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Islamophobia’s Coming-Out Party

The planned mosque near ground zero has been attacked by those who seem to think American values don’t apply to Muslim Americans.

The planned Cordoba Community Center, to be built not at ground zero but two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood, has brought American Islamophobes out into the open, aided by a sensationalizing media which persistently refers to the community centre as the “ground zero mosque.” But the controversy has also encouraged many public figures to stand up for basic American values and demonstrate their courage in the face of both demagoguery and foolishness.

While the proximity of the planned community centre (yes, a mosque will be incorporated into this large structure) to ground zero provides a convenient handle for Islamophobes, this is hardly an isolated incident. Mosque building projects are also under attack in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Temecula, Calif., and Sheboygan, Wis. These projects have drawn fire from Republican politicians, Tea Party activists, and (probably) fundamentalist ministers. According to New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein, “In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself.”

Thus the New York conflict takes place within a much broader context, making attempts by some of the opponents of the community centre to differentiate themselves from the bigots ring somewhat false, especially when they are joined in their opposition by the likes of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. While not every opponent of the community centre is a bigot, they have nonetheless chosen a side in a larger contest over American values.

I have been unable to find similar large-scale opposition to planned mosques in Canada. In Oakdale, Ont., Edmonton, and Halifax, mosque building has moved forward without substantial protest. This is, after all, the country in which one of our favourite TV shows is Little Mosque on the Prairie, a wholesome sitcom exhibiting the good yet quirky relations between small-town neighbours. Yet, it would be a mistake to think that Canada can ever be immune from the virulent propaganda that often flourishes to our south.

There are those in Canada who seem to get more incensed by a few hundred niquab-wearing women than they do by those who don balaclavas for hockey riots in Montreal or conflicts with G20 security. My own cursory survey of letter writers to the Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette indicates that more than a handful of them are infected with the same virus of intolerance as many of our southern neighbours. One writer argued that the New York mosque would constitute a “one finger salute” to the 9-11 dead, while a second said he would only support the mosque project “providing they build a synagogue in Saudi Arabia.” Yet, despite such expressions of Canadian intolerance, I believe we are still spared much of the vitriol of the American right.

More problematic opposition to the Cordoba Community Center has come from the centrist anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization prominently identified with the struggle for human rights. Abraham Foxman, its Executive Director, is very aware of the American constitution and its promise of the freedom of religion. Therefore, while he acknowledged the “right” of Muslims to build on their chosen site, he calls upon them to recognize the “rights” of the still grieving families of the 9-11 victims, even though he well knows that those families are divided on the project. Foxman’s line has been taken up by New York Governor David Paterson, who has offered to find an alternative piece of state land for the new building.

The “moderate” Patterson-Foxman position amounts to tolerance by city blocks. If two blocks from ground zero is deemed too close, would three, four, or 11 be enough to satisfy a constituency that somehow ties a community centre built by moderate American Muslims to al-Qaeda? I fear that such “moderation” makes Foxman and Patterson allies of some of the most intolerant forces in American life.

But there are also those who are standing up for America’s enduring values. The distinguished journalist and commentator Fareed Zakaria felt forced to return his 2005 First Amendment Award, including its $10,000 honorarium, to the ADL, following this betrayal of the organization’s dedication to constitutional rights. Perhaps the most eloquent voice raised in defence of the Cordoba Community Center and the freedom of religion, was that of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said:

Let us not forget that Muslims were murdered on 9-11 and that our Muslim neighbours grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

We should all hope that such voices of sanity will triumph in the United States and will influence debates in this country too.

It is contrary to both Canadian and American values and interests to conflate all Muslims with Islamist radicalism and terrorism. The rights of our Muslim neighbours are equal, in every respect, to those of Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others. Only Osama bin Laden and his ilk will gain from marginalizing and discriminating against our fellow citizens. Islamophobia is a danger to us all.

By: Stephen Scheinberg (Emeritus Professor of History, Concordia University; Co-chair, Canadian Friends of Peace Now.).

Originally taken from (http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2041-islamophobia-s-coming-out-party).

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Homecoming

December 15, 2009 1 comment

This is a story I wrote some time ago while in High School. It was very controversial, so much so, that I was barred by my vice-principal from publishing it while in school, due to the fact that it might create trouble for both the student and administration (i.e. myself and the VP). Now that I am a hight school graduate, I felt its acceptable to share it now, for I am a non-hypocritical, mass-exempted individual. Enjoy!


‘How did it end up like this? I feel so weak right now. I don’t know if I can do it or not. Please God give me the strength.’

With these thoughts I got out of my car and started to make my way towards my destination. The sun seems to be tracing a path for me on this barren earth. There is no wind, none at all as if the clouds themselves know not to come near this place. The absence of the dogs has not gone unnoticed by me, though I must say that their presence will sit well with today’s’ events. I pause, not out of fear, but out of caution as women crosses my path, her child in the stroller. Her child. Just like all the children here. The children of my enemies surround me here. Upon its face I see smile. It’s an innocent smile now, but I know what it’s capable of doing and what it will do. And again, as she moves, I continue on my path to my destination.

Today even the trees seem to deprive us of their cool shades. Bent, breaking, leafless, they seem to be dying, as if anticipating the future. Shaking my head I look up. What is that? A bird, I think, but what kind? A pigeon? A sparrow? An eagle? No, I know it’s hard to believe, but that may be a vulture. A vulture. Even the thought of it is preposterous, but yet it makes sense because there is only one reason a vulture may be here, or anywhere: To feed on the dead. Will it get a chance to satisfy its hunger, I don’t know.

I have never seen a vulture up close. Growing up in Kabul, it was a rare bird. Times were hard for my family and for our whole country, but not enough for these birds to come pay us a visit. And the Taliban always helped us out when we needed them. My uncle Rasheed was one of their captains, so we were always looked after. My mother was always proud of my uncle, her brother, for his merits, but my father was never grateful or satisfied with them. He longed to get away from what he called ‘imprisonment in his own land’. Then one day he told me that our family was moving. I asked where, to which he replied ‘Washington D.C.’. He told me America was land of opportunity, liberty, education and most importantly to live a secured life. He said we had been given a ‘free pas’ to the U.S. something I later came to learn was a ‘Refugee Visa’. Though my father came to bless America, my uncle Rasheed on the other hand called it a ‘devil worshipper, a curse and a corrupt land. He would never let his son, my cousin Omar go there. But in the end it was my father’s decision so we did end up moving.

In the US I lived a good life and came to accept the ‘American Dream’ and the lifestyle. I did well in school, had good friends and completed my under-grad from University of District of Columbia. My parents had always been proud of me and expected a lot from me since I was their only child. Sadly, 2 days after my graduation, they died in a car accident. And so I grew up an orphan, learning to rely on no one. But I never felt complete from inside. Something always seemed to be missing. In order to fill that void I decided to return to the land of my birth. I was 12 when I left. At 26 I was having my ‘homecoming’.

Back in Kabul, things seemed to have quieted down. The Taliban were gone in a political sense, but in a community sense, they were always there. In the city the lifestyle I remembered had remained so. I kept running into people from my past and when I told them about my life in America, they either gave me a look of envy or left shaking their heads. One day I was in a mosque praying, when a man around my age, came and sat beside me. We were soon engage in conversation and he seemed familiar to e. We talked bout the old and new Afghanistan and when he asked me about my father, by name, I immediately recognized hi: He was my cousin Omar. He invited me to stay at his house and I gladly accepted.

We soon bonded. He was still a bachelor, living alone and happy. When I asked him about his father, he informed me that my uncle Rasheed, of whom I have many fond memories, had been killed in an American air force bombing in the city where he was posted. He greatly saddened me, because after my parent’s death, I had hoped that my uncle would become my guardian and fill the hole in my heart. I told Omar so and he old me that knew how to help me. That night, in dead silence and secrecy, he took me to a building in the outskirts of the city. That’s where I met them for the first time: About 30 fellows, form young and old, all with long beards and turbans with whom I was to live for a week. In that time, I discovered them all to be pious, religious men who treated me like a brother and were always kind. Living with them, I discovered how important religion was for us and how it would help me in my life. With them I felt the void in my heart disappear. At the end of the week, when Omar returned and asked me how I felt about them, all I could reply was with praises. Omar then told me that these men were famous; a part of a brotherhood called Al-Qaeda. Of course I had heard of Al-Qaeda in America, it was hard not. But these men were not the cold murderers the American media projected. Instead they were kind men who treated even me, an Afghanistani-American, like family. That night Omar asked me to join the brotherhood and I accepted.

Life in the brotherhood was hard but it felt rewarding. These men were my family and I knew I was theirs. I was soon a part of the elite, a group involved in attacking America, a country I had now come to hate. My brothers had shown me the truth about this devil. This nation killed my fellow Muslims, worshipped money & power and then destroy our lands. Slowly one by one, my brothers would eave to fulfill their mission and if successful, they would never return and we were asked to pray for them and bless their souls. Then the destined day came when I was reading the holy Book and Omar came to talk to me., He was no the Field Operations’ leader and he informed me that it was my turn to accomplish my mission. I was a very valuable asset to them, he told me, because of my American citizenship and only I could do it for my brothers were depending on me. Somehow I knew what he was going to say before he said it. We looked at each other.  To say that we were at a loss for words would be completely false. We both had many sentences to speak, for me to thank and acknowledge him and Omar to be proud of me. So we just embraced and bid farewell. Next morning I took the flight to New York.

So here I am, on the sidewalk at Times Square. Smuggling in the package into the country wasn’t hard. Omar’s connections made it very easy and considering that I was member of the brotherhood they were extremely accommodating. So now, as I walk among the crowd of sinners, I finally reach my destination; the middle of the Square. I close my eyes and pray to God to help me reach heaven safely and accept my sacrifice. I hear the ticking and I count the last seconds, ‘3, 2, 1—.’

Switzerland Votes to Ban Minarets

November 29, 2009 2 comments

min⋅a⋅ret

 

–noun a lofty, often slender, tower or turret attached to a mosque, surrounded by or furnished with one or more balconies, from which the muezzin calls the people to prayer.

(from Dictionary.com)

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

On the 29th of November, Switzerland voted to ban the new construction of minarets. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has put forth this proposal, claiming that minarets are a symbol of “Islamisation.”

57% of the votes and 22 out of 26 provinces voted in favour of the ban. The government has opposed the ban in the preset that it would harm Switzerland’s image, especially in the Muslim world.

Martin Baltisser, the SVP’s general secretary said, “This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power.”  This vote is believed to stop the threat of radical fundamentalism.

Islam is the second biggest religion in Switzerland after Christianity, with 400, 000 Muslim citizens and there are only four minarets in the whole country. Proposals to build more minarets are almost always refused.

Supporters believe that the minaret is a symbol of Islamic power and hope to stop the growth of Sharia Law which may try to supplement Swiss democracy.

Many believe that this campaign has been incited by hatred. Amnesty International has said that the vote violated freedom of religion.

Elham Manea, co-founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam said this about what the vote represents towards Muslims, “It’s a message that you are not welcome here as true citizens of this society.”

‘Despicable’

I find this vote to be absolutely absurd and definitely incited by hatred towards Islam and its followers. Minarets a symbol of Islamic power? That’s the most the hilarious thing I’ve heard since a man said that America won the Vietnam war.

As a Muslim, I can clearly say that minarets are not a symbol of Islamic power. And building more does not mean that there is “Islamisation” going on. Are the Swiss really that idiotic?

Clearly, this vote is nothing but hatred against Muslims, saying that they do not belong anywhere in Europe. This violates freedom of religion!

Churches can have all sorts of stained glass and towers, but mosques cannot have even the smallest minaret? If this is not hatred towards Islam then what is it?

Europe is fearing something that does not exist, Islam is not trying to take over. Muslims are just trying to practice their religion as is decreed by the Qur’an. Yes, there is radical fundamentalism going on, but it is by the smallest amount of radicals that shouldn’t be feared.

If minarets are banned first, then Hijabs will be banned, soon the sale and purchase of Qur’ans will be banned, and then what next? Muslims will be banned from travelling to Europe altogether?

If creating such laws and banning freedoms continues like this, then obviously radical fundamentalism will be on the rise. There is no doubt that more extremism will continue.

Switzerland and Europe had created an extreme of its own, and radical Muslims are using their own form of extremism to combat the first. It’s like fighting fire with fire.

I only hope that this ban is appealed before “Islamophobia” is dramatically rises ever more.

A Comparison Between Two Presidents

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Now I’m sure we’ve all been hearing about the new president of the European Union. It’s the biggest news that has hit tabloids around the world. Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy was chosen as the president of the EU. Rompuy officially beings his new post on December 1.

He has landed a powerful job, one that some could argue reflects the power and jurisdiction of the American president. Yet, what is the real difference between the two most powerful leaders in the world? There are a few main differences, and I’ve found that an article on the BBC’s News website describes it best.

Check out the following link, and see who is more powerful.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8363297.stm

Obama Boycotts Fox News

October 26, 2009 1 comment

Sort of a late response to this excellent news but I thought I’d cover it anyway. I’m very happy to see that the president of the US of A has boycotted one of the many poisons that inflicts America everyday. I’m talking about Fox News. From pundits like Glenn Beck to Bill O’rielly, Fox News is a mess of uncharted propaganda meant to send everything to Hell.

I am absolutely appalled over the fact that it took the president to say something against Fox News about its credibility before the media and everyday citizens took upon that fact. It just goes to show how the media cannot function independently.

A specific angle of the media has come back to haunt Obama’s boycott, that is now criticizing his words. These mostly speak about how Fox News can do just about whatever it wants, and that Obama boycotting them is wrong; something that apparently goes “against free speech.” I find this quite ridiculous because, I swear free speech means that you can say just about anything about well, anything.

I agree with Obama’s choice, and I am happy to see that someone at the top is taking action against the despicable people behind Fox News. Perhaps now people will come to realize what sort of BS Fox News is spouting to them everyday, and hopefully people don’t swallow it all up as factual debate.

The sooner Fox News is realized as a decrepit comedy channel like Onion News, the sooner the world might come to peace.

Commercials

September 28, 2009 2 comments

This is a specific rant against commercials. And for this topic, I am going to use the upcoming box office movie ‘Zombieland” as an example. A movie where all of America is run down by zombies – and only a lone band of adventurers fight their way through and at the same time, have fun doing it.

I’ve seen the movie. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – I have seen this movie a week before it actually comes out. Did I watch it illegally? Did I get a leaked version? Am I so awesome that I can do anything in this world? Unfortunately, I am not that awesome.

I in fact did not get an illegal copy. But I got quite a legal one – in bits and pieces. I call it, ‘commercials’. I hate them, and yet I love them. But for the topic of this post, I absolutely detest them. I have seen so many commercials and scenes from the actual Zombieland film that I have pieced all of them together and I now claim that I have seen the whole movie.

Commercials have absolutely destroyed the movie for me! And they do it to all kinds of movies! The good parts are always broadcasted on television that the rest of the movie is only good to watch for the cast or the storyline. Unfortunately for Zombieland, it is a comedy film. Once the best jokes are out, there isn’t much left. And I am not going to watch this movie now.

Had the advertisements been different, I might still have watched the movie. Perhaps the ads are to be blamed for audiences not going out of their way to purchase a ticket for an upcoming movie. Piracy also causes damage, but there tons of other holes where the money is slipping.

Now I know that zombie enthusiasts will still go out and watch Zombieland, but I feel that there will be no enjoyment left in the movie. I agree that everyone knows this movie is coming out, but at the same time everyone knows what the movie is about to offer.

That sort of wraps up my rant. It wasn’t very good – but at least it was rant-ish. Again, sorry for being MIA. I will be for a bit longer – sorry for any inconvenience!

Obama Chooses NOT To Meddle In Iran

June 17, 2009 6 comments

With the recent election in Iran and the inevitable win of President Ahmadinejad (his name is so dam hard to spell), it has erupted in riots and protests across Iran from the opposition. The supporters of the rival Mir Hossein Mousavi have stormed the streets even with threats from the government threatening to use force.

Many Iranians view the election as a ‘rigged’ election and a sham. President Ahmadinejad has won his second election with a landslide of a victory. The protests that are still occuring today are due to President Ahmadinejad’s victory.

Obama says that the voices of the protesting Iranians should be heard and certainly not ignored. But he does not wish to meddle in Iranian affairs due to the criticism that the United States of America has earned as an ‘enemy’ to the Islamic world, especially with US – Iranian relations.

Obama faces much opposition and has increasing pressure on him to support the protesters, including criticism from Republican John McCain.

“He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election.”

The opposition calls for a complete re-election in order to see a fair win between the two main candidates in the Iranian election. Much of the opposition took to the roof-tops in order to protest the election – many say that a scene like this has never been seen in Iran since the rule of the Shah.

‘Good job’, Obama

I think if Obama really wants ‘change’, then he needs to stop meddling in the affairs of the Middle East. He made a very strong and thoughtful decision to leave Iran in Iran’s hands.

Whether this election was a fraud or not, what has happened has happened. Attempting to cause a full re-election will end in failure, as with the authoritarian rule of Iran, such a thing is unlikely to happen.

Although Obama will face much criticism for doing this, he should stick with his words and see them through. I’m glad that Obama chooses to think before he makes a move, unlike his predecessor.