They Called Me a “Spic”

jzovechkin2

Over the past week, my friends and I have been playing on a new roller hockey court that isn’t too far from my house.  Prior to that, we’ve been playing on a relatively unused basketball court (pictured above) for months, which has been fun for recreational hockey/pick-up games, but we really wanted to play on a better surface and actually use a puck instead of a ball.

We finally found a roller hockey court where a good number of people play at.  Although competitive, no one plays a rough game, there are people of all ages, and unsurprisingly, everyone is White.  Except for me (also pictured above) and my brother.  Being the only person of color at a hockey court isn’t something new to me.  When I played for an in-line roller hockey league in high school, I found myself getting self-conscious about it when people, including my teammates, would poke fun at my first and last name.  I remember one time, a couple of kids I played hockey with called me a “a stupid Afghanistanian” when I was carrying my hockey gear off the court.

I find myself operating under White gaze a lot, if not always, especially when I’m playing hockey with people I don’t know.  I can’t help but think about how they perceive me, a brown-skinned man, playing a sport that is filled with predominately White athletes (at least here in the United States and with what we see in the NHL).  If my friends and I are playing hockey on our old basketball court, I don’t feel like I’m going to be judged if I’m wearing my Pakistani cricket jersey or my Egypt and Turkey soccer shirts.  I don’t worry about it because I’m playing with my friends — people I know.  But when it comes to going on this new hockey court, I feel that if I wear a jersey that says “Pakistan” on it, people will be gunning for me or treating me in a rude way.

Maybe I’m thinking and assuming way too much, right?  Wrong.  Yesterday, before I went to the new hockey court, I swapped my red Egypt soccer jersey for a red Nautica t-shirt.  I figured, “I don’t want to deal with people giving me smack about my shirt saying ‘Egypt’ or making some stupid racial slur or whatever.”  I got to the court, laced up, and said “hi” and “what’s up” and “how’s it going, man” to all of the people there.  Everyone was friendly, conversational, and pretty much just wanted to have fun.  So far so good, I thought.

Since there were so many people, we played with line changes, and I think I played at least six shifts the entire day.  I ended up doing really well too and scored four goals.  When everyone packed up to leave, my friends and I said “good game” to everyone and that was the end of that.  Fun day, right?  Well, today, my friends and I played at the court again and a friend of mine told me, “Oh man, I have to tell you something.  When you scored your second or third goal yesterday, this kid on the bench said, “f****** spic!”  My friend said he was going to say something, but before he could, someone shouted at him and said, “yo, watch your language!”

It kind of messed up the rest of my day.  I’ve noticed that some people at that court try to play more aggressive against me (as opposed to others), and it could be because I stick-handle really well and they’re just trying to steal the puck from me, but then there’s another part of me thinks it’s because of my skin color.  Playing hockey for a long time in my life means I’m familiar with how the frustration and aggression levels can rise when you’re on the losing team or not performing as well as you would like to.  When you factor in a brown guy scoring most of the goals for the other team, would it be wrong to assume that the frustration could build into a racial slur?

The word choice of the person who delivered the racial slur just shows us even more how racists don’t even know who they hate.  It shows how ignorant, childish, and idiotic they are.  I am familiar with the racial slur, I know it’s directed towards people of Hispanic descent, but since this is the first time I was called it, I decided to run a few online searches just to read about it’s origins and use.   Reading about it just made me angrier and I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that information here.

I don’t care if people mistaken me for another race, there isn’t anything wrong with being Latino, Asian, Arab, or anything else.  What is offensive is when people use racial slurs — there is simply no excuse for it.  It’s offensive, it’s racist, it’s flat-out wrong.  If he thought I was Arab, he would have used another racial slur; if he thought I was South Asian (which is what I am), he would have had a racial slur for that too.  The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that I refused to wear a “team Egypt” soccer jersey for the sake of avoiding ethnic/religious stereotypes, but since I’m brown-skinned, I ended up getting stereotyped anyway.  How do you hide your skin color, right?  Thank God that I don’t wish I could hide my skin color, but what about the people who do wish they could hide their skin color just for the sake of avoiding conflict?  Maybe there are times when I do feel that way.

If there is something positive that came out of this, it’s that it reminded me that people of color face similar struggles.  I would say that most people assume I’m Indian (which is correct and incorrect at the same time, lol), but there have been a few people who mistook me for Latino, Arab, and even Greek.  When I hear a racial slur that is used against other people of color, it not only angers me, but also makes me think about the struggles they experience.  There are so many different stereotypes applied to all of us and they are experiences that we all share.  Most of the time, when I’m sharing some of my experiences with racism with a fellow person of color, I feel comfortable because I feel like they can empathize and understand where I’m coming from.  This person who used that disgusting word may have thought that it was “ok” or “acceptable” to use it, but I doubt he understands how hurtful it is.

I try to stay positive about it all.  At least someone on the bench told him to shut up, right?  Much Love to everyone who has experienced any form of discrimination, hate, or racist bigotry in their lives.  Keep your chin up, friends.

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.

Don Cherry’s Xenophobic Remarks on Ovechkin Should Not Be Tolerated

ovechkin

Someone needs to call Don Cherry out on his childish xenophobic rants.  Regarded as a legendary ice hockey analyst and Canadian icon, Don Cherry is known for his often inflammatory and controversial remarks, but it seems that the general public recurrently lets his ethnocentric diatribes slide rather than holding him accountable.

For years, Cherry has been characterizing European players as “cowards” for not understanding the “Canadian way” of hockey.  When asked to comment on why he didn’t have any European players on his junior team, he said, “They call me a racist because I don’t want any Europeans coming to play for my Ice Dogs. If a kid comes over here and becomes a Canadian, I’ll put him on in a minute. But I will not parachute him in so that he can grab the money and run.”  Cherry took similar jabs at the dazzling Czech center, Jaromir Jagr, accusing him of being “everything that’s wrong with the NHL.  He gets hit, he goes down and stays there. Get up!”  In the same interview, Cherry compared Jagr to another hockey legend, Tim Horton, a player who, according to Cherry, would stay on the ice and finish his shift even if “blood would be coming down his face.”  Apparently, Cherry thinks only Canadians know how to play “tough.”

So what’s eating at Don Cherry these days?  See number 8 on the Washington Capitals, a remarkably talented Russian left-winger named Alexander Ovechkin. Actually, to say he is “remarkably talented” is an understatement.  The guy is a magician with the puck and arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NHL today.  Playing in his fourth season, Ovechkin not only led the league in goals, but he has also earned his place in the pantheon of hockey superstars.  Cherry’s beef?  Ovechkin’s goal celebrations are too “over-the-top.”  That’s right.  Ovechkin’s enthusiasm is too much for Cherry’s “Canadian” standards.

On CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry complained that Ovechkin was acting like “those goofy soccer guys” by “jumping up and down” after scoring goals.  In pure dogmatic fashion, Cherry pointed at the screen and lectured Canadian kids not to act like Ovechkin.  Instead, he tells kids that they should behave the “Canadian way” and act like Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla, and Bobby Orr (all Canadian-born players).  I didn’t realize the NHL had a “Canadians only” stamp on it.

What’s more disturbing is how ethnocentric and racist Cherry’s presentation is.  He shows clips of dark-skinned international soccer players jubilantly celebrating on the field, calls them “goofs” and says, “Look at this! This is what we want our hockey players to act with?”  Then he shows clips of Ovechkin’s celebrations and yammers, “Look at this!  Does he not remind you of a soccer player?”  For those who missed it, here is the clip:

Cherry receives plenty of criticism for his remarks, but the problem is not just his unapologetic ego, it’s also how the media and the NHL simply brush off his words as if they don’t generate negative and stereotypical perceptions of European players (or any player who is not from North America).  On the CBC Sports website, Cherry is showcased for his opinionated views, no matter how bigoted or how xenophobic, but the line needs to be drawn somewhere.  Cherry undeniably crossed it right here (and it isn’t the first time either, he once went as far as saying Russian players have “zero heart”).  Not holding him accountable is to ignore the weight of the issue altogether.

Around college campuses and street hockey courts, I hear hockey fans debating about Ovechkin’s exuberant celebrations.  I’ve been watching ice hockey since 1997 when the Philadelphia Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals (and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings), and I’ve never heard this kind of debate before.  It’s no doubt that the “celebration controversy” was generated by Don Cherry’s commentary, but whether people realize it or not, it reinforces this new idea that there is a Canadian/North American “unwritten law” on how hockey players are supposed to celebrate goals.  When Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season, Cherry ripped on Ovechkin’s “hot stick” celebration and had these words for the young star, “Have a little class and do it right.”  In other words:  Be Canadian, otherwise you’re “threatening” the “Canadian way” of hockey and aren’t worthy of admiration or praise.  It’s sort of like the Bush administration on ice.

The fact of the matter is that many aspiring hockey players admire Alexander Ovechkin, not because of his nationality, but for his extraordinary display of talent and leadership.  What worries me is how people like Don Cherry want to make Ovechkin’s nationality an issue.  It seems that he wants us to perceive Ovechkin’s style of play as “foreign” and “un-Canadian,” while making us forget the fact that Canadian-born players such as Theoren Fluery, Tiger Williams, Wayne Gretzky, and countless others have also displayed plenty of dramatic celebrations in the past.

Dictating how NHL players should celebrate their goals isn’t so much about hockey than it is about fascism.  Calling all European players “cowards,” accusing them of having no “heart,” and then comparing them with “goofy” dark-skinned soccer players is not about hockey either.  It’s called racism.  If Don Cherry is not held accountable, then what’s to stop him and other sports commentators from making racially charged statements about athletes outside of North America?  What’s to stop the xenophobia and ethnocentrism from spilling out on the ice?  Everyone remembers what happened to that other Don (Imus), right?

It’s funny because amidst all this controversy, whether its Cherry yapping on about the “Canadian” way of hockey or our generation’s hockey fans engaging in superficial debates about goal celebrations, a simple truth lies beneath it all:  Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

Great athletes don’t always have to be North American.

~Broken Mystic~

The Truth About Thanksgiving: Brainwashing of the American History Textbook

no-thanks-no-giving
Those who are indigenous to this land we call “The United States of America” have been long misrepresented and pushed out of American history textbooks in favor of glorifying those who now rule this nation and represent the dominant culture. What kind of democracy are we when education institutions and teachers refuse to mention the fact that 10 to 30 million Natives were killed at the hands of European invasion and colonialism? What is the point of having a “free market of ideas” when selective and biased history is being taught to our children?

There is no other way to put it, but erasing the memory of an entire race of people through distorted history is a systematic way of deceiving and lying to our children. Not only are we presented with biased history, but we are also subjected to an ever-growing culture of capitalism, in which commercialization of an ambiguous holiday merely pulls us away from facts and meaning. Turkeys are associated with “Thanksgiving” in the same way Santa Clause and the Easter bunny have become synonymous with Christmas and Easter, respectively. Through the guise of innocence, capitalism is constantly telling us to consume because consumption equals “happiness.” Tomorrow is not “Black Friday” for nothing.

And as children dress up as Pilgrims and Natives to reenact the romanticized version of history, they are not only perpetuating stereotypes, but more importantly, they’re being embedded with lies. What do they really know about the Pilgrims and the Natives? Consider a high school history textbook called “The American Tradition” which describes the scene quite succinctly:

After some exploring, the Pilgrims chose the land around Plymouth Harbor for their settlement. Unfortunately, they had arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England winter. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. When warm weather came, the colonists planted, fished, hunted, and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

This patronizing version of history excludes many embarrassing facts of European history. As stated by James W. Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” many college students are unaware of the horrific plague that devastated and significantly reduced the population of Natives after Columbus’ arrival in the “new world.” Most diseases came from animals that were domesticated by Europeans. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, which was later “spread through gifts of blankets by infected Europeans.” Of the twelve high school textbooks Professor Loewen studied and analyzed, only three offer some explanation that the plague was a factor of European colonization. The nine remaining textbooks mention almost nothing, and two of them omit the subject altogether. He writes: “Each of the other seven furnishes only a fragment of a paragraph that does not even make it into the index, let alone into students’ minds.”

Why is it important to mention the plague? It reinforced European ethnocentricism which hardly produced a “friendly” relationship between the Natives and Europeans. To most of the Pilgrims and Europeans, the Natives were heathens, savages, treacherous, and Satanic. Upon seeing thousands of dead Natives, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, called the plague “miraculous.” In 1634, he wrote to a friend in England:

But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect…

The ugly truth is that many Pilgrims were thankful and grateful that the Native population was decreasing. Even worse, there was the Pequot Massacre in 1637, which started after the colonists found a murdered white man in his boat. Ninety armed settlers burned a Native village, along with their crops, and then demanded the Natives to turn in the murderers. When the Natives refused, a massacre followed.

Captain John Mason and his colonist army surrounded a fortified Pequot village and reportedly shouted: “We must burn them! Such a dreadful terror let the Almighty fall upon their spirits that they would flee from us and run into the very flames. Thus did the Lord Judge the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies.” The surviving Pequot were hunted and slain.

The Governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, further elaborates:

Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.

Perhaps most disturbingly, it is strongly argued by many historians that the Pequot Massacre led to the “Thanksgiving” festivities. The day after the massacre, the aforementioned Governor Massachusetts Bay Colony declared: “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.” It was signed into law that, “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.”

Now, one may ask: What about Squanto, the Wampanoag man who learned to speak English and helped the hungry, ill, and poor Pilgrims? As cited by Professor Loewen, an American high school textbook called “Land of Promise” reads:

Squanto had learned their language, the author explained, from English fishermen who ventured into the New England waters each summer. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, squash, and pumpkins. Would the small band of settlers have survived without Squanto’s help? We cannot say. But by the fall of 1621, colonists and Indians could sit down to several days of feast and thanksgiving to God (later celebrated as the first Thanksgiving).

Note that this text states the first Thanksgiving was on 1621. Indeed, there was a feast on that year, but it was not called a “Thanksgiving feast” nor was it repeated until years later after the Pequot Massacre in 1637. In regards to Squanto, the correct question to ask is: How did Squanto learn English? History textbooks neglect to mention that the Europeans did not perceive Squanto as an equal, but rather as “an instrument of their God” to help the “chosen people.” It is also omitted that, as a boy, Squanto was stolen by a British captain in 1605 and taken to England. He worked for a Plymouth Merchant who eventually helped him arrange passage back to Massachusetts, but less than a year later, he was seized by a British slave raider. Along with two dozen fellow Natives, Squanto was sold into slavery in Spain. He would manage to escape slavery, journey back to England, and then talk a ship captain into taking him along on his next trip to Cape Cod in 1619.

As Squanto walked back into his home village, he was horrified to find that he was the only surviving member of his village. The rest were either killed in battle or died of illness and disease. Excluding Squanto’s enslavement is to paint an incredibly distorted version of history that suggests Natives like Squanto learned English for no other reason but to help the colonists. It is to glorify the Europeans and erase the struggles and experiences of the Native people.

When history is transformed into myths, tales, and bedtime stories, we ignore historical research that enables us to learn valuable and meaningful lessons about our present, as well as about our future. History is meant to be an accurate and honest account of civilizations, cultures, and events; not a body of ethnocentric and selective alterations.

As Professor Loewen states:

Thanksgiving is full of embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the Native Americans to the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Our modern celebrations date back only to 1863; not until the 1890s did the Pilgrims get included in the tradition; no one even called them ‘Pilgrims’ until the 1870s.

I did not write this article with intentions to offend or say we shouldn’t celebrate “Thanksgiving.” None of us are responsible for the atrocious deaths of Natives and Europeans. None of us caused the plague or the massacres. But as human beings, I do feel that it’s important for us to approach history with honesty and sensitivity. Perhaps some of you don’t believe this history is relevant to you, but I would strongly argue that a history that is not inclusive is a dangerously racist and prejudice one. Yes, we should spend time with our families and Loved ones, and yes, we should be grateful and thankful for all that we have, but not at the expense of ignoring an entire race of people, their culture, and their history. The fact that history textbooks and schools try to glorify the Pilgrims while omitting significant facts about the Natives represents that there is a lot to improve in the United States. Let us not become blinded by super-patriotism or blowout sales of “Black Friday.” Let us give some thought to the Native people, learn from their struggles, and embolden ourselves to stand up against racism and genocide in all forms.

They deserve your attention.

~Broken Mystic~

UPDATE: Thank you all for commenting and sharing your thoughts on this post.  Unfortunately, I do NOT write on this blog anymore, but you can still share your comments on an updated and revised piece I wrote on my new blog (see link below).  Also, there are others who have written excellent articles on the truth of “Thanksgiving” and their work certainly deserves more attention than this post.

Please bring your comments to my new blog here (where I also provide links to must-read articles):

http://muslimreverie.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/thanksgiving-and-forgotten-genocide-brainwashing-of-american-textbooks/

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 ~

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers