Archive for Arabs

Sacha Cohen and Arab Minstrelsy

Posted in Feature, Loon Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by loonwatch

by Daniel Ibn Zayd (Original guest piece)

In May of 2005 I joined a group of students and activists to watch a documentary entitled Paul Robeson: Here I Stand. Paul Robeson was an American political figure, though he remains virtually unknown by most in his home country. Many might recognize him from a booklet of stamps published by the United States Postal Service, entitled “African-Americans on Stamps: A celebration of African-American Heritage”. The booklet opens with Robeson’s smiling face, and states: “By the late 1930s, [Robeson] had become very active and outspoken on behalf of racial justice, social progress, and international peace.” This is true. He was also exiled from the United States, his citizenship revoked and then re-instated; he was poisoned with drugs and tortured with electric-shock therapy, the latter while under American supervision in hospital custody in London. He was repeatedly forced to defend himself during the Communist witch-hunts of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He died in relative obscurity in 1977. For any group that has suffered similar treatment, this will sound all too familiar.

Like many acculturated Americans, I was familiar with Robeson as an entertainer; his rendition of “Ol’ Man River” from Showboat (written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern in 1927) is considered an American classic. The dirgeful ballad describes the toil and strife of the black slave working the gambling ferry boats:

Colored folks work on de Mississippi,
Colored folks work while de white folks play,
Pullin’ dose boats from de dawn to sunset,
Gittin’ no rest till de judgement day.

In the score this refrain is marked optional; replaced with “[a] musical part” depending on the whim of the director, in deference to audiences perhaps not comfortable with this rendition. This “comfort level” is the driving force of acceptance of Othered minorities as citizens, as well as their presence within cultural manifestations and national mythologies. The allowance or not of these couplets speaks of an understood ever-shifting limit of tolerance, the tolerated never quite alloted full freedom.

From this vantage point, the recent presidential election takes on a different significance, the opposite of current received wisdom, that a historic event has taken place with the election of a black American as marking a “post-race” America. Barack Obama’s election instead represents a similar “limit of tolerance”, based on the behavior, thought, and action of the one tolerated. His mediation* as a new “ideal” on the other hand, wholly separate from actions which make him hard to differentiate from his predecessors, and removed from the mood on the street and realities suffered on the ground, is, in this light, not a contradiction.

One month before the election in 2008 I stopped into a hip-hop clothing store in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Various T-shirts sported the visage of Obama along with statements of pride and hope. “My President Is Black” read one, against the backdrop of an American flag, and with the words “The American Dream” on the reverse. This explosion in production of T-shirts and signage outside of the licensing purview of the Democratic National Committee[1] bears witness more to the weight placed on Obama’s shoulders than belief in “Hope” or “Change”. On the wall of the shop was a graffitied art piece reflecting Obama’s perceived political peers: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. To peer into Obama’s future we simply have to examine King, sadly reduced post-mortem to a shill for Alcatel and Cingular, and Mandela, who now serves a similar function as an ideal wholly removed from the realities of a post-apartheid South Africa, currently morphed into a neo-liberal and globalized nightmare.

Malcolm X, on the other hand, represented in image as well as in word and deed something much closer to the reality of lived life for many in the country, as stated in his famous “Ballot or the Bullet” speech in 1964:

No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver–no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare….

Reframed, these T-shirts thus become a grassroots manifestation of the poet Langston Hughes’s The Dream Deferred[2]; they implicitly contain the projection of what might happen if the dream is put off any longer. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of an Obama presidency.

Malcolm X also happens to be the only Black activist in the USPS booklet (this due to lobbying efforts), nonetheless painstakingly described therein as a “lifelong criminal” who did time in prison before his conversion to Islam. No mention is made of his assassination, perhaps due to his description of the assassination of John Kennedy as America’s “chickens [coming] home to roost”. This was echoed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright[3] who said the same about the attack on the World Trade Center, and Like Malcolm X and Paul Robeson, Reverend Wright also suffered a smear campaign to paint him as a threat to the nation.

Full acceptance in a culture which mocked their aspirations

Part of what marks X, King, Robeson, and even Obama is their not matching their bestowed stereotype. In his book Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto[4], Gilbert Osofsky states:

What was most striking about the Negro stereotype was the way it portrayed a people in an image so totally the reverse of what Americans considered worthy of emulation and recognition. The major and traditional American values were all absent from the Negro stereotype. The Negro was conceived of as lazy in an ambitious culture; improvident and sensuous in a moralistic society; happy in a sober world; poor in a nation that offered riches to all who cared to take them; childlike in a country of men….Negroes hoped for full acceptance in a culture which mocked their aspirations.

The condition of the American black man was a function not just of racism, but of a built-in inability of those so tagged to voice or discuss the nature of the problem; an inversion in which the dominant discourse promulgated stereotypes which were subsumed within the dominated culture itself, and then further assumed and re-characterized by the targeted group in question.

It is only relatively recently that we are witnessing documentation of Robeson and his work–time having defused any revolutionary potential here–along with one of the first stars of an entertainment realm that tolerated black performance: Bert Williams. In 1903 Williams staged a musical comedy entitled In Dahomey that was so successful it forced the racial integration of many theaters in the States. Simultaneously, W.E.B. DuBois was seeing the birth of a Black cultural awakening in such work. In an essay from 1916 entitled “The Drama Among Black Folk”, he wrote:

In later days Cole and Johnson and Williams and Walker lifted minstrelsy by sheer force of genius into the beginnings of a new drama. White people refused to support the finest of their new conceptions like the “Red Moon” and the cycle apparently stopped. Recently, however, with the growth of a considerable number of colored theatres and moving picture places, a new and inner demand for Negro drama has arisen which is only partially satisfied by the vaudeville actors….The next step will undoubtedly be the slow growth of a new folk drama built around the actual experience of Negro American life.

This cultural expression, wrested from the dominant class, spoken in its own language, and directed inward in terms of audience was the de facto segregated black nation attempting to stand on its own feet and create its own place, speak in its own voice. For this reason it could not be tolerated. Dubois’s appeals for funds for such a theater went unheeded; audiences wished to see re-affirmation of their view of black Americans, as shaped by white actors in blackface makeup. The stillborn theatrical awakening was reduced even further to the horrific tragedy of actors such as Williams smearing oily burnt cork ash on their own [not] black [enough] faces.

This inversion of Black culture through the mediation of the white artist is evident as well in Porgy and Bess, an opera about Black life (written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward in 1935). In a biography of George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, the jazz-era band leader stated, “the times are here to debunk Gershwin’s lampblack Negroisms.” Similarly, when listened to outside of the dominant discourse such as on the radio show L’épopée des musiques noires broadcast on Radio France Internationale[5], such artists speak openly of the racism that they suffered and which continues to plague them. That Duke Ellington successfully staged all-black musicals that rose above the minstrel dross remains lost within history; meanwhile, Showboat and Porgy and Bess have replaced actual historical memory.[6]

Black to the future
This specter of white men in black face rises every so often as a reminder and as a warning, but also as a marker of white privilege defended as “free speech”, as in the case of firefighters on Long Island who wore Afro wigs and black face in a community parade in the late ’80s[7]:

The police commissioner’s management authority has been undermined by federal Judge John Sprizzo’s June 23 ruling, following a non-jury trial, that the city did not have the right to fire a police officer and two firefighters who rode in blackface and wore Afro wigs on a parade float in 1988. Police Officer Joseph Locurto and the two firefighters were punished, wrote Sprizzo, “in retaliation for engaging in protected speech.” This “protected speech” involved being part of a float with the banner “Black [sic] to the Future: Broad Channel 2098,” which the defendants said was a parody of black racial integration into the mainly white Broad Channel neighborhood. They threw watermelon and fried chicken at parade goers and, as the parade was ending, a firefighter grabbed the back of the truck and dangled himself toward the ground, re-enacting the brutal dragging murder of a black man in Texas two months earlier.

Although we might not remember the vaudeville circuits of the early 20th century, this news item attests to the lingering epithets and uglinesses that were used to disparage blacks of that period. Their deep-seatedness is revealed in the non-reaction to their use, and the ensuing disapproval if not dismissal of the discussion that might follow such an event. This legally protected “free speech” leaves no humanizing aspect untargeted, by referring directly to black stage characters and their disempowering nicknames (Step-‘n’-Fetch-It, Jim Crow); to the sight of white eyes peering out of black face ([rac]coon); to the percentage of black blood in a person’s bloodstream (high yellow, quadroon); to one’s renegade slave background (maroon). Furthermore, the “reverse” of this often used as a defense, namely, disparaging terms for whites, are few in number, hardly as powerful, and are by contrast comical in their ineffectiveness.

This brings up the main point of any such discussion of representation, which cannot be limited to its visual or aural perception: the power differential involved. Who is the audience, and where do they fit societally speaking? What is my physical, technical, and economic ability to reach them? What are the various legal rights that enable and/or impinge such communication? What is my privilege to make such a statement, and what personal, communal, moral, etc. limitations might I place on myself before doing so? What is my luxury to so speak, above and beyond these other aspects of such expression?

Examples of unspoken referents thus weigh even heavier, in the sense that one need not even speak to evoke the same racist sentiment: Confederate flags flying over southern state capitol buildings (or in hidden locations out of public view); separated primary elections that reflect the class breakdown of the political parties along racial lines; the voting down of a federal holiday commemorating Martin Luther King (“states’ rights” makes direct reference to George Wallace’s statement of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”); the practice of diluting minority power via the gerrymandering of electoral districts; the use of scare tactics at the polls; the prohibition of the vote for felons; etc.

The equivalent disparity of direct expression within the culture, along similar overt as well as covert lines, includes endless examples: Billie Holiday used to relate how she was run out of Mobile, Alabama for singing Strange Fruit (written by Abel Meeropol in 1937), a song about the infamous practice of lynching. In Louisiana more recently, black students were convicted and imprisoned for their protest and reaction to a noose[8] being hung from a tree on the school lawn; this “warning” to the black student population came after they decided to assemble underneath the “white student’s” tree.[9] A super-mediated* discussion of the word “nigger” took place when Michael Richards (Kramer from the television show Seinfeld), not happy with some black hecklers, informed them that “fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass.” More disturbing are the commemorative postcards made from photographs of hanged men, these “black bodies swinging/in the Southern breeze”, surrounded by smiling white faces as might be seen at a picnic or a communal pigsticking, and today disturbingly mimicked by images from Abu Ghaib prison in Iraq, as well as of soldiers in Afghanistan posing with corpses.

A share of the wealth and a piece of the action
It should thus come as no surprise that during the Democratic primaries of 2008 Andrew Cuomo made reference to Barack Obama’s “shuck and jive”, a phrase which has no meaning outside of imposed black vaudeville dialect for shiftiness and evasiveness, making semantic reference to costume change, rapid dance steps, and a fancy ability with words. The attorney general’s disavowal of the term as racist is contradicted by his former statement that voting for his [black] rival for the New York governor’s race, Carl McCall, would result in a “racial contract” between Black and Hispanic Democrats which “can’t happen”.[10] Similar was the statement from Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland that Obama seemed “uppity”. Everyone who speaks American English completes this noun phrase with the one epithet that follows, explicitly referring to a black man who should “know his role”.

These terms and images are so loaded that they only need be hinted at to get the message across; even in their denial they hit the target and leave their mark. The resulting backtracking can be seen to be prefigured; meaning they are planned if not staged, the knowledge remains that exculpation awaits for simply denouncing the action of having stated them, or else by labeling the targets thereof as “oversensitive”, “politically correct”, or “racist” themselves. In this way, the legacy of the ignoble practices and codes of that time most assuredly live on, as a chronic condition of the culture itself; the equivalent of linguistic sucker punches such as “I would never refer to my opponent as a Communist”[11].

Then candidate Obama listlessly defended himself against such provocations, and was rewarded with the presidency. In stark contrast, no U.S. postage stamp, indeed, few American history books represent any leader from the Black Power movements of the 1960s, and this despite the acknowledgment at that time by then president Richard Nixon, who used the term Black Power in a speech attempting to subvert the movement at its core:

[M]uch of the Black militant talk these days is actually in terms far closer to the doctrines of free enterprise than to those of the welfarist thirties–terms of “pride”, “ownership”, “private enterprise”, “capital”, “self-assurance”, “self-respect”… What most of these militants are asking is not separation, but to be included in–not as supplicants, but as owners, as entrepreneurs–to have a share of the wealth and a piece of the action. And this is precisely what the Federal central target of the new approach ought to be. It ought to be oriented toward more Black ownership, for from this can flow the rest–Black pride, Black jobs, Black opportunity and yes, Black power….[12]

The actuality is better known: the former Black Power movement leaders have either been assassinated or put in prison, have come around to parrot the dominant discourse, or have retreated to obscurity and/or academia; all have been rendered place-less, historically silenced and disappeared. Similarly, if no one remembers the black musicians of jazz, blues, funk, gospel, etc. that the U.S. Postal Service attempts to pay tribute to, everyone on the other hand knows their white stand-ins, their role-reversers: Elvis, Joe Cocker, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, etc. To reinforce this diminishment, blacks of a certain celebrity are often referred to as the shadow of their white counterparts, especially in terms of politics and culture: “the black Daniel Webster” applied to Samuel Ringgold Ward, or “the black Callas”, attributed to Barbara Hendricks, or now, “the black Kennedy”, in a reflection of racial privilege, and the one-way directional flow of cultural appropriation and political designation.

The rainbow sign
In one such Black spiritual now forgotten, God gives Noah the “Rainbow Sign” that ends his estrangement from the land; however the sign comes with a warning that He is done with water, promising “the fire next time”. In his book of the same name, James Baldwin describes Malcolm X’s relationship with the United States thus:

Whether in private debate or in public, any attempt I made to explain how the Black Muslim movement came about, and how it has achieved such force, was met with a blankness that revealed the little connection that the liberals’ attitudes have with their perceptions or their lives, or even their knowledge–revealed, in fact, that they could deal with the Negro as a symbol or a victim but had no sense of him as a man. When Malcolm X, who is considered the movement’s second-in-command, and heir apparent, points out that the cry of “violence” was not raised, for example, when the Israelis fought to regain Israel, and, indeed, is raised only when black men indicate that they will fight for their rights, he is speaking the truth. The conquests of England, every one of them bloody, are part of what Americans have in mind when they speak of England’s glory. In the United States, violence and heroism have been made synonymous except when it comes to blacks, and the only way to defeat Malcolm’s point is to concede it and then ask oneself why this is so….there is no reason that black men should be expected to be more patient, more forebearing, more farseeing than whites; indeed, quite the contrary. The real reason that non-violence is considered a virtue in Negroes…is that white men do not want their lives, their self-image, or their property threatened.

Here Baldwin presages the purely symbolic non-threatening black man who will be acceptable in the United States. Another such example, Bill Cosby, echoes this when he states that “all the problems [on his TV show] were not solved, but were dealt with without violence.” In contrast to the [acceptable] violence of Israel and England (which too has its own “Jerusalem”[13]) Baldwin reveals what is most threatening about the landless or placeless minority nations within Anglo-Saxon realms. More importantly, he reveals society’s inherent fear of those who have similarly examined the topic of self-representation (Ture, Fanon, Roy, Dabashi, etc.), and who conclude that violence is, perhaps, the only possible reaction to greater violences both actual and virtual suffered by the oppressed.

We’re here without any rights
This discussion of violence controlled by those who have the power to define the parameters for said violence brings us to Sacha Cohen, and his portrayal of an Arab leader in his movie The Dictator. In naming the dictator “Gen. Shabazz Aladeen”, pointed reference is made to the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s taken name, juxtaposed mockingly against the exoticized “Aladdin” (which removes any religious significance here). In an interview with Howard Stern[14] Cohen states:

“All these dictators blame everything on the Zionists,” said Baron Cohen, “it’s a great scapegoat. Now, young people are saying the reason we’re not happy is we’re living in these dictatorships. There’s a guy who’s a trillion-aire who’s sleeping with models and actresses, and we’re here without any rights being persecuted.”

In a failed bid to play victim, Cohen instead reveals his “Arab-face” minstrelsy; his portrayal of stereotypes are in fact directed at an audience the class of which has controlled the destiny of those living “under dictatorships” for the greater part of the last century, if not the past 500 years. The insinuation here is that such dictatorships are a function of the Arab inability to assume democracy (a great Orientalism, barely worthy of non-scholars such as Bernard Lewis) and claiming falsely that the region has no democratic or, indeed, socialist, pan-Arabist, anti-colonialist, etc. aspects to its past. It is too easy to discuss these neglected historical forces of liberation in the Arab and Muslim world to debunk such heinous racism–Mossadegh, Shari’ati, Fanon, Memmi, Nasser, etc. (among many, many others) all come quickly to mind–and this, coupled with the fact that the Third World’s leftist realm has been targeted for extermination for decades if not more than a century, only reinforces the hubris of Cohen’s statement.

In economic terms, it also reveals the power differential inherent to capitalism and globalization, and is reminiscent of Bill Cosby’s attacks on “bling”-style rap artists–he doesn’t even admit to their more political precursors–who have managed to acquire wealth and status by following all of the lessons learned in a neo-liberal society (similar to Mexican drug cartels, the Mafia, the Saudi monarchy, etc.) but who get punished when they become too competitive (like Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan) and are thus rendered docile and brought within the domain of global Capital. “The trillionaire sleeping with models and actresses” is a glorified trope within American culture, so it is odd to find it given populist overtones as concerns the current Arab revolts and uprisings, as if we are to believe that in any way Sasha Cohen finds common cause with the Arab street.

The idea that the struggle against the colonial apartheid state of Israel, indeed, that the resistance to First-World globalizing dominance in the region as premised and foregrounded by the Palestinian struggle, might somehow be simplistically reduced to “criticism” of Zionism (in and of itself an ignoble ideology) is so Orwellian an inversion as to be unworthy of retort. There is no point wasting time considering the cultural “flip”, in imagining an Arab or Muslim “doing the same thing” culturally speaking; there is likewise no point in discussing the ridiculous concept of “reverse racism” when such debates require a thorough examination of said expression along economic and political lines. This, the power differential of the dominant culture as portrayed by that culture’s media, is the central point of this discussion, and however we might examine it, those who are minority, who are Other, fundamentally cannot rise above such representations as they are played out within this mediated system.

A critical black gaze
As a black American convert to Islam, Malcolm X, despite mediated attempts to historically reduce him, could very well be a case of a sub-mediated* image that survives such a pulverization[15], and as such, serves as a model to follow to bring us out of this quandary. As stated by bell hooks, in one of her essays[16] concerning and quoting Malcolm X:

Understanding the power of mass media images as forces that can overdetermine how we see ourselves and how we choose to act, Malcolm X admonished black folks: “Never accept images that have been created for you by someone else. It is always better to form the habit of learning how to see things for yourself: then you are in a better position to judge for yourself.” Interpreted narrowly, this admonition can be seen as referring only to images of black folks created in the white imagination. More broadly, however, its message is not simply that black folks should interrogate only the images white folks produce while passively consuming images constructed by black folks; it urges us to look with a critical eye at all images. Malcolm X promoted and encouraged the development of a critical black gaze, one that would be able to move beyond passive consumption and be fiercely confronting, challenging, interrogating.

Proclaimed “hope” or promised “change” should not derail any criticism of the Image Machine, especially when this Machine has minimized minority histories to literally belittled images riding on tickets of commerce; to bogus misrepresentative celluloid trash; to symbolic representations of white privilege embodied in the heads of state and power: All the more reason we must be “fiercely confronting, challenging, interrogating…look[ing] with a critical eye at all images”.

The answer to such racism lies not in a faux multi-culturalism, nor in a homogenizing, “borderless”, “nomadic” neo-liberalism. The answer lies in manifestations of resistance to this dominant culture which are able to pre-emptively prevent co-optation by the dominant discourse. Hamid Dabashi, in his book Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror, states:

Out of this cul-de-sac, one possibility has always remained open: a creative re/constitution of cultural character and historical agency from a range of poetic and aesthetic possibilities, where the notion of the beautiful is violently wrested out of the banal, the sublime forcefully out of the ridiculous, agency defiantly out of servitude, subjection combatively out of humiliation.

This requires, however, that we change our perspective and our own viewpoint first; that we radically re-orient ourselves in terms our relationship to cultural consumption and its source. These manifestations as described by Dabashi are hard to suss out since we have unfortunately lost the ability to read them as such, for having been so long out of touch with our own creative potential, and for having forgotten the formerly “local” media manifestations of guerrilla television, public access cable, pirate radio, radical journals, homegrown theater, etc.

True to our native land
On January 30, 2009, in Denver, Colorado, a black woman was asked to sing the national anthem during the State of the City address by the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper[17]. Instead of the Star-Spangled Banner, Rene Marie offered a rendition of the “black national anthem”, resulting in hate mail and an outcry denouncing her action. She stated that her decision was based on “how I feel about living in the United States, as a black woman, as a black person”. Further, she said that she would no longer sing the national anthem because she “often feels like a foreigner in the United States”.

The correct response of the mayor’s office should have been “this is her right; this is her freedom of speech”, like our blackfaced firemen, like Andrew Cuomo; this was not forthcoming. The song which originally debuted in 1900 is entitled, Lift Every Voice and Sing (words and music by John Johnson, ironically quoted in the benediction for Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony), and it ends with the lyrics: “May we forever stand,/True to our God,/True to our native land.” This takes on a particularly humbling tone given the replacement of the previous attempts of minority Americans to leave their ghettoes with more current almost prideful acceptances of this, their “allowed” place.

This is manifested in the outlying reaches of Los Angeles–180 degrees removed from Cohen’s Hollywood–the scene of the Watts and Rodney King riots, and described in the music of Bambu[18] among many others, and where a “beautiful” form of dance was created from the “banal” by Tommy Johnston, aka “Tommy the Clown”, borrowing from stripper pole-dancing, although performed by both sexes, and used to entertain children and adults at birthday and block parties. The dance is referred to as clowning, and it went on to spawn another form of dance, angrier and reflective of street realities for a generation lost, often mimicking police beatings and other brutalities, called crumping. Both are performed by youth attempting to escape the reality of gang-controlled streets, where misuse of colors is a marker for murder, and choices of home, school, job, and future are systemically limited.

In the documentary about this dance form called Rize![19] the youth in the movie describe their lives imbued with a renascent spirituality, sense of purpose, and avoidance of the commercialization that has befallen previous expression from this community. Included in this film is the striking image of a black man now painting his face up in white clown makeup and not minstrel black burnt cork, referencing a forgotten cultural marker and not a racist imposition; following Malcolm’s advice to “never accept images that have been created for you by someone else.”

Speak from the street
And so as Arabs and Muslims now targeted with similar minstrelsies, we do ourselves no favor when we simply smear brown paint on our brown features in order to entertain the Master in the Master’s house; we perform no beneficent action by simply parroting endless mediated exchanges with little bark and less bite. Sacha Cohen would ironically represent all of us as tinpot dictators, when it is he, culturally, politically, economically, and in terms of class and avowed ideological affiliation, who has much more in common with this fetid realm of the world stage than does the majority of Arabs and Muslims on the planet. What does Sasha Cohen know about what is going on in his own backyard, much less this world in active revolt? Indeed, it is Cohen who needs to “know his role”.

While we point out this obvious classist and racist arrogance, we must also strive to find the countervailing non-mediated* representatives that exist closer to home and which speak from the street: the Egyptian women whose strikes in the textile mills (not Twitter) led to intifada; similarly the women of the neighborhoods surrounding Tahrir Square in Cairo whose cooking fed this revolution; the 70,000 Palestinian refugees marching to the Lebanese border in May of 2011; the owner of the last kufiyyeh factory[20] in occupied and embattled Al-Khalil, undone by sanctions and outdone by Chinese imports; the Syrian migrant workers slaving to build Beirut skyscrapers, far from their rural communities rightfully rising up in revolts kidnapped by regional powers; the Bedouin populations kept stateless and impoverished; Palestinian hunger strikers; etc. ad infinitum, all with their unique creative contributions of craft, art, music, graffiti, dance, calligraphy, song, poetry, spoken and written word, theater, etc.

For of this common resistance might rise the creative manifestations–the “new folk drama”–that feed back into the revolts against the likes of Sacha Cohen and his ilk who would define us and confine us; manifestations[21] that do not allow simply for a misconstrued and patently false “comfort level” or status quo, that do not inadvertently sell us short, that do not continue to sell us out. In this is perhaps a great step forward, since, as Malcolm X asks of us, once the realization of such mediated deception and the unveiling of the deceivers hits home, once we move from defensive mode to rediscovering the energy that would be better put to creative output, once we wean ourselves from the source of our own misrepresentation, then we might actually recognize the creative source all around us; a new nahdah; proving with our creative action what we already know to be true in our thoughts and words. Paul Robeson, in control of his own creative manifestation in concert, changed the formal and staged lyrics of “Ol’ Man River” to better frame his feelings of being an outsider within American society. It is likewise time for our own re-imaging; our own reformulation; our own restaging.

* Mediation
Mediation defines expression as a function of the distance from direct sensorial witnessing, on a spectrum that ranges from non-mediated to super-mediated.

Non-mediated: A spontaneous expression that is not designed, pre-selected, edited, planned; the voicer of the unsaid.

Example(s): The spontaneous verbal utterance or physical actualization in reaction to witnessing a car accident; Kanye West going off-prompt during a televised fundraiser for the victims of hurricane Katrina, stating: “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”

Super-mediated: Expression that is designed, pre-selected, edited, or planned, possibly within the constraints of a given group, its ideology, its manifesto or tenets, that may or may not stand in opposition to the dominant discourse, but whose use of tools, languages, systems, and technologies in fact are meant to enable, sustain, and promote such dominant discourse.

Example(s): The television show Cops with an episode concerning drunk driving; drivers’ education movies; a presidential press conference in the aftermath of Katrina.

Sub-mediated: Expression that is designed, pre-selected, edited, or planned within the constraints of a given group, its ideology, its manifesto, or tenets, that absolutely stands in opposition to the dominant discourse often in its uniqueness and its non-derivation from current customs or tropes, and which avoids or attempts to subvert the tools, languages, systems, and technologies of super-mediation.

Example(s): The white-painted ghost bikes of various cities that represent both the individual killed in an accident and their collective whole; the Legendary K.O’s rap song set to mashup videos for “George Bush Don’t Like Black People”.

1 “Dreaming XXL”; Jake Austen. Harper’s, November 2008. pp. 58–59.

2 What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up/Like a raisin in the sun?/Or fester like a sore–/And then run?/Does it stink like rotten meat?/Or crust and sugar over–/like a syrupy sweet?/Maybe it just sags/like a heavy load./Or does it explode?

3;

4 Harper Torchbooks, 1966.

5 The Story of Black Musics [sic] < http://www.rfi.fr/taxonomy/emission/187&gt;;

6 Both musicals are featured as postage stamps. To note is that “First-day” issue of stamps exists for a very particular audience that collects such stamps for their value; this is a different audience than the subject of the stamps themselves.

7;

8;

9;

10 Reference to this conversation taped by a reporter for the Jewish Forward. Interesting here and necessitating another treatise is the ability of Cuomo to claim “whiteness”, as opposed to his formerly equally marking ethnic identity.

11 Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities;;.

12 Black Liberation and Socialism, Ahmed Shawki.

13 William Blake poem and later hymn.

14;

15;

16 Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations

17 USA Today, January 31, 2009; “Controversy after singer substitutes ‘black national anthem’ for ‘Star-Spangled Banner’.

18 Pull It Back:;

19 Rize!:;

20 Kufiyeh project:;

21;

Daniel Ibn Zayd was adopted in 1963 and returned definitively to his land of birth in 2004; there he teaches art and illustration and in 2009 founded the artists’ collective Jamaa Al-Yad. He has written for CounterPunch, The Monthly Review Zine, Dissident Voice, and The Design Altruism Project, as well as on his blog: danielibnzayd.wordpress.com. He is a contributor to Transracial Eyes, a web-based collective of transracial adoptees. He can be reached at @ibnzayd on Twitter and by email: daniel.ibnzayd@inquisitor.com.

Why Do They Hate Us? They Don’t.

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Mona Eltahawy, an Arab-American journalist, created a firestorm when Foreign Policy Magazine published her article “Why Do They Hate Us?”.  If you thought the they and us refers to Muslims and Americans, you’d be wrong.  In fact, they is Arab men, and us is women.  Her article is a stabbing critique of Arab culture, which she finds to be heavily misogynistic.

If that wasn’t provocative enough, she goes further: according to her, these Arab men hate women.  ”Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”  To prove her argument, she issues a challenge: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses [against women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion.”  The rest of the article is a recitation of that litany, interspersed with jazzy catchphrases such as “[w]e are more than our headscarves and our hymens” and “poke the hatred in its eye.”

There is no way to deny the basic premise that the status of women’s rights in the Arab world is abysmal.  Why then did Mona Eltahawy evoke such a hostile reaction from even the Arab women whose rights she seeks to protect?  The easy answer, one that Eltahawy and her supporters might argue, is that these women are simply brainwashed.  Too much “Islamism” in their little brains.  The problem with this argument is that it’s sexist.  It’s basically saying Arab women are too stupid to think for themselves.

The real reason that Arab women recoil after reading Eltahawy’s article is that, while she tries to connect to them based on their gender, she attacks other aspects of their core identity: their race, nationality, religion, and culture.  In fact, her racist (and somewhat babbling) screed is nothing short of a vicious attack on their entire civilization.

Eltahawy cites “a toxic mix of culture and religion” as the source of the abuses against women.  Oddly, she later says, “You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.”  Yet, it is Mona Eltahawy herself who is arguing precisely that.

By attacking their core identity, Eltahawy has succeeded in alienating her own audience.  Imagine, for instance, an American feminist arguing for greater rights for African women, while at the same time assailing the black race, African culture, and traditional tribal religion.  How receptive or thankful do you think these African women would be?  How pleased would the black or African community be if someone was writing articles about how backwards their culture is?

Mona Eltahawy’s article engages in trite, racial stereotypes.  Legitimate problems in the Arab world are sensationalized.  They hate women.  What an absurd exaggeration!  They have mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters–and it is reasonable to assume that, like other human beings on earth, they love them.

A man can love his wife and still abuse her.  He can have undying affection for his daughter but still wrong her in horrible ways.  But, by going so far as to say they hate women, Eltahawy has dehumanized them.  One recalls similar invective against Palestinian parents: they don’t love their children.  The message being sent is: they are worse than animals.

Women’s rights is an area of concern in many parts of the developing world, not just the Arab world.  Why single out Arabs?  Women face major obstacles in India.  Should we demonize the Hindu religion and the great Indian civilization?

Eltahawy lists off “a litany of abuses”, bringing up extreme cases to make her point.  By citing isolated cases and stacking them all up together, she ends up portraying an imbalanced and biased picture of the Arab world.

Racists don’t see nuance.  They lump all people of a certain group altogether.  That’s exactly what Mona Eltahawy does in her article.  She paints the entire people of that region–or at least its men–with one broad bush.  They hate women.  All 170 million of them.

In fact, not all Arabs are alike.  During my travels in the Muslim world, I saw all sorts of people, with a broad diversity of views.  I met conservative Muslims, liberal Muslims, atheists, Christians, Communists, hippies, you name it.  No sweeping generalization could be made about them (aside for, perhaps, their disgust of American foreign policy).

It is true that I was deeply disturbed by the mistreatment of women, religious and ethnic minorities, poor people, servants, and animals.  But, I also met people there–men, no less–who were also deeply disturbed by these things and would have no part in it.

Just as the viral Kony 2012 video drew criticism for reinforcing the idea of White Man’s Burden, so too does Mona Eltahawy’s article tap into historically racist Orientalist attitudes towards the Arab world.

By firmly pegging abuses against women to the Arab culture and Muslim religion, Mona Eltahawy’s article was nothing short of bigotry.  Indeed, one could hardly tell the difference between Eltahawy’s article and what could normally be found sprawled on numerous Islamophobic websites, such as Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.  It is almost a surety that her article will be approvingly cited on such sites, which pit “our civilized, freedom-loving civilization” against “those barbaric, women-hating peoples.”

Had Mona Eltahawy been just any ole’ Islamophobe hacking away at the keyboard–had she been a Robert Spencer or a Pamela Geller–her article would hardly have made headlines.  It would have been just one of thousands and thousands of such hateful rants on the internet by anti-Muslim trolls.  But, like Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani, Mona Eltahawy has an official “I’m a Muslim” card.  That’s even better than the official “I’m an ex-Muslim” card that bigots like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish proudly carry.  It’s probably even a step above the “I’m a former jihadi terrorist” gold card.  Eltahawy holds the platinum card and gets extra points for being a woman.

As other pundits have noted, Mona Eltahawy is–along with Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser, etc.–acting in the role of the “native informant.”  Monica L. Marks writes on the Huffington Post:

Why Do They Hate Us?” asks the latest cover of Foreign Policy magazine. Beneath the title stands a cowering woman wearing nothing but black body paint resembling the niqab, or full Islamic face veil.

Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy authored the article. Her central contention — that Arab Muslim culture “hates” women — resurrects a raft of powerful stereotypes regarding Islam and misogyny. It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

Books by these “native voices” — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita” in Tehran, and Irshad Mandji’s “Faith Without Fear” — have flown off the shelves in post-9/11 America despite being roundly rebuffed by leading feminist academics such as Columbia University’s Lila Abu-Lughod and Yale’s Leila Ahmed. Saba Mahmood, another respected scholar, noted that native informants helped “manufacture consent” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by serving up fear-inducing portrayals of Islam in “an authentic Muslim woman’s voice.”

Although such depictions have proven largely inaccurate and guilty of extreme generalizations, they have become immensely popular. Why? Because these native “testimonials” tell us what we in the West already know — that there’s something inherently misogynistic about Muslims and Arabs.

By stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder. Their voices are drowning out the messages of more nuanced, well-respected scholars.

Marks goes on to say:

Her fault lies in extrapolating broad cultural judgments from context-specific abuses, implying that Islam and Arab culture writ large are have toxically combined to create a hopelessly backward region that “treats half of humanity like animals.”

These native informants just tell us what we want to hear.  Their job is to increase hatred of Arabs and Muslims, something that is needed in order to sustain our multiple wars of aggression in that part of the world.

Native informants do not help fix the problems they point to.  Why, for example, did Mona Eltahawy choose to publish her article in Foreign Policy, an American magazine?  Why didn’t she write it for an Arab/Arabic publication, with a primarily Arab readership?

Instead she chose Foreign Policy Magazine, which was founded by none other than Samuel P. Huntington.  His famous Clash of Civilizations theory pit the Judeo-Christian West against the Muslim world.  How very fitting that Mona Eltahawy’s us vs. them article was published in the magazine he founded.

Eltahawy’s audience is clear:

You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Monica Marks writes:

 It is important for her readers, however, to understand the dangers of sensationalist coverage that over-simplify complex matters of gender, politics, and religious observance in Muslim-majority countries.

History is rife with examples of seemingly women-friendly arguments hijacked in the service of imperialistic and aggressive ends. While emotional and sensationalist portrayals such as this most recent Foreign Policy cover will sell copies, they do little to deepen our understanding of the contexts and conditions shaping women’s oppression in Arab countries today.

Indeed, the issue of human rights was routinely used by the colonial powers to justify the conquest and expropriation of land.  The Americas, including the land that is now the United States, was brutally conquered and stolen by Europeans on this very basis.  The indigenous peoples were portrayed as savages needing civilizing.  The white man would bring them “democracy”, “freedom”, and “civilization” (Operation Iraqi Freedom?).

In her article, Mona Eltahawi enumerates numerous abuses Arab women face.  However, none of these inhumanities–not even female genital mutilation–can be considered as problematic as the cannibalism and human sacrifice that the indigenous peoples of the Americas sometimes engaged in.  And yet, whatever failings the indigenous peoples had in their culture and civilization, it is now widely understood who the real savage was.

We can continue to pat ourselves on the back for how civilized we are, how free our women are, how we are so much better than them.  But, none of that will change the fact that we are the ones waging wars of aggression and occupation in the Muslim world.  We are the ones killing hundreds of thousands of their innocent men, women, and children.

It was in another article, also published in Foreign Policy with almost the exact same title–Why They Hate Us?–that Prof. Stephen Walt calculated the number of Muslim lives the U.S. has extinguished:  “a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities…is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.”  To use a jazzy catchphrase of my own: mutilating a baby girl’s genitals is horrible, but dropping a bomb on her head is much worse.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

See, We Told You: Geert Wilders Xenophobia is Not Limited to Muslims

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by loonwatch

Still my favorite picture of Geert Wilders

Far-right populist Geert Wilders has made a name for himself through his anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric, and for this reason he is, to quote Robert Spencer, one of the “heroes” of the anti-Muslim movement.

We have consistently pointed out however that Geert Wilders and his allies are not one stop bigots. Behind the “acceptable” attacks on Muslims is hidden a wider xenophobia against ‘the other.’ A bigotry which if not born out of any consistent ideological character is definitely a reflection of the realization that playing on the fears of the majority may lead to positive results at the ballot box.

Wilders and his party, the PVV are riding a wave of popularity through the launch of an anti-Polish/anti-Eastern European website which has been the cause of much controversy and embarrassment in the Netherlands. After launching the site it was reported that the PVV,

would gain 24 seats in parliament if elections were held today, the number of seats the party currently holds, says pollster Maurice de Hond. Geert Wilders’ populist far-right party is the third largest party in the Netherlands.

Wilders’ PVV site displays,

news clippings with bold headlines blaming foreigners for petty crime, noise nuisance – and taking jobs from the Dutch. “Are immigrants from Central and Eastern countries bothering you? We’d like to hear from you,” it says.

The Dutch government has distanced itself from the website but this hasn’t ebbed the disastrous PR that Wilders move has generated.

Besides criticism from ten European ambassadors and the European Commission, the Dutch public has also expressed concerns about possible repercussions. Poles are calling for a boycott of Dutch products.(emphasis mine)

The issue was taken to the European parliament which just yesterday announced its ‘dismay’ and formal response to Wilders most recent populist move:

EP condemns PVV website, exec puts ball in Netherlands’ court

By Gaspard Sebag in Strasbourg | Wednesday 14 March 2012 (Europolitics.info)

Representatives of the political groups in the European Parliament, on 13 March, unanimously called upon the Netherlands’ Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, to condemn a website launched by his far-right political ally, the PVV party headed by Geert Wilders. Said website, up since early February, urges Dutch citizens to report problems they experience with nationals of Central and Eastern European countries. “Unacceptable,” “a disgrace,” “scandalous” – said MEPs. The European Commission, for its part, announced it would not get involved from a legal point of view and leaves the responsibility of assessing the lawfulness of the website to the Dutch authorities. A joint parliamentary resolution will be put to the vote, on 15 March (see box).

The EPP, which counts among its ranks the junior partner in the Netherlands’ government, the centre-right CDA, was particularly vocal. “We cannot tolerate, from a party that takes part in a coalition government, a call to hatred against nationals from another member state. That is unacceptable,” said EPP leader Joseph Daul (France).

Despite the fact that Rutte is part of the Liberal political family, ALDE Chair Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium) was unequivocal about condemning the “silence” of the Dutch government and the message sent by the website. “My group has nothing but contempt for Mr Wilders’ initiative.” Recalling the need to be even-handed in criticising populist tactics, Verhofstadt lumped together French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Wilders. “I wonder who is the extreme-right wing candidate [in France], is it [Marine] Le Pen or Sarkozy?” he asked.

Reactions from other political group leaders all condemned Rutte’s passivity, whose hands are tied by his need for Wilders’ support, and who thus claims it is not a governmental issue. S&D leader Hannes Swoboda (Austria) called for the website to be closed down. Polish deputy Jacek Kurski (EFD) said Rutte’s lack of reaction is “scandalous”. “The prime minister [of the Netherlands] is not taking up his responsibility,” said Marije Cornelissen (Greens-EFA, Netherlands). “The prime minister ought to have directly condemned this website,” said Peter van Dalen (ECR, Netherlands), adding, however, that the EP holding a debate on this issue is “too much honour” for Wilders.

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who had already condemned the PVV website in February, welcomed the comments made in the plenary chamber. “It is unacceptable that EU citizens become target of xenophobic attitudes because they have exercised their right to move from one state to another,” she said. Reding also called upon on the Dutch authorities to “fully investigate the lawfulness of the website under Dutch law and Union law”.

According to Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE-NGL, France), this is not enough. “You continue to refer to member states and their tribunals but I thought that the Commission was the guardian of the treaties, that freedom of circulation and non-discrimination were part of the European values,” she said. “I notice that certain values are more important than others and that in economic matters when the free circulation of goods and capital is concerned, competition barriers the Commission is prompter to condemn,” added Vergiat.

Israel: MK Hasson to Arab MKs: “You’re the devil”

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by loonwatch

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the equivalent of MEMRI were created to monitor Hebrew news outlets and politicians. The selective editing and faulty translations wouldn’t even be necessary:

MK Hasson to Arab MKs: You’re the devil

Moran Azulay, (Ynet News)

The Knesset plenum convened Wednesday for a special session titled “the political, economical and social failures of Netanyahu’s government.” The session was called after 40 Knesset members signed a bill mandating the prime minister to face the House.

MK Limor Livnat shouted at her “You shouldn’t even be here!” and MK Ofir Akunis (Syrian parliament.” Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat shouted at her “You shouldn’t even be here!” and MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) added, “You have some nerve.” MK Zion Fanian (Likud) urges Zoabi to “go and join the Syrian parliament.”

MK Yoel Hasson’s (Kadima) speech went a step further: Addressing all Arab MKs, he said, “You are the ones impeding coexistence. You’re the devil. You’re the hurdle. Just wait and see – you will lose.”

He then turned his attention to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and urges him to end Hamas‘ rule of Gaza Strip and strike peace with the Palestinians.

MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) took the podium next, defended the Coalition and blasted the Opposition – especially the “self-hating Kadima Party.” MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) interrupted him and was answered with “You hate Israel – go to Gaza.”

MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) also defended the Coalition, saying that the crisis in Syria, the Iranian threat and the volatile political situation in Egypt, “All constitute very serious problems – and dealing with serious problems requires serious people.”

MK Amir Peretz (Labor) surprised the plenum by defending the government’s actions vis-à-vis the latest round of escalation in the south: “To all those who say – ‘let’s topple Hamas’ rule, let’s take Gaza’ – ask yourself one question: what will happen afterwards?

“We could pay a heavy price. The IDFis capable of executing such an order, the question is – do we want the IDF to rule the Strip?”

Peretz also lauded Iron Dome, and urged the Netanyahu to put an end to the Defense Ministry and Treasury’s debate over its budget.

Alleged Queens Firebomber Wanted to Massacre Muslims in Mosque, Prosecutors Say

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2012 by loonwatch
Ray Lazier LengendRay Lazier Lengend

Another update to the story. The man did want to kill as many Muslims and Arabs as possible.

Alleged Queens firebomber wanted to massacre Muslims in mosque, prosecutors say

By Rocco Parascandola, Matt Mcnulty, Kerry Burke AND Kevin Deutsch

(NYDailyNews)
THE UNHINGED Queens pyromaniac who unleashed a scary New Year’s Day firebombing spree had planned to take out “as many Muslims and Arabs as possible” by lobbing Molotov cocktails at worshipers inside a mosque, prosecutors said.

Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, allegedly told cops he had planned to inflict “as much damage as possible” by hurling all five of his firebombs from the balcony of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center onto the crowd below.

The hateful bomb-hurler, who is under psychiatric observation at Bellevue Hospital center, flat-out told detectives he did not like Muslims or Arabs, prosecutors said.

“This is a message to anyone who does this in the future,” said Imam Maan Al-Sahlani, leader of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center, where Lengend planned to inflict major casualties. “It’s a good message that justice will come for you, the police will come for you.”

The imam applauded prosecutors’ use of the hate crime statute and hoped it would deter further anti-Muslim crimes.

“Obviously there is something wrong with him,” Al-Sahlani said.
Lengend, an unemployed truck driver from Queens Village, will face a judge via video arraignment Thursday from his bed at Bellevue.

He faces 18 charges including arson as a hate crime and weapon possession for throwing Starbucks Frappuccino bottles filled with gasoline at four occupied Jamaica buildings — two of them places of worship.

Lengend’s brother-in-law, Bejai Rai, 73, said his Elmont, L.I., house was also firebombed because he evicted Lengend for not paying rent.

“He had a vendetta against us,” Rai told the Daily News. “He tried to kill my wife, my two sons and my sister. I’m glad they got him otherwise he’d be back to firebomb us again.”

Rai said his family could not sleep until Lengend was caught.

“This is the first night we’ve been able to rest since the bombing.”
Lengend carried out his spree in a silver Buick Regal, which had been stolen from a rental car business at Kennedy Airport.

He first drove to to a gas station off the Van Wyck Expressway at Hillside Ave. and bought five glass Frappuccino bottles, before heading to another gas station and filling them with fuel.

His first target was Hillside Deli on 179th St., where Lengend threw a flaming glass bottle that ignited upon hitting the floor.

He burned four other targets, including the mosque and a Hindu place of worship on 170th St., but did not inflict the massive damage he hoped for, prosecutors said.

Lengend confessed to three earlier attacks as well, sources said. He claimed ongoing beefs were his motive for all eight crimes.

With Thomas Zambito
kdeutsch@nydailynews.com

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/alleged-queens-firebomber-wanted-massacre-muslims-mosque-prosecutors-article-1.1001193#ixzz1ibr8d9Z8

Arab-Israelis Protest ‘Mosque Bill’

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by loonwatch

Arab-Israelis protest ‘mosque bill’

Hundreds of Arabs across Israel took to the streets Saturday to rally against attacks on mosques and the so-called ‘mosque bill,’ which aims to prohibit mosques from sounding public calls for prayer.

The protesters carried signs reading: “We won’t agree to silence the Muezzin”, “A democratic state doesn’t attack freedom of religion” and “Transfer state.” Demonstrators also chanted against the torching of mosques in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in the Arab-Israeli towns of Umm al-Fahm and Shfaram, with more protestors joining in various other communities, including Baka al-Garbiyeh, Tira, Taiba, Sakhnin, Tarshiha, Nazareth, Rahat, Jaffa, Kabul and Jisr az-Zarqa.

One protester from Rahat, Jumah Zabarka, told Ynet: “The State of Israel didn’t prosecute those responsible for the ‘Price Tag’ operations. Torching mosques is an act of chutspa because it hurts the Arab residents in Israel and the Arab population across the world.”

He added that the reaction to the mosque torching was insignificant compared to the reactions after the settler attack on Colonel Ran Kahane at the Ephraim Brigade’s base in the West Bank. “The entire country spoke up and the prime minister harshly condemned the dangers. But if somebody hurts us – they’d rather not discuss it,” he said.

While discussing the ‘mosque bill’ Zabarka explained this is a very sensitive issue. “They want to humiliate us at any price. We’re sending out a message to the State that we’re not going to allow for a ‘second Nakba.’”

Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka (Balad) spoke blatantly about the issue at hand: “The torching of the mosques and the ‘mosque bill’ are part of a war declared against the Arab and Muslim population by the racists and settlers. The sound of the Muezzin, the church bells and the blowing of the shofar have always existed.”

Ynetnews, 17 December 2011

Rabbi Manis Friedman on Treatment of Arabs

Posted in Loon Rabbis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch
Manis FriedmanManis Friedman

The article below is from 2009, but it goes well with Danios’ series on how “Jewish Law” can be interpreted by some in a bellicose and genocidal manner. Can one imagine if the below were said by a mainstream Muslim scholar? All hell would break loose. (hat tip: DE)

Popular Rabbi’s Comments on Treatment of Arabs Show a Different Side of Chabad

By Nathaniel Popper (Forward.com)

Like the best Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis, Manis Friedman has won the hearts of many unaffiliated Jews with his charismatic talks about love and God; it was Friedman who helped lead Bob Dylan into a relationship with Chabad.

But Friedman, who today travels the country as a Chabad speaker, showed a less warm and cuddly side when he was asked how he thinks Jews should treat their Arab neighbors.

“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Friedman wrote in response to the question posed by Moment Magazine for its “Ask the Rabbis” feature.

Friedman argued that if Israel followed this wisdom, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”

“I don’t believe in Western morality,” he wrote. “Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”

Friedman’s use of phrasing that might seem more familiar coming from an Islamic extremist has generated a swift backlash. The editor of Moment, Nadine Epstein, said that since the piece was printed in the current issue they “have received many letters and e-mails in response to Rabbi Friedman’s comments — and almost none of them have been positive.”

Friedman quickly went into damage control. He released a statement to the Forward, through a Chabad spokesman, saying that his answer in Moment was “misleading” and that he does believe that “any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion.”

But Friedman’s words have generated a debate about whether there is a darker side to the cheery face that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement shows to the world in its friendly outreach to unaffiliated Jews. Mordecai Specktor, editor of the Jewish community newspaper in Friedman’s hometown, St. Paul. Minn., said: “The public face of Lubavitch is educational programs and promoting Yiddishkeit. But I do often hear this hard line that Friedman expresses here.”

“He sets things out in pretty stark terms, but I think this is what Lubavitchers believe, more or less,” said Specktor, who is also the publisher of the American Jewish World. “They are not about loving the Arabs or a two-state solution or any of that stuff. They are fundamentalists. They are our fundamentalists.” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a regular critic of Arab extremists, said that in the Jewish community, “We are not immune to having these views. There are people in our community who have these bigoted, racist views.”

But, Foxman warned, Friedman’s views are not reflective of the Chabad rabbis he knows. “I am not shocked that there would be a rabbi who would have these views,” Foxman said, “but I am shocked that Moment would give up all editorial discretion and good sense to publish this as representative of Chabad.”

A few days after anger about the comment surfaced, Chabad headquarters released a statement saying that, “we vehemently disagree with any sentiment suggesting that Judaism allows for the wanton destruction of civilian life, even when at war.”

The statement added: “In keeping with Jewish law, it is the unequivocal position of Chabad-Lubavitch that all human life is G-d given, precious, and must be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.”

In Moment, Friedman’s comment is listed as the Chabad response to the question “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?” after a number of answers from rabbis representing other Jewish streams, most of which state a conciliatory attitude toward Arabs.

Epstein said that Friedman was “brave” for stating his views so clearly.

“The American Jewish community doesn’t have the chance to hear opinions like this,” Epstein said, “not because they are rare, but because we don’t often ask Chabad and other similar groups what they think.”

The Chabad movement is generally known for its hawkish policies toward the Palestinians; the Chabad Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, rejected peace accords with the Palestinians. Rabbi Moshe Feller, the top Chabad rabbi in Minnesota, said that the rebbe taught that it is not a mitvah to kill, but that Jews do have an obligation to act in self-defense.

“Jews as a whole, they try to save the lives of others,” Feller told the Forward, “but if it’s to save our lives, then we have to do what we have to do. It’s a last resort.”

Friedman is not a fringe rabbi within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He was the English translator for the Chabad Rebbe, and at the rebbe’s urging, he founded Beis Chana, a network of camps and schools for Jewish women. Friedman is also a popular speaker and writer on issues of love and relationships. His first book, “Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?” was promoted with a quote from Bob Dylan, who Friedman brought to meet the rebbe.

On his blog and Facebook page, Friedman’s emphasis is on his sympathetic, caring side. It was this reputation that made the comment in Moment so surprising to Steve Hunegs, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council: Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“Rabbi Friedman is a best-selling author who addresses some of the most sensitive issues of the time,” Hunegs said. “I intend to call him and talk to him about this.”

But Shmarya Rosenberg, a blogger and critic of Chabad who lives a few blocks from Friedman in Minnesota, says that the comment in Moment is not an aberration from his experiences with Friedman and many other Chabad rabbis.

“What he’s saying is the standard normal view of a Chabadnik,” Rosenberg said. “They just don’t say it in public.”

For his part, Friedman was quick to modify the statement that he wrote in Moment. He told the Forward that the line about killing women and children should have been in quotes; he said it is a line from the Torah, though he declined to specify from which part. Friedman also said that he was not advocating for Israel to actually kill women and children. Instead, he said, he believed that Israel should publicly say that it is willing to do these things in order to scare Palestinians and prevent war.

“If we took this policy, no one would be killed — because there would be no war,” Friedman said. “The same is true of the United States.”

Friedman did acknowledge, however, that in self-defense, the behavior he talked about would be permissible.

“If your children are threatened, you do whatever it takes — and you don’t have to apologize,” he said.

Friedman argued that he is different from Arab terrorists who have used similar language about killing Jewish civilians.

“When they say it, it’s genocide, not self-defense,” Friedman said. “With them, it’s a religious belief — they need to rid the area of us. We’re not saying that.”

Feller, the Chabad leader in Minnesota, said that the way Friedman had chosen to express himself was “radical.”

“I love him,” Feller said. “I brought him out here — he’s magnificent. He’s brought thousands back to Torah mitzvah. But he shoots from the hip sometimes.”

Contact Nathaniel Popper at popper@forward.com.

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/107112/#ixzz1aFepl5Ma

Al Arabiya Poll: Some Arabs Justify 9/11 And Deny Al-Qaeda’s Culpability; I Say: Yeah, So What? (II)

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by loonwatch

In part I, I discussed the new Al Arabiya poll, of questionable validity, that is making the rounds in the anti-Muslim cyber-world.  Another finding of the poll, per MEMRI:

Out of the 220,000 Arabs who participated, 23% believed Al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and 26% did not.

Anti-Muslim websites are absolutely beside themselves at how unbelievably gullible Moozlums are, how they are miserably steeped in conspiracy theories, and how they can’t just admit the fact that Moozlums did 9/11.  Yet, as the Al Arabiya article, which the Islamophobes themselves linked to (but can’t read), says: these findings are not much different than those of other places in the world, including the West.

Indeed, we find that outside of the United States there is “no consensus who was behind Sept 11″ as noted in this Reuters article:

No consensus on who was behind Sept 11: global poll

Seven years after the September 11 attacks, there is no consensus outside the United States that Islamist militants from al Qaeda were responsible, according to an international poll published on Wednesday.

The survey of 16,063 people in 17 nations found majorities in only nine countries believe al Qaeda was behind the attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 3,000 people in 2001.

On average, 46 percent of those surveyed said al Qaeda was responsible, 15 percent said the U.S. government, 7 percent said Israel and 7 percent said some other perpetrator. One in four people said they did not know who was behind the attacks.

The poll was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project of research centers in various countries managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland in the United States.

In Europe, al Qaeda was cited by 56 percent of Britons and Italians, 63 percent of French and 64 percent of Germans. The U.S. government was to blame, according to 23 percent of Germans and 15 percent of Italians…

Therefore, the fact that 26% of Arabs don’t believe Al-Qaeda is to blame, according to the Al Arabiya poll, is not completely out of line with world opinion.

That only in the United States is there a consensus that Al-Qaeda did it is not something very surprising, considering that the U.S. government quickly, repeatedly, and emphatically pointed the finger at Al-Qaeda.

But, you know who else the government blamed?  Iraq.

These anti-Muslim bigots are snickering at how these Moozlums are just so absolutely stupid for thinking Israel or America could be involved in the 9/11 attack, when in fact the entire country–led by neoconservatives, Zionists, and anti-Muslim bigots like them–invaded a country on the false belief (the conspiracy theory) that Iraq was linked to Al-Qaeda and had something to do with 9/11.

Indeed, a January 2004 poll by Newsweek found that a majority of Americans (49% vs. 39%) believed that “Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.”  Amazingly, long after even the Bush administration admitted they were wrong, 41% of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was responsible for 9/11 (as seen in a June 2007 Newsweek poll).  This is a belief that Americans continue to cling on to even today!  Oh, but how utterly deluded those Moozlums are for thinking Israel was involved!  

Israel National News says:

Only 23 percent believe that Al Qaeda was behind the attacks, while a large number – 26 percent – think that the terrorist organization did not plan and carry out the hijack-bombings….

In Iran, the percentage of those denying  Al Qaeda’s involvement is even higher. The government controlled press continues to claim that the official version of 9/11 is false and that unaccounted for explosions brought down the Twin Towers in New York City.

How absolutely primitive of a government to issue statements blaming someone other than Al-Qaeda for 9/11!  That is totally unlike completely similar to the U.S. government linking Iraq to Al Qaeda and 9/11.  As Prof. Stephen Walt pointed out, this was all done with Israeli encouragement.  And now, the Israelis are blaming Iraq Iran.

All of this was perfectly depicted in a Family Guy clip:

Interestingly, even in the United States, “more than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.”  So really, what’s the big deal if 26% of Arabs don’t believe 9/11 was done by Al-Qaeda?

Of note also is the fact that it is almost conventional wisdom, often heard even by liberals (implied, for instance, by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 911 and even the dog in the Family Guy in clip above), that Saudi Arabia has responsibility for 9/11 (“it was the Saudis that were involved, not Iraq”).  This utterly ignorant idea is seriously discussed in somber terms.  Whether it’s Israel, Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, the fact is that Muslims do not have a monopoly on 9/11 conspiracy theory.  There is plenty to go around.

In any case, the fact that the United States weaponized 9/11, by using it as an excuse to bomb, invade, and occupy multiple Muslim countries makes more Muslims gravitate towards 9/11 conspiracy theories, for reasons that should be patently obvious.

*  *  *  *  *

MEMRI also notes, commenting on the Al Arabiya poll:

16% considered the assassination of Osama bin Laden a criminal act, 48% did not, and 36% were undecided.

The assassination was definitely illegal under international law, for multiple reasons: Firstly, it involved the flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty; would there be any question about legality if Pakistani commandos landed on Ellis Island?  The illegality of this act is not limited to the capture of Osama bin Laden, but can be seen in the continued violation of Paksitan’s sovereignty on a day-to-day basis with U.S. drone attacks that maim scores of civilians.

Secondly, Osama bin Laden was unarmed and yet was shot dead.  If we were truly a civilized people, someone wouldn’t really need to explain why it is illegal to shoot unarmed men.  Bin Laden was killed so that he wouldn’t face trial, which is a bedrock of our legal system.  This too is not limited to Osama bin Laden, as the U.S. has a hit-list out for other American citizens too.  Furthermore, the government continues to deny countless number of Muslims the right to a trial.

Thirdly, there is the larger issue, which is all the illegal actions that took place between the time the Taliban agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden, an offer which the U.S. refused, to the time the U.S. assassinated him.  If all of these actions (i.e. the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) were part of America’s strategy to capture Bin Laden, then certainly this entire process is illegal.  This fact underscores the biggest problem with the so-called War on Terror: terrorism should be dealt with using a combination of policing and negotiation, not war and destruction.

Therefore, my question is: if 16% of Arabs thought that the Osama bin Laden assassination was a criminal act, so what?

Deny Al-Qaeda’s Culpability; I Say: Yeah, So What? (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by loonwatch

I recently published two articles: Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians and Surveys Show in Every Country Muslims Less Likely to Justify Killing Civilians Than Americans and Israelis.

One anti-Muslim critic posted the following comment in response:

Interesting poll carried out by al-Arabiya…..

More than one-third of Arabs justify the 9/11 attacks, and only 23 percent believe Al Qaeda was behind the aerial suicide bombings.

The survey included 220,000 Arabs and was carried out by the Al-Arabia television channel in Dubai and a British research institute.

Thirty-six percent of the respondents justified the attacks, but only 38 percent took the opposite view, leaving another 16 percent undecided or with no opinion.

(You can google for the link)

I did google for the link and could not find it.  Instead, I found link after link of Islamophobic websites all linking to each other.  Finally, it seems I located what seems to be the original anti-Muslim site to make the claim, the Israel National News:

Dubai Poll: More than Third of Arabs Justify 9/11

More than one-third of Arabs justify the 9/11 attacks, and only 23 percent believe Al Qaeda was behind the aerial suicide bombings.

The survey included 220,000 Arabs and was carried out by the Al-Arabia television channel in Dubai and a British research institute.

Thirty-six percent of the respondents justified the attacks, but only 38 percent took the opposite view, leaving another 16 percent undecided or with no opinion.

Only 23 percent believe that Al Qaeda was behind the attacks, while a large number – 26 percent – think that the terrorist organization did not plan and carry out the hijack-bombings.

Slightly less than half of those participating in the survey – 48 percent – do not think that the assassination of Osama Bin Laden was a criminal act…

Forgive me if I take Israel National News with a grain of salt.  The hyperlinks to “the survey” in that article lead nowhere.

On the other hand, it could also be good old MEMRI:

36% of Arabs in Al-Arabiya TV Survey Justify 9/11

Al-Arabiya TV, in collaboration with a British research institute, conducted an online survey on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Out of the 220,000 Arabs who participated, 23% believed Al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and 26% did not. 36% said that the attacks were justified and 38% that they were not. 16% considered the assassination of Osama bin Laden a criminal act, 48% did not, and 36% were undecided.

Source: Facebook site of Al-Arabiya TV

No hyperlink is provided to the “Facebook site of Al-Arabiya TV.”  I visited the Facebook site myself and did not find any such information.

Forgive me once again for not taking MEMRI as the Gospel truth.  MEMRI’s founder and president is Yigal Carmon, who served as a Colonel in the Military Intelligence Directorate of Israel.  He also had a direct governmental role in the administration of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.  One can hardly be faulted for doubting MEMRI’s reliability.

Indeed, Middle East expert Dr. Norman Finkelstein calls MEMRI “a main arm of Israeli propaganda,” noting that the organization “use[s] the same sort of propaganda techniques as the Nazis.”  Says Finkelstein further:

They take things out of context in order to do personal and political harm to people they don’t like.

And he concludes by saying:

I think it’s a reliable assumption that anything MEMRI translates from the Middle East is going to be unreliable

One should note, however, that MEMRI says that it was “an online survey.”  What is interesting is that when I finally did find some mention of this poll in an article on the Al Arabiya website (helpfully linked to by an anti-Muslim, pro-Israeli website), the article itself–the same Arabic article on Al-Arabiya that the Islamophobes cite, no less–concludes by questioning the scientific validity of the survey.  The concluding paragraph notes that a “survey expert” contacted by Al Arabiya “does not view the results as [accurately] reflecting the trends in the Arab world,” and that “we must look into the study more and study its [research] methodology” to confirm its validity.

Why would anyone rely on a possibly unscientific internet poll instead of the far more reliable Gallup poll which found that only 7% of the Muslim and Arab world thought the 9/11 attacks were justified?  Robert Spencer of JihadWatch cited an article by Robert Satloff of The Weekly Standard, which pointed out that this “7%” figure includes only those who thought the 9/11 attack was “completely justified” and that the data shows “another 23.1 percent of respondents” who thought the attacks were “in some way justified.”  In other words, a total of 30.1% of the Muslim and Arab world thought the 9/11 attacks were either “completely justified” (7%) or “in some way justified” (23.1%).

Coincidentally enough, the number 30.1% is close to the number found by the Al Arabiya poll.  Therefore, although there still exist unanswered questions about the scientific validity of the study, the number seems to corroborate the data found by Gallup.  However, the Gallup poll reveals what is missing from what we have from Al Arabiya (since we don’t have the actual study): the difference between thinking the 9/11 attacks were “completely justified” and “in some way justified.”

It is well-known that respondents to surveys often have complex answers to questions asked by the polls but are forced to choose between answer choices that do not adequately reflect this complexity.  For example, a question asking “do you support Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, or neither/no answer” would be difficult to answer for many progressive voters who do not like Barack Obama due to his failed campaign promises and the fact that he has not followed progressive policies.  Yet, many of them will still select Barack Obama in this poll, because they like him more than Sarah Palin, thinking of it as a “what team are you on” sort of question (i.e. liberal vs. conservative).

In other words, the complex answer of “I supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election and still do support him over Sarah Palin, yet I am totally disappointed by him” is not one of the options to choose from.  Therefore, such a progressive would choose what he thinks is the best approximation, and this may well be tick-marking Barack Obama’s name.

Similarly, when a Muslim or Arab is asked “Do you think that the 9/11 attacks were justified?” and the answer choices are between completely justified, somewhat justified, and not justified at all, many of them will select “somewhat justified” to convey the thought that one Arab acquaintance of mine told me (which of course I strongly disagree with):

I don’t think the 9/11 attacks were justified in the sense of killing civilians.  That is against Islam and what I believe in.  However, I feel that it is justified in the sense that America had it coming to them for what they did to us and continue to do.

This point is conveyed in the Al-Arabiya article itself, which states that many Arabs “considered the U.S. deserving of this [the 9/11 attack] and that what happened was justified as vengeance against its atrocities and positions against the Arabs” even while at the same time holding the view that the “operation [was] abhorrent enough not to want to attribute it to [themselves].”

These Arabs thought 9/11 was a case of the chickens coming home to roost, and were hopeful that Americans would know how it feels.  This is certainly different than thinking that the 9/11 attacks were completely justified.  Indeed, most Arabs feel deeply uncomfortable with killing civilians.  In the minds of these Arabs and Muslims, tick-marking “somewhat justified” is a way of refusing to give “victim status” or “hands clean status” to the United States.

*  *  *  *  *

In any case, even if we interpret the poll results as saying that 36% of Arabs (or the Muslim world) think that the 9/11 attacks were “somewhat justified” in the sense of the targeting and killing of civilians, in that case so what?  It is still far less than the percentage of Americans, specifically Jewish and Christian Americans, who think that that “it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians.”

The percentage of Christian Americans who think “it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians” is a whopping 58%, with an almost equal percentage of Jewish-Americans thinking the same (54%).  Indeed, Mormon-Americans came in first place, with 64% saying so, which is more than double the percentage of Arabs or Muslims in the Muslim world who thought 9/11 was “somewhat justified” (30.1%).

As for Israeli Jews, 51% of them believe “it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians,” so these Israeli propagandists doth protest too much, methinks.  Indeed, even more worrisome is the fact that according to a survey conducted by Haifa University’s Center for the Study of National Security a majority of Israeli Jews support a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, with a quarter saying they would consider voting for the Kahanist party Kach, known for its vocal support of ethnic cleansing as a resolution to the conflict.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Israeli Jews (46%) support “price tag” terrorism against Palestinians, with the percentage being far higher in traditional, national-religious (Religious Zionists), and ultra-Orthodox Jews (55%, 70%, and 71% respectively).  Price tag terrorism refers to “acts carried out against Palestinians in revenge of government actions harming the settler enterprise.”  These are characterized as “pogroms meted out by fanatical settlers against defenseless Palestinians.”  Price tag terror is conducted by “Israeli soldiers and settlers” who”rampag[e] through” Palestinian villages, meting out “retributive violence.”

The vast majority of Israeli Jews (see here, here, and here) supported Operation Cast Lead in which more than a thousand Palestinian civilians were slaughtered.  Operation Cast Lead was described by the United Nations as an operation “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”  This is the level of morality and humanity among Israelis.

One does not expect such polls to be included on MEMRI’s website, no doubt I’m sure due to no other reason than their “limited resources.”  Meanwhile, anti-Muslim and Zionist websites will continue to peddle statistics without any context.  Thirty-point-one percent percent seems unusually high, until one looks at the far higher percentages among Jews and Christians.

Interestingly, one of the main anti-Muslim websites featuring the Al Arabiya poll, the Infidel Blogger’s Alliance, concludes with the genocidal call to “Nuke Mecca already. Nuke e’m.”  This perfectly encapsulates the irony of throwing hissy-fits when Moozlums justify violence while at the same enjoining far more violent acts.

In part II, we’ll take a look at the other two findings of the Al Arabiya poll, namely the issue of Al-Qaeda’s culpability and whether or not it was a crime to kill Osama bin Laden.

The Word “Haboobs” Causing Chaos in Arizona?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by loonwatch

What is going on in Arizona? The word “Haboobs” is being criticized because it is Arabic? Ridiculous, I thought the objection might be that to some ears the word is close to a certain slang term referring to women’s breasts? That would be reason to keep the term, it would be great fodder for comedians or regular citizens playing off the term!

‘Haboobs’ Stir Critics in Arizona

(NYTimes)

PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.

“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”

Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.

“Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Although use of the term often brings smirks, Mr. Cerveny said the walls of dust could have serious consequences, toppling power lines and causing huge traffic accidents. Although ultradry conditions in the desert are considered one cause for the intensity of this year’s storms, Mr. Cerveny pointed to another possible factor: the housing bust that left developments half-finished and unmaintained, creating more desert dust to be stirred up.

John R. Bowen: Europeans Against Multiculturalism

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by loonwatch

A very extensive piece from John Bowen regarding the rightward shift of European politics and the constructed attack against “multiculturalism.”

Europeans Against Multiculturalism

John R. Bowen (Boston Review)

One of the many signs of the rightward creep of Western European politics is the recent unison of voices denouncing multiculturalism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led off last October by claiming that multiculturalism “has failed and failed utterly.” She was echoed in February by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron. All three were late to the game, though: for years, the Dutch far right has been bashing supposedly multicultural policies.

Despite the shared rhetoric, it is difficult to discern a common target for these criticisms. Cameron aimed at an overly tolerant attitude toward extremist Islam, Merkel at the slow pace of Turkish integration, and Sarkozy at Muslims who pray in the street.

But while it is hard to know what exactly the politicians of Europe mean when they talk about multiculturalism, one thing we do know is that the issues they raise—real or imagined—have complex historical roots that have little to do with ideologies of cultural difference. Blaming multiculturalism may be politically useful because of its populist appeal, but it is also politically dangerous because it attacks “an enemy within”: Islam and Muslims. Moreover, it misreads history. An intellectual corrective may help to diminish its malign impact.

Political criticisms of multiculturalism confuse three objects. One is the changing cultural and religious landscape of Europe. Postwar France and Britain encouraged immigration of willing workers from former colonies; Germany drew on its longstanding ties with Turkey for the same purpose; somewhat later, new African and Asian immigrants, many of them Muslims, traveled throughout Western Europe to seek jobs or political refuge. As a result, one sees mosques where there once were only churches and hears Arabic and Turkish where once there were only dialects of German, Dutch, or Italian. The first object then is the social fact of cultural and religious diversity, of multicultural and multi-religious everyday life: the emergence in Western Europe of the kind of social diversity that has long been a matter of pride in the United States.

The second object—suggested by Cameron’s phrase “state multiculturalism”—concerns the policies each of these countries have used to handle new residents. By the 1970s, Western European governments realized that the new workers and their families were there to stay, so the host countries tried out a number of strategies to integrate the immigrants into the host society. Policymakers all realized that they would need to find what later came to be called “reasonable accommodations” with the needs of the new communities: for mosques and schools, job training, instruction in the host-country language. These were pragmatic efforts; they did not aim at assimilation, nor did they aim to preserve spatial or cultural separation. Some of these policies eventually were termed “multicultural” because they involved recognizing ethnic community structures or allowing the use of Arabic or Turkish in schools. But these measures were all designed to encourage integration: to bring new groups in while acknowledging the obvious facts of linguistic, social, cultural, and religious difference.

The third object that multiculturalism’s critics confuse is a set of normative theories of multiculturalism, each of which attempts to mark out a way to take account of cultural and religious diversity from a particular philosophical point of view. Although ideas of multiculturalism do shape public debates in Britain (as they do in North America), they do so much less in continental Europe, and even in Britain it would be difficult to find direct policy effects of these normative theories.

Politicians err when they claim that normative ideas of multiculturalism shape the social fact of cultural and religious diversity: such diversity would be present with or without a theory to cope with it. Nor are state policies shaped by those ideas, which tend to be recent in origin. Quite to the contrary, each European country has followed well-traveled pathways for dealing with diversity. Methods designed to accommodate sub-national religious blocs are now being adapted and applied to Muslim immigrants. Far from newfangled, misguided policies of multiculturalism, these distinct strategies represent the continuation of long-standing, nation-specific ways of recognizing and managing diversity.

• • •

Consider the case of Germany. Merkel’s claims were perhaps the least weighty, but her words point to a growing conviction among some Germans that Muslim immigrants are inassimilable. Merkel’s attack was as vague as it was opportunistic. She regretted that the German “tendency had been to say, ‘let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other’” and concluded that this attitude had not produced results, as if she had thereby identified policies that could be changed. Her real meaning was made clear by the presence of Horst Seehofer next to her on the podium. Seehofer, the Bavarian state premier and Merkel’s coalition partner, has called for curtailing immigration.

One poll showed a third of Germans believed the country was ‘overrun by foreigners.’

Merkel’s speech followed a series of anti-Muslim public statements by high-placed German officials. In June 2010 then-Bundesbank member Thilo Sarrazin published a book in which he accused Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society. Although he was censured for his views and dismissed from his central bank position, the book proved popular, and polls suggested that Germans were sympathetic with the thrust of his arguments. One poll showed a third of Germans believed the country was “overrun by foreigners.” A few months earlier, in March, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble waded in to say that Germany had been mistaken to let in so many Turkish workers in the 1960s because they had not integrated into society.

At least the finance minister pointed to a real German policy, one that encouraged low-paid laborers to relocate to the country and rebuild it. But Merkel’s notion that the German government had promoted a multikulti society (as distinct from celebrating colorful Kreuzberg or a Turkish star on the German soccer team) ignores the brunt of German immigration policy, which, until 2000, denied citizenship to those workers, their children, and their grandchildren. In other words, the government and many, perhaps most, Germans had not hoped, as Merkel claimed, that everyone would live side by side. Rather, the hope was that “they” would just pack up and leave.

In this sense Germany has largely followed its longer-term policies for dealing with diversity: German federal and state governments have historically denied that immigration could be of value and maintained a policy of limiting citizenship only to those who could demonstrate German descent. But Germany may also follow the public-corporation model it has arranged with Christian and Jewish groups. A proposed Islamic public corporation would have the legal status to obtain government funding for mosques and would serve as a legitimate overseer of materials selected for Islamic religious education. This promising policy goal, not yet achieved, would recognize and support Islam in accordance with long-standing German principles governing religious diversity, not on grounds of multiculturalism.

• • •

In contrast to Germany, Britain has promoted multiculturalism as an explicit policy, but not in those domains where Cameron denounced it. In his February 2011 speech, Cameron blamed multiculturalism for creating spatial divisions and fomenting terrorism. “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism,” he claimed, “we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.” Left apart, some have submitted to extremism, he argued, and some of those extremists have in turn carried bombs in the name of Islam. His solution was three-fold: ensure that any organization asking for public money subscribes to doctrines of universal rights and encourages integration, keep extremists from reaching students and prisoners, and ensure that everyone learns English.

As a diagnosis of problems of homegrown terrorism, the speech fell short. The British bombers principally responsible for the 2005 attacks in London knew English and English people well. Mohammad Sidique Khan, believed to be the leader of the bombing plot, was recalled as a “highly Westernized” man who grew up in Leeds and attended university there. Shehzad Tanweer, another of the bombers, had a similar background. According to the official report on the bombings, both men had developed jihadist convictions in Pakistan.

If these and other homegrown terrorists have problems feeling at home in Britain, it is because they do not remain in their “separate cultures” but instead become isolated individuals without a social or cultural base. In otherwise-distinct analyses of European jihadists, French political scientist Olivier Roy and American counterterrorism expert Marc Sageman each paint a picture of young men who suffer from a lack of ties with others in their communities. Roy calls them “deterritorialized”; Sageman describes a “bunch of guys” who find themselves without opportunities at home, who are considered foreigners despite being born in Europe, and who end up traveling abroad to seek out extremists. Hardly walled off in enclaves in Bradford (or Hamburg), they are free-floating, perfect speakers of English (or German) who feel themselves rejected by the people and institutions around them.

It’s not just Muslims who cut themselves off. A large percentage of British children attend schools that admit only Catholics and Anglicans.

Cameron used his speech to argue for his “Big Society”—policies of state divestment from welfare predicated on the belief that if people have to work together to survive they will gain a stronger sense of being British. But whatever the merits of this approach to British social ills, it has little to offer individuals who already consider themselves discarded by those around them.

So Cameron got it wrong when it comes to homegrown terrorism. What did he have in mind when he spoke of “state multiculturalism”? Multicultural policies in Britain today mainly concern how state schools handle their diverse clientele: teaching cultural and religious studies curricula, offering halal meals to Muslim pupils. Behind these specific policies is the notion, generally accepted in Britain, that the cultural and religious traditions of each pupil should be positively recognized. These politics find one salient expression in a commissioned white paper by the political theorist Bhikhu Parekh, whose 2000 book, Rethinking Multiculturalism, asks: in a multicultural society, how should the state balance legitimate claims to diversity with the need to “foster a strong sense of unity and common belonging among its citizens”? This is precisely Cameron’s concern, but Parekh voices it as a justification for educational multiculturalism. Parekh argues that recognizing the traditions held by religious and ethnic communities through multicultural school curricula provides a psychologically sound basis on which to construct an inclusive national identity. (His view comes close to claims made by another political theorist, Will Kymlicka, who argues that maintaining cultural heritage is of psychosocial importance in the development of a liberal citizen.)

There is controversy in Britain about schooling and the isolation of cultural minorities, but spatial segregation of immigrant communities was a product of South Asian settlement patterns in Britain in the 1960s and ’70s, not state multiculturalism. When men (and, later, families) moved from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Britain, they brought whole lineages and villages along with them, reproducing their old linguistic and religious networks in urban British neighborhoods. The result was a chasm separating Asian and white communities, and in some cities this absence of interaction and understanding spiraled into hatred and unrest. In the spring and summer of 2001, riots pitted Asians against whites in the northern cities of Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford. Today, these cities remain highly segregated. Their schools reflect, and exacerbate, the problem. Pupils remain sorted into largely white and largely Pakistani or Bangladeshi schools. As one head teacher at a 92 percent Pakistani primary school said in a report released on the tenth anniversary of the riots, “Some of our children could live their lives without meeting someone from another culture until they go to high school or even the workplace.”

Charles Roffey / Flickr.com / CharlesFred

The combination of religion and schooling contributes to this segregation, but not in the way that Cameron’s speech suggests: it’s not just Muslims who’ve cut themselves off from the rest of society. Across Britain a large percentage of children go to schools that only admit students who regularly attend a Catholic or an Anglican church. In sharply segregated Oldham, 40 percent of secondary schools are of this type, and they draw from a largely white population. This religious divide is increasing, due to the addition to the school scene of state-supported “faith academies,” mainly Church of England and Catholic schools. Whereas in the United States government support for religiously exclusive schools would be judged as excessive entanglement of the state with religion, British ideas of public life start from the premise that religious communities are legitimate and socially important sources of citizen education, and thus deserving of state aid.

Thus, if state multiculturalism exists in 2011, it would be found in broadly accepted principles about the role of state support in promoting diverse kinds of schools. These policies can have segregating effects, but they are also current Tory policies. Cameron and his Party don’t like to bring them up in other contexts, though; they are not in the business of attacking Christian schools.

On the whole, then, it seems that accommodation of immigrants in Britain has taken the usual course for that nation. The methods applied to distinct religious groups that predate Islam on the Isles have been extended to the newest arrivals.

British ideas of public life start from the premise that religious communities are legitimate sources of citizen education.

Cameron’s policy proposals were on a wholly different topic: he paid special attention to reducing the degree of toleration afforded Islamic groups with extreme views. Here one might join with the prime minister in finding that certain Islamic groups ought to have their public activities curtailed. The most frequently cited example is the Hizb ut-Tahrir, who reject participation in British politics and urge British Muslims to prepare themselves for the coming of the Islamic state, to be created somewhere in the world in the not-too distant future. This, however, does not concern the validity of recognizing cultural diversity but rather the degree to which the state ought to allow extreme or intolerant public speech, the same issue that arose thanks to the Danish cartoons controversy and that regularly figures in laws against Holocaust denial.

• • •

Although French President Nicolas Sarkozy attacked le multiculturalisme, more often French politicians use the term “communalism” (communautarisme). This refers not to the North American philosophy of communitarianism, although that takes its lumps sometimes as well, but to everyday practices and attitudes that reject “living together” in favor of “living side by side.” Usually Britain is the negative example, though of late the French have been blaming themselves for this supposed deficiency as well.

But communalism is no more precise an object of denunciation than is multiculturalism. InLe Monde on March 16 of this year, the new Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, said that high unemployment among those who come to France from outside the European Union proves “the failure of communalisms” because those immigrants tend to clump together by culture and doing so keeps them from getting jobs. He acknowledged that people chose where to live, that the state did not put them there, but argued, “We have gone too long in letting people group together in communities.” Guéant suggests that what has been going on is a state multiculturalism of inaction without specifying how the state could break up existing communities.

A few pages later in the same issue, a columnist analyzed the American “Galleon affair,” a case of financial fraud involving financiers from India, as an instance of communalism because these men, who held degrees from Harvard and Wharton and worked at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, had common national origins. Now, these immigrants did get jobs, great ones. Apparently communalism of one sort is the key to success, albeit illicit success, while communalism of another sort explains high unemployment rates. A cynic might add that if working in small incestuous groups defines communalism, then France, with its unusually small set of industrialists serving on interlocking boards of major companies, its exclusive school system, and marriage practices designed to preserve the elite, is among the most communalist of nations.

In any case France has never undertaken state multiculturalism. Although some officials have decried the politics of the “right to a difference” that marked several years at the beginning of François Mitterrand’s presidency in the 1980s, those politics could hardly be called “multicultural.” Some instruction in “languages of origin” was provided, but this was intended to facilitate the eventual “return” of immigrants and their children. Other sources of aid provided tutoring and training, and current policies direct additional money to school districts with large numbers of pupils “in difficulty.” At the same time, the French state has provided free language classes to immigrants, assistance to groups seeking to build mosques, and practical accommodations to allow the preparation of halal meat in abattoirs. State support for and control of religious groups is, despite the rhetoric of strict state-religion separation, a long-term feature of French policy. More than a century after France’s 1905 law of church-state separation, the state pays for the upkeep of older religious buildings, gives tax breaks to religious groups, and hires teachers for private religious schools (most of them Catholic).

• • •

Blaming multiculturalism for social ills is a Dutch national sport. Yet, as the University of Amsterdam sociologist Jan Willem Duyvendak has written, the Netherlands has never pursued state multiculturalism or the preservation of minority cultures. Instead it has pursued two sets of policies, one aimed at maintaining the long-standing commitment to the political peace, the other at achieving the integration of minorities.

The long-standing Dutch preference for compromise is embodied in the polder model—a reference to working together to build dykes, a bit like Tocqueville’s American “barn-raising.” Historically this meant that people were loath to criticize unassimilated immigrants. Dutch cultural practices thereby favored the unofficial continuation of a multicultural social reality, where people were free to continue to speak their own languages, worship in their own ways, and so forth. This kind of “live and let live” social habit was the Dutch solution to religious conflicts during a period of relatively intense religious belief and practice in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It gave rise to a quasi-official model of “pillars”: religious networks and institutions within which each Dutch man or woman was presumed to remain.

For the Dutch right, attacking Islam is a psychologically useful way of reworking their own heritage.

This social conception of keeping the religious and political peace by separating people according to religion subtended policies of creating and financing religious schools. Although the pillar structure had come apart before major Muslim immigration was underway in the 1970s and ’80s, a psychological residue persisted, dictating that each religious group should ignore the particularities of the other. Far from accepting or recognizing the other’s validity, this attitude promoted bare tolerance, civic acceptance of the right to the existence of Catholics, Protestants, and for that matter, gays and pot-smokers. Condemnation was constrained to the home or the pulpit. So while Dutch policies and norms favored a diverse society, they took no part of what is today thought of as multiculturalism, with its efforts to reach beyond toleration toward appreciation.

At the same time, governments developed a series of policies aimed at promoting the advancement of minorities through provision of schoolteachers who spoke their languages (principally Arabic and Turkish), construction of local councils that would advise the government on how best to foster integration, and special funding to provide additional tutoring and support at schools heavily attended by the children of immigrants. By the end of the twentieth century these policies had been changed to focus more on skills training and teaching in Dutch, but the goal of state policy continued to be, as it had always been, that of promoting integration. In the Netherlands, as in France, financial aid was targeted to schools with many poor students, who happened to descend from recent immigrants.

The attack on these policies and attitudes has focused on values attributed to Muslims or to Islamic doctrine. In 1991 parliamentary opposition leader Frits Bolkestein criticized the government for failing to defend Western values of free speech and equality against Islamic views. He used the case of Islam to launch a broader attack against the political elite and their way of papering over differences (the polder model) rather than standing up for Enlightenment values against the Islam of the Ayatollahs. A rising class of populist politicians seconded this critique, among them the right-wing and openly gay Pim Fortuyn—killed in 2002 by an activist concerned about scapegoating Muslims—and the anti-Islam campaigners Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders. Their attacks on Islam were also political appeals against the elites in order to curry favor with the forgotten working classes. Polder politics, elite domination, and Islam were the common enemy, and the refusal of the leading classes to denounce non-Dutch and anti-Enlightenment Islamic values was the major evidence that things had gone wrong. As in France this admonition has been heard on the left and the right, from Social Democrats as well as from Wilders’s far-right Party for Freedom. It reflects a cultural nationalism that can appeal to the old-style populism of the right or to the universalism of the left.

In life and in death, Fortuyn focused the attack on multiculturalism even more narrowly as an attack on Islamic intolerance of sexual diversity, and in particular, of gay lifestyles. Fortuyn personified a secularist, sexually open, and “tolerant” Dutch identity, against which Islam and Muslims could easily be targeted as the pre-Enlightenment other. In no other country has the issue of tolerating gays become so central and so salient a part of the critique of Islam. This line of attack was powerful because it also was a critique of older Dutch ways of doing politics and thinking about sexuality. Throughout most of the twentieth century, most Dutch people held religious views about homosexuality and women’s rights that were not too different from those now ascribed to Muslims by their opponents. Attacking Islam was thus also a psychologically useful way of reworking one’s own heritage.

Ironically, the current focus on Islam per se—Wilders compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampfand seeks to have it banned in the Netherlands—has distracted the far right from policies about minority achievement and language learning. The focus now is on the acceptability in the Enlightenment West of the pre-Enlightenment Muslim. And yet the right continues to attack Dutch multiculturalism because it remains rhetorically useful to link the cultural critique of religion to a populist critique of past elites.

• • •

Blaming multiculturalism, then, is useful because it is both vague and misdirected. It would be much harder for Cameron to acknowledge that British racism, immigration trajectories, foreign policy, and faith-based schools have made major contributions toward minority isolation than it is to say: we got it wrong, now let’s get it right, let’s all be British. Islam provides a soft target for aspiring cultural nationalists. It is easier for Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen of the right-wing French National Front to decry Muslims praying in the street than it is to make room for adequate mosques. And across Europe, it is easier to point to the irresponsible statement of a foreign imam and say that Islam is the problem than to figure out how Muslims, like practicing Catholics and Jews before them, might best construct the cultural and religious institutions they need to be at ease in their new (and not so new) countries.

One can, and should, refute these misdiagnoses and at the same time give due credit to policies promoting integration within each of these societies. Speaking the language of the country and gaining job skills are the keys to becoming a productive citizen. France made free French courses part of its “integration contract” in 2003; with its 2005 Immigration Act, Germany began providing free German lessons to people granted work visas. When most Islamic religious officials are recent immigrants, it makes good sense to offer them instruction in the language, law, and politics of their new country of residence. These are policies of integration rather than assimilation; they are perfectly consistent with the promotion of equal respect for all religions and cultures.

Blaming multiculturalism ties the package together: it discredits a foreign element—Islam—and it identifies the fifth column that let it in, those past proponents of multiculturalism. That it misreads history is beside the point. It makes for effective, albeit irresponsible, populist politics.

Comedians looking for laughs in Muslim comedy tour

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by loonwatch

Comedians looking for laughs in Muslim comedy tour

By Kirk Honeycutt

Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:14pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – So a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar. The bartender turns around and says, “What is this … a joke?”

Yes, it is a joke but some people would wonder what a Muslim is doing in a bar and how he could possibly be involved in a joke. Because as far as many Americans are concerned, the words “Muslim” and “humor” don’t belong in the same sentence.

Which is where Ahmed Ahmed’s “Just Like Us,” which opened Friday in limited release, comes in. Ahmed is a stand-up comic in the

U.S. and, yes, he is an Egyptian-born Muslim. On a recent swing through the Middle East with a clutch of fellow comics, some of whom are also Arabs, he took along a camera crew to document to fact that Muslims can tell damn good jokes about themselves and that other Muslims will laugh uproariously.

The movie is fast, funny and light on its feet, dipping less into politics or religion than into cultural quirks and characteristics. For instance: An Arab invented the original mechanical clock, which is odd since Arabs are never on time. Bu-dah-bum. You get the idea.

One might complain that Ahmed and his Comedy Arabic Tour hit the most liberal ports-of-call in the Middle East — Dubai, that international center of business and trade in the United Arabs Emirates; Beirut, Lebanon, the “Paris of the East”; and Egypt, the “Hollywood of the Arab world.”

Ah, but the comics also gave an underground concert in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where no public entertainment is allowed, religious police are everywhere and they can’t even enter the country as entertainers but as “consultants.” How in the world did they get away with it? That may have been another documentary in itself!

Ahmed, one of the stars of Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show and The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, isn’t interested in the larger picture. He settles for brief forays into each city and a hit-and-run encounter with his relatives in Egypt. Expect no broader context but simply an assertion that once you get everyone laughing, an Arab is “just like us.” As an examination of complex cultural ties and conflicts, that’s pretty glib but in this instance glib is also funny.

Ahmed takes along a group of comedians that include Omid Dajalili (star of The Infidel), “In Living Color” alum Tommy Davidson, “The Wedding Ref” host Tom Papa and Ahmed’s Wild West Comedy Show co-star Sebastian Maniscalco. And while he did direct, Ahmed is generous in showing his fellow comics during their times on stage.

Some of the laughs here come in watching — and hearing — the North American comics test jokes on an entirely different audience without being fully aware of the censorship laws. Ahmed admits he was banned for a year in Dubai for saying something that rubbed the authorities the wrong way. A woman comic uses the word “balls,” then abruptly wonders if now she’ll be banned. The audience seemed to laugh at this but that may be how Ahmed edited the film. Who knows what they’re laughing at?

For that matter, editing is so fast and the pace of the tour so swift that you wonder what did get left out. How did that underground concert in Riyadh happen? Why is there a brief altercation backstage at one event? How did authorities react to the gags? And doesn’t the fact that most of the routines are in English exclude most of the Arab populations in these countries?

Mostly, Ahmed wants to show men, women and children of the Middle East smiling and cracking

up in laughter to counter the image of the serious, sullen or even furious Arab who inhabits the American consciousness. He and his comics tell jokes well enough that he gets ample opportunities for this.

(To read more about our entertainment news, visit our blog “Fan Fare” online atblogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)

Original post: Comedians looking for laughs in Muslim comedy tour

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Young Con is doing his thang. Check out the video and the facts below.

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims is social commentary through satire on the gross, yet common misconceptions perpetuated about Muslim people. Cutaways to competing facts are provided to help fight ignorance and intolerance.

Sources:

Statistic in Open – 3 of 4 people Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate”

Step 1 – Ethnicity/Demographics of Muslims

  • 60% Asian
  • 20% Arab
  • 17% Subsaharan-African

Step 2 – FBI Terrorism Report – Chronological Summary of Terrorist Incidents in the United States 1980-2005

Step 3 – “Islam is Violence”

  • George W. Bush: “Islam is Peace
  • Chapter 5, verse 32 – “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

Step 6 – “They hate women” – 4 of 5 most populous Muslim-majority nations have elected female heads-of-state

  • Indonesia – Megawati Sukarnoputri
  • Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto
  • Bangladesh – Khaleda Zia & Sheikh Hasina
  • Turkey – Tansu Ciller

Step 7 – FDR Inaugural Speech – March 4, 1933

  • “The only thing we have to fear is Muslims“
  • “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Step 8 – Jesus in the Quran, “The Messiah”

Negative image of Arabs tied to rising Islamophobia in the West

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2011 by loonwatch

Negative image of Arabs tied to rising Islamophobia in the West

(Today’s Zaman)

The lingering perception problem with regard to Arabs in the Western media is very much connected to rising Islamophobia in Europe and in the US, experts at the 10th Arab Media Forum held in Dubai last week said. “Islam has become the new perceived enemy of the West after the fall of the Soviet Union,” said Philip Seib, professor of journalism and public diplomacy at the University of Southern California, during a panel discussion at the forum, which attracted over 2,400 media professionals from 40 countries.

Seib stressed that more continual and balanced news coverage from the region was needed to overcome challenges of stereotyping of Arab citizens. “People want to know about the region, which was reflected when Al Jazeera’s English news website registered a phenomenal increase in the number of hits after Egypt’s revolution,” he added.

Abdullah Bozkurt, Today’s Zaman Ankara bureau chief, also shared Seib’s concerns in his speech and said the anti-Muslim platform in Europe has developed itself from being the agenda of fringe, far-right parties into a mainstream political debate.

“With the minaret ban in Switzerland and the Burqa ban in France, the anti-Muslim rhetoric became part of the law of the land. Islamophobia even became institutionalized with the gains of far-right parties in some European countries, and they are now set to become part of the coalitional governments. This is an alarming development,” he explained.

During the 10th Arab Media Forum there were also discussions on whether or not the recent protest movements that swept the countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa have changed the image of Arabs. It explored whether there were signs of change from references in the Western media of Arabs being “violent, betraying, backward-thinking and women’s rights-snubbing” to that of people who have the same aspirations and expectations as everybody else.

Students on trip to IDF base simulated shooting targets with Arab headdress

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by loonwatch
Herzliya’s Hayovel School. Activities included target practice on silhouettes wearing keffiyehs. Photo by: Nir Keidar

Students on trip to IDF base simulated shooting targets with Arab headdress

Incident took place during at a military base where students were being escorted as part of an ‘IDF preparation’ project, sanctioned by the Education Ministry.

By Or Kashti

Twelfth-grade students from Herzliya’s Hayovel High School took part in a simulated shooting attack in which the targets were figures decked out with the Arab keffiyeh headdress, Haaretz has learned.

The incident took place at a military base last week during the annual 12th grade trip. The students were being escorted to a commanders’ base in the Negev as part of an “IDF preparation” project, which is sanctioned by the Education Ministry.

According to a person familiar with the details, the event was tantamount to “educating toward hatred of Arabs.”

“Some citizens of the State of Israel wear keffiyehs,” the source said. “Now they are viewed as legitimate targets for a shooting simulation.”

The trip concluded on Thursday. In a notice that was sent to parents, the school said that “the course of the trip is an inseparable part of the educational curriculum in general, and the ‘IDF preparation’ in particular.”

The first day of the trip included “activities with soldiers in commanders’ school,” according to the notice. The students met with soldiers on the base and heard lectures about the army and the importance of conscription.

During one of the discussions, the students were told that whoever does not serve in a combat unit “does not perform meaningful service.”

During the visit to the base, some of the students took part in an “electronic shooting range,” a computer-generated simulation that recreates a setting in which a soldier uses a laser-guided weapon to shoot targets. According to sources, the images in the electronic shooting range were outfitted with keffiyehs.

“From what I understood, the boys were more excited about this visit than the girls, some of whom preferred not to take part,” said the parent of one student on the trip. “I don’t think that it’s the education system’s job to train students to shoot.”

The “IDF preparation” project usually entails the visit of army officers to schools as well as occasional class trips to army bases for educational and instructional activities. This is believed to be one of the first times a visit to an army base has included students’ participation in a military activity. Children who are eligible for conscription usually undergo introductory military training as part of “Gadna Week,” which is not under the purview of the school system.

A school official said that the use of an electronic simulator that depicted a target wearing a keffiyeh “is certainly problematic, but this is a wider and more fundamental issue than our visit to the base. We have no intention of teaching the students to shoot people with keffiyehs.”

The Education Ministry did not issue a comment as of press time.

What if the Anti-Asian UCLA Girl had Ranted about Arabs?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on March 20, 2011 by loonwatch

So by now, most of you have seen the now viral youtube video of Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, ranting about Asians:

Here’s a transcript for those of you who can’t stand her voice:

Okay, so here at UCLA it’s finals week.

So we know that I’m not the most politically correct person so don’t take this offensively. I don’t mean it toward any of my friends I mean it toward random people that I don’t even know in the library. So, you guys are not the problem.

The problem is these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year, which is fine. But if you’re going to come to UCLA then use American manners.

So it used to really bug me but it doesn’t bother me anymore the fact that all the Asian people that live in all the apartments around me — their moms and their brothers and their sisters and their grandmas and their grandpas and their cousins and everybody that they know that they’ve brought along from Asia with them – comes here on the weekends to do their laundry, buy their groceries and cook their food for the week. It’s seriously, without fail. You will always see old Asian people running around this apartment complex every weekend. That’s what they do. They don’t teach their kids to fend for themselves. You know what they don’t also teach them, is their manners.

Which brings me to my next point. Hi, in America we do not talk on our cell phones in the library. I swear every five minutes I will be — okay, not five minutes, say like fifteen minutes — I’ll be in like deep into my studying, into my political science theories and arguments and all that stuff, getting it all down, like typing away furiously, blah blah, blah, and then all of a sudden when I’m about to like reach an epiphany… Over here from somewhere, “Ooooh Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong, Ooohhhhh.”

Are you freaking kidding me? In the middle of finals week? So being the polite, nice American girl that my momma raised me to be, I kinda just gave him what anybody else would do that kinda like, [puts finger up to lips in a “shh” motion]. “You know it’s a library, like, we’re trying to study, thanks!” And then it’s the same thing five minutes later. But it’s somebody else, you know — I swear they’re going through their whole families, just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing. I mean I know, okay, that sounds horrible like I feel bad for all the people affected by the tsunami, but if you’re gonna go call your address book like you might as well go outside because if something is wrong you might really freak out if you’re in the library and everybody’s quiet like you seriously should go outside if you’re gonna do that.

So, thanks for listening, that was my rant. I just — even if you’re not Asian you really shouldn’t be on your cell phone in the library but I’ve just never seen that happen before so thank you for listening and have a nice day.

The reaction to her disastrous video was quite amazing: the public was (rightfully) outraged, and went after her with pitchfork in hand.  The three minute rant ruined her reputation, her career, and perhaps her life.

My question is: what if she had similarly ranted against Arabs?  What if the rant had been not about Asians at UCLA but Arabs in Dearborn, Michigan?  What do you think would have happened?

*crickets chirping*

Yep, nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Or if anything, maybe she would get a show on Fox News.

Alas, Arabs and Muslims face the last form of acceptable bigotry.

The Real Ramifications of Extremist Christian End Times Lunacy

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by loonwatch

Remember it is all projection, the true threat from fundamentalist who want to usher in the End Times is from the likes of these Christian Right-wingers. Shame on the Jewish National Fund for enabling such activities:

via. Max Blumenthal

Tell the Jewish National Fund to stop the pogrom against Al Arakib. Call them now.

Yesterday morning, the Bedouin village of Al Arakib withstood the 18th pogrom against it by the Jewish National Fund and Israeli riot police. I mentioned in mylast post that I would begin promoting actions to hold the Jewish National Fund accountable for violently ethnic cleansing Al Arakib in order to build the GOD TV Forest of Hate. Now here is something everyone who reads this blog (minus the professional hasbara trolls) can and should do: Join the Jewish Voice for Peace call in campaign to demand that the JNF cease demolishing villages like Al Arakib. Tell your local JNF office to stop the pogroms against the indigenous population of the Negev. To be sure, this is a minor action that will probably yield only dismissive responses from JNF representatives, but it is important to apply pressure and get them on the record. Something, however small, has to be done.

Here are the contact details courtesy of JVP:

JNF National Office (international callers add 001 to beginning of US Phone numbers): (212) 879-9300

Jerusalem Office (from US)  011-972-2-563-5638

Regional Offices:

Florida

West Coast, Central, and Northern Florida: (727) 536-5263 or (813) 960-5263

Tampa: (407) 804-5568

South Florida (561) 447-9733

Miami/Dade (800) 211-1502 or (561) 447-9733

Greater New York (212) 879-9300

Greater Los Angeles (323) 964-1400

MidAtlantic

Baltimore/ Delaware: (410) 486-3317

Washington, DC (301) 589-8565

Midwest

Chicagoland (847) 656-8880

Michigan (248) 324-3080

Midwest States (Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) (888) 563-0099

Northern Ohio (216) 464-3888

Southern Ohio (513) 794-1300 or (888) 563-0099

Western Pennsylvania (412) 521-3200

Wisconsin (414) 963-8733

New England (617) 423-0999

Northeast

Eastern Pennsylvania (215) 832-0690

New Jersey (973) 593-0095

West

Arizona (602) 277-4800

Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming & Utah (303) 573-7095

Northern California and Pacific Northwest (415) 677-9600 or (888) JNF-0099

Orange County, CA (949)-260-0400

San Diego (858) 824-9178

Palm Springs (760)864-6208

Las Vegas (702) 434-6505

South (404) 236-8990

 

Pamela Geller Watch: Arabic Language not to be Trusted or Taught

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by loonwatch
Pamela Geller

Pamela Geller was on Fox Business News, or as some know it Circus TV advocating her wacky conspiracy theories. Her response might have elicited the Pamela Geller Quote of the Year or at least a candidate (the year is still young),

“Well Bob, there is conspiracy theory and then there is conspiracy fact, there is a global Jihad, (mumble)…Robert Spencer’s book, (mumble), there is a stealth Jihad, there is a war and you can avoid reality Eric but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

Pamela Geller, Bob Beckel, Eric Bolling and others on Fox Business/Circus News:

Islamophobia Today has a good rebuttal of the tripe from Geller on this subject:

Pamela Geller: Islamophobia/Arabophobia

Written by Admin of IslamophobiaToday.com

Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia has gotten so bad that she assumes the Arabic language is inherently “radical Islam” despite its existence well before Islam.  By this, she is implying that Arabs are only Muslims. I am not sure if Geller forgot or if she is plain ignorant but there are more Arab Christians in America than Arab Muslims:

Based on Zogby International Survey (200)

Not only does Geller exalt in her bigotry against Islam and Muslims (as the website LoonWatch has documented), but she is clearly manifesting her racist tendencies:

Good job, freedom lovers. You fought back against mandatory Arabic Classes in Public Schools in Texas.

“It shows how we mischaracterized, we willfully misunderstand Islam. Yes, on the face of it, yes, Arabic is a language. In a sense there would be no difference between opening a foreign language school — a Spanish language school or a french language school — but in fact Arabic is more than a language. It is explicated the language of Islam, so in that sense it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language. And you go all kinds of places that aren’t in the Arab world now, like Pakistan, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada and the United States, and you will here those Imams preaching in Arabic. Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”

In Geller’s post, she selectively quotes from Mandatory Arabic Classes in Public School In Texas, omitting the fact that Arabic is not only the language being taught at the school:

The University of Texas, working with the Mansfield district, identified Cross Timbers Intermediate as a target since 10 percent of the district’s Arabic-speaking population attends the South Arlington school.

“The federal government sees Arabic, Chinese and Russian as critical,” Escovedo said. “Our country has a deficit in Arabic speakers and people who understand the Arabic culture.”

The Mansfield district also offers Chinese and Russian, among other languages. Students may begin taking language classes in middle school to fulfill their high school requirement of two years of foreign language.

Geller does not make any comment about learning Russian, Chinese, or any other language, but for some reason, Arabic is the language of terrorists. So her logic, or as I like to call it the Gellerian/Spencerian logic is as follows:

1)       Muslims are Evil

2)      They speak  Arabic

3)      Arabic is Evil

The semi-coherent ramblings of the uber-racist Pam Geller once again, betray her false claims towards being an advocate of freedom, equality, and justice. For Geller, Arabic equals Islam and Islam equals total absolute evil and therefore by extension Arabic speakers are likewise evil.

Arabic is a rich, classical language like Latin and Greek, branding it as an ideology is beyond ridiculous, it is a call to prepetual ignorance where by Geller wishes to deprive the coming generations of an experience that not only will enrich their lives, increase their knowledge but will also prove useful in their future careers. In reality what she is afraid of is the normalization of Arabs and Muslims in American society, and she will go to any lengths to ghettoize the former.

 

Arabs Not Allowed because they aren’t Jewish; What if they were Muslim?

Posted in Feature, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by loonwatch

How poignant is the above Photo? It wasn’t long ago that such signs were strewn across the USA, but those with historical amnesia seem to forget it ever existed.

Even more egregious,  Jewish extremists in Israel are now inflicting a similar decrepit form of racist and religious discrimination. What if it were Muslims saying “this is a Muslim only neighborhood, no Jews allowed?” Or if this had happened in an area of Cairo?

You can be sure that Robert Spencer and company would be chirping about it day and night.

Arab tenants forced to leave Tel Aviv home due to threats

(YNet)

Four Muslims and a Druze man were compelled to leave an apartment they had rented in southern Tel Aviv due to neighbors’ scheming against them, Ynet has learned. They claim that residents of the neighborhood threatened to torch the apartment and attack the landlord if the tenants were not evicted.

“Residents said aloud that they didn’t want to see Arabs in the neighborhood, because it’s for Jews alone,” one of the tenants said. (Hassan Shaalan)

 

French Far-right Star Compares Praying Muslims to Nazis

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2010 by loonwatch

European Loonieness keeps marching on. Instead of focusing on combating the anti-Muslim sentiment raging in France they French elite chose to focus on the 500 women who wear Niqab. Go figure!

French far-right star compares praying Muslims to Nazi occupiers

(Reuters)

Marine Le Pen has put paid to the idea she would put a softer face on France’s National Front for elections in 2012 with anti-Muslim comments that have aroused a storm of criticism. Le Pen, the likely next far-right challenger for the French presidency, compared overflowing mosques in France with the Nazi occupation — remarks indicative of a drift to the right in parts of Europe that could let the National Front eat into support for the ruling conservative UMP party in 2012.

Le Pen, the frontrunner to succeed her father Jean-Marie Le Pen as head of the party, made the comments on a television show last Thursday with about 3.4 million viewers watching. On Monday she dismissed any suggestion of a gaffe. “My comments were absolutely not a blunder, but a completely thought-out analysis,” she told a news conference, adding she was merely saying out loud what everyone thought privately.

le pen 1Given support of 12 to 14 percent in recent opinion polls, Marine Le Pen is regarded as more electable than her father, who was convicted in 1990 for inciting racial hatred. But her remarks suggest that far from moderating the party line, she will go all out to outgun conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy to secure the slice of the French electorate that opposes high immigration.

(Photo: Marine Le Pen at National Front headquarters in Nanterre near Paris December 13, 2010/Jacky Naegelen)

“The National Front has changed: it’s more dangerous than before,” said an editorial in the left-leaning Liberation daily after mainstream politicians and Muslim leaders slammed Le Pen’s comments. “Given a lick of paint by Marine, xenophobia is back in the spotlight.”

On Thursday, she told a party meeting that after a steady rise in the number of Islamic veils and burqas worn in France, home to five million Muslims, the crowds praying outside mosques were akin to an occupation.

Her remarks chime with a growing right-wing mood among voters in Europe, where far-right parties are taking up worries that high immigration facilitates Islamic fundamentalist terror cells and makes tight labour markets even tighter. Since France banned burqas, which cloak a woman’s face and body, calls for bans have been heard elsewhere in Europe, most loudly in the Netherlands wherepopulist politician Geert Wilders wants to tighten rules on immigration and ban the Koran.

occupationIn France the National Front scored a strong result in regional elections in early 2010, even after Sarkozy offered tough solutions of his own on immigration and crime. The party is enjoying a revival reminiscent of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s surprise showing in the 2002 presidential election when he got through to the second round before losing to conservative Jacques Chirac.

(Photo: German troops march past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 14 June 1940/German Federal Archive)

Marine Le Pen’s remarks on Muslims provoked angry comment. Several UMP politicians spoke out against them, and government spokesman Francois Baroin called them “one more provocation”. Veteran socialist Laurent Fabius called them shameful and France’s anti-racist group MRAP filed a lawsuit against Marine Le Pen for incitement to racial hatred.

“These remarks constitute a serious attack on the dignity of Muslims in France and are synonymous with an incitement to hate and violence,” France’s Muslim Council (CFCM) said in a statement. CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish organisations, also protested: “The Crif is outraged by the comments of Marine Le Pen comparing prayers in the street to the Occupation, which were made only to stigmatise the Muslim community. These remarks amount to a double and dishonest manipulation of history and language.”

le pen 1Analysts view Le Pen as much closer to Wilders than far-right leaders of her father’s generation, but note that to keep her party faithful from drifting towards the UMP she needs to cling more than ever to hardline principles. “Le Pen has realised the limits of de-demonising the National Front — it works on the outside but less so with her militants,” analyst Sylvain Crepon told Liberation.

(Photo: Jean-Marie Le Pen with a campaign poster that reads “No to Islamism. Youth with Le Pen” and shows a map of France covered by an Algerian flag and minarets, March 7, 2010/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

Analyst Dominique Reynie said that by reinforcing her base, Le Pen would bite into Sarkozy’s first and second-round scores if he seeks reelection in 2012. “If the National Front gets a high score, that means it has taken votes from the left. Those may not necessarily go to the candidate on the right afterwards,” he wrote in a column.

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