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Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the U.S – Is this your idea of Democracy?

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

 As a matter of fact, I know quite a few marines who will be willing to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.- At Orange County Hate Rally, GOP Councilwoman Says She Wants Marines To Send Muslim Families To ‘Paradise’

“The most popular name in the United Kingdom this year for babies was Mohammed, am I racist to think that I’m alarmed by that? Because I am…’ –Bill Mayer

“Islam is a violent religion, no wait I can’t say religion, political system. Islam is a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the government and world domination.” -Pat Roberson, television evangelist.

For the first time in US history, at least 15 states have either approved or introduced bills banning Shariah Law this week. These very bills could present themselves to consider fasting and praying a crime for Muslims in the U.S. In Tennessee a Muslim could potentially face up to 15 years in jail for praying 5 times a day, fasting or even donating to charity as it would be defined as engaging in practices that are ‘shariah law’ hence forbidden to do as such according to the proposed unconstitutional and congressional hearings chaired by none other than Peter King, the republican representative.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Islamic scholar, convert and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkley, California states that there is  ‘immense misunderstanding of Shariah Law’ within the U.S and further notes that ‘the Shariah Law is of no threat to the U.S.’

Have Muslims replaced the cold war communist boogie man in the american psyche? Why is Islam still considered to encompass attributes of pre-modern conceptions and why have such understandings become normative in places like the U.S?

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Revolution vs. Revolt vs. Trend

March 2, 2011 1 comment

With all of the upheavals surrounding the ‘revolutionary’ wave throughout the Middle East I’m taken back by the overly optimistic reactions that everyone around me is submersed in. Revolution! Revolution! is all I have seen in the papers, within dialogues and engagements as well as within any and all topics of discussion yet the simple question must be asked…

Does one know the difference between that of a ‘revolution’ and ‘revolt/uprise’? The systemic difference and overthrow of a governmental STRUCTURE  is vital for a revolution to be considered as such. Do you see examples of such a manifestation to date? or are we simply expressing jubilant tendencies and hope towards yet another revolt where the uprise and mobilization of the masses has ignited hope and the idea of conquer within us. The triumphs of that of the Egyptian people has become a milestone when considering the level of activism and participatory engagement on behalf of the Egyptian people who cannot be in any way discounted. However, media outlets I feel are inaccurate in classifying such to be a ‘Revolution’ as this is merely the beginning.  World leaders are continuing to resort to the word ‘Revolution’ in defining the happenings in Egypt, and strategically so. By doing so, they are once again pursuing the masses to believe that their word indeed is done!

Moreover, I continue to be bombarded with headlines infiltrated with whats next for Libya, the question of Yemen, the secretive advancements in the relationship between Bahrain and Israel and more importantly of who’s next in line for the wave of revolution I can’t help but notice the downsize in coverage and discussion reflecting on Egypt? It’s almost as if it was an overnight miracle and now poof….GONE! Egypt who?

Which brings me to my next point…The Generating of Political ‘Trends.’

The manner in which, we, as passive consumers, engage with the daily news (via newspapers, news channels, online articles and other various media outlets etc), its seems to be parallel, and does mimic, the way we behave as shoppers within the market. As a consumer, there is continuous hunger that is looking forward to the next big thing. The next ‘in fashion’ item or the next ‘trend.’ As a result retailers and furthermore the manufacturing machine of that of Capitalism caters to our need and continues to keep the human mind boggled from always wanting more…always wanting to partake in the ‘trend’ that is operative at that moment.

Ever consider the similarity between that and the generating of political stories as ‘trends.’ If so can one suggest than that the geographical importance that is in the limelight presently and the unfolding taking place within the Middle East will soon be replaced by the next big thing? Consider the entities that generate such political trends and  consider what lies behind such manifestations.

Newspaper readers, the international community and the average citizen seems to have already moved on beyond Egypt…and soon enough will advance to focus on yet another political ‘trend’ or story. Could it be that the generating of such political events is to merely cater to the human mind as it seeks boredom, unable to accumulate much thought towards a single issue? If so, than the story / ‘trend’ is not of importance but rather the occurring and unfolding of one; whatever it may encompass.

…consumerism prevails! One point for Capitalism.

Academicians/Scholars and Celebrities: Is there a difference?

February 26, 2011 1 comment

As I sat there listening to Dr. Norman Finkelstein speak, for the second time, to a crowd of 500 students at York University in Toronto, Canada last week I couldn’t fathom the idea of the awe and amazement that engulfed us all as Dr. Norman Finkelstein entered the lecture hall. I was overcome with feelings of joy and anxiety coupled with the “ooo la la”  factor that served as a premise for wanting to see Dr. Norman Finkelstein speak in the first place. Could it be that it was almost as if I was seeing Natalie Portman for the first time?

After being fortunate to have seen many scholars speak including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ramadhan, Gideon Levy, George Galloway, Imran Khan, Yulie Cohen, Malalai Joha and many others speak this sense of glorification and celebtrity-esque attributes seem to repeatedly surface time and time again. Book signings, the herd of people/students lined up for hours and not to mention the utmost opportunity to take a picture with the guest at the demise of the lecture serve to be more important than perhaps the substance and topic of such scholars lectures.

As listeners, readers and followers of such scholars and experts, do we choose to drown ourselves entirely and move past what such speakers have to say or are we so heavily bounded by the dynamics of Hollywood that it has become essential for such scholars to market themselves similar to that of actors/actresses?

I stand guilty as charged when considering the pervasive nature of associating the notion of stardom to present day academicians and scholars as for me after having spent years and years of reading the works of such scholars, being able to witness them in person is the cherry on top…(not to mention it has provided me with the once in a lifetime opportunity to engage in a face-to-face conversation, a platform to ask questions and furthermore create life long friendships)

…but is that such a bad thing?

Blasphemy Law and Orientalism: Persecution of the ‘Other’

February 18, 2011 1 comment

In May 2010, 93 Ahmadi victims of gun and grenade attacks at two mosques in, Lahore Pakistan, of the Ahmadiyya Movement, a religious sect in Islam,  in Lahore Pakistan reminded the international community once again of the atrocious acts of violence that continue to unfold and gain momentum  when considering religious persecution in Pakistan. In Dec 2010, Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was sentenced to the death penalty for committing “blasphemy” and continues to languish behind bars. In early January 2011, Salman Tasreer’s (Governor of Punjab) assassination received endless outcries from the global community as well as that of the national community within Pakistan including NGO’s and women rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Women’s Action Forum.

Crimes such as these have toppled, and furthermore, have served as an infringement, on the already lagging divide that has been operative in Pakistan since the late 1980’s between Pakistan extremists and Pakistan’s religious minorities and liberal communities.

In addition, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister of Minorities, has stated in The Dawn newspaper that the Government of Pakistan will not repeal the Blasphemy Law as it may fuel militancy. On February 8th, 2011, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani assured Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the government does not plan on amending the blasphemy law.

 As one continues to be bombarded with such acts of infamous evils, it seems to be a feasible option to look deeper into the meanings of such acts of alienation and subjugation.  Consider the impeccable work of Edward Said’s surrounding  Orientalism. According to Said, Orientalism is a process whereby the East, or the Middle East (perhaps in this case the South Asian peninsula) continues to be eroticized (Exoticism) and differentiated by Western hegemony to further classify the East and its inhabitants as ‘the other.’ Resorting to such a mechanism of differentiation has further perpetuated a process of creating binary opposition as that of The West and The East, one has created unified and homogeneous units of classification and identity.

Hence, the Orient, signifies a system of representations that are framed by political forces. The Orient exists for the West, and is constructed by and in relation to the West. The Orient therefore, presents itself as the “Other” (alien) to the West.  Orientalism therefore, is a manner of regularized vision, writing and governance, dominated by pre conceived understandings, imperatives and perspectives that go on to create ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient. It is the image of the ‘Orient’ expressed as an entire system of thought and scholarship.

Edward Said, grouped such an analysis framing it so it remained to perpetuate itself as long as The West existed on the left and the East on the right. Edward Said has left behind a legacy allowing for us all to further unravel the area of Orientalism and ‘The Orient’ as per personified vis-à-vis Arabs, Africans, South Asians, East Asians etc.

Let’s take this analysis a step forward shall we? Can Orientalism internally within the East, where a system of social hierarchy is created as a basis of governance? Are there examples of the ‘Orient’ when considering the internal contexts of societies? Are there members within these societies that have to endure the political, social and economic ramifications as they are eroticized and perceived as the ‘other’?  

When considering the analytical connections between that of Orientalism and Blasphemy Laws that continue to conquer the psyche of those around us, one has to question the underlying assumptions that form(ed) the foundations of Orientalism. It is only after a close review of the premise can one find Blasphemy Laws to be an internalized example of Orientalism in the present day. There lies a parallel when comparing the paradigm and ‘gaze’ with which the West perceives the East to be. That similar subjugating paradigm infiltrates the minds and bodies of those within Pakistan, Indonesia and other parts of the East. Hence, whereas Orientalism is often understood to be a phenomena capitalizing on two main communal settings; The East and the West, it is time that we consider the presence and execution of ideological thinking within these two units of classification. Orientalism and the creation of the ‘other’ to further legitimize hate crimes, religious persecution and the creation of mechanisms to further outcast and alienate members belonging to religious minorities needs to be strongly condemned.

Pakistan’s list of challenges and committed wrongs has long exhausted itself to a point of no return.  It is with heightened dismay that I say…Shame on you Pakistan!

I can only resort to the words of the forefathers of my beliefs and continue to pray for the future of a secular and flourishing state of Pakistan.

 

“Politics of Fear”

February 12, 2011 5 comments

Optimism flourished within the sphere of international relations in the early 1990’s – seeds of democratic governance and freedom had been implanted in numerous parts of the world, peace in Northern Europe was perceived to be a feasible option and engagement within the premises of Camp David alluded to heightened levels of reconciliation and progress in the Middle East.

It saddens me to say that the times have drastically changed as inhabitants of this planet lack the mere ability to be optimal, let alone be ignited by any sort of exemplary substantive change.  Engulfed within a world of corruption, conflicts and crises, proxy wars, acts of terror, infringements when considering the abiding doctrines within the human rights framework [and the sacrifice of such in the name of security and nationalism] as well as the eroding levels of mass participation as per exhibited via the downsizing of social movements and protests, it is disheartening to consider the world that consumes us. Agendas driven by fear dominate.

 Hosni’s Mubarak’s anticlimactic address to the people of Egypt on Feb 10, 2011 outlined his decision to continue as state leader of Egypt, contradictory to the desires of the Egyptian protestors which have taken the streets of Egypt for more than two weeks now. Mubarak’s announcement provoked rage on the country street’s as the people of Egypt expected an immediate resignation; selected powers have been however transferred to vice president Omar Suleiman.  

 As Mubarak spoke, the international community looked on with bated breath for the future of Egypt and its people.  Although the main point of contention remains to be Mubarak’s failure to give up power and step down as a leader, I would like to divert our attention to perhaps a bigger operative demon that has overtaken the masses and us as individual political participants in our respective domains.  I am referring to a concept that is merely known as the ‘politics of fear’ or the ‘installment of fear” and how such can be entrenched and further embossed within the grassroots level to erode unification rather perpetuate a sense of divisiveness.

When considering Mubarak’s utilization of language and rhetoric in his address earlier today one cannot help but think about the Obama’s campaign and the idea of political figures to be extensions of public marketing campaigns.  They are certainly backed up with endless funding by major financial institutions as though such campaigns are the beacon of hope and fruitful examples of what spheres of public relations and marketing can entail.

 Mubarak initiated his address by directing his remarks to the ‘youth’ of the country. He referred to them as his ‘sons and daughters.’ Although one may immediately dismiss such language to be simply an oversimplification and rather an emotional rant one needs to play close attention to the reason for such tactful language. Could it be that perhaps stirring emotion When Suleiman took the podium he asked for the youth of the country ‘to go home and to return to work” and further insisted that “if protests continue Egypt will submit itself into further levels of disengagement and chaos.”  Could this be an indirect threat? To me it seems almost as though such words are bound to create mixed emotions and uncertainty within a collective portion of population. And isn’t that what the aim is anyway? Logistically speaking both addresses exhibited the aim of further perpetuation a fallen notion of unification amongst the Egyptian masses. It is thus through such utilization of language that a) these leaders are able to install fear [as well as resort to mechanisms of emotion to further create platforms of association with its people], b) which in turn will inevitably create doubt within the masses deconstructing thought process that further could deteriorate from maximum social movements within Egypt and lastly could further contribute to the everlasting reign of the Mubarak regime.

We have seen similar examples of the installment of fear and the utilization of language to ‘sway’ in international governance prior to today. Heck the entirety of the Bush administration governed itself on the premise of such an installment of fear and now we shall continue to witness such to unfold causing undeniable mammoth levels of uncertainty. The ripple effect has initiated as we see it and shall continue to foster across the Middle East…question remains do we look onto Jordan or Yemen?

 State governments around the world are engaging in the politics of fear, eroding all application of the rule of law and furthermore initiating a vacuum where rights are sacrosanct and individual security is overlooked. Fear is being used to justify a “dangerous roll back” of the utmost rejection of torture and ill-treatment. For example, the British government has continued to deport individuals to areas where they could [and do] face torture. Evidence often obtained via means of excruciating torture and or ill-treatment has often been permitted to be utilized and presented in the court of law [i.e. Germany] The US resorted to third-party affiliations and outsourced torture via the transferring of suspects for interrogation to countries including Morocco, Egypt and Syria [such persons and their mobilization has often been suggested to be ‘off the grids’ further escalating the belief illegality surrounding missing persons] and has turned their backs on the torture, ill-treatment and the installment of fear at the hands of CIA agents. The US-led initiative of “extraordinary renditions”, the globalization of human rights atrocities, “disappearing” suspects from places as far and wide as Germany, Pakistan, Italy and Kenya, and holding them for years in secret detention beyond the reach of law have become the pinnacle of the installment of fear.

 The irony remains however that although a period of anti Islamist movements have congruent contributions to the alignment of human perception, creating a binary opposition between that of the West and the East, the very premise of the politics of fear has now internalized itself creating opposition within the Middle East [state leaders vs. the people]

The road to a revolutionized Egypt shall remain to be long haul. I desire to see the passion and energy of the Egyptian people to similarly be applicable in other facets of the uprising of Egypt.

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