Archive for the 'terrorism hysteria' Category

A distracted, incomplete, and biased response to the Democratic Debate

I’ll admit it: I’m not much for watching televised debates. Even though there’s an exciting race going on and the debate included a candidate who I’m kinda jazzed about, I just don’t have the attention span for it. I often have the same problem with sports. Some games will get my undivided attention, especially championships and others with high stakes (the recent Super Bowl and Australian Open come to mind.) But with most games, as with the debate that occurred a few hours ago, I start out well, paying full attention, but soon my mind begins to wander. Then I pick up my laptop and it’s all over; despite occasional efforts to keep up, by the end I’m completely distracted and only looking up at the screen with a “Huh?” or a “Wha?” when my girlfriend exclaims or declaims or laughs at something that just happened.

That’s pretty much what happened tonight. It didn’t help that it’s a Thursday night; usually by this point in the week, during the evenings I can pretty much muster up only the focus needed to watch American Idol (quote of the week: “You are a blend… of every favorite color… that I know”) or The Office (which I really hope is returning soon, because I like it a whole lot better than American Idol.)

HOWEVER – I did take some notes on particularly amusing/disturbing/annoying/upsetting parts of the debate, and will share those thoughts with you here. I do this with a big huge disclaimer: this is by no means a play by play, nor a thorough account, nor a particularly fair account as I started drifting fairly early on and found myself paying attention more when Obama was talking than when Clinton was. I’m sure someone will tell me that’s because I’m sexist, but hey, at least I’m not racist! Hah.

Continue reading ‘A distracted, incomplete, and biased response to the Democratic Debate’

ACTION ALERT: Support the Khalil Gibran International Academy

Monday, August 20, 6pm
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A, C

This is fairly short notice for this alert, but I want to really encourage folks to show up Monday afternoon for a gathering in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a soon-to-be-opened NYC public school that will focus on Arabic language and culture (for folks unfamiliar, many NYC public schools have foci like this, cultural or otherwise.) The school has been the subject of racist and anti-Islamic attacks from many conservative pundits and media sources, as in this NY Sun article and an edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes that was written up over at Media Matters. However, the school has been under especially harsh attack since Debbie Almontaser, now ex-principal of the school, came under fire from such sources for not condemning a t-shirt created by an organization that is unrelated to the school. Since then, Almontaser has resigned from her position, stating that she “became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though [she] apologized.”

The t-shirt, which reads “Intifada NYC,” was created by a NYC community organization, AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. The group’s mission states that it “provides comprehensive leadership opportunities in community organizing, art and media skills to young women and girls … to empower a generation of young women with the community organizing and media skills necessary to act as leaders within their communities, which have endured increasing hardship in recent years.” On Democracy Now! last Monday, Mona Eldahry, founding director of AWAAM, said this about the t-shirt’s origin and meaning:

Now, “Intifada NYC” is not a call for terrorism, as they say. It’s not a call for violence or, if I could quote one of the publications, “Gaza Strip uprising in the Big Apple.” “Intifada NYC” is a term that, you know, we developed maybe two, three years ago in the years since September 11th. Basically, for myself — everybody interprets it differently — but for myself, I feel, as an Arab woman, as a Muslim woman and as a woman of color, pressure from two sides … on one hand, from the community discrimination — from the outside, I mean, you know, discrimination on the streets — and then from our own communities, you know, we’re told, you know, “Be careful. You know, don’t — you know, don’t go to demonstrations. Don’t be too outspoken, you know,” you know, especially when we were young …

“Intifada” means “shaking off,” you know, so shake off these pressures that we’re feeling, both from the other side and from our side. You know, we have to speak out. And if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will?

This clarification of the literal Arabic meaning of intifada is what got Debbie Almontaser into so much trouble. Essentially, both she and AWAAM are coming under fire for owning their own language and for refusing to allow it to be constrained to which others wish to limit it. A recent editorial in the New York Post gives this definition of the word: “terroristic assault and murder, undertaken by Palestinians against Jews in the Middle East.” (No mention, of course, of the terroristic assault, murder, and oppression of Palestinians by Israel.) The editorial then calls Almontaser’s explanation of the Arabic definition of intifada “malarkey.” Because apparently, the editorial staff of the New York Post deems itself more qualified to give the definition of an Arabic word than an Arab-American speaker of Arabic. And although it may be true that the word is most often associated with Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation, such a definition even leaves out the many non-violent elements of those struggles, including “civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti, and barricades.”

The repression, stamping out, robbing and perversion of language and cultural identity have long been important tools of colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Right now, it is in the interest of conservatives, racists, warmongers, and anti-Islamic people to promote only those perceptions of Islam and Arabic culture that support american wars and policies of aggression and imperialism in the Arabic world, as well as the oppression of Arabic people in this country. The Khalil Gibran International School is coming under attack because it will not promote the prescribed view of Arabic history, culture, peoples and languages; it’ll actually strive for a fair and complete perspective, one which will go counter to one that props up war and oppression. The attacks themselves – calling the school a “madrassa” (another Arabic word twisted by the media and conservatives) that will serve to “groom future radicals” – continue to promote the twisted view of Arab people, assigning sinister, violent, and anti-american motives to the mere study of Arabic language and culture.

The preservation of language and culture is threatening to american hegemony, to american imperialism, and to american racism. African languages were quite literally beaten out of Africans in slavery; Native languages and culture were wiped out with their people. Today, “Welcome to America, now SPEAK ENGLISH” is a popular t-shirt slogan, Latino kids are suspended from school for speaking Spanish in the halls, and travelers are stopped from boarding planes because they’re wearing t-shirts written in Arabic:

So the security officers and the JetBlue officers at that time told me that wearing an Arabic T-shirt and coming to an airport in the US is like going to a bank while wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

And a principal can be forced to resign because she makes the mistake of defining a word in her own language, instead of allowing her language to be defined for her by those who do nothing but malign her culture.

Intifada NYC, indeed – for there’s a whole lot of bullshit to be shaken off.

Barack Obama: SECRET MUSLIM (gasp!)

Like me, many of you probably expected that CNN’s little Where’s Obama “accident” was only a hint of things to come. Well, far be it from Fox to disappoint on this count. From ThinkProgress: Fox & Friends aired a segment on Senator Barack Obama, focusing on his supposedly hidden Muslim background. Ignoring the fact that writing about said background in both of his books is basically the opposite of hiding, the anchors and their callers proceed to question whether this past is “ancient history,” or if it matters – apparently, in a way that would make him unsuitable for the presidency.

From the segment transcript:

DOOCY: Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa?


DOOCY: We should also point out that Barack Obama’s father is the one who gave him the middle name of Hussein. And the thing about the madrassa, and you know, let’s just be honest about this, in the last number of years, madrassas have been, we’ve learned a lot about them, financed by Saudis, they teach this Wahhabism which pretty much hates us. The big question is was that on the curriculum back then? Probably not, but it was a madrassa and the big question is whether or not any of these revelations about the fact that he was a Muslim — right now I understand he does go to the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, although not a regular parishioner — but raised as a Muslim, went to a madrassa.

And some brilliant insights from callers:

CALLER: I think that ultimately this will probably be one of the main reasons is he not elected.

DOOCY: Just the fact that his father was a Muslim, he was raised as a Muslim for awhile, and went to a madrassa school in Jakarta?

CALLER: Right. I mean, you think that would possibly give him better insight on the enemy, maybe he doesn’t consider terrorists the enemy.


CALLER: I think a Muslim would be fine in the presidency, better than Hillary. At least you know what the Muslims are up to. [Laughter]

But wait – Gretchen Carlson wants to reassure us that this isn’t about being anti-Muslim; no, not at all:

CARLSON: We want to be clear, too, that this isn’t all Muslims, of course, we would only be concerned about the kind that want to blow us up.

Oh, all right. Only those kinds of Muslims. Thanks for clarifying, Gretchen, I feel a lot better now.

ACTION ALERT: Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

Note from Jack: I heard about this on NPR the other morning, but unsurprisingly didn’t get the whole story, not even from them. I’ve added emphasis on some parts of this press release from DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), which is an important and kick-ass organization that everyone should know about.

Also, for more information on Shahawar Matin Siraj’s case, see Democracy Now! interview with his lawyer, Martin Stolar.

January 9, 2007

Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

For questions, contact:
Fahd Ahmed, DRUM (940) 391 -2660

At 5am on the morning of January 9th, 2007, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided the Queens home of and arrested three members (father, mother, and daughter) of the Siraj family, a tight-knit Pakistani family that has been caught up in the U.S. “War on Terror’s” most recent act of racial and religious profiling. Tuesday’s deplorable raid on the home of an innocent family is amongst dozens of other targeted, prejudiced sweeps across the country that are tearing Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities apart. The arrests occurred less than 12 hours after their young son, Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for alleged terrorism-related charges emerging from a clandestine NYPD-paid informant’s entrapment.

ICE officials are currently falsely reporting that the family was arrested on immigration-related charges and that the father’s appeal for an asylum case was “denied.” The reality is that the father’s appeal is still pending in the Second Circuit Court and has not been decided, and that the mother and teenage daughter do not have any immigration cases or deportation orders pending against them. Given the high-profile media attention on their son’s case, in which there were many underhanded legal irregularities and rights violations, these arrests are being seen by the community as an attempt to silence and make an example of the family through harassment. The family maintains that their son was ensnared by an NYPD informant, evidence of which the court did not properly consider, resulting in an unfair trial and sentencing. The family has filed a notice of appeal for their son’s case.

Both the father and the mother have ongoing and severe medical conditions, and the mother was only allowed to take two days of medicine at the time of the arrests. All family members are currently being held at Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, but they may be moved or separated to different facilities.

DRUM, as a community based organization that works with Muslim and South Asian immigrants and has seen the targeting of this community before and especially after 9/11, is calling on all concerned individuals and organizations to contact the ICE Field Office Director, at 973-645-3666, and demand that (a) the Siraj family be immediately released on their own recognizance or a reasonable bond, and, (b) that ICE stop targeting immigrant communities, in particular Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. DRUM is also calling on all people of conscience to call Warden Charlotte Collins at Elizabeth Detention Center, at 908-352-3776, to demand that (a) they provide urgent medical care and medication for the mother and father, and (b) that the Siraj family be kept together, particularly the mother and daughter not be separated, and, (c) to pro-actively facilitate direct communication and visitation between the family and their son, Matin, who is being held at Metropolitan Detention Center. DRUM, alongside countless civil and human-rights organizations and concerned citizens will continue to expose the ongoing injustices of the “War on Terror” against this family and all targeted communities.

From one war on people of color to another

From a CNN report: “An amendment cutting Bush’s Iraq request by $1.9 billion to pay for new aircraft, patrol boats and other vehicles, as well as border checkpoints and a fence along the Mexico border crossing near San Diego widely used by illegal immigrants was adopted on 59-39 vote.”

Really, when is the War on Illegal Immigration going to enter the official political lexicon alongside the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs? Which are all essentially euphemistic pseudoynms for Excuses to Wage War on People of Color, when you get down to it.

Also: those politicians and other people who have hardline view on immigration should read this article about a Senegalese high schooler who has struggled for years to stay in america, stay alive, stay in school, only to face possible deportation now. As I’ve written before, I’m wary of the sort of appeals that pit “good immigrants” against “bad ones” – “Look at this brilliant, well-behaved high school student! Clearly, he deserves to stay in this country, unlike those other sorts of immigrants.” No, I don’t go for that sort of thing, and I hope that this article doesn’t encourage that kind of thinking. But you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard to read something like this and yet still support legislation that would make this kid a felon and force him out of the country.

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.

Holy stupidity, Batman!

There are far more important things to be writing about (and hopefully I’ll get to at least one of those things later on today), but I needed to have a public WTF?!? moment about this, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Frank Miller, who changed the way people looked at comics with his noirish 1980s Batman graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” and his “Sin City” series, says he’s started work on a book where the caped crusader will “kick a lot of al Qaeda butt.”

“Not to put too fine a point on it — it’s a piece of propaganda,” Miller told a group of about a thousand fans this weekend at the WonderCon comic book convention in San Francisco. “Batman kicks al Qaeda’s ass.”

Miller says the book will be called “Holy Terror, Batman.”

Holy Terror, Batman?!? This can’t possibly be good. It just seems like these issues are too fraught, to complicated, and too rife with opportunities for racism, ignorance, and oversimplification to be fodder for this sort of comic book.  It’s not even as if he’s going to try to take a nuanced look at the issues; he’s not hesitant to say that it’s going to be propaganda, punto, and we all know how nuanced and balanced propoganda is! As another comic book artist says in the article,

“A standard-issue treatment would show them as another crew of generic swarthy bad guys, and there will, of course, have to be a ‘good Arab’ or two to prove the comic isn’t prejudiced. I’m guessing an Iraqi commando on our side,” Gonick said. “But if Miller gives them the real characteristics of al Qaeda — that is, really depicts the details of their religiosity — he could get into trouble.”

I know next to nothing about Frank Miller, but having much enjoyed Sin City, I’ve got to say, I’m a little disappointed. Not that Sin City is some sort of model of progressive or leftist thought. It’s one of those things that’s fucked up eight ways to Sunday, but that I still enjoy. I think you’ve just got to suspend your principles a wee bit now and then to enjoy much of anything in entertainment these days.