occasions for it. We seem to have forgotten about the recent Marriott Hotel bombing in Pakistan on September 20th, 2008.

To see this kind of division and hostility take shape among every day Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others is discouraging and unsettling. None of us are responsible for what happened in Mumbai and none of us are trying to justify what happened, but when the media starts to influence our fellow South Asians into thinking that “Islamofascisim” or “Islamic Jihad” is simply about killing non-Muslims, particularly Hindus and Jews, then it is imperative for us to engage in mature and civilized dialogue. Because of the fact that a Jewish Center was attacked in India, many perceive this attack to be an “attack on the West,” but what’s so problematic about this assertion is that it completely ignores and overlooks the real factors involved.

Before I continue, it is important to understand that I am not justifying what happened in Mumbai or anywhere else. It’s not about justification, it’s about understanding, and only through understanding can we find the root cause of the problem and develop real strategies to solve them. Rather than chanting war slogans like “Bomb Pakistan!” why don’t we ask intelligent questions as to why an atrocity like this happened? If there is anything that I expect the West and other nations to learn, it’s this: Bombing another nation will only make matters worse; it radicalizes people and creates more violence. This is evidenced clearly in the Iraq war.

Has anyone bothered to ask, “who were the militants” or “who was in that hotel” or “what drives such people to attack innocent people?” Many right-wing pundits will simply say these militants are driven by the teachings of Islam. This kind of ignorance generates mythologies. Mythologies such as “Hindus and Muslims have been fighting for centuries.” Really? Since when? Widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims didn’t start until the 19th century. Prior to that, Muslims, Hindus, and others enjoyed coexistence in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. This is not to say there wasn’t any violence – of course there were under particular Muslim rulers – but for the most part, large scale violence between the communities occurred after British colonialism. Other mythologies formulate, such as “Jews and Muslims have been fighting forever.” Again, since when? Much of the antagonism and wars between Muslims and Jews started during and after the creation of Israel. Prior to that, Muslims and Jews coexisted for centuries, especially in Jerusalem. Before Muslims ruled the city, Jews were exiled out of Jerusalem. Muslim leaders like Umar ibn al-Khattab and Salah Al-Din invited the Jews back into the city (may God be pleased with them).

Without understanding the struggles of Muslims in regions like Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even India, we won’t be about to solve the problems. But what’s frustrating for many Muslims is that the media only uses the word “terrorism” for one group of people: Muslims. In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in the Indian State of Gujarat, while hundreds of Muslim women were gang raped. The worst part is that the government was complicit in these horrible crimes and many of the victims have yet to receive justice. Where was the mainstream western media when those atrocities were committed? Did we hear the media call the assailants “Hindu extremists?” Over 200,000 Muslims were butchered in the Serbian genocide against Muslims in Kosovo, but the Serbians were never called “Christian terrorists.” When over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcefully evicted out of their homes by the Israeli military, the Israeli soldiers were never called “Jewish terrorists.” When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, the media neglected to report that he was a member of the extremist “Christian Identity Movement.” The Columbine and Virginia Tech school shootings never provoked people to point fingers at a religion or even use the word “terrorist” to describe the shooters, but if the perpetrators were Muslim, you could count on the media to label them “Muslim terrorists.”

So why does the media ignore horrible acts of violence when they are committed against Muslims? Why does our government refuse to make efforts to understand why terrorism occurs in the first place? What is probably more disturbing than anything else is government-sponsored terrorism because it hides behind the guise of “freedom,” “liberty,” and “justice.” When things are made more systematic and acceptable, the more chances it has of being unnoticed.

Lastly, more than anything, Indians and Pakistanis have to stop pointing fingers and blaming each other. We can’t allow that kind of hatred and prejudice to present itself in our communities. We have to stand together, ask the right questions, and find the root cause of the problems. Only then will we be able to effectively prevent horrible atrocities – committed by all groups of people – from happening again.

Salaam, Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, Peace.

~Broken Mystic~

You Cannot Believe Without Questioning

There is no doubt that Barack Obama dominated the first Presidential debate against John McCain. Obama was confident in his responses and he completely hammered McCain with a solid plan for improving the U.S. economy, while McCain looked tense and countered with unsubstantial responses. Most notably, perhaps, was how McCain didn’t make eye contact with Obama once, which I interpret as being incredibly disrespectful and immature. As other political commentators and analysts have pointed out, McCain’s debating style personalizes the differences between both candidates. In other words, by not making eye contact or addressing Obama directly, McCain reaffirms his self-perceived dominance over Obama, but he also alludes to Obama being his “opponent” (or even “enemy” according to the Bush Doctrine’s your-either-with-me-or-against-me sermon). Obama, on the other hand, looked at McCain directly and even addressed him by his first name, “John.” Obama even looked into the camera to address the viewers, which I believe earned him a significant boost in the debate.

But there are issues to discuss and question, especially for the Muslim community. There can be no argument that Muslim-Americans have been stigmatized ever since September 11th, but even more so after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. When both candidates talk about the “spirit of national unity” after September 11th, this may be true for most Americans, but it is certainly not true for the Muslim community. There have been over 3,000 reported incidents regarding discriminatory acts, hate crimes, and prejudice towards Muslim-Americans, and neither of the candidates have spoken about it. Obama seemed to allude to it during the debate when he mentioned the world’s perception of American has changed significantly as a result of the wars, but he didn’t mention the repercussions Muslim-Americans have experienced and still endure.

When it comes to Iran, Obama is right in his approach of strong diplomacy, while McCain wants to paint Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel and the West. While Obama pointed out that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the most powerful man in Iran, he didn’t point out another key fact and that is this: Ahmadinejad never said “wipe Israel off the map.” This is an over-used slogan for war – you repeat it enough times, it becomes true. The Guardian’s article “Lost in Translation” cites four different translations – which include professors, the BBC news network, the New York Times, and even the often anti-Islamic and pro-Israel news station called MEMRI – and none of the translations contain the word for “map.” What Ahmadinejad actually said was, “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The Iranian President was clearly referring to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, which has created a lot of Arab and Muslim bitterness and antagonism towards Israel and the West. This is an extremely important issue that the West needs to understand if they are truly interested in establishing peace in the Muslim world. Obama seems more likely to acknowledge this issue, while McCain seems determined on attacking Iran since its acquisition of Nuclear Weapons is such an “existential threat.” I wonder if McCain bothers to think about how many countries in the world, especially Muslim countries, feel threatened by the U.S. possessing nuclear weapons. I do not support Ahmadinejad or any of his views, but the truth of the matter is that the U.S. has no right to invade or bomb Iran. I feel it would serve a great benefit to both candidates, as well as to the people of the world, if they actually watched Ahmadinejad’s interview with NBC news anchor, Brian Williams.

When the issue of Pakistan came into the picture, McCain accused Obama of wanting to invade the country. “You don’t invade an ally,” McCain said, “You don’t do that.” Obama responded and stated, “No one said anything about invading Pakistan.” This may seem to debunk McCain’s accusation, but Obama continued and said that there needs to be more U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Al-Qaeda forces are “in those mountains.” He also said that if Pakistan was not willing to cooperate, then the U.S. would intervene and take out Al-Qaeda. The problem with this tactic is that it contradicts Obama’s foreign policy with Iran. Obama has stated before that he will hold a congregation of all the Muslim leaders and discuss with them what needs to be done. Communication is essential in building strong alliances, and lack of communication is the reason why there is so much tension between the East and West. And yet, despite his aspirations for strong diplomacy, Obama’s statements towards Pakistan are hostile and accusatory. His tone and choice of words vilify Pakistan, which unnerves Pakistanis and generates suspicions about Obama’s intentions. Pakistan has lost a lot of soldiers while combating extremist factions and doing America’s dirty work. Pakistan has been disrespected by the American press numerous times, including in a political cartoon where a dog was labeled “Pakistan.” Every Pakistani knows how huge of an insult “dog” is.

What troubles me is when I see my fellow Muslims reducing themselves to the exhaustive “terrorism” rhetoric. “Terrorism” is a word used by contemporary politicians and the media to describe only one group of people: Muslims. Consider the Virginia Tech shooting, or the Amish school shooting in 2006, or the Church shooting in Missouri, or the Omaha mall shooting – were the perpetrators ever called “terrorists”? What about Ariel Sharon, who was responsible for massacring thousands of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps? What about George W. Bush who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S., Iraqi, and Afghan causalities? Despite how they terrorized people, the answer is “no,” they are not called terrorists. But if they were Muslim, don’t you believe the media would pounce on that and label them “terrorists?” Obama should not be concerned with putting pressure on the Pakistanis or threatening to attack them, but instead, he should be focusing on building an alliance with them and understanding why the extremist factions are opposing Pakistani leadership. These extremist groups identify with the Palestinian and Iraqi struggles, and therefore they oppose any affiliation or cooperation with the United States because the U.S. government funds the Israeli military and also has soldiers stationed in Islamic countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also reports that President Bush secretly approved orders in July of 2008 to permit American Special Operations to carry out ground assaults in Pakistan without approval from the Pakistani government. Without taking these issues into consideration, neither Obama nor McCain will fully understand why violence ensues in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I agree with most of Obama’s policies, including his policy on cutting taxes for the middle class, and making college and health care affordable for citizens, but this doesn’t mean that I cannot criticize him. I know there are a lot of Muslims who support Obama, but you shouldn’t hesitate to say he is wrong on certain issues like Pakistan. Don’t be afraid to disagree – no one is perfect, and that includes politicians and world leaders. I will not blindly follow someone, and no one else should. For eight years, we have been criticizing the Bush administration and calling those who support him as blind followers, so the last thing we want ourselves to become is blind followers of Obama. Like everything in life, we cannot believe in something unless we ask the right questions first.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic~

Rudy Giuliani’s Islamophobic Remarks

As I was driving home from school the other night, I tuned into NPR and listened to the various speeches at the Republican National Convention (RNC).  I found most of the speeches to be pretty typical and generic; nothing out of the ordinary or spectacular.  Sometimes, I really don’t understand how some American citizens (or citizens of any country) can be so trustworthy of politicians who constantly glorify the candidates they favor.  I understand support, but when you glorify someone, you paint such a perfect image of them, as if they are saints, super-human, or without faults.  And in the realm of politics, who would want to elect a leader who admits his/her flaws?  We want to vote for perfect people, right?  After all, that’s what leaders are “supposed to be,” right?

When we glorify people, we are subsequently erasing their flaws and humanity.  We are making them equivalent to Prophets (depending on your interpretation of Prophets) and even, to God Himself.  We don’t see them as human beings like ourselves; instead, we perceive ourselves as inferior, incapable, and imperfect compared to the leader.  This is why we turn to them, because we believe they possess traits, characteristics, and skills that we lack within ourselves.  This is the brainwashing of politics that I absolutely despise.  Even some of the greatest leaders that I admire like Salah Al-Din and Haroun Al-Rashid had flaws.  In fact, I admire a leader more so when he/she admits his/her mistakes.  Malcolm X for example was never afraid to announce his mistakes, and his actions reflected the kind of leader who was open and receptive to learning and improving.

As my thoughts wandered on these issues, I heard loud applause and cheers when the former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, walked on stage.  At first, he made the expected remarks and criticisms of the Obama campaign, and he even encouraged the audience’s disrespectful mockery of Obama’s experience.  A few moments later, Giuliani made remarks that reminded me why I sometimes feel so insecure living in the United States.  For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the term “Islamic terrorism,” he said loudly, while the audience booed at the Democratic party.  “I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe they will insult someone. Please tell me, who they are insulting if they say, “Islamic terrorism.” They are insulting terrorists!”  Thunderous cheers and applause followed.

As I was driving past the street lights, the gas stations, the department stores, and the neighborhoods, I felt so disconnected from everything; like I didn’t belong.  I felt like I couldn’t recognize anything for a moment.  I couldn’t help but feel discouraged, powerless, and subordinate.  The fact that thousands of people agree with Giuliani’s statements is probably the most disturbing thing to me.  It represents how prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance exists in a significant portion of the United States.  It’s too obvious for people see how the word “Islamic” automatically associates terrorism with the religion of “Islam,” and yet, Giuliani is able to follow up with some ridiculous statement that doesn’t make any sense at all!  “They are insulting terrorists”?  First he mentions “Islamic terrorism” and then he says it insults “terrorists.”  All he did was omit the “Islamic” part in the last sentence!  How hard is it to see the hypocrisy, the manipulation of words, and the brainwashing?  How hard is it to see the Islamophobia?

No, Mr. Giuliani, saying “Islamic terrorism” insults the 5-7 million Muslims living in the United States, as well as the estimated 1.4 billion Muslims around the world.  It not only reinforces misconceptions and ignorance about Islam, but it also implicates that terrorism is only conducted by Muslims.  When the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Omaha mall shootings occurred, the shooters were not described as “terrorists.”  When some Israeli soldiers bulldoze Palestinian homes, harass and murder civilians, or launch rockets into Lebanon, they are not called “terrorists.”  When some American soldiers rape young Iraqi girls, torture prisoners, and deliberately kill innocent civilians, they are not called “terrorists.”  But you can surely count on the fact that if the shooter of Virginia Tech was Muslim, the headlines would have been labeling him a “terrorist.”

As the RNC crowd cheer and applauded Giuliani for these remarks, I felt so outnumbered and hated just because of what I believe.  I felt so hated just because of who I am on the outside and on the inside.  These kind of fear tactics and word associations are what generate divisions, hatred, and violence.  It doesn’t help our society at all, especially with the way our foreign policy is now.  If you support the Republican party and Giuliani’s statements, how do you answer for this?  How can you prove to me that his remarks don’t promote Islamophobia?  How can you assure me that this will not trigger more hate crimes, stereotypes, and discriminatory acts that Muslims, including myself, experience?

Politicians say they are right with us, the people.  They say they understand the hardships and struggles that we endure.  They say they know what it’s like to pay for high gas prices or search exhaustively for a job.  They say that they’re by our sides, but the truth is, they’re not.  They don’t present themselves as fellow commoners or citizens.  They present themselves as perfect and flawless people.  They present themselves as all-knowing entities who can make declarations, laws, and judgments in a disturbingly Divine manner.  They present themselves as gods.

~ Broken Mystic ~

Personal Attacks on Muslim Feminists and Islam

Something that I probably can’t stand the most is when people make judgments about another person simply based on his/her skin color, ethnicity, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, etc. When we are young, we are taught to never judge someone based on these things, and yet all you need to do is turn on the news to see grown adults making ridiculous generalizations about an entire group of people. But it’s not just in the media, it’s in our workplaces, our class rooms, our communities, and especially here on the blogosphere. It hurts me even more when my friends are on the receiving end of personal attacks from people who behave as if they know all the facts on things such as feminism and religion.

I have been reading many personal attacks on Muslim feminists lately — certain people are saying that one cannot be Muslim and feminist because Islam is such an “oppressive” and “misogynistic” religion. First, it’s ridiculous how they project their hateful and negative sentiments about Islam onto the author(s) and make personal attacks against her/him, as if they have some authority on declaring who can be a feminist or not. Second, it’s absurd how they speak of Islam in this manner without considering that there are millions of Muslims all over the world who follow it devoutly. Thirdly, it’s insulting how their extremely childish and immature behavior makes them believe they’re making scholarly and educated statements when in actuality, all they’re doing is promoting ignorance and intolerance. It’s as if they want to exclude the views of Muslim feminists and not even bother reading what they wrote. In their mind, it seems like there is only one set kind of feminism, and the notion of a Muslim feminist is completely incompatible with their definition. Rather than having intelligent discussions, they’ll make pathetic personal attacks, very similar to how a high school bully picks on someone different than him/her just to boost his/her low self esteem. If someone doesn’t make any personal attacks against you, then why in the world would you make personal attacks and insults against them on your blog? They’re not wishing death upon people or calling for violent rebellions or anything, so why are you making personal attacks when you don’t even know them? It is really unfair for those individuals who are getting misjudged and attacked.  What disgusts me even more are the two-faced bloggers out there who will post nice comments on an article written by a Muslim feminist, but then go to another blog and talk smack about her/him. On one blog, they say it feels like their favorite feminist magazine got “hijacked” just because it defended the hijaab as a choice and then they call a Muslim feminist blog “ignorant” and unqualified for being “feminism.” Yet, when these Muslim feminists post their articles, these same bloggers will behave all “nice” and “respectful” to them.  I remember an Iranian Muslim feminist who once said about the Iraq war: “If a man rapes me, I don’t want his help later.” If you think you have the absolute and unalterable definition of feminism and that Muslim feminists do not fit in that little box of yours, then why do you persist with fake “polite” comments? Are people really not ashamed of themselves when they behave in this manner? I’ve seen this kind of behavior in high school, I wouldn’t expect it from self-proclaimed feminists.

Some of these critics devote all their time to “exposing Islam” as a “violent” and “oppressive” religion. Whenever you try to explain to them that Islam is a peaceful religion, some of them will respond with links and reports of atrocious and violent acts committed by Muslim in Muslim countries, while others will respond more antagonistically and even curse you out: “stop telling me Islam is peaceful. We don’t buy it!” One person even told me that I’m insulting them every day in my prayers because I’m denying the “sonship and divinity” of Jesus, peace be upon him! That’s my cue for stopping the conversation immediately because it’s just a serious waste of time. It’s sad at how some of these people build a wall against you — they don’t want to look at you as an individual, they are looking at your label. Even if you speak about how Islam has changed and impacted your life for the better, they will still pull out those links and point fingers at what other Muslims are doing. Some will even sub-categorize you and say, “oh well you’re one of those ‘good’ and ‘liberal-minded’ Muslims” which pretty much says that you represent the “minority” in their mind, therefore your words aren’t really worth anything. In actuality however, the majority of Muslims are peaceful and friendly human beings.

For me, I would never insult another religion or an entire group of people and I just find it really disturbing how they are people out there who actually don’t see anything wrong with doing that. If you hate the religion of Islam and you meet a Muslim in public, are you going to speak to him/her as an individual or are you going to speak to the stereotype? In social psychology, we use the term “ambivalent racism” for people who will show respect and affection to those outside of their group affiliation, but deep down, they will still carry those prejudices and perceptions that the person is a “heretic” or “deviant” or even “inferior.” I’m sick of people saying they hate Islam, but don’t hate Muslims because their “argument” is that good Muslims aren’t truly practicing Islam, since of course Islam is “inherently violent.” Again, these are faulty generalizations and false assumptions about people. It’s also insulting because it suggests that Muslims are brainwashed and oblivious to how their religion “truly” is. When they make these kind of remarks, it makes me want to ask: How do you know that the person you’re criticizing doesn’t know everything about Islam? Or let me frame it this way: How do you know that you know everything about Islam? Sure, there are apostates, where most Islamophobes like to get their “information” from, but just because someone is an apostate doesn’t mean they are experts on Islam. Wanting to “learn” about Islam from them is just pretty much saying that you want a negative (sometimes severely negative) lesson on Islam. If I wanted to learn more about Judaism, I will speak to someone who truly practices it and follows that path, not from someone who is an ex-Jew. You cannot deny the experiences that a person has with his/her religion just because you don’t believe in it. The majority of Muslims find peace and beauty in Islam — it is a source of strength, Love, and wisdom for them. I have friends who have left Islam, and they are living their lives peacefully and happily, they even still have Muslim friends. They don’t devote their time spreading hatred about it, but unfortunately there are those who think they need to do that. But I ask, as a human being, how is marginalizing and vilifying an entire religion going to help make a better society?

I truly believe every religion essentially teaches us to be good human beings. The violence and oppression committed in the name of religion is a very complex issue and it cannot be simplified the way that many Islamophobes simplify it. Without understanding factors such as culture, tradition, politics, history, theology, etc., it’s very difficult to not generalize about people. I’ve explained what cultural responses are in my entry, “Jerusalem Cries for Peace,” and how violence and radicalism only escalates after foreign invaders bomb another country. It’s not about forgiving, it’s about understanding. And understanding is something we do very little of. We as human beings need to make this world a better place, we need to promote more understanding, communication, and dialogue. Saying that one group of people or one religion is the problem is not going to solve anything. It will only crumble your relations with other human beings.

The Truth is there is no need for separation. The differences we see between one another is, like any other form of division, merely an illusion of the outward reality. Some of us are too stuck in our belief systems that we forget the purely spiritual foundation of our faiths. Whether you speak of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha (peace upon them all), their experience with the Divine is what unites their Souls. These enlightened human beings shared something in common, they were all revolutionists and fought in the battle against the selfish, material world, in order to bring people to the World of the Unseen. Just because we have different beliefs doesn’t mean we cannot get along. It doesn’t mean we have to resort to personal insults and false accusations. It doesn’t mean we can vilify an entire religion and group of people. What is wrong with accepting people for who they are? Isn’t that what Love is? Accepting people for who they are, not for who we want them to be?

Those guided well on their paths should not point fingers and criticize another person simply because he/she is following a different religion. Hatred and over-generalizations towards an entire group of people reflects insecurity within one’s self. The flaws we see within others are merely flaws you see within ourselves. The journey of a human being is one of Expansiveness, of Growing, of Compassion, and Self-Discovery. When we achieve this, we become Loving towards those around us, we become tolerant and accepting. Open-mindedness is not being exclusive to one group of people or one way of thinking, but rather it is learning the ability to open your heart and become a Compassionate, Expansive, and Loving human being. When you understand this, you will discover a portion within yourself that you may have never known existed. There will be no conflict between your beliefs and other people’s beliefs anymore.

Let people ~Be~ Happiness and peace never hurt anyone.

~ Broken Mystic ~

American Politics: No Place for Headscarves

This is a little overdue, but I need to write about it anyway. Last Wednesday in Detroit (June 18th), during Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, two Muslim women wearing traditional headscarves (commonly known as “hijaab”) were refused to sit directly behind Obama’s podium. The Muslim women, Hebba Aref and Shimaa Abdelfadeel, were accompanied by their friend Ali Koussan, Aref’s brother Sharif, and a young lawyer, Brandon Edward Miller. The three men were asked by a volunteer for the Obama Campaign if they wanted to sit behind Obama; they replied in the affirmative but mentioned they were with friends. Upon seeing the Muslim women, the volunteer explained to the group of Muslim attendees that “because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with Muslim Americans it’s not good for her to be seen on TV or associated with Obama.”

I wonder if the volunteer really knew what is “going on with Muslim Americans.” Hate crimes and discriminatory actions towards individuals of Muslim, Middle-Eastern, and South Asian descent have escalated on an annual basis. Along with the Human Rights Watch, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) observed that prior to 9/11, forty-eight hate crimes towards Muslim-Americas were reported in the United States, but in the days following the terrorist attack, that figure skyrocketed dramatically to 481. Reported incidents of discrimination, harassment, and violence against Muslims amounted to 602 in 2002, 1,019 in 2004, 1,522 in 2004, 1,972 in 2005, and 2,467 in 2006 (CAIR). The context of these hate crimes and incidents consist of murders — including non-Muslim individuals with a South Asian or Middle-Eastern background — physical and verbal assaults, and numerous cases of vandalism directed towards Mosques, convenience stores owned by Muslims, and homes. I wonder if this volunteer for the Obama Campaign knew about the Sikh father who was shot to death at a gas station because he was mistaken for being a Muslim. I wonder if this volunteer knew about the countless Muslims who have been killed and brutally beaten just because of their religious affiliation or ethnic background.

Hebba Aref, who is a graduate student of Michigan Law School, expressed her disappointment at the rally. “I don’t want to be called something I’m not, but I felt like… everyone was treating this accusation of being Muslim as though it were some sort of crime or sin,” she told reporters.

As Obama delivered his message on unity among races, Aref described her difficulty in hearing his words. “As he’s saying it, I’m thinking, ‘Well, wait a minute, I was obviously … profiled and discriminated against an hour ago.”

It is frustrating for me, a Muslim American, to hear about these (seemingly) endless incidents of prejudice towards Muslim Americans. If it’s not “good” for a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf to appear on television with Obama, then is it not “good” for the hundreds of Muslims to continue their campaigning for Obama? Aref said: “I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to… the message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters.” So where they do the Muslims belong in this campaign? Ah, I know! Let’s put them at the back of the bus!

Seriously, it’s like one of my friends telling me that they don’t want to hang out with me or be associated with me just because I’m wearing a necklace that says “Allah” in Arabic, or because I’m wearing an Islamic T-shirt. It’s even more frustrating how Islamophobia is being used to disrupt Obama’s campaign. As many of you know, Obama has been accused of being a “secret Muslim” just because of his family’s background and his middle name, “Hussain.” It’s really scary and disturbing how there are actually people out there who believe this. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” showed clips of West Virginia voters calling Obama a “Muslim,” a “non-Christian” and as eloquently put by one woman, “he’s a Hussain, and I’ve had enough of Hussain!” Another woman said, “He is of another race, and I guess I am a little scared of his race, because we have so much conflict with ‘em.”

I understand the complexity of this matter, and I am sure it is very difficult for Obama to balance things out without scaring the right-wing extremists or offending Muslim-Americans. On the bright side of things, Senator Obama contacted Ms. Aref and Ms. Abdelfadeel via telephone and offered his apology. In response, the two Muslim women wrote the following letter to the Obama campaign:

At the rally for Senator Obama in Detroit on Monday, June 16, two volunteers denied us seating behind the stage the Senator would soon take. The volunteers informed us that we were not allowed to sit in that area due to the hijab, the headscarf that each of us was wearing.

This incident was unfortunate and extremely disappointing. Senator Obama has called us each to personally convey his deepest apologies and acknowledge that this was inexcusable. We both immensely appreciate the Senator’s phone call and his commitment to remedy this issue. We commend him for displaying qualities befitting an effective President. We acknowledge that this injustice has been taken seriously and that Senator Obama does not tolerate discrimination against Arabs, Muslims or any community. We are assured that he and his staff are committed to upholding the principles of justice for all peoples and bringing about change we can believe in. The infringement on our rights occurred and has been addressed; now we are ready to move forward. We will continue to support Senator Obama in his campaign and wish him the best as the race continues.

Obama follows up with a statement through his Senate office:

I reached out to Ms. Aref and Ms. Abdelfadeel this afternoon. I spoke with Ms. Abdelfadeel, and expressed my deepest apologies for the incident that occurred with volunteers at the event in Detroit. The actions of these volunteers were unacceptable and in no way reflect any policy of my campaign. I take deepest offense to and will continue to fight against discrimination against people of any religious group or background. Our campaign is about bringing people together, and I’m grateful that Ms. Abdelfadeel accepted our apology and I hope Ms. Aref and any who were offended accept my apology as well.

I personally accept the apology by Senator Obama, but at the same time, I think the two Muslim women should be offered to attend another Obama rally and be permitted to sit directly behind him and appear on television, as they were intended to. What do you all think?

I just think that these incidents are very insulting towards the Muslim community and I think it’s really important for American politics to confront this issue openly. I hope this recent story increases more awareness about the stigma Muslim Americans are facing in the post-9/11 era. I was surfing the web and found this blog entry written in response to the incident by Daisy Khan, a Muslim American Woman:

“One day, we may see American Presidents, male and female, wearing turbans, yarmulkes, and hijabs. Our nation’s foundation rests on a legacy of diversity and respect for difference, and Senator Obama’s person, candidacy, and message reflect this very legacy. Perhaps some of his staffers and volunteers need to step back and reflect on exactly why they work for this historic campaign.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

Salaam/Shalom/Shlama/Peace

~ Broken Mystic~

Dunkin’ Donuts Bans Rachael Ray Commercial Because of “Jihadist” Scarf

This is nothing but shameless racism. I really hope more people speak out about this because it is not only outrageous, it also reflects the ridiculous amount of paranoia and xenophobia that’s tarnishing our society. Yesterday morning, I heard about Rachael Ray’s new commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts getting pulled because of complaints from the right-wing blogosphere, specifically from the notoriously anti-Islamic and xenophobe Michelle Malkin. What were the complaints about? Well, according to Malkin, the black-and-white colored scarf worn by Rachael Ray in the commercial heavily resembled the keffiyeh, which she defined as the “traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.”

Are you kidding me? The commercial was yanked because of a black-and-white patterned scarf with paisley designs? The bigots from the right-wing were so offended and worried that Dunkin’ Donuts was “promoting terrorism” or “Palestinian jihad” because their sponsor wore a scarf? In response to these complaints, Dunkin’ Donuts wrote:

“Thank you for expressing your concern about the Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement with Rachael Ray. In the ad that you reference, Rachael is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design that was purchased at a U.S. retail store. It was selected by the stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we will no longer use the commercial.”

Possibility of misperception? So if someone perceives the scarf as a Palestinian scarf, it is subsequently a “terrorist” or “jihadist” scarf?

When will the Islamophobia end?

First of all, the scarf worn by Rachael Ray was not a Palestinian scarf, and as argued on The Young Turks radio program: So what if it was?!

Second, don’t people realize how racist Michelle Malkin’s remarks are? Can’t they see the racist undertones; can’t they see the dehumanization of a people, the sheer vilification of a people? According to people like her, anyone who wears that scarf is a “murderous Palestinian jihadist.” If Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t want to offend anyone in their commercials, then how come they don’t realize that they’re offending the Muslim and Arab community by agreeing with Malkin’s racist interpretation of the scarf?

The scarf, or keffiyeh, is a traditional Arabian headdress – it has no association with terrorism. I have worn the keffiyeh numerous times, I have friends who wear it, I have family members who wear it – should people point fingers at us and brand us terrorists?!

I am sick of the mainstream media treating Muslims as if they are sub-humans, as if our community has absolutely no worth or place in society. History has taught us that dehumanization of “the other” (in today’s world, the Muslims) is an essential process that occurs in the media on a daily basis in order to propagate war. Just look at how dehumanized the Muslims have become ever since this ILLEGAL, INHUMANE, and GOD-FORSAKEN WAR began. The interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated our Islamic Holy Book, the Qur’an, by flushing them down the toilets, the Danish cartoonists vilified our Prophet (peace be upon him) by depicting him with a bomb strapped to his turban, radio show bigots like Michael Savage lead an all-out onslaught against Muslims, instructing people to curse out Muslims in public and deport them from the United States, and now after we have seen the vilification of our Holy Book, the vilification of our beloved Prophet, the vilification of our community, we see the vilification of clothing that a certain ethnic group wears. The keffiyeh is not even an exclusively Islamic scarf, it is Middle-Eastern – not all Middle-Easterners are Muslim! Not even all Palestinians are Muslim!

If commercials should be banned just because of their dress, then why don’t we ban all the depictions of Jesus wearing a Middle-Eastern headdress, or depictions of Moses and the other Prophets wearing the Middle-Eastern headdress?! (Peace be upon them all) Let’s become fascists and outlaw all religious symbols, religious clothing, and religious slogans! No, but Malkin and her band of bigots will only argue that Muslims are the terrorists in the Middle-East and we, the U.S., must defend ourselves if we want to “preserve” our freedom and liberty. In response to Dunkin’ Donuts, Malkin writes:

“It’s refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.”

Is anyone else just as outraged by Michelle Malkin’s blatant racism? Since the majority of employees at Dunkin’ Donuts are Indian, Pakistani, Egyptian, Iranian, and Latino – why don’t we just ban them too from the workplace? After all, if we use Malkin’s logic, these are people who are stealing our jobs (Indians), terrorists (Pakistanis), terrorists (Egyptians), holocaust-denying terrorists (Iranians), and illegal immigrants (Latinos). See how effective stereotyping is? We don’t need to judge people based on their individuality or on our own experiences with them, we can learn enough from their ethnicity!

Seriously, this type of alarmist and xenophobic behavior is extremely offensive and disturbing. The media neglects the Muslim voice – we are the community facing an annual increase in hate crimes and discriminatory acts since 9/11, but people like Malkin downplay it. According to her, the hate crime incidents and reports are “exaggerated,” and Muslims are just “victimizing” themselves. Yes, Ms. Malkin, tell us that our clothing is terrorist clothing, tell us to keep silent when some racist bigot calls us a “rag-head” or “dune coon,” tell us to shut up when Muslim countries are bombed, tell us that women and children and other innocent people in Iraq or Palestine or Afghanistan have no right to defend themselves.

How sick and twisted is this country becoming? I feel sorry for Rachael Ray because now she will be associated with that scarf and “terrorism.” Imagine if all of us wore the keffiyeh in response to this ridiculous, alarmist, red-scare-of-the-21st-century; imagine if people actually woke up and felt motivated to do something about our society – imagine what could be accomplished.

Michelle Malkin is a racist in every sense of the word. Muslims will not stop being Muslims, they will not stop wearing their traditional clothing, and they will not let Islamophobes change their lifestyles. So go ahead, point fingers at me when I’m wearing my keffiyeh, and call me a terrorist. I will not care. The hate is on you.

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic ~

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