Tag Archives: muslim

Fearing the “Other” Is Politically Profitable: Iran, Islamo-Fascism and the Pursuit of Truth

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

The whispers about Iran are starting to become more numerous to ignore. The same whispers continue in hushed tones about Islamo-Fascism, hatred of freedom, and the need to do something.

Do what, I wonder? Bomb more people?

But the whispers grow in volume every day. So, to try to make sense of it all, I began to read.

I read an interesting Q & A on Pop & Politics about Islamo-Fascism.

(Fabulous moment of semi-irony: David Horowitz defending Ann Coulter by saying “Why should anybody in America, whose democratic culture is based on the pluralism of ideas, be offended by a religious belief?” Yes, David, why should they be offended by a religious belief? And why would they decide to be actively offensive toward those who hold other beliefs?)

This appeared the same day I read a Washington Post hosted chat about a PBS program I missed on the whole Iran situation.

Pop and Politics has also been covering some of the issues surrounding some of this othering and the issues surrounding the Bush Administration’s newest target – Iran:

In the Path to Iran, Chris Nelson briefly summarizes Seymour M. Hirsch’s article on the Bush Administration and the next target:

In sum, the war in Iraq is now being redefined— years too late and for ulterior motives— as in fact a strategic conflict with Iran. But blaming Iran for the humiliating U.S. failure in Iraq is merely the latest rhetorical approach to persuade Americans of the need to bomb Tehran, according to Hirsch.

In another post, P & P discussed one of Ann Coulter’s recent speaking engagements in honor of Islamo-Fascism Awareness week:

Ann Coulter descended on USC campus to promote her new book last week as part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s “Islamo-Facism Awareness Week.” While speaking to a crowd of about 230 fans at the Annenberg School, she offered equal doses of anti-liberal tirade and inflammatory discourse on the world beyond these amber waves of grain.

“Eschewing debate, I would turn to inflicting horrible physical pain. That seems to change people’s minds,” Coulter said when asked during the Q&A if she believed that “very vigorous intellectual debate could perhaps change [Islamo-Fascist’s] views against using violence to spread religion?”

“Who would have thought the Japanese were governable? A few well-placed nuclear bombs and they’ve been gentle little lambs ever since,” was how she followed-up the “horrible physical pain” plan for Islamo-Fascists. Continue reading

Reasons I Hate Halloween

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

I hate Halloween. Now that I’m a grown-up, it’s just lost its appeal. Especially when I look at what some adults do for Halloween.

  1. Slutty costumes (I just had to say it)
  2. Slutty “ethnic” costumes: Native American girl, geisha, etc.

In particular:

1. Harem girl costumes
2. Belly dancer costumes
3. Genie costumes
4. Cleopatra costumes
5. Arab sheikh costumes

These costumes reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women. Plus, it’s doubly insulting because (usually) white people will “play dress-up” in these costumes, to supposedly “live like we do” for one night. The only missing detail is: none of the institutional oppression that we face as Muslims and Middle Easterners comes with the costume.

Just looking at the names of the costumes is informative enough: “Exotic Belly Dancer Costume” and “Sheik of Persia Arabian Costume” can tell you that these people have no idea about the culture they think they’re appropriating. (History lesson: Persia didn’t have sheikhs, they had shahs. And Persia and Arabia were two different places! AKH!)

Look at the women’s costumes: all are revealing and hypersexual. How many Middle Eastern women prance around in sheer pants and face veils? None. These costumes scream sexist Orientalism!

Don’t worry, guys! There are plenty of racist costumes for you, too! Take this “Arab Sheik” costume: of course he has a knife! All Middle Eastern men are dangerous, didn’t you know? You can even tell by his face: he’s pissed, and he’s going to take it out on some infidels!

And, if you’d like to pass on your racist Orientalist fantasies to your children, there are belly dancer costumes for little girls! That’s right! Make sure that your daughter learns that her self worth comes from how much her coin-bedazzled bra reveals and how pleasing her dancing is to a man! You can start as soon as she’s a toddler!

Ick. Enjoy your free candy!

Rendition humanizes Arabs

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The new movie Rendition is more interesting for what it is than how it runs. It’s the first fictional film about the U.S. kidnapping-and-torture program, which began under Clinton but was expanded massively under Bush. It’s the first mainstream movie I’ve seen which gives Arabs and Arabic large amounts of humanizing screen time (the protagonist is an Egyptian-American who went to college in the States). And it’s the latest in this year’s wave of whistleblower movies against Dubya’s assault on American liberty.

Mired in noble savage stereotypes, the movie is more earnest than subtle. Moa Khouas, the Arab Romeo, looks like a brown James Franco, but most of the Arab characters are more archetypes than people.

The plot’s central Capulets and Montagues romantic coincidence is Rushdie-esque, a synthetic conceit for the sake of a more interesting story. It’s not a bad movie, just a slow and obvious one, never more so than in a scene where the magnetic Peter Sarsgaard needles CIA muckamuck Meryl Streep with the Constitution, and she responds with 9/11.

The movie is A Mighty Heart in reverse, where the kidnappers are the U.S. government rather than Al Qaeda terrorists. You’ve got the same pretty, pregnant wife embedded in a labyrinthine search for her handsome, intelligent husband. Reese Witherspoon isn’t given much screen direction beyond playing a grieving wife. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character may be suffering from post-traumatic stress sufferer, but the actor sleepwalks through the movie.

This movie was directed by Gavin Hood, the South African who did Tsotsi. The plotting uses the now-familiar Rashomon device of connecting subplots via a single climactic event. One of the subplots is unexpectedly time-shifted, which is great fun.

But the real-life issue is far more significant than the film: the president claims he can legally kidnap anyone around the world, jail him forever without trial, witness or evidence, and have him tortured. It shocks the conscience. Here’s an actual Dubya quote. I can’t figure out whether it’s duplicitous or just feeble-minded:

Q: What’s your definition of the word ‘torture’?

Dubya: That’s defined in U.S. law, and we don’t torture.

Q: Can you give me your version of it, sir?

Dubya: Whatever the law says. [Link]

With no sunlight and no trial, mistakes are inevitable:

  • We had Maher Arar wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to take him off the no-fly list.
  • We had Khaled al-Masri wrongly arrested and tortured. We refuse to apologize. We refuse to pay him compensation.
  • We threatened to have the innocent Abdallah Higazy’s family tortured in Egypt:

… [The FBI agent] told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” … [The agent] knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country… probably about torture, sure…” [Higazy said:] “Saddam’s security force–as they later on were called his henchmen–a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape…” [Link]

And to think America was founded precisely because of this kind of limp-dickery.

The Madonna/Whore Complex, Islamic-Style!

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslima Media Watch

Talking about access in my post awhile ago, I touched on sexuality. Since this is one of my favorite topics, it got me thinking about sexuality in the Muslim world, and the binaries that Orientalism creates for Muslim women’s sexuality.

When you think of a Muslim woman in the context of sexuality, which images come up? If you watch movies, Muslim women are usually seen in one of two lights, sort of like a Madonna/whore complex. Except it’s with bellydancers and niqabs: the exotic, hypersexual belly dancer, or the forbidding, stern niqabi whose eyes say “No way are you getting under these robes.” Instead of the Madonna/Whore Complex, we have the Belly Dancer/Burqa complex.

The belly dancer half of this dichotomy is always hypersexual and hypersexy. Scantily-clad, of course; jewelry with coins, armbands with snakes, and usually really thick eyeliner are her trademarks. She’s there to please, please, please (sexually, of course). Usually, the belly dancer is featured by herself (when she’s not with the rest of the harem girls) and she’s aiming to entertain/seduce/serve the main man: movies like Lawrence of Arabia and From Russia With Love are excellent examples. I even found a list of all of the western movies that have bellydancers in them. Even on TV we see this crap: I Dream of Jeannie wasn’t a belly dancer, but she was a genie in Orientalist garb with an intent to please her master. (shudder)

The burqa half is sightly more fluid (it includes burqas, niqabs, and hejabs, oh my), but they all have the same attitude: no sex. Purity is paramount, and purity means virginity. Usually, the burqa half will also exhibit very Madonna-like (or in our case, Fatima-like) characteristics: selfless, she is always a “good” mother and wife (meaning never thinking about herself, only thinking about her family).

However, the ladies in scarves are never the main female role. They’re usually featured in groups, erasing any individuality, and always in black, erasing their humanity. They’re really just scenery…scary, asexual, “native” scenery: Not Without My Daughter is a perfect example here.

Both of these images are just tired (especially considering that Orientalism has been churning out these images for centuries). I think it’s time we shelved this make-believe binary. Besides, I’m really tired of seeing genie and belly dancer “costumes” every Halloween.

Hear Me Out: Hip-hop and Gender Criticism

by guest contributor dnA, originally published at Too Sense

I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half
Omittin the word “bitch,” cursin I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, til a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learnt it from a song I heard and sorta liked

-Lupe Fiasco, Hurt Me Soul

This was a long time ago.One of the unique things about Hip-hop is its ability to respond directly to criticism, which has been completely omitted in the ongoing mainstream media assault on Hip-hop culture and music. The root of Hip-hop’s mainstream popularity is its ability to provide to white men, access to a fiction of black masculinity that reinforces their own perceptions of what a man is supposed to be. This in itself is informed by thousands of years of Western Civilization, and is present in all aspects of American culture.

However, unlike other mediums of artistic expression, something which is rarely acknowledged is that rappers regularly adress the problem of misogyny in Hip-hop. Lupe’s verse above is to me, a powerfully simple explanation for the way certain ideas about gender are spread, he simply heard it from a song he sort of liked. But his admission of hypocrisy stands in stark contrast to the rest of American popular entertainment; when was the last time you heard anyone from a major television or film company admit that their product was sexist or misogynist, or in someway perpetuated harmful stereotypes about women?

That said, there is a strong reactionary sentiment among Hip-hop heads. Byron Crawford may be the single most popular Hip-hop columnist on the web, but there is little question that he absolutely hates women. He also apparently hates Muslims, and I will try to stay focused and not adress the absurd right wing talking points he clings to in this column on Lupe. More relevant to this post is that Lupe’s admission that Hip-hop’s depiction of women is harmful, and his criticism of mainstream Hip-hop’s excessive materialism tags him, in Crawford’s eyes, as a “suicide bomber”:

Does Lupe Fiasco consider himself the equivalent of a suicide bomber sent to rid the rap world of a few infidels (metaphorically speaking at least)? When you think about it, his album does seem filled with that kind of rhetoric. He speaks of the images of champagne and bling bling so often projected in hip-hop the same way that Islamic fascists speak of American culture in general and, in particular, the “MTV culture” that they view as such a threat to Muslim youth.

And his claim that he once hated hip-hop because of the way women were treated (presumably before he became a gat-toting crack slinger?) seems ripe for further inspection beyond declaring his views “refreshing.” Muslims, after all, aren’t exactly known for being progressive when it comes to that sort of thing. Does he find that the depiction of women in rap lyrics is especially harsh vis a vis other genres of music or is the thought of a woman in revealing attire alone enough to set him off?

Crawford is regularly clowned by his readers but the sheer number of people who read his column means that on some level, people are absorbing his watered down Limbaugh talking points. (When I say Limbaugh, I’m not speculating; Crawford refers to Louis Farrakhan as “Calypso Louis”, which is a term of Limbaugh’s invention).

But if Crawford wasn’t so bent on hating women for what may be a lifetime of rejection or the result of anger stemming from repressed homosexual tendencies, I won’t speculate further, (again, read the man’s column, he is unable to refer to gay people without using the phrase “teh ghey” and feared that if Imus were fired for referring to women as hoes that god forbid, people might actually stop doing that) he would realize that there is an ongoing discourse about the representation of women in Hip-hop. No one can argue that Jay-Z has been selling more albums for longer than anyone else still rapping, and he certainly took personally accusations of misogyny on Blueprint 2: Continue reading

Congratulations!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

congratulationsJust a quick note to congratulate a couple of our friends in the blogosphere for winning awards recently.

First up, congratulations to Tariq Nelson, who blogs about “the problems faced by different groups within the American Muslim community, the American Muslim Community as a whole and the Ummah in general in hopes of creating some dialogue to solve the problems.” Tariq just won in the “Best Thinker” category for the Brass Crescent Awards!

And congratulations also to the blog gay persons of color for winning two Canadian Blog Awards: gold in the Best Cultural Blog category, and silver in the Best New Blog category! The (anonymous) man behind the site is “a native Montrealer, gay, male, Filipino, Asian, Pacific-Islander, Québécois, Canadian, English-speaking, French-speaking, North American, and more depending on how you see. I am looking to document and explore the diverse vantage points of being gay and of color.”

Time machine: November 2005

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Here’s another installment of our Time Machine series… when we take a look back at what we were blogging about a year ago this month.

Why we need to drop the word “exotic”

padma don't call yourself easy!In this classic post, Jen comes across an article that applies the dreaded E-word to Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, who is of Hawaiian, Russian and Filipino descent. It leads her to discuss why the word “exotic” is so problematic.

What’s wrong with “exotic” you ask? Well…the definition is literally:

1 : introduced from another country : not native to the place where found
2 archaic : FOREIGN, ALIEN
3 : strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual

Mixed people being labeled “exotic” is simply one way that we continue to be othered. We are not all as alien as one would like to believe, though. When people say that I am “exotic,” I usually check them and explain that there are actually many out there that are just like me, ethnically — that I am not as unusual as the term “exotic” would infer. The reality is that we are not yet on everyone’s radars. When people call upon their notions of race, we don’t fit neatly into the existing/accepted categories…this is why so many continue to think of mixed individuals as “exotic” beings.

Dispelling misinformation about the Paris riots

paris burningThis time last year, the world was watching as civil unrest broke out in France. It started in late October in Clichy-sous-Bois, a working-class commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris after two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, were accidentally killed. For the first time, we heard about the deep-rooted racial and economic inequities and tensions in France.

Ireland details the 30 years of government neglect, segregation, racism, and discrimination and argues that nobody should be surprised that it has come to this…

It seems to me that the larger issue here is that European countries are trying to hold onto the notion that they are essentially white countries, and that all non-white people are minorities or temporary residents. The French simply don’t recognize non-white people as French, and that’s clear from the terminology being used in the media coverage of the rioting.

New study: interracial relationships less likely to end in marriage

If you read between the lines, articles about interracial relationships often seem to have subtle cautionary messages. In this case, the message seemed to be, “It’s okay to fool around with a [fill in race] man/woman but don’t expect him/her to marry you!”

Newsday reports on a new study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania that says that while interracial relationships are on the rise, they are significantly less likely than same-race relationships to lead to marriage…

Hmmm… I don’t know if I necessarily agree with their interpretation of the findings. Isn’t is possible that people who date interracially may also have less traditional views on relationships and therefore don’t necessarily feel the need to get married? I think this emphasis on marriage as the ideal end-state is a bit archaic. To assume that interracial relationships are somehow “bad” because they don’t result in marriage – that sounds to me like a thinly veiled cautionary message against entering those relationships.

Latino Muslims: the media’s latest obsession?

by guest contributor Tariq Nelson, originally published at Tariq Nelson

quran koranThere have been soooo many articles about Hispanics/Latinos (particularly Latinas) and their interest in Islam. Nothing else to write about? Why not yet another article on Latin Muslims? One has to wonder why so much emphasis has been put on Latino Muslims in the media lately.

I suppose since the biggest media issues have been Muslims and Mexican illegal immigration, this would be the perfect hybrid story. It’s just that they’ve gone there so many times…

With her hijab and dark complexion, Catherine Garcia doesn’t look like an Orlando native or a Disney tourist. When people ask where she’s from, often they are surprised that it’s not the Middle East but Colombia.

That’s because Ms. Garcia, a bookstore clerk who immigrated to the US seven years ago, is Hispanic and Muslim. On this balmy afternoon at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, she is at her mosque dressed in long sleeves and a long skirt in keeping with the Islamic belief in modesty. “When I was in my country I never fit in the society. Here in Islam I feel like I fit with everything they believe,” she says.

Garcia is one of a growing number of Hispanics across the US who have found common ground in a faith and culture bearing surprising similarities to their own heritage. From professionals to students to homemakers, they are drawn to the Muslim faith through marriage, curiosity and a shared interest in issues such as immigration. Continue reading