Tag Archives: terrorism

Questions and Answers

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

A couple of weeks ago I had the Toronto launch of my novel, Shine, Coconut Moon. I prepared myself in the usual way, going over what I would read, how I would introduce myself and the book to the guests, and anticipating audience questions during the Q&A. This Q&A, however, threw me off. I should have known better than to expect the usual, “So, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?” line of questioning from my Canadian peeps.

The questions they wanted answers to were more along the lines of: So, what would you say is the difference between Canadian racism and American racism? And, Would you say South Asians in the U.S. are more assimilated than South Asians in Canada?

Maybe I brought it on myself with the intro.

Before reading an excerpt, I talked a bit about how, while living in Canada, I never thought of myself as Canadian – I was always Indian or Punjabi or Sikh and then later, South Asian. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. and lived through eight years of the Bush administration, that I felt the most Canadian I’d ever felt in my life. That was when I realized that things I’d always taken for granted (free universal health care being only one of many) were values that formed and shaped who I was. They were the underpinnings of what I thought was right and just. And I was clearly not in Canada anymore.

But having to answer those tough questions for fellow Canadians was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do yet. So much of the experience sits as half-formed thoughts that I had to somehow mold into coherent responses.

Things like the fact that when I lived in Canada, I reveled in my “ethnicity,” wore my Indian-ness with unapologetic joy. But the minute I crossed the border I shrunk from everything that made me appear “too” ethnic. I was hassled at the border several times when I visited home and tried to return. My partner at the time begged me to remove my nose ring and to dress more “corporate” so that I would get across. And the time that I followed that advice, the crossing was smooth and uneventful. I understood, then, on a much deeper level, why that push for assimilation was so strong south of the border. Continue reading

Only Muslims Can Be “Terrorists”

by Guest Contributor Jesse Singal, originally published at Pushback.org

Over the weekend a disturbing story ran in the Dayton Daily News:

Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night, Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

“I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a lot of kids,” Njie said. “My throat is still itchy, I need to get some milk.”

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police, fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone “sprayed an irritant into the mosque,” Dayton fire District Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

There’s one word that’s conspicuously absent from this account: “terrorist.” If spraying a chemical irritant into a room full of civilians isn’t a terrorist act, then what is? Continue reading

muslims – they’re just like us!: representations of islam in traitor

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

traitor

(spoilers inside) *

Contrary to the buzz, (and much to my dismay) Traitor is not a Bourne-esque spy thriller. My movie-watching companion (MWC) and I realised we’d been tricked into the theatre by some loose Bourne comparisons as soon as the opening credits came up. The camera pulled back to reveal a Zellige-like design and the strains of dramatic Middle Eastern music.

Generally my MWC and I avoid films that deal in war, terrorism or the suggestion that all brown people are inhuman fanatics. It looked like we were in for all three.

But the positive (and surprising) thing about Traitor – which begins with arms dealer Samir (Don Cheadle) meeting terrorist group al-Nathir in a Yemeni prison and joining their ranks – is that it goes out of its way to present Muslims as a massive, ethnically, culturally, nationally and linguistically complex group. To a lesser degree it does the same for Black folks in America.

We get to see a lot of different kinds of Muslims: Samir, who is Sudanese but effectively Americanised down to the hoodie and Don Cheadle accent; dreamy Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui) who was educated in Switzerland and longs for another thinker – not just a soldier – to join his ranks; evil Fareed (Aly Khan) who is South Asian and wears fancy scarves.

And then we meet even more Muslims across America [and Canada: Samir visits Toronto (wut wut!), Port Hope and Halifax**] when al-Nathir enlists Samir to distribute bombs to Muslim suicide bombers living on student visas, and leading ho-hum lives until they are activated.*** We meet Muslim terrorists who are living as students, business people, honest-to-goodness rural dads – and get this: they look just like regular Americans (gasp!).

Maybe you see the problem here. What is positive about Traitor is also what is negative: while the film possibly intended to show how complex the global Muslim community is, out of the dozens of Muslims portrayed in the film, you only meet three who are not terrorists. The message you take away from the movie is this: Muslim terrorists can come in any shape or form, so…

Continue reading

Funny Business: Muslims in Comedy

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Unfortunately, the first image that comes to mind when anyone mentions Islam isn’t a room full of people laughing. But if Maz Jobrani, Shazia Mirza, and Preacher Moss have their way, that will change.

Jobrani, Mirza, and Moss are Muslim comedians; Jobrani and Moss are part of the Axis of Evil and Allah Made Me Funny comedy tours, respectively. Mirza is a British Muslim comedian who has toured in the U.S. and across Europe.

Muslim comedy tours like the Axis of Evil (pictured here) and Allah Made Me Funny comedy tours are gaining momentum, both in the Muslim world and out. The Axis of Evil comedy tour has a special on Comedy Central, a DVD, has already finished a U.S. tour and is currently gearing up for a tour of the Middle East. Allah Made Me Funny has also finished a U.S. tour and is currently on a European tour, and has a DVD available on their website.

In interviews with altmuslim.com, both the members of Axis of Evil and Allah Made Me Funny stress that their comedy is a way to break down stereotypes and problems within their communities. Aron Kader, a member of the Axis of Evil tour, says, “We want to represent our culture in a positive way. Through comedy, we can be accepted and be seen for who we really are – regular Americans.” Dean Obeidallah, another member of the Axis, agrees: “So often we sit and complain how we are demonized and portrayed horribly, [but] the only ones who will ever clear our name is us. The burden is on us. No one is going to do us a favor.”

Tissa Hami, a female Muslim comedian, agrees with this aim. Hami (pictured here) describes her comedy as her way of helping combat stereotypes against Muslims. “‘Why aren’t we speaking out for ourselves?’ she said she would ask herself. ‘Why aren’t we doing something? To me this is something I could do. I know it’s comedy. I know it’s this much. But, if we all do this much, it’s something.’”

Female Muslim comedians are few and far between, but slowly, they’re becoming more visible. Tissa Hami, an Iranian-American, is gaining in popularity in the U.S with her comedy appearances. Hami’s comedy is meant to encourage viewers to look beyond appearances. She dresses in all black, from her shoes to her hejab, and then comes out with lines like: “I’ll be honest with you. I should have worn a long coat, but I was feeling kind of slutty tonight.”

Hami’s comedy reminds me of Shazia Mirza, a Pakistani-British Muslim woman who has gained a fair amount of popularity ever since she appeared at a comedy club dressed in hejab and said, “My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that’s what it says on my pilot’s license.” Since then, Mirza has been on tours in both Britain and the U.S., and won several awards for her comedy.

Neither Mirza nor Hami wear a headscarf outside of their performances; in fact, Mirza has stopped using hejab in her performances because she felt it unnecessary. Many people disagree with the use of hejab in a comedy show, viewing it as a prop. But the point is to break stereotypes: how can you disrupt the image of a covered woman as oppressed and submissive when there are no veiled sisters doing comedy?

Unfortunately, there are a fair amount of people who disagree with this comedy, many of them Muslims. Preacher Moss, in the altmuslim.com interview, admits, “Yeah, the fiercest critics of our product have been Muslims.” Many Muslims who have not seen the comedy tours view them as haraam (or forbidden) because they assume the comedy’s purpose is to make fun of Islam.

However, in my view, laughter is a good way to break boundaries. Obviously, it can’t be the only thing; we run the risk of becoming the stereotypes we poke fun at. But laughter is a great place to start. If you haven’t seen them, both comedy tours should both be available on your NetFlix: queue ‘em up already!

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

Propaganda week

newsweek pakistan yellow peril xenophobia

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

This scare story was loaded with terrorism hype. By the time I finished the story, it seemed like jihadis were on the verge of overrunning not only Islamabad but India too. And yet with all the advantages of Musharraf’s rigging, Islamist parties crested at a tiny minority of votes in the last election.

Check out the photos in the print edition, all foreboding black and white like a cheesy re-enactment by a TV crime show:

  • Cover: Scary, screaming, bearded man
  • First photo: Bleeding man lying on road, pierced with shrapnel from the Bhutto attack, looking directly at the camera. This is the kind of gruesome verité the American media refuse to show about Americans at home or American soldiers in Iraq, but think it perfectly acceptable to show about those not like us. I’m in favor of showing it all, not this disgusting double standard.
  • Second: Osama bin Laden t-shirt vendor
  • Third: Bullet-pocked walls
  • Fourth: Street scene with signs in Urdu / Arabic script
  • Fifth: Bearded mullah and a Koran

Here’s the thing — it’s a milestone that the media are beginning to drop the artificial he-says-she-says between India and Pakistan. They’re beginning to report the ISI and Pakistani military’s continued support of terrorism, and the fact that Islamists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are far more dangerous than was the tinpot dictator of Iraq. Some of the content of the story is excellent.

But its packaging and tone are yellow journalism at its worst, ignoring everyday life in Pakistan and puffing up a tiny circle of jihadists using the trashiest techniques of propaganda.

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.